Making much about little

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pundits like to make sweeping generalizations about Iowans of each party following the caucuses.

Despite the record participation in the Iowa caucuses this year, participants are still only a minority of people registered as Republicans and Democrats. There's nothing wrong with that, party activists shaping the direction of their party, but generalizations about caucus results should take into account that the results are not broadly representative of general election voters.

This year, it would be hard to make generalizations about Iowa Democrats since Hillary Clinton only achieved a minuscule margin of victory over Bernie Sanders.

That didn't stop pundits in 2012 from making the generalization that a Republican had to be an evangelical Christian to win the Iowa caucuses, despite the fact that Rick Santorum's 34-vote victory was questionable because of voting irregularities, including eight missing precinct totals, and despite the fact that Santorum only won the non-binding straw poll at caucus sites. Ron Paul eventually won the delegate selection process.

The polling at Republican caucus sites is now binding and Ted Cruz won by a close, but decisive, 3.3 percentage points over Donald Trump and 4.5 percent over Marco Rubio.

The pundits generalized again that only an evangelical Christian can win the Republican caucuses and also concluded that the Renewable Fuel Standard is not an overriding issue for Republican voters.

The fact is that fewer than 3 in 10 Republican caucus goers voted for Cruz and many of them voted for Cruz because they saw the contest as between Cruz, who they didn't like, and Trump, who they despised.