July 18, 2020

Realistic polling results (part 2 of 2)

This is a continuation of my look at the state by state polling (which I had intended to complete yesterday).  If you have not seen part 1, take a look here for more context.

There are eight more states to look into that RealClearPolitics considers swing states. 

New Hampshire: There are a total of eight polls that RCP has listed for New Hampshire and only 3 that they use in calculating their average. St. Anselm has Biden +8 with  a +/-3% Margin of Error listed for their poll.  I was able to take a look at what are referred to as the crosstabs and it would appear they polled an almost equal number of Democrats and Republicans, but a very low number of Independents.  Yet according to CNN as recently as February, Independents represent the largest voting block in the state and represent 42% of the voters.  In the St Anselm poll they represent 1.2% of those polled.  That's clearly not a good sample.  That said, the poll shows swing voters as regarding president Trump unfavorably by a 2 to 1 ration.  But that is across only 85 people polled.  That is not a sample that will provide statistical significance.  Most importantly, the poll is among registered voters, not likely voters.  That is the only poll done within the last 45 days. In April they ran a poll showing Biden +7. Again it was registered voters.  In February the University of New Hampshire did a poll of Likely voters that had Trump +2.  It was a smaller poll and had a margin of error of +/2%, so the president's lead was not outside the margin of error.  The other poll they ran that they included was all the way back in January by NBC/Marist.   It also showed Biden +8.  My Take: Among registered voters Biden seems to have had a decent edge.  However you cannot say that is currently the case as only one poll is recent enough, and among likely voters no claim whatsoever can be made.  My best guess is that neither candidate holds a lead above the margin of error.

North Carolina: This state is a must win for president Trump but he clearly trails in the polls. But there is maybe one single poll I would say is worth keeping in an average.  The most recent poll by  CNBC/Change Research has Biden +1.  It is among likely voters and is very recent, but they did not indicate a margin of error. Clearly whatever it was the Biden lead is within the margin of error.  In their previous poll from late June the sample size was similar and it was +/-3.9% (it showed Biden +7 only 2 weeks prior to them showing him +1.  There's a disconnect there).  It's also worth noting the poll was a Democrat sponsored poll.  They also did a poll back in May that was similarly close.  So did Civitas/Harper which showed Trump +3 (+/-4%).  My Take: This state is close, but despite the plethora of polls showing Biden ahead, the polls that are worth taking note are few and far between and none of those have been recent enough to count.

Georgia: Only two polls since May, both registered voters not likely voters.  One (Fox) has Biden +2 and the other has Trump +3. So no real polling insight.  The state is a toss-up.  My Take: Trump wins this state that has trended towards Democrats but it's definitely not there yet. Realistically it's way too early to tell from a polling perspective.  As we get closer to November, there will be, as in all swing states, more reliable polling from which to glean information.

Ohio: THE bellwether state, right?  So why only 4 polls in the RCP list, since January 2020?  And why only registered voters? RCP has the state as a tie with 1 poll showing a Trump lead and 2 showing a smaller Biden lead.  My Take:  Trump crushed Hillary Clinton in 2016.  He's likely well ahead of Biden but I cannot make that claim at this point, it's just a strong hunch.  Officially I'd say this state cannot be put in either column at this point based on polls.

Pennsylvania: RCP has it at Biden +8.  There is a lot of polling being done in the state and quite a few that have polled likely voters.  But there are only two that I think have shown dependable results in the recent 45 day window (based on criteria I have previously mentioned).  The Trafalgar Group poll and the Susquehanna poll.  Both have Biden at +5.  Trafalgar's was mid-June and  Susquehanna's was last week.  The other polls, some showing a Biden lead as high as 13%, can be discarded as not reliable.  My Take:  As of last week it is very possible the 2 polls were correct.  I have not seen the crosstabs to see the R/D/Independent weightings but they may be reasonable.  As of last week I would have put PA in the Biden column.  But I'm going to leave it open.  Here's why; his recent announcement of a $2 trillion clean energy plan leading to 100% clean energy means devastating job losses in the state.  He's proposing the same agenda that Obama and Clinton both followed.  He just cost himself a lot of votes in his 'childhood' state.  Polls in the coming weeks will start to reflect that speech.  This race will be a tight one by next month, barring some other dramatic change.  Luckily, it is likely going to be a state where we will be able to reasonably track polling sooner rather than later.

Texas: Look, if RCP is going to track Texas as a swing state, then why not Democratic states like Colorado.  That this is even in the mix is ridiculous.  It's so ridiculous in fact, that I did not even build into my calculator and option for Texas. If Republicans lose Texas, it's game over, forever.  So with respect to this state, I'm kinda riffing on my analysis.  

Nevertheless, the RCP average has Trump +0.2%.  There are only two polls I can see with any recency that are likely voters with a reasonable margins of error.  There's OAN/Gravis that has Trump +2 and the Dallas Morning News that is a much larger sample size that has Biden +5. Yes, that's concerning.  A brief review of the methodology of that poll appears to keep it as a viable poll.  The poll could be an outlier, but I'm going to have to factor it in to my thinking.  My Take: From a strictly dependable-poll-driven analysis I'd say right now the state is leaning towards Biden.  But as with Pennsylvania, Biden's recent energy speech probably just wiped out his chances of competing in Texas. I'm leaving this one in Trump's column because if this state goes Democrat, it's over. I'm going to have to fold up my blog and re-open it as BBQ recipe blog if that happens.

Virginia: RCP average of polls has this state at Biden +11.  The 2 latest polls  in the average were taken in Mar/Apr and in May.  The timing is useless.  While Biden is likely to win this state and outperform Hillary Clinton (barring a Virginia-specific gaffe, which is entirely possible), he is just not going to win the state by 11 points.  My Take:  There are exactly zero polls I would include in assessing the state.  Based on demographics trends, it's likely to remain a Democrat state, sadly.  Given any lack of real polling, I cannot claim otherwise.

Wisconsin: The RCP average is Biden +6.  I see only one poll worth factoring in - the Trafalgar Group poll from late June which has Trump +1.  The CNBC/Change Research polls for this state and others, which have Biden exclusively ahead (here and in other states) might  be accurate, but they do not publish margin of error data, which is a very odd curiousity, and therefore I cannot include in my calculus.  My Take: With one poll that I can factor, showing Trump ahead, I still have to put this state in the No Call column because 1 valid poll is not enough to hang your hat on (pardon the pun). 

All in all, these state by state polls do look all that different from the Hillary Clinton paradigm-shifting landslide of 2016.  Remember that?  Me neither. Here's my primarily poll-based map (granting Georgia, Texas and Arizona to Trump despite enough poll-based evidence to support it):

Click to enlarge.

In this scenario, if Trump wins Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin he gets to 270. Barely. Is that feasible?  Absolutely. Is it likely?  Given polling I'd say it's only 50/50 right now.  While the polls are mostly all skewed and problematic, the president does have work to do.  I think COVID-19 has sapped his energy and enthusiasm.  But once he gets back to campaigning, something he seems to enjoy, I expect to see some poll shifts.  The debates will cause shifting too.  And the tendency of pollsters to become more rigorous in the closing days will see shifts too.  Honestly I still see president Trump with a potential electoral college ceiling as high as 335.  

My point is a Biden blow out is not going to happen, not that I or anyone else can fairly predict right now.  For now conservatives, do not get discouraged, just sit tight and wait.  Or better yet donate your money and time to making 2020 a Trump and Republican year.

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