Last Monday, Feb 1, 2016, Iowans gathered to show their support for their presidential nominees. The Iowa caucuses give the state’s voters the first chance to choose their party’s nominee through party-sponsored contests.
These contests, which will be held in all US states and territories, will determine who will be the party’s standard bearer, or nominee, in the upcoming general election.
In choosing a presidential candidate, states have two ways of collecting their party member’s votes: through primaries and caucuses.
A ‘primary’ is what most people think of when they imagine an election– people show up at a neighborhood polling place to cast their ballot for their candidate.
A caucus, meanwhile, is more of a neighborhood town hall meeting where party members debate for hours to choose a candidate who best represents their party’s values and goals.
To put in simpler terms, a primary is a vote; a caucus is a debate and a vote.
WHY IS IT SIGNIFICANT?
Let’s delve into its history.
The first official Iowa caucus was held in 1972, but the caucus tradition dates back to the early 1800s.
The word ‘caucus’ traces its roots to a North American Indian (possibly Algonquin) word that
means ‘a gathering of the ruling tribal chiefs’. At present, the word describes a process where members of a political party gather to make policy decisions and to choose candidates.
IOWA: WHERE LIBERTIES AND VOTES ARE PRIZED
Iowa is a relatively small state when it comes to size and number of voters, but it proves to be a decent representative of the US.
The nomination process should begin somewhere where the parties have equal footing, voters are engaged, and where candidates can meet and greet every voter. This grassroots approach requires candidates to get out of their national podium and engage with real Americans. It also makes for informed voters and more importantly, makes candidates better as they get to know the everyday concerns of the average American.
Iowa and New Hampshire fit the bill. The two states comprise only a small fraction of America’s votes, but they play a huge role in the nomination process just by being the first to vote.
In the Hawkeye State, Iowans gather at a set location in each of the state’s 1,682 precincts, which can be a school, church, public library, or even someone’s house.
IOWA CAUCUS 2016: A CLOSE FINISH
The Iowa Caucus this year proved to be one of the most exciting in recent years, as vote tally had Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders neck and neck for almost the entirety of the counting. Some counties reportedly needed a coin toss to determine the winner.
Clinton managed to pull ahead of Sanders in the Democratic caucuses, albeit with a razor-thin margin. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley got less than 1% of the vote, forcing him to suspend his presidential campaign.
On the Republican side, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas came out with a surprise win over the perceived frontrunner, billionaire and real estate mogul Donald Trump. Cruz was ahead of Trump 28% to 24%, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio getting 23% of the GOP vote.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson got 9% of the Republican votes, Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky (who subsequently dropped out of the White House race) got 4%, Florida Governor Jeb Bush got 3%, while former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (who also suspended his White House bid) got 2% each.
SOUR GRAPING FOR CAUCUS
The overall sentiment for the Iowa Caucus is neutral (95.1%), but there are still more positive (3.6%) posts compared to the negative (1.1%). While searching through the mentions and posts, most of the positive sentiments were congratulatory posts and expressions of delight for their chosen candidates.
As expected by some, The Donald did not handle his defeat well, firing a series of tweets claiming Cruz cheated his way to victory in Iowa.
Based on the online sentiment, there are more negative posts regarding Trump compared to positive posts.
Internet users also did not miss their chance to share what they think of the Iowa caucus results, particularly concerning Trump.
Surprisingly there were only two negative mentions that directly talks about the Iowa Caucus. One user said the Iowa GOP caucus is not a representation of things to come for Trump, as only a small number of people vote. Another user suggests the Democratic caucus caucus was rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton.
A RAT RACE AMONG REPUBLICANS
Based on final tally, only three GOP candidates managed to get two-digit percentages in votes. This suggests the race to become the Republican presidential nominee can be narrowed down to the aforementioned top three of Cruz, Trump, and Rubio.
In terms of social media listening, Donald Trump comes out the clear winner with 50.5% of the total mentions. Cruz came in second with 37.9% and Rubio with 11.6%.
Marco Rubio came in 3rd among the Republicans and his social listening percentages aren’t as high compared to his two competitors.
Iowa caucus winner Ted Cruz only came in 2nd in social listening with a 37.9% overall Share of Voice.
Unlike Donald Trump, both Cruz and Rubio have more positive posts about them. This isn’t surprising as Trump has said some controversial things in these past few months.
DEMOCRATIC PARTY PRES’L NOMINEE: CLINTON V SANDERS
After all the votes have been tallied, Clinton beat Sanders by 0.3%. Governor O’Malley dropped out of the race even before the final count, making it a head to head battle between the former Secretary of State and the Vermont Senator.
In terms of social listening, Sanders has a significant lead over Clinton while O’Malley lagged well behind the two.
The impressive performance of the Sanders campaign may have assisted in increasing the senator’s total Share of Voice.
As seen above, Sanders has gathered more positive (6.1%) results than negative (4.8%). Most positive mentions were about how Sanders kept pace with Clinton (even if Clinton has raised and spent more than Sanders).
The electorate primaries in New Hampshire is set to take place on the 9th of February 2016.
FILIPINOS WEIGH IN ON IOWA
Unlike the Americans, not a lot of Filipinos followed the Iowa caucus.
There were only 168 total mentions by Filipinos in terms of the Iowa Caucus and most of them were neutral– with many of them following the Iowa Caucus without necessarily supporting any of the candidates.
In the US, only two candidates generally get selected to run as president; one from each party (Democratic and Republican). In certain cases, a third party or independent presidential candidate may run as well.
Here in the Philippines, anyone can run for president, so long as the candidate meets certain citizenship, age, and literacy requirements. They also need to prove that they have the resources to mount a nationwide campaign.
In US elections, a presidential candidate runs with a vice-president under a ‘ticket’. Voters will vote for only one ticket;they cannot vote for a President from one party and a VP from another. Presidential and VP candidates win or lose together.
In the Philippines, the president and vice-president may come from different parties.
When it comes to vote counts, Philippine elections count the total number of individual votes. The candidate with the most votes wins and there are no run-off election.
As discussed above, the US electoral system is a bit more complicated. After determining the party’s respective nominees, the elections will be via indirect vote. That is, voters will cast their vote for a slate members of the electoral college. These electors, in turn, directly vote for the president and vice president; their vote is called an electoral vote.
The ticket that gets majority of the electoral vote wins. As in the case of the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, a candidate (in this case, Gore) can get the popular vote (the most number of individual votes) but not win the election because they lost the electoral vote.
THE UPCOMING PRIMARIES
The upcoming months will definitely be hotly-contested. Candidates will need to dig deep and tap into their strengths if they want to get ahead of the pack.
The next battleground for the presidential hopefuls will be in New Hampshire, where the first-in-the-nation primary will be held on February 9, 2016.
Jacobs, B. (2016, February 1). Countdown to Iowa: A caucus guide for what to know about America’s first vote. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/01/iowa-caucuses-explainer-voter-information
Rothman, L. (2016, February 4). How The Iowa Caucuses Became a Big Deal. Retrieved February 4, 2016, from http://time.com/4196949/caucus-history/
Collinson, S. (2016, February 2). The Iowa caucuses, explained. Retrieved February 4, 2016, from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/29/politics/iowa-caucuses-explainer/
Obradovich, K. (n.d.). IOWA CAUCUS HISTORY. Retrieved February 04, 2016, from http://www.catchdesmoines.com/iowacaucus/caucushistory/
*This article also appeared on: https://www.afdigital.com/iowa-caucuses-made-simple-with-radian6/