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November 22nd, 2011

Polls Show That They Are Absolutely Worthless

Most Iowans are familiar with the saying, “If you don’t like the weather in Iowa, just give it a few minuets because it is bound to change.”  Rapid temperature changes are not the only thing that Iowa is known for these days.  It could also be said that if you don’t like which presidential candidate is leading in the polls, just wait a few days, because it’s bound to change.

To date, five of the eight presidential candidates have led a poll of likely caucus goers in Iowa.  To put that into perspective, at this time four years ago, only one candidate had led in the polls in Iowa – Mitt Romney.  Mike Huckabee would go on to overtake Romney in the polls before he easily won the caucuses, but it shows just how volatile the support of the candidates is this year.

For example, both Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have polled as high as 29 percent in Iowa, but both have also been as low as 5 percent, which is basically where both of them are today.

Early on, Herman Cain barely showed up in the polls.  Cain polled at just one percent in July only to see his numbers soar to 37 percent just a month ago.  The latest poll shows Cain at 13 percent.  Talk about a rollercoaster ride.  With Cain on the decline, Newt Gingrich is now riding high.  Gingrich currently polls at 32 percent in Iowa after being as low as 2 percent in July after his entire campaign melted down.

Only Mitt Romney has proven to be consistent when it comes to polling.  Even still, there is a 15-point deference between Romney’s high of 29 percent and his low of 14 percent.  The volatility in the Iowa polls actually matches the volatility in the national polls, where four candidates have led since May.

So what does it all mean?

First, it means that the race for the Republican nomination is wide open.  With the news that Romney is going to actually engage in Iowa, where he has only visited a handful of times since 2008, this shows that even a candidate who had a bitter taste in his mouth after the 2008 caucuses believes that Iowa is wide open and that he has an opportunity to win here.

Second, it also suggests that no candidate, even Romney, has yet sealed the deal with potential caucus goers.  What’s odd about the slate of Republican candidates is that, when they see their names at the top of a poll, it seems as if they actually believe that they did something to earn that spot.  As has been the case with each of five candidates who have led Iowa polls, they have all “earned” the top spot by garnering a lot of national media attention instead of working hard in Iowa and seeing it eventually pay off.

While the media and political observers scramble whenever the results of a new poll are made public, thus far, the polls have proven to be worthless.  Instead of providing a glimpse of where likely caucus goers are leaning, the polls have acted more like Nielsen television ratings.  Instead of indicting candidate support, the polls tell us what show, or in this case, which candidate, is currently popular.

The polls have been rendered useless.  If a candidate like Rick Perry can go from 29 percent to 7 percent in the same poll in less than a month and a half, one has to question whether or not he was ever at 29 percent in the first place.  If Herman Cain can drop from 28 percent to 15 percent in the same poll in the span of a month, one can also conclude that he was never riding as high as his highest poll numbers.

As the January 3rd caucuses draw near, the only thing that we are certain about is that anything can happen.  In many ways we are heading into the caucuses blind.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Iowa’s caucuses goers should vet the candidates and support the candidate they prefer instead of letting some poll sway their opinion.

In the next 40 days, Iowans will continue to be inundated with more and more polling results.  They would be wise to ignore all of them.  Most polls have proven to be meaningless, and the only poll that we can really trust will be the one taken on caucus night.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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