Aug. 12, 2008
Hawkeye Poll: Edwards' absence wouldn't have buoyed Clinton in Iowa Caucuses
John Edwards' admission that he had an affair in 2006 and then lied about it has prompted Hillary Clinton's forces to suggest that if Edwards had been forced out of the race sooner, she -- not Barack Obama -- would have won the Iowa Caucuses and thus, presumably, the nomination.
A University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll conducted the night of the Iowa Caucuses suggests the opposite: that the absence of Edwards would have helped Obama.
The survey administered to one randomly selected caucus participant in every precinct in Iowa on Jan. 3, 2008, included a question on second-choice preferences if a first-choice candidate was not viable. Eighty-two percent of those who had Edwards as their first choice said if he was not viable, they would support another candidate. When asked which candidate they would support, 51 percent said Obama and only 32 percent picked Clinton.
"Monday's claim from Howard Wolfson (Clinton's communications director during the campaign) that two-thirds of Edwards supporters would have supported Clinton is just not supported in data collected directly from those who actually participated in the caucuses," said Hawkeye Poll Director David Redlawsk, a political scientist in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Had Edwards not been running, and if nothing else had changed, my data suggest that Obama would have ended up even further ahead of Clinton than he was."
Redlawsk worked with the state's Republican and Democratic parties to place a survey in each of Iowa's precincts on caucus night. Each caucus chair was directed to give the pencil-and-paper survey to one randomly selected person just before the caucus began.
Surveys were collected from 80.8 percent of Democratic precincts and 65.6 percent of Republican precincts -- a very high response rate. Across both parties, there were 2,611 respondents from all 99 counties in Iowa, of which 1,441 were Democrats and 1,170 were Republicans. The margin of error for Democrats was +/- 2.2 percent; for Republicans +/- 2.9 percent. Results were unweighted.
Redlawsk also offered personal observations as an Edwards volunteer during the Iowa Caucuses, and now a national convention delegate.
"As the campaign progressed, few Edwards supporters I knew gave any indication that Clinton was their second choice," he said. "In my own caucus, which I chaired, when our Edwards group was initially declared non-viable, there was discussion of moving -- but to Obama, not Clinton. In the end, we gained viability by bringing over Richardson and Biden forces and by negotiating with the Obama group."
Redlawsk noted that by the time Iowa's county conventions rolled around March 15, Edwards had dropped out. Many Edwards delegations remained a separate viable group, but where they did not, the move to Obama was massive. In the end, Obama picked up nearly half of Edwards supporters, while Clinton picked up almost none. Of the four Iowans elected as Edwards national convention delegates, including Redlawsk, all publicly moved to Obama on June 3. None went to Clinton.
"An Iowa campaign without Edwards would have had a totally different dynamic, with a different focus on issues, with different media coverage for all of the candidates, and probably with some breathing room for Bill Richardson or Joe Biden," Redlawsk said. "If you've never been in Iowa during a caucus campaign, you can't begin to understand how the dynamic works, how candidate-focused it really is. Take out one candidate, and it's an entirely different animal."
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.
MEDIA CONTACTS: David Redlawsk, Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2352 (office), 319-400-1134 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-430-6576 (cell), 319-384-0070 (office), email@example.com