Fox News Voter Analysis Survey:  The Iowa Democratic Caucuses

As the Iowa Democratic Party continues to count the results of the first-in-the-nation caucus, the Fox News Voter Analysis – a poll of nearly 3,000 likely caucus-goers – provides important insight into voters’ views as they headed to caucus sites across the state. These results represent voters’ initial candidate preferences, and the state’s complicated caucus system means the final results may well differ from this data.

The survey revealed that eight-in-ten attendees were angry at the Trump administration and most of the rest were dissatisfied. On that, at least, Iowa’s Democrats could agree.

On other fundamental debates, however, caucus-goers were deeply split. Twice as many voters were looking for a candidate who would fundamentally change the political system than one who would restore things to the way they were before Trump.

More Important In Deciding Caucus Support~A Candidate Who Will:

Restore Political System      33%

Change Political System       67%

These “restore” voters went heavily for Joe Biden (37 percent) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (20 percent), while fundamental change voters preferred Sen. Bernie Sanders (26 percent) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (22 percent). Mayor Pete Buttigieg was able to bridge some of this divide, garnering 14 percent from restore voters and 17 percent from change voters.


There were also clear ideological divisions – very liberal attendees went for Sanders and Warren, while moderate or conservative participants split their vote three ways, between Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar.

Very Liberal

Sanders     41%

Warren      32%

Buttigieg   10%

Biden       7%


Biden       25%

Buttigieg   19%

Klobuchar   19%

Warren      10%

These divisions may play a role through the primary season and even into the general election. A majority of Sanders supporters said they would be dissatisfied if Biden, Buttigieg, or Klobuchar was the eventual nominee.

The reverse is also true – majorities of Klobuchar and Buttigieg supporters (and nearly half of Biden voters) would be unhappy if Sanders is the nominee.

This may bode well for Warren – the only leading candidate who would be satisfactory to a majority of each of the other candidates’ supporters.

Iowa caucus-goers were clearly focused on electability: nearly nine-in-ten said it was very important their nominee could beat Trump. And yet, they had some doubts about which candidate – or which traits – would give them the best chance in November.

Over four-in-ten thought the Democrats would have a harder time against Trump if they nominated a woman (45 percent) or someone over age 75 (46 percent). There was even more skepticism about a gay nominee (57 percent) or one with strongly liberal views (58 percent). Of course, those characteristics describe each of the leading contenders.

Nominating a candidate with strong leadership was nearly as important to caucus-goers as electability. Caring about people like you, working across party lines, having the best policy ideas, and having the right experience were lesser priorities.


“Very” Important Democratic Nominee –

Can Beat Trump?                     88%

Is A Strong Leader?                 85%

Cares About People?                 76%

Has The Best Policy Ideas?          66%

Will Work Across Party Lines?       61%

Candidate Strengths

Sanders’ strong showing was driven by younger, very liberal Iowans in urban and suburban areas. He also performed well among those who have known who they would support all along and first-time caucus-goers.

Sanders’ Strengths

Young Attendees               46%

Very Liberal                  41%

First-Time Attendees          21%

LGBT Attendees                44%

Long-Time Supporters          41%

Biden’s strengths are, in many ways, the opposite of Sanders’. He performed best among seniors, rural areas, and the caucus’s more moderate or conservative attendees. Men without a college degree were also a source of strength for the former vice president.

Biden’s Strengths

Seniors                             30%

Moderates/Conservatives             25%

Small Town/Rural                    21%        

Men Without A College Degree        25%

Warren provided stiff competition for Sanders among very liberal voters. She also did well with women (particularly younger women) and college graduates. Better than two-in-ten first-time caucus-goers went for the Massachusetts senator.

Warren’s Strengths

Women                   22%

Women Under Age 45      27%

College Degree          22%

Very Liberal            32%

First-Time Attendees    21%

Buttigieg – the first gay major-party presidential candidate – won 15 percent of LGBT caucus-goers, finishing second (to Sanders) with that group. The South Bend mayor’s best demographic groups included moderate/conservatives, those who feel the economy is fair to most Americans, and attendees who saw foreign policy as the most important issue facing the country.

Buttigieg’s Strengths

Moderates/Conservatives       19%

Economy Fair                  24%

Top Issue: Foreign Policy     24%

Klobuchar performed best among many of Biden’s best groups, including seniors, and moderate/conservative attendees. But where Biden was strong among noncollege men, some of Klobuchar’s strongest support came from women and college graduates.

Klobuchar’s Strengths

Women                   15%

Seniors                 21%

College Degree          17%

Moderates/Conservatives 19%

Ground Game

Voter contact has long been a key feature of the Iowa primary, as campaigns invest time and money in building strong voter contact operations. This year, more than three-quarters of attendees had been contacted by the Sanders campaign either in person or by telephone. Warren and Buttigieg’s campaign operations were nearly as effective, and even Biden and Klobuchar’s operations contacted roughly half of the attendees. 

Yes, Contacted By Campaign

Sanders?    76%

Warren?     68%

Buttigieg?  68%

Biden?      56%

Klobuchar?  46%

All that voter contact led to a host of first-time participants. These first-timers preferred Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg.

First-Time Attendees

Sanders     21%

Warren      21%

Buttigieg   18%

Yang        12%

Biden       11%

Health care was the top issue for caucus-goers, followed closely by climate change. The economy and jobs trailed far behind, despite the fact that fully 86 percent felt the country’s economic system is unfair to most Americans.

Most Important Issue

Health Care            37%

Climate Change          31%

Economy/Jobs            12%

Foreign Policy          8%

Taxes                   4%

On health care, nearly nine-in-ten participants favored changing the health care system to provide a public option – similar to the approach championed by Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar. Seven-in-ten backed a Sanders- or Warren-style single-payer approach.

Nearly two-thirds of attendees supported both approaches to health care reform, while a quarter supported the public option while opposing single payer. These “public option only” voters opted for the more moderate candidates: 29 percent for Biden, 25 percent for Buttigieg, and 22 percent for Klobuchar.

Views On Health Care Policy Proposals

Favor Single Payer & Govt. Run            63%

Favor Single Payer, Oppose Govt. Run      7%

Oppose Single Payer, Favor Govt. Run      25%

Oppose Single Payer & Govt. Run           4%

The small number of attendees who supported single payer and opposed the public option broke heavily for Sanders (68 percent).

On other policy issues, caucus-goers generally went green: 87 percent supported taxing the use of carbon-based fuels and 76 percent favored marijuana legalization.

The Fox News Voter Analysis, conducted in partnership with the Associated Press, provides a comprehensive look at voting behavior, opinions and preferences as America votes.  The Iowa survey is based on surveys of the Iowa electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago the week before the caucus, concluding as polls closed.  Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish.  The survey is based on interviews with a random sample of registered voters drawn from the state voter file.  The margin of sampling error for the 2,829 voters is estimated to be plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.  Full methodology statement here:

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