Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in the Field for the Iowa Caucuses


January 31, 2020 — The Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) has been conducting an ongoing study about the Iowa Caucuses for Dr. David Redlawsk, former ECPIP director and now the James R. Soles Professor and Chair of the political science department at the University of Delaware, as well as an expert on the Iowa Caucuses.  ECPIP has been in the field since November, talking to the same likely Democratic caucus goers at multiple time points throughout the last several months to assess individual attitudinal change regarding candidate and policy preferences, candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, electability, campaign activity involvement, and President Trump, among other things.

“In general, election polling is notoriously difficult to conduct because we really never know the target population – in other words, who will turn out at the ballot box,” said Dr. Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of ECPIP. “Iowa is no exception and is especially challenging since it kicks-off the primary season and because voters in Iowa usually don’t decide until very late in the game – if not the night of the caucuses.”

While most Iowa Caucus polling has been surveying new samples each time of registered Democrats who are likely to attend the caucuses, ECPIP’s research with Dr. Redlawsk has been talking to the same likely caucus goers throughout the past several months and via multiple modes – phone, email, and text message. ECPIP’s random sample of caucus goers, moreover, represents a combination of Democrats, independents, unaffiliated, and even a small number of Republicans in proportion to their turnout in 2008 and 2016 and is based on their likelihood to attend a Democratic caucus on February 3rd.

Some of the main takeaways from the data thus far, according to Dr. Redlawsk, are how certain characteristics may affect each candidate. “Iowa Caucus voters clearly believe being gay in the case of Buttigieg is more likely to make winning difficult than being a woman. Women see being a woman [presidential candidate] as much more of a barrier than do men.”  Biden’s age was also a factor for over a third of likely caucus goers when asked in December, as was Sanders’ recent heart attack at the time.