Iowa is a Terrible Test Market – Why do we let it Pick Presidential Candidates?

[Updated] It’s 2012, and the presidential primary season is upon us.  In reality, it’s been upon us for the past year – the news media seems to have the same proclivity for stretching out presidential campaign season as retailers have for stretching out the holiday gift buying season.

Plenty of others have written about our arcane and stupid primary process, but I thought I would put a different spin on the argument that Iowa should not be allowed to screen the roster of presidential candidates:

From a Marketing/Public Relations/Advertising perspective, the population of Iowa makes for a terrible focus group.

Iowa is completely unrepresentative demographically of the diversity that exists in the US.  In fact – it’s such a skewed population that it doesn’t even have a test market in the top 50 (unless you count markets shared by other states).

No marketer would risk taking a product to market nation-wide based on how it plays in Iowa – so why do we let them vet presidential candidates?  Check out this selection of demographic indicators:

Iowa: Worst Focus Group Sample Ever

I’d like to give Iowa the opportunity for a rebuttal – courtesy of IowaFilmmakers (hilarious and NSFW):

4 thoughts on “Iowa is a Terrible Test Market – Why do we let it Pick Presidential Candidates?

    1. Derek DeVries says:

      You make an excellent point; there are plenty of differences between the regular US population and the population of “likely voters” (that they tend to be older, more affluent, more educated, etc.). However, that would only be an issue if Iowa’s population of likely voters was different from the national population of likely voters. I looked around and couldn’t seem to find any research comparing those two populations. I’d love to see some if anyone can find any.

      It’s tough to grab the same statistics for likely voters in general, but here’s a few of them I could find:


      Gallup, 2010 “Likely Voters Demographically Typical, but Skew Conservative”

      Voter Contact Magazine (2009) “The Demographics of Voters”


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