Thursday, December 24, 2015

Hillary v. Bernie Polls And Sampling Frames

If the 2016 U.S. presidential election were held today, a sampling of all voters finds Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would win by a landslide over GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, according to a new poll released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University.

Voters favor Sanders over Trump 51 to 38 percent, giving Sanders the general election win by 13 points — nearly double Sanders' chief rival for the Democratic nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton would likewise beat Trump, but her margin of victory over Trump is seven points  47 to 40 percent. This suggests Sanders would attract some politically disaffected voters Clinton would not.

Columnist Brent Budowsky writes for The Hill:
If Sanders' margin held in a general election, Democrats would almost certainly regain control of the United States Senate and very possibly the House of Representatives.
It is high time and long overdue for television networks such as CNN to end their obsession with Trump and report the all-important fact that in most polls, both Hillary Clinton and Sanders would defeat Trump by landslide margins.
[....] It is noteworthy that in this Quinnipiac poll, Sanders runs so much stronger than Clinton against Trump.
Budowsky concludes, "analysts would be talking about a national political realignment and new progressive era in American history if an enlightened candidate such as Sanders would defeat a retrograde race-baiting candidate such as Trump by a potentially epic and historic margin."

Lawrence O'Donnell, on his MSNBC program, postulates the reason Sanders attracts voters Clinton does not is because both Sanders and Trump speak to disaffected voters who feel "establishment" economic and political systems are rigged against them. Both speak out vociferously against lobbyist and big donors. They are both against trade deals like NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP, and inequality. They both slam bankers and Wall Street. In effect, Donald Trump is usurping Bernie Sanders' populist message.

Voters who like Trump's populist statements on those issues, but reject his  xenophobic and racist rants, would switch to Sanders, the real populist candidate, if he were the nominee. While some percentage of Trump voters might consider switching to Sanders, they are anathema to Clinton and would not switch their vote to her, the Democratic Party's establishment candidate, if she were the nominee. Pundits have been under reporting the electorate's - Democrat and Republican - anti-establishment mood all year. Applying traditional presidential electoral calculus, Donald Trump should have already receded in the GOP race. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, or Marco Rubio should be on the ascent by now as everyone coalesced next to an establishment candidate. But a substantial portion of voters seem to have an overriding anti-establishment sentiment going into 2016.

While Hillary Clinton would defeat Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head general election matchup, she would lose to Marco Rubio or Ben Carson, a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds. Against Trump, Clinton would win 50 percent to 40 percent. Among independents, she would capture 43 percent of the vote, compared to 36 percent for Trump. And against Cruz, who has surged in recent polls in the important early state of Iowa, Clinton would win with 48 percent to Cruz's 45 percent, though that's within the poll's margin of error of plus-minus 3.36 percentage points. Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio would fare the best overall against Clinton, winning a head-to-head match 48 percent to 45 percent (also within the poll's margin of error). Among independents, his margin of victory would be 44 percent to her 37 percent. In a Rasmussen Reports nation-wide telephone survey of 1000 likely voters, 37 percent picked Clinton while 36 percent picked Trump, if the presidential election were held today. The Rassmussen poll is consistent with another recent survey by CNN/ORC which had Trump and Clinton within the margin of error. An average of recent Clinton-Trump match-up polls, RealClearPolitics has Clinton leading Trump by 5.5 points.

While many Democratic voters overwhelmingly say Clinton has the experience to be president, both she and Trump have the highest negative ratings of the entire 2016 field. Trump’s are worse: 59 percent of all voters polled give him an unfavorable rating overall, whereas that figure is 51 percent for Clinton and 31 percent for Sanders. The public’s negative perceptions of Clinton and Trump are persistent and comparable, Quinnipiac found, even though two-thirds said she has the experience to be president and about the same percentage said Trump does not.

Digging deeper in polling data to understand who likes Sanders, the Millennial voting block is strong for Sanders. In a recent Harvard University poll, Bernie Sanders enjoys a significant lead over Hillary Clinton, 41 percent to her 35 percent. This year, these young voters between the ages of 18 to 34 are now set to outnumber baby boomers in the overall population.

In contrast to polls showing Sanders significantly out performs Clinton in match ups against GOP opponents, among all voters, national polls and some state polls of only likely Democratic primary and caucus voters finds Clinton significantly out performs Sanders. In a mid-December Iowa Poll released by the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics, Sen. Bernie Sanders had eight points more support than the highest polling Republican presidential candidate. Sanders trailed Hillary Clinton 48%-39% in the poll, but his level of support was eight points higher than Ted Cruz (31%) and eighteen points higher than Donald Trump (21%).

One caveat to keep in mind on Democratic primary / caucus polling results is poll sampling frames exclude many voters who support Sen. Sanders. What is a sampling frame? Basically, it’s the people who could be selected to participate in the survey.

According the methodology description of most primary / caucus voter polls, their sample frame is limited to “a list of already registered Democratic voters who voted in at least one of the last two state primary elections.” But that sampling frame exclude a lot of voters who appear poised to turn out for primaries and caucuses in 2016.

Why are polls excluding some likely primary and caucus voters? Because they aren't identifiable as Democrats. Sanders fares best among unaffiliated / Indepenent and younger voters, but while thousands of those voters appear likely to participate in Iowa caucuses, and primaries in other states, they aren't included the sampling frames of caucus and primary polls. They aren't included because they aren't listed, or identifiable, as "Democrats." To participate in Iowa Demicratic Party caucuses, for example, participants must be a registered Democrat.  But participants can change their registered party affiliation at the caucus, so people who are currently unaffiliated, or who have previously affiliated as Republican, could ultimately participate. Even so, pollsters aren't counting them as likely Democratic Iowa caucus voters.
Pollsters assume unaffiliated and younger voters, who support Sanders, will not swell the ranks of Democrats in 2016 - just as they did in 2007 polling for the 2008 Iowa caucuses. A reasonable estimate is that about 50,000 unaffiliated voters participated in the Iowa Demicratic caucuses in 2008, based on changes in Iowa’s monthly voter registration statistics. The number of unaffiliated voters plummeted by 49,145 and the number of registered Democrats increased by 58,449 between the state’s Jan. 1 and Feb. 1 party registration reports that year. 
A large portion of younger voters are unlikely to have voted in the 2012 and 2014 primaries, and therefore are not listed as affiliated with a party. Turnout for the 2014 election year was the lowest in decades and Obama's uncontested 2012 primary attracted few voters - particularly unaffiliated and younger voters. In fact, they may not yet have registered to vote. Current polls weight 18-to-34-year-old voters at just 7 percent of the electorate (like the most recent Senate primary), compared with at least 25 percent in the 2008 Democratic caucuses, when Obama proved pundents and pollsters wrong with unforseen victories over Clinton. Just as with 2015 polling, 2007 caucus turnout polling significantly under weighted Independent and younger voters based on affiliation numbers and 2006 and 2004 primary participation.

Polls have identified the generational and unaffiliated voter split between Sanders and Clinton supporters, but they may under estimate the size of turnout for those voters. Of course, it is possible millennial and unaffiliated voter turnout won’t be as high as it was in 2008, as pollsters and pundents all believe - as they did thought in 2007.
Looking the cross tabs of Iowa caucus polling showing Clinton tops Sanders among Democrats:
An early December Iowa Poll continues to show Clinton does better with older Democrats and Sanders does better with younger ones. Clinton draws support from 64 percent of those 65 or older, while Sanders draws support from 58 percent of those younger than 45. Most analysts believe older regular Democrats will outnumber younger and first time participants, who favor Sanders, in caucus attendance.

Clinton also leads among voters age 50 and older (63% to 26%), while Sanders actually has the advantage among likely caucusgoers who are under 50 years old (48% to 38% for Clinton).

By Age Group:

18-29: Hillary 27%, Bernie 70%
30-44: Hillary 47%, Bernie 51%
45-64: Hillary 51%, Bernie 40%
65+up: Hillary 65%, Bernie 30%
Then there is New Hampshire, where the latest CNN-WMUR poll has Bernie with a commanding 10 point lead over Hillary Clinton, with 50 percent of likely Democratic votes saying they would vote for Sanders if the election were held today versus 40 percent for Clinton. A look at the negatives for each candidate shows Clinton with much higher negative numbers than Sanders, whose negatives are only single digits.

The evidence is in the New Hampshire polls:
By Age Group:

18-45: Hillary 39%, Bernie 41%
46-65: Hillary 43%, Bernie 46%
65+up: Hillary 55%, Bernie 35%

By Age Group:

18-29: Hillary 22%, Bernie 75%
30-44: Hillary 35%, Bernie 63%
45-64: Hillary 56%, Bernie 40%
65+up: Hillary 50%, Bernie 48%
Bernie Sanders holds overwhelming leads with the crowd of younger voters who are quickly supplanting older Democrats in the party. This indicates Bernie Sanders' ideology most closely matches the future Democratic Party. It further indicates Hillary currently leads SOLELY among older Democrats who may have adverse feels toward Bernie Sanders long standing as an Independent.

A December 23rd CNN poll finds, Sanders has cut Clinton’s lead almost in half, reducing it by 12 points in the new CNN/ORC poll.

Support for Sanders has grown to 34 percent among registered voters who are Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. That’s a four-point pickup for Sanders since November.

Clinton has fallen to 50 percent, a significant eight-point drop in her standing since the same survey was conducted last month, after support for her had increased the three previous CNN polls.

It should also be noted is once again younger voters are signifigantly under represented in this poll, so if Sanders is this close with Boomer-and-older voters, it’s fair to say he’s likely ahead of Clinton, when we take into consideration his vast support among millennials.

More: Sanders: Trump supporters should back me

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