Tag Archives: Emerson College

Iowa: Questioning the Polls

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 19, 2020 — Every political observer remembers that the cumulative polling community incorrectly predicted the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the 2016 Trump-Clinton presidential race, but further research finds additional significant misses in succeeding elections.

Political research reveals that two of those campaigns came in Iowa during the 2016 presidential race and the hotly contested governor’s race two years later. Today, we look at the Hawkeye State numbers with the goal of potentially ascertaining if there is a common polling pattern or consistent error factor.

In October, four polls have been released for the 2020 contest from a like number of different pollsters, two from left of center organizations while the other two are independent entities. The research organizations are Data for Progress, Civiqs for the Daily Kos Elections webpage, YouGov, and Quinnipiac University. Each has conducted one October Iowa survey.

In the presidential race, the polls yield former vice president Joe Biden an average lead of just over one percentage point. The cumulative ballot test mode then finds Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield (D) topping Sen. Joni Ernst (R) with a margin of four percentage points.

How do these numbers compare to recent polling vs. results electoral history, and is there an inherent Republican under-poll present?

In 2016, the Real Clear Politics polling average from Nov. 1-4 found then-candidate Donald Trump leading former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a mean average of three percentage points derived from three polls and three different polling firms. On Election Day, Nov. 4, 2016, Trump carried the state by a much larger 9.5-point margin.

Overall, 26 Iowa polls were released during the 2016 election cycle, with Trump recording a cumulative average lead of under half of one percentage point. According to the Real Clear Politics polling archives, 12 firms combined to reach the grand total, including Public Policy Polling (5 surveys), NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College (5), Loras College (3), Quinnipiac University (3), Emerson College (2), and Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register (2). The widest spread came from Loras College (Clinton plus-14) at the end of June. The Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register poll produced the most accurate finding, Trump plus-7, at the very end of the election cycle (Nov. 1-4, 2016).

Continue reading

How Sen. Markey Won in the
Massachusetts Primary

(Ed Markey’s Desk ad, 2020; recreated from 1976 ad below)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 3, 2020 — Sen. Ed Markey’s win over Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) is attracting a great deal of media attention in the aftermath of Tuesday’s 55-45 percent Democratic primary election, and it should. In many ways, this was an extraordinary campaign.

Sen. Markey should be credited with running an excellent political effort in that he maximized his advantages and minimized his weaknesses. It also featured bizarre happenings in that the 74-year-old candidate received 71 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old vote against his 39-year-old opponent, and he re-created, virtually word for word, an ad his campaign produced for his first congressional race back in 1976 highlighting an issue that defined his career in the state legislature.

Conversely, Kennedy ran a failing campaign that never got untracked and proved strategically wrong from the outset.

Let’s go back to where this race began in order to set the stage. Kennedy announced his candidacy in October. Polling had already begun in late August, and Change Research released the first public poll of a proposed Markey-Kennedy race (Aug. 23-25, 2019; 80 registered Massachusetts voters) and found Rep. Kennedy leading Sen. Markey, 42-25 percent.

The last poll, conducted exactly a year later from Boston-based Emerson College (Aug. 25-27; 453 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters), found Sen. Markey ahead 56-44 percent. Thus, all of the campaign movement favored Markey, and Kennedy was unable to expand outward from his original support base.

What Markey Did Right

Compare Markey’s 2020 ad (top) recreated from his 1976 ad (below):

(Ed Markey’s Desk 1976)

Sen. Markey can count. Understanding that his home county of Middlesex is the largest in the state by far — some 1.58 million people — he returned to his boyhood home in Malden where he based his campaign. His re-created 1976 ad from the first congressional campaign about “Ed Markey’s Desk” was done to emphasize his home roots in the Malden-Melrose area and the surrounding Boston suburbs that comprise the heart of Middlesex County.

Continue reading

Is Minnesota In Play?

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2020 — The state of Minnesota has been the most loyal of Democratic states in the presidential election since 1972, but the latest survey research data suggests that the northern domain is returning to the competitive realm this year.

Four years ago, President Trump fell just 1.5 percent short of winning Minnesota, thus providing a sign that the electorate was beginning a possible transformation. That was partially underscored in 2018 even when the party lost two suburban Minneapolis districts but gained two back in the rural north and south. The latter two congressional seats were the only ones Republicans converted from Democrats in the whole nation, except for a Pennsylvania seat that flipped to the GOP because of a court-imposed redistricting map that substantially changed the boundaries.

The 2020 Minnesota polls have seesawed. Mason-Dixon Polling and Research was the first to release a statewide poll this year and did so just before the George Floyd killing occurred in Minneapolis. The M-D survey was conducted over the May 18-20 period and yielded former vice president Joe Biden a five-point lead, 49-44 percent. The Morning Consult organization was also in the field during that same relative period, May 17-26, and found a similar spread between Biden and President Trump, with the former posting a seven-point edge.

Within this same period, the Floyd controversy began on May 25. During the next two months, a pair of Minnesota polls were conducted, and Biden’s lead soared into double digits. Gravis Marketing executed a single-day poll on June 19 and found Biden’s lead had grown to 16 percentage points. Fox News followed with their survey a month later, July 19-20, and found a similar 13-point Biden advantage.

The situation began to change when Morning Consult again tested the Minnesota electorate over the July 17-26 period and saw the race closing back into the three-point range. This survey was confirmed with the Trafalgar Group’s numbers derived from their July 23-25 poll that found a similar five-point margin developing between the two candidates.

The next two, however, from Public Policy Polling and David Binder Research, both conducted during the July 22-31 time frame, produced 10 and 18 point spreads in Biden’s favor. The Binder poll, however, utilized a sample size of only 200 respondents, far below what would be typically required for a reliable statewide poll for a domain housing eight congressional districts.

Continue reading

South Carolina, Tomorrow

By Jim Ellis

Former vice president, Joe Biden

Feb. 28, 2020 — Former vice president Joe Biden appears on the cusp of winning tomorrow’s South Carolina Democratic primary. His polling has greatly improved, and momentum looks to be on his side.

For more than a year, Biden has enjoyed strong leads in South Carolina but his poor performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, with a slight rebound in Nevada, had caused his Palmetto State margins to tighten. One poll, from Change Research on Feb. 12-14, forecast Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) lapsing into a tie.

Four closing polls were released yesterday, giving Biden leads of between 4 and 28 points, but it is the former poll that seems to be the anomaly. Change Research (Feb. 23-27; 543 likely South Carolina Democratic primary voters) projects Biden leading Sen. Sanders and billionaire Tom Steyer, 28-24-16 percent, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) lagging behind with a 12 percent preference factor. Under this poll, the top three finishers would qualify for delegate apportionment.

On the other hand, Emerson College (Feb. 26-27; 425 likely South Carolina Democratic primary voters) and Monmouth University (Feb. 23-25; 454 likely South Carolina Democratic primary voters) come much closer to Starboard Communications’ (Feb. 26; 1,102 likely South Carolina Democratic primary voters; online) 28-point spread line.

Starboard projects Biden leading 40-12-11 percent over Steyer and Sanders. Emerson finds him holding a 17-point lead, while Monmouth posts the former VP to a 20-point advantage. Both Emerson and Starboard find Biden touching the 40 percent mark. Biden’s large leads fail to prevent the Change Research and Monmouth polls from projecting that three of the candidates would earn a share of South Carolina’s 54 first-ballot delegate allotment, however.

To estimate a reasonable delegate count, the Monmouth poll finds a 36-16-15 percent spread for Biden, Sanders, and Steyer. If this poll proved most accurate, the delegate split would approximately be 29-13-12, consecutively, assuming the seven congressional district totals turned in similar ratios.

Continue reading

A Biden Resurgence?

Former Vice President, Joe Biden

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 25, 2019 — A series of recently released national political polls finds former Vice President Joe Biden re-establishing the type of horse race leads over the Democratic field that he enjoyed before the debate process first began. Yet, how reliable are the polls?

CNN, YouGov, Emerson College, and HarrisX, all report new data and see Biden again posting significant leads, two of which are well beyond the polling margin of error.

CNN (Oct. 17-20; 424 US Democratic registered voters) gives the ex-VP a 34-19-16 percent lead over Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). HarrisX (Oct. 21-22; 440 US registered Democratic voters) finds the Biden lead reaching 27-19-14 percent over Warren and Sanders. Emerson College (Oct. 18-21; 430 US Democratic likely voters) sees a similarly close cut among the top three candidates, but they find Sen. Sanders slipping past Warren into second place. The Emerson split shows Biden up 27-25-21 percent over Sanders and Warren, respectively.

Looking more closely at the polling methodology for each, we find that all three of these surveys have very low sample sizes, which means the error factor is high. The respective respondent universes are only between 424 and 440 people from which to derive a national trend. These numbers are more typically found in a congressional district or small state survey.

The YouGov poll (Oct. 20-22; 628 US Democratic likely voters) used a larger national sample and found a much tighter standing among the candidates, but with the prevalent Biden-Warren-Sanders order intact through a 24-21-15 percent result. In all of the aforementioned surveys, no other candidate reaches double-digit support.

Continue reading