Hillary Clinton has gained ground in polls of Iowa Democrats since the first debate on October 13 and her marathon questioning by a hostile U.S. House select committee on October 22. The four most recent surveys here, all released in the last two weeks, put her ahead of Bernie Sanders by disparate margins. I enclose below highlights from polls released by Loras College, Monmouth College, Monmouth University, and Public Policy Polling, which has the newest Iowa poll out.
The big question is which pollster, if any, has a handle on distinguishing likely caucus-goers from others who will pick up the phone for an unknown number and agree to take a survey. Clinton leads by 14 points in Monmouth College/KBUR/Douglas Fulmer & Associates but by 32 points in Public Policy Polling and by a very-hard-to-believe 41 points in Monmouth University. One or more of those polls has to be off by much more than the mathematical margin of error, which assumes a respondent pool that perfectly represents the target population.
How many Iowans will come to their Democratic precinct caucuses on February 1 is anyone’s guess. No one seems to expect turnout close to the record-shattering level of nearly 240,000 in January 2008. If it’s much lower than that, who benefits: Clinton, by virtue of a superior campaign organization, or Sanders, whose supporters appear to be much more excited about their candidate? Former Senator Tom Harkin, who is backing Clinton, told the New York Times after the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner, "This is not a slam dunk for her," citing the tremendous enthusiasm for Sanders. With just a fraction of the mainstream media coverage Obama was receiving at similar stages of the campaign in 2007, Sanders has been drawing huge crowds in Iowa. His campaign is just starting to draw explicit contrasts with Clinton and only began running television commercials this week.
On a related note, Shane Goldmacher reports for Politico today on speculation about turnout for the 2016 Republican caucuses. Some Iowa GOP insiders predict 150,000 caucus-goers or more, while others think turnout will be only slightly higher than the record of 121,501, set in 2012. Bleeding Heartland will cover the latest Republican polling in Iowa in a future post; Ben Carson has led in most surveys conducted during the past month.