January 4th, 2008
10:00 AM ET
10 years ago

Poll: Americans mixed on early primary schedule

(CNN) - The candidates, the press corps, the national parties may all be griping about 2008's incredibly early and compressed primary calendar - but it seems the rest of the country may not share those complaints, according to a new survey.

A Gallup poll released Friday found that 49 percent of the country thinks it's a good thing that the caucuses and primaries begin in January. Another 27 percent say it's neither good nor bad. Just 22 percent are troubled by the unprecedented early start to the presidential selection process.

The fact that the contest may be a relatively short sprint didn't seem to trouble a majority of those surveyed, either: 45 percent said it was a good thing that both parties' nominees would likely be known by early February, and 18 percent more said it would be neither good nor bad. Thirty-six percent said they'd like to see the process last longer.

Americans are less enthusiastic about the king-maker role now filled by Iowa and New Hampshire. While 26 percent thought it was a good thing that those two states always weighed in first, 28 percent thought it was a bad thing. Forty-four percent were ambivalent about the current arrangement.

But those surveyed appeared overwhelmingly unhappy about the fact that most of them may not get the chance to cast a meaningful presidential primary vote: 71 percent said that it was a bad thing that the nominees are usually determined before many states hold their primaries or caucuses. Just 11 percent said it was a good thing, and 17 percent said it was neither good nor bad.

The survey of 1,008 Americans was conducted December 10-13, 2007, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Iowa • New Hampshire
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Steven

    Compressed primary calendar? I am just about burned out already, as this thing started so early!

    January 4, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. Betty Kelso-Clough

    Iowa Caucus–whats the big deal with Obama winning the Democratic vote? He got just over 900 votes while Huckabee got about 40,000. Although it was shown on the TV screen, I didn't hear any news comments on the difference in the number of votes. Looks like Huckabee was the really big winner with 97% more votes than Obama.

    January 4, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  3. Roy

    Good points, but Rebecca check your spelling. LOL not trying to be mean, but I thought journalist are suppose to spell check.

    January 4, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. Anonymous

    How many voters equal a 1% difference in Iowa. How large is the entire population of New Hampshire ? Neither state's outcomes should be given the media coverage that has been blasting at us continuously on the news.
    Those outcomes are just data points not decision points for anyone who thinks for themselves.
    Lets put this into perspective and develop a rational system with meaningful coverage not just irrational hype about change-of course, after the current presidency, change is imperative but I still don't have a clue about whose best to accomplish anything in our current system-a Democrat or Republican, an insider or outsider a man or a woman, a Christian or not. We are heading into dangerous territory when none of the candidates say anything of substance for fear of alienating a voting block.

    January 4, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  5. Karl

    It is a little early. Besides ruining the holidays with incessant telemarketing, this is not the best time of year to be flying around in small planes in Iowa. Early primaries/caucuses give the pundits way to much time to blather on an on about what it all means. The post caucus comments last night pretty much gave the election to Huckabee and Obama. They both had impressive victories, but Clinton and Edwards, while they have their work cut out for them, have not been blown out of the water yet. And, all the candidates have ideas that must be heard so that the debate continues. It's even more important that the rest of the nation exercises their civic right/duty.

    The outcry over Iowa' s first in the nation status is overblown as well. It's the start of the process, not the end as the pundits would have us believe. In Iowa, we picked delegates for the county/state conventions, not the electoral college...end of story.

    I participated in my first Democratic caucus last night...I was a non-Born again Republican who thinks the party has lost its way. The Democratic candidates are more in touch with the issues that really matter and are about hope, not fear. I'll take 'tax and spend' over 'borrow and spend' any day.

    I supported Richardson last night and he showed well based on the amount of money he spent in Iowa.

    January 4, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  6. LeftyLoosey

    America wants change. Obama and Ron Paul are the only ones offering that...

    January 4, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. Bill W - PA

    Yes, I live in PA and the primary races are usually decided long before we get a chance to vote. So alot of people don't bother going to vote, because their vote doesn't matter. Some of that also carries through to the general election. I personally think this is a bad thing, because when feel as though their vote doesn't count they won't vote. I don't understand why all the states can't vote at once, like we do in the general election, so everybody feels like their vote counts. Instead, we have an ongoing primary circus that excludes alot of people and seems to go on forever.

    January 4, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  8. Lev Klinemann, Redondo Beach CA

    I know that "little" states like I owa and New Hampshire want to feel important, but the first primaries should be held in New York, California and Texas. We cannot let "little" states determine the future of the US.


    Because without the 3 states I mentioned above (plus Oregon, Washingtion and Massachusetts) the US would be nothing but a 3rd world central American country.

    I'm just sick of people who "would like to have a beer with the next president", choosing these nitwits like Bush and Huckabee, neither of whom I would trust to run a gas station, let alone a country.

    January 4, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  9. John, Ft. Lauderdale FL

    I agree, why is it that we should allow Iowa to have such a dominant impact. Every US citizen deserves an equal vote in choosing their candidate. How is it that Huckabee got 36% of the vote in Iowa but barely makes the radar of acknowledgement in other states? Something is messed up with this picture.

    January 4, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  10. Wayne, Greenville TX

    Roy January 4, 2008 11:21 am ET

    Good points, but Rebecca check your spelling. LOL not trying to be mean, but I thought journalist are suppose to spell check.

    Actually, spell checking is the responsibility of the editor, or (in the case of web sites) the webmaster or whoever is given responsibility for inputting the text.

    Besides, even if Rebecca ran spell-check on this article, the one spelling error I found ("jut" in place of "just") spells a legitimate word, so it would pass spell-check. Computers are good, but they're no substitute for the trained eye of an editor or webmaster.

    Spelling errors are quite common on news web sites nowadays – not just CNN. (I've seen numberous mispellings on Fox News, for example.) I think the pressure to get stories out there fast has resulted in compromised quality.

    January 4, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  11. Isaac T. Settro

    I think the those early states are not bad. It set the stage for the primaries. It make stronger candidates to lead their parties in the National election...

    January 4, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  12. Roy

    Ok lets get back to the Iowa caucuses. I think that how they vote for a canidate is ridiculous. When a person makes up ther mind who they want to vote for should stand, why have other people convince you to change over and vote with them to another canidate. To me that;s like invading someone's pricacy.

    Ok you vote once, and if the other group is short votes they try to convince you to go to there group?

    For example you vote for one canidate and your friend votes for another. Then the second session of voting your friend tries to convince you to go on her/his side. What do you do if they are you best friend? Do you want to loose your best friend over a vote? or be bought to vote for there canidate? And they say that politicians buy votes!

    Well the caucuses is over and now the primaries starts.


    January 4, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  13. Bob, Seattle

    IOWA caucuses are an exceptional format and a great sampling of American current thought.

    Where else is a citizen asked to spend a reasonable lengthy amount of his personal time in a 'give and take' format. A format where his identity is known. His views are known.

    In what other format is a citizen given a chance to express his point of view with a very real chance of actually influencing someone else with a result that is immediately evident? In this format, a citizen actually has to 'defend' his point of view among other 'studied' participants. Most of the caucus goers have actually 'done some research'. One would hate to go to one of those caucus meetings ill prepared.

    So, would you rather believe a poll of 700 to 800 random folks (with a statistical error factor of +/- 3%) or do you think that you would get a better feel of what Americans think from a sampling of 350,000 folks that, by the very nature of the format, have had to spend a reasonable amount of time researching and participating in a give and take format before giving their answer?

    I hope IOWA always remains up first in the primaries. They have earned it and they do a fantastic service to America.

    Thank you IOWA.

    January 4, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  14. ammeh, las vegas

    I am ashamed to share oxygen with people in this country who are "burnt out" from the presidential race already. If anything, this process needs to be LONGER.

    But I guess many people don't care about anything more important than their ballooning waistlines and the latest "American Idol".

    January 4, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  15. S. Wright

    Now, here we are, talking about the process of voting, instead of the issues that each of these candidates stand on.

    Here we have in Iowa two winners, who are two candidates who have zero experience in national defense, going up against a rising Russia, international terrorism, unrest in Africa, and a UN that is basically a figurehead for bad diplomatic relations.

    CNN talks about process. I keep coming back to this website in the hope that one day, I might actually be gobsmacked by something resembling journalism.

    We truly do get the government we deserve; fed to us by a media that couldn't stay focused enough to inform the people.

    January 4, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  16. Liz

    One of the pros of our early election process is to give obscure candidates such as Obama or Huckabee a chance to present themselves to the voters. For example, it's long enough to show how they can deal with foreign affairs as foreign events occur.
    Had it been a short election period, Hillary would have a greater name-recognition over Obama.

    The cons for an early election process are that much less gets done in D.C. or in the jobs held by these candidates; and the whole country acts more divided than normal during this period. Also, election is a factor in policy-making till it's over.

    January 4, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  17. James

    Lev...good comments

    but you forgot about Illinois, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and NJ.

    Still the current process forces the candidates to present themselves to the people in IA and NH with retail politics, and not a national tv campaign fueled by money and name recognition.

    I'm not sure a national primary is best, but i'm not sure this system is best either..

    January 4, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The problem is that so many of the politicans from the "small states," as someone referred to them, like to be able to have some say in this nomination process. I wish there was some conference among all the states so that we can put together a system where all of the states can have a chance at being first. I heard something mentioned on NPR a while back and can only remember that there was the idea that each section of the country would be first ever 16 years.

    There needs to be a way for all of the states' population to have some say in it. I prefer that we move the earliest caucuses and primaries to starting in April. That gives everyone a chance to raise some money and get some recognition.

    January 4, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  19. Jason Roberts

    the two party system is clearly broke its time for america to think outside of this box and look into different partys or people who choose no party at all

    January 4, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  20. Connie, Tn.

    Lev Klineman – very good comment. If you want to have a beer with somebody, just go have a beer. Running the country is the same as running a mega-business. Also keep religion out of politics.

    January 4, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  21. JTSpangler

    Politically, the Nation is somewhere between the extremes of Christian farmers in Iowa and liberal woodsmen in New Hampshire. There is thus no reason why rational voters in that vast middle ground would be influenced by IA or NH. But if we picked Presidents rationally, we wouldn't have W, would we?

    January 4, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  22. Mark, Dallas TX

    I think it's ridiculous that Iowa and New Hampshire get to set the tone of the primaries and elections. Iowa and New Hampshire hardly represent the diversity of America. I think the political parties ought to pick a day in January, a day in February, and a day in March for a single primary. Divide the primary elections among the various states so smaller (population) states and larger each get to influence. If you cluster a number of small states together on the same date then that is a more accurate sense of the direction of the election say Rhode Island, Nevada, New Hampshire, Kansas, Hawaii. This ought to give you a wide range of issues, perspectives that the candidates would have to address. Then on another day have NY, California, Texas, Illinois, Florida & Pennsylvania (or states like that) go – this would force the candidates to distribute their campaigning more evenly among the various states. I think the current primary system is out dated and unequitable.

    January 4, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  23. Greg, NY

    Betty, the way the Democrats and Republicans tally votes is different for each side. The Democrats don't post the raw vote numbers, they use a formula to come up with the lesser number. The percentages are accurate, pay attention to those numbers not the raw vote count as we will never know the raw Democratic vote.

    January 4, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  24. George, Billerica, Mass.

    Dear Betty:
    Republicans held essentially a straw poll, and about 120,000 voted.
    Democrats chose county delegates, which is what matters to eventually choose the actual national convention delegates. 227,000 people voted in the Democratic caucuses. The raw vote is not reported.
    About 40,000 voted for Huckabee, but it appears that at least 80,000 voted for Obama. (You didn't really believe that only 2,000 people voted for Democrats, did you?)

    January 4, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. David, Dallas Tx

    I would like to see the primaries handled like the general election–everybody voting on the same day. That way everybody's vote would be relatively equal.

    Can somebody explain why it isn't that way?

    January 4, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
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