What Iowa Caucusgoers Have to Say

The New York Times polled 584 Democrats likely to caucus in Iowa. Fifteen of them agreed to talk to us on camera. Here is what they told us.

Comments: 73

  1. This was wonderful. I like seeing and hearing them, succinctly.

  2. @Sue Haley I really liked the format. Thought provoking and instructive.

  3. Everybody take a good, hard look at these voters. These are people who are going to have a much bigger say in who becomes the next president than you will. They have an outsized say in the candidates honing of their positions, they have an outsized say in the press, they have an outsized say at their caucuses. If you wonder why you don't ever get the president you would like, maybe ask these people.

  4. @ondelette yep. wouldn't it make more sense to have a National popular vote? Get rid of the Electoral College?

  5. This was a very fun way to talk about the Iowa caucuses. From my perspective, these slices of life from the people you interviewed is a fair representation of how people are thinking.

  6. Thank you Iowans for your diligence, persistence, and tenacity in politics. Your earnest pursuit of the right candidate is an inspiration to the rest of us. Thanks especially for paying attention. I apologize to you for all the times your dinner hours were intruded by pollsters and robo-callers. Your long trial is coming to an end and you can put this puppy to bed knowing you've done a very good job. My favorite part of watching you from the Evergreen State is that you find that politics is interesting.

  7. @Svendska8 Oh please! Why do certain Americans have such an outsize influence on our elections? I am so sick to death of hearing about Iowa, New Hampshire and the "heartland". Enough, they are no more important than the rest of us.

  8. What a wonderful piece of journalism. Power to the people.

  9. It was interesting to hear that none of them had a clear choice on a candidate or what that candidate stood for / could bring to the election. If they all want to get Trump out of office isn't it best to choose the best candidate for that task and do their research?? It makes it seem like they're going in blind, which ultimately will contribute to Trump securing the Presidency once again.

  10. @Dillon How do research that question? Because you can never predict it until after the results are in.

  11. Not one person of color.

  12. @JA These were the fifteen who agreed to meet with NYT... Iowa is 90% white...

  13. @JA There was one person of color. Still not enough.

  14. @JA jason bonnell, 35, des moines. you clearly had your mind made up before you watched in its entirety, and probably didnt even watch the entire film.

  15. It's a pity the nation is forced to care what Iowa caucus-goers think.

  16. What a great way to give us this information! Thanks!

  17. The lack of diversity in this group, while acknowledged, is nonetheless alarming.

  18. @Sheila I guess in a state that is 90% white diversity would then mean gender diversity.

  19. @C Actually, one male said he was mixed race. So the sample did have racial and gender diversity. Also, likely religious diversity, since the man was also an atheist.

  20. @Sheila It's amazing that people can be woke regardingwhite people not being diverse while being asleep to the qualities of sincerity, kindness, civic concern they evince. Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. These people seem genuinely nice, and they are all Democrats who oppose Trump. Why worry about what color their skin is?

  21. Another good thing about Iowa: Henry Wallace, Roosevelt's vice president during World War II. He should have been president in 1944. I have no doubt at all that he would have been better than Truman in that position. But listening to the present day Iowans was very interesting. If the election is fair, maybe anyone can beat Trump? The thing is Trump will do anything legal or illegal to win. That is what we have to be ready for.

  22. @Steve C. Well said Steve. I think it's a very sensible strategy for the Democratic party as a whole. If, as looks increasingly likely by the day, the Democrats can win this election by legitimate democratic means, than a good, convincing story should be prepared / crafted to demonstrate that Mr. Trump, although it LOOKS as if he won, actually cheated. Probably (this is just a suggestion, but personally I think it's a good one, that will make for a very good story) with the help of some kind of hostile foreign power. Maybe Russia, why not? Actually, come to think of it, we could even re-use that Steele dossier!

  23. What a great piece of editing and filming. Love this format.

  24. Bernie can't beat Trump. Tilting in the wind. Klobuchar could beat Trump.

  25. @Nancy Werner From a recently released 2016 video of Trump at a fundraiser: "Had she [Clinton] picked Bernie Sanders it would've been tougher. He's the only one I didn't want her to pick," Trump can be heard saying in the recording. Certainly Bernie can beat Trump! He could have beaten Trump in 2016. The NYT and other Establishment media, and the status quo protecting Wall Street supporting carefully moderate Establishment are afraid of Sanders and are working mightily to convince voters that Bernie can't win, because they don't want him to win. No other candidate can motivate those who are disinclined to vote, to get out and VOTE. Moderates may prefer Trump...

  26. @Lucy Cooke Maybe Bernie could beat Trump, but then what? He has to govern, by bringing in real experts and working with real people. We can't take another 4-8 years of a President that just fusses, without getting anything constructive done. I don't want to vote for either Queens Trump OR Burlington Trump.

  27. @NotMyRealName What makes you think Bernie can't govern? i think Bernie would be a very capable president. He would bring in real experts AND have the mental capacity to actually evaluate what the experts tell him.

  28. This was fantastic. Thank you NYT and participants.

  29. In a nation that is heading toward 50% of our population being people of color why in God's name do we have to put so much weight in an all white state like Iowa? Just because they demand to be first? Iowa and NH should vote last.

  30. I see what you mean Robert, fair point. But you know, states have their little senses of pride / identity, and so it might not be that easy to get Iowa to renounce their first position. What would be fairly easy though (and I am offering this advice for free, just out of the kindness of my heart) would to still have Iowa go first, BUT, simply forbid white Iowans from voting. See? Problem solved!

  31. @robert I think you could throw rocks all day in Iowa and only hit white people.

  32. @M. Jones The statistic is 90.7% white, to be exact. The interesting (some might even say important) question, though, is: does that make their vote less legitimate?

  33. Thank you, NYT! This is a wonderful feature! You must do the same with Republican voters, whom, lately, I have a very difficult time understanding them. What is most important to them? We may not like much of what they say, but they are our fellow citizens, and we must reunite as a country if this country is to survive. Trump's most effective weapon has been to divide us as a people. Us against them. He has turned us against each other to distract us from the real enemy--him and his ilk--the greedy, self-serving, corrupt power grabbers.

  34. @Patty I agree, we should avoid divisive rhethorics, and, quite frankly, politics. Like... I don't know... idle talk about deplorables. Excessive focus race, gender, sexual orientation... any criterion you can think of to divide the people rather than unite them.

  35. @Patty "Trump's most effective weapon has been to divide us as a people. Us against them." And our press has done as much or more to divide us. There is nothing that gets a reporters blood flowing like conflict. So that is what we get, a Punch and Judy puppet show.

  36. I am still grappling with how a good portion are still undecided. How is that even possible? The other factor is a lack of representation. In a country that will soon be a minority-majority country, the first picture certainly does not reflect the spectrum of diversity. As much I appreciate Iowa for taking their civic duties seriously, it has to reflect the landscape. Same with NH. Maybe South Carolina and Nevada should go first. Throw in New Jersey or Massachusetts for good measure too!

  37. @Up Down All Around I think this is an incredibly difficult decision. Warren and Sanders have about a 95% policy overlap. Sanders seems to have a critical following, but it's not crazy to have doubts about his ability to maintain decent health for 8 years. In a way, Biden seems like a safe choice, but he's more of the same ol' same ol' that got us Trump in the first place. Yang is incredibly compelling, and I pretty much everyone likes him, but nobody thinks he has a chance. Klobuchar seems imminently competent, but her environmental record isn't so hot. How is this an easy decision?

  38. @HD Agree it's not easy, but wondering why you feel nobody thinks Yang has a chance. I think the opposite - it seems he has a stronger draw among Republicans and Independents who don't want Trump in another term than some of the more mainstream Democratic candidates. To me, that gives him a better chance of beating Trump.

  39. @Up Down All Around Sen. Chuck Grassley said he voted "guilty" for both impeachment articles against Clinton adding the "true tragedy" was the loss of the president's moral authority. "He undermined himself when he wagged his finger and lied to the nation on national TV. No doubt about his coming vote on Trump either, or that of small government Joni who's had virtually no non-tax payer employment. They have much denial they flush down to the Gulf of Mexico each Spring as part of some rebirthering scheme. Thankfully most of that cost is subsidized.

  40. Iowa Democrats are split on whether to support a candidate they agree with most, or one with the best chance of beating President Trump. I think all of us who are Independent or Democrat are dealing with this quandary. As Stephen Covey said, "the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing". When one realizes the priority, the decision becomes much easier. We must choose and support to the fullest the candidate who will beat Trump. If we choose the one with whom we agree the most when that candidate cannot beat Trump, isn't that tantamount to straightening chairs on the deck of the Titanic? Let's stick with the priority here. Then we can look at the urgent, but less pressing, issues once we have restored sanity to this office and rid our nation of this cancer.

  41. @zande mallciote Agreed - but who is that candidate? It's pure speculation at this point, because arguments could be made against a lot of the candidates as to why they wouldn't be electable - not to mention last election cycle we had someone who in this field would probably be considered the most electable, and that didn't work. I've decided I'm going to vote in the primaries for the candidate that excites me and that I agree with on the important issues, and if our party decides otherwise I'll obviously be in full support of whoever that is. But trying to guess is fraught.

  42. @zande mallciote You seem to think there can't be the case that the most preferred candidate is also the most like to win, but I disagree. Because if we all vote for who WE like in the primary, then maybe we'll end up with the candidate most of like. And, isn't the definition of "most like to win"? Remember, most Republicans won't vote for a Democrat no matte rhow "centrist" they may be, so quit trying to placate them.

  43. @Drew P - Exactly my opinion too! I made up my mind several months ago who my choice is, have listened to everyone else also, and will absolutely vote in the General for the Democrat (or Independent in Bernie's case) who wins the Primary. Voting for Buttigieg in the Primary.

  44. It's good that the cycle begins in Iowa, a fairly realistic / moderate state, and not in some crazy liberal state, like say, California, which would be demographically fairer but politically disastrous in terms of setting the tone for the rest of the campaign. Not that it really matters any more at this point, anyway. I'm hearing more and more stories of people who were freaked out the night Trump was elected, but now look back, assess what has happened since, how their own conditions have evolved, and, being rational human beings, decide that they will vote for him this time around.

  45. @GC The fact that you would blanketly dismiss our country's largest state, home to 12% of our country's population, as "crazy liberal" demonstrates that your perspective is part of the problem of mischaracterization and lies that's tearing our country apart.

  46. @Paul-A Agree, and I doubt that many who freaked out when Trump was elected, will vote for this time around strikes me as a likely fib.

  47. @GC Perhaps what you meant to say was "being selfish people who are making out OK" rather than "being rational". At least you didn't call them "moral" Thanks for that.

  48. LOVED this. Thank you. This feature literally puts a face or more accurately, faces, on our electorate. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this Californian has much in common with Iowans. Oh, except for the weather. We have much better weather than Iowa. I look forward to seeing how the caucuses vote.

  49. Seeing a bunch of white voters who are "still making up my mind" is Exhibit A on why the Iowa caucus system should NEVER receive the chronological lead and perceived importance that it has. It is sad, too, that a state so dependent on the farming industry can be so blind to the damage of Trump tariffs. Maybe if Trump put a tariff on all the buffets in Dubuque there would be a day of reckoning.

  50. @mihusky Nice to see you used this chance to make fun of people without even watching. They are making their minds up as to which Democrat they will caucus for. None of these folks are going to vote for Trump.

  51. Please do this for the other 49 states. I enjoyed this very much! It might also encourage more people to VOTE.

  52. Wow. This is a nice piece. I loved the kid who said, "all states should be equal." A political understanding already beyond Trump´s abilities?

  53. @Maree But, what does that actually mean? When you look at how many people live in each state, there is a huge variation. But, each state has 2 senators. That means the senator who represents a million people, has the same voting power as the senator who represents 25 million people.

  54. @Maree This was such an insightful piece and fun to read. Yes it was a small sample but a peak behind the curtain

  55. @Rita Prangle It means that the little boy is 9 years old, as stated in the article, and is politically innocent. FYI: the number of representatives in the House is based on a state's population, which is why Iowa only has four members in the House. Each state has two Senators to keep the densely populated states from running the country all by themselves.

  56. What I find sad is that of 72,xxx people only 5xx agreed to even take the poll. That's a horrible return rate--this could never be published in an academic journal. It's not that I don't appreciate hearing from actual people (full disclosure--born an Iowan and still consider it my home place), but I agree with most of the commenters that we aren't hearing from those people: of color, of lower economic status, disabled, who are going to feel the effects of this election the most.

  57. @Tamara ... I'd agree with you but not for the reasons you provided ....My reasoning is that phone calls are so often from scammers, etc., that I don't even pick up my phone when it rings unless I hear the voice of someone I know -- when they begin to leave a message. Therefore, although I'd much enjoy being part of a poll, I won't take one over the phone because one can't really know who is actually on the other end of the line. For example, someone presented herself as an Independent voter organization but by the third question I knew she was a dyed-in-the-wool far-right republican. For her dishonesty, I hung up on her. IF the poll questions were emailed, I could always check on the supposed sender, which one can't do over the phone. So.... there are many reasons people don't answer their phones and it's certainly not for lack of interest or just the reasons you gave.

  58. Having grown up in Iowa and caucused in the past, there is one thing about the process - it makes you meet your neighbors. I find that part of the process one of the most important aspects that has been lost across the country. Even if you disagree with your liberal or conservative neighbor, you share a lot more in common with them, then with who they vote for President. Issues, primarily local issues are shared by all neighbors. If you are snowed in, lose power, have kids that attend the same school, chances are you'd help each other out if the need arose. As a country we've lost touch with our neighbors, even if they have similar views It used to be that conservatives and liberals could share a beer and shoot the breeze in Iowa or Wisconsin or anywhere in country. Nowadays we have become so polarized by short video clips and memes pointing at each other, we forget that really we aren't so different after all. Yes Iowa is not diverse, or a snapshot of the country overall, but their process of gathering for two hours and discussing the pros and cons to make a candidate viable for a delegate, at least has local citizens speaking with each other. It's not perfect, but then again is our political system isn't perfect either. Good work on showing a few voters from the great state of Iowa, and highlighting the process that is first in our country!

  59. I think that questions like "Do you want a candidate who you agree with most or one who has the best chance to beat Trump?" tend to frame the race in an unhealthy way (given that, historically, one of the core assumptions behind it seems to be that moderate candidates have more chances of winning because they appeal to a broader public). That way of thinking might have played a big role in securing the candidacy for Hillary in 2016. Trump voters, on the other hand, seem to have chosen not to take electability into account, and wound up with the President of their choice. It might be better to ask "Who do you think has the best chance to beat Trump, and why?" instead.

  60. That was awesome! Good job, Iowans! Made me laugh about all this for the first time in 4 years.

  61. I am not Iowan, or white, but watching these videos makes me SO PROUD I share a country with these people. There is hope for our country, no matter what happens in the election. God Bless America. I'm also OK with Iowa going first in the Presidential cycle.

  62. Appreciate meeting fellow Democrat decision-makers on this journey. This thoughtful bunch of first deciders gives me greater confidence in the caucus outcome!

  63. That was fun to watch, thanks. I fell better about the caucuses.

  64. These were a nice bunch of people. Some real characters but thoughtful and lively.

  65. This is such a small sampling that it is meaningless.

  66. I loved hearing what the participants had to say - very spontaneous and honest. They made me feel good about Idaho (I mean Iowa, Ha Ha.)

  67. How wonderful to see the human faces behind the Iowa caucuses, and our fellow Americans and Democrats!

  68. When people complain about Iowa "going first," I speculate about which state they would deem more appropriate. I suspect that their choice wouldn't be a state, it would be New York City or Los Angeles. After all, those places don't get their fair share of attention. Or we could always go with the statistics. Find a state where 12% of the residents are black, 12% are Hispanic, and the proper percentages are Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, atheist, and representative of various sexual orientations. I find it refreshing that a flyover state gets some attention every four years, and a caucus is much more democratic than a primary.

  69. @Linda There are many so-called flyover states that represent a greater diversity of background. There is no need for "either-or-ism." The goal should be to find the consensus candidate.

  70. @Linda In theory it is. But doors open at 6:00 and they stop accepting people at 7. There is no early voting. All hospital personnel automatically cannot make it, restaurant workers, casinos etc. Its unfortunate but it’s too limiting.

  71. To make the process more representative, all states should caucus. Iowans are dedicated citizens, no doubt. But they are such a small slice of America that it seems weird how much influence they have on the larger process just because they go first.

  72. @Stacy VB I was impressed by their tolerance and decency. The interviews made me feel better about 'fly-over' country, about which I know almost nothing. I had a neighbor from Iowa, a transplant to SF. He was bright and funny. He took me on a trolley car tour. Later he learned how to repair shoes, opened his own shop and was very successful. My husband and I made sure we directed all our friends to have their shoes re-soled and repaired by him. I am a 5th generation San Franciscan; all are welcome here, especially those who bring a bit of charming eccentricity.

  73. I don’t want to be rude but I disagree with your process on this? Most of Iowa is mostly white, but we have pockets of cultural diversity. Iowa was the first state to accept Refugees affected by the Vietnam War, that’s three generations ago give or take. Still here. There are black people, I promise. Don’t assume that because people think Iowa is only flat and white, that either is true. Did you reach out to any groups in this process? Iowa Women’s March is lead by a very diverse group. Don’t erase non-white voices because you assume that Iowa is as white as the Oscars. PS In the age of extended warranty scams-no one answers unknown numbers.