As Iowans gathered Monday to settle the first electoral battle of the long U.S. presidential campaign, a new poll suggests that most Canadians think Donald Trump, the narrow favourite to win the Republican Iowa caucus, would be bad for Canada.

The other Republican front runners fare little better — at least among the minority of Canadians who know much about them.

The poll by Insights West found that 67 per cent of Canadians thought Trump, a businessman and reality television star, would be bad for Canada as U.S. president, including 49 per cent who thought he would be "very bad." Only 20 per cent of Canadians said President Trump would be good for Canada, while just one per cent of respondents said they did not know who Trump is.

Though Conservatives were more likely than other Canadians to think Trump would be a good thing for Canada (31 per cent), a majority still agreed that he would be bad for this country.

Since Insights West last investigated this topic in August, the proportion of Canadians thinking Trump would be good and bad increased as the number without an opinion decreased.

His two main rivals for the Republican nomination, which begins officially with the Iowa caucuses Monday, aren't very well known in Canada. Just over a quarter of Canadians didn't know Texas Senator Ted Cruz (despite his having been born in Alberta), and another 27 per cent weren't sure whether or not he would be good for Canada.

Florida senator Marco Rubio was even less well known, with 33 per cent not knowing who he is and 28 per cent not having an opinion on what impact he would have on Canada.

Nevertheless, more Canadians said they thought Cruz or Rubio would be bad for Canada than good — just 21 per cent said Cruz would be good for the country of his birth, while 27 per cent thought he would be bad for Canada. Rubio's numbers were lower, at 13 per cent saying he would be good for Canada to 26 per cent thinking he would be bad.

Clinton favoured over Sanders

While Canadians appear to look negatively at the prospect of a Republican becoming the next U.S. president, that isn't so for the two leading Democratic contenders.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton was seen as being good for Canada by 55 per cent, while 24 per cent said she would be bad for the country. She was unfamiliar to only two per cent of Canadians surveyed.

Both Liberals and New Democrats thought Clinton would be good for Canada by a wide margin, but that wasn't so among Conservative supporters. Only a narrow plurality — 43 per cent to 40 per cent — said she would be good for Canada rather than bad.

Of note is that the number of Canadians thinking Clinton would be bad for Canada has increased by four percentage points since August, while the proportion thinking she would be good for the country remained unchanged.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was about as unknown as Cruz and Rubio, with 26 per cent not knowing who he is and 27 per cent not having an opinion. But 31 per cent of Canadians thought he would be good for the country, more than any of the three leading Republican candidates. Just 16 per cent thought he would be bad for Canada.

Iowans themselves, however, will be wondering instead today which candidate would be best for their state, as well as their country as a whole. Polls suggest voters in Iowa are split. As of Monday morning, FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a narrow four-point lead over Sanders, while Trump leads Cruz by five points in a divided field. The results of the caucuses will be known tonight.

The poll by Insights West was conducted between January 24 and 26, 2016, interviewing 1,002 Canadians via the Internet. As the poll was conducted online, a margin of error does not apply.