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Paul the top pick for young, new voters
January 3rd, 2012
09:24 PM ET

Paul the top pick for young, new voters

The younger, newer GOP caucus-goers tonight went for Ron Paul, who had the support of more than half the voters under age 30, and 38% of those attending their first caucus, according to entrance polls.

Evangelicals, who still represent roughly three-fifths of caucus-goers, went for Rick Santorum: 30 % named him their top pick – but Ron Paul was second, at 21%. Mitt Romney’s 13% share may have placed him a distant third in that category, essentially tied with Newt Gingrich’s 14% and Rick Perry’s 13 – but among non-evangelicals, he led the pack, with 35% of that vote, to Ron Paul’s 28.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Entrance Polls
Iowa caucus entrance polls: Electability tops the list
January 3rd, 2012
08:52 PM ET

Iowa caucus entrance polls: Electability tops the list

Four years ago, Republican caucus-goers were looking for a candidate they could believe in: 45% said their top priority was a candidate who shared their values. Just 7% said electability was their main concern.

This time around, that last-place factor is the biggest motivator for caucus-goers: 32% tonight said the most important quality in a candidate was the ability to beat President Obama this fall. But they haven't completely abandoned purity for pragmatism: 24% said their biggest priority was picking a true conservative.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Entrance Polls
Iowa caucus entrance polls: Independents crash the party
January 3rd, 2012
08:46 PM ET

Iowa caucus entrance polls: Independents crash the party

Four years ago, Iowa’s independents had to decide whether to participate in a competitive Republican contest, or an equally dramatic Democratic faceoff. Not this year. That was reflected in the makeup of tonight’s caucuses; the percentage of independents may have more than doubled, from 13% four years ago to 27% in early entrance polls - and 41% of the voters who participated tonight were attending their very first GOP caucus.

The wave of independents may have shifted the ideological needle closer to the center: the percentage of caucus-goers who describe themselves as moderate or liberal has jumped from 12% in 2008 to 20%. But the percentage who call themselves very conservative hasn’t budged: 46% use that description – virtually identical to the 45% who answered that way four years ago.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Entrance Polls
Iowa caucus entrance polls: How big a role did late deciders play?
January 3rd, 2012
08:36 PM ET

Iowa caucus entrance polls: How big a role did late deciders play?

Just last week – after months filled with thousands of campaign ads, and almost as many Pizza Ranch campaign stops - nearly half the likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers in the CNN/Time/ORC survey said they still hadn’t decided which candidate to back tonight (or that they had, but still weren’t completely sold on their choice.)

Tonight, 19 percent of the voters in early entrance polls made their picks in the past month; another 25% made the call in the past few days; and 15 % say they made the decision today – if those numbers hold, that could mean there were fewer late-deciders overall than there were four years ago, when those numbers were 31, 23 and 17.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Entrance Polls
January 3rd, 2012
05:55 PM ET

What the Iowa entrance polls will tell us tonight – and what they won’t

We’re just a few hours away from the first entrance polls of the 2012 race. The release will probably tell us quite a bit about how the campaign is playing out so far with primary season voters who’ve had the most exposure to the candidates. But first, it’s important to take a look at what they won’t.

Entrance polls are a bit different than exit polls; they take the pulse of voters just before, not after they head in to vote. They might not tell us who the winner will be, especially not in the early going. But they’re still worth watching. Here’s why:

Think of them as a giant focus group: They can give us a partial snapshot of who showed up today in one small part of the country, and what drove their vote. They can show which candidate had the most momentum, by letting us know who late deciders broke for, and some of the factors that may have driven their decision. They can give us our first real clue as to the candidates’ relative strength (or weakness) with key GOP voting blocs like evangelicals and tea party supporters; important demographic blocs like women and seniors; and highly-prized independent voters. And they can give us an initial glimpse of how enthusiastic a candidate’s supporters are – a key ingredient in any successful general election campaign.

Later tonight, we’ll get the final vote tally out of Iowa. The entrance polls will give us our first hint as to how and why we got there.

Follow Rebecca Sinderbrand on Twitter.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Entrance Polls