Is Iowa red, blue, or purple? Voters will decide the state’s political direction

Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 12:17 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Both the Republican and Democratic parties are watching closely as Iowa voters cast their votes in Tuesday’s primary election. After sending Barack Obama to the White House twice, the state reversed course and flipped red in 2016 and 2020 when voters chose President Donald Trump. Now in 2022, political leaders are keeping a close eye ahead of November’s general election to see what voters decide next.

Republican National Committee spokesperson, Paris Dennard, calls Iowa a ‘state in play.’ But, he believes the energy is swinging towards the GOP’s direction.

“Oh certainly, the momentum is there. And, that’s what we’re seeing both in Iowa and across the country,” said Dennard. The GOP currently holds power in the governor’s office, the state legislature, and the U.S. Senate. This election year, long-standing Republican incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley will be among the candidates fighting to keep his seat.

However, Democrats in the state believe they have strong candidates in Tuesday’s election who will be able to compete against Grassley this November. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn also emphasized the role Democrats have played in previous elections.

“If you look at some of our past elections, you know it’s gone both ways for parties. So, we definitely are a purple state and Iowans are looking forward to proving that in 2022,” said Ross Wilburn, Iowa Democratic Party Chair.

University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle agrees Iowa is still purple. He also stresses that Democrats nor Republicans hold all of the power in the state. Independent voters, he emphasized, make up a large chunk of active voters and they play a large role in the results.

“We have a very large percentage of independents, what we call ‘no party’ voters, here in Iowa. And, they are the ones who tend to decide statewide elections just because there’s so many of them,” Hagle said.

Hagle researches Iowa voter data and he pointed to recent voter registration numbers. According to Iowa’s Department of State, ‘no party’ voters make up for 593,359 active voters in the state in 2022. There are 591,740 registered active Democrats. There are 657,122 active Republican voters.

Hagle said that research has shown that from around January of 2000 through June of 2020, ‘no party’ voters had been more numerous than Republicans and Democrats in the state. But he said, that switched in the ‘pandemic’ primary of June 2020. He said that primary forced many ‘no party’ voters to pick a side.

“And that was because they were all sent absentee ballot request forms and, maybe they knew it or not, but when they requested a primary ballot, that automatically changed them to whatever party whose primary they requested a ballot for,” he said. “And so now the ‘no party’ voters are a little bit below Democrats, a little bit further below Republicans, but they’re still essentially a third of the electorate here in Iowa. And they’re the ones, like I say, that tend to be the ones to decide statewide elections.”

Hagle said those ‘no party’ voters are not loyal to either party. Rather, he said they tend to focus on specific issues.

“In particular, you’ll find that the voters that are registered Republican or are registered as Democrat, that they will tend to follow whatever their party’s interests seem to be, whatever it happens to be. And, they maybe get, on average, a little more caught up in the political side of things. But again, it’s those ‘no party’ voters that really don’t care about that political infighting, which is why they haven’t joined a party previous to this,” he said. “And so they’re the ones that are more interested in what we call the kitchen table issues: jobs, the economy, health care. And so those are the folks that don’t care about that political infighting. They want government to get things done to solve problems.”

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