Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Iowa Update

There's a new PPP poll out in Iowa, and I'm tweeting about it, so I figured I might as well turn it into a post as long as I'm up. Remember: I'm blogging because I'm up and thinking about it, but it's a single poll, and relatively small random variations could be showing up -- it's the first Iowa poll in several days, and so we have to wait for a couple more to get a better sense of everything. Remember too that the Iowa caucuses are notoriously hard to poll.

The top line doesn't show much: Ron Paul has a small lead over Mitt Romney (24%/20%), and then there's a modest gap before a bunched field for the other spots: Gingrich 13%, Bachmann 11%, Perry 10% , Santorum 10%. That leaves

Perhaps the biggest single number in the entire poll is Newts favorable/unfavorable ratings, which have totally tanked: he's at 37/54. PPP is making a lot of Santorum's favorable/unfavorable, which are the best in the field, but while he definitely could finish strong, I don't really see anything to convince me that he's in better shape than Bachmann (only slightly worse numbers) or Perry (who will outspend both of them). Remember, organization matters, too. I suspect that Newt's organization is also the weakest. I'd like to know more about how many caucuses will have someone speaking for the various candidates.

Mind a little speculation? Here's what I see, combining the PPP poll and Nate Silver's (topline-based) prediction model:

1. Any of the six could wind up with a top three finish in Iowa. Newt is least likely, in my opinion, but certainly could hang on and manage to do it.

2. Any of five -- all but Newt -- have a realistic chance of actually winning Iowa.

3. Of the six, only Ron Paul is a lock to finish in the top three. Anyone else could finish as low as 6th place, although I'd be a bit surprised if Romney did. It's hard to see Paul finishing worse than third.

4. Expectations do matter and are somewhat affected by objective factors (that is, pre-caucus polling vs. caucus results). So one of Perry/Bachmann/Santorum are still likely to be a significant story if one of them finishes third (likely), and even more so if one winds up second or, obviously, first.

5. On the other hand, as Silver just tweeted, there could be bandwagon effects if one of that group is perceived as breaking out in the next few days. In particular, that's probably where Newt is especially vulnerable; I suspect (and the crosstabs support this some) that a lot of conservatives and evangelicals parked with Newt when he appeared to be the most likely conservative/social conservative alternative to Romney (and Paul). That perception was probably still out there right now. If it collapses, his support could collapse, too.

6. Indeed, while he could still finish as high as second, if I had to bet on one of these six to finish behind the others my money would be on Gingrich.

7. But it's one (new) poll! I'm speculating! More information will be available soon.

Last caveat: this is only about Iowa. Iowa results matter, but how much and how depends on lots of other things.


  1. >Remember, organization matters, too.

    It has occurred to me that you could probably get a better sense of what's going on in Iowa by taking any poll and transferring 5 percentage points from Gingrich's numbers to Paul's.

  2. Organization was the first thing I thought about weeks ago, when Gingrich was running high in national and Iowa polls. I figured the caucuses would be close because both of the top two national candidates had only recently started building their Iowa organizations. That's what gave Paul the chance to slip in; he's always been good at motivating people to fight to the death for him, or at least hang around a caucus for several hours arguing on his behalf.

  3. I understand organization matters but what about Huckabee in 2008? My understanding is that he had no organization. Did the evangelical groups create an informal organization? I'd appreciate any thoughts. Great blog and comments.

  4. Mike Huckabee was able to throw together an organization late in the game, in large part based on the home-schooling movement.

    Romney would love a Paul-Romney-Bachmann result.

    I doubt that the newsletters affair will affect Paul very much -- his supporters seem to be exceptionally devoted -- but they might turn off some college-town liberals who like his foreign-policy isolationism and opposition to the drug war.

    I agree that Newt would exceptionally vulnerable to a bandwagon effect (how many evangelicals genuinely have him as a first choice?), but it's far from clear to whom his supporters would go.

  5. >Mike Huckabee was able to throw together an organization late in the game, in large part based on the home-schooling movement.

    I'm uncomfortable going off-topic, but as a politically liberal Jew who was homeschooled through high school, who was part of a Jewish homeschooling organization, and who was interviewed for B'nai B'rith's magazine in an article about Jewish homeschoolers, this is a personal issue to me, and I hate seeing it misrepresented.

    You apparently have fallen prey to the misconception that "the home-schooling movement" is fundamentally a movement of conservative, evangelical Christians who have pulled their children out of traditional schools for religious ideological reasons (say, the teaching of evolution, or sex education).

    This is a myth. It is a myth that has been perpetuated by evangelical homeschoolers themselves, who like to pretend they're the only homeschoolers in existence.

    Let's be clear: conservative evangelicals who are homeschooling for religious reasons do not constitute "the homeschooling movement." They do not constitute a majority of the homeschooling movement. They do not constitute anything close to a majority. They are a slice of the movement, nothing more.

    The majority of homeschooling families in America are doing it for reasons unrelated to religion. (According to census data, only 33% of homeschoolers cite religion as a factor in their homeschooling.) They include people of all faiths and lack thereof. They include Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, pagans, atheists--you name it. They include people all across the political spectrum. And this has been true for the entirety of the last two decades.

    It may be true that Huck's success in Iowa owed something to the work of conservative Christian homeschoolers, but those activists most definitely did not represent "the homeschooling movement." They represented a particular branch of the movement at most.

  6. KR Smith:
    One could make the argument that listening to a Paul supporter argue for several hours is tantamount to death.



    (Sorry....I just saw the comment and wanted to make the joke)

  7. A few interesting things: Paul leads with evangelicals. Romney's negatives have gone up. Romney is the second choice of 10% and Paul is the second choice of 9%.

    So things look pretty good for Paul *in this poll.* But the important thing is that there is no movement in the vote percentages since the last PPP poll. And at the time of the last PPP poll, other polls showed Romney winning.


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