Get-out-the-vote staffers are already huddling across Iowa to maximize the number of supporters who will head to the caucus meetings on Monday. And the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Recent polls in the Hawkeye State have shown a tight race on both sides, many within the margin of error.
Brand new caucus-goers are usually energized and motivated to get to the polls because of the candidate they support. It can take some substantial excitement too -- caucusing can take up a person’s whole night and it’s a complicated process.
Here’s what you should be watching from home this year:
How Polls Predict Who Will Show Up To Vote
Analysts try to use additional questions like “how likely are you to vote” or “how closely are you following the 2016 race” or “have you voted before” to gauge how likely a person is to show up.
Then pollsters create several different models to try to match expected turnout. This attempt at pinpointing voters is critical to getting accurate results.
Democrats: What To Expect This Year
In 2008 boom of Obama-motivated voters, almost six in 10 caucus-goers were turning out for the very first time, resulting in a record-breaking 240,000 total caucus-goers. About half of that numbers turned out in the 2004 election.
What To Expect This Year (Republicans)
In a Fox News poll in Iowa, Trump was in a dead heat with Cruz among people who had caucused before. But Trump leads Cruz by 11 percentage points in that poll, mostly thanks to a 24-point lead among first-time caucus-goers.
But the real estate mogul trumps Cruz among a base of voters who are more ideologically moderate and have lower education levels -- both of whom tend to be less likely to turn out than their counterparts.
A Monmouth University poll last week gave Trump a 30 vs. 23 percent lead over Cruz in Iowa, assuming an expected turnout of 170,000 people -- almost 50,000 more than the 2012 election. But with a lower turnout of only 130,000 people, Trump and Cruz tied at 26 percent.