Forget media mantra on Iowa caucuses

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

National news pundits have repeatedly told us that Evangelicals dominate the Republican presidential caucus process. A recent poll by the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics indicates that among likely GOP caucus goers, "When asked what they want candidates to spend a lot of time discussing, fewer than half of Republican poll respondents said abortion, candidates' religious beliefs or same-sex marriage. The vast majority are interested in topics that affect the nation as a whole, including the budget deficit, defense, taxes, immigration and terrorism."

The idea that Evangelicals control the Iowa GOP caucuses developed from the fact that a social conservative, Mike Huckabee got more votes in the Iowa 2008 caucus site secret ballot polling than any other candidate and, as far as can be determined in the close contest in 2012 (some ballots are still missing), a social conservative, Rick Santorum, got more votes than any other candidate.

These balloting results are referred to as determining who won the Iowa caucus, although the ballot has no relationship either by rule or practical results in what candidate gets the most Iowa delegates to the national convention.

Conceding for arguments' sake that the social conservatives won Iowa GOP caucuses in 2008 and 2012, the victories don't establish a profile of typical Republican voters. Huckabee received a bit over a third of the vote in the Iowa GOP caucus site polling and Santorum got less that 25 percent.

In each of those years, candidates who did not identify themselves as social conservatives were able to collectively get over half of the Iowa GOP votes.