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So while the results described below are far from a complete review of all the polls in Iowa, they do tell a very clear story: No two Iowa pollsters select "likely caucus goers" in the same way. I am going to start with some of the wonkier design decisions that pollsters make about their surveys, and work progressively to more intuitive information: How these mechanical differences affect the kinds of people sampled.
Sample - One of the first decisions an Iowa pollster has to make is about how to draw the sample, and as the table below shows, Iowa pollsters diverge on their preferred method.
Another issue is whether the pollster makes any special effort to reach voters with mobile phones who live in households without a landline phone.
Finally, most of the Iowa pollsters use live interviewers, but two -- Rasmussen Reports and Public Policy Polling (PPP) -- use the "interactive voice response" (IVR) method that calls with a recorded message that asks respondents to answer questions by pressing on their touch tone phones. Selecting Likely Caucus Goers - After choosing a sampling method, the pollster must decide how to select likely caucus goers from their sample. Those that sample from lists do so partly so they can more accurately and efficiently reach known registered voters (although caucus rules in both parties allow for walk-in registration, so list-based polls will miss the small percentage that register on caucus night or just before caucuses). However, for the heavy lifting of screening for likely caucus goers most of the public pollsters rely on self-reports about intent to participate.
Percentage of Adults Represented - The differences in the way these polls sample and select "likely caucus goers" adds up to some very different conceptions of the likely electorate. The good news is that roughly half of the pollsters clustered around a median value of 12% of adults represented by the Democratic surveys and 10% represented by the Republicans. And also notice the way the portion of adults represented by the Newsweek surveys grew from a reasonable quarter of Iowa adults in September (17% for the Democrats, 10% for the Republicans), to 40% on the survey released over the weekend (24% for the Democrats, 16% for the Republicans).
Percentage of Past Caucus Goers - How tightly the pollster screens is just the beginning, because two polls that represent the same percentage of adults can end up selecting very different kinds of people.
One of the most consequential indicators, especially for the Democrats, is the percentage that report having attended a previous caucus. Notice that the variation is huge even among polls that screen to the same percentage of Iowa adults. Demographics - Finally, we reach the measures that are easiest to understand but typically hardest to compare. Keep in mind when looking at these results that in the Democratic race, most surveys show Hillary Clinton doing better among women than other candidates, and they typically show Barack Obama doing better, and Hillary Clinton worse, among voters that are younger or college educated.
The point here is not so much to guess at which poll has the "right" demographic mix, the right percentage of first-time caucus goers or even about how many Iowans will caucus.
Finally, if you consider the differences described above jarring, consider what we do not know.
What follows is the information that pollster provided (or included in public releases) about how they screen for likely caucus goers on Iowa. I'd like you to rate the chances that you will attend one of the Iowa presidential caucuses that will be held in your precinct in January.
If the caucuses were being held today, would you attend the (Democratic Party caucus) or the (Republican Party caucus) in your precinct? They ask whether respondents are registered to vote, and whether they are registered as Democrats or Republicans. They ask registrants how likely they are to participate in the Caucus "a 1-to-10 scale with 1 meaning definitely not participating and 10 meaning definitely participating." Those who answer 1 through 6 are terminated and not interviewed.
They ask unaffiliated registrants ("independents" registered as neither Democrats nor Republicans) whether they plan to participate in the Democratic or Republican caucus. After asking vote question, they asks the question that appears on the web site: "Would you say that you definitely plan to participate in the 2008 Democratic presidential caucus, that you might participate in the 2008 Democratic presidential caucus, or that you will probably not participate in the 2008 Democratic presidential caucus?" Only the definite are included in the final sample of likely caucus voters. Began with the self-identified registered voters who said they plan to vote in a Democratic or Republican caucus in 2008. Began with a sample drawn from a list (maintained by the Iowa Democratic Party) of registered voters that had either previously participated in Democratic caucuses or had registered to vote since 2004. Likely Democratic caucus goers are Democratic voters who say they will definitely or probably attend a Dem caucus where they live in January. Respondents were registered voters who say they will definitely or probably attend either a Democratic or Republican caucus. Text: Thinking about the upcoming presidential caucuses in Iowa on January 3rd, how likely would you say it is that you’ll attend the presidential caucus in your area? First, we ask about voting history and only include those who say they vote all of the time or most of the time. Second, we ask how closely the respondent has followed the Presidential debates and other campaign activities. From their release: The sample source was a list of registered Democratic and Independent voters in Iowa provided by Voter Contact Services. The original version of this post included only the following information from their August poll release: "Caucus-goers are self-identified. Respondents were asked whether they were very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely, or not at all likely to attend their party's caucus in 2008.
1) First we ask people their likelihood of caucusing in January 2008 on a 4 point scale, from VERY, SOMEWHAT, NOT VERY, and NOT AT ALL. OK, so the odd results from the December Newsweek poll (that had Obama jumping out to a huge lead) seem fairly well explained.
I notice you didn't address the problem of peopole who answer the phone but hang up on you. Very good article addressing some of the questions that I have had on the polls that Old line media lives on.
You have confirmed an obvious skew, younger voters are more likely to not have a land line but more likely to caucus for Obama than Hillary.

While the Iowa caucus process may seem odd or insane it is a very good first step in the process.
There is not a person in Iowa that does not have the opportunity to meet every single candidate, even ask them a question or two and listen to them face to face. More important, it is the seriously interested that have taken the time to do their research that get off of their a$$ and attend a caucus. While Iowa has a few convention votes in play their votes are not enough to dominate the rest of the country that can make their decision filling out an absentee ballot while sipping their 6th beer, watching the fights and based on the last commercial they saw. Mark, as a Ron Paul supporter who has felt a bit marginalized by the polls, this data is very much appreciated. I was rereading this article and wondered why ARG only provided info for its Aug poll, even though they had done more polls during the period that any other organization. 1) Ability to list your mobile phone – including privacy controls that allow you to hide the number.  This makes you reachable just like a landline white pages listing.  Why list yourself?  Think about it – wouldn’t you want to be reachable if someone found your wallet or if your neighbors saw someone questionable trying to get into your back door?
Last but not least, please be assured that we won’t misuse the names and phone numbers you look up by spamming them with unsolicited phone calls or text messages to use our service – that’s not the way we do business.
This entry was posted in Whitepages News, Your Digital Identity and tagged carrier, cell phone plan, free calls, lower bills, Mobile, reverse lookup, save money. I sent off the first batch of requests to the Iowa pollsters, and then began a long slog, delayed both by other activity and, frankly, by a surprising degree of resistance from far too many pollsters. Moreover, each pollster has a unique conception -- sometimes radically unique -- of the likely electorate. One pollster (Iowa State University) inexplicably samples only from registered Democrats and Republicans, throwing out registered independents (or more accurately those with "no party") even though caucus rules allow independent to participate by changing their registration status on caucus night. In other words, the registered voter list includes a record -- for each individual voter -- of whether they voted in each recent election. I have reproduced the pollsters' descriptions of their screening questions (and, in many cases, the verbatim text) at the end of this post. That poll uses a variant of their classic likely voter model that weights respondents based on their probability of voting, using their past voting behavior (presumably from the registered voter list), their self-reported intent to participate, their expressed interest in the campaign and other questions (according to descriptions in the Times and the CBS release) "other questions." The less likely a respondent is to participate, the smaller the weight they receive (see my 2004 post for more details on how this weighting model works). First, as should be obvious, none of these screens can predict who will participate with great accuracy. If nothing else, we need to understand that the most recent Newsweek poll represents a slice of the Iowa population nearly double that of most of the other Iowa polls on the table above.
Virtually every survey that asks the question shows John Edwards doing better among past caucus goers, and either Clinton or Obama (or both) doing better among first-time caucus-goers (something I also noted back in August comparing the results from the three polls with very different percentages of first-time caucus goers).
The demographics of the likely caucus-goers -- how they compare in terms of gender, age and education -- are the data that pollsters are typically most reluctant to release. Gender is relatively consistent, with the percentage of women varying between 51% and 62%, but age and education are comparatively more varied. So surveys that differ in their composition by gender, age or education will likely produce varying levels of support for these candidates. As should be obvious now, the differences in the way pollsters measure "likely caucus goers" in Iowa are huge, not just in how narrowly they define the electorate but in the kinds of voters pollsters select as "likely caucus goers." But these issues are not unique to Iowa.
Likely Caucus goers are self-reported registered voters who say they will absolutely or probably attend the caucuses. Are you absolutely certain you will attend, will you probably attend, are the chances 50-50, or less than that? Registered Democrats and independents who plan to caucus with the Democrats get the Democratic vote question; Registered Republicans and independents who plan to caucus with the Republicans answer the Republican question. We included more recent super primary voters because the last Republican Caucus was in 2000 and we did not want to exclude potential new likely caucus voters. As you are aware, very few people actually vote in Republican Caucuses – How likely is it you will vote in Iowa’s Republican Caucus for President next year?
Likely Republican caucus goers are Rep voters who say they will definitely or probably attend a Rep caucus where they live in January.
Will you definitely attend, probably attend, probably not attend, or aren’t you sure at this point? These registered voters were screened to determine their likelihood of attending the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses.
As of now, how likely are you to attend your party's caucuses for the 2008 presidential party nominations? If you do attend a caucus, which party's caucus would you attend the Democratic Party caucus or the Republican Party caucus? We classify respondents who are "very" or "somewhat" likely to caucus as LIKELY caucus goers.
My initial reaction is that given the wide variation in the methods, it is rather remarkable that the Iowa results are not even more variable. The dynamics are totally different giving advantage to the campaign that is most organized down to the precinct level before hand.
So, Iowa provides a good initial screen of candidates allowing them to make fools out of themselves and be caught answering questions that the average Joe has on his mind but the left wing media wouldn't think of asking.. A few asked for more time or assured me that responses were imminent, yet ultimately never responded despite repeated requests. So pollsters can choose to select, say, only those who have voted in a Democratic primary election in the last four years (or any other permutation you can think of).
No two ask exactly the same questions, but most pose a scale that includes options like "definitely attend" and "probably attend," using those categories to classify respondents as likely caucus goers. First, is such a screen too loose, given that the historical high turnouts have been 5.5% for the Democrats and 5.3% for the Republicans?

For the Democratic samples, the percentage of first time caucus goers among Democrats ranges from 2% (for the Hart survey for the One Campaign) to 43% (for ARG). Comparisons by age are the most difficult, given inconsistent age breaks, but the percentage of 18-29-year-olds in the Democratic samples varies from 2% to 20%. The differences in those of retirement age are also huge, with the share of 65-or-older respondents varying from 13% to 45% of the respective samples.
The point is that the Iowa polls have varied widely in terms of the kinds of people they sample.
We know almost nothing about the likely voter methodologies used in Iowa by Zogby, Strategic Vision, Research2000 and Mason-Dixon. In 2004, 21 states held Democratic primary elections with single digit turnouts (as a percentage of adults), and only New Hampshire had a turnout that topped 20%.
As we all know, determining who is a likely voter is problematic, and particularly so when it comes to Iowa caucuses. Answer categories: 100% certain to attend, probably will attend (other categories omitted). Secondly, I have to say that placing such importance in the nomination process on the Iowa caucuses is utterly insane. Their assumptions may turn out to be true, but since their sample seems to contain both a higher percentage of voters period, and a very high number of young voters, it's not hard to see how the results turned out the way they did.
At the Iowa and Colorado Caucuses that I've attended, you publicly make your stand after politicing, campaign speeches from campaign chairmen etc.
That means, in theory at least, that a pollster starting with an RDD sample would need to screen out nine out of ten otherwise willing adults in order to interview a combined population of Democratic and Republican caucus goers strictly comparable in size to past caucus turnouts. The internal polls conducted by the campaigns (and the two public polls conducted for the One campaign by Peter Hart Research and McLaughlin and Associates) typically make use of such vote history data for the past caucuses. Records have already been broken in terms of the dollars spent, and no one will be surprised if turnout records are broken in 2008. For the Republicans, it varies from 18% (Iowa State University) to 62% (University of Iowa).
Put another way, no two polls share the same conception of the likely electorate, and some of the differences have been enormous. All four ignored our disclosure requests (though the McClatchy Newspapers did, to their credit, post filled-in questionnaires that include limited demographic profiles for their recent surveys conducted by Mason-Dixon and co-sponsored by MSNBC).
Over the next year months, results from hundreds of polls will be released, polls that will set expectations and drive media coverage, and yet those of us that consume the data will know very little about how tightly the pollsters screen and the kinds of voters they select.
It has long been the practice of the LA Times Poll to ask questions of the entire pool of qualified party voters in any state while the actual election date is still months away. Are you registered to vote at the address where you now live, or are you not registered at your current address?
It's simply the most glaring example of the use of a creaky structural mechanism to select the occupant of the world's most powerful office. There are influences such as your minister, your insurance man and your mother sitting there. This daunting task is one big reason why polling for the Iowa caucuses is so challenging and why pollsters differ so much in their sampling methods.
The Democratic vote history is only available to those willing to pay a reportedly high fee to the Iowa Democratic Party, and none of the public pollsters has made use of it.
Third, we should probably assume that all of these surveys have some non-response bias toward likely voters.
Their questions on education or party affiliation may use different language or response options that complicate comparisons.
Yet those of us that consume the data compare results across the various polls as if they all measure the same "likely caucus goers." They do not. If we want to be educated poll consumers, we are going to need to do something to change that. In this case, our intent was to take the measure of all of Iowa's possible party caucus voters and so we made our screen as inclusive as possible.
In other words, we should assume that non-voters are more likely to hang up on a survey about political issues.
For example, the American Research Group has disclosed how it selects likely caucus goers but tells us nothing about the demographics of its samples.
We included anyone who was a registered voter, or who said they planned to register in order to participate in the caucuses, and who told us they planned to attend a party caucus. Of the initial screen of likely caucus goers, 4.4% could not name a party, and were dropped. So screening down to the one Iowan-in-five that might participate in either the Democratic or Republican caucuses seems reasonable.
We excluded no one on the basis of vote history, nor did we ask how strong was their intention to vote. Approximately 35% of the original registered voter sample is thus classified as "likely caucus goers".

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