Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Iowa polls:
Final post before tomorrow's caucuses

 The Dems: Bernie Sanders has made a race of Iowa, according to the opinion polls, but both the monthly average numbers and the median polls says it's still advantage Clinton. The average lead is higher than the median lead, largely due to one crazy outlier that gave Hillary a 29 point lead, but the median lead has been steadily consistent:

Entire month's median lead: 2 points for Clinton
Last two weeks' median lead: 2 points for Clinton
Last week's median lead: 2.5 points for Clinton

Of course, tomorrow is the proof of the pudding.

The GOP: The point the media has been drumming home this month is Nobody Likes Ted Cruz. By Washington standards, he is just as much of an outsider as Trump, Carson or Fiorina. That said, he did a great job in Iowa making it a two-man race once the numbers of The Completely Sane and Honest Ben Carson tanked back in November. But the average poll in January gives Trump about a 3 point edge.

The median lead for the Republicans has not been as consistent.

Entire month's median lead: 2 points for Trump
Last two weeks' median lead: 5 points for Trump
Last week's median lead: 3 points for Trump

Both races are proportional, so all four candidates should get delegates. The big question is about organization, especially Trump's. News stories agreed in December he had no organization to speak of, but in January, he clearly paid for some boots on the ground, though stories disagree on how good that organization is.

Tomorrow, it's a report on the New Hampshire numbers, Tuesday a re-cap of Iowa and Wednesday, the national polls.

I've been keep tabs for quite a while. Now the shit gets real.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The National Polls:
Third week of January

The GOP: The national polls aren't showing much drama right now. Trump's lead is yuuge, Cruz and Rubio aren't moving much, Carson is taking forever to disappear and Jeb:( is the only candidate not listed who has even 5%.

The next time I post these numbers, Iowa will be in the books. Conventional wisdom is that outside of Iowa and New Hampshire, only political junkies like me (and since you are reading this, you) are paying attention, though I do not know how anyone who watches the news can avoid hearing about Trump. Maybe when more people take an interest, all those good and sensible conservatives George Will and David Brooks love so much will put their support behind one of the "mainstream" Republicans, but that is a big maybe. When I started this blog, I didn't think Trump would still be leading in late January, and certainly didn't think his lead would be so commanding. I thought he was going to be one of a series of flashes in the pan before a party favorite like Rubio or Jeb:( finally got enough delegates. I'm slowly getting used to the idea that the fever that grips the right wing voters is not going to break soon.

The Dems: Did I write there's not much drama on the Republican side. There is none with the Democrats this week. Both Hillary's and Bernie's numbers stayed completely flat compared to the week before and the only sign the polling companies didn't just phone it in is a tiny uptick in the None of the Above numbers at the expense of Martin O'Malley. I do expect the national numbers to change once Iowa and New Hampshire are in the books.

Next update: the last numbers from Iowa will be posted on Sunday.  See you then.

Monday, January 25, 2016

New Hampshire polls:
Third week of January

The Dems: Sanders still has a comfortable lead in New Hampshire. The average for January is a 10.2 point lead, the median poll says 9 points. The Confidence of Victory method would give Bernie a 98% chance to come in first, but historically New Hampshire splits the delegates proportionally in both the Democratic and Republican contests; for the Democrats, the threshold to get delegates is 15%. For the Republicans, it is 10%. On the Democratic side, this means Martin O'Malley is shit out of luck. 15% for him would be a miracle.

The GOP: There is no drama for the first place finish like there is in Iowa, but the second through sixth contest has drama because of the 10% threshold. If the polling data is a fair indication, Rubio, Kasich and Cruz will have enough with Jeb:( and Christie will coming up short. But there is the idea of the confidence interval (or as it is known colloquially, the margin of error) and every one of the five guys in this pack has a measurable chance to succeed or fail.

I will admit that I always thought Trump would have faded by now, but he plays the media like a violin and his voters have not been turned off by anything he has said or done so far. Chuck Grassley introduced him to a crowd in Iowa, and though Grassley didn't endorse him, if the old school Republicans will be seen on the same stage with him, it's a sign the establishment is moving forward in its stages of grief. Bob Dole made a statement condemning Ted 'The Snake' Cruz - it looks like the 'nobody likes him' meme isn't an overstatement - and said Trump would be better than Cruz.

Here's a tiny piece of math the establishment could cling to. In this polling data, the two main outsiders add up to 41.9% and the four establishment Republicans add up to 41.8%. (I'm not counting Fiorina and Carson anymore, as their campaigns show no signs of life.) The thing is no one has really mounted an Anyone But Trump campaign effectively, so even when people drop out - and I expect several people to drop out after Iowa and New Hampshire - even voters whose first choice was someone traditional might switch over to Trump or Cruz, the least palatable candidates in the eyes of the establishment.

To quote Nassim Taleb, a writer I intensely dislike, this does look like a Black Swan event.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Iowa polls:
Third week of January

 The GOP: Donald Trump has a lead over Ted 'The Snake' Cruz in the average of polls in January. His lead is 1.3 points in the average and of the ten polls taken in January, Trump has the lead in six. His lead in the median polls is 1.5 points. I consider it a good sign when average and median are close to agreeing.

A lot of GOP races are winner take all, but Iowa is proportional. Unless there is a huge upset, both Trump and Cruz together should get the lion's share of the delegates and the difference in number between them will be minimal.

The Dems: Clinton is drawing away from Sanders in recent polling. Her lead in the average is 4.6 points, but only 3 in the median. This is due in large part to one big outlier that says she's ahead 59 to 30. The best poll for her other than this one gives her a nine point lead. It's very rare that an outlier like this is accurate.

The Democratic party process in Iowa is more convoluted than the Republican, the Feb. 1 caucus being just the first of a three step process.

Tomorrow, a report on the New Hampshire numbers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The National Polls:
Second week of January

The GOP: Any poll aggregator will say that the national primary results are not good predictors of anything in most elections, but it is interesting to watch the rise and fall of candidates. If we just paid attention to this, it would say Trump is unstoppable, but as we know, the story looks to be different in Iowa at least. The other thing I find interesting about the national polls is that The Completely Sane and Honest Ben Carson hasn't sunk completely into oblivion. As in Iowa, he's still the fourth choice and no one else has risen above the None of the Above threshold, though Jeb:( is solidly in fifth with around 5%.

Iowa is less than two weeks away, and I expect nothing dramatic in the national polls until then, barring some major scandal.

 The Dems: Looking at the national polls, you would think Hillary hasn't a worry in the world. Her numbers are still above 50%, Bernie can't crack 40%, it's all beer and skittles. But in the two states where people have to make their decision soon, she's got serious competition, where the most likely result right now is she will win Iowa and Sanders will win New Hampshire. Again, I think the thing most likely to move the needle nationally is the Iowa result in early February.

Back next Sunday with more, starting with Iowa.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The New Hampshire polls:
Second week of January

The Dems: It was a good week for Bernie Sanders, two new polls both showing him with a lead in New Hampshire. So far there have been five polls of the Democratic race in the Granite State in January and four of them say Sanders is leading. Because it is a two person race, my Confidence of Victory method can be used on the median poll to say Bernie would have an 80% chance of winning if the election were held on the day the poll was taken. Of course, these numbers can change as we get closer to election day.

The GOP: On the Republican side, all the interesting horse race stuff is the battle for second through sixth.  The worst poll numbers for Trump this month give him 25% support, the best numbers for anybody else are two polls that give Rubio 15%. Those two polls give the Florida senator a strong hold on second, but the most recent polls are showing a surge for John Kasich, now in third passing Ted 'The Snake' Cruz. The other notable movement is a slump for Jeb:(, who can't get anything right this campaign. Unless there is a miracle turnaround in the next few weeks, and Jeb:( is just not a miracle kind of guy, I would expect the people who gave serious cash to Jeb:( will want a partial refund by the time the New Hampshire results are tallied.

Tomorrow: the national polls.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Iowa polls:
Second week of January

The Dems: Last week, the data set used to discuss the situation in January was only two polls, which for me is the absolute bare minimum. It is now up to five polls, a more robust sampling, and the story has changed very little. Hillary leads in three of the five polls, Bernie leads in the other two. Every poll has both candidates getting 40% or more, none has anyone getting 50% yet. For O'Malley, one outlier poll has him at 8%, the rest have him between 3% to 5%.

So the average of the five polls now has Hillary with a 0.6 point lead. Since this is effectively a two candidate race, I can use my Confidence of Victory method and give Hillary about a 70% chance to come out ahead using the median poll, where her lead is 42% to 40% in a poll of 504 likely voters. As more polls come in, these numbers are very likely to change, but in what direction I cannot say.

The GOP: We could say Iowa effectively looks like a two person race, but I am reluctant to use the Confidence of Victory method when the top two candidates account for barely over half the responses, unlike the Democratic side where the top two candidates get about 90%. The January numbers are now based on six polls, and the respective positions of the four top candidates have not changed in any appreciable way, with Ted 'The Snake' Cruz still holding a slim half a point lead over Donald Trump. A story on the website rates the Cruz ground game as much better than Trump's, but for a news organization that prides itself on using math well, the method used for this story is slipshod.

A number that looks unimportant that I still find interesting is the slowing rate of decline for The Completely Sane and Honest Ben Carson in Iowa. In New Hampshire, his numbers are down among the no-hopers, but in Iowa he is still dominating establishment guys like Christie, Kasich and Jeb:(, all of whom are in the race for second in the Granite State. Once again, the ground game can make a big difference in Iowa, where turnout is tiny compared to New Hampshire, so I would actually be surprised if the polls are a perfect predictor of the candidate's relative positions when The Voters of the Corn actually come out on February 1st.

Tomorrow, the numbers from New Hampshire.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Iowa polls:
First week of January

 The Dems: Let's start with the most dramatic news. It's only the average of two polls, but Hillary's 16 point lead in the Iowa polls has slipped down to zero. I always have to add the warning that polls don't do a great job of predicting caucuses, but if I'm asked to pontificate, it now looks like it's all about organization and enthusiasm. It's my assumption Hillary has an organizational advantage and Bernie's folks have the enthusiasm.

I'm confident there will be more polling data by next week, but right now this is the most dramatic polling news of the new year.

The GOP: The dramatic story last month was the remarkable rise of Ted 'The Snake' Cruz in Iowa. News reports in December said Trump had no organization in Iowa, but more recent reports say that problem has been fixed. The numbers are a little hard to read on this graph without clicking on it to expand it, but Cruz does have a slim lead of 28.3% to 27.8% based on the average of four polls. Ben Carson continues to slide, but his numbers are still twice as high as his nearest trailing competitors Chris Christie and Jeb:(. It's only three weeks out, and it looks like it would take a miracle for anyone other than Trump or Cruz to win this thing.

More polls next weekend.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The New Hampshire Polls:
First week of January

 The Dems: It is the prejudice of an old man for me to think New Hampshire is more important than Iowa, but if I may defend my position, Iowa will be a test of the most committed campaign's ability to get out their loyalists, while New Hampshire is about getting out a substantial percentage of the voting age population.

There were only five New Hampshire polls in December and so far, there are only three in January. The story hasn't changed much since the change from November. Bernie Sanders holds a small but steady lead over Hillary.

The GOP: Just as the press is giving more coverage to the Republican race, and of course Donald Trump in particular, there were more polls of their contest in December and in January than there were polls of the Democratic race.

The race for first place has no drama at all, but there is a fierce competition for second through sixth. Right now, Marco Rubio is alone in second at 13.3% in an average of four polls, while four candidates - Ted 'The Snake' Cruz, Jeb:(, Chris Christie and John Kasich - are all within spitting distance of one another at around 10%. I am breaking the rules I set for myself to mention everyone above None of the Above, but the crowd between 3% and 5% - Rand Paul, The Completely Sane and Honest Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina - don't show any signs of gaining any traction.

Tomorrow: The earliest polls from Iowa.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The National Polls: End of December and First Week of January

 The GOP: Welcome to January, only three weeks from the shit getting real. While I am keeping the basic schedule for the time being - national polls Sunday, New Hampshire pools Monday, Iowa polls Tuesday - once we get close to votes being cast, the schedule will change. One thing that is changing is we are losing the Non-Politicians vs. Politicians graph. We all know the non-politician that matters is Trump. No point in lumping him in with also-rans like Carson and Fiorina.

I didn't report last week because there was a polling drought during Christmas week, and the first week in January is only slightly better. I absolutely do not consider any change from the grid point before this one a trend. The only thing that looks clear is Trump is in first nationally and Ted 'The Snake' Cruz is in second. The top four here are the top four in Iowa, except that Cruz is ahead of Trump. In New Hampshire, Carson is not in the picture, but Jeb:(, Kasich and Christie are above None of the Above. More details in the next few days.

The Dems: Is this a trend for Bernie Sanders? I would say it's too soon to tell until net week. The polling drought affected both parties, so I don't completely trust the most recent numbers.

On the other hand, I will give a teaser that Sanders does look like he has some good news in the early states. To find out more, come back tomorrow and Tuesday for New Hampshire and Iowa, respectively.