What We Learned From The 2024 Iowa Caucuses

by Dante Chinni January 16, 2024

There was no real drama around Iowa Caucuses this year. Polls showed former President Donald Trump with a solid and consistent lead, and Monday night’s results showed the same thing.

But viewed through the American Communities Project lens, Monday had significance. Iowa holds seven of the ACP’s 15 county types and Trump won in all of them.

Trump didn’t get majorities across the board, but he beat his challengers in each one – carrying 98 of the state’s 99 counties. He lost only in Johnson County, the College Town that holds the University of Iowa, where former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley won by a single vote.

What does that mean in the context of the ACP? It means that the Republican Party, or at least the Iowa Caucus-voting Republican Party, has gotten past some of its past divisions and rallied around Trump. It certainly suggests this year’s GOP presidential nominating race will be very short.

There are still some signs of weakness in the data for Trump.

The former president won Iowa’s College Towns by the narrowest of margins – roughly two percentage points. And he didn’t even get to 40% in state’s Exurb counties around Des Moines. Previous general and primary election results have shown those types are weak spots for Trump. But he still won them on Monday.

And Trump’s traditional strengths, the more rural communities in the ACP (Aging Farmlands, Working Class Country, and Rural Middle America), went big for him on Monday.

There are a few ways to read these numbers.

First, turnout was quite low, there were about 76,000 fewer votes in the 2024 Republican caucuses than there were in 2016, the last competitive Republican primary race. It could be that Trump’s voters are just the most motivated and they turned out in the freezing cold.

It’s also possible that 2024’s GOP primary voters are just going to look different than the past, a smaller pool that’s more loyal to Trump. The numbers may be a sign that it really is his party now. But if that’s the case, watch for turnout in the votes to come.

If Trump continues to win in the Exurbs and College Towns (and the Urban Suburbs and Big Cities) with lower turnout, that may be a sign of a more unified, but less excited Republican Party overall – or at least one that is drawing in fewer independents and moderates. That could have big ramifications in the general election.

Again, it’s just one set of Republican voters in one state voting a very cold night, but the trends out of Iowa bear watching in the next contests.

Vol. 3 2020-2021

Deaths of Despair Across America

The American Communities Project is undertaking a 30-month study of Deaths of Despair in its 15 community types.

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