Everything you need to know about the 2011 Ames Straw Poll



Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee gives a speech during the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll. Huckabee would go onto win the 2008 Iowa Caucus.

Sarah Binder

What is a straw poll anyway?

A straw poll is an informal, nonbinding vote. Since its creation in 1979, the Ames Straw Poll has become one of the earliest and most-scrutinized tests of a candidate’s sway with the public. According to the straw poll’s website, more than 10,000 Iowans and hundreds of media personnel are expected to attend. 

The event has an informal atmosphere, with candidates able to buy space for tents where they can serve food, host live music, and make speeches.

The straw poll also functions as a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party, and has been criticized because candidates with more money have been known to pay to bus in supporters.

When is it? 

Saturday, August 13, beginning at 10 a.m. 

Between noon and 3:30 p.m., each of the candidates in attendance will give 15-minute speeches.

Voting ends at 4 p.m.

Where is it? 

Hilton Coliseum parking lot

Does it cost anything to participate?

The event is free to the public.

How do I vote?

To participate in the vote, attendees must be 18 years old on or before November 2012 and  legal residents of the state of Iowa. Upon arrival, voters must present both valid ID and a ticket to be issued a ballot. Tickets can be bought for $30, and are available through the straw poll’s website.

Each voter’s thumb is dipped in a type of ink that clings to the skin for about a week, to prevent him or her from being allowed to vote multiple times.

Who’s in?

Nine candidates will be on the straw poll ballot: Michele BachmannHerman CainNewt GingrichJon HuntsmanThaddeus McCotterRon PaulTim PawlentyMitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

There will also be a write-in option on the ballot.

Who’s out?

Most notably, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is not on the ballot. Though Palin embarked on a bus tour earlier this year, she has not announced a presidential run. Palin has said she will make her decision in late August or early September.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has also not yet announced a presidential run and was left off the ballot, though he has earned support from some Iowa PACs.

Romney, Huntsman, and Gingrich appear on the ballot, but are not expected to make an appearance at the event. Romney was the winner of the 2007 straw poll.