HUFFPOLLSTER: A 'Seismic Shift' Among Voters May Have Won Cruz The Caucus

Plus a preview of New Hampshire.
Polls may have left the field too early and missed the Republican voter shift to Ted Cruz. 
Polls may have left the field too early and missed the Republican voter shift to Ted Cruz. 

Early analysis shows Iowa polls may have missed the Republican results because they were simply too early. New Hampshire seems stable, but that could change. And Gallup finds states shifting toward the GOP, but that doesn’t necessarily give Republicans an election advantage. This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, February 3, 2016.

IOWA POLLS NOT NECESSARILY WRONG, JUST TOO EARLY - Mark Blumenthal and Jon Cohen: "Although the polls failed to predict Ted Cruz's Iowa win on Tuesday night, it isn't because they were dead wrong. They just ended too early. Consider this: SurveyMonkey data from Iowa showed a seismic shift among GOP caucus goers in the final week -- with Donald J. Trump losing six percentage points and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gaining six in the last six days. Beyond the very real challenges that polling faces -- from single-digit response rates and the fast growing number of "cell phone only" households -- the Iowa misfire traces to issues that have challenged polls there for decades: large late shifts in voter preferences and the difficulty in predicting exactly who will trek out to caucus meetings on a cold winter night." [HuffPost]

Signs of momentum shifts and evangelical turnout were there all along -More from Blumenthal and Cohen: "Data collected by our firm, SurveyMonkey, helps confirm that both issues were in play for polling on the Republican caucuses this year. In our data, there was a dramatic difference between the first (Jan. 21-26) and second (Jan. 27-Feb.1) six-day stretches. From the first six days to the second Trump lost six percentage points, while Cruz gained six and Rubio five -- looking at GOP voters expressing at least some intention of showing up Monday evening. Momentum was running against Trump….Something else happened as well when dividing the time period: the evangelical share of GOP caucus-goers in the first six days was 39 percent; it jumped to 55 percent in the second six days (closer to the 64 percent evangelical share of Republican caucus reported by the networks' entrance poll). There was a lot shifting on the ground in Iowa." [HuffPost]

Pollsters agree - Carl Bialik: “One of the biggest lessons was a simple one: Keep on contacting voters as late as possible.….That sounds like a wise approach because of the success by two pollsters whose final Iowa polls started at a later date than anyone else: last Friday, January 29. The two pollsters, Emerson College and Opinion Savvy, both showed Donald Trump leading Ted Cruz by just one percentage point, with Marco Rubio either close behind or tied. Most other polls started before the last debate and many finished before it, too. They generally showed Trump with a bigger lead and Rubio trailing him by more than 10 percentage points.” [538]

But polls did predict the Democratic caucus - HuffPollster: "While the Iowa caucuses provided a polling upset on the Republican side, most pollsters -- often in the same surveys -- fared much better with the Democratic results…. Polls projected a very close race. HuffPost Pollster's final average put former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 3 points over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Clinton seems to have won the caucuses with 49.8 percent of the delegate count to Sanders' 49.6 percent. The Democratic Party reports results as delegate counts, making a comparison to the polls more difficult, but entrance poll estimates show the raw vote just about in line with Clinton's 3-point polling lead." [HuffPost]

Media shares blame in Iowa poll overhype - HuffPollster: "Pollsters are taking a lot of heat from the public and the media for not anticipating Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) victory in Monday night’s Iowa caucus. But some of those critics in the media share the blame. Pollsters tried to tell us that the outcome was highly uncertain -- and in some cases, we listened. Still, enough headlines in the last week broadcast Donald Trump’s lead that it gave the appearance of certainty in the polls. There’s a conundrum for the media, though: 'Donald Trump Leads' simply generates more attention and traffic than 'We Don’t Know What Will Happen.' In reality, the latter probably should have been the headline. HuffPost Pollster isn’t immune…. Why does the message of the horse race prevail so much? In short, because polls are the only thing that give us an idea of where voters stand."[HuffPost]

HIGHER THAN EXPECTED TURNOUT IN IOWA DOESN'T INCREASE EXPECTATIONS IN OTHER STATES - Michael P. McDonald:  "At long last the 2016 presidential nomination contests have finally started with the conclusion of the first contest, and we now have the first solid glimpse at voter participation. The Iowa Republican caucus blasted through its 2012 record of 121,354, but Democrats could not keep pace with 2008, when 236,000 Iowans participated in the Democratic caucus. Iowa's turnout rate was therefore down slightly from the 16.1% in the 2008 election, the last election when both parties last held competitive contests. It may be tempting to directly overlay Iowa's turnout onto the 2008 turnout to project overall turnout in the coming presidential nomination contests…. This approach is flawed in ways that expose deficiencies in the timing of presidential nomination contests. The most obvious issue is candidate competition, which is related to contest timing…. The horserace analogy is particularly apt, because once the candidates clear the initial poles, the front running candidates separate themselves from the pack and it becomes increasingly clear to the voters and campaigns which candidates have a realistic chance of winning the nomination. When this happens, voter participation usually begins to fade." [HuffPost]

NEW HAMPSHIRE SHOWS STRONG TRUMP LEAD, BUT COULD IT BE MISLEADING? - Donald Trump has enjoyed a 20-point lead in New Hampshire polls for much of the fall and winter, with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in a three-way race for second. But, as we learned in Iowa, his lead could be tenuous and fall apart in the actual voting. Pollsters have offered fewer caveats to Trump’s lead in New Hampshire than they did in Iowa, but those may emerge if he drops in standing during the coming days. There are still 11 candidates in this Republican race, and that means lots of uncertainty in the voting.

SANDERS HAS ADVANTAGE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE - Since January, Sen. Bernie Sanders has opened up a 15-point lead over Hillary Clinton, which could be even boosted by his strong second-place showing in Iowa It’s important to remember, though, that independents can vote in New Hampshire’s primaries, and their choices could shift the vote tallies considerably.

RED STATES OUTNUMBER BLUE STATES FOR THE FIRST TIME - Jeffrey M. Jones: “Gallup's analysis of political party affiliation at the state level in 2015 finds that 20 states are solidly Republican or leaning Republican, compared with 14 solidly Democratic or leaning Democratic states. The remaining 16 are competitive. This is the first time in Gallup's eight years of tracking partisanship by state that there have been more Republican than Democratic states.….Importantly, even though Republicans claim a greater number of states, Democrats continue to hold an edge nationally in partisanship….That is largely because many of the most populous states, including California, New York and Illinois, are Democratically aligned.” 

What that means for this year’s presidential election - More from Jones: “The partisanship of the state population is a starting point in determining a state's likely vote, and there are more states in the Republican column heading into 2016 -- a positive sign for the GOP. But because electoral votes are based on state population, the size of the state matters as much as the number of states each party holds. The 20 states that Gallup classifies as solidly Republican or leaning Republican account for 152 electoral votes, less than the 187 accounted for by the 14 solidly or leaning Democratic states plus the heavily Democratic District of Columbia. [Gallup]

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

-Bernie Sanders won 84 percent of young voters under 29 in the Iowa caucus. [WashPost]

- The New York Times provides entrance poll results that show where each candidate's support came from in Iowa. [Democratic results, Republican results]

-Philip Bump illustrates just how few people actually voted in the Iowa caucuses. [WashPost]

-Pollster Ann Selzer is happy to be Iowa's "silver standard," says she warned about surprises. [WashPost]

-Nate Cohn explains why the polls were way off on Donald Trump. [NYT]

-Jonathan Bernstein takes another  look at what happened in Iowa. [Bloomberg]

 -Kristen Soltis Anderson (R) dissects why the Iowa outcome differed from polling averages. [Medium]

-David Andersen and David Peterson provide evidence of why Trump might not win the general election. [WashPost]

-Todd Rogers and Adan Acevedo offer pollsters tips to improve predictive accuracy. [WashPost]