After months of campaigning by candidates, Iowan voters throughout the state prepare to participate in the first caucus of the 2012 presidential election. (Photo by Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images) None:
Tue, Jan 3, 2012 12:54 PM EST
Tags:  Iowa, GOP Primary

The first major electoral event of the nominating process for President of the United States is taking place today in Iowa. All eyes are on the state to see which GOP candidates will land in the top three but it's important to note demographics of Iowa voters do not reflect those of other states.

Still, the overwhelmingly white voters in Iowa today will choose which GOP presidential candidates American voters start paying serious attention to.

In December,'s Shani O. Hilton explained "Why (Very White) Iowa and New Hampshire Mean So Much in Politics." Below is an excerpt from her story:

The life of the average Iowan or New Hampshirite doesn't reflect the reality of the average American. Take a look at New Hampshire's demographics, and you'll see a state that's nearly 94 percent white, with wealthier residents than the many states, far fewer foreign-born residents, and higher levels of educational attainment. Iowa is much the same: 91 percent white, high rates of home ownership, and low rates of poverty.

The short answer for why Iowa and New Hampshire matter: Symbolism. The Iowa caucuses are the first electoral events of the presidential campaign season; the New Hampshire primary is the first primary.