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Goto next slide"Caucus"

When:

Lookups spiked on January 3, 2012.

Why:

As the 2012 presidential election contest officially began, the Iowa caucuses were this week's main news event.

A caucus is "a meeting of members of a political party for the purpose of choosing candidates for an election." The voting is done at small local gatherings; citizens listen to advocates for each candidate and write the name of their pick on a blank piece of paper – a simple and elegant form of democracy.

The word caucus originated in New England – where decisions are often still made in open town meetings – but its specific origin is unknown.

By comparison, a primary is an organized statewide election that uses printed ballots.