HUFFPOLLSTER: Predicting Who Will Vote Is A Huge Challenge For Pollsters And Campaigns

Plus a round-up of the latest polling stories from around the web.
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A new Pew study tackles the difficult task of determining likely voters. Americans favor Obama's proposal for gun background checks, but don't like how he's going about it. And white Americans are the angriest race in the country. This is HuffPollster for Friday, January 8, 2016.

IDENTIFYING “LIKELY VOTERS” COULD BE BIGGEST POLLING CHALLENGE - Pew Research: “Election polls face a unique problem in survey research: They are asked to produce a model of a population that does not yet exist at the time the poll is conducted, the future electorate….[P]eople who vote regularly are demographically and politically different from those who vote less often. This study examines various methods of determining who is a likely voter. While this study has no crystal ball, it has the next best thing: a survey of people interviewed before and after the 2014 congressional elections that is enhanced with verified turnout data from a national voter file (a database of adults and their publicly available voter turnout records from all states).” [Pew, HuffPost]

More from Pew: “All of the methods examined here result in more-accurate forecasts than using either all those respondents who say they are registered to vote, or else all those who say they intend to vote, both of which include far too many people who ultimately will not cast a ballot. But some approaches performed better than others. Nearly all of the methods produced more-accurate forecasts when voter file records of previous voting were incorporated into the models.” [Pew]

Voter file vote history improves most estimates

Pew’s report improves knowledge about likely voter models. - Scott Clement: “[‘Likely voters’ is] perhaps the most ubiquitous and least-understood phrase in election news — and for two big reasons: 1. Pollsters employ widely differing methods for identifying likely voters (and many keep their methods under wraps) 2. Research on the accuracy of likely voter identification is relatively rare, since checking whether respondents actually vote can be expensive. Strikingly, the study found likely voter ‘screens; developed a half-century ago are still effective at filtering out non-voters and improving polls' representation of actual voters.” [WashPost]

But Pew also highlights the challenge in 2016 primary polling - Nate Cohn:It’s hard to know how often polls have been wrong because of likely-voter screens in recent elections. But it certainly seems like a big contributor...Accurately capturing who votes could easily determine the success of pollsters during the primaries, when only a fraction of registered voters will participate. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are both drawing on irregular voters who have relatively little history of participating in primary elections. Just how many of their supporters actually vote could decide key states, along with whether the polls face another wave of misfires in high-profile elections.” [NYT]

BROAD SUPPORT FOR OBAMA'S GUN CONTROL PROPOSAL - Jennifer Agiesta: "The American public is broadly supportive of the executive actions issued by President Barack Obama this week aimed at increasing the reach of federal background checks for gun purchases and improving enforcement of existing laws. A new CNN/ORC poll finds 67% say they favor the changes Obama announced, and 32% oppose them….Those who strongly favor the changes outnumber those who are strongly opposed by about a 2-to-1 margin...Skepticism about the effectiveness of the executive actions is widespread. Almost 6 in 10 say these measures will not be effective in reducing the number of gun-related deaths in the United States. [CNN]

Background checks for guns have always been popular - Carl Bialik: "In dozens of polls over the past two decades, Americans have been asked if they support expanding background checks for the purchase of firearms….Consistently, at least 70 percent of Americans said they favor background checks. Often, far more do. In October, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 92 percent of Americans — including 87 percent of Republicans — favor background checks for all gun buyers….The popularity of background checks transcends age, political party, gender, education and even gun ownership." [538]

But using executive action is much less popular - Philip Bump: "All of those things are politically popular -- save one….The country is much more split on whether or not Obama should use executive actions to accomplish his goals. The Post and ABC News polled on this in January of 2014, and a flat 50 percent of the country thought it was the right way to go. It's hard to say if this has changed significantly over the last two years, but it's clear that partisan sentiment about the president colors his proposal. [WashPost]

AMERICANS DIVIDED ON HOW COLLEGES SHOULD DEAL WITH RACISM: Tyler Kingkade: "Americans are divided -- largely along party lines -- over whether colleges and universities have a responsibility to teach students about racism, promote diversity or prioritize free speech over stopping racially insensitive statements….But a HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that Americans are split on whether this is an important undertaking -- as 32 percent of respondents say -- or 'a waste of money and resources,' as 42 percent consider it. Fifty-one percent of white respondents believed such efforts were not a worthy investment for schools, as did 51 percent of people over age 65. Among Republicans in the poll, that number jumped to 70 percent." [HuffPost]

IMPLICIT RACISM IS MORE POLITICALLY DIVISIVE THAN BLATANT RACISM - Sean McElwee: "Barack Obama’s presidency has been marked by heated debates about the Republican Party’s racial attitudes….For the most part, the public abhors and condemns such blatant racism. But recent data on public sentiments suggest that many Americans hold beliefs affirming subtler, structural racism and that the popularity of these believes divides sharply along party and political lines." [Al Jazeera]

WHITE AMERICANS ARE THE LIKELIEST TO HARBOR ANGER - CBS News: "A new poll finds that 49 percent of Americans say they're angry more often than they used to be over current events and the news. White Americans are feeling the most anger -- 54 percent feel this way, compared to 43 percent for Latinos and 33 percent for black Americans, according to a poll by NBC News/Survey Monkey/Esquire. Seventy-seven percent of Republicans get angry once a day, compared to 67 percent of Democrats." [CBS, Esquire]

PEW MOVES TO LARGER CELL PHONE SAMPLE - Kyley McGeeney: "Pew Research Center will increase the percentage of respondents interviewed on cellphones from 65% to 75% in most of its 2016 telephone surveys. We’re making this change to ensure our survey samples properly represent the now roughly half (47%) of U.S. adults whose only phone is a cellphone." [Pew]

NEW YORK TIMES DIPS THEIR FEET BACK INTO ONLINE POLLING IN A NEW SURVEY - John M. Broder: "The Times and its longstanding polling partner, CBS News, customarily conduct their national and state polls using live interviewers, reaching respondents by landline and mobile telephones….But the health care survey, done in partnership with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, was conducted both over the telephone and online….The Times has generally shied away from online polling, with the exception of a short-lived experiment The Upshot did with the Internet-based polling firm YouGov in 2014….[W]ith large numbers of the public abandoning landline phones and response rates dropping, some form of online polling appears inevitable." [NYT]

NBC AND SURVEYMONKEY EXTEND THEIR PARTNERSHIP- From a press release: "Just in time for the 2016 elections, SurveyMonkey and NBC today announced that they have extended their online polling partnership through 2018, and will produce weekly polls on the Presidential Election. SurveyMonkey is betting big on the elections – in addition to extending its NBC partnership, SurveyMonkey recently welcomed renowned pollster Mark Blumenthal as Head of Election Polling, joining Jon Cohen, SurveyMonkey VP of Survey Research and former WashPo pollster." [More here]

What's in a name? - NBC's AL Roker ribs on the name 'SurveyMonkey' and wonders what really goes on there. [Vimeo]

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-Donald Trump continues to remain the front-runner in New Hampshire, while Marco Rubio trails in second place. [PPP]

-A plurality of Trump supporters choose Ted Cruz as their second choice candidate. [NBC]

-Cruz has a slight lead over Trump in the California primary. [NBC Bay Area]

-Climate and job opportunity top the list of reasons Americans consider moving to a different state. [Harris]

-For the second year in a row, government outpolls the economy as the nation’s biggest problem. [Gallup]

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

-Kristen Soltis Anderson and Margie Omero discuss how Pew’s move to 75 percent cell phone respondents helps the entire polling industry. [The Pollsters]

-Harry Enten finds that candidates who poll the best nationally tend to do worse in early states. [538]

-Steve Koczela shows that the increase of polling in New Hampshire was in really early polls, not in current polling. [WBUR]

-Parents with daughters are more likely to support Hillary Clinton than parents with sons. [WashPost]

-Sam Wang thinks Donald Trump looks pretty strong in the polls compared to past presidential nominees. [PEC]

-Steven Shepard and Katie Glueck contend that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t take her lead in Iowa for granted. [Politico]

-Scott Bland says Donald Trump is winning more than just undereducated angry white men. [Politico]

-AEI’s Political Report takes an early look at perceptions of Obama’s legacy. [AEI]

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