Should Iowa and New Hampshire be first? Democratic voters don’t think so

January 30, 2020, 8:00 PM UTC

Iowa and New Hampshire often set the tone for the primary struggle for a party’s presidential nomination. Those are the very first states to vote, after all. For Democrats, Iowa, in particular, is especially important. Since 1996, every eventual Democratic nominee finished first in the Iowa Caucuses.

But should Iowa and New Hampshire be so important? Maybe not. According to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, there isn’t a lot of support from Democrats (or the rest of the country) for keeping these states first in the nation.

A plurality of Democratic primary voters prefer a primary system where states other than Iowa and New Hampshire come first

Half of Democratic voters think Iowa and New Hampshire have “too much” influence (51%) on which candidate wins the Democratic nomination. Fewer than one in five of those Democratic voters agree that Iowa and New Hampshire should go first. About two in five (42%) want other states to lead the way. Among the public overall, those with an opinion agree that other states should precede the traditional first two states, but more than half the public aren’t sure either way.

Dissatisfaction with the primacy of Iowa and New Hampshire isn’t new.  At least since 2004, polls have indicated that Americans don’t like the power those two states have in the nominating process. 

Along with public unease about the process, most Democratic voters claim that the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary aren’t particularly important to their votes. Just 12% say they are very important.

However, many Democratic voters have a prediction for what will happen in Iowa, and for the most part, it matches their presidential preference. It’s just a two-way race in the Hawkeye State. As many Democratic voters think Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will win in Iowa as say former Vice President Joe Biden will. Only 5% think Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren will win, and even fewer name any of the other candidates. 

Presidential politics

When it comes to candidate preference, Warren is far more competitive, and is in the top three, well ahead of others running. But not only do few people expect her to win in Iowa, the same low 5% think she will end up being the nominee. Biden seems to be the candidate Democratic voters view as most likely to win the nomination, with Sanders the only other candidate in double figures. One-third expects him to win. 

Biden and Sanders are the only candidates whose supporters believe they are the likely nominee. A majority (58%) of those who select Biden as their first choice expect him to win the nomination; 63% of Sanders supporters think he will win. In contrast, just a quarter of Warren’s supporters expect her to be the nominee. 

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See the full toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll

Image: Getty