We have just received yet another confirmation of the virtual uselessness of the Ames Straw Poll. The proud winner of the straw poll, Michelle Bachmann came in sixth in the Iowa caucuses (and in fact finished dead last among all serious contestants–Jon Huntsman just ignored Iowa). Furthermore, she only managed to win just slightly more votes in the caucus than in the straw poll, even though the turnout was seven or eight times greater!
In the four and a half months between the straw poll and the caucuses she, unlike some other fellow candidates, did not have a brain freeze in a debate, was not accused of any sexual misconduct, did not have a barrage of negative ads targeted at her and did not have any other obvious reason for a dramatic collapse of her support in the state.
The winner, Mitt Romney received an eight times greater share of the vote in the caucuses than in the straw poll (in which, incidentally, he won the seventh place) - and he did not even do much campaigning in Iowa except for the last few weeks!
The (very close) runner-up, Rick Santorum, increased his share of the vote by a factor of two and a half.
Romney and Santorum together won half of all votes in the caucuses – but only 13% of all votes in the straw poll.
In fairness, it can be argued that the straw poll correctly predicted that Ron Paul would do much better this year than in 2008. But even then, he was a close runner-up in the straw poll but finished third in the caucuses and his vote share has declined by about a quarter, so it is impossible to tell whether the straw poll was actually an early indication of a real surge in his support or just a statistical coincidence.