New Polling Confirms Most Iowans Don’t Know Candidates’ Positions on Ethanol, and Don’t Care

DES MOINES, Iowa (Jan. 22, 2016) – Every presidential candidate who has won the Iowa caucuses since 1980 has supported subsidies for corn ethanol, according to the Boston Globe. And yet, recent reports by the LA TimesPOLITICO, the Chicago Sun-Times and others suggest that ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) may no longer be the “third rail” of Iowa politics, with many Iowans today saying they don’t know where the candidates are the issue, and many others saying they don’t care.

Unfortunately, not much actual hard data has been generated to-date to confirm or deny this phenomenon — until now. With the Iowa caucuses fewer than 10 days away, research commissioned by the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) and completed this week provides new insights into what 700 likely voters across the state know about corn ethanol mandates, how much they care about or are following them, and whether they’re likely to vote on the basis of a candidate’s position on the issue.

Their answer? Not much, not really, and not at all.

“For as long as anyone can remember, conventional political wisdom dictated that candidates had no choice but to support ever-expanding corn ethanol mandates to win in Iowa,” said George David Banks, Executive Vice President of ACCF. “Unfortunately, they forgot to ask actual Iowans what they thought about it. As this polling makes clear, not only aren’t folks in the nation’s largest corn-producing state paying particularly close attention to the back-and-forth over the RFS, they’re definitely not using it as some sort of litmus test in determining who to vote for. That might qualify as a revelation to the political class in Washington, but something tells me actual Iowans won’t be too surprised to hear that.”

Key findings from the polling:

  • The RFS and federal corn ethanol mandates fall outside of the top three issues of concern and interest for the overwhelming majority of Iowans (94%). Half of respondents (50%) say they either do not care much, or do not care at all, about the RFS and federal corn ethanol mandates.
  • Fewer than two-in-five (39%) say they want presidential candidates to spend more time talking about the RFS and federal ethanol mandates, while 57 percent say they do not want candidates to talk about the topic at all. Iowans would prefer that presidential candidates spend more time talking about all other topics that were tested, including immigration (82%), ISIS (81%), job creation (81%), and climate change (51%). Among all issues tested, ethanol came in dead-last.
  • Only one-third (33%) know if any of the major presidential candidates support or oppose the RFS and federal corn ethanol mandates.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) say a candidate’s positon on the RFS and federal corn ethanol mandates has little to no impact on their likelihood to vote for that individual.

Last fall, ACCF teamed up with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR) to launch a major digital and multimedia education campaign around the RFS, which included airing television spots statewide in Indiana and Ohio, and regionally in Northern California and Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. That spot can be viewed here, and is currently scheduled to start appearing statewide in Iowa on Monday (Jan. 25).

About the American Council for Capital Formation

For nearly thirty years, the ACCF and its research affiliate, the ACCF Center for Policy Research, have brought the message to U.S. and international policymakers, the media, and the public that a nation’s economic strength and stability depend upon well-thought-out economic, regulatory, and environmental policies to promote capital formation, economic growth, and a higher standard of living for all.

Download Key Findings in Iowa Ethanol Poll (PDF).

Download Toplines in Iowa Ethanol Poll (PDF).