By Michael Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON — Donald Trump leads a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates in Iowa, but holds a smaller advantage among likely Iowa presidential caucus voters who watched last Thursday’s debate.
According to poll results released Tuesday by Suffolk University, Trump leads with 17 percent, followed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 12 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 10 percent, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 9 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and businesswoman Carly Fiorina tied at 7 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was at 5 percent and everyone else was below that threshold.
Among viewers of the Fox News-Facebook debate, Trump and Walker were tied at 14 percent, followed by Rubio at 11 percent, Carson and Fiorina at 10 percent and Cruz at 9 percent.
“In the absence of a debate, Trump’s lead widens because he swallows up the political oxygen, but when the oxygen is spread out more evenly in a debate, it breathes life into the other candidates, and the race gets closer,” Suffolk University Political Research Center director David Paleologos said in a statement.
When survey takers were asked which candidates had the strongest debate performances, Rubio, Carson and Fiorina were cited.
The statewide survey of 500 likely Iowa caucus voters, taken Aug. 7-10, also showed another potential problem for Trump. After watching the debate 23 percent said they were more comfortable with Trump and 55 percent said they were less comfortable with him. Forty-one percent of debate viewers said moderators targeted Trump unfairly; 54 percent disagreed.
The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percent.