Friday, May 8, 2015

What's Up With These Wacky New Hampshire Polls?

Because of the state's recent habit of voting for female candidates (including Hillary in 2008, quite memorably) and voting Democratic in every presidential contest since 1992 (except in 2000, quite unfortunately), it might be tempting to assume that New Hampshire will once again be solid blue in 2016. However, a couple of new polls have thrown some cold water on that idea:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is losing ground against her Republican opponents in New Hampshire, a key swing state, according to a new poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. If the 2016 election were held today, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul would all defeat Clinton in the Granite State.
You're probably used to seeing happier charts from me, but here's what the most recent Clinton vs Bush trend looks like in New Hampshire.

Charts via 270toWin.com
No doubt about it...this is a pretty ugly trend since PPP's result from just a couple of weeks ago. For instance, in the previous Granite State poll, Hillary was beating Jeb 51-29%. The current result of Jeb leading by 6% means that there's been a whopping 18-point swing in his favor in the space of three months! That's almost as crazy as the 20-point swing for Rand Paul in Quinnipiac's most recent Pennsylvania poll.

It's possible that New Hampshire is over Hillary and quickly falling in love with Jeb and the rest of his Republican gang, but that idea does fly in the face of some logic. Recent nationwide polls have found that Hillary has gained popularity in recent weeks and is holding steady in matchups with Republicans. On the state level, recent polls have found her ahead in Iowa and North Carolina as well as roughly tied (!) in Arizona.

So we're left with a couple of options: either New Hampshire is radically bucking the national trend...or these polls aren't capturing the real mood of the state's electorate.

I'm not going to embarrass myself by "unskewing" the three most recent polls (because for all I know they really are accurate) but let's look at them one by one.

Gravis Marketing? They doggedly (and sometimes amusingly) showed better-than-average results for Romney throughout the 2012 election and were in the lower rung in terms of accuracy that year. So even when they show me favorable result, I still just shrug and say "Oh...it's Gravis. Nevermind." It's important to be consistent.

The Dartmouth poll is notable for both its small sample size and huge amount of undecideds. Almost a third of respondents don't know who they'll support in a Clinton vs Bush matchup? You have to admit that it's odd.

Which brings us to the UNH poll, which is the same outfit that showed Hillary crushing Jeb three months ago. In the previous poll, the party ID looked like this:


But in the newest poll, the same data looks like this:


That's an 8-point swing in party ID (+5D to +3R) from one poll to the next. That would seem to account for much, but not all, of the GOP surge in the new poll.

The next question becomes...which of these looks most like the voting electorate in recent presidential elections? The answer, according to 2012 exit polls, is the former:


That's +3D with the independents giving a solid edge to the Obama. This is much closer to the party ID breakdown of their previous poll showing a big Hillary lead.

Take these fluctuating polls and this type of analysis for what they're worth, but the bottom line remains unchanged: New Hampshire is still a swing state and Hillary will have to fight for it no matter what. It's all about turning out the Democratic base while retaining a slight edge with the independents.

If history, fundamentals and her stellar campaign are any indication, she will do just that.

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