HUFFPOLLSTER: Electoral College Estimates Show Hillary Clinton Beating Donald Trump And Ted Cruz

That’s if the general election was held today. A lot can happen by November.

Early estimates give Clinton the advantage against the GOP. Sanders looks like a stronger general election candidate than Clinton in polls, but that might not tell us much about November. And how voters assess their finances has a lot to do with partisanship. This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, April 13, 2016.

PROJECTION SHOWS CLINTON TROUNCING TRUMP AND CRUZ - Morning Consult: “If the presidential election was held today, businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would lose to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, according to an extensive Morning Consult analysis of 44,000 poll respondents. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is the only candidate who could beat Clinton in November. Both Trump and Cruz would lose to Clinton by considerable margins in a head-to-head race, winning just 210 and 206 electoral college votes, respectively. By contrast, Kasich comfortably beats Clinton, racking up 304 electoral college votes to her 234….The results show that the race is still up for grabs, with nearly 20 percent of registered voters saying they are undecided about who they’d vote for between Clinton and either Trump, Cruz or Kasich.[Morning Consult]

How they estimated those Electoral College tallies - The analysts at Morning Consult used data they had collected from national surveys since January and a statistical technique called multilevel regression and poststratification (MRP) to estimate which candidate would win each state in a hypothetical election. MRP is a way of using data at a larger geographic level -- like the national level -- to estimate opinion at a smaller geographic level -- in this case, the states. Instead of relying solely on how people say they will vote in the survey, MRP incorporates information about the respondents and the states they live in that’s known to predict vote choice. Morning Consult used respondents’ education, gender and age, plus state-level economic information and outcomes from the 2012 Presidential election.

But nothing is certain - Morning Consult specifically notes that this analysis shows a projection of what would happen if the general election were today. And even though it incorporates state-level information, the model still relies on general election polls. Those aren’t yet predictive of what could happen in November, especially when many voters are still undecided. In the Trump vs. Clinton estimates, for example, neither candidate reaches a 50 percent majority in 37 states, and the candidates are within 2 percentage points of each other in seven states. [Morning Consult]

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SANDERS IS OUTPERFORMING CLINTON IN GENERAL ELECTION POLLS - David Lightman: "Unimaginable at the start of the campaign, Bernie Sanders might be a stronger general election candidate for the Democrats than Hillary Clinton. He leads Donald Trump nationally by 20 points right now in a hypothetical general election matchup, more than double her 9-point lead, according to the latest McClatchy-Marist poll. He leads Sen. Ted Cruz by 12, while she is locked in a tie with the Texan....Sanders outperforms Clinton over Trump in the swing states of Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well. And underlining all that: the independent senator from Vermont energizes and excites younger voters, he’s not dogged by an FBI investigation into use of a private email server and his anti-establishment message is perfectly pitched to the key of 2016. That’s not to say that would last." [McClatchy]

Why that may not mean he's a stronger candidate - More from Lightman: "So far, Sanders has largely escaped serious criticism from Clinton, the news media, or Republicans…..Sanders is enjoying politics’ first impression syndrome, a honeymoon period in which he’s been seen as fresh, authentic and genuinely angry at Wall Street and income inequality....Should Sanders become the party’s nominee, Clinton’s barbs will be just the warmup act, as Sanders gets grilled over his big, expensive ideas and liberal voting record….'The less you know about a person, the more positive you’re going to feel,' said [Larry] Sabato [director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics]. 'Sanders really hasn’t been vetted yet.'" [McClatchy]

CRUZ AND TRUMP SUPPORTERS UNLIKELY TO DEFECT TO A THIRD PARTY CANDIDATE - HuffPollster: "More than a quarter of Donald Trump’s supporters would rather vote for a third-party candidate in November’s general election than cast a vote for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — and a similar share of Cruz’s supporters feel the same way about Trump….But there are two big reasons to be skeptical of this actually happening: November is a long way away, and voters just don’t usually support third-party candidates in large numbers….In April 2012, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked likely voters nationwide if they would consider voting for a third-party or independent candidate. Forty percent of people said they would consider it — even though by then it was fairly clear that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) would be going up against President Barack Obama. Come November, fewer than 2 percent of voters actually voted for a non-major party candidate." [HuffPost]  

Trump's support is deeper than it looks -Steven Shepard: "Donald Trump’s support among Republican voters appears to be as deep as his hard-core GOP opposition, suggesting that the forces seeking to block his nomination will have to do more than just prevent him from winning enough delegates for a first-ballot victory, according to a POLITICO analysis of voting and polling data. Trump has won only about 37 percent of the vote in the GOP primaries and caucuses thus far. But that doesn’t mean the entire 63-percent majority of Republicans who voted against him are resolutely opposed. National polls show that even as Trump’s image has cratered among the broader electorate, more Republicans have a favorable opinion than view him unfavorably. In the states that have already voted, as many Republican primary voters said they would be satisfied if Trump won the nomination as said they wouldn’t, according to exit polls….And as Republicans barrel toward a fight on the convention floor for the party’s presidential nomination, majorities say that Trump should be the nominee — even if he falls short of the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch on the first ballot." [Politico]

PARTISANSHIP, NOT POVERTY, DRIVES VOTERS' ASSESSMENTS OF THEIR FINANCES - John Sides: "There are actually smaller class divides in views of the economy now than under several previous presidents. More important to the story is partisanship. We’ve known for some time that people’s identification with a party affects how they perceive the objective world — even how physically attractive they find other people. The economy is no exception. Except in periods where economic conditions are unambiguous, such as at the height of the Great Recession, there are big —and growing — differences in how Republicans and Democrats view the economy, depending on which party controls the White House...Democrats and Republicans have strikingly different perceptions of their finances no matter what their income is. In fact, party is so significant that the wealthiest Republicans actually have slightly lower evaluations of their personal finances than do the poorest Democrats." [WashPost]

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

-Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans say the GOP candidate with the most delegates should be nominated. [AP]

-Philip Bump assesses Bernie Sanders' odds at winning the nomination if superdelegates were forced to vote for the winner of their state. [WashPost]  

-Emma Roller discusses the paradox of superdelegates. [NYT]

-Josh Putnam weighs in on why changing Democratic party rules on the election in 2020 would be difficult. [Frontloading HQ]

-Congress remains embarrassingly unpopular. [Gallup]

-Jack August pays tribute to Arizona pollster Bruce Merrill, known for the "Merrill Poll." [AZ Central]