Do we need more media coverage in Iowa?

David Dam

Outside of corn production, Iowa dominates headlines for a brief moment at the beginning of the presidential primaries. That time is coming around again when Iowa caucus-goers mobilize Monday evening to reward the first delegates of both the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries. As a result, candidates and the media are in a frenzy for voters and coverage. The campaign trail spans more than 50 states and territories, yet all the attention focused on one caucus is unreasonable. 

Some of the media even goes as far as to label Iowa a “must-win” situation. After all, Iowa plays a key role in election cycles because it rewards delegates, just like any other state. The delegates available for both parties consist around 1 percent of the total number of delegates needed to capture the nomination: that’s 1 percent closer to victory. This lead could be wiped out by the primary in New Hampshire, though. 

The media is right in emphasizing Iowa. 43 percent of GOP candidates who win Iowa go on to win the Republican primary, a much higher chance than winning the Powerball. Such a clear trend means that overwhelming media coverage is justified. 

Iowa’s importance is not based on precedent nor delegates: its importance is driven by the media.  Physics freshman Brendon Jones said that he believes the media’s constant coverage of Iowa creates false momentum before and after the caucuses even though voters in different states have different preferences.

“I think we can both agree that the Iowa caucuses are the most exciting thing that the state will ever see during the year,” Jones said. “The media acts like we actually pay attention to what goes on to that state.” 

Texas darling Sen. Ted Cruz is coming under fire for his support of ending ethanol subsidies. Yet in oil-dominated Texas, voters would have an entirely different view of his position. 

Contrary to popular belief, the results of the Iowa caucuses reflect who Iowa primary voters prefer, and not necessarily a candidate’s campaign. In the Republican primary, Ohio Gov. John Kasich currently ranks eighth in recent Iowa polls. However, he is a strong contender for a second place finish in New Hampshire, demonstrating the different preferences that voters have in different states.

In addition, Iowa’s results may not accurately reflect the country’s views. Because 92 percent of Iowa’s population is white, a candidate can hypothetically ignore minority issues and win free media coverage after a victory. 

Furthermore, the 2012 election cycle yielded a whopping 19 percent turnout for GOP primary voters and the 2008 election cycle a solid 20 percent turnout for Democratic primary voters. Even for a country that ranks 35th internationally in math, such a low turnout rate should highlight problems for a country that prides itself on representation and democracy.

Four in 10 Americans distrust the media — a historical low — for various reasons, such as its biased coverage or its misrepresentation of events. When it comes to Iowa, maybe it’s the media that is needlessly driving the attention.

Dam is a linguistics and Spanish freshman from Austin. Follow him on Twitter at @daviddamwrite.