Earth & Conservation

How Powerful is Iowa?

It's not a state commonly associated with power, but come election year, all eyes are on Iowa. So why does Iowa matter during elections?

On February 1, voters in Iowa will participate in the state's caucus system. Voters will turn out in their local districts and cast their vote for their political party. Iowa is recognized as the first state to hold this nominating process for each presidential election. It's a distinction the state has no intention of giving up, either.

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The state initially selected its caucus date back in 1972, when the primary races were not as intensely scrutinized as they are today. Since then, per the Code of Iowa, the state requires that it be the first in the nation to hold caucuses. In fact, after the 2004 election, it was ruled that more influential states could hold their primary or caucuses no earlier than February 5-otherwise, they would lose up to half of their respective delegates.

So how significant is it to be the first state in the country to hold caucuses? It depends who you ask and how you define "significant." On one hand, Iowa is a very small state and, as such, it only accounts for a mere 1 percent of the total delegates in the U.S. Iowa ranks 30th among all states in terms of population size and total GDP. Its population is 92 percent white, higher than the national percentage of 77 percent white.

Although the Iowa caucuses receive a tremendous amount of media attention and political funding, the state is by no means representative of the country at large. Nevertheless, winning the Iowa caucuses is a huge victory for presidential candidates. It's the first official record of how each candidate is actually doing in the race. Pundits and pollsters jump on the Iowa results to predict subsequent races. Finally, candidates who do well in Iowa have an easier time building momentum as they head into the primary season.

Read more about the Iowa caucus:

Vox: Why do the Iowa caucuses matter? Because everyone thinks they do

About: U.S. Politics: Iowa Caucus Results