Candidate authenticity and the Iowa Caucus

John Kenny, Jac Larner, Michael S. Lewis-Beck

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Candidate ‘authenticity’ has become a frequent explanation of electoral performance. Yet its study in electoral research has been largely neglected. Building on recent work, we test its relationship with candidate support in the 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucus through a survey of likely Caucus goers. The Caucus offers an ideal setting — a contest focused on candidates and their personalities, in a context having far-reaching political implications. We demonstrate that authenticity perceptions played an important role in individual vote intentions. Indeed, for Biden and Buttigieg perceptions of their authenticity were strongly associated with vote intention even when controlling for other established traits. Warren, unlike the others, benefited indirectly, because her authenticity triggered substantial support among female voters. The performance of the authenticity trait, direct and indirect, points to its pivotal potential in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102390
JournalElectoral Studies
Early online date10 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Authenticity
  • Candidate traits
  • Democratic party
  • Iowa
  • US Presidential primaries and Caucuses
  • Voting

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