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Iowa Survey: Voters Pick Candidate and Advertising Winners Ahead of the Iowa Democratic Caucus

by Brian Colling - December 10, 2019

Voters Pick Candidate and Advertising Winners Ahead of the 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucus

The Colling Media market research team conducted a Snapshot Study in Iowa to understand consumer preferences and attitudes toward presidential candidates and their advertising ahead of the Democratic Iowa Caucus.

The survey, conducted December 2-4, canvased 423 adults 18+ throughout Iowa who identifies with the Democratic party. One of the purposes of the study was to test the generally accepted belief that negative advertising works.

Here are the key findings of the Iowa study:

∙ Overall, Democratic voters in Iowa are very engaged, with 31% saying they are following the election “a great deal” and another 25% paying “a lot” of attention to the race. Of all Democratic respondents, 52.5% say they are “extremely likely” to participate in the February 3rd caucus, and 24.6% saying they are “very likely” to do so.

∙ When asked which Democrat has the most negative advertising, Tom Steyer leads the way with 21.3%, with Joe Biden slightly behind him at 18%. The next most negatively perceived ads are from Elizabeth Warren at 8.2%.

∙ Far and away, the candidate perceived as having the “most upbeat and positive” political advertising is Pete Buttigieg at 32.8%. Those closest to him are Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang, both at 14.8%. When it comes to having the “best overall” political advertising, the leaders are Pete Buttigieg (27.8%), Bernie Sanders (22.9%), and Tom Steyer (19.7%).

∙ Regarding candidate preference, Colling Media asked respondents who they would vote for in the Iowa Caucus if it were held today. The results are a dead heat between Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, both at 24.6%, followed closely by Elizabeth Warren (21.3%).  Joe Biden is preferred by 11.5% of respondents.


“With such a large field of candidates in the Iowa Democratic Caucus, name recognition is crucial in these early political tests. Advertising has long played a significant role in campaigns. From yard signs to broadcast radio/TV, and from savvy social media to digital plays, there’s no question that strategic and targeted advertising is the foundation of any candidate’s campaign. In a time that many people may consider a toxic political climate, the Colling Media survey data supports the contention that positive messages are resonating with voters. And conversely, negative advertising may not be effective during the early primaries.”

Brian Colling, CEO of Colling Media


Pie chart showing how closely Iowa democratic voters have been following the presidential election. A great deal occupies 31%, A Moderate Amount occupies 25%, A lot occupies 25%, A little occupies 19%.
Bar chart showing how likely Iowa democratic voters are to vote in democratic caucus. Extremely likely occupies 52.5%, Very likely occupies 24.6%, Somewhat Likely occupies 14.7%, No So Likely occupies 3.3%, Not At All Likely occupies 4.9%.
Bar chart showing which democratic candidate has the best overall political advertising.
 Bar chart showing which democratic candidate has the overall most negative political advertising.
 bar chart showing which democratic candidate has the overall most upbeat and positive political campaign.
 bar chart showing if the Iowa Democratic Caucus was held today, which candidate would you vote for.

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