Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump greets fans before giving a speech during Iowa Senator Joni Ernst's second annual Roast and Ride event in Des Moines on Saturday, August 27, 2016. The event started with a 42-mile motorcycle ride from the Big Barn Harley-Davidson dealership to the Iowa State Fairgrounds where Ernst hosted a rally with fellow Republican leaders headlined by Trump. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump greets fans before giving a speech during Iowa Senator Joni Ernst's second annual Roast and Ride event in Des Moines on Saturday, August 27, 2016. The event started with a 42-mile motorcycle ride from the Big Barn Harley-Davidson dealership to the Iowa State Fairgrounds where Ernst hosted a rally with fellow Republican leaders headlined by Trump. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

While Trump struggles nationally, Iowa proves loyal

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By Matthew Jack | matthewmjack@gmail.com

While Donald Trump flounders in national polls, his numbers in Iowa have proved that his supporters in the state are resilient to controversy surrounding the Republican candidate.

In the days after Access Hollywood audio was leaked to the Washington Post featuring Trump describing in vulgar terms how he used his celebrity status to grope women’s genitals, the RealClearPolitics national poll average showed him with a deficit of up to 7.1 percentage points, and FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model decreased his chances of winning by up to 6.5 points.

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But Trump maintained a 5-point lead in Iowa, according to a Washington Post/SurveyMonkey online poll conducted directly after the video leaked, and a Quinnipiac University poll released Oct. 27 reveals he has preserved his edge with 47 percent of the vote against Hillary Clinton’s 46 percent.

According to the RealClearPolitics Iowa poll average, Clinton has not surpassed Trump since he took the lead in early September.

“The Iowa electorate across the board — not just college-educated and opinion leaders — is highly independent, literate, and makes up its own mind rather than taking the opinions of leadership — including the Big Three networks and the elite media,” said Bill Keettel, the chairman of the Johnson County Republicans, in an email.

The Iowa GOP leadership has been unique in its loyalty to Trump, especially in light of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s victory in the Iowa caucuses.

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“Trump may have not been the first choice,” said University of Iowa political science Associate Professor Tim Hagle. “But the GOP leadership took it as their duty [to get behind him].”

Drake University political science Professor Arthur Sanders said he believed this loyalty resonated with Iowa voters.

“It’s a pretty evenly divided state, so they’re getting messages from their elected officials … that they should stick with this guy, so they are,” Sanders said.

He also cited the state’s demographics as a major factor in its Trump support.

“Trump’s numbers have been more resilient in places with larger white populations, and Iowa is one of those places,” Sanders said.

But a look at other swing states suggests race is not the only factor.

“[Four] states have a higher [percentage of] white population than Iowa, and one of them is Vermont, which is definitely voting for Clinton, so it’s not just race,” Hagle said. “I like to look more at the economic side of things — Iowa was not hurt as hard in the recession, but people are still worse off.”

Voters interviewed by The Daily Iowan said looking past Trump’s highly publicized and controversial statements was crucial in maintaining his support.

RELATED: Campaign challenges Iowa teachers

Josh Dakken, a University of Iowa senior who identifies as an independent, said he believed Trump’s base is “against the [negative] stuff he’s been saying, but what they think he’ll do financially for the country is overpowering those negatives.”

He also said that Republicans’ “indoctrinated hatred” toward Clinton helped prevent Trump from losing supporters due to previously unearthed scandals, which his Democratic opponent has been mired in since it was revealed in 2015 that she exclusively used a private e-mail server during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Dakken, who supports Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, said his vote is “an indication to both parties that they need to change.”

For UI sophomore Matt Greene, who identifies as a Republican, Trump’s “blatant disregard for others” and lack of respect was enough to justify backing Clinton, albeit unenthusiastically.

“That’s not the way I was raised,” said Greene, “What could possibly make him think [insults] will gain voters?”

E.J. Peris, another UI sophomore, recalled Trump rhetorically asking, “How stupid are the people of Iowa?” after his Republican primary opponent, Ben Carson, saw a bump in Iowa polls despite revelations that he nearly stabbed a friend in the stomach.

However, Greene said he believed that Trump’s solid poll numbers in Iowa were a result of the looming date of Election Day, which is leading Republicans to “align behind the party.”

RELATED: ‘Vote-rigging’ steals the show

In an election year in which both major-party presidential candidates have historically low favorability ratings, good impressions are crucial for the candidates to capture support from independents and undecided voters — which some voters believe Trump did effectively in the third presidential debate last week.

After that debate, UI sophomore Chase Woods said Trump “showed a lot of compromise, held himself together more, and I think that made a good last impression on people.”

Follow Matthew Jack (@matthewmjack) on Twitter for ongoing coverage of the 2016 election in Iowa.