Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen says anyone who wants an indication of who will win the Iowa caucuses should not look to opinion surveys but to “futures markets,” which predict victories for Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.
“Polls are not going to tell us who is going to win in Iowa,” Rasmussen told WND in an exclusive interview.
“Now it’s down to turnout, and polls in Iowa are not good at predicting who is going to show up for the caucus meetings,” he said.
Rasmussen suggested looking to political futures markets in which candidates are “bought and sold” much like commodities or stock futures.
The futures contracts give Obama and Huckabee a 60 percent likelihood of winning.
Voting in Iowa caucuses is limited to those who can attend local meetings, which generally begin around 7 p.m. Central Time.
Anyone with a schedule conflict cannot vote in the caucuses by absentee ballot or by showing up at some other time in the day.
Gov. Mike Huckabee
As a result, only about 200,000 to 250,000 Democrats and Republicans will participate in the Iowa caucuses, about 10-12 percent of registered voters in a state with a population of nearly 3 million.
Only declared Republicans and Democrats can vote, ruling out any declared independents.
Weather can also make a significant impact on voter turnout. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for 38 degrees at caucus time but no snow.
Campaign funding influences heavily the ability of the political campaigns to organize an efficient “ground game” to get their voters to the caucus meetings on time.
Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. Hillary Clinton are thought to have the most professional campaign organizations, giving them an edge over rivals. But it certainly does not predict victory, Rasmussen said.
“Pre-caucus polls in Iowa do not accurately predict election results in Iowa, because the polls do not accurately predict who will attend the caucus meetings,” he emphasized.
For this reason, Rasmussen Reports cancelled plans at the last minute to conduct a Jan. 2 poll of presidential contenders in the state.
“We felt uncomfortable with polling between Christmas and New Year’s because it is difficult to get a good sample,” Rasmussen explained. “Then we decided not to do a poll today because we doubted we could add much to the public dialogue.”
Current polling in Iowa has Clinton, Obama and former Sen. John Edwards in a virtual three-way tie. Among Republicans, Huckabee and Romney are neck-and-neck.
Rasmussen says it’s significant that Obama draws support from independent voters, while Clinton draws from “the party faithful.”
“If more independent voters show up, that’s good for Barack Obama,” he said. “If more regular Democrats show up, that’s good for Hillary Clinton.”
On the Republican side, “If church leaders are successful in influencing evangelical Christians to attend the caucus meetings, that’s good for Huckabee,” he continued.
“But we’re now really at the point where until we know who actually shows up and votes, the polls don’t add any new information,” Rasmussen said.
In an article posted on the Rasmussen website entitled “Read the Iowa Caucus Polls with Caution,” Rasmussen repeated this theme, cautioning “the ultimate GOP winner in Iowa may be determined by something that polls can’t measure – the organizational strength of the evangelical church leaders supporting Huckabee.”
Rasmussen told WND that the only accurate polling done in 2004 was entry polling conducted as voters actually walked into the caucus meetings.
“Entrance polling in Iowa is accurate, because it deals with the one thing telephone polls cannot determine, the actual sample of caucus participants,” he explained.
“When we actually know whether the evangelical leaders got their people out to vote for Mike Huckabee, we will know how he is doing,” Rasmussen said. “But until then, there is absolutely no way you can tell.
“To put this into perspective,” he continued, “an organization that picks up another 5,000 or 10,000 votes in a normal statewide election will not influence the result very much. But when you are talking about an election in which you are going to have fewer than 100,000 people participating, getting an extra 5,000 or 10,000 people to the polls moves the numbers a lot.”
Instead of relying on polling data, Rasmussen cites predictive market data in which registered users of the Rasmussen website express their preferences in a “futures market” format.
On RasmussenMarkets.com, registered users “buy and sell” candidates in a “futures market” format, structured much as stock or commodity futures contracts are bought and sold.
Here, the Rasmussen market data predicts a 63.4 percent chance of victory for Huckabee, versus a 38 percent chance for Romney.
On the Democratic side, the Rasmussen market data predicts a 64.8 percent chance of an Obama victory, versus a 31 percent chance of a Clinton victory.
The Rasmussen Markets data closely resembles the results on Intrade.com, another trading site where registered users buy and sell futures contracts on a variety of events, ranging from sports contests to financial predictions, to outcomes in political elections.
Intrade.com data puts Huckabee at a 57.3 chance of winning the Iowa primary, versus a 38.1 percent chance for Romney.
For Democrats, the Intrade.com data projects 54.7 percent for Obama, followed by 30.8 percent for Clinton and 17.5 percent for Edwards.
Until New Year’s day, Romney had a slight advantage in both market predictions. Among Democrat, the three top contenders were virtually tied.
“The market predictions indicators moved as new information got out there,” Rasmussen explained. “Romney was favored in the market data until the Des Moines Register came out with its New Year’s Eve poll showing Huckabee leading Romney with 32 percent versus 26 percent for Romney.”
Then, a Zogby poll came out showing Huckabee ahead by 2 percent over Romney.
“So the market data is a good reflection of the data that’s out there, but caucuses are one of the few surprises left in American politics,” Rasmussen said.
“Just because the Des Moines Register’s poll on New Years moved the political futures market predictions doesn’t mean the Des Moines Register’s poll was right,” he continued. “All it means is the Des Moines Register poll was new data, and the new data influenced the futures players.
“The media hype was that the Des Moines Register poll was one of the few to predict correctly a Kerry win in 2004,” Rasmussen pointed out. “This influenced the thinking of people making bets in the political futures markets. But who knows? This year the Des Moines Register poll may turn out to be wrong.”