PPP Survey: If Trump Says It, His Supporters Will Believe It

Two and a half months from Election Day, national surveys generally show Hillary Clinton with a steady lead on Donald Trump.

But many Trump supporters don’t believe it – instead they’re insisting that the polls (yes, all of them) are biased.

Earlier this week, some people took that belief to a new level. A website called RealTrueNews claimed to have discovered a secret “internal memo” from Public Policy Polling finding Trump with a 65-point lead on Clinton in Florida (not a typo) and discussing how best to cover up the “truth.” The “memo” is obviously a phony – among other things, it includes an obscenity-laden paragraph about how to obtain “Bernie-grade weed” from other polling outfits – but PPP director Tom Jensen says they spent the day handling tweets and emails from people who actually believed it was true.

“It’s really a commentary on the credulity of Trump supporters that so many think this memo could be real,” PPP said on Twitter.

But Jensen also says it’s not a surprising commentary. In poll after poll, he says, PPP has found that Trump supporters are convinced that most Americans favor their candidate – and that any survey suggesting otherwise must be biased. And all year long, PPP has found that Trump’s supporters are willing to agree with just about anything he says, no matter how extreme.

PPP’s actual survey this week, for instance, looked at voters in Texas – where 71 percent of Trump supporters say that “if Clinton wins the election…it will just be because the election was rigged.” (Specifically, 40 percent of Trump supporters believe the election will be rigged by ACORN – even though that organization no longer exists.)

Tom Jensen discussed the Texas survey – and the fake Florida poll – on WCHL with Aaron Keck.


The bad news for Donald Trump is that even in red-state Texas, he doesn’t have that many supporters – at least not right now. PPP’s survey does show Trump leading Clinton there – but by only six points, 44-38. (Mitt Romney won the state by 16 points in 2012.) And Trump’s lead appears to be limited to senior citizens: he’s up 63-33 on Clinton among seniors, but Texans under the age of 65 favor Clinton, 49-45. (And among voters under 45, Clinton leads Trump 60-35. Jensen says that’s not just the usual generational gap – it suggests Texas may become less of a GOP lock over the next couple decades, particularly considering the state’s growing Latino population.)

More on the presidential race in Texas here.

And PPP’s survey also finds widespread support for progressive/Democratic policies on a variety of issues across party lines: 72 percent favor an increased minimum wage; 63 percent want the Senate to hold Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland; and 83 percent want people on the government’s terror watch list to be banned from buying guns. Considering Texas’ gun-friendly reputation, there’s a surprising level of support for several gun-control policies: 89 percent of Texans also want to see background checks on all gun purchases, and there’s even plurality support for an assault weapons ban (48 percent in favor, 43 percent opposed).

More on PPP’s Texas survey here.



PPP: Few North Carolinians Feel Safer Under HB2

North Carolina’s House Bill 2, commonly known as HB2, remains unpopular among North Carolinians, according to a newly released survey from Public Policy Polling.

The new results show that 43 percent of North Carolinians are opposed to the law, which advocates continue to call among the worst pieces of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation. That compares with 30 percent of respondents who support HB2.

The law requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that corresponds with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity in government owned buildings, schools and universities. The law also bars localities from extending nondiscrimination ordinances beyond the state policy and keeps local governments from being able to increase the minimum wage locally.

That negative outlook on HB2 may be playing a role in how North Carolinians view those associated with the law, specifically Republican incumbent Governor Pat McCory in his battle for the Governor’s Mansion with the Democratic challenger Attorney General Roy Cooper. PPP director Tom Jensen wrote when summarizing the numbers, “There’s a good chance that if not for HB2 McCrory would be favored for reelection at this point.”

As it stands, the survey results show Cooper with a one-point lead over McCrory.

Among those surveyed, 58 percent said they felt HB2 was hurting North Carolina, overall, and an identical 58 percent believe it is hurting the state’s economy.

Those who believe HB2 is hurting the economy is up from the last survey in June when 49 percent felt it was a drag on North Carolina. Since then, the National Basketball Association has moved the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte due to HB2.

Beyond disliking the law and its impact on North Carolina, 50 percent of respondents said they did not believe the law was accomplishing what lawmakers said was the intended goal – to make North Carolinians safer. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said the law did make them feel safer.

Supporters have maintained HB2 is “common sense” legislation that will keep women and children safe in North Carolina. Of the women who were surveyed, 54 percent said it has not made them feel safer.

HB2 is being challenged in court. At a recent court hearing on a motion arguing for a preliminary injunction, the judge asked why the law was in place since there is no enforcement mechanism.

Among other topics surveyed, North Carolinians would like to see the United States Senate move forward with Merrick Garland’s nomination to the US Supreme Court by a 60/23 margin. There is also bipartisan support with 71 percent of those surveyed in favor of increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour and 78 percent support for barring those on the Terror Watch list from buying a firearm. In fact, a higher percentage of Republicans (81) supported that Terror Watch list ban than Democrats (78). The survey shows North Carolinians would also support a ban on assault weapons by a 51-39 margin.

You can see the full results here.


PPP: Roy Cooper Leads Pat McCrory in Race for NC Governor

Democratic challenger Roy Cooper holds a slight lead over Pat McCrory in the race for North Carolina governor, according to an upcoming Public Policy Polling survey.  Tuesday afternoon, Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen revealed the new data to WCHL’s Aaron Keck.

Cooper leads McCrory by one point.  Cooper, the current North Carolina Attorney General, received 43 percent in the new survey.  Incumbent Governor McCrory received 42 percent.  Libertarian challenger Lon Cecil received 4 percent of responses.

The race for North Carolina governor has been close for months.  In a June Public Policy Polling survey, Cooper and McCrory were tied at 41 percent.

Listen to Jensen’s conversation with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


HB2 appears to be impacting McCrory.  Only 30 percent of North Carolina voters support the controversial law while 43 oppose it.  Forty-three percent of North Carolinians approve of McCrory’s job as governor while 47 percent disapprove.

In the race for one of North Carolina’s seats in the United States Senate, Republican incumbent Richard Burr holds a four point lead over Democratic challenger Deborah Ross.  In the poll, Burr receives 41 percent and Ross gets 37 percent.  Libertarian Sean Haugh is getting 5 percent.

Public Policy Polling released a survey Tuesday on how the presidential election is looking in North Carolina.  In that poll, Hillary Clinton holds a small lead over Donald Trump, 43 percent to 41 percent.  It is Clinton’s first lead in the state since March.

Jensen says, “It’s hard to imagine there’s any state in the country this year that is more closely divided as North Carolina.”

You can look through the full results from Public Policy Polling’s North Carolina survey.


PPP: Clinton Holds First Lead Over Trump in North Carolina Since March

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is leading Republican Donald Trump in North Carolina by a 43-41 margin, according to a survey released by Public Policy Polling on Tuesday.

PPP director Tom Jensen writes when summarizing the results that this is the first lead Clinton has held in the Tar Heel state since March.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson (7) and Green Party candidate Jill Stein (2) garnered support from nine percent of respondents combined.

The two-point margin favoring Clinton shrinks to a 47-46 lead in a head-to-head matchup with Trump.

North Carolina has been called a “must-have state” for Trump to have a chance at winning the White House.

While Clinton now leads Trump, Jensen writes that is not due to a change in favorability among those surveyed. Clinton had a 39/55 favorability rating when North Carolina was last surveyed by PPP; she now has a 40/55 rating in the newest results. But Trump saw a seven-point decline in his net popularity over that same time period, now registering at 37/58.

PPP finds that North Carolinians polled have a similar feeling to other Americans in other recent surveys, preferring a continuation of the Obama administration rather than Trump’s vision for the country at a 50/45 rate.

The undecided voters in North Carolina would be overwhelmingly in favor of a third term from President Obama rather than a Trump presidency by 33 points in a hypothetical matchup. Those same undecided voters have a 45/28 favorability rating of Clinton’s Democratic rival in the primary Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

To further state how the group of undecided voters feels about Trump, PPP reports the Republican candidate has a 1/94 favorability rating among the group.

Jensen writes that means that these voters will likely either get behind the Clinton campaign or stay home in November. Jensen adds, “At any rate it’s more likely that they’ll build Clinton’s lead than eat into it when they come off the fence, and that’s good news for Clinton given the advantage she already has.”

PPP polled several questions among Trump supporters based off of claims that he has recently made regarding the election. Those results are posted verbatim from PPP below:

-69% of Trump voters think that if Hillary Clinton wins the election it will be because it was rigged, to only 16% who think it would be because she got more vote than Trump. More specifically 40% of Trump voters think that ACORN (which hasn’t existed in years) will steal the election for Clinton. That shows the long staying power of GOP conspiracy theories.
-48% of Trump voters think that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton deserve the blame for Humayun Khan’s death to 16% who absolve them and 36% who aren’t sure one way or the other (Obama was in the Illinois Legislature when it happened.) Showing the extent to which Trump supporters buy into everything he says, 40% say his comments about the Khans last week were appropriate to only 22% who will grant that they were inappropriate. And 39% of Trump voters say they view the Khan family negatively, to just 11% who have a positive opinion of them.
-Even though Trump ended up admitting it didn’t exist 47% of his voters say they saw the video of Iran collecting 400 million dollars from the United States to only 46% who say they didn’t see the video. Showing the extent to which the ideas Trump floats and the coverage they get can overshadow the facts, even 25% of Clinton voters claim to have seen the nonexistent video.
-Trump said last week that Hillary Clinton is the devil, and 41% of Trump voters say they think she is indeed the devil to 42% who disagree with that sentiment and 17% who aren’t sure one way or the other.
We’ve been writing for almost a year that there’s a cult like aspect to Trump’s supporters, where they’ll go along with anything he says. Trump made some of his most outlandish claims and statements yet last week, but we continue to find that few in his support base disavow them.
The public as a whole is a different story though. A number of the things Trump has been in the news for lately have the potential to be very damaging to his campaign overall:
-Vladimir Putin has a 9/63 favorability rating with North Carolinians, and Russia as a whole comes in at 14/51. By a 49 point margin they’re less likely to vote for a candidate Russia is perceived to prefer for President, and by a 33 point margin they’re less likely to vote for a candidate seen as friendly toward Russia. This issue is not doing Trump any favors.
-58% of voters think Trump needs to release his tax returns, compared to only 31% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to. In every state we’ve polled recently we’ve found an overwhelming sentiment that he needs to release them- independents say he needs to 54/33.
-Even though Trump’s own voters might support the approach he took to the Khan family, only 19% overall think it was appropriate to 54% who think it was inappropriate.
-And after his reported comments last week only 38% of voters think Trump can be trusted with nuclear weapons, to 54% who think he can’t be trusted.

You can see the full results of the survey here.


Trump Got Post-RNC Bounce, But Will It Last?

Even in this wild, loopy, unprecedented election year, some things never change.

Historically, the week after every major party convention, the party’s presidential candidate gets a fairly sizable bump in the national polls. (No surprise – conventions are basically week-long infomercials for the party, and human beings are susceptible to good advertising.) That proved to be the case last week too: this year’s Republican National Convention was unconventional in many ways, but Donald Trump’s post-convention bounce (about 3-4 points, give or take) was right in line with past candidates in previous years.

Supporters of the opposing party got worried – also no change from previous years – but pollsters say not to worry: Hillary Clinton will probably get her own post-convention bounce when polls start to come in next week.

Earlier this week, Public Policy Polling released a survey of voters in Ohio – the host of the Republican convention, and an important swing state in its own right. (No Republican has ever won the presidential election without winning Ohio – and in fact, the last candidate of any party to lose Ohio and still get elected was John Kennedy, 56 years ago.) PPP’s post-RNC survey showed Trump with a narrow lead over Hillary Clinton, 42-39, a seven-point swing from June – but PPP director Tom Jensen says there’s a lot of good news for Clinton in the survey too.

For one thing, Jensen says, nearly one in five Ohio voters still haven’t made up their minds between the two major candidates. Nearly half of them say they’re supporting a third-party candidate (Gary Johnson polls 6 percent, Jill Stein polls 2 percent) – but the rest say they’d choose Clinton over Trump, by an 18-point margin, if they were forced to make a choice today.

Undecided voters also favor Barack Obama over Trump by a 30-point margin, Jensen says, so Clinton needs only to win over those voters who support the current administration. (That was clearly one of the primary goals of this week’s DNC.)

Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Thursday, a few hours before Hillary Clinton’s DNC address.


PPP’s Ohio survey also found that both Trump and Clinton have consolidated their respective bases: notwithstanding the “Bernie or Bust”-ers and the #NeverTrump-ers, 82 percent of Republicans say they’re voting for Trump and 84 percent of Democrats say they’re voting for Clinton. (The survey was conducted before the DNC, so that latter number may have risen: Jensen says parties typically unify around their nominee after conventions.)

Visit this link for more numbers from PPP’s Ohio survey. (PPP is currently conducting a post-DNC survey of Pennsylvania, where the Democrats held their convention.)


Election 2016: PPP Says Don’t Freak Out About Polls – Yet

It’s still too early to be sure how the Republican convention has affected the presidential race, but it’s probably safe to say Donald Trump will get a fairly significant bounce in the national polls. That’s what we typically see in the days immediately following a national party convention – and while the RNC had its chaotic moments, Trump himself gave a speech that was generally well-reviewed. (Relative, at least, to his usual efforts.)

But should this be a major concern for Democrats and #NeverTrumpers? Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says no – at least, not yet.

Jensen says PPP is still finding the 2016 race shaping up much like the 2012 race, with Trump and Hillary Clinton polling about the same, from state to state, as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama did four years ago. Trump will get a post-convention bounce in the polls – he’ll likely take the lead in some surveys, if not all – but Clinton will almost certainly get a post-convention bounce of her own in a week.

And even though Election Day is rapidly approaching, Jensen says it’s still too early for the polls to be a reliable indicator of the final outcome. (Pre-RNC polls showed Clinton with about a four-point lead on Trump. That’s roughly the same lead Obama had on John McCain at the same stage in 2008, the same lead Obama had on Romney at the same stage in 2012 – and the same lead John Kerry had on George W. Bush at the same stage in 2004.)

Tom Jensen spoke last Thursday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck, a few hours before Trump’s convention speech.


Jensen says one thing is pretty certain, though: North Carolina will be a pivotal swing state in the presidential race, possibly even the decisive state. (So expect a lot of candidate visits – and irritating campaign ads – in the months to come.)


Latest Polls Show North Carolina Races Tied

There’s a familiar theme running through North Carolina this election season.

“We’re dead even in the presidential race, dead even in the gubernatorial race, we have a three point senate race,” says Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling.

“It’s really hard to think of anywhere in the country that’s going to have elections that are as competitive as North Carolina. We will be in the national spotlight for better or worse.”

The tight races begin with the presidential race. Both presumptive nominees have recently campaigned in North Carolina, but that doesn’t seem to have swayed the voters.

“We remain about as closely divided as we can be when it comes to the presidential race. We have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump exactly tied. They’re each getting 43 percent. Then Libertarian Gary Johnson is at 4 percent, Green Party candidate Jill Stein is at 2 percent and 7 percent of voters are undecided.”

Jensen says these numbers will begin to change as Sanders supporters look to back Clinton.

“If Hillary could win over just half of the Sanders fans right now who aren’t voting for her, she’d go from this 43-43 tie up to leading by five points at 48-43.”

North Carolina’s gubernatorial race tells a similar story. The latest polls show incumbent Pat McCrory tied with challenger Roy Cooper at 41 percent each. Libertarian Lon Cecil trails at 6 percent with 13 percent of voters undecided.

“I really don’t think it’s a race where we’ll ever see anybody break away from the field. I think were in for a tight one till the very end.”

The contest for Lieutenant Governor is also tied with Republican incumbent Dan Forest and Democratic challenger Linda Coleman each at 37 percent. Libertarian J.J. Summerell stands at 4 percent and 22 percent of voters are undecided.

The North Carolina senate race is also close this year.

“We find that the Senate race continues to be very competitive, I think really surprisingly compared to what people maybe six months ago would have expected it to be.”

Richard Burr is in the lead right now, polling at 40 percent, which is only three points higher than democrat challenger Deborah Ross who stands at 37 percent. Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh trails at 5 percent.

Jensen says rumors that Burr being considered for Trump’s vice president, isn’t helping the party’s numbers. The same goes for polls that team up Elizabeth Warren with Clinton.

“What we’ve been finding when polling different running mates it doesn’t make a very big difference.”

Some of the most surprising poll numbers, Jensen says, come from the gun control debate.

“What’s really striking in our gun polling is how bipartisan some of the support for some of the measures that democrats are trying to support are.”

91 percent of independents, 84 percent of democrats and 82 percent of republicans are in favor of expanding background checks before allowing the purchase of guns.

“We talk so often about how polarized the country is right now and it is, and that’s why it’s so remarkable when you look at these issues to see over 75 percent support on both of them from democrats, republican and independents alike.”

Similar numbers are reflected in favor of banning those on the “no fly list” from purchasing guns with 89 percent of independents, 79 percent of republicans and 78 percent of democrats.

“It’s definitely a rare issue where there’s pretty strong consensus in the public about what they want to see happen. Democrats are on the right side of public opinion on this one.”

The race for control of North Carolina’s Supreme Court shows incumbent Bob Edmunds leading challenger Mike Morgan just 28 to 24, with 48 percent of voters undecided in the nonpartisan contest.

The General Assembly remains unpopular, with only 18 percent of voters approving of the job it’s doing and 57 percent who don’t.

Voters also disapprove of HB 2, with 32 percent of North Carolina supporting the bill while 43 percent are opposed. An overwhelming 50 percent of voters say it’s having a negative impact on the state’s reputation opposed to 19 the percent who say it’s improved.

As one of the largest democratic counties, Jensen says Orange County, will have great impact on the upcoming elections.

“A heavy turnout from Orange County or not could make the difference in terms of how some of these races turn out. I think this is an election I think that nobody is going to want to sit out.”

You can see the full survey results here.


Republicans Unite Around Trump, But Clinton Still Has Edge

Donald Trump won the GOP presidential nomination over the loud objections of more than a few leading Republicans. But as our collective attention turns to the general election, most Republicans appear to be falling in line behind the nominee – even if they’re gritting their teeth to do it.

A national survey this week from Public Policy Polling finds Hillary Clinton with a four-point edge on Trump, 42-38, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 4 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 2 percent. (Johnson and Stein are actually pulling more votes from Clinton than Trump; take them away and Clinton’s lead would jump to six points.)

For all the talk about GOP disunity, though, Trump gets almost exactly as much support from Republicans as Clinton gets from Democrats. Clinton leads Trump 78-9 among Democrats, while Trump leads Clinton 78-7 among Republicans; 72 percent of Republicans say they’re comfortable with Trump as their party’s nominee, while 75 percent of Democrats say they’re comfortable with Clinton. (The number of Republicans and Democrats who say they’re uncomfortable with their party’s frontrunner? Exactly the same in both parties, 21 percent.)

Get more numbers from PPP’s presidential survey here.

Those numbers may be disappointing to Democrats who were hoping for a fractured GOP this fall – but PPP director Tom Jensen says there’s plenty of good news here for Democrats too. For one, the undecided voters in a Clinton/Trump matchup tend to be supporters of Bernie Sanders – Clinton/Trump undecideds favor Sanders over Trump by a 41-8 margin – so if Clinton does end up winning the nomination, she may be able to expand her lead in a big way merely by winning over Sanders’ supporters. (The Clinton/Sanders race has been contentious, but Jensen says he does expect the party to come together sooner or later. At this time in 2008, he says, nearly half of Clinton’s supporters were telling pollsters they wouldn’t vote for Obama that fall – far more than the number of Sanders supporters who say they won’t support Clinton now – but almost all those voters did wind up supporting Obama in the end.)

And while Clinton’s popularity ratings remain low, Jensen says Trump’s are even lower: only 34 percent of voters approve of him, against 61 percent who disapprove. (And Trump’s supporters still tend to be on the fringes when it comes to their political views: nearly two-thirds of them say they think Barack Obama is a Muslim, for instance, and nearly three-fifths say they still don’t believe he was born in the US.) To drive home the point, PPP tested Trump in head-to-head matchups with other despised things: voters prefer lice to Donald Trump by a 54-28 margin, root canals to Donald Trump by a 49-38 margin, used car salesmen to Donald Trump by a 47-41 margin, and the band Nickelback to Donald Trump by a 39-34 margin.

(Trump does win head-to-head battles with cockroaches and hemorrhoids, though. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.)

Tom Jensen spoke Thursday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Jensen says even if the GOP does end up unifying around its nominee, Trump’s place at the top of the ballot may still haunt the party in the general election. Democrats lead Republicans 46-41 in a generic Congressional ballot – not enough of a lead for Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives, but enough for Democrats to pick up several seats in both houses (and possibly retake the Senate). Voters also say (by a 45-26 margin) that they’d be less likely to vote for a candidate if that candidate endorses Trump for president.

Get more numbers on PPP’s Congressional survey here.

And the thought of Donald Trump in the White House is also making voters more likely to want the Senate to vote now on President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. Only 38 percent of voters say they trust Trump to make a Supreme Court nomination, against 53 percent who don’t; 58 percent of Americans say they want the vacant seat filled this year (up slightly from two months ago); and 50 percent of voters say they’d be less likely to vote for a Senator if that Senator blocked Merritt Garland’s confirmation hearings. (Only 18 percent say they’d be more likely to vote for such a candidate.)

Get more numbers on PPP’s Supreme Court survey here.


On Polls, Primaries, Caucuses, And The Clinton-Sanders Race

Okay. So earlier this week, Bernie Sanders won the Indiana primary.

Shouldn’t have been a big surprise, really. Indiana was an open primary, where independents are allowed to vote; independents tend to favor Sanders over Clinton, so Bernie’s generally been doing better in open-primary states. Clinton tends to run stronger among black voters, but Indiana doesn’t have a huge minority population, so that favored Bernie too.

So – not a surprise, right?

Except it was a surprise. Going into the election, all the polls said Hillary was going to win. A Marist College survey had Clinton up 50-46. An American Research Group survey had her up 51-43. YouGov had her up 49-44. Fox News had her up 46-42. Not one survey had Bernie ahead. The website FiveThirtyEight.com, which makes predictions based on all the polls put together, predicted Hillary would win by about a 52-45 margin.

But then Bernie won. Surprise!

Later, I got an email with an interesting question.

“Hi Aaron. I would be interested to hear…why the national pollsters keep forecasting Hillary to win, when she seems to often fall short. I know they talk about margin-of-error, but it seems to always go to Bernie.”

Good question, right?

After all, it has kinda seemed like that. All the national polls have shown Hillary in the lead from the beginning, but Bernie’s the one who’s been drawing the big crowds, he’s the one who’s got people talking on social media…and he keeps winning primaries! Indiana, the polls had Hillary up 7 points, Bernie won by 5. Michigan, the polls had Hillary up 21 points, Bernie won by 2.

And yes, polling isn’t perfect, but in this case it seems to be a one-way street. Bernie’s won states that the pollsters called for Hillary – but Hillary hasn’t won a single state that the pollsters called for Bernie.

What gives?

I asked Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling, one of the most respected polling outlets in the country.

“It’s sometimes just harder (for pollsters) to pick up those independent voters who are planning to vote in the Democratic primary,” he said. That may have been one reason for the incorrect polls in Indiana – compounded by the fact that Indiana has uniquely restrictive laws that make it nearly impossible for pollsters (including PPP) to conduct surveys there.

Okay. That makes sense.

But then Jensen added something else.

He said the pollsters have basically been getting it right.

Michigan and Indiana were outliers, he said, but the polls in every other primary have been fairly accurate. And while individual surveys may be off, they’re not all off in one particular direction. The polls underestimated Bernie in Michigan and Indiana’s open primaries, he said, but they also “slightly underestimated Hillary Clinton in states like Maryland and New York, in closed primaries where only Democrats could vote.”

Now, I trust Tom Jensen. Back in mid-March when Hillary was surging, he told me Bernie was about to have a run of victories. In early April, with Bernie on a roll, he told me Hillary was going to dominate for the rest of the month. He was right both times.

But is he right about the polls being accurate?

I searched the Internet for a page that compared survey data with actual results in every state. Surprisingly I came up empty.

Oh well. If it doesn’t exist, do it yourself!

In the chart below, you’ll see the polling numbers for Clinton and Sanders (and the predicted margin of victory), followed by their actual vote percentage in the primary itself (and the actual margin of victory). The column on the far right measures polling error, the difference between the predicted margin and the actual margin: who got overestimated, and by how much.

AL 71.4 25.7 Clinton +45.7 77.8 19.2 Clinton +58.6 Sanders +12.9
AZ* 51.1 22.7 Clinton +28.4 57.6 39.9 Clinton +17.7 Clinton +10.7
AR 60.5 36 Clinton +24.5 66.3 29.7 Clinton +36.6 Sanders +12.1
CT 50.9 46.8 Clinton +4.1 51.8 46.4 Clinton +5.4 Sanders +1.3
FL 63.2 33.8 Clinton +29.4 64.4 33.3 Clinton +31.1 Sanders +1.7
GA 66.3 30.5 Clinton +35.8 71.3 28.2 Clinton +43.1 Sanders +7.3
IL 51.6 44.3 Clinton +7.3 50.5 48.7 Clinton +1.8 Clinton +5.5
IN 52.3 45.2 Clinton +7.1 47.5 52.5 Sanders +5.0 Clinton +12.1
IA 49.1 44.7 Clinton +4.4 49.9 49.6 Clinton +0.3 Clinton +4.1
LA 72.6 20.2 Clinton +52.4 71.1 23.2 Clinton +47.9 Clinton +4.5
MD 56.4 40.9 Clinton +15.5 63 33.2 Clinton +29.8 Sanders +14.3
MA 52.4 44.8 Clinton +7.6 50.1 48.7 Clinton +1.4 Clinton +6.2
MI 59.2 38.3 Clinton +20.9 48.3 49.8 Sanders +1.5 Clinton +22.6
MS 77 16.7 Clinton +60.3 82.6 16.5 Clinton +66.1 Sanders +5.8
MO 48.8 48.1 Clinton +0.7 49.6 49.4 Clinton +0.2 Clinton +0.5
NC 59.6 37.6 Clinton +22.2 54.6 40.8 Clinton +13.8 Clinton +8.4
NH 41.5 55.6 Sanders +14.1 38 60.4 Sanders +22.4 Clinton +8.3
NY 53.5 42 Clinton +13.5 58 42 Clinton +16 Sanders +2.5
NV 51.2 47.2 Clinton +4.0 52.6 47.3 Clinton +5.3 Sanders +1.3
OH 53.9 43.3 Clinton +10.6 56.5 42.7 Clinton +13.8 Sanders +3.2
OK 47.2 47.5 Sanders +0.3 41.5 51.9 Sanders +10.4 Clinton +10.1
PA 57.1 40.4 Clinton +16.7 55.6 43.6 Clinton +12 Clinton +4.7
RI 48.1 49.2 Sanders +1.1 3.6 54.6 Sanders +11 Clinton +9.9
SC 64.5 31.3 Clinton +33.2 73.5 26 Clinton +47.5 Sanders +14.3
TN 60.5 36.1 Clinton +24.4 66.1 32.4 Clinton +33.7 Sanders +9.3
TX 63.3 33.7 Clinton +29.6 65.2 33.2 Clinton +32 Sanders +2.4
UT* 43.8 51.1 Sanders +7.3 20.3 79.3 Sanders +59 Clinton +51.7
VT 10.2 87.4 Sanders +77.2 13.6 86.1 Sanders +72.5 Sanders +4.7
VA 60.2 36.7 Clinton +23.5 64.3 35.2 Clinton +29.1 Sanders +5.6
WI 47.4 50.1 Sanders +2.7 43.1 56.6 Sanders +13.5 Clinton +10.8

(For polling numbers, I used FiveThirtyEight’s “polls-only” projections for each state. In the two starred states – Arizona and Utah – FiveThirtyEight didn’t have enough surveys for a projection, so I used their weighted polling average instead. To make this easier, I’m only including the 50 states plus Washington, DC. Sorry, Guam.)

So how have the pollsters done?

Turns out Tom Jensen was right. Exactly right, in fact. In the 30 states on that chart, the polls have erred in Hillary’s favor 15 times, and Bernie’s favor 15 times. A perfectly even split.

Also worth noting: the pollsters don’t always predict the right margin of victory, but they have picked the correct winner in 28 out of 30 states. Michigan and Indiana were the only outliers.

How about accuracy? In most states, the FiveThirtyEight projections have been off by 4-9 points. The numbers were most accurate in Missouri, off by only half a point. Where were they most inaccurate?

UT     Clinton +51.7
MI     Clinton +22.6
MD    Sanders +14.3
SC      Sanders +14.3
AL      Sanders +12.9
AR     Sanders +12.1
IN      Clinton +12.1

The polls underestimated Sanders in Michigan and Indiana, but they also overestimated Sanders in a few states where Clinton’s margin of victory turned out to be even bigger than expected. (What the hell happened in Utah? The only poll FiveThirtyEight had to work with was from a local outfit that surveyed less than 200 voters with more than a week to go before the election. Utah is also a caucus state, and caucuses are notoriously difficult to predict.)

So there you go. Michigan and Indiana made headlines, and there have been some errors, but in general the polls haven’t skewed toward Hillary any more than they’ve skewed toward Bernie.


…we’re not quite done yet. Something else is going on here.

Take a look at that chart again.

Where are all Bernie’s states?

Thirty states on that chart, and Sanders only won eight of them. You know he won a lot more than that. What happened to all the other states?

I did more digging…and the answer is fascinating.

As of today, May 7, there have already been primaries or caucuses in 41 states. FiveThirtyEight had pre-election projections for 30 of them. FiveThirtyEight couldn’t project the other 11 states – Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Washington, and Wyoming – because there wasn’t any survey data for those states.

Nobody polled them.

Why not?

Delaware, apparently, got passed over because nobody lives there. Sorry, Delaware.

But the other 10 states?

They’re all caucus states, as it turns out. That’s why nobody polled them.

Caucuses are weird beasts. Different states run them in different ways, but the upshot is that you don’t go to the polls and cast a ballot – you go to a meeting, organize into groups, and spend time talking to people. The process can take several hours. So it’s almost impossible to predict, with any accuracy, who’s actually going to show up for these things. Maybe the babysitter cancels at the last minute. Maybe it’s your anniversary. Maybe you don’t love your candidate enough to blow a whole evening on them. Could be anything. And in order for a poll to be accurate, the pollster has to be able to predict who’s going to show up: this percentage of white voters, that percentage of women. You can’t do that with caucuses, so pollsters rarely bother to try.

Thirteen states have held caucuses so far this year, and only a couple of them have been polled. Iowa always gets surveyed because it’s first in the cycle; Nevada got surveyed a few times; Utah had that one poll that turned out to be totally wrong – and that was it. The other ten states – Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Washington, and Wyoming – FiveThirtyEight didn’t even try to project, because they had no polls to go on.

And Bernie won all ten of those states.

Weird, right?

So there’s your answer, if you’re wondering why the polls keep saying Hillary while the results keep saying Bernie. The polls themselves have actually been right, for the most part, and their errors have been perfectly balanced – it’s just that Bernie’s victories have been coming in those caucus states, which nobody bothers to poll.

Which only leaves one more question:

Why does Bernie do so much better in caucuses?

It’s a pretty stark difference, actually. Bernie has won 11 of the 13 caucuses so far, while Hillary has won 21 of the 28 primaries. Something’s clearly going on.

There are a variety of possible reasons. First off, almost all the caucuses have taken place in states with very small minority populations, where Bernie has an advantage anyway. You also have to be really energized to spend an entire evening at a caucus, and we know that Bernie supporters are generally more energized than Hillary supporters. (You also have to have the whole evening free, so conservatives, here’s your chance to joke about Bernie voters all being unemployed.)

But it may not be a Bernie thing at all. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason – and this goes all the way back to 2008 – Hillary Clinton just sucks at caucuses.

Want to know why Barack Obama has been president for the last eight years? Here’s why. In 2008, the Democratic Party held 38 presidential primaries, and Hillary won 20 of them. She won pivotal early primaries in New Hampshire and Florida; she won the big races in California, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Obama won his home-state primary in Illinois, but his second-biggest victory (in terms of population) was North Carolina. Hillary got all the big prizes. And she got more votes overall too: according to USElectionAtlas.com, Clinton won a total of 18,055,516 primary votes nationwide, against only 17,628,560 for Obama.

So why did Hillary Clinton lose?

Because there were also 14 caucuses, and she won…one of them.

Arizona Alabama Nevada Alaska
Arkansas Connecticut   Colorado
California District of Columbia   Hawaii
Florida Delaware   Idaho
Indiana Georgia   Iowa
Kentucky Illinois   Kansas
Massachusetts Louisiana   Maine
Michigan Maryland   Minnesota
New Hampshire Mississippi   Nebraska
New Jersey Missouri   North Dakota
New Mexico Montana   Texas
New York North Carolina   Washington
Ohio Oregon   Wyoming
Oklahoma South Carolina    
Pennsylvania Utah    
Rhode Island Vermont    
South Dakota Virginia    
Tennessee Wisconsin    
West Virginia      


Texas is the textbook case here. (I’ll let you make your own joke about Texas and textbooks.) The state held a primary on March 4, 2008, which Clinton won by a 51-47 margin – but the state also apportioned some of its delegates at precinct-level caucuses, and Obama won those by a margin of 56-44.

Why is Hillary Clinton bad at caucuses? I have no idea. But it probably cost her the 2008 nomination – and it’s making the 2016 race a lot closer than it otherwise might be.



After all that, here’s what we know:

The polls did get Michigan and Indiana wrong, but otherwise they’ve correctly called the winner of every other state. Primaries aren’t easy to predict, so the pollsters are having a pretty decent year. Though it might sometimes appear otherwise, the polls are not skewed in favor of either candidate.

Most of Bernie’s victories have come in caucus states, which pollsters typically don’t survey. Why Bernie does better in caucus states is still an open question, but caucuses were also Hillary’s albatross in 2008 as well. (The only exception seems to be Nevada, which Hillary won in both 2008 and 2016. I don’t know who runs her Nevada campaign, but that person deserves a big raise.)

And we know enough about this primary to make an educated guess about how the rest of the cycle will go. Tom Jensen says there are really only three things you need to know: “Bernie Sanders does a lot better in caucuses than he does in primaries…he does a lot better in open contests where independents are allowed to vote…and he does a lot better in states that are heavily white.”

There are ten contests left, and only one of them is a caucus – so if you’re still holding out the hope for Bernie, you need to pray he figures out primaries quick.


PPP: North Carolinians Not Fans Of House Bill 2

North Carolina is getting a bad rap around the country (and the world) for passing House Bill 2.

But while the state may support the law, the state’s residents think differently.

That’s the finding of Public Policy Polling‘s latest survey of North Carolina voters, released earlier this week. Only 36 percent of North Carolinians say they support HB2, while 45 percent say they’re opposed. Predictably, this splits along party lines – Democrats are against it by a 63-20 margin, while Republicans are in favor by a 56-24 margin. (Independent voters oppose the bill by a 46-33 margin, mirroring the state as a whole.)

But PPP director Tom Jensen says even those partisan numbers are striking: up until recently, he says, Republicans had been more united in their opposition to LGBT rights than Democrats were in their support – that was the case in the Amendment 1 debate, for instance – but that now appears to have changed.

Get more numbers from PPP’s House Bill 2 survey.

Voters also generally agree that House Bill 2’s effects have been generally negative. Only 37 percent say it has made the state safer (44 percent say it hasn’t); only 22 percent say the bill has helped improve North Carolina’s national reputation; and only 11 percent of North Carolinians think the bill is having a positive impact on the state’s economy. (To put that last number into perspective, 12 percent of North Carolinians in the same survey said they disapprove of Harriet Tubman.)

Tom Jensen spoke this week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Jensen says the HB2 debate is also affecting other races on the 2016 ballot. The gubernatorial race hasn’t changed much – Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Roy Cooper are still in a statistical tie – but Cooper now leads McCrory for the first time in three months (though only by a single point, 43-42). Democrats lead Republicans on a generic General Assembly ballot, 45-42 – not nearly enough to retake the majority, but possibly enough to overcome the GOP’s veto-proof majority in both houses of the state legislature.

House Bill 2 is a state issue, but Jensen says the race for U.S. Senate is also tightening: Republican incumbent Richard Burr now leads Democratic challenger Deborah Ross by only four points, 40-36. (Ross is still an unknown quantity among North Carolinians: 65 percent of voters still have no opinion of her either way. Remarkably, this means there are more North Carolinians who say they want Ross to be their Senator than there are who say they’ve formed an opinion about her.)

And North Carolina is still likely to be a battleground state in the presidential race. In hypothetical matchups, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tied 44-44, and Clinton leads Ted Cruz 45-40. (This isn’t the only state where Cruz is less popular than Trump: that wasn’t the case anywhere until recently, but Jensen says it’s a growing trend.) Should Bernie Sanders pull out the Democratic nomination, he polls three points better than Clinton: Sanders leads Trump 46-43 and Cruz 46-38.

Get more numbers from PPP’s survey of national races here.

Finally, on the U.S. Treasury’s recent decision to put Harriet Tubman on the 20-dollar bill in place of Andrew Jackson: a majority of North Carolinians approve of both Tubman (60%) and Jackson (51%), but more North Carolinians would prefer Jackson stay on the 20 by a 44-39 margin.

(That number, though, is skewed by one particular demographic: voters who approve of Donald Trump. Trump supporters prefer Jackson to Tubman, 75-13.)