Carly Fiorina's debate performance impresses Iowa Republicans

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Jim Gilmore, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina and George Pataki pose for a photograph at the beginning of a presidential forum hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina didn't make the cut for the nation's first prime-time Republican presidential primary debate last week, but her scrappy performance in an earlier debate was enough to earn some affection from Republican voters in Iowa.

A new poll from Suffolk University shows that likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers now prefer Fiorina over former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and several other 2016 GOP primary candidates.

The poll, which surveyed 500 likely Iowa GOP caucus goers from Aug. 7-10, finds businessman Donald Trump leading the Republican field in the key early-nominating state with 16.6 percent support. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won 12 percent support in the poll, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson both garnered more than 9 percent.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas came in fifth with 7.4 percent while Fiorina won 7.2 percent.

None of the 11 remaining candidates won more than 5 percent support. Bush came in at 4.6 percent.

The poll has a 4.4 percent margin of error, suggesting that there's plenty of room for the top and middle-tier candidates to shift positions in the polls.

This is the first poll Suffolk has conducted specifically in Iowa, but an average of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics shows that ahead of this survey, Fiorina was averaging 4.5 percent support in the state.

While Fiorina still trails five candidates in Iowa, the interest in her campaign is notable, given that she was relegated to Fox News' second-tier debate last week due to low polling figures. Many analysts judged Fiorina the stand-out of the second-tier event, citing her pointed attacks on Trump and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, along with her crisp, polished demeanor.

Nearly 93 percent of the Iowans polled by Suffolk said that Fiorina should be invited in the future to debate against top-tier Republicans.

More than 82 percent of poll respondents said that of the seven second-tier debate participants, Fiorina impressed them the most. Of the first-tier debate participants, Iowans said they were most impressed with Rubio (23 percent) and Carson (22 percent).

More than half of Iowa Republicans surveyed said they feel less comfortable with Trump as a candidate after the debate.