Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Clinton clinches Democratic nomination after big wins in New Jersey and California

Hillary Clinton today clinched the Democratic Presidential nomination, following big wins in the two highest population states voting. She won New Jersey (126 pledged delegates) 63-37 and California (475) 56-43. She also won New Mexico (34) 51.5-48.5 and South Dakota (20) 51-49. Sanders won the North Dakota caucus (18) 64-26 and Montana (21) 51-45. On Sunday, Clinton won the US territory of Puerto Rico (60) 60-38.

With only Washington DC (20 pledged delegates) to come next Tuesday, Clinton has won the pledged delegate count by 2,203-1,828. DC’s demographics are very favourable for Clinton, so she will further extend her lead when it votes. With overwhelming support from superdelegates, Clinton will be the first female US major party Presidential nominee.

Clinton won the nomination fair and square. She won 55.6% of the overall popular vote, to 42.7% for Sanders, and 3.7 million more popular votes. She won a clear majority of the overall pledged delegates. While Clinton had superdelegate support from the beginning, she won more Democratic votes than Sanders, and that makes her the nominee.

Sanders’ biggest wins in the Democratic contests were mostly in caucus states, which have a low turnout. Clinton did better in higher turnout primary states.

In short, Sanders has no chance of being the Democratic nominee. It is totally illogical for him to hope that superdelegates, who overwhelmingly support Clinton, will switch to Sanders when he lost the popular vote and the pledged delegate count.

Donald Trump won all 303 delegates at stake today, and will go to the Republican convention with 1,441 hard pledged delegates, far more than the 1,237 required. He will actually win many more votes at the convention because of unpledged delegates who support him.

General election polling: Clinton vs Trump

Clinton and Trump will be officially nominated at their parties’ national conventions in late July. The general election will be held on the 8 November.

The Presidency is not decided by national popular votes, but by the electoral college. Each state is allocated electoral votes equal to its number of House members (population based) and Senators (always 2). The lowest population states thus have 3 electoral votes (EVs), while California has 55. While not a state, Washington DC has 3 EVs. There are 538 total EVs, so it takes 270 to win.

With two minor exceptions, states award all their EVs to the popular vote winner of that state. As a result, states that are safe for either party receive little attention, with all the focus on a relative handful of swing states. The biggest swing states are Florida (29 EVs), Ohio (18) and Pennsylvania (20). A candidate that wins two of these three would be expected to win the election.

Although the electoral college is complex, in practice the national polls are a good guide to the winner. Unless the national vote is decided by less than 1%, the electoral college is very likely to go to the national vote winner.

In national polling, Clinton currently leads Trump 44-40 with 16% undecided or for Others. Both candidates are unpopular with the US public, with Clinton at 56-41 unfavourable and Trump at 58-37 unfavourable.

A major part of Clinton’s unpopularity, and the reason why there are still so many undecided or Other voters, are Sanders’ supporters. As this graph shows, Sanders’ supporters are increasingly reluctant to say they will support Clinton against Trump, though they are not switching to Trump.

Now that Clinton has clinched the nomination, she will probably win back some Sanders’ supporters. How many she wins back depends on what Sanders does next. Taking the nomination fight all the way to the convention would be a futile gesture, but could damage Clinton in the general election.

Obama currently has a 50-47 approval rating; his approval has risen over the last six months. Obama’s approval will help Clinton.

Had the Republicans nominated an establishment candidate, Clinton would probably be in some trouble now, given many Sanders’ supporters reluctance to support her. Against Trump, Clinton’s lead has expanded slightly in the last few weeks, and she is likely to win.

UK Brexit referendum: 23 June

The UK referendum on whether to leave the European Union will be held on Thursday 23 June, with results coming in Friday Melbourne time.

The US Pollster website has been tracking Brexit polling, and currently gives Remain only a 44-43 lead. However, NumberCruncherPolitics (NCP), the only UK poll analyst to predict the poll failure at the 2015 general election, is placing more weight on live phone polls than online panel polls.

In NCP’s poll aggregate, Remain still leads by 46.8-44.0, with 9.3% undecided. While that gap has narrowed recently, NCP thinks that most of the undecided will choose to Remain, and projects a final result of 54-46 in favour of Remain. The probability of Brexit has risen, but NCP still thinks Remain has a 76% chance of winning.

Australian Morgan state polls

Morgan has taken SMS polls of all states from the 20-22 May; comparisons are with late March polls. In NSW, the Coalition leads by 53.5-46.5, a 1.5 point gain for Labor. In Victoria, Labor leads by 56-44, a 1 point gain for Labor. In Queensland, there is a 50-50 tie, a 2 point gain for the Liberal Nationals. In WA, the Liberals and Nationals lead by 51-49, a 3 point gain for them. In SA, the Liberals lead by 52-48, a 2 point gain for them. Sample sizes ranged from 770 in WA to 1040 in Victoria.

SA primary votes were 31% Liberals, 28% Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) and 25.5% Labor. Those votes suggest that the NXT would do very well at a state election, but Morgan is not a reliable pollster, and the next SA state election is not until March 2018.

The WA poll contradicts recent polling from Newspoll and ReachTEL, which both have the Barnett government in deep trouble. These pollsters are more credible than Morgan.