The shortcomings are obvious: self-selection, small children voting, the non-random sample of the fair. But over the years its predictive value, while nothing to base a campaign plan on, has been not half bad.
I spent more time at the fair than usual this year and ballot secrecy is a little loose - since the real job is to show kids how to mark a ballot and put it in the machine, you see a lot. And a lot of ballots seemed to be split, with the child marking a superhero choice, and the parent guiding a presidential pick.
One thing that is clear: fun questions help turnout. Our top three years have been the three years of the Weipert Administration, when we started doing the fun questions.
2015 participation TRIPLED from the last caucus year, 2011, which saw an all-time low 408 voters. That year, the caucus vote was accompanied by no less than NINE issue questions. (Sample: "Which issues would cause you to vote against a candidate if he/she disagreed with your position? Vote for no more than EIGHT." You could see kids and parents recoiling in confusion.)
Enough background. Let's dig into the results.
|Democratic Presidential Candidates|
|Republican Presidential Candidates|
My aggressive Bat-campaigning was only enough to help the Caped Crusader to a stong second place finish. I had a good, four point, issue based argument: Bat Cave, Batmobile, Robin thrown in for free, and best theme song.
But the BatVote was split with BatGIRL, as there was definitely a trend of young female voters supporting female superheroes. Together, the BatVote would have been in first place.
Instead, Wonder Woman took an early lead she never relinquished, and with no Wonder Man to split the vote, the finished first.
There may have been another factor: a high correlation with the Democratic presidential race.
Many, many blog posts have been written in many, many basements about comic books and gender, and I can scarcely do the genre justice. But Hillary/Wonder Woman was definitely a thing.Wonder Woman indeed! https://t.co/Cm7EUzOE7J— Suedvorsky (@sdvorsky1) July 31, 2015
That Clinton percentage below 50 is a bit misleading, because the Uncommitted vote was largely a kid vote, and party ballot choices (to represent the caucuses, we had separate Democratic and Republican ballots, with the same superheroes on each) were often based on preferences for elephants over donkeys.
But there is, legitimately, a good sized chunk of uncommitted, or rather undecided, Democratic vote, and 12% is not far off the mark, especially if you factor in the Waiting For Biden folks.
So did Sanders disappoint? His percentage may not be representative of Johnson County, but the county fair looks a lot more like Iowa than most of the county does.
Lincoln Chafee did a bit better than I'd expected, but frankly the first line on the alphabetical ballot helped.
The talk of the fair, though, other than superhero related smack talk, was the Trump lead. No one seemed focused on the tiny percentage; the first place rank was the word. And that's going to keep going in the larger world as well.
Yet the first place rank clearly only exists because of how badly the rest of the field is splintered. The "establishment" candidates Walker and Bush, combined, beat Trump, and if you throw in some votes from a Kasich or a Rubio or a Perry you start to build a lead. The social conservative cluster of Carson plus Cruz plus Huckabee plus Santorum beats Trump.
And these percentages aren't really all that far off any given poll of the week. The pattern of preferences among the non-Trump candidates might as well be a group of children randomly marking ballots at a county fair.
If one of the Kiddie Table Debate candidates wants to be a hero to 80% of the Republican Party, they'll drop out and endorse someone in the top four or five. Could be enough for a cabinet seat.
Also worth noting from what I overheard: People have noticed Bobby Jindal on TV.
But for me, the most disappointing performance of the fair was the poor showing by definitive superhero Superman at sixth place, just one vote over Iron Man.