AP VoteCast: Iowa Democratic voters seek fundamental change

Politics

A Democratic presidential candidate speaks during a campaign event in Coralville, Iowa, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020. The end of the beginning is here. After a year of political drama, the first voting contest of the 2020 primary season will be held Monday in Iowa. The kickoff caucuses will bring the first real sense of the clarity to the Democrats’ presidential nomination fight. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first voters to make their choice in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination are desperate for fundamental change to the political system.

Roughly two-thirds of Iowa caucusgoers said supporting a candidate who would transform how the system in Washington works was important to their vote, according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of voters who said they planned to take part in Monday’s Democratic caucuses in Iowa.

The survey also found that two issues that have been front and center during the campaign were at the top of Iowa Democrats’ minds: health care and climate change.

Nearing midnight Monday, the Iowa Democratic Party signaled that the highly anticipated caucus results would be delayed due to “quality checks” and new reporting rules.

Here’s a snapshot of Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa — who they are and how they voted — based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, a survey of 2,852 voters conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

A STRONG OPPONENT TO TRUMP

About 8 in 10 Iowa caucusgoers expressed anger toward the Trump administration. A minority said they were dissatisfied but not angry, or satisfied with the Republican president.

Beating Trump in November, along with providing strong leadership, outranked other qualities as most important in a nominee. More than 8 in 10 Democratic caucusgoers said it was very important the party’s nominee can defeat Trump. Close to as many said they find it highly important to nominate someone who will be a strong leader.

YOUNG VERSUS OLD

Young Democratic voters in Iowa were especially likely to support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid for the Democratic nomination. Nearly half of those under 30 said he was their first choice. By comparison, voters 65 and older were slightly more likely to support Joe Biden than any other candidate, with 3 in 10 supporting the former vice president.

There was not as significant an age gap in support for most other candidates, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. But older voters were slightly more likely than younger voters to support Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

OTHER KEY DEMOGRAPHICS

Women were slightly more likely than men to support Warren, but there was not a significant gender gap in support for any of the other candidates.

An education gap stood out in support for certain Democratic contenders. Voters without a college degree were somewhat more likely than college graduates to support Biden. Meanwhile, Warren and Klobuchar both had slightly more support among college graduates than among voters without a degree.

LGBT VOTERS

Democratic voters in Iowa who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender were especially likely to support Sanders, 44%, with fewer supporting Warren, at 20%, or Buttigieg, at 16%.

If elected, Buttigieg would be the first openly gay U.S. president. Nearly 6 in 10 Democratic voters in Iowa said it would be harder for a Democratic nominee to beat Trump if the candidate was gay.

Compared with other coalitions, though, Buttigieg’s supporters are somewhat less likely to think a gay man would have more difficulty defeating Trump.

WHAT ELSE VOTERS WANT

Three-quarters of likely caucusgoers said it’s very important their choice for the Democratic nominee cares about people like them, while nearly two-thirds said it’s very important the party’s nominee have the best policy ideas.

Six in 10 Democratic voters said it was very important the Democratic nominee will work across party lines.

Fewer Democrats — about half — placed significant importance on a nominee who has the “right experience” as they considered a field that includes a former vice president, three sitting U.S. senators, two former mayors and a few with experience in business. Those who did name experience as a priority were slightly more likely to support Biden than other candidates.

THE HEALTH CARE DEBATE

Health care has been at the forefront of the Democratic campaign to date, with the issue getting top billing from candidates during stump speeches, on debate nights and at town halls. And there’s a reason why: It was identified as the top issue facing the country by Iowa Democrats.

Roughly 4 in 10 likely caucusgoers identified health care as their top issue. Seven in 10 supported a proposed single-payer health care plan, which would change the health care system so that all Americans receive insurance from a government plan instead of private insurance plans.

At the same time, nearly 9 in 10 favor the proposal for an optional government plan that any Americans could buy into if they wanted.

A wide share — about 6 in 10 — expressed support for either plan, but roughly a quarter favored “Medicare for All” and opposed “Medicare for all who want it.” Only about 1 in 10 expressed the opposite opinions, in favor of a public option but opposed to a single-payer system.

A wide share of supporters for both Sanders and Warren expressed support for both a single-payer system and a public option. About a quarter of Sanders supporters favored single-payer, but opposed public option. That share was far smaller among Warren’s supporters.

Among supporters of Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, about half were in favor of both policy proposals, but about 4 in 10 expressed support for only a public option.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Along with health care, climate change was identified as the top issue facing the country by 3 in 10 Iowa voters. Among them, support was slightly higher for Sanders and Warren than for other candidates.

Among all caucusgoers, nearly 9 in 10 expressed support for a tax on the use of carbon-based fuels, including oil, coal and natural gas. Nearly half were strongly in favor of the proposal.

ON THE GROUND

With an extensive organization of staff and volunteers, Sanders’ campaign was the most likely to make personal contact with voters. Roughly three-quarters of voters said they had been reached directly by an individual on behalf of the Sanders campaign.

About two-thirds said the same of Warren’s and Buttigieg’s campaigns, reflecting the similarly strong ground game those two candidates developed in Iowa as the campaign drove on.

A slim majority said they were contacted on behalf of Biden’s campaign, and fewer than half said that of Klobuchar’s.

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AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for The Associated Press and Fox News. The survey of 2,852 voters in Iowa was conducted for seven days, concluding as the caucuses began. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The survey is based on interviews with a random sample of registered voters drawn from the state voter file. The margin of sampling error for voters is estimated to be plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. Find more details about AP VoteCast’s methodology at http://www.ap.org/votecast.

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