Presidential primaries

With the Iowa caucuses coming up at the beginning of February 2020 and the New Hampshire primary only a week after, it seems as if politics are being discussed at nauseum. In less than two short months, it will become clear who the frontrunners in the Democratic presidential primary are. With Beto O’ Rourke ending his campaign at the beginning of November and Kamala Harris dropping out earlier this month, the field is quickly shrinking and a few prominent candidates remain.

A recent poll by the Des Moines Register working with CNN and Mediacom shows that Pete Buttigieg, current mayor of South Bend, Ind., has risen 16% among likely Democratic voters in Iowa since September. This translates as approximately 25% of the potential Democratic caucus-goers saying Buttigieg would be their first choice in the election. Following close behind is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Three months ago, 22% of polled voters said Warren would be their first choice but this recent poll currently has her at 16%. Former Vice President Joe Biden fell five points to 15% and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders rose four points to equalize the playing field at 15%. These four candidates have risen to the top, leaving behind other recognizable names like Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang (all of whom polled at about 3%). With Harris dropping out of the race after the poll, those three points will likely be distributed evenly among the remaining candidates.

After the unsuccessful polling of the 2016 Presidential election, many voters wonder how accurate these polls actually are. The honest answer: not very accurate. With a margin of error of about 4.4% on this specific poll, Buttigieg could actually be almost 15 points above the rest of the pack or only a few points ahead of everyone else. It can sometimes be difficult to interpret results, especially when there are still two months until primary season, but it is important not to read too much into them.

According to FiveThirtyEight, the polls in 2016 were just as successful as they always have been. The fact that polls are not infallible has been acknowledged many times before, but in some cases, people choose to ignore it. The political analysis site reports, “In some cases, even a poll showing a 10- or 12- or 14- point lead isn’t enough to make a candidate’s lead ‘safe’.” While polls are interesting to look at and analyze, it is always important to remember that anything can happen on Election Day. 

As the primaries approach, keep in mind that polls can be helpful in determining who is surging or weakening, but they should not be followed religiously in a close race. Even if you are not 18 years old in March, as long as you turn 18 by the general election (Nov. 3, 2020) you can vote in the primary. This applies to many current juniors and seniors, so when you are voting, do not let yourself be influenced by the polls. Do research ahead of time and vote for a candidate who supports your views and ideals. If you fail to vote, you are also failing to harness your civic power, something that we as Americans, should be grateful for.

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