Some Surprises and Warnings In The Iowa Numbers

Dave Johnson

When candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ended the Iowa caucuses Monday night in a near-tie, there were some surprises that went beyond the strength of Sanders’ showing, as well as some warnings for Democrats.

Clinton received more state delegates (700.59 to 696.82), but the margin was due to her winning six coin tosses. Clinton will receive 23 delegates to the national convention and Sanders will receive 21 delegates. The New York Times writes, “There are 4,763 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, so it will require 2,382 delegates to win the nomination.”

You will be hearing the number 2,382 more and more as the year goes on.

Democrat Voter Turnout Down

The first surprise is that Democratic turnout was down from 2008. Total turnout was down. First-time turnout was down. Young voter turnout was down.

Only 171,109 Democratic voters turned out. This is down from around 240,000 in 2008 when Clinton, then-Senator Barack Obama, Senator John Edwards and others were fighting for the Democratic nomination.

First-Time Caucus-goers Down

Of those who turned out, there were fewer who were there for the first time. In 2008 there was a notable surge of new voters, people who had not attended previous caucuses. No such surge occurred in 2016. NPR explains, in “Iowa Caucus Results: 6 Things That Explain How It Happened“: “Just 44 percent said this was their first time caucusing, down from 57 percent eight years ago. Among those voters, Sanders had a 22-point advantage. Clinton, meanwhile, won the 56 percent who said they were returning caucus-goers by a 24-point edge.”

Young Voters Down

Also, the share of young voters was down from 2008. NPR again: “Just 18 percent of the vote came from 17- to 29-year-olds — down from a 22 percent share eight years ago. Among those, Sanders dominated, winning 84 percent to Clinton’s 14 percent.”

That is a whopping margin for Sanders. (In 2008 Obama won the 17-29 vote by 43 points.)

Meanwhile, “The good news for Clinton was that 60 percent of caucus-goers were over the age of 45 — and she carried them easily. Among voters 65 and older, Clinton had a more than 2-to-1 advantage.”

CNN goes a bit deeper into this, in “Early voting results: Younger voters go for Sanders, older for Clinton“: “Democratic attendees under the age of 40 tilted heavily to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, including nearly 85 percent of attendees under the age of 24. But attendees over the age of 50 went more heavily for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and also accounted for almost 60% of all attendees.”

Voters More Liberal

While among Democrats overall turnout, first-time turnout and younger voter turnout were all down, the Democratic caucus-goers were markedly more “liberal” than in 2008. “Liberal” was up 10 pints, “moderate” was down 12. NPR reported, “Twenty-eight percent of voters described themselves as very liberal — a 10-point jump from 2008. Sanders won those voters by 19 points. Clinton had a 6-point edge with the 40 percent of voters who described themselves as somewhat liberal. … This year, just 28 percent of voters identified themselves as moderates, down 12 points from 2008. She had a 23-point edge over Sanders with that bloc, though.”

“On the question of who should carry on President Barack Obama’s legacy,” CNN reported, “Clinton won among roughly 70% of respondents. But Sanders won among roughly 75% of those who said they were looking for a more liberal successor.”

Men vs. Women, Education

The full Iowa Caucus entrance poll results at The Washington Post reveal that 43 percent of caucus-goers were men, 57 percent were women. Women favored Clinton 53 percent to 42 percent; men favored Sanders 50 percent to 44 percent. But unmarried women favored Sanders 53 percent to 43 percent

Results based on education level were mixed. Eighteen percent of caucus-goers had a high school education or less, and they favored Clinton 58 percent-39 percent. 32 percent were some college or associate degree and favored Sanders 52 percent-44 percent. 27 percent were college graduates and tied at 48 percent each. A huge 23 percent had “postgraduate study” and favored Clinton 52 percent to 39 percent.

Top Issue

Here is a real surprise: 32 percent of caucus-goers said their top issue was the economy, and they favored Clinton 51 percent to 42 percent. But the 27 percent who said income inequality was their top issue favored Sanders 61 percent to 34 percent.

The 30 percent who said health care was their top issue favored Clinton 59 percent to 38 percent.

The 6 percent who said terrorism is their top issue favored Clinton 65 percent-38 percent.

Experience vs. Trust

A big breakdown came on “trust” vs. “experience” and “electability.” The Fix column at The Washington Post noted, “Sanders voters wanted honesty and empathy. Clinton voters wanted experience and the ability to win in November.” A bit more on that:

Among those looking for someone to beat the Republican nominee in November, about three-quarters backed Hillary Clinton. An even higher percentage of those looking for a nominee with the “right experience” preferred Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Together, those groups accounted for roughly half of all Democratic voters.

Sanders, though, was strongly preferred by those looking for someone that cares about people like them, getting support from 3 out of 4 voters citing that quality. Among voters looking for an honest candidate, Sanders did even better, earning the support of about 4 in 5 Democrats prioritizing that trait.

A Few Other Things

Iowa is a state that is largely what many would consider “white.” NBC’s exit polling looked at how people who “self-identified” as “minorities” voted. 91 percent were “white” and voted 49 percent Clinton, 46 percent Sanders. “Black” was 3 percent, “Hispanic/Latino” was 4 percent and “Other” was 2 percent, and there is no voting breakdown. However a genera; “Non-white” favored Clinton 58 percent-34 percent.

Lower-income people favored Sanders. People with incomes $50,000 and up favored Clinton.

There are some surprises, some confirmations and some warnings here. A warning for Clinton is her high numbers among those looking for “electability.” But this was before the results were announced. Now with Sanders tying in Iowa and favored to win in New Hampshire, voters worried about this might take a new look at Sanders.

A warning for Sanders is the low turnout of young and first-time voters, as well as lower numbers among people identifying themselves as “non-white.” The “enthusiasm” for Sanders did not bring up the turnout among these groups essential to his campaign in the coming primaries and, should he get the nomination, the November election.

Democratic turnout is down, younger-voter turnout is down and first-time turnout is down. If these trends continue in other states, whoever wins the primaries, Democrats might be looking at trouble in November.

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