A Straw Polls is a kind of barn party type event where the candidates of a party shmooze dedicated party members who then vote for their preferred candidate. The results are non-binding, and some say they are not a good indicator of who will eventually win the nomination. The Ames Straw Poll is the first test for Republican candidates and helps to weed out those that don’t have a shot at securing the nomination.
Consider this: Its tough enough to get the general public out to vote for the general election. (About 58% of those eligible voted in the ’08 Presidential election) Those motivated and concerned enough to vote in a preliminary poll on a sunny Saturday afternoon have to have a serious interest in politics. This means that results from polls like these reflect the opinions of those on the fringe, not the centrist opinions of most voters. Michele Bachman was able to win the Straw Poll with her rather radical stances on social issues, but its unlikely that she will be able to win a general election without tempering some of her more conservative social beliefs. This is also a candidate like Mitt Romney performed poorly at the Straw Poll but is still considered to a serious front runner in the nomination process.
The results of the Ames Straw Poll, while interesting and indicative of where the nomination race is going, are not binding – meaning it is solely for information purposes.