A new CBS News/New York Times poll out late Tuesday is the fourth live-caller survey released in the past three days to put former Newt Gingrich ahead in Iowa, and it shows the former House speaker riding a wave of tea party support to the top of the pack.
Tea party supporters make up roughly half of likely GOP caucus-goers, according to the poll, and Gingrich captures the support of 41 percent of them. That is propelling him to a double-digit lead overall, with 31 percent.
It is a 14-point drop from there to the second tier of candidates: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is at 17 percent, followed by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, with 16 percent. The next tier is comprised of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with 11 percent, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., at 9 percent. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is at 4 percent, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman earns just 1 percent.
Gingrich is seen as the candidate best prepared to be president by a sizable plurality of likely caucus-goers, leading Romney on that measure, 43 percent to 20 percent. Among tea party supporters, a whopping 56 percent rate Gingrich the best prepared for the job compared to just 11 percent who choose Romney (Paul is also at 11 percent in this category among tea partiers).
Overall, likely caucusgoers are split on which candidate has the best chance to defeat President Obama next year: Thirty-one percent choose Gingrich, and 29 percent choose Romney. But Gingrich leads Romney on that question among tea party supporters, 45 percent to 19 percent.
Asked which candidate they trust most to handle the economy and unemployment, caucus-goers are split: Twenty-two percent trust Romney, 21 percent trust Gingrich, 15 percent prefer Paul, and 13 percent Perry. But among tea party supporters, Gingrich jumps to 28 percent on that measure, with Perry at 16, and Paul and Romney each with 14 percent.
The tea party in Iowa is showing some intensity about Gingrich's candidacy, according to the poll. Fifty-six percent of tea party supporters say they would enthusiastically support Gingrich if he were the GOP nominee, compared to 27 percent who would support him "with reservations."
When it comes to Romney as the party's nominee, Iowa tea partiers are far less excited: Just 33 percent say they would enthusiastically support Romney. Forty-one percent say they would only support him because he was the GOP nominee, or would not support him at all.
The CBS News/New York Times poll was conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 5, surveying 642 likely Republican caucusgoers. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.