Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Trump, Clinton narrowly lead in Iowa with five days remaining

The Iowa caucuses will be held on Monday 1 February. The caucuses begin at 7pm Iowa time (12 noon Tuesday Melbourne time). There is some attempt at persuasion before people vote at the caucuses, causing minor delays, so initial results would be expected in the early afternoon Tuesday Melbourne time, and full results by late afternoon to evening.

The Huffington Post’s Pollster Iowa Republican aggregate currently gives Donald Trump a 32-25 lead over Ted Cruz, with Marco Rubio a distant third at 13%, followed by Ben Carson at 8%, and all other candidates have 4% or less. In the last two weeks there has been movement to Trump in Iowa, and he has improved from a tie with Cruz to his current lead.

On the Democratic side, the Pollster Iowa aggregate gives Hillary Clinton a narrow 46.1-45.5 lead over Bernie Sanders with Martin O'Malley on just 4%. Two weeks ago, Clinton led by a 47-42 margin, so the gap has continued to close slowly.

Even with just five days remaining, there is still time for the actual results to differ markedly from the current polls. Many of Trump and Sanders’ supporters are first time caucus attendees, and a big question is whether these people actually turn out. At this stage in 2012, Rick Santorum was fourth in Iowa with 14%, but won with 24.6%. However, by this stage Santorum was surging in the polls; currently Trump is the only candidate with momentum.

Eight days after Iowa, the New Hampshire (NH) primary is held on the 9 February. Trump currently leads in NH with 33%, followed by John Kasich at 13%, Cruz at 12%, Rubio at 11%, Jeb Bush at 8% and Chris Christie at 7%. In the last two weeks, Kasich has climbed to the top of the establishment candidate pile, but the total for the four establishment candidates has declined to 39% from 44%, and Trump has risen four points. Unless one of the establishment candidates has a major break-out, perhaps as a result of Iowa, Trump will win NH.

On the Democratic side, Sanders now leads Clinton 53-40 in NH, compared with a 50-44 Sanders margin two weeks ago. It is now likely that Sanders will win NH.

National polls have shown stability over the last two weeks. Clinton leads Sanders 51-36, compared with 52-39 two weeks ago. Trump leads with 38%, with Cruz on 16% and Rubio 10%; two weeks ago, Trump had 37%, Cruz 19% and Rubio 11%.

The Iowa caucuses are of crucial importance for both the Republican and Democratic nomination contests. If Trump wins Iowa, it is likely that he will then be able to run the table with wins in the other early states of NH and South Carolina, and head into March, when many states vote, with a big lead in the polls and much momentum.

On the Democratic side, Clinton is still likely to eventually prevail even if she loses both Iowa and NH, as these states are overwhelmingly white; Clinton does much better with black and Hispanic voters than Sanders. For Sanders to have any chance of winning the Democratic nomination, he must win both Iowa and NH.

Only about 2% of all delegates to the party conventions are awarded based on the results of NH and Iowa. It is important to do well in these states because of the media hype, not because of delegate allocation.

A dreadful ReachTEL poll for Shorten

A ReachTEL poll, conducted last Thursday night with a sample of over 3100, has the Coalition leading by an emphatic 55-45, unchanged on November. Turnbull’s (total good) minus (total poor) rating is up eight points to +41, while Shorten’s equivalent rating plummets 17 points to -44. In ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM question, which has been more favourable to opposition leaders than polls with a “don’t know” option, Turnbull leads by a brutal 81-19, up from a 71-29 margin in November.

However, from looking at the breakdowns by party given in the poll, Kevin Bonham thinks that ReachTEL has made a mistake in its calculations. According to Bonham, it is likely that either the party breakdowns are wrong, or the overall figures for Shorten and Turnbull’s ratings are wrong.

ReachTEL’s ratings contrast with last week’s Essential, in which Turnbull had a net approval rating of +26, down seven points on December. Shorten’s rating was steady at -20, and Turnbull led Shorten 51-18 as better PM, compared with 54-15 in December. Essential also asked Australians which of four candidates they would prefer as US President, and the results were Clinton 40%, Trump 12%, Sanders 6% and Cruz 2%. Supporters of both Australian major parties easily preferred Clinton, with Sanders doing best among Greens, and Trump best among Others.

Here is this week’s poll table. While Essential has continued to have the Coalition on about 52% Two Party Preferred (2PP), Morgan has the Coalition at its lowest level since Turnbull became PM, though still with 54% 2PP. Morgan’s respondent allocated preferences were 55% 2PP to the Coalition.

polls Jan.

In this week’s Essential, 28% thought the economy was good and 31% poor, compared with a 32-26 poor result in September. 26% trusted Scott Morrison most to handle the economy, and 19% Chris Bowen; this was 27-18 to Morrison in November. There has been a big change in opinion on military involvement in Syria and Iraq; now 34% want it decreased and 18% increased, compared with 32-19 in favour of increased involvement in November.

A Galaxy robopoll of Clive Palmer’s seat of Fairfax, conducted 21 January from a sample of 506, gave Palmer just 2% of the vote, compared to 50% for the Liberal Nationals and 27% for Labor. Palmer had an approval rating of 7%, with 83% disapproving.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate begins the new year at 53.8% 2PP to the Coalition. Last week’s Poll Bludger BludgerTrack had the Coalition on 54.2% 2PP from primary votes of Coalition 46.5%, Labor 31.6% and Greens 10.7%.