HUFFPOLLSTER: The 2016 Candidates Might Be The Least Popular Ever

Donald Trump is leading the race to the bottom with a whopping -39 net favorability rating.

Opinions of the 2016 candidates are among the lowest ever for presidential contenders. Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric is dividing the Republican Party, but still bringing him votes. And polls are probably not systematically biased against Bernie Sanders. This is HuffPollster for Friday, March 11, 2016.

MOST PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDERS ARE DEEPLY UNPOPULAR - Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann: "Almost a year since the first Democrats and Republicans announced their presidential bid and another eight months until the general election, it's striking how unpopular the remaining candidates are, especially compared with past presidential field. Trump's -39 score -- the lowest in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll for a major presidential candidate -- is a drop of eight points from a month ago; Rubio declined from -3 in February to -11 now; and Clinton's numbers have been stuck in the mud since last summer, when the email controversy became a big story. And it's probably not a coincidence that the two most popular candidates -- Kasich and Sanders -- have faced the fewest attacks during the entire campaign.”

‘The low point’ - More from Todd, Murray and Dann: “The only ones who come close to today's negative scores are Bill Clinton (-11) and Bob Dole (-4). 'I've been doing this 1964, which is the Goldwater years,' said NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart (D). 'To me, this is the low point. I've seen the disgust and the polarization. Never, never seen anything like this. They're not going up; they're going down.’" [NBC]

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TRUMP'S DIVISIVENESS COULD DAMAGE THE GOP - Alan Abramowitz, Ronald Rapoport, and Walter Stone:  "Trump is not only the most unusual frontrunner in recent history, he may also be the most divisive….we asked them to rank 11 potential GOP candidates….Trump was not only ranked first by far more respondents than any other candidate, he was also ranked 11th and last by far more respondents than any other candidate. More than one-fifth of all likely Republican primary voters and more than one-third of those supporting other candidates ranked Trump dead last….Trump is a uniquely divisive candidate within the Republican Party. He receives both intense support and intense opposition from Republican voters. As a result, his nomination would likely present a severe challenge to party unity." [Center for Politics]

REPUBLICAN VOTERS ARE LARGELY FINE WITH ANTI-MUSLIM RHETORIC - Leah Libresco: "'I think Islam hates us.' That’s the sweeping statement Donald Trump made Wednesday, after CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked him whether the religion is at war with the West….In a survey conducted in January, Pew found that 65 percent of Republicans or those who lean Republican want to hear blunt talk about Islam, even if it includes blanket statements about the faith, while 29 percent prefer that politicians be careful not to criticize the faith as a whole. Only 22 percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic want politicians to use sweeping statements to criticize Islam, while 70 percent prefer more nuanced approaches…. Republicans were also twice as likely as Democrats to say that most or almost all Muslims in the United States are anti-American (16 percent to 7 percent)." [538]

DO POLLSTERS HAVE A 'BERNIE BLINDSPOT'? - Issie Lapowsky: "Nearly every time Bernie Sanders wins a primary or caucus, it comes as a surprise to pollsters. In Minnesota,Oklahoma, and Kansas, all states Sanders won, polls had Clinton out ahead by at least a small margin, and in some cases a very large one. Even his virtual tie with Clinton in Iowa was unexpected. But of all the surprises Sanders and his supporters have brought to this cycle, last night’s big Michigan win was by far the biggest….The fact is, these misses are no fluke. Instead, it seems that pollsters across the board have something of a Bernie blind spot. One key reason for that—though not the only reason— is that Sanders supporters are overwhelmingly young, and lots of pollsters still haven’t found a way to reach young voters where they are: their smartphones." [Wired]

Maybe, but it's not consistent - There have been 10 primaries and caucuses so far where 5 or more polls were conducted. Of those, exactly half underestimated Sanders, while the rest actually overstated his margins. The misses in contested states like Michigan and Massachusetts suggest that pollsters might have failed to pick up high youth turnout or last-minute swings toward Sanders. A problem with predicting whether young people will turn out, though, isn't the same as a failure to call enough young people. If likely voter models assume fewer young people will actually vote, it doesn’t matter how many were called. While landline-only polls do present an issue for the industry, there's no sign they're leading to a systematic bias against Sanders -- and in Michigan, surveys that included cell phones also missed the mark in weighting the composition of the state's electorate.  

‘SOCIAL DESIRABILITY’ BIAS LEADS PEOPLE TO SAY THEY VOTED WHEN THEY DIDN’T  - Ruth Igielnik: "One-in-six (16 percent) of those who say they 'definitely voted' in the 2014 midterm election have no record of voting in commercially available national voter files, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. So did they vote, or didn’t they? It’s important to know, because this is one of the means by which pollsters gauge the accuracy of their likely-voter predictions for future elections….One likely reason for at least some of this mismatch is the tendency for people to over-report 'good'  behaviors, such as voting, giving to charities, or attending religious services, while underreporting unattractive behaviors, such as drug and alcohol abuse. This phenomenon is known as the social desirability bias….Another likely reason for the mismatch, as past research has found, is that the voting record for some people who actually voted is missed by commercial voter files. This happens most often for people who have recently moved. This error may have implications for campaign pollsters who rely on previous voting history in voter files to draw samples of likely voters or to help predict future voting behaviors.” [Pew]

FRIDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-PRRI maps out the religious makeup of states voting in the March 15 primaries. [PRRI]

-Milo Beckman identifies the words each GOP candidate repeats the most. [538]

-Lilliana Mason turns to research to explain why Americans are so angry this election cycle. [WashPost]

-Andrew Prokop lays out how Bernie Sanders could still win the nomination. [Vox]

-SurveyMonkey's tracking poll finds that Trump's dropping favorability rating hasn't dampened his supports. [SurveyMonkey}

-Nate Silver "retrodicts" what the Republican race would look like had Marco Rubio dropped out. [538]

-Frank Newport finds evidence of support for Bernie Sanders' health care proposal, but warns it would face challenges. [Gallup]

-One (big) chart shows how successful each state has been in picking presidential nominees. [WashPost]

-"Gallup Forced To Destroy Defective Sample Group That Failed To Accurately Forecast Michigan Primary." [The Onion]