Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Trump wins easily in South Carolina, Clinton in Nevada

Donald Trump has won the South Carolina (SC) primary with 32.5% of the vote, followed by Marco Rubio at 22.5% and Ted Cruz at 22.3%. Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Ben Carson were a long way behind with less than 8% each, and Bush has now quit the Republican nomination race.

As SC is winner takes all by Congressional District (CD) and statewide, Trump’s victory means he will take at least 47 of SC’s 50 delegates, and possibly all 50. Update Monday morning: Trump won all seven CDs, so he takes all 50 delegates. However, there is a long way to go to secure the nomination.

Trump has now won primaries in two very different states. In New Hampshire (NH), the electorate was relatively moderate, but in SC exit polls showed that evangelicals made up 72% of the electorate. In Iowa, Trump lost owing to the evangelicals, but he won them in SC with 33%, to 27% for Cruz and 22% for Rubio.

Despite his big wins in SC and NH, there are two worrying signs for Trump. One is that he has performed badly with voters who decide in the last few days in all three of the first contests. SC exit polls had Trump winning only 17% of this group, compared with 41% who decided before the last few days.

The second worrying sign is that he has won both NH and SC with about one third of the votes. Polls have shown that Rubio can beat Trump if it becomes a two-candidate race. Bush’s departure is likely to help Rubio, and if Kasich drops out soon, it will effectively become a three-candidate race. However, Cruz is unlikely to leave for a long time, and Trump could win enough delegates to secure the nomination before it becomes a Trump vs Rubio fight.

Considering how evangelical SC’s electorate was, this was a poor showing from Cruz, and it is now very unlikely that he can win the nomination.

The Nevada Republican caucuses will be held on Tuesday (Wednesday Melbourne time). Trump is likely to win there too. Super Tuesday follows on the 1 March, when about one quarter of both parties’ delegates are decided.

Clinton wins Nevada 53-47

Hillary Clinton comfortably defeated Bernie Sanders in today’s Nevada Democratic caucuses. Nevada is a much more diverse state than New Hampshire or Iowa, so Clinton’s win was expected.

This result restores Clinton’s status as the clear favourite to win the Democratic nomination. Clinton is currently leading by a massive margin in SC, which has its Democratic primary next Saturday. In SC and the southern states that follow on Super Tuesday 1 March, blacks make up a large portion of the Democratic electorate. According to exit polls, Clinton won blacks by 76-22 in Nevada.