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 Sanders’s (I-Vt.) vote goes down and former Vice President Joe Biden’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 Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (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 Klobuchar (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.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren iowa caucus no results mellman election primary democratic Joe Biden Pete Buttigieg

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video