Three in four Americans are tuned in to the election, but not everyone's happy about the campaign. Donald Trump’s recent comments are viewed as racist by a majority of Americans. And pollsters explain how independent voters affected their estimates in the California Democratic primary. This is HuffPollster for Thursday, June 9, 2016.
THIS ELECTION IS GAINING A LOT OF ATTENTION - Jim Norman: "Three in four Americans are giving 'quite a lot' of thought to the upcoming presidential election, a possible sign of high voter turnout this November. In the 2008 presidential campaign that produced the highest voter-turnout percentage in 40 years, a late-May poll showed a level of interest similar to this year's….The current level of thought Americans are giving to the election is significantly higher than before the first presidential primaries in February. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans, including independents who lean Republican, now say they have given quite a lot of thought to the election, up from 70% in January. Democrats and Democratic leaners are also more likely to say they are thinking about the election: 72% say 'quite a lot' now, up from 63% in January. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they are following the race closely, continuing a pattern seen in previous campaigns." [Gallup]
But levels of enthusiasm are mixed - More from Gallup: "Though Americans are giving a lot of thought to the election, they are split on whether they are more enthusiastic (46%) or less enthusiastic (48%) about voting this year compared with prior election years. The only time Gallup asked this question in May or June of a presidential campaign year was during the high-turnout 2008 election. In a June 15-19 poll that year, about the same percentage (48%) said they were more enthusiastic as said so this year, but significantly fewer (37%) said they were less enthusiastic. Republicans today are far more enthusiastic than in June 2008, when incumbent Republican President George W. Bush's approval rating was below 30%....Now, 51% of Republicans are more enthusiastic and 43% less enthusiastic. For Democrats and leaners, the situation is reversed. In June 2008, with Barack Obama on the way to being their party's nominee, 61% were more enthusiastic and 25% less enthusiastic. Now, 43% are more enthusiastic and 50% less." [Gallup]
Americans overall have pretty dim views of the election and their candidate choices - HuffPollster: "Trump, who’s especially fond of assigning nicknames to his critics and opponents, dubbed Clinton 'Crooked Hillary,' The Democratic National Committee came up with 'Dangerous Donald' last month in attempt to coin a comeback phrase. What really matters, of course, is how the public views each candidate. In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, we turned the rhetorical reins over to Americans, asking them to describe Clinton, Trump and the whole election in one word each. The responses weren’t exactly glowing — most fell somewhere on the spectrum between creatively disgruntled (e.g., 'hornswoggler') and downright profane (e.g., 'clusterf**k'). Here are the most common words used to describe Clinton and Trump, with the number of people, out of the 1,000 polled, who volunteered each descriptor….The results demonstrate a number of things. First, they show that a lot of Americans don’t quite get what an adjective is. (It’s OK, neither do some of the campaigns.) Second, they indicate just how unpopular both Clinton and Trump really are. It’s not news that both candidates are viewed unfavorably by more than half the country. But the ratio of negative to positive descriptors, and the kind of visceral dislike they suggest, highlight exactly how disaffected most Americans are with their options." [HuffPost]
MOST AMERICANS THINK TRUMP’S COMMENTS ABOUT A JUDGE WERE RACIST - HuffPollster: "The presumptive GOP nominee has repeatedly lashed out against Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge overseeing a lawsuit brought against the for-profit Trump University….Trump’s statements were widely condemned as racist — even by members of his own party, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)....Trump’s argument doesn’t make much sense to the American public, either. Just 9 percent think that 'a federal judge who is a native-born American citizen but has Mexican ancestry' would be incapable of running fair proceedings in a class-action lawsuit, YouGov found. A 57 percent majority of Americans think Trump was wrong to complain against the judge, while just 20 percent think he was in the right. Democrats and independents broadly believe that the businessman is wrong, while Republicans are close to evenly split….A smaller majority, 51 percent, say that Trump’s comments were not only wrong, but racist…. Fewer than a quarter of Republicans say the remarks constituted racism." [HuffPost]
The backlash highlights the fragility of Trump's endorsements - Daniel Nichanian: "Republican voters have rallied behind Donald Trump… In all, GOP officials have saluted the Trump candidacy at an amazing clip given Trump’s controversial, often racist rhetoric. But Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk’s reversal in the wake of Trump’s remarks against Judge Gonzalo Curiel may signal that some of the support Trump has received is still fragile. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is calling on other Republicans to unendorse Trump. And dozens of other prominent elected Republicans are holding out on their party’s presumptive nominee. Sixty, to be exact….Women, minorities, Republicans who represent states or districts with large Latino populations, centrists, trade-friendly Republicans and immigration-friendly Republicans have been more skeptical of Trump… Women and minorities make up 23 percent of holdouts and 12 percent of supporters." 
TRUMP HIRES A POLLSTER TO FOCUS ON NEW YORK - Maggie Haberman: "Donald J. Trump has hired a new pollster to help him capture an elusive Republican victory in New York, his home state, two people briefed on the move said. The pollster, John McLaughlin, will be focusing exclusively on New York, polling to determine what type of climb Mr. Trump would face in a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican in a presidential race since Ronald Reagan in 1984….It wasn’t immediately clear how extensive Mr. McLaughlin’s role will be, depending on what the initial survey shows. He is the second pollster to be hired by Mr. Trump, who often described polls as a waste of money during the primaries and insisted he could rely on the ones the media conducts to save money for himself." [NYT]
...Where polls show him down by nearly 20 points - Of the dozen states where HuffPost Pollster currently has enough data for a general election model, Trump lags farthest behind in New York. Pollster's chart of the general election in New York gives Trump just below 34 percent to Clinton's 53 percent.
POLLSTERS EXPLAIN WHY CALIFORNIA WAS HARD TO POLL - Most polls showed a narrow Clinton lead in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, but a couple -- from SurveyUSA, and from a partnership between USC and the LA Times -- showed bigger Clinton leads. The latter survey, conducted by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint, gave her a 10-point lead over Sanders. "It’s possible that our likely voter screen was a bit tighter than the other pollsters," GQR senior associate Ben Winston told HuffPollster Tuesday afternoon, noting that their survey may have included fewer of the first-time "decline to state" or "no-party-preference" voters who were likely to turn out for Sanders. "And that’s the big challenge of polling this electorate – the inherent uncertainty of the semi-closed system," he said. "How many DTS/NPP voters will show up – and how many of them correctly requested a Democratic ballot? Does the news last night of Hillary clinching the nomination change anything? [W]ill the Sanders surge actually happen, with higher turnout than in the past? Hard to know – especially given the lack of similar past elections – and that’s why I think you’re seeing some variation among the public polls."
The “decline to state” and “no party preference” voters were unpredictable - In a series of tweets, Marist Poll director Lee Miringoff explained that the NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of the California Democratic race had Clinton up by 17 points among Democrats, but down by 42 among independents. Overall, the poll had Clinton up by only two points, but as Miringoff points out, the absentee vote process is confusing for independents. MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki wondered Tuesday night, also on Twitter, how many of these “no party preference” independent voters who intended to vote for Sanders requested the wrong mail-in ballot. [Miringoff here and here, Kornacki]
A strong vote-by-mail campaign helped Clinton win - John Wildermuth: "Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ enthusiastic legion of young, independent and progressive supporters turned out to be way better at jamming rallies and concerts than they were at actually voting…'The young (voters), the poor ones and those with no party preference were Bernie’s key supporters ... and they didn’t show up,' said Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc., who studied more than 21,000 voters who had mailed in their ballots….Clinton broke on top when the first mail ballots were reported soon after 8 p.m. and never gave up the lead. 'Clinton jumped to a huge lead, larger than expected, in the first mail results,' said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which last week showed the former New York senator with a 45 percent to 43 percent lead over Sanders." [SF Chronicle]
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THURSDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
-William Jordan thinks Hillary Clinton could attract Bernie Sanders' supporters with some help from fellow Democrats. [YouGov]
-Kyle Kondik explains why expectations of a Clinton general election win could hurt down-ballot Democrats. [UVA Center for Politics]
-Nate Cohn thinks Trump could have a slim chance of winning even if he doesn't gain among nonwhite voters. [NYT]
-The FiveThirtyEight team discusses how Donald Trump might affect traditional political science theories on predicting elections. 
-PredictWise shows a three-way tie on predictions for the Democratic vice-presidential pick. [PredictWise]
-A multi-national survey shows that most people think a British exit from the European Union would hurt Europe. [Pew]
-Eight of 10 Australians think the U.S.’s best days are behind it. [Sydney Morning Herald]