The Iowa Caucuses Are Days Away

Dr. Louis Perron
blog post louis

The primary election process in the U.S. traditionally starts with the caucuses in Iowa. This time, they will be held on February 3 – just a few days away. Just yesterday, two new polls came out. An Emerson poll showed Bernie Sanders winning with 30% of the vote and Joe Biden second with 21%. A USA Today/Suffolk survey showed Biden winning with 25% and Sanders coming in second with 19%.

What do these polls tell us? First, Iowans are known to decide very late in the game. And second, it’s extremely difficult to poll for an Iowa caucus. This has to do with the unique nature of the system. A caucus is not an election in the sense where voters go to the polling stations and cast their vote. It’s a series of decentralized party meetings. Voters sit there for an evening, divide up in groups and discuss. People can tell a pollster that they will participate, but nobody knows for sure who really will caucus next Monday night. There are about two million voters in Iowa. Yet, in 2016, roughly 170’000 people participated in the Democratic caucuses. In other words, in addition to enthusiasm for the candidate, turnout, logistics, and organization are key to win next Monday.

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