The Ames Straw Poll will be held on August 23rd, 2011 and potential candidates’ representatives are meeting next month to work out the rules of the straw poll. One of the possible rule changes: high school students who will be voting age by November 2012 will be allowed to participate. Of course, the conventional wisdom is that the Ames Straw Poll is incredibly important, but how predictive is it of who will win the Iowa caucuses?
In 1999, George Bush won the straw poll with 31%, Steve Forbes got 20%, Elizabeth Dole with 14% and Gary Bauer with 8% (Source).
In 2000, George Bush won the caucuses with 41%, Forbes came in with 30%, Dole was gone and Bauer got 8% (Source).
In 2007, Romney won the straw poll with 31%, Huckabee came in 2nd with 18%, Sam Brownback with 15%, Tom Tancredo with 13% and Ron Paul with 9% (Source).
Past results suggest the Ames Straw Poll to be more predictive of the final caucus results than other straw poll results; I think this is due to the participants, who will also be caucus participants, and the straw poll is run similarly to the caucuses. What’s interesting is that the views of Iowa voters did not change much with regards to the front runners over the months before the caucus day. Bush and Forbes were essentially unchanged, while Romney and Huckabee flipped places. Most straw polls are not predictive of anything, especially on a national scale, but the Ames Straw Poll is a fairly reliable indicator of the Iowa caucuses.