Accuracy in Media

A CNN analysis appeared to criticize the importance of the Iowa presidential primary elections and note that the country’s changing demographics will make Iowa’s primary irrelevant sooner rather than later. The analysis, headlined, “The changing Democratic electorate could upend Iowa’s role in 2020,” was a pointed reminder of the Democratic Party’s reliance on non-white voters in its nomination process in presidential campaign cycles.

Despite its headline, the analysis admitted, “In every contested Democratic nomination race in this century, the winner of the Iowa caucuses has eventually won the nomination.” Still, the analysis made the case that Iowa’s demographics of being “a virtually all-white state” does not accurately represent the “increasing diversity” of the party’s electorate.

The analysis said that due to demographics alone, there are questions of whether the 2020 presidential race “could end Iowa’s winning streak in predicting the eventual nominee.” It then blamed the party’s past presidential nominees for masking the demographics issue in Iowa. For example, the analysis pointed out that past presidential nominee winners did well among black primary voters in state primaries after Iowa’s primary, such as Al Gore, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. These three candidates had won the Iowa primary and rode their primary success in Iowa into other state primaries.

The rest of the analysis harped on the Democratic Party’s diversity in its voting base and lamented that Iowa has an outsized political impact on presidential races. However, the analysis missed an important part of elections: voter turnout.

Although the Democratic Party has a diverse voting base, non-white voter turnout usually lags behind white voter turnout. The Census’ Current Population Survey, released in 2017, said that 65 percent of white voters turned out for the 2016 election, up 1 percent from the 2012 election. Meanwhile, black voter turnout dropped to 59 percent in 2016, compared to 66 percent in 2012 and 65 percent in 2008. Voter turnout figures like these demonstrate why Iowa remains an important primary state early in the presidential campaign cycle, due to the propensity for white voters to go and vote compared to non-white voters.

In other words, CNN neglected to realize that Iowa is an important litmus test for candidates due to its demographics as white voters tend to turn out for elections at a higher rate than non-white voters. Readers should expect a more thorough analysis about Iowa’s political relevance from CNN, instead of the analysis that the network published.

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