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Waiting until the “last few days”

By Christopher W. Larimer, University of Northern Iowa Professor of Political Science.

Iowa caucus-goers are notorious for being “late-deciders” and this year seems to be no different. A Monmouth Poll taken earlier this month showed that 39 percent of likely caucus-goers were “open” to the “possibility of supporting a different candidate” with a moderate to high possibility. Similarly, in the most recent Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll taken earlier this month, 45 percent of likely caucus-goers said they “could be persuaded.”

This level of indecisiveness is not surprising. Entrance polls from the 2016 Democratic caucuses in Iowa suggested that 22 percent of caucus-goers made their decision in the final week of the campaign, with a combined 16 percent doing so over “the last few days” or final day. Going back to the 2008 Democratic caucuses, when the field was much larger and more competitive across three candidates, 30 percent of caucus-goers made their decision in the last three days or final day of the campaign.

And finally, recall that in 2012, Rick Santorum, the eventual caucus winner after a recount, “surged” in the final two days of polling of the Iowa Poll, moving into second over those two days whereas in previous polls he had finished outside of the top three.

In short, these last few days matter.

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