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A primer on the Iowa caucuses – three weeks today

January 13th, 2020

The Iowa caucuses can play such important part in the nomination process that I thought that the above short feature from CNN was worth putting up simply to explain a political process that really is without parallel in the UK and for that matter in most of the US. What is extraordinary is the seriousness that many Iowans take their role of being the first State to decide to the extent that on a cold February evening they are ready to attend meetings which might take 2 or 3 hours out of their lives.

Another aspect of the Iowa caucuses is the difficulty of forecasting and polling because only a small proportion of people in the state actually take part. This makes polling challenging. Thus the latest survey for the Des Moines Register involved telephone interviews with 3,131 registered voters of which just 701 said they would definitely or probably attend the 2020 Democratic caucuses. That is a lot of phone calls for a relatively small final sample.

That latest poll found that 58% of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers say they could be persuaded to support a different candidate (45%) or say they haven’t decided on a first choice yet. This suggests that there is the possibility of late changes which are not picked up the pollsters. Voters might arrive at the caucus meeting in their precinct waiting to hear what others say before they choose.

Mike Smithson