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. Jim Anderson, Baltimore, MD

    Betty Kelso-Clough and Roy, do you guys seriously believe Obama got 900 votes and Huckabee got about 40,000 votes yesterday? Talk about being un-informed!!! May I suggest that you go back and educate yourselves on how the Democrats and Republicans tally their votes in the Iowa Caucus!

    January 4, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  2. booker1,durham,nc

    Well, America here we go agiain. How is it that the focus is on your favorites and not about the clear winners. Not to sound overly confident this early; but why not give some rhetoric on Obama rather than speak of Romney or downplay his historical accomplishment(Black Male) to the Iowa Caucus. See, that's why I feel Obama is in touch with all,all Americans. He has the empathy to know what and how things effect us internally and not just superficially.

    January 4, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  3. Joe Michelson

    Betty–you are wrong about the number of votes... Republicans count by individual votes and Democrats count by elected delegates...so those were the numbers you saw on your TV screen. Obama probably had well more than 40,000 votes because almost twice as many democrats participated in the caucuses as Republicans.

    January 4, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. AK

    To Betty Kelso-Clough

    What Obama got is number of delegates and Huckabee is vote. If you tranfer 38% into vote Obama got ~90000.

    just FYI


    January 4, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  5. ProfMike

    Betty Obama got 900 delegates to the Iowa state election. He also got 33% of the popular vote (about 80,000) votes) in Iowa. The Republican caucuses work completely differently than the Democrats. Also, the Republicans have a winner take all system while the delegate count for the Democrats is proportional. Not only is Iowa different from most states, but the two major parties in Iowa are different. I don't see a problem with the compressed primary schedule. I do have a problem with the issue that these candidates can't do what they're supposed to because it's so early.

    January 4, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  6. Mary

    Iowa does not have the pulse on the rest of America. What does it say when you vote for a person like Huckabee..give me a break this man is a joke. As for Obama he is not the person to run our country. Just listen to him sometime he wants to be friends with everyone...no spunk..what about Iraq when are our boys coming home.. no one wants to discuss Iraq...McCain..he needs to retire saying our troops will be there for over a 100 years and he agrees.. McCain is Bush junior and nothing will change.

    I still say Hillary is the one to lead our country out of this mess.

    January 4, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. Ron Lambert

    To the early comment by Betty – you were reading the vote totals incorrectly – easy thing to do on the TV stations I saw – the 900 was probably for delegates to the county conventions. We had nearly 300 votes for Obama in our caucus alone. Well over 200,000 Democrats participated – I am guessing Obama received more like 75,000 votes. The Democratic total was nearly twice the number of Republican voters who showed up. The energy and enthusiasm for Obama is unlike anything I have seen since the Kennedys. At our caucus, he brought in a large number of new voters of every ethnic background, income bracket, many, many young voters – it was remarkable....and I was a supporter of Joe Biden.

    January 4, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  8. Arkay, MI


    Obama did not get 900 votes. He got close to 35% of the approximately 250,000 democratic caucus votes, 900 is some state delegate count.

    January 4, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  9. Dustin Wagner - Iowa City, IA

    Betty Kelso-Clough

    The numbers for Huckabee represent individual votes, while the numbers for Obama represents the number of delegates that he received. The way the Iowa caucus works is the Democrats get together and split up into groups of whichever candidate they are supporting. That candidate then needs to have at least 15% of the caucus goers in his or her group to be viable. If a candidate isn't viable the supporters have to join another candidates group, or go home. There are a set number of delegates each precinct is assigned, so after all the viable candidates have been recognized they divide up the number of delegates each candidate will receive based on the number of supporters they have.

    It sounds much more confusing than it actually is.

    The Republicans go to their polling place and cast their vote by private ballot, and their votes are counted individually.

    January 4, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. Seth

    Betty Kelso-Clough you miss understood the numbers. Nearly 200,000 voters turned out for the democrats, while a meager 87,000 for republicans.

    January 4, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. richard m mitchell




    January 4, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. AT, Iowa

    Betty –
    Read the key at the bottom of the chart. You are comparing apples to oranges. The democrats do not report the number of votes for each candidate but rather the number of delegates to the state convention that each candidate received. The fact is that way more democrats came out to caucus than republicans, so if the democrats reported the raw votes, Obama would have received more votes than Huckabee.

    January 4, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. Tom, Iowa

    To Betty Kelso-
    The Democrats use a system of delagates. Republicans use a more direct one-vote approach. While we can never be sure about the exact number of votes places for Barack. Percentages indicate that he received approximately 92,000 votes or 2.5 half times the number of votes cast for Huckabee.

    January 4, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. Independent in IA

    I certainly hope the rest of the country has more sense than Iowans...I really thought we had more on the ball than to be able to be swayed by either a pretty face or 'good-ol-boy' questionable humor.

    January 4, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  15. Brandon

    Betsy, pay closer attention...

    January 4, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. Don Roberts

    At one time I heard a suggestion that seemed to make sense. That was there should be 3 or 4 primarys, grouping the states by size with the smallest states having their primary first followed a week or two later by the moderately small states followed by the larger states followed by the largest states. At no time should a candidate be able to reach the needed delegate total until the largest states weighed in. Mathmatically that may mean just three primaries.

    January 4, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  17. iamfrank

    Betty Kelso,

    The Democratic caucus doesn't post actual votes, those are numbers determined by a formula calculation so 900 doesn't represent 900 people, while the Republicans use a straw vote system (one person, one vote). The truth is that Democrats showed up for the caucuses in Iowa nearly 2 to 1 over Republicans. And since Iowa has never elected a black man or woman to any position, the fact that Obama won the Dem's caucus IS much more the story than an evangelical preacher winning in a bible belt state.

    January 4, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. kay

    Will some one please tell Betsy Kelso-Clough that Obama didn't get 900 votes and he did not have 97% less than Huckabee. The Democratic vote was not counted by actual votes like the straw poll vote used by the Republicans in this process. I just want to know, were you not paying any attention at all!

    January 4, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  19. Liz

    If the NH primary were to be a bone chilling day, Obama will win again with his young energetic followers. That's what happened to Huckabee. The religious people love to take little challenge from God when the weather is bitter cold. But Huckabee is not electable nationwide, because he is more interested in God's business than people's. If Huckabee were to win the Repulican nomination, the Dem will take the White House. The only candidate that can stop this is Dr. Ron Paul, running as an Independent.

    January 4, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Greg

    Betty-Obama didn't receive 900 votes. He received 900 state delegates. There's a big difference between the two. Besides, almost twice as many Democrats than Republicans came out to vote. So pay closer attention.

    January 4, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. Dave in CT

    It's certainly time for change, all right. How about shaking up the process a little bit more. During every presidential election a drawing should be held, to determine which state holds the first caucus.

    January 4, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  22. Susan

    CNN did not explain that they were showing delegate totals for the Democrats and total votes for the Republicans last night – apples and oranges. Therefore, it appeared that Obama won with less than a thousand votes and that the Republicans had many more voters than the Democrats, even though the commentators kept talking about the remarkable Democratic turnout.

    Even if the total votes in the Iowa Caucus last night reached 300,000, it is only a drop in the bucket of their 2 million or so registered voters.

    It is ridiculous to let a small, motivated subgroup such as the handful of Americans who participate in the Iowa Caucus dictate who is In and who is Out so early in the game.

    In my opinion, all of the primaries and caucuses should be held in the same month, if not on the same day, so that a truer picture of nationwide support for each candidate becomes clear right at the outset. Why should this decision be skewed by the early caucuses in one or two states?

    January 4, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. terry k

    I really don't care who gets the votes to be our next Demoratic President, As long as it's not A Republican.You'd have to be totally stupid to not see what the Republicans have done to this country. I think Obama would be fine . If Sharpten and J Jackson and A few others keep there big mouths shut. for A change, There not even close to his league as far as Gentlemen go.and Leadership. Terry K.

    January 4, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. richard m mitchell




    January 4, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  25. Michael

    Why a Caucus?
    Why only 347,000 voters?

    Growing up in Iowa and even attending a Caucus or 2 while I was in college in Iowa, it was amazing to see all of the national attention which every 4 years would bring to the state. But as I have grown older and moved around not only the country but the world and still a registered voter in Iowa, I have grown some serious concerns on how we as a country go about picking our next Presidents.

    In this day and age, why does any state still have a Caucus to select delegates for Presidential candidate? I know first hand the wrangling that takes place in a caucus room and how meeker individuals are talked into joining a group which they had no intention in joining when they first arrived and the pull that goes on by the other larger groups to support their candidate. Unless you have gone through this process and witness it first hand, one can not understand the tug of war that takes place inside the Caucus Room. We are not talking about folks you don’t know, as these caucuses are based on your voting precinct, so it will be among people you know whether they are friend, family or neighbors. Could you put yourself in there place on voting day that when you close the curtain and there are a couple of folks you know questioning your ballet selections before you cast your vote? That is what is amount too.

    It was reported that only 347,000 voters attended last night? Now how is it that the mass media think that 347,000 can speak for the rest of the voters in this country in selecting the party’s candidate for President? I totally don’t get this one. Why do we not as a country have one day which we walk to the polls to vote for the person we want to run for our parties nomination? Why are only 347,000 people allowed to have the opportunity to do that for the rest of America? By the time Super Tuesday comes about, how many of the candidates will have dropped out of the race by then? If it would be someone I was interested in, how unfair is this system we select our highest National leader without the chance to cast my vote for the person I want?

    Then it comes to November and time to vote for the next President and we all hear the same question or concern most of us ask ourselves, “Who we came up with these 2 bozo to pick from?” One could blame the voters in Iowa or New Hampshire, or we could blame our selection process in picking the party’s nominee. Either way, most of us will only have the 2 who other select left to pick from.

    January 4, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
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