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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 3, 2008

University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll examines attributes of early voters

Early voting is reaching record levels this election, and a new University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll examines the characteristics of early voters.

Early voters throughout the month of October tended to have a high level of interest in the election. Older voters and women were more likely to vote early, the national poll of 1,482 registered voters showed. Party affiliation and education level did not affect the likelihood of voting early.

The Hawkeye Poll data released today come from a month-long poll conducted Oct. 1-28 and echo other polls showing high levels of early voting. The overall survey has a margin of error of 2.6 percent.

Early voting picked up steam throughout the month as more states began the early voting process and voters took advantage of it. During the first two weeks of the survey, Oct. 1-14, just under 4 percent of voters cast an early vote. During the third week, Oct. 15-21, 8.9 percent voted early. In the most recent week of the survey, Oct. 22-28, nearly one third -- 31.7 percent -- had already voted.

Finally, in a small additional sample of 146 respondents collected Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, nearly half -- 48.6 percent -- said they had already voted.

"Levels of early voting go well beyond anything we have seen in the past," said Hawkeye Poll Co-Director Caroline Tolbert, associate professor of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences." But it remains to be seen if this represents many brand new voters who otherwise would not have voted, or simply a shifting of when experienced voters actually cast their vote."

Previous research suggests early voters are much like regular voters in terms of being older, more interested in politics and having higher levels of education than non-voters.

Older voters most likely to vote early

Across the full sample, early voters are more likely to be older. Voters 60 or older represent 25.1 percent of the sample but make up 38.6 percent of early voters. Voters under age 30 represent 15.2 percent of the sample but only 10.6 percent of all early voters.

During the week of Oct. 21-28, these older voters were even more likely to vote early, with over 42 percent saying they had already voted, compared to 30 percent of the youngest group.

"The number of young people voting early remains lower than other age groups, but it's a bump in comparison to past years," Tolbert said. "This suggests that Barack Obama's strategy to encourage early voting, especially on campuses, might be working, even though older people remain the most likely early voting group."

Poll shows little partisan difference in early voters

Across the entire month, little partisan difference is seen in early voting, with 10.9 percent of Democrats, 10.5 percent of Republicans and 11.1 percent of independents voting early. But in the most recent week, Oct. 21-28, 33 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of independents reported voting early, compared to 30.1 percent of Republicans.

Across the entire month, about 13 percent of respondents who self-identified as liberals reported voting early, compared to 10.3 percent of those who call themselves conservatives and 10.9 percent of moderates, another indication that ideology does not directly drive early voting.

And while the last week of the poll shows Obama leading John McCain by 51.1 percent to 40 percent, tracking other national polls, more McCain voters reported early voting during that week, 39.2 percent to 25.9 percent.

Interest in election increases likelihood of voting early

Sixty-five percent of early voters followed election news very closely, compared to only 52.7 percent of those who had not yet voted.

Ninety-two percent of early voters thought a lot about the election versus 88 percent of other voters.

People who followed ballot issues in their state closely were also more likely to vote early. Of early voters, 47.6 percent said they were very interested in the ballot issues in their state, compared to only 39.3 percent of those who had not yet voted.

"This shows that voters who are most interested in politics are more likely to take advantage of early voting," said Hawkeye Poll Director David Redlawsk, associate professor of political science at the UI.

Women much more likely to vote early as election approaches

Earlier in the month there was no difference between men and women in early voting but in the most recent week, women were far more likely to report early voting, with 36.6 percent of women and 28.6 percent of men having already voted.

The poll showed little difference in the education levels of early voters.

About the University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll

The University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll is directed by David Redlawsk and co-directed by Caroline Tolbert, associate professors of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The poll is a teaching, research and service project of the Department of Political Science and is housed at the UI's Social Science Research Center. The university's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost provided funding for the poll.

For results of past Hawkeye Polls, a list of UI political experts, and trading prices for Election 2008 contracts on the Tippie College of Business' Iowa Electronic Markets, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: David Redlawsk, UI Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2352 (office), 319-400-1134 (cell),; Caroline Tolbert, UI Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2358 (office),; Nicole Riehl, UI News Services, 319-384-0070 (office), 319-430-6576 (cell),