HuffPollster: Iowa Caucus Results Show Polling Miss, But Don’t Stun Pollsters

They’ve been saying all along that the Iowa caucuses are extremely difficult to poll.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) defies poll expectations and wins first place in the Iowa Republican caucus on Feb. 1, 2016.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) defies poll expectations and wins first place in the Iowa Republican caucus on Feb. 1, 2016.

Polls missed the Iowa GOP race, but came much closer for the Democratic race. And pollsters say they're not surprised they got it wrong. This is HuffPollster for Tuesday, February 2, 2016.

CRUZ WINS IOWA DESPITE POLLS LEANING TOWARD TRUMP - HuffPollster: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pulled off an upset win in Iowa over not only Donald Trump but also the polls, which almost universally showed him behind….Monday's voting brought both record turnout and a victory for Cruz….This year, surveys of the Republican race overstated Trump's ability to turn out voters. While Trump voters were deeply certain of their support, many were only loosely attached to their party, and unfamiliar with caucusing. Compared to Cruz supporters, Trump voters were less likely to have previous caucus experience and more likely to say they planned to show up alone….The record turnout included occasional voters who supported Trump's rivals, but not enough of the new voters he needed to win, Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray said in an email….Cruz's underlying strengths, meanwhile, shone through on nearly every measure but the horse race, according to the final Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll. Cruz was considered more knowledgeable, more internationally respected and more likable, and won in a one-on-one matchup against Trump.” [HuffPost]

Late-deciding voters and momentum favored Cruz and Rubio - Philip Bump and Scott Clement: “Nearly half of Republican caucus-goers report making their final decision in the week before the caucuses, and the entrance poll shows Rubio performed best among this group. Nearly 3 in 10 of final-week deciders supported Rubio; he garnered about as much support among those deciding in January, but only about 1 in 10 of those who decided earlier than that backed Rubio. Equally stark was Trump’s weakness among late-deciding voters. Just 14 percent of Republicans who decided in the final week supported Trump, compared with 23 percent of those who decided earlier in January and 40 percent who made their decision in December or earlier.” [WashPost]

Some patterns in Iowa polling misses - Justin Sink: “Pollsters were nervous entering Monday’s contest in Iowa because the Republican field featured elements that have tripped up past surveys: a large group of candidates and an unorthodox frontrunner whose support was largely rooted in voters who hadn’t previously participated in the caucuses. Cruz’s surprise victory was actually in line with some past polling misses. Polls conducted by the Register in 1988, 1996, and 2012 all significantly underestimated the candidate who would earn the backing of evangelical voters -- the very group that appeared to have pushed the Texas senator to victory.” [Bloomberg]


Pollsters take to Twitter to express their thoughts on Iowa's outcome.


DEMOCRATIC RACE IS STILL TOO CLOSE TO CALL, BUT POLLS FARED BETTER - Steven Shepard: “The tied race between Clinton and Bernie Sanders represents their standing in state delegate equivalent, not raw vote count. The best estimate of raw vote, at this point, is the Democratic entrance poll, which shows Clinton leading by about 3 percentage points. So why is she tied with Sanders in the results? That’s likely because of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who ended his campaign Monday night after failing to earn even 1 percent of state delegate equivalents. But the entrance poll indicates O’Malley won about 3 percent of the vote – suggesting that O’Malley was not viable in many precincts, and many of his supporters chose Sanders in a second round of voting.” [Politico]

Clinton leads, but by a razor-thin margin - Vote tallies as of this publication show Clinton taking 49.9 percent to Sanders’ 49.6 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting. [Iowa results]

The entrance poll shows why the race was so tight - Maureen Michaels: “Clinton was the solid choice among 88% of Democrats who valued experience over other candidate qualities, and among 68% of those who want the next president to continue Obama's policies. Those who say health care is the most important issue facing the country also largely went for Clinton, as did those over the age of 65….Looking at Sanders' supporters, we see different segments of Democratic voters in Iowa. Young voters went for Sanders overwhelmingly, and he was supported by 83% of voters who value honesty and trustworthiness most in a candidate. Sanders won 61% of the support among those who think income inequality is the top issue facing the country, and 58% of those who identified as very liberal. Sanders also received considerable support from first-time caucus-goers and those who say they want the next president to have more liberal policies than the Obama administration. [NBC]


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

-Nate Silver explains why Iowa is the hardest state to poll. [538]

-Sam Wang breaks down the potential consequences of the Iowa outcome. [Princeton]  

-Nate Cohn explains why a virtual tie in Iowa is a good outcome for Bernie Sanders. [NYT]

-Max Berley provides a quick take on the perils of polling. [Bloomberg]  

-Nate Silver likens Donald Trump's Iowa outcome to Pat Buchanan's. [538]

-Democrats and Republicans agree that the economy, terrorism, jobs and health care should be the focus of the 2016 campaigns. [Gallup]

-Only 13 percent of voters thought Ted Cruz would win Iowa. [Morning Consult]

-Ryan Lizza examines whether Ted Cruz's "voter shaming" mailers in Iowa relied on made-up numbers.  [New Yorker]

-The Washington Post breaks down the demographics of each candidate's support, based on entrance polls. [WashPost]

-Jeb Bush spent $2,800 per voter to get his 3 percent in Iowa. [HuffPost]

-If you missed the Iowa caucuses, here's a moment by moment run down. [HuffPost]