Polls through today still find Trump peaking, Clinton has a solid national lead. Updated Mon. Oct. 12
Note: During the Presidential campaign, we will make regular updates to this polls analysis in an effort to present the most accurate and current information. When we present analyses that reflect more than just current data driven logic, we will present those in the second part of the Polls Post. World crisis analyses will continue but appear in separate posts.
On Sun., October 11, CBS’s polls show Trump with 27 percent leading Carson at 21% percent. Hillary leads Sanders by 46 percent to 27 percent, Joe Biden who has yet to throw his hat in the ring is third with 16 percent. Monday, October 12. saw the release of the little known CNU poll in Virginia and CNN’s poll of Democrats in Nevada and South Carolina, and a Washington Post poll of Democrats in Maryland. These polls still show Trump’s support hitting a wall and Hillary maintaining a significant lead over Sanders. Analysis and details follow, but first necessary caveats. If you are just a “bottom line” person, look at the title of this post and move on. If you want to understand the “why” for those conclusions, and to at least understand why polls can and do differ, read on.
In the general election, partisan voters, who historically make up between eighty and ninety percent of the electorate, have their party’s endorsement to help them in deciding whom to support. This is not the case in primary elections. Early in the election cycle, which this surely is, polls overemphasize the importance of name recognition. This often results in wild swings as sizable numbers of voters simply haven’t made up their minds or haven’t heard of many of the candidates. Surely a sizable amount of Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s early support comes from the fact that nearly all of the voters have heard of them. The same cannot be said for Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, and Cruz on the Republican side, or Sanders on the Democratic side. Should Joe Biden enter the race, he will do so with relatively high name recognition. The Republican field is quite large, but, with the cost of running a campaign so high, we can almost certainly expect withdrawals by some of the candidates whose funds and poll numbers remain low. This makes voters’ second choice an important data source. It is essential to remember that not all polls are created equal. None employs truly random samples, due to the cost and time required to do that. Therefore, polling organizations make assumptions about the make-up of the “likely voter” such as age and race. Since the polling that we consider, at least this early in the contest, are telephone polls, seemingly unimportant variables such as the percentage of cell phones in a sample can affect the accuracy of the results. Because polling organizations aggresively guard their models of the likely voter, as outsiders we have to rely on polls with reputations that are impeccable and that have a history of accuracy. Size of the sample matters–up to a point. National polls generally have a sample size of between 1,000 and 1,500. In such polls, the make up of their model of the likely voter often affects their accuracy more than using a larger sample. State polls and national polls that use much smaller sample sizes are subject to a higher margin of error. Online polls, which by definition use non-probability based samples, are virtually useless. The Drudge Report’s poll, to cite just one example, measures only a sample drawn from their viewers–a population that differs significantly from the electorate.
Now, on to the data, and the “why” for the conclusions stated in the title of this blog.
First, the Republican polls (numbers rounded off): Trump’s support in an average of the current national polls is about 23 percent. Two weeks ago it was 31 percent. That was the high point of his meteoric rise. His current national support ranges from 21 to 27 percent. In a few state polls his numbers are higher, but have thus far been limited to 31 percent. Thursday, the well thought of Field Poll for California, showed Trump at 17 percent to Carson’s 15 and Fiorina a close third at 13. Rubio, Bush and Cruz follow with 10 percent, 8, and 6 respectively. Friday, Gravis reported a New Hampshire poll which shows that Trump maintains a large lead–polling 31 percent, 19 percent more than second place Carson. In the CNU Virginia poll, Trump has leads Carson 23 percent to 17 percent. Rubio and Fiorina follow closely at 14 and 13 percent respectively. Bush is at 9 percent, viable, but unnoteworthy. Carson is closing the gap in all of the recent national polls, and has just received a strong push from Rupert Murdoch, so expect his Fox News to give Carson more air time. Nonetheless, based on the CBS and CNU polls, his surge too, seems to have hit a wall. None of the of the hopefuls have emerged from the rest of the pack–remarkable in the cases of Bush and Fiorina, who seemed to have some momentum following her perceived strong debate performances. Most of the national polls are very close to one another and they consistently reflect a slight decline in Donald Trump’s support following the second debate. A deeper look into the polls will reveals why they suggest a peaking out of his support. With Dr. Carson’s seeming daily gaffes appear to have slowed his surge, and the rest of the candidates far enough behind, Trump had a window to lengthen his lead, but he just can’t seem to make significant progress upward, and in the analysis that follows, the data suggest that his candidacy is in trouble. Though currently Trump’s numbers still average the highest of any of the Republican hopefuls, his numbers have declined, and are well below the majority threshold required for nomination.* Couldn’t this just be the result of a “one-off” poor debate? The polls suggest not. First of all, virtually all of the polls respondents have heard of Donald Trump and all but 9 percent have formed an opinion of him! The problem for Trump’s campaign is that when those polled were asked about whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of each candidate, Trump’s “unfavorable” number were 40 percent, the highest of any of the hopefuls. Equally troubling for a party desperate to regain the White House is that Trump’s numbers are even worse with the general electorate. 59 percent of the sample of all Americans said that they have an unfavorable opinion of Ddonald Trump. The next obvious question is whether he could pick up supporters of other candidates once their first choices drop out of the race? Trump’s numbers here also reflect strong headwinds. The most recent poll to ask the “second choice” question, The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, following the second debate, gives Trump no succor. It showed that when first choice and second choice numbers were combined, Trump actually loses ground to his closest competitors. In fact, taking the combined numbers Trump actually trails Carson, Fiorina, Rubio and Bush! In polls where the leading Republican candidates are matched-up against three Democratic candidates, Trump’s numbers are the lowest. Altogether these poll numbers spell trouble for the Trump campaign and present his campaign with a steep uphill climb. It seems that voters are polarized about Donald Trump, though his numbers include some very enthusiastic supporters, nonetheless, his manner and style appear to have “turned off” too many people for a successful candidacy for the Republican nomination. With Carson’s numbers surging and then also leveling off or even declining, we may be in a holding pattern until the next Republican debate on Oct. 28. Any movement upwards in the numbers for those that follow the two leaders could be significant. Advertising, which likely will influence a sizable number of voters, really hasn’t yet started. Bush’s famously large campaign chest makes him the most likely beneficiary of advertising. Carson, Fiorina, and Rubio are reportedly being considered by big Republican donors. Some key donors appear to be hedging bets waiting until one of the non-Trump hopefuls emerges from the pack. Trump’s wealth, which hasn’t yet been tapped, gives him potential advertising clout. Some, however, question how much of his own assets Trump will use if his numbers continue to stagnate, if not decline. Carson’s financial war chest has reportedly risen, and one would have expected them to rise even more if he continued to rise in the polls. The CBS poll doesn’t show that, however. Additional national polls will be closely scrutinized by large donors to see if they support the CBS poll numbers. The press is giving a lot of space to some of his recent gaffes. Dr. Carson is currently Trump’s closest competitor. Carly Fiorina’s numbers, which rose dramatically following the second debate, and some of the other hopefuls, showed improvement, though less dramatically. (In Part II, we will revisit the viability of some of the campaigns). Since many of those trailing Trump as of now have high “never heard of” and “no opinion” numbers, a reshuffling of their ranking is likely. Often polls vary from one-another during primary season but tend to converge close to the general election, perhaps reflecting a change in their methodologies. One poll, reporting Oct. 3, which varies from the others right now, but with a good final prediction record, the IBD or Investors Business Daily/TIPP poll, showed Carson leading Trump by seven percent. One of the most current national polls, ironically the Democratic Party PPD poll, shows Trump leading with the same 27 percent that CBS found. USA Today and Pew polls have Trump leading by 25 and 23 percent respectively. Both represent a decline from their previous polls.His numbers in the early primary state of New Hampshire are, as noted above, very good. A state poll in Pennsylvania, conducted by a small Catholic liberal arts college, Mercyhurst University, shows Carson tying Trump in that state at 18 percent. The more mainstream Quinnipiac state polls reported on Oct. 7 show Trump still leading in Pennsylvania and Ohio, both by 23 percent, which matches his national numbers, and, like those polls, represents a decline in his support. Scattered state polls show that Trump’s highest numbers generally come in the southern states, and those show him leading, with numbers generally in the 26 to 28 percent range. Some of those have “favorite sons”–such as Rubio and Bush in Florida, which makes his early leads there all the more remarkable–though it should be noted that Rubio and Bush are likely splitting many voters in Florida. We eagerly await the next batch of national polls and will update this report as they emerge. The conclusion, however, that Trump has peaked is supported by the leveling off of his numbers, his “unfavorables,” and the finding that the vast majority of voters have already formed an opinion of him.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders’ campaign made somewhat of a splash with large crowds of enthusiastic supporters, and the Oct. 4, NBC/WSJ poll in New Hampshire showed him leading Hillary Clinton by 14 percent! However, in an Oct. 9 Gravis poll of New Hampshire Democratic voters, Sanders lead over Hillary is just 3 percent and when Biden’s name is removed she moves into the lead, even there, in a neighboring state to Sanders’ Vermont. The more recent state polls of Nevada, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia show Clinton with even larger leads, and more important, close to the threshold needed to win the nomination. Clinton’s numbers unquestionably suffered from the non-stop attacks on her e-mail uses. National polls, however, while showing the race to be narrowing, still show her with a significant lead over Sanders by an average of 14 percentage points, 41 to 27. The most recent of them, the CBS polls showed her with a 19 percentage point lead over Sanders. The week earlier WSJ/NBC poll showed Hillary’s lead at a closer 7 percent. These polls, it should be remembered, include Joe Biden in the field. He has not yet announced his candidacy. Nonetheless, his polling numbers have moved close to Sanders’. Also significant, Hillary leads Sanders as the second choice among Biden’s supporters. When Biden’s name is removed from the polling query, Hillary’s lead expands to 15 percent, and, more significantly, her numbers reach a majority garnering 53 percent of the voters. Hillary’s difficulties show up in her match-ups against various Republican hopefuls. This suggests that the attacks on her have resonated with the independents, and may encourage Biden to enter the race. If Joe Biden enters the race, as many cited so-called “associates” suggest he will, shortly, and Hillary’s trust numbers erode further, sizable funds may work their way to his candidacy. In such a case their performances in the first Democratic debate will take on a new importance. It remains to be seen how Congressman Kevin McCarthy and ex-Benghazi select committee Investigator-turned-whistle-blower Maj. Bradley Podliska’s assertions, that the committee’s accusals are just partisan efforts to discredit Clinton, in order to weaken her candidacy, will changes her low trust numbers (discussed in Part II). Dirty tricks are employed because of their history of working.
*It must be remembered that not all of the states’ convention delegates are determined through primary elections. The rules for nomination are complex and have changed a number of times over the years. It is far too complex to go into here, but two things seem relevant: 1) It takes a majority of the delegates to win the nomination, and 2) Establishment candidates, which definitely does not include Donald Trump, generally win the bulk of non-primary states’ delegates. Unless Trump’s polling numbers in match-ups against Democratic hopefuls become significantly better than those of his competitors for the nomination, which they have not done thus far, his candidacy will not get a boost from non-primary states. As of now, Trump’s match-up numbers are lower than most of his nearest competitors.
Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two primary states, often fail to predict the winners. Thus far, based on smaller samples, polls in those two states are at variance with national polls for both parties.
Part II-Beyond the Data.
The question of where Trump’s voters will go, if his relative numbers erode as I expect them to do as we move closer to the primaries, is a difficult one to predict. Surely some of them will migrate to Ted Cruz, but definitely not all of them and I expect some of them to sit out the election, should he withdraw altogether. If he launched a third-party campaign, it would surely guarantee a Democratic victory. Dr. Carson, who I felt gave a weak performance in the second debate, and he has made several unpresidential gaffes of late, has nonetheless moved into second place. My gut tells me that his candidacy for the actual nomination isn’t viable, though I’ll admit that his current polling numbers challenge that belief. With the third debate not being held until October 28, given a peaking of Trump as suggested by the data presented above, Carson, Fiorina and Rubio have a window of opportunity to gain on Trump and Carson. Carson, with Fox devoting more time to his campaign, has a decent chance to overtake Trump, at least in the non-southern states, if the Doctor’s foot-in-mouthitis problems cease. If I am correct, about Carson’s inability to sustain his momentum over the long haul, the race will come down to Fiorina, Rubio, Bush, Cruz and I am not yet ready to write off Christie. Kasich’s campaign still hasn’t caught fire, though his moderate appeal seems to be recognized by most pundits. He to may have made a serious gaffe by suggesting to New Hampshire voters that they should “get over it” if they don’t agree that social security benefits have to be reduced. He may prove a more viable candidate for the vice-presidential nomination than as a serious presidential candidate. Kasich’s home state of Ohio figures to be one of the key swing states in the general election.
Hillary still maintains a substantial lead for what is really a three person race, at most. Her campaign must neutralize the non-stop attacks on her, originating from the clearly political U.S. House Select Committee on Benghazi, headed by Trey Gowdy (and acknowledged as such by McCarthy, who was the leading candidate to succeed Boehner as Speaker of the House of Representatives until he made that charge). Her “Trust” numbers are very low. Right now her polling numbers, when matched up against the leading Republican hopefuls, have also eroded, dramatically–indeed, this factor alone might well tempt Vice President Biden to enter the race. Democratic voters thus far have discounted those attacks and her overall support numbers with them are still substantial–and close enough to a majority that she might benefit from a “bandwagon” effect down the road. The desire to be on the winning side early, among politicians, cannot be overestimated. More troumbling for the Clinton campaign are the independents, for whom the trust issue appears to be more troubling than it is among Democrats. Unless this changes it could spell trouble in the general election. As for Bernie Sanders, he is in the enviable position of being able to articulate policies that may be popular with liberal voters, yet would cost votes in a general election. Because of those, he has a fervent base of support. However, because of them, and because of his self-proclaimed Socialist sobriquet, I believe his candidacy is doomed. He almost certainly would be defeated in the general election, and Democrats understand the importance of winning the presidency with Congress in the hands of conservative Republicans. One is reminded of the McGovern nomination in 1972, and his subsequent large defeat by Richard Nixon. I suspect that most of Sanders’ supporters are willing to vote for Hillary should she be the nominee. Clinton understands the necessity of not antagonizing them to the point where they might sit out the general election, much as some McCarthy and Robert Kennedy supporters did in 1968–which resulted in a very close win by Richard Nixon. Yet Clinton must differentiate herself from Sanders or risk being tainted by his Socialist label. It’s a delicate balancing act. With the first Democratic debate scheduled for Tuesday, October 13, the pressure is on Biden to make a decision about entering the race.