Mellman: The Iowa results?

Mellman: The Iowa results?
© Greg Nash

Once again the Des Moines Register Iowa poll proved prescient—it produced no results, and neither did the Iowa caucuses.

But since this column is due, with some trepidation, I’ll go with what I’ve got, which is nothing more than a wholly unadjusted entrance poll.

Of course, unadjusted means they may be off. So, take everything with several grains of salt. I’m going to avoid specific numbers because they might well change, but the basic contours of the results are likely to remain fairly consistent.


With these huge caveats, what can we learn from the entrance poll?

First, some clear demographic divisions appear in the primary electorate.

As age goes up, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPresident Trump faces Herculean task in first debate The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Trump's tax return bombshell New Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments MORE’s (I-Vt.) vote goes down and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTop House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents Judge's ruling creates fresh hurdle for Trump's TikTok ban Harris says she hasn't 'made a plan one way or another' on meeting Supreme Court nominee MORE’s goes up, while other candidates draw somewhat more consistent results.

The oldest candidate in the field garners by far the largest share of support from the youngest voters. He captured nearly half the vote among those under 30, leading his next closest rival by well over 2 to 1.

Biden barely registered with voters under 30, but seems to have won those 65 and older, albeit more narrowly than Sanders led among the youngest.

Sanders, in turn, barely registered with these older voters, garnering only low single digits.


Sanders also won those ages 30-44, with former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegCindy McCain joins board of Biden's presidential transition team Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November MORE and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's tax bombshell | More election drama in Pennsylvania | Trump makes up ground in new polls New Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Democrats blast Trump after report reveals he avoided income taxes for 10 years: 'Disgusting' MORE (D-Mass.) a bit further back and with Biden again barely exhibiting a pulse.

The 45-64 age group seems to have given Buttigieg the lead, with Biden, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Minn.) and Warren closely bunched behind the former mayor.

Education, such an important divider in recent general elections, produced a more muted impact in the Iowa caucuses, with most of the candidates doing about the same among college and non-college voters.

Two candidates seemingly stand out as exceptions, with Sanders doing twice as well with non-college voters than with college graduates, while Klobuchar doubles her non-college vote among those with a college degree.

As I suggested last week, previous caucus participation also mattered. Over a third seem to be first timers and they tended to support Sanders, followed by Buttigieg.

Veteran caucusgoers were more evenly divided among the leading candidates.

Beyond pure demographics, attitudes also tell a story about the appeals of each candidate. Sanders, and to a much lesser extent Warren, dominated the quarter of voters who identify themselves as “very liberal,” with Biden barely a blip in this segment.

Buttigieg leads the somewhat liberal with Sanders, Warren, Biden and Klobuchar dividing the rest of that segment rather evenly.

Buttigieg and Biden lead with the third of caucusgoers who are moderates and Klobuchar isn’t far behind.

The over one-third prioritizing a candidate who agreed with them on major issues went disproportionately for Sanders.

Those focused on beating Trump broke for Buttigieg and Biden, with Sanders, Warren, and Klobuchar divvying up the rest.

Finally, there are issues.

There was only one category where a single candidate dominated. Biden got over 4 in 10 of those who put the emphasis on foreign policy. His problem? It was top priority for very few.

Sanders and Buttigieg led with both health care and climate voters, but each candidate got a share of those.

Sanders and Warren led among those most interested in income inequality, but that was fewer than one-fifth.

More broadly, Sanders dominated two categories—the young and the very liberal. The closest any other candidate came to Sanders’s performance among those groups was Biden with those over 65 — and Biden did not do as well as Sanders did with his base.

Each of the other candidates achieved their vote totals by stitching together lower, but more consistent numbers across a broader range of voters.

One large and critically important element of the Democratic collation, nonwhite voters, are mostly absent from Iowa.

That, and the fact that we have no hard results, makes extrapolating from these data tenuous at best. But these numbers may offer hints of what’s to come.

Mellman is president of The Mellman Group and has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of House members. Mellman is also president of the super PAC Democratic Majority for Israel. Mellman served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for over 20 years and as president of the American Association of Political Consultants.