September 24, 2016

Ted Cruz finally gets around to endorsing Donald Trump

Ho hum, that's the headline here.

During the primaries I was rooting for Cruz to emerge as the candidate.  I get why Trump won, and win or lose the general election, there's concrete value in the shake-up it has caused within the Republican establishment.  Nevertheless, Ted Cruz didn't seem to get it.  I understand why, there was a lot of vitriol during the primary campaign.  So during the Republican national convention, he deliberately refused to endorse Donald Trump, despite taking an oath to support the eventual nominee prior to Trump winning the nomination.

Make no mistake, that had an effect on Trump, fuelling the #NeverTrump crowd's flickering flame.  But that flame itself eventually dwindled.  Ted Cruz did not endorse Trump during his August polling swoon either, when it might have mattered more.  Ted Cruz finally gets around this week to endorsing Donald Trump after Trump has surged to near parity with Clinton.

Cruz makes a solid case as to why he's endorsing Trump, and he's outwardly at least, doing it for the right reasons.  And it's good that he has stepped up and done the right thing rather than continuing to be petulant.  But....Ho hum. The endorsement is a day late and a dollar short as the saying goes.

I say that because at this point, that endorsement no longer matters. Ted Cruz supporters have either exited the Cruz bus, or decided to not vote for Trump already.  The splash was the non-endorsement. Endorsing now has gotten little press coverage on the left or the right - the former because it doesn't help Hillary and the latter because they've already moved on to deciding for themselves either way. There's no splash. Maybe there would have been if Cruz had emerged from Trump's plane and spoken on Trump's behalf at a rally.  Then it might have really gotten some attention.  Not on Facebook though.

So who does this endorsement actually help? Ted Cruz.  If Trump wins and a few states are squeakers Cruz can point out to Trump that his endorsement may have made that marginal difference that got him elected.  And maybe he can get a plum appointment from Trump to a cabinet post or even as a Supreme Court Justice (a role he would be well qualified to serve).  Additionally, this can serve Cruz to help him repair his reputation from his seemingly jilted non-endorsement during the GOP convention.  Two reasons for Cruz to endorse Trump that have little to do with Trump.  

In fact, Cruz' endorsement of Trump rings more of a disavowal of Hillary Clinton than as an endorsement of Trump. If it had been the latter, and if he had truly wished to fully own his own shortcoming, and move past them, there would have been an apology attached to the endorsement. There wasn't.

Cruz could have actually made a bigger splash had he waited until after the debate, especially if Trump had a bad night.  And maybe that's his calculus - maybe he figures Trump will exceed expectations, do well and not need another endorsement and Cruz' own endorsement at that point would have zero value. It would be perceived as hopping on the bandwagon.  That's a risk.  But it's a risk for Ted Cruz, not for the good of the party. The risk worth taking for the good of the party and of the country, would have been to wait, and risk having his endorsement not matter, but be available to knock some of the wind out of Hillary's sails should Trump have not fared well during Monday's debate.

Don't get me wrong, I like most of Ted Cruz' policy positions. If he were to run again I would consider supporting him (although I'm not 100% certain he would be my choice).  But to me, his endorsement of Trump, because of the under-the-radar timing of it make it a non-event in my eyes.

Saturday Learning Series - Geography (Equatorial Guinea)

Equatorial Guinea doesn't get much attention, and most of this was pretty new to me. Live and learn.

And of course it wouldn't be a geography lesson without the flag episode.

September 23, 2016

State of the race - September 23rd

I recently had some questions about a couple of NBC polls that have Hillary Clinton up by numbers out of line with other polls.  More polling has come in and it's only muddied the waters.

Firstly, the RealClearPolitics electoral college map has Hillary winning the presidency by an electoral college count of 272-266 in a no-toss-up state race.  That's just as tight as I'm seeing the race right now.

But meanwhile a McClatchy/Marist poll has come out that has Hillary Clinton up by 7 points. So maybe the NBC data isn't really all that far off.  But not so fast.
McClatchy/Marist comes up with the exact same spread in their first poll in nearly two months, but it’s actually much better for Trump than their previous result — a 48/33 outlier...

...The poll appears to slightly oversample women (54/46) and a bit more significantly undersample white voters (67%) in comparison to 2012’s exit polling (53/47, 72% respectively). The age demos are structured differently, but appear to lean a little young compared to 2012. On the partisan affiliation side, the split seems reasonable at a D+5 in both RVs and LVs.
So the sampling splits leaves it a questionable poll. But there are problems for Trump there too; his polling numbers with women, and whites are still below the numbers he needs to have a shot at winning, if the poll is accurate.

But all of this is moot. The first debate is on Monday. No stool for Clinton. No commercials, no breaks and they're expecting a record audience. Polls late next week are the polls that will really matter.

Friday Musical Interlude - Chicago Blues

A documentary on the Chicago Blues scene.

September 22, 2016

New polls, new view

As I mentioned previously, I had a problem with the recent NBC/Survey Monkey mega-poll that had Clinton up by 5 points in the national poll.  I've excluded it in my analyses, including todays.  Interestingly a poll was added, again NBC but this time NBC/WSJ, not NBC/SM, that has Clinton up by 7 points.  Only the NBC polls are showing Clinton ahead at this point, almost as if they have an agenda to have her continue to appear to be the frontrunner.  But it's a smaller poll and I've left it included in my averages in the chart below.  The x axis reflects first half and second half of each month.  Excusing the NBC/SM poll (I hadn't even touched on the bias towards the tech savvy respondents in my critique of that poll, but it should be noted), there's a clear trend towards Trump and away from Clinton.  As other recent polls come in, we'll see if the NBC numbers are indeed outliers.  

Stay tuned for that - especially after the debate on Monday.

The graphic below is a weighted average of all polls by number of respondents. It includes only polls of Likely Voters, where a margin of error has been specified and is 3.5% or less.
(click to enlarge)

September 21, 2016

New NBC/SM poll has issues, like Clinton up by 5%

I've been looking at the trending of polling over the last two years using RealClearPolitics average of surveys among various pollsters as my base of polls to include.  I've been screening out Registered Voter polls in favor of likely voter polls, as likely voters are more likely to vote, and therefore their opinion is more likely to matter come voting day.  Likely voter models do contain a risk in that they can fine tune results too finely and skew results.  But for 30 years they have generally proven more predictive than Registered Voter polls.

In looking at those polls there is a clear trend towards Trump in September.  But my most recent Excel refresh suddenly shifted back towards Clinton - even my weighted average model, which sums voters across polls so polls with larger populations have a higher impact on my results than smaller polls. Granted, different pollsters could be calling the same voter and I could be double counting, but the risk of that is miniscule and even if it were the case, any attempt at averaging the polls would be impacted by the issue. So I'm willing to overlook the problem.

What I was not able to overlook was a reverse shift.  So I dug into the polls and the most recent NBC/SurveyMonkey poll caught my attention immediately.  It polls 13,320 likely voters and has a margin of error of a mere 1.2%.  The poll, stands athwart all other recent polls has Hillary Clinton ahead by 5%. Wow! What could account for such a dramatic shift?  A major Trump gaffe?  His son's Skittles comment?  People coming to their senses?

Well, first we have to take a look at the poll's particulars - crosstabs, methodology, etc.  My first concern is that they have scrubbed out very few Registered voters, claiming their Registered Voters polling is pretty close to likely voters already;
The NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll screens for adults who say they are registered to vote, and we weight the data to reflect the demographic composition of registered voters (by age, race, sex, education and region) using the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. Demographically, our results closely mimic the population of registered voters.

In addition, we also believe that the method used by SurveyMonkey to recruit respondents into the weekly tracking poll selects the most likely voters from among the population of people taking SurveyMonkey surveys. Our respondents are selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. To do so, for a random sample of those taking a survey, SurveyMonkey displays a map of past election results colored in gradations of red, blue and purple and they ask those individuals to "help us predict the 2016 elections." Because individuals choose whether or not they want to help predict the election, those individuals choosing to participate are arguably more likely to be politically interested and likely to vote than respondents who see the same invitation and decline to participate.
That's a pretty strong assumption. People take polls for a number of reasons - financial gain, the opportunity to influence public opinion or to pretend to be an adult all are possible. Yes, there is some validity in their point but it is not necessarily an overarching correlation to likely voter-hood. Which brings me to another point.
After reviewing the previous research and available evidence in our own data, NBC News and SurveyMonkey have concluded that the best approach for our tracking survey data is a "likely voter model" that makes only modest adjustments to our self-reported "registered voter" results.
The survey is an online survey. Identifying who is completing the survey is impossible, it's blind. In addition there is no indication of whether all self-reported volunteers were included or how many or whom was excluded. The crosstabs were not provided in a robust way. I'm not convinced that this survey would pass scientific rigor despite it's large sample size. There have been 5 recent Likely Voter polls including this one. 3 have Trump ahead. 1 is a tie. This poll is clearly the outlier among the polls, not only showing Clinton leading but by a wide margin that does not approach any of the other polls.

In fact since June 1st, only 14 polls have had Hillary at 50% or more support and 4 of them have been by NBC/SM. If we look at only like voter models the total of Clinton >50% drops to 5 surveys; PPP (a Democratic pollster) in July, Bloomberg and Quinnipiac in August when Clinton did seem to be surging. In September this NBC/SM poll and a Washington Post/ABC poll from September 8th. If more polls come out in the next few days, I'd be more inclined to believe this one. But for now, not so much.
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