The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


The Pollster

Change Trumps Experience in Iowa

By Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta
The Iowa caucuses are typically low-turnout affairs that are notoriously hard to predict, but this year, pre-election polls accurately captured the underlying dynamics of both parties' contests. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama appealed to a change-oriented Democratic electorate, while former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee won the GOP race in large part by picking up significant support among evangelicals.

In the NEP entrance poll conducted at a random sample of precincts, 52 percent of Democratic caucusgoers called a candidate's ability to bring about needed change the top quality. Obama trounced the competition on this score, with more than half of "change-voters" supporting him as they entered a caucus. Far fewer, 20 percent, said a candidate's experience was what mattered most to them.

On the GOP side, 60 percent of caucusgoers were evangelical Christians, and they broke heavily for Huckabee, preferring him by more than 2 to 1 over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who finished second. As in a pre-election Washington Post-ABC News poll two weeks before the caucuses, Huckabee in particular benefited from the support of evangelical women, 57 percent of whom backed his candidacy in the entrance poll.

The top candidate quality among Republican caucusgoers in the poll was someone who "shares my values," with Huckabee winning 44 percent of these voters, Romney 26 percent. Huckabee won among Republicans, but among independents -- who made up just 13 percent of the Iowa GOP electorate but are more of a factor in New Hampshire -- 29 percent supported Texas Rep. Ron Paul, 23 percent Ariz. Sen. John McCain, 19 percent Romney and 17 percent Huckabee.

Obama's victory in the first official vote of 2008 came from a large influx of first-time caucusgoers and significant support from political independents. Nearly six in 10 Democratic participants said they had not caucused before, and they preferred Obama by double-digit margins over New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and former North Carolina senator John Edwards. And while Clinton ran about evenly with Obama among Democrats, Obama outpaced both of his main rivals among independents, who made up 20 percent of voters and broke 41 percent for Obama, 23 percent for Edwards and 17 percent for Clinton.

The Illinois senator also benefited from an influx of young voters. Nearly a quarter of Democratic caucusgoers were under 30, up somewhat from 2004, and they overwhelmingly favored Obama, 57 percent to 14 percent for Edwards and 11 percent for Clinton. By contrast, among seniors, 45 percent initially supported Clinton, 22 percent Edwards and 18 percent Obama.

In Iowa, Obama also neutralized Clinton's massive advantage among women in national polls, as Post-ABC and Des Moines Register polls indicated. In the entrance poll, Obama was the top choice among both men and women.
Edison/Mitofsky conducted the entrance poll for the NEP, a consortium of ABC News, AP, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Posted at 11:07 PM ET on Jan 3, 2008  | Category:  The Pollster
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For Governor Romney, the silver lining in the entrance poll results is that even among evangelical Christians he came in second.

Before Romney began his campaign, approximately 99 and 44/100% of evangelical Christians would rather have voted for the devil than for a Mormon.

For Huckabee's identity politics to succeed, he has to get that 99 and 44/100%. Ain't gonna happen.

Tracy Hall Jr

Posted by: hthalljr | January 4, 2008 4:18 PM

This strikes me as one of the dumbest things newsreporters do: report the results of a poll without reporting the answers to the most critical questions.

On your entrance poll, what percentage said they would vote for each of the Democratic candidates?

Is there something about this information that prevents you from telling us?

Posted by: gmklass | January 4, 2008 12:40 PM

Iowa Democrats resoundingly rejected the candidate whose faulty moral compass was evidenced by her flip-flopping on torture; Hillary Clinton got just 29 percent of the caucus vote.

As Milan Kundera wrote: The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.


The party of change should not be a party to corruption, moral or otherwise.

Martin Edwin Andersen
Churchton, Maryland

Posted by: Martinedwinandersen | January 4, 2008 1:02 AM

Do you believe Change will Trump Experience for the Democrats Nationwide as it did in the Iowa Caucuses?


Posted by: PollM | January 4, 2008 12:33 AM

Congrats to Senator Obama! "Change" is an important word in this election, but it is only one word and it doesn't adequately convey the intelligence and importance of his program of national unity. Obama is the best positioned candidate to rebuild consensus politics at home and win back American credibility abroad. After giving all the candidates, republican and democrat, a fair hearing, I've come to believe his leadership would help make us safer, more economically prosperous, and more effectively governed. These assertions aren't just campaign slogans - Obama has what it takes to get the job done - the intellect, judgment and experience shedding old baggage to get new results. His legislative, professional, and personal history are rife with examples to back up these assertions. He has my vote and I wish him the best.

Posted by: maq1 | January 3, 2008 11:37 PM

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