February 1st marked the official start of the 2016 presidential election voting season, as Iowan voters determined the number of delegates each candidate would receive. The Iowa Caucus was met with much enthusiasm, as the Republican party recorded approximately 180,000 caucusgoers, which beats their previous record by around 60,000 individuals.
The Iowa Caucus has become a hallmark event, and some news anchors went as far as to dub January 31st as “Iowa Caucus Eve.” Prior to the actual caucus, many news media sources published predictions regarding the outcome of the caucus. Many sources like the Huffington Post predicted that Donald Trump would win with a fairly solid margin of 5-15% depending on the source.
It’s fair to say that taking a well-designed and highly accurate poll is difficult given the constraints of reality and the variability of human behavior; however, the results of the Iowa Caucus, which put Ted Cruz on the top of the other GOP candidates and have Clinton and Sanders in an approximate tie, present a couple of questions, which fall under the overarching question “Why were the Iowa Caucus predictions so off?”
Carol Bialik from FiveThirtyEight published an article about some of the lessons from this times polls, one of which is to poll to the end given that voter turn out is everything. Do you agree with this? What other factors could have contributed to the technically inaccurate predictions? Is the Iowa Caucus just to darn hard to accurately poll and predict?
Moving away from the Iowa Caucus, do you think that the news media and the free media should still report the predictions prior to the caucus, even if the predictions may not be completely accurate? What effect do you think these predictions have on voters and voters of states with impending primaries or caucuses? What standards should the news media be held to when reporting statistics (Should they have to report polling methods? The margin of error? The sample size? The source?) Finally, how do you think the use of polls has evolved with the free media?