Analyzing the Impossible: Polls in Swing States

Back on 27 September, I began charting poll results from five swing states based on aggregate polls from a single source: 270 To Win. Now with two weeks before the General Election, the numbers are solidifying into what looks like a win-win-win-win-win for Hillary Clinton. Having said that, I hurriedly insert the now standard caveats: Anything is possible. Polls do not equal votes. So rely on nothing other than your power to cast a ballot.

Now, here are results from the baseline polls of late September:

  1. FLORIDA: Clinton 45% – Trump 43% |As of 9-26-16|Avg of five polls|
  2. MICHIGAN: Clinton 45% – Trump 41% |As of 9-15-16|Avg of four polls|
  3. NORTH CAROLINA: Clinton 45% – Trump 45% |As of 9-26-16|Avg of six polls|
  4. OHIO: Trump 46% – Clinton 43% |As of 9-23-16|Avg of five polls|
  5. PENNSYLVANIA: Clinton 46% – Trump 43% |As of 9-26-16|Avg of five polls|

Compare those figures with the newest set of results:

  1. FLORIDA: Clinton 47% – Trump 44% |As of 10-23-16|Avg of five polls|
  2. MICHIGAN: Clinton 48% – Trump 38% |As of 10-24-16|Avg of five polls|
  3. NORTH CAROLINA: Clinton 48% – Trump 45% |As of 10-24-16|Avg of six polls|
  4. OHIO: Trump 47% – Clinton 46% |As of 10-20-16|Avg of six polls|
  5. PENNSYLVANIA: Clinton 48% – Trump 42% |As of 10-19-16|Avg of five polls|

MICHIGAN shows the widest edge for Hillary Clinton. The average of five polls give her a 10-point advantage, a lead that looks insurmountable. With no early voting allowed in the state, Clinton must keep up that margin of popularity to ensure victory on election day. At stake are 16 electoral votes, and a continuation of its deep blue Presidential history. The state has voted for the Democratic candidate every cycle since 1996.

Early voting is also disallowed in PENNSYLVANIA, where Clinton has moved from a 3- to a 6-point lead based on five separate polls taken over a 9-day period. One of these polls (Bloomberg) swells her lead to 9-points causing their pundits to ask: Is the election over? Answer? Yesunless pollsters have somehow missed huge numbers of Trump voters in their stream of polls.

While that is a possibility in a universe where all things are possible, it doesn’t bear logic. If one thing can be said about voters supporting the GOP’s guy, it’s that they are vocal. Online polls aside, why would these supporters not voice their enthusiasm when a call from Bloomberg came through?

These comments from the Bloomberg report shatter the idea that Trump has a stealth support base among Keystone State Republicans:

Clinton has 51 percent to Trump’s 42 percent in a two-way race statewide, with her margin swelling to 28 percentage points in four suburban counties that were once reliably Republican, according to a Bloomberg Politics poll conducted Friday through Tuesday after the video’s release.

OHIO and its 18 electoral votes is still in play with just one-point separating the two nominees. Data from six polls were used by 270 to arrive at that number. Interestingly, these were conducted after early voting began on October 12th. The set of surveys the week prior all gave Clinton the advantage in numbers ranging from 1- to 10-points.

But the most recent data from Ohio may be fatally flawed. It does not encompass the last presidential debate, held on 19 October, where the GOP nominee indicated he would not accept the election results. It also eclipsed the release of the open mic and video from the Access Hollywood taping, when he bragged about making unwanted sexual advances on women. And, it precedes the public accusations by women who have since claimed sexual misconduct by Trump.

Two of the Ohio polls (Suffolk University and NBCNews/Marist/WSJ) show a tie at 45-45%. Emerson College respondents gave Clinton a narrow lead of 2-points. The other three polls showed Trump with a 1- to 3-point lead.

These are shaky numbers in a state where the Republican governor steadfastly refuses to endorse his party’s nominee. Add to that the uncertain impact of Trump’s early dispute of the election, the release of the lewd Access Hollywood video and accusations of sexual assault, and his ability to draw more support dwindles.

In FLORIDA and North Carolina, Clinton is ahead by an average of three percentage points. The Quinnipiac Florida poll found that four identifiable segments favor the Democratic contender:

Hillary Clinton is holding a thin lead in Florida because she is winning the battle for independent voters and holding her lead among women, non-white voters and her Democratic base. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, considered the alternative to Clinton or Trump, is not catching fire in the Sunshine State.

With early voting just starting in Florida, Clinton’s chances of victory are still in question. However, this state’s registered Democrat voters outnumber Republicans by 300K (4,800,905  to 4,500,960) and the large population of third-party voters (3,353,421) look to be adopting Clinton as their candidate rather than Trump, as noted in the Quinnipiac data.

The GOP’s nominee recently held rallies in several Florida counties including Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Leon and St. Johns. These seem fruitless quests as all but the last county tilt heavily to registered Democrat voters. The partisan crowd at Trump’s St. Augustine rally may have complimented his ego but it did little to change voter registrations in the highly populated counties of south and central Florida.

Black pastors and congregants in Florida will activate their
Black pastors and congregants in Florida will activate their “Souls to the Polls” early voting push on 30 October and 4 November.

The Souls to the Polls push, which helped elect Obama for two terms, is on the calendar for October 30 and November 4 in ten different Florida locations, adding to the Democratic tally for Hillary Clinton. This early voting blitz focuses on activating African-Americans in the Sunshine State. A warm-up drive is already underway with rallies held at predominantly Black colleges including FAMU and Florida Memorial University.

Voters in NORTH CAROLINA also resist any decisive favoritism, though Clinton has broken the early tie and now leads by an average of 3-points.

The most recent poll conducted by NYT Upshot/Siena College shows a dramatic shift with an 8-point lead for Clinton (49% – 41%). Respondents from all regions of the state participated representing the two major parties and Libertarians. Interestingly, Trump has an overall higher “unfavorable” rating than Clinton (61% – 53%). Polled after the final debate and the revelations preceding it, the numbers indicate the damage done to Donald Trump among his own party.

Regardless, the survey shows a clear demarcation along party lines with Democrats favoring their nominee and Republicans voting for Trump. The Clinton team has cause for concern as far as the Independents, who shadowed their Republican neighbors in both Presidential and Congressional choices.

Early voting in North Carolina shows Democrats outperformed the Republicans and Independents. However, this does not necessarily translate into good news for the party, as explained in this Charlotte (NC) Observer article.

Analysts across the country are looking at North Carolina’s early voting as a possible forecast of what to expect from one of the nation’s key presidential battlegrounds.

In the last two presidential elections, Democrats won the early vote while Republicans won Election Day balloting in North Carolina.

This comparison-contrast may not hold in this election though. Independent voters, who make up nearly 30% of the electorate, are outperforming both major parties in early voting. Their impact could disturb all projections if the NYT Upshot/Siena College poll data holds — and they choose Republican candidates.

Then again, an analysis by Christianna Silver at 538 tends to negate any assumptions about early voting save for one: Clinton has a great ground game and Trump eschews this aspect of campaigning.

Well-organized campaigns do have opportunities to capitalize on early voting, however, and this year that could benefit Hillary Clinton, who has a stronger ground game than Donald Trump.

That sentiment is reinforced by Jon Ralston, a Nevada-based political analyst who pointed to Clinton’s strong organizing force. And Lily Adams with Clinton’s campaign detailed what this means:

The Clinton campaign uses a variety of techniques for reaching out to early voters, including door knocks, phone calls, emails and text messages, said Lily Adams, a Clinton campaign spokeswoman.

We are now less than two weeks out from the ultimate political action of this democratic republic. On November 8, pollsters, pundits and presidential candidates must bow to the will of the people, whether they like it or not.

This is the single unalterable fact of the 2016 Presidential Election.



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