Category Archives: Polling

North Carolina Polling Review:
Under-Estimating the GOP Vote

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2019 — The recent North Carolina special elections’ polling appears slightly flawed, containing a pattern that came to the forefront in the previous presidential race. The weakness: under-estimating the Republican vote. Doing so became a major discussion point within the research community after they cumulatively missed the 2016 Trump-Clinton race but did not regularly appear in most of the subsequent midterm campaigns.

In the two North Carolina special elections that were decided on Tuesday night, the winning Republican candidates exceeded the published polling projections. The same pattern also occurred in Pennsylvania back in late May when Rep. Fred Keller (R-Middleburg), while predicted to win comfortably, garnered a considerably larger vote percentage than projected when he scored a 68 percent special election victory.

Four different polls were publicly released during the week preceding Tuesday’s North Carolina elections. Only RRH Elections sampled the 3rd District and tested the eventual winner, state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), against former Greenville mayor, Allen Thomas. The polling result projected Murphy to a 51-40 percent lead. He won 62-37 percent, meaning RRH under-estimated Murphy’s strength and over-estimated Thomas’.

The survey was conducted during the Aug. 26-28 period, two full weeks before the election, which means the situation on the ground could have certainly changed during the intervening time between the poll and the vote. Advertising was heavy during the campaign’s final two weeks, and the survey could not account for which campaign would be more adept at turning out its vote.

Three polls, from three different survey research firms, were released for the more competitive 9th CD at irregular times, and here RRH was the closest to the actual result. Their study was also conducted over the Aug 26-28 period, and it correctly forecast a close Dan Bishop win. At the time, RRH saw a 46-45 percent spread in favor of Bishop over Democrat Dan McCready, and the actual result was 50.7 – 48.7 percent.

Harper Polling, also testing during the same Aug. 26-28 span, missed. They projected McCready to be holding a five point, 51-46 percent advantage. At the time, we mentioned that their sample contained 56 percent female respondents, which could have been a major reason for the Democratic skew.

The final poll from a lesser known firm, co/efficient, also came very close to the actual result, projecting a 44 percent tie between the two candidates over a much later Sept. 5-6 period, but this result may have come through happenstance.

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The “First Four” And The Scramble
For Delegate Apportionment

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 11, 2019 — The YouGov international polling organization conducted four simultaneous surveys in the states whose electorates will cast presidential nominating ballots in February of next year, referred to in the college basketball tournament vernacular as “the First Four”. The quartet of states are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.

Looking at the polls’ aggregate totals, it appears the contest is already gelling into a three-way race that could meld into a free-for-all should this particular YouGov polling trend translate into actual results.

All of the polling was conducted during the Aug. 28 – Sept. 4 period, and sampled between 492 (New Hampshire) and 785 (South Carolina) likely Democratic primary voters or caucus participants. All four polls found former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) occupying the first three positions, but in different orders.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg placed in the fourth and fifth positions in each entity, again not in the same order in all four states, yet neither reached double-digit percentages in any of the polls. Under this set of data, neither Harris nor Buttigieg would qualify for at-large delegates in any of the First Four states.

To reach the at-large delegate apportionment plateau, a candidate must receive 15 percent of the statewide vote. Candidates can also qualify for individual congressional district delegates, but those projections are not readily available from these polling results.

In Iowa, scheduled for caucus meetings on Feb. 3, Biden begins with a small lead according to the YouGov research. From the 682 individuals surveyed, the former vice president would score 29 percent, with Sanders closely following with 26 percent, and Warren posting 17 percent. Iowa has 41 delegates, and if the congressional district result followed the statewide percentage, Biden would receive 16 delegate votes, Sanders 15, and Warren 10.

Moving to New Hampshire, which will host the first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 11, 2020, it is Sen. Warren who places first, but the result among the trio is a virtual three-way tie. Warren recorded 27 percent in the YouGov poll, with Biden getting 26 percent, and Sanders 25 percent. Again, assuming New Hampshire’s two congressional districts would vote in the same proportion as the state, each candidate would receive eight delegate votes, equally splitting the state’s 24-person delegation.

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NC Special Elections Decided Today

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District

Sept. 10, 2019 — Voters in eastern and south-central North Carolina will go to the polls today to fill the state’s two vacant congressional seats. The 3rd Congressional District is open because Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) passed away in February. The 9th District will finally get a representative after going vacant for this entire Congress. As we remember, the 2018 electoral result was not certified due to voter fraud allegations; hence, the calling of this new election.

North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District

The 3rd District, which includes the Outer Banks area that Hurricane Dorian recently hit, hosts the cities of Jacksonville, New Bern, and part of Greenville within the 17-county region. It should remain in Republican hands. The seat has performed strongly for the GOP, including a 60-37 percent win for President Trump in 2016. Jones represented the district since his original election in 1994, when he unseated then-Rep. Martin Lancaster (D) in the Republican landslide of that year. Rep. Jones averaged 74.5 percent of the vote in the four elections of the present decade.

The Republican special election nominee, state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), is favored to defeat former Greenville mayor Allen Thomas, who won the Democratic nomination outright at the end of April. The latest available polling yielded a low double-digit lead for Murphy.

The 9th District begins in Charlotte, encompassing approximately 20 percent of Mecklenburg County, and continues to annex Union – the most Republican county and largest population entity – Robeson, Richmond, Scotland, and Anson counties along with parts of Cumberland and Bladen. The final county, Bladen, was the site of the voter fraud allegations in the last regular election.

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Nevada Looms Large for Biden, Harris

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 22, 2019 — The Nevada Caucus is third on the presidential nomination schedule and it appears the Silver State nomination event will carry more weight than it has in past elections.

After the Iowa Caucus (Feb. 3) and New Hampshire primary (Feb. 11), the candidates will stream into Nevada for the Feb. 22 caucus event that is traditionally held on a Saturday.

Nevada could be critically important for two of the candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris, should the first two states evolve as currently predicted.

Kicking the cycle off in Iowa, Biden may find himself in a similar position to that of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Coming into the state as the clear front runner, Clinton stumbled in Iowa as she technically won the caucus vote, but only after a series of coin flips were conducted to break ties … and she won them all.

The rules are different in 2020, and it will be easier for more people to participate, but Iowa voters tend to like the Midwestern candidates, something Biden is not. Additionally, with Sen. Sanders proving he has a base in the state and two Midwestern candidates in the field, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the chances of Biden faltering here are actually quite high.

Then the candidates will move to Sens. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) New England backyard in New Hampshire. In 2016, Sen. Sanders upended Clinton with a 60 percent victory, so Biden’s ability to derail both Sanders and Warren in this state will prove to be a difficult task. Therefore, it is entirely possible that Biden could move into Nevada in search of a badly needed win.

Sen. Harris has a major advantage in that her home state of California will award 416 first-ballot delegates, a figure 45 percent larger than even the second-largest state, which is Texas. But, in order to maximize this advantage, Sen. Harris will have to be competitive in the First Four states.

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The Committed Choices

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 21, 2019 — The Pew Research Center conducted a national poll, of which many Democratic presidential primary questions were asked, but one was particularly interesting.

The survey was taken from a universe of 5,766 panelists who agreed to respond to online Pew polls. For this study, conducted during the July 22 through August 4 period, 4,175 of those individuals did in fact respond, or 72.4 percent of those queried. From this respondent subset, 1,757 individuals who self-identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning voters were questioned about the presidential primary.

The ballot test was not particularly noteworthy in that the results were mostly in line with other national polls being reported within the same time frame. According to Pew, former Vice President Joe Biden led the group, but with just a 26 percent preference score, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at 16 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) posting 12 percent, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) claiming 11 percent support. All others, including South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg polled in single digits.

But the most interesting question had to do with the individuals’ committed choices. The group was asked about their enthusiasm toward the candidates and whether they were attracted to only their stated choice or if other Democratic contenders also excited them. This question was asked to gauge strength of support.

The aggregate response showed that 35 percent were only enthused about their candidate of choice, while 63 percent said several of the candidates enthused them. Though he finished a rather distant third on the overall ballot test, it is Sen. Sanders who registers the most committed support.

A majority of the Sanders voters, 51 percent, responded that they are only enthused about his candidacy and feel the same about none of the other Democratic contenders. He is the only candidate to command a such a high committed support percentage.

Biden registered 45 percent who said they are only enthused for him, but 53 percent said others attracted their attention, as well. The candidate who had the least committed support, despite her defined rise in most national polls, was Sen. Warren. Only 19 percent of her voters say they are only committed to her, while 80 percent of her contingent are also enthused by other candidates. Sen. Harris scored slightly better, with 22 percent saying only she enthuses them, while 78 percent of her voters see other candidates they also like.

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Rep. Kennedy Considering Senate Bid

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Newton)

Aug. 20, 2019 — Consistent reports throughout this year suggesting that Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey (D) is going to face a serious 2020 Democratic primary may well come to fruition. As has been the case for several weeks, Markey has already drawn two opponents, first, activist attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan declared, and then author and corporate executive Steve Pemberton followed in officially announcing his Senate candidacy.

Included in the primary challenge reports was always the speculation that four-term Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) could enter the race, though the young 38-year-old congressman consistently denied the conjecture … until now. Reports over the weekend say that Rep. Kennedy is telling confidants he is considering launching a Senate campaign, which would make the Sept. 15, 2020 Massachusetts Democratic primary a national campaign.

While Sen. Markey’s current opponents are credible, particularly Pemberton, whose childhood best-selling autobiography of growing up with an abusive Foster family after being abandoned as a young child was adapted into a movie, neither would obviously have the stature of being a member of the Kennedy family.

Rep. Kennedy is the son of former Congressman Joseph Kennedy II (D-MA) and the grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy. He was originally elected from the Newton/Taunton-anchored 4th District in the 2012 election when then-Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) retired from Congress. Kennedy has easily been re-elected three times and has averaged 74.9 percent of the vote in his four general elections.

The congressman has been in two Democratic primaries, including the open seat contest in 2012. Even as the non-incumbent, Kennedy scored a 90.1 percent primary victory. In the one intra-party challenge he received since his original election during this past September, Kennedy scored a 93.4 percent re-nomination victory.

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Warren Ahead in Iowa & Wisconsin

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Aug. 19, 2019 — The Change Research organization, which has previously conducted simultaneous multi-state polling within the same sampling period, just repeated their process. This time, the firm surveyed likely Democratic voters in both Iowa and Wisconsin over the Aug. 9-11 period and found Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren topping the field in both states.

As we know, the Iowa Caucus, with only 41 first-ballot delegate votes, is an important trend-setting state because of being placed first on the national voting calendar. In 2016, after her campaign was selling Hillary Clinton as the “inevitable nominee,” she barely won the first vote in Iowa, which arguably began a downward spiral for her campaign. Though Clinton obviously won the party nomination, the long fight with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) politically weakened her for the general election campaign.

According to the Change Iowa data (621 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus participants through online communication), Sen. Warren would lead Sen. Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), 28-17-17-13-8 percent, respectively. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who needs to make a major play in her neighboring state, still only shows two percent support, tying her with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), billionaire Tom Steyer, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, but behind the three percent score of both Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX).

Biden may have a similar problem to that of Clinton, and it could prove to be a major stumbling block. As the presumptive national front-runner, under-performing in Iowa would show clear vulnerability. Traveling the following week to Sens. Warren and Sanders’ New England backyard for New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary after sustaining an Iowa loss would strengthen the two local candidates and possibly cause Biden to again fall.

This scenario would be quite damaging to the former vice president. Because his momentum would significantly slow, re-starting for the succeeding Nevada Caucus becomes very difficult and he would need a boost here before heading to the South Carolina primary and the southern states-dominated Super Tuesday. Currently, Biden is polling very strongly throughout the south, but faltering early could quickly change that dynamic.

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