Leading up to the Iowa Caucuses, many questions were going around. Questions on whether there would be an increase in numbers because the Democrats were utilizing absentee voting for their preference votes. Or if there would be a lower turnout because of harsh weather all over Iowa. In addition, this could be seen as a non-competitive year, with former President Trump being dominant in past polls.
Before January 15th, there was inclement weather in Iowa. The week before, Iowa had many heavy amounts of snow accumulating. According to NOAA and the National Weather Service, most counties saw at least 6 inches of snow between the 11th and 13th of January. In some southeast counties, there was over 12 inches of snow. This could have impacted the mobility of many Iowans because of the road conditions to follow. Following the heavy snow, Iowa faced below-freezing temperatures. On the 15th, wind chill warnings were in place for temperatures between -20 and -40 throughout Iowa. According to NOAA, frostbite could occur on exposed skin in 10 - 30 minutes at these temperatures.
For the 2024 Caucuses, it could be said that it was a non-competitive cycle. Looking at polls from FiveThrityEight.com, there was a clear lead for President Trump. Many of the polls leading up to the caucuses showed former President Trump leading by at least 20 percent against candidates like Governor Ron DeSantis and Ambassador Nikki Haley. There are two possible reactions to this kind of lead: either voters are swayed away from participating, or they are more invigorated to vote for their preferred candidate.
On January 15th, 110,179 total votes were cast at the caucuses. The candidate that received the most votes was former President Donald Trump, with 56,260 votes cast for him. He won all but one of the 99 counties in Iowa, Johnson County, which Ambassador Nikki Haley took. The candidate with the second-highest number of votes was Governor Ron DeSantis. The remaining candidates were placed in the following order: Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Ryan Binkley, and Asa Hutchinson.
While 110,179 total votes appear to be a high turnout, it is a little over half the number in 2016. In 2016, 203,231 votes were cast in the caucuses in the state. About 70 counties saw a drop in participants, with the highest drop being Johnson County, with about 16% of voters in the 2016 caucuses. The counties that saw a jump in participation are mostly found in the state's northwest corner. This is the part of the state that had the least snow from the previous storms.
Ultimately, the 2024 caucuses saw a significant decrease in voter turnout. While nothing can be said definitively, there is cause to speculate that the recent weather in Iowa and how Donald Trump was leading the polls could be reasons for the turnout greatly decreased.