Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Data restored from a 1981 survey indicates that while a near-majority of Iowans supported keeping the Iowa Caucuses in January, nearly one-third preferred to shift them to March or April. These data come from Iowa Poll #249, a random sample survey of 1021 Iowans from October 1981, which has been restored as part of a larger IPOL project to recover lost data from past Iowa Polls. The first question asked, “In a presidential election year, do you think Iowa should continue to have an early precinct caucus in January or should they be shifted to March or April?”. 49.9% of Iowans supported keeping the January caucus, while 31.4% of Iowans supported shifting the caucuses to March or April. 18.7% were not sure when to hold them. A second question asked, “Did you attend a precinct caucus in 1980?”. An overwhelming majority of Iowans, 82%, said that they didn’t attend a caucus, while only 16% of Iowans said they did attend a caucus.

50% of Iowans favor keeping the Caucuses in January while a third would move them to March or April.

Surprisingly, we found that younger Iowans were more likely to support keeping the Iowa Caucuses in January, while older Iowans were more likely to support shifting the Iowa Caucuses to March or April. 60% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 58% of 30- to 44-year-olds supported keeping a January caucus, while only 33% of those 65 and older supported keeping a January caucus. Younger people were also more likely to have attended a caucus than older people. 16% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 22% of 30- to 44-year-olds reported attending a caucus, while only 12% of those 65 and older reported attending a caucus.

Iowa Poll #249, conducted by the Des Moines Register, was administered to a random sample of Iowans in October 1981. In addition to the questions about the constitution, the survey asked respondents their opinions on a wide variety of topics, including the Iowa Caucuses, the Iowa gubernatorial race, Iowa history, the Ten Commandments, and what Iowans were least thankful for in 1981. Understanding Iowans’ past opinions on these topics can help us understand how perspectives have changed and what ideas have remained popular. IPOL has also been working with UI Libraries and the Des Moines Register to restore data from dozens of Iowa Polls from the 1960s to early 1980s. More information about the project can be found here. We are working to release a full report on our findings as we analyze additional questions.