Their motivations were different. Sanders voters wanted honesty and empathy. Clinton voters wanted experience and the ability to win in November.
In 2008, Barack Obama’s caucus win was powered by a surge of new voters in Iowa who accounted for a majority of the electorate. Had Sanders seen a similar surge, he’d have been the clear winner, as he got the vote of about 6 in 10 of those who’d never caucused before. But most voters in this year’s caucuses had done so before, and a majority of them favored Clinton.
The tiebreaker in future contests may be the other difference between the two Democratic parties. In Iowa, non-white voters were only about one-tenth of the electorate. Clinton won them by about 18 points.
DEMOCRATS SPLIT ON EXPERIENCE AND TRUST
Asked to evaluate the most important factor driving their support, Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa split dramatically on what they were looking for in a candidate. Among those looking for someone to beat the Republican nominee in November, about three-quarters backed Hillary Clinton. An even higher percentage of those looking for a nominee with the “right experience” preferred Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Together, those groups accounted for roughly half of all Democratic voters.
Sanders, though, was strongly preferred by those looking for someone that cares about people like them, getting support from 3 out of 4 voters citing that quality. Among voters looking for an honest candidate, Sanders did even better, earning the support of about 4 in 5 Democrats prioritizing that trait.
DEMOCRATIC VOTERS SKEW OLDER, TO CLINTON’S ADVANTAGE
Nearly 6 in 10 Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa were aged 50 or older, according to preliminary entrance poll data. Clinton led among those voters, earning the support of nearly 6 in 10 voters between 50 and 64 and nearly 7 in 10 from voters older than that. Sanders’s support among younger voters was even larger, pulling in the vote of 8 in 10 voters under the age of 30. But only about a fifth of the electorate fell into that age range.
FIRST-TIME CAUCUS PARTICIPANTS
First-time caucus-goers make up a somewhat smaller share of Democratic electorate than in 2008, according to preliminary entrance poll results. Just more than 4 in 10 say they were attending the caucuses for the first time, compared with 57 percent who were first-time caucus-goers eight years ago, when new voters were critical in propelling Barack Obama’s surprise victory. A Quinnipiac University poll released on Monday found Bernie Sanders led Hillary Clinton with first-time caucus-goers by 17 points. Clinton led by 11 with those who had caucused before.
These are preliminary results from a caucus poll of voters as they entered randomly selected caucus voting places in Iowa on Feb. 1, 2016. The Republican entrance poll results are based on 1,794 interviews, while Democrats are based on 1,660 interviews. The poll was conducted by Edison Media Research for National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations. The results for typical characteristics have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.