Iowans Are Inscrutable

Tue, November 20, 2007

Women in Politics

I’m not quite sure why anyone is paying attention to polls about the Iowa caucuses.

Caucusing is not like voting. If you’re lucky, at voting time you spend a few minutes waiting in line, a few minutes voting and then you’re done. Not too much of a time drain on your day.

But agreeing to show up for the caucus in Iowa is a commitment of hours. So it’s harder to predict who will make that time commitment this far out.

There’s discussion, there’s debate, there’s back and forth. And when the time comes to “vote,” if a candidate doesn’t get 15% of the support of the voters in attendance to move on to the next phase, it’s back to the debate to see who can be a consensus candidate.

A tad inscrutable, if you ask me. So, who can really know what’s going on in the minds of Iowans at this stage of the game? As I learned in college, you can get just about any result you want out of a poll, depending on the question and how you ask it.

My gut says that a lot of Iowans are like my dad, a small family farmer in Pennsylvania.

My dad may tell you he’s going to do one thing, but if he senses that you’re trying to play him or dissect this thoughts in a way he doesn’t like, he’s going keep his cards close to his coveralls (I’ve never seen him wear a vest!)

I am sensing from what’s happened in past elections that long-time Iowa caucus-goers are the same way. Sure, they might tell a pollster who they think they’ll support today, but the caucuses are six-weeks away — an eternity in this election season.

And things change. Minds change. Or maybe they just don’t think the pollsters should be privy to their thoughts on the candidates until they’re really done hearing from all the candidates.

So I’m pretty skeptical about where things are trending in Iowa at the moment, even though many are proclaiming a new direction. I’m guessing there’s going to be a lot of talk about the candidates around the turkey this week when Iowa families are together. I wouldn’t be surprised to see yet another shift in the polls next week after a little Turkey Day pre-caucus action!

One question I read in the most recent The Washington Post/ABC News poll, in a story titled For Democrats, Iowa Still Up for Grabs, may deserve some attention and be a bit more reflective of where things really stand in Iowa at the moment.

When those who have participated in the caucuses in the past (so are believed to be more likely to participate this January than people who haven’t) were asked who they thought they would support:

Obama — 27%
Edwards — 26%
Clinton — 21%

Looks a little different than some of the other results, doesn’t it?

So I say even though we’re creeping up to the end of November, it’s still too early to count anyone out or in for Iowa.

But whoever wins, just promise me no screaming!

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3 Responses to “Iowans Are Inscrutable”

  1. Sunshine Says:

    Your observations are spot on. I did hear yesterday on local news about Hillary’s “dip” in the polls. It is much too early to tell, but if my own town is any indication (heavily Democrat), Obama and Edwards are ahead of Hillary, at least here.
    Your cautionary tale regarding Howard Dean is well made, hopefully no one else will become an election punchline like he was.

  2. Florinda Says:

    The caucus process kind of fascinates me, actually. But whether it’s a caucus or primary state, I think poll results always merit skepticism. Aside from the possibility of changing their minds, some people are more than happy to feed pollsters a line just to mess with the numbers (I know a few who would be more than happy to play that).

  3. jen Says:

    it’s certainly an interesting process – i have no real idea how much bearing it has, but yet it gets a lot of hype (sometimes folklore itself drives outcomes, so who really knows)

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