Actually it is really called the Ames Straw Poll, but since it is the most well known straw poll and it takes place in Iowa, it is mostly called the Iowa Straw Poll. This is not an ordinary poll that we have come to know through the new coverage of elections. It is not conducted by an agency using statistical methods to try and capture the current public opinion. It is actually an event put on by the Republican Party. At the event a poll is taken among those attending the event, which is supposed to act as an early indicator of how strong the Republican candidate are.
The event, which as I said earlier, usually takes place in Ames Iowa. It is a mixed event with a county fair atmosphere. It also serves as a fund-raiser for the Republican party. To attend the event you have to pay a charge. At the moment it is about $25 with around 17,000 people attending.
At the event, the candidates reserve space at the location. This costs them money and the best locations cost the most. Here they mingle with those attending. The people attending, who must be at least and residents of Iowa, then cast one ballot for the candidate they like best. The votes are tallied and the results presented.
The first straw poll took place in 1979, which was won by George H. W. Bush. This years winner was Michele Bachmann. As to how good the poll will predict the Republican candidate and if they will win the presidency, only one candidate in the past went on to become president that election cycle. That was George W. Bush in 1999. Only one other candidate also won the nomination. That was Bob Dole in 1995 who then lost to Bill Clinton. The record for predicting candidates is, therefore, not really that great. It does tend to weed out candidates whose campaigns will be too weak to survive the primaries. Presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty ended his bid after taking third in the poll and in 1999 Lamar Alexander decided to drop out after the poll.
Whereas the Iowas/Ames Straw Poll is not a good predictor of who will be the Republican candidate, let alone president, it is still a early indicator of how strong the candidate campaign’s are. It gives the candidates a good chance to introduce themselves to the people of Iowa, who are the first to choose their delegates for the conventions that nominate the candidates. The biggest winner of the straw poll event, though, is the Republican party itself, which can raise a good amount of money from the event.