US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2016

New Hampshire candidates Photo: DonkeyHotey

This is Democracy?
Sir Robert Worcester, Founder of pollsters MORI, looks beyond the bluster at the numbers that show the real state of play.

Sir Robert Worcester
Sir Robert Worcester, photo courtesy LSE

New Hampshire primary and on to Nevada and North Carolina – the field is narrowing

Writing this 12 days before "Super Tuesday", updating what was written on the first days after the Iowa Caucus and now just before the Nevada caucus and South Carolina primary, I must say what a 'student-union- politics' appearing 'show' it has been (maybe even 'shower' in British English). This American Presidential Election has put on a year-plus-long, three-ring Barnum & Bailey Circus for us. The Candidates, the Media and the Voters have been respectively the Stars of the show, the Media the rest of the cast with speaking parts, and then we, literally, The Audience, get a look in.

On the Republican ticket, the moral victory in Iowa and the best speech of the night came from Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who while he ran third, so surprised the pundits who'd written him off that his 23% share of the vote put him in third place (to his astonishment), with Donald Trump (love him or hate him) second and winner Ted Cruz's 28% which gave him just eight delegates to Trump's and Rubio's seven each.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump. Photo © Gage Skidmore

Now, writing after the New Hampshire primary and just before Nevada's caucus and North Carolina's primary, there is too little support, too little money and no hope for e.g. Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, and others pulling out. The field is narrowing while Trump for the Republicans and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats seem to be in the final two in their parties going into 'Super Tuesday', in two weeks' time. Hillary's being roughed up by Bernie Sanders nearly everywhere to her surprise, and there are about five contenders still standing on the Democratic Party's primaries.

Not far from a three-horse race following the Iowa caucus, coming second in New Hampshire, a devout Catholic Latino running for President in an overwhelmingly white and Protestant state, certainly put Rubio back in the contest and he so took off with the rest of the hopefuls to fight New Hampshire on the 9th. However, in Chris Christie (a class debater)'s final act, the New Jersey Governor made Marco Rubio look a proper fool as Rubio repeated, word for word, a line out of his on-the-stump speech that all the journos had heard a dozen or more times, and so questioned his capacity for thinking on his feet and his ability to speak for himself without falling back on clichés written by his wordsmiths.

When Nevada and South Carolina are over, on March 1st, the big one, 'Super Tuesday' (list of upcoming primaries and caucuses below), it'll be Clinton and Sanders battling it out to see who's the Democrat's front runner on the long stretch between March and the party conferences in the summer. On the Republican side Super Tuesday will sort out the goats from the sheep and is likely to identify the few survivors whose campaigns are still breathing the sweet air of campaign donations of the big bucks it takes to stay the course.

Iowa was a spectacular demonstration of the values of 'middle America', which is what the State of Iowa represents, even with its 94% white electorate. Thousands of Iowans flocked to play bit parts as we saw on CNN , the 'extras' in the play, trooping into town halls, school auditoriums, university band rooms and folks' living rooms to do their duty in the American way. It is, in America, Democracy.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Photo © Gage Skidmore

For a political nerd like me, CNN's coverage (except for the repetitive and congratulatory 'house ads') made compulsive viewing until the wee hours of the morning to see the finish of the incredibly close Democratic contest between the 'shoo-in' candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the 'no-hope' rival Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. At least that's what the American pollsters were telling us right up to the Iowa caucus result.

Ironically, we didn't, on the afternoon after the play, know the outcome. One of the scorekeepers lost the scorecards (to slip into sporting jargon, as this play is part of a World Series of elections in democracies around the world). After all, the American media treats elections and their accompanying polls as first and foremost a horse race (mixing, deliberately my metaphors). And what an exciting photo finish to this one on the Democrats' ticket, and a surprise outcome on the Republican's. So this is Democracy, American style.

In the run up to New Hampshire for the first of the real primary contests, from the off (start), at the sound of the pistol (gun), the horses (candidates) were off (away). Day by day, almost hour by hour, the Gallups, ORCs, YouGovs, Ipsos's and all the others, seems like hundreds, held their fingers in the air, gazed into their crystal balls and tea cups, and even asked people if they're going to vote, and if so for whom, and what and when, and sometimes how, as well as the thousands of other questions that these boffins will come up with to try to assess the public mood and its voting intentions.

In this, my series of blogs and articles in The American, (next one immediately after Super Tuesday), I'll do my best to deliver dispassionate and objective data and interpretation, as I have for the past three American Presidential elections. I welcome comment and query, argument and debate and will do my best to take into account the difference in language between my two countries, that of my birth and education in America's middle west (born in Kansas City and educated at the University of Kansas - business and political science) and for nearly 50 years now resident and now citizen of Great Britain. And I believe I qualify as bilingual in both American and British English, and can use my understanding of both political systems, Parliamentary and Presidential, their strength and weaknesses, and even the political histories of both countries, to apply to my analysis of the second phase of the election of a President.

Phase 2: Iowa to Super Tuesday

The first phase closed on the 1st of February in Iowa after a year and a half of electoral foreplay across the country; the second phase, the Iowa Caucus to Super Tuesday, 1st March; the third from then to the Conventions; the fourth to Labor [sic] Day at the beginning of September, and finally the nine weeks of the 'hot' campaign to election day, Tuesday, 2nd November.

Here are the dates.

election dates

I would normally have stopped with Super Tuesday which will tell us which candidates are out of the race, for some running out of money, for others, being told, rudely, by the electorate that they are going nowhere, certainly not to the White House. Super Tuesday will be the main thrust of my next piece, but for noticing that my old friends in Democrats Abroad are holding their closed primary, not North America, all over the world to choose some 17 delegates, on March 8. To declare an interest, I was in the first delegation of Democrats Abroad ever, in 1976 in New York City, as the Carter whip for our delegation which solidly backed Jimmy Carter.

Representing DA there, I was even asked to speak to the convention to explain what Democrats Abroad is and how we came to be there. They gave me 60 seconds. There were about 25 TV cameras and 50/60 radio mikes in front of me and the other representatives of funny groups and interesting characters at Madison Square Gardens with its thousands of delegates in the hall, almost none listening to a word we said, and not a single camera or mike turned on so far as I ever knew. Still, it was a thrill to be there.

Latest Data

Back to business, here's the latest data, courtesy of Julia Clark, formerly of Ipsos MORI, now the Senior Vice President of Ipsos in America, followed by a roundup of the latest polls at February 18, by RealClearPolitics:

Political Trends carried out February 13-17 by Ipsos (USA) for Reuters

⚫Barack Obama's approval is at 45%.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

⚫ In Ipsos's first full round of polling after Iowa and New Hampshire, Donald Trump has extended his lead among Republicans registered voters nationwide to 40%.

⚫Ted Cruz remains in second with 17% nationally among Republicans voters, losing some of the gains he picked up after Iowa.

⚫Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (11%) are tied in third nationally.

DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

⚫ Hillary Clinton remains in the lead among Democrats nationwide, with 53% of Dem registered voters.

⚫Bernie Sanders national support remains close to Clinton (at 42%) among Democratic voters.

⚫Including Independent voters, Clinton and Sanders remain statistically tied (45% to 42% respectively) in the national poll.

GENERAL ELECTION MATCHUPS (INCLUDING BLOOMBERG)

⚫ In hypothetical 2-way general election matchups between Trump or Cruz vs. Sanders or Clinton, the Democrats continue to lead all matchups among registered voters.

⚫Sanders and Clinton continue to perform equally strong in hypothetical matchups against Trump and Cruz.

⚫ In a hypothetical 3-way matchup including independent Michael Bloomberg, the Independent pulls support from both major party candidates.

⚫The potential independent draws about 10% of registered voters while the Democrats still hold an advantage over the Republicans.

⚫Donald Trump performs much better than Ted Cruz in these matchups, with only a 4-6 percentage point deficit to the Democrats (compared to Cruz 15-20 point deficit).

Further information: Julia.Clark@Ipsos.com

For the topline data: www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls

For full data, visit the new Reuters Polling Explorer: www.polling.reuters.com

LATEST POLLS
by RealClearPolitics

latest polls

Iowa Caucus

Iowa put Rubio back in the contest and so off with the rest to the next hurdle, New Hampshire on the 9th (as the table shows). Then Nevada, South Carolina, and on March 1st, the big one, 'Super Tuesday' by which time the goats will be separated from the sheep, the few survivors whose campaigns are still breathing the sweet air of campaign donations and have the big bucks it takes to stay the course.

This was a spectacular demonstration of the values of 'middle America', which is what the State of Iowa represents, even with its 94% white electorate. Thousands of Iowans flocked to play bit parts, the 'extras' in the performance, trooping into town halls, school auditoriums, university band rooms and folks' living rooms to do their duty in the American way. It is, in America, Democracy.

For a political nerd like me, it made compulsive viewing until the wee hours of the morning to see the finish of the incredibly close Democratic contest between the 'shoo-in' candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the 'no-hope' rival Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. At least that's what the American pollsters were telling us right up to the Iowa caucus result.

Ironically, we didn't, on the afternoon after the play, know the outcome. One of the scorekeepers lost the scorecards (to slip into sporting jargon, as this play is part of a World Series of elections in democracies around the world). After all, the Media treats elections and their accompanying polls as first and foremost a horse race. And what an exciting photo finish to this one on the Democrats' ticket, and a surprise outcome on the Republican's. This is Democracy, American style.

So, on to New Hampshire. From the off (start), at the sound of the pistol (gun), the horses (candidates) were off (away). Day by day, almost hour by hour, the Gallups, ORCs and YouGovs, Ipsos's and all the others, seems like hundreds, hold their fingers in the air, gaze into their crystal balls and tea cups, and even ask people if they're going to vote, and if so for whom, and what and when, and sometimes how, as well as the thousands of other questions that these boffins will come up with to try to assess the public mood and its voting intentions. Polls normally do better in primary elections than in caucuses, but the jury's out until the fat lady sings. The latest poll in New Hampshire I've seen is by my old US firm, ORC (Opinion Research Corporation) for CNN which has Sanders ahead of Clinton by 51% to 43% and Trump over Cruz by 38% to 26% with Rubio trailing at 14%. Sounds like last week in Iowa, but that's not the way that came out.

In this, my series of blogs and articles in The American, I'll do my best to deliver dispassionate and objective data and interpretation, as I have for the past three American Presidential elections. I welcome comment and query, argument and debate and will do my best to take into account the difference in language between my two countries, that of my birth and education in America's middle west (born in Kansas City and educated at the University of Kansas - business and political science) and for nearly 50 years now resident and now citizen of Great Britain. And I believe I qualify as by-lingual in both American and British English, and can use my understanding of both political systems, Parliamentary and Presidential, their strengths and weaknesses, and even the political histories of both countries, to apply to my analysis of the second phase of the election of a President.

The National Campaign

I've included some very interesting data to widen this piece back from nostalgia and colour, show business and political surprises to the real world of the national campaign' issues and images, and yes, voting intentions now, still with eight months to go on what many think is the greatest show on Broadway, the American Presidential Elections.

People vote on many things, and among the things they vote for are contradictory. The best comparison basis on which to compare voting intention tracking over time, even where relevant, to past elections is to examine the projected turnout figures, and adjust to drop out those who said 'None of these' and 'Don't know'. This in the latest poll I've seen, by my old US firm, Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) for CNN, gives Sanders a 49% to 36% lead over Clinton with Rubio lagging at 14% in New Hampshire, the next key state, which is not a caucus state. Polls in American primaries and caucuses have a better record because of the nature of open caucuses in open debate. These figures sound like Iowa a couple of weeks ago, and look what happened there! We'll see.

Three graphics will bring you up to date with the national picture, and while I've used Ipsos polls this time, I'm drawing on others, and will be using all the polls and all the interesting websites, e.g. RealClearPolitics, The Hill, 538 and many others to try to read the runes as the election progresses down to the wire.

American pollsters don't 'reallocate' to drop out the 'None of the aboves' and 'Don't knows', leaving those with the people that are more likely to vote at all, and more likely in the case of parties' 'strong' supporters to stick with their chosen candidates/parties. The three Ipsos questions were asked of 1,673 Americans between 23-27 January, done on the Internet and weighted to take account some people are not on the Internet as with phone polls some are not on any phone, land-line or mobile.

Electoral Support, Head to Head and Party/Issue preferences

Party Identification

First, what's the party support, and how you should think about them. It's not only important to see the party preferences, the 'horse race' of which candidate is leading by how many lengths, but also the strength of party allegiances (of those who do), and how likely they are to vote. Looking at the table below, we see a 49% Democrat to 36% Republican lead among those who declare a party preference, but some are stronger in their support than others The stronger that a voter supports his or her party, the more likely they are to vote. The Independents are at 15%, and are more likely to switch their votes and less likely to turn out on the day, as they know that for the most part, to vote for one of the main candidates to become president and some will be less likely to vote.

Part ID table
Table courtsey Ipsos MORI

Head to head

The next of my chosen charts is the Head-to-Head comparisons of which candidates for which party is more likely to win for now, taking all things into account. The American pollsters call these questions Head-to-Head, we call them in Britain 'Trial Heats'. This shows that both Clinton or Sanders hold onto the 13 point lead in party preferences over Ted Cruz, winner in Iowa, but that enter Trump, and the lead is cut in half, to just six or seven points, but also adding the complication of third party candidate who looks like it might be Bloomberg and would hurt the Democrat and lower their lead.

head to head table
Table courtsey Ipsos MORI

The Issues

Before the party platforms are even drafted, which will be agreed at the Party Conventions, but unlike British manifestos, are not in any way binding on the party's candidates for President, this chart highlights the perceptions of which issues will be on people's minds as we move forward into the months ahead on the road to the White House, 2017, following the election in November.

issues table
Table courtsey Ipsos MORI

Summary

My forecast, Hillary Clinton, by two lengths.

Sir Robert Worcester may be better known to you as Bob Worcester, one of the most knowledgeable and influential psephologists in the world. A Kansas City native, he is the founder of the MORI polling and research organisation and the best known pollster in the UK. Twitter @RobertWorcester


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