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Iowa voters gather in groups to support a Democratic candidate Feb. 3 at the Saint Andrew Lutheran Church, St. Petersburg, during the Iowa Satellite Caucus. (Tampa Bay Times) Iowa voters gather in groups to support a Democratic candidate Feb. 3 at the Saint Andrew Lutheran Church, St. Petersburg, during the Iowa Satellite Caucus. (Tampa Bay Times)

Iowa voters gather in groups to support a Democratic candidate Feb. 3 at the Saint Andrew Lutheran Church, St. Petersburg, during the Iowa Satellite Caucus. (Tampa Bay Times)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher February 4, 2020

No evidence Iowa poll or caucus were ‘blocked’ by Democrats

If Your Time is short

  • There is no evidence that Democrats “blocked” the poll or the caucus.

  • Organizers of the CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom voter poll did not release the poll results Feb. 2 as planned. They cited a problem with reading survey questions wrong, specifically accidentally omitting Pete Buttigieg’s name from the list of candidates.

  • The Feb. 3 Iowa Caucus results were delayed into Feb. 4. But organizers said the problem was due to technical issues with an app and an overburdened telephone system.

 

Just after the clock struck midnight — and there were still no official results from the Democratic caucuses in Iowa — a group supporting Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination accused the Democratic Party of a conspiracy.

Organizers for Bernie 2020, which has 15,000 followers on Twitter, made the two-fold attack in this tweet, with a widely used and misspelled hashtag: "They blocked the Iowa poll. They blocked the Iowa caucus. We are winning so hard the Democrats are shutting down the damn entire primary process. #PresidentSanders #IowaCaucas"

They blocked the Iowa poll.
They blocked the Iowa caucus.

We are winning so hard the Democrats are shutting down the damn entire primary process. #PresidentSanders #IowaCaucas pic.twitter.com/fWZItLIBMe

— Organizers for Bernie 2020 (@OFB2020) February 4, 2020

Problems surfaced in Iowa both with a widely anticipated pre-caucus poll and reporting the results of the Democratic caucuses.

But no evidence has surfaced to suggest the problems were the result of Democrats "blocking" efforts to poll or caucus — and certainly not within the first few chaos-filled hours after the caucusing ended.

Possible polling error

Results of the final CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll were scheduled to be released Feb. 2, two days before the caucuses. 

The New York Times reported that the decision not to release the results was made after the campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said that an Iowa supporter received a poll phone call from an operator working for the Register’s polling operation, but that the name of the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., was not listed on the menu of options. One operator had apparently enlarged the font size on their computer screen, perhaps cutting off Buttigieg’s name from the list of options, according to two people interviewed by the Times. 

Other news media, including Politico, also reported that Buttigieg’s campaign had raised the issue and that the font change apparently was the problem.

The Register’s executive editor, Carol Hunter, explained the decision in a Feb. 1 article, saying "it appears (Buttigieg’s) name was omitted in at least one interview in which the respondent was asked to name their preferred candidate," and that the omission "could have compromised the results of the poll."

Cause of caucus count problems unclear

The second part of the statement undoubtedly refers to the unprecedented delay in the reporting of the results of Democratic caucuses. 

By midday the following day (Feb. 4), the Iowa Democratic Party was saying it expected to release some results by 5 p.m. that day. 

At that point, news organizations were reporting that the delays were caused by technical problems — both with an app and with a telephone system that had been set up as a backup for the electronic reporting of caucus tallies. People who called experienced long delays or couldn’t get through at all. 

No evidence had surfaced that the delay was due to Democrats "blocking" the poll or caucus.

We messaged Organizers for Bernie 2020, but didn’t get a reply. 

A Sanders campaign spokeswoman told us the group has no relationship with the campaign. She had no comment on the claim we’re checking.

Our ruling

A social media post said Democrats "blocked the Iowa poll" and "blocked the Iowa caucus."

Results of the final Des Moines Register poll before the caucuses were not released because of a possible error by one operator who did the telephone polling. 

Technical problems with an app and a phone system were blamed for the unprecedented delay in reporting the Democratic caucus results.

We rate the statement False.

 

Our Sources

Twitter, Organizers for Bernie 2020 tweet, Feb. 4, 2020

Email, Bernie Sanders campaign deputy communications director Sarah Ford, Feb. 4, 2020

New York Times, "Des Moines Register Poll of Iowa Caucusgoers Abruptly Shelved," Feb. 3, 2020

New York Times, "‘A Systemwide Disaster’: How the Iowa Caucuses Melted Down," Feb. 4, 2020 

Des Moines Register, "From the editor: Des Moines Register, partners cancel release of Iowa Poll after respondent raises concerns," Feb. 2, 2020

Wall Street Journal, "Iowa’s Tally-by-App Experiment Fails," Feb. 4, 2020

Politico, "Des Moines Register poll scrapped after apparent mishap," Feb. 2, 2020

Washington Post, "Iowa caucuses 2020 live updates: Iowa Democratic Party says it will release some caucus results by 5 p.m. ET," Feb. 4, 2020

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No evidence Iowa poll or caucus were ‘blocked’ by Democrats

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