State by State

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 9, 2016 — The Washington Post just released their Survey Monkey online polling data for all 50 states. (Poll: Redrawing the electoral map) It gives us our first complete look at the nation’s political predisposition on a state-by-state basis through August and early September (polling period: Aug. 6-Sept. 1).

The results, with several exceptions, are not particularly surprising. The answers you’d expect after understanding how this entire election campaign has unfolded relate to just how negatively people view both candidates. That is, 95 percent of the respondents said at least one of two major party contenders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, would “threaten the nation’s well-being”. Twenty-one percent believe both are a similar threat.

The polls’ cumulative effect gives Clinton a discernible electoral vote lead, which is consistent with other publicly available survey research information. But, several states are inconsistent with other published data and vote history.

The Survey Monkey polling methodology is different from most political research techniques in that it invited a closed universe of people, those who have previously participated in their ongoing polls, to answer the national political questions. All of the responses were obtained online, which, as the Post explained in the methodology section, is the first time the news entity has conducted an Internet-based poll.

The associated pool of respondents numbers greater than three million Survey Monkey participants, a subset of whom are actively responding on a daily basis, of which 74,886 provided answers to this particular polling survey.

Additionally, the 24-day sampling period is unusually long and may not accurately reflect what appears to be a Trump surge at the very end of the time allotment. The Republican nominee’s polling numbers have noticeably improved since Aug. 28, according to nine separate national political polls, but this particular swing would not have been detected in the WaPo/Survey Monkey research.

All 50 states were included. Ironically, the one presidential electoral vote entity excluded is the District of Columbia. The range of state responses stretched from a minimum of 546 to a maximum of 5,147. Though not stated, it is assumed that the low-end respondent total came from an at-large congressional district state such as Alaska or Wyoming, while the largest subset is clearly from California. All responses were weighted to the Census Bureau benchmarks based upon the state’s registered voter population.

The Post’s summary of results that include the four candidates: Clinton, Trump, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, indicates that states holding 244 electoral votes are solidly behind or leaning to former Secretary Clinton, while those having 126 EVs are solidly behind or leaning to Trump. Some obvious adjustments, however, need to be made.

The Post/Survey Monkey anomalies are found for Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin.

Their current Colorado data finds Clinton and Trump tied at 37 percent apiece, which is inconsistent with all other data. The Colorado electorate appears to decidedly favor Clinton. Wisconsin is another state that regularly polls for Clinton, but here is regarded as a toss-up. Much more data will have to be presented before Wisconsin should be considered undecided.

Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi are polling as either tied or within the margin of error. Because Republicans tend to under-poll in the South in relation to how they actually perform at the polling place, it is highly probable that Trump will carry all three states in November.

Most polls have found Nevada either in the pure toss-up column or leaning toward Trump. In the Post/Survey Monkey result, Nevada finds itself in the lean Clinton column.

After all of the adjustments including adding DC that will assuredly support Clinton, a likely more accurate projected electoral vote count would be 261-186 in favor of the former Secretary of State. Right now, however, it is also possible to craft a path for Trump to reach 265 electoral votes, but even that high total would still spell a close defeat.

Despite many commentators and analysts claiming that this could be one of the worst Republican performances ever in a modern era presidential election, almost all available data is now suggesting a much closer finish. If the current trends continue, Trump will at least fare better than did predecessors John McCain and Mitt Romney if not fully challenge for victory.

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