Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The likely make-up of the 2016 Iowa Caucus electorate could determine who runs

The Republican field in 2016 looks wide-open for the moment, according to Public Policy Polling (D). In newly released polls of Iowa, New Hampshire, and Florida,  politicos ranging from Mike Huckabee, to Chris Christie, to Jeb Bush come out at the top of the pack. With the Iowa Caucuses just three years away, lets take a look at some different turnout scenarios based on past exit polling. The information below provides a more detailed look at the Iowa PPP results, extrapolated from their ideological I.D. findings.

PPP results extrapolated from Ideological I.D. findings:
"VCon"= very conservative; "SCon" = somewhat conservative; "Mod" = moderate; "SLib" = somewhat liberal; "VLib" = very liberal

A close look at PPP's IOWA GOP internals indicate a fairly large ideological shift in the Iowa Republican electorate, especially when compared to 2012 and 2008 exit polling. PPP finds the ideological make-up of the 2016 Iowa GOP primary electorate to be LESS conservative than the 2012 Iowa GOP electorate. The poll finds ideological identification at 36% Very Conservative, 39% Somewhat Conservative,  and 25% moderate/liberal. Compare those numbers to 2012, when 47% described themselves as "very conservative," 37% as "somewhat conservative," and 17% as "moderate" or "liberal." That's a fairly large shift in the number of Republicans in Iowa identifying themselves as "very conservative." Even in 2008, 45% of Iowa Republicans identified as "very conservative," while only 12% identified as "moderate" or "liberal." 

As you can see from the above chart, candidates like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum derive the largest percentages of their vote share from "very conservative" and "somewhat conservative" GOP voters, while Chris Christie and Condi Rice perform better amongst "moderate," "liberal," and "very liberal" GOP voters. So one would expect that if the 2016 electorate looks more like 2012 than the actual PPP finding, Huckabee and Santorum should surge, while Christie and Rice would fall further behind. I put this theory to test below:*

PPP ideological ID reweighted to 2012 CNN Iowa Republican Caucus exit poll finding:  "VCon"= very conservative; "SCon" = somewhat conservative; "Mod" = moderate; "SLib" = somewhat liberal; "VLib" = very liberal

As you can see, both Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee make gains in the event the 2016 Iowa GOP primary electorate's ideology reflects 2012, but Marco Rubio makes the largest gain. He would jump nearly 2 points and into 2nd place, while Santorum jumps nearly 1.5 points (pushing him from 6th to 4th place). Meanwhile, Chris Christie and Condoleeza Rice see the largest drops in their share of the vote (because they both do very well amongst moderate/liberal voters, of which there were few in 2012). Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, and Sarah Palin all essentially stay the same, whether the 2016 electorate resembles PPP's finding or 2012 exit polling.

 If you're Condi Rice, or Rick Santorum, or anyone else who stirs the passions of either ideological side of the GOP electorate, findings like this from PPP are going to matter. It could mean the difference between a Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee Iowa Caucus victory.

*note: unfortunately, 2012 CNN exit polling only broke the race down into 3 categories; 1. Very conservative, 2. Somewhat Conservative, and 3. Moderate/liberal. I extrapolated the 2012 "moderate, liberal, very liberal" vote based on PPP's finding that "moderates" made up 76% of the "moderate/liberal/very liberal voters" in their poll, while "liberals" and the "very liberal" made up 12% a piece. Using these percentages, 13% of the 2012 "moderate/liberal" voters would be "moderate," 2% would be "liberal,", and 2% "very liberal."  Though this is inexact, it should alter the numbers little, given that liberal and very liberal GOP primary voters make up such a small portion of the electorate.

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