Republican voters in Iowa ranked abortion as one of the top issues affecting their voting allegiance in next month's much anticipated state caucus, according to a new poll.
Nine percent of Republican voters said abortion is the "single most important issue" in their choice for a Republican candidate for president, according to the new Washington Post-ABC News survey. That puts abortion at number four on the list of 19 issues that GOP voters said are their most important concerns.
Moreover, another six percent of GOP voters said abortion was the second most important issue in determining their vote.
Overall, abortion was cited by 15 percent of Republicans in Iowa as the most or second-most important issue for deciding who will receive their support for president.
GOP voters in Iowa think former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (38 percent) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (25 percent) would best handle the abortion issue as president.
Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee comes in third at 10 percent and then the rest of the GOP candidates are in single digits.
Only five percent of GOP voters in Iowa trust former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani to handle the abortion issue; he is the only pro-abortion candidate running for president on the Republican side.
Immigration, terrorism and the war in Iraq were the only issues ranked above abortion as the single most important issue in GOP voters' choice for the Republican candidate.
In Iowa, a solid majority (74 percent) of GOP voters want abortion to be illegal in either all cases (25 percent) or most cases (49 percent). Only 23 percent want abortion, with seven percent saying it should always be legal and 16 percent saying it should be legal most of the time.
The poll results on abortion reflect how the Republican candidates are performing overall in Iowa.
According to the latest poll by CNN-Opinion Research Corp., Mike Huckabee leads the GOP pack in Iowa with 33 percent, followed by Mitt Romney at 25 percent. Rudy Giuliani places third at 11 percent, followed by Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Fred Thompson, both at nine percent.
Most of Huckabee's and Romney's support come from Iowa's evangelicals, who see eye-to-eye with the candidates on the abortion and gay "marriage" issue. Anywhere from 30-50 percent of Republicans who attend Iowa caucuses are evangelical Christians, according to The Associated Press.
The former Arkansas governor is also leading in the key southern state of South Carolina, where evangelicals make up an estimated 50 percent of primary voters. Moreover, a new Field Poll released Thursday shows that Huckabee also has surprisingly strong support in California among Republicans, although he has not formally campaigned in the state.
Huckabee comes in second, seven percentage points behind Giuliani who is at 25 percent, in California, according to the Mercury News. However, Huckabee is favored by 31 percent of California GOP voters who describe themselves as "born-again" Christians – 11 percentage points higher than Giuliani.
One-third of the GOP primary electorate consider themselves to be evangelical Christians.
The highly anticipated Iowa caucus is set for Jan. 3.
The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone December 13-17, 2007, among a random sample of 501 Iowan adults likely to vote in the Republican caucus