Iowa has come under fire from both Democratic presidential candidates and activists alike for the prominent role it plays by being the first state to vote, but a new study from WalletHub shows those concerns may be unfounded.
The Iowa caucuses on Monday kick off the 2020 voting season, but there have been complaints that the state’s lack of diversity harms the chances for minority candidates to gain a foothold in early polling. Indeed, three of the last four hopefuls to end their campaigns have been candidates of color – California Sen. Kamala Harris, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castor and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. California businessman Andrew Yang is the lone minority candidate left.
First off, WalletHub says the results in Iowa every four years are not as important as people make them out to be. While 70 percent of Democratic winners in Iowa since 1976 have gone on to win their party’s nomination, only 20 percent have won the White House. The numbers are even lower for Republicans, at 37.5 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively.
WalletHub looked at 31 metrics to compare Iowa’s demographic and public opinion likeness to the rest of the U.S. and found its Overall Resemblance Rating to be 89 percent.
Among the main findings, Iowa scored 86 percent on sociodemographics, 89 percent on economics, 92 percent on education, 85 percent on religion and 93 percent on public opinion.
Iowa also least resembles the rest of the United States in terms of race, at 50 percent; and also religious composition at 64 percent and wealth gap at 77 percent.
The areas where Iowa most closely tracks the country as a whole are school enrollment and the importance of religion in one’s life, both with 99 percent similarity.
Walter J. Stone, a professor of political science at University of California-Davis, told WalletHub that critics of Iowa say its demographics could cause voters there to tilt the process toward their own interests.
“For example, Iowa agriculture – a big part of the state’s economy – has an interest in ethanol-based fuels, which some have argued distorts the price of corn with other externalities in the national economy,” he said.
As for the lack of success in Iowa among minority candidates, Stone pointed out that President Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, setting the stage for his successful candidacy.
Given the criticism of Iowa voting first and similar complaints against New Hampshire holding the first primary eight days later, some have suggested that all states should vote on the same day. Stone disagrees.
“The obvious pro is that it mitigates against the unrepresentativeness of any given state,” he said. “But the huge con is that it would be an enormously expensive campaign that would preclude candidates who cannot raise large sums up front or who lack national exposure.”
Stone noted that former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton “would have smothered” Obama in 2008 in a national primary.