Why Donald Trump's poll numbers may actually be understated
Politico has a thoughtful piece explaining why Donald Trump's lead may not be as large as it seems. Reading the article carefully, I came away with the opposite conclusion.
According to the latest polls, Donald Trump is in the lead with anywhere between 27% and 36% of the vote - quite a wide gap, depending on which poll you look at.
The big problem with polls is you don't know exactly who is going to vote, and many people who are polled don't end up voting.
Republican pollster B.J. Martino parsed the new CNN poll that has Trump looking all but unbeatable at this stage: “They have a sample of 1,020 adults – and 445 of those they say constitute the Republican primary universe. Basically, their poll is saying 43.6 percent of all Americans adults are voting in a Republican primary nationwide. When you go back to 2012, it’s 12.2 percent.”
Even when polls narrow themselves to likely voters, they still get it wrong. That's why Matt Bevin is now the governor of Kentucky when all the polls had him losing. And it's why the Republicans picked up a few extra Senate seats in 2014 (notably in North Carolina), where they were projected not to win in all the polls. The pollsters simply couldn't reliably identify who was going to vote and who was not.
The problem only gets worse in primaries, for three reasons. First, primaries often have smaller turnout than general elections, making it even harder to locate the actual voters. Second, some states let independents and non-affiliated voters vote. In New Hampshire, for example, independents can also vote. Figuring out which independents are likely to vote in a Republican primary makes the task all the harder.
And the third problem is that of new voters. If people who have never voted Republican before or simply haven't voted before decide to vote for the first time, they may not show up in polls until election day.
There is no doubt that Donald Trump will bring in new voters to the Republican primary process. But identifying who they are and how many is nearly impossible. They can't be vetted as other GOP voters might by asking if they have voted in past primaries. It is hard to gauge their reliability. But Trump does seem to be drawing a lot of new voters, and I have a feeling it may not be reflected in the polls.
And lastly, there is the matter of passion. Voters who are more passionate about their candidate are more likely to actually go out and vote for him. I have seen no surveys about "passion," but I did see this:
In this week’s Quinnipiac poll, nearly half, 46 percent, of Trump backers said their minds were made up. That’s greater than the percentage of voters who chose Carson (26 percent), Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (33 percent), or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (23 percent).
I'm going to take a leap and say that "minds made up" correlate with passion. It makes sense that a person who says he is committed to a candidate is more likely to vote than someone who says he is not strongly committed to him. In that case, it seems likely from the above that more of Donald Trump's supporters will turn out and vote relative to the other candidates.
That means Trump may not really be between 27% and 36% in the polls. He may be even higher.
This article was written by Ed Straker, senior writer of NewsMachete.com, the conservative news site.