We’ve heard the final answer from most pollsters already in Iowa, and now we have the last Insider Advantage poll as well.  It shows a dead heat between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, with Rick Santorum edging out Newt Gingrich for third place.  There are, however, a number of issues with this poll:

The poll shows Romney at the top with 23 percent, followed by Ron Paul at 22 percent. Rick Santorum is third at 18 percent. Newt Gingrich is fourth at 16 percent. Rick Perry, Michele Bachman and Jon Huntsman were in fifth, sixth and seventh place respectively.

“This race is more decided than pundits think. The polls consistently show what we show, that being a Romney-Paul showdown,” said Matt Towery, CEO of InsiderAdvantage.

That may be true, but I wouldn’t rely on this Insider Advantage poll to make that call.  For one thing, IA polled registered voters (not just registered Republicans, as Fox 5 in Atlanta reported) instead of likely caucus-goers.  If a pollster was ever to break out the likely-voter algorithm, it’s in the final poll just before an election or caucus, and yet IA didn’t bother to use the more predictive sampling technique. They also conducted this survey in its entirety last night — a Sunday night, and a holiday at that.  Furthermore, there is no statement of methodology and little in the way of regional demographics to get an idea who exactly was surveyed and what that might mean for the results.

With that in mind, at least the sample improved on PPP’s survey in one respect — Democrats and independents didn’t get oversampled, as Republicans made up 69% of the respondents.  Democrats may have been undersampled a bit, though, at less than a half-percent (36 respondents).  With no Democratic caucus to attend, I suspect more than 0.5% of the caucus attendees will be Democrats, although it won’t be the 16% that PPP presumes, along with 34% of attendees who didn’t bother attending either caucus in 2008.

Among registered Republicans, Romney leads Santorum 23.2 to 20.4, with Gingrich still significant at 18.3%.  Paul comes in fourth at 17.3%, but leads among the handful of Democrats (31.1%) and independents (38.2%).  Gingrich comes in second among Democrats with 18.1%, while only Romney and Santorum score in double digits among independents, 18.4% and 15%, respectively.

The one solid takeaway from this poll is that Insider Advantage didn’t take it very seriously, and I’m not sure anyone else should, either.

Update: I exchanged e-mails with Insider Advantage CEO Matt Towery, who says these are likely caucus-goers, not just registered voters.  He’s not sure why the report at RCP says “registered voters,” but he can’t check into it at the moment because of a serious illness in the family.  That addresses one of the more significant deficiencies of the poll, although not all of them, but in the meantime keep the Towery family in your prayers.