Straw Polls and State Fairs

Posted: September 10, 2019 | By: John Altendorf Tagged: Blog

Along with college football and quality of agriculture commodities, state fair superiority is one of many things Iowans are constantly at odds about with their neighbors in Minnesota. While this debate was not settled with the conclusion of the Minnesota State Fair on Labor Day, both fairs gave us an early, yet slightly unscientific, glimpse into voters preferred Democratic candidates through each events annual straw poll.

At the WHO-TV booth, Iowans voted by dropping a corn kernel into a mason jar, at the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) booth voters dropped a soybean into a plastic tube. Both polls are a fun way to attract fairgoers, but can also generate some speculation into the state of the race five months out from the Iowa Caucus. The Iowa Democratic poll received just over 33,000 votes while the Minnesota poll received a smaller sample with 15 thousand votes. It is important when evaluating the results of each poll to note that Minnesota’s Democratic booth may attract a more liberal audience than the non-partisan television booth at the Iowa fair.

In the Iowa corn kernel poll, former vice president Joe Biden had a clear victory with 25 percent of the vote, totaling over eight thousand kernels. South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg came in second with 18 percent of the vote and almost six thousand kernels, and in third was Senator Elizabeth Warren with 15 percent of the vote and just over five thousand corn kernels.

These results are mostly in line with the observation of recent polls in Iowa and around the nation. Biden is the perceived front runner and Warren is shown to be rising quickly in many polls. That being said, Buttigieg fared better than most scientific polls currently show. Buttigieg had little name recognition before entering the race inciting thoughts of a possible Jimmy Carter Iowa Caucus effect. Five months from now, the Iowa Caucus has the possibility of officially propelling Buttigieg from barely known to frontrunner status just as it did for the Georgia peanut farmer more than 40 years ago.

The Minnesota bean poll told a different story. Warren had a commanding lead by the end of the twelve-day fair, with Amy Klobuchar coming in second and Pete Buttigieg pulling in third, interestingly holding a spot in the top three once again. Biden finished an unimpressive sixth place. Minnesota voted for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, showing consistency with the Warren favoritism. Still, Klobuchar’s second place finish should be especially concerning for her campaign being an underwhelming home turf performance.

While neither the superior state fair nor the debate over the candidates with front runner status has been settled with the conclusion of Labor Day weekend, the straw polls do generate interesting predictions and conversation. One noteworthy aspect is that both polls split votes between a moderate candidate like Biden or Klobuchar, and a progressive candidate in Warren, but this can all change in the course of the months leading up to the Iowa caucus.

In all this excitement let’s not forget about one other crucial candidate in this presidential election cycle. President Donald Trump received over 30,000 corn kernels, earning 97% of the Republican candidate votes and far surpassing the 8,000 kernels earned by his closest Democratic competitor. Furthermore, Biden received about 12 percent of the overall grain crop while Trump received about 49 percent of the yield. Fear not, we have a long way to go.