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2016 Distilled

What Actually Happens at the Iowa Caucus?

Jan 27, 2016 | 9 videos
Video by The Atlantic

The Iowa caucus kicks off the Presidential primary season. Over the 44 years that Iowa has held first-to-vote status, its caucus has developed into a key point of interest for presidential hopefuls—rewarding winners with momentum and a surge in media attention. And yet, despite its outsized role in American politics, the workings of the Iowa caucus remain mysterious to many Americans. What exactly is a caucus, and how does it proceed on the ground in Iowa? The Atlantic’s Caty Green looks to the assistant politics editor Priscilla Alvarez for answers.

This is the first installment of a new series from The Atlantic, answering reader-submitted questions as part of our ongoing election coverage, 2016 Distilled. What do you wish you knew more about when it comes to the 2016 election? To share your questions, email

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Authors: Greyson Korhonen, Daniel Lombroso, Catherine Green

About This Series

Videos covering Election 2016 from The Atlantic's politics and policy team