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Robert Lowry, Political Science, (515) 294-2455
Dave Gieseke, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Public Relations,
(515) 294-7742
Annette Hacker, News Service, (515) 294-3720


AMES, Iowa -- A late November poll by political scientists at Iowa State University indicates that voters who plan to participate in the Iowa presidential caucuses are not necessarily representative of their fellow partisans, let alone all voters.

In a telephone poll of registered Iowa Democrats, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is the leading choice for the nomination among respondents who said that they "definitely" or "probably" will attend the Jan. 19 caucuses. Dean was the first choice of 28.5 percent of these respondents, followed by Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) with 20.9 percent.

However, registered Democrats who say they "might or might not" or "will not" attend the caucuses favor Gephardt (27.5 percent) over Dean (22.1 percent).

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is running third with both groups of respondents, but he is favored by 15.3 percent of those who probably will attend the caucuses, compared to just 8.5 percent of those who probably will not.

The difference in candidate preferences between these two groups of Democrats is too large to be explained by random sampling, said Robert Lowry, associate professor of political science at Iowa State University.

"Further results indicate that there is a lot of opportunity for things to change by the time the caucuses are held," Lowry said. "Almost one-fourth (23 percent) of those who probably will attend the caucuses are still undecided on their first choice for the nomination, compared to 32 percent of those who more than likely will not attend."

Lowry also said that fewer than half of the supporters for any of the top four candidates (Dean, Gephardt, Kerry and Sen. John Edwards [D-N.C.]) say that they "definitely" rather than "probably" will support that candidate.

The study also finds that registered Democrats who say they definitely or probably will attend the caucuses differ from non-attendees in a number of ways:
  • When asked what factor is most important in their choice of candidate, probable attendees are more likely to cite the candidate's stance on the issues or ability to appeal to a broad group of voters, and less likely to cite personal leadership qualities than are non-attendees.
  • On the issues, probable attendees are more likely to oppose the invasion of Iraq, more likely to say things are going badly in Iraq now, more likely to say the economy is moving in the wrong direction, more likely to favor repeal of all the Bush tax cuts, and more likely to support government-mandated expansions in health insurance than non-attendees.
  • Probable attendees also tend to be more partisan, more liberal, more educated, and have higher incomes than non-attendees. They are less likely to be age 65 or older.
  • Probable attendees are slightly more likely to be male and come from a union household than non-attendees, but these differences are not statistically significant.
  • Although most probable attendees have participated in the caucuses before, about one-fourth (24 percent) would be doing so for the first time.
Iowa State's Department of Political Science, the Institute for Social and Behavioral Research, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences sponsored the study.

Polling was conducted between Nov. 10-25 and respondents were randomly chosen from a list of all registered Democrats obtained from the Iowa Secretary of State's office. The poll includes 328 probable attendees and 433 non-attendees. The margins of error for percentages calculated for these two groups are no more than plus or minus 5.5 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively.


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