Topsy Turvy Florida

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 26, 2016 — Yesterday, we reported about a Florida shock poll from St. Leo University that projected Donald Trump to be lagging 14 percentage points behind Hillary Clinton, but already the situation has changed.

Now, Florida Atlantic University releases its new data finding Trump actually ahead of Clinton, 43-41 percent. Confirming that trend, the Florida Chamber of Commerce also reported their new data, taken over the Aug. 17-22 period (sample size not available). This poll also finds Trump leading, 44-41 percent.

Methodologically, the set-up between the St. Leo and FAU surveys is similar, though there is no evidence that FAU uses online polling and St. Leo exclusively does. The latter organization’s poll directors were in the field from Aug. 14-18, FAU, Aug. 19-22. The St. Leo sampling universe began with 1,500 Florida adults and winnowed to 1,380 likely voters. FAU’s sample size was 1,200 registered voters. Thus, the time periods and sample sizes are similar.

Another similarity is how the two polls see the US Senate race. Despite St. Leo finding Clinton way ahead of Trump, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio registered a strong 46-38 percent lead over presumed Democratic nominee Patrick Murphy, the Palm Beach area congressman. FAU records Senate numbers in that same realm. They find Sen. Rubio topping Rep. Murphy, 44-39 percent.

The latter data is what throws the presidential analysis into qualms. Obviously, one of the two polls is flawed, but the fact that their individual polling samples produced similar numbers for the Senate, yet drastically different results for President suggests some type of sampling quirk on one of the polls.

The culmination of seven other Florida polls conducted during the month of August from seven different and diverse research institutions finds Clinton leading Trump by an average of 3.4 percentage points, from a range of Clinton plus-9 to Trump plus-3. The polling culmination, not including St. Leo or FAU but adding the Florida Chamber, would suggest that St. Leo is likely the outlier.

In terms of the minor party candidates, FAU sees Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson gaining eight percent support but did not include Green Party candidate Jill Stein on their questionnaire. St. Leo also pegged Johnson at eight percent, with just over two percent for Dr. Stein. The Florida Chamber poll finds Johnson getting nine percent and they, too, failed to add Stein.

The candidates’ favorability ratings were also similar in two of the latter polls. St. Leo released a 46 percent favorable or somewhat favorable rating for Clinton without sharing the unfavorable score or percentage divisions. FAU found Clinton’s favorability index to be 40:58 percent, compared to Trump’s slightly better 41:56 percent.

But it is the FAU minority vote segmentation that is likely inflating Trump’s numbers in this poll. Among Hispanics, FAU forecast a 50-40 percent split in Clinton’s favor, with Trump’s support far above that of Hispanics in other places. This could be explained, however, by his running well among South Florida Cubans.

Among African Americans, Trump scores 20 percent versus Clinton’s 68 percent, which is too high for the former and too low for the latter. Properly weighting the black vote would likely bring this poll within closer proximity to the other six pollsters that forecast a slight Clinton Florida advantage.

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