HUFFPOLLSTER: Nate Silver Gives 2016 Primary Polling Mixed Reviews

FiveThirtyEight’s new pollster ratings highlight recent controversies in the field over internet polling.

FiveThirtyEight’s grades for pollsters raise questions about the role of methodology. A majority of Americans say Donald Trump would be better for the economy than Hillary Clinton. And those who view immigrants as a threat are warmer toward Trump. This is HuffPollster for Friday, June 3, 2016.

FIVETHIRTYEIGHT RELEASES NEW POLLSTER RANKINGS - Nate Silver: "Importantly, the [2016 presidential primaries] polls (and even more so, the polling averages) had a good track record of calling winners, with the polling front-runner winning the vast majority of the time….But the margins were often pretty far off, especially in the Democratic race...although there weren’t many upsets, at least one of them — Sanders’s win in Michigan — was historically epic. Don’t take our word for it, though: We’d encourage you to explore the data for yourself. We’ve just released a new set of pollster ratings, based on data up through and including the Oregon presidential primary May 17….As before, the ratings are based both on a pollster’s past accuracy and on two easily measurable methodological standards: The first standard is whether the firm participates in the American Association for Public Opinion Research Transparency Initiative, is a member of the National Council on Public Polls or contributes its data to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research archive. Polling firms that do one or more of these things generally abide by industry-standard practices for disclosure, transparency and methodology and have historically had more accurate results." [538, Ratings]

Their methodology weights live caller polls over others - More from Silver: “The second standard is whether the firm usually conducts its polls by placing telephone calls with live interviewers and calls cellphones as well as landlines. Automated polls (‘robopolls’), which are legally prohibited from calling cellphones, do not meet this standard even if they use hybrid or mixed-mode methodologies (for example, robocalling landlines and then supplementing with cellphone calls placed by live interviewers). It’s increasingly essential to call cellphones given that about half of American households no longer have a home landline. Although internet polls show promise as a potential alternative, they do not yet have a long enough or consistent enough track record to be placed on the same pedestal as high-quality, live-interview telephone polls, based on our view of the evidence.” [538, Ratings]

But what’s the evidence? - Whether live telephone polls still warrant special status is an open question that needs more research and evidence . FiveThirtyEight’s standard means that internet and automated phone polls are disadvantaged, even if they used live interviews to recruit their panels. A few internet pollsters with grades in the Cs (e.g., Harris Interactive, YouGov, Purple Strategies) are similar to the highest-rated live caller polls on the other criteria used in the ratings. Our own research on 2016 polls found that live interviewer landline and cellphone polls aren’t necessarily any more accurate than any other type. Other analysis, focusing on data from 2008-2014, came to similar conclusions. In a few recent elections, automated and internet polls have done as well as or better than live polls.

TRUMP EDGES OUT CLINTON ON THE ECONOMY - Lydia Saad: "If the race for president comes down to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump could benefit from an edge in public confidence on the issues Americans are prioritizing most this election. A slight majority of Americans choose Trump as better able to handle the economy (53%) and jobs (52%), and 50% choose him -- versus 46% who choose Clinton -- on terrorism and national security. At the same time, the Democratic front-runner boasts commanding leads over the presumptive Republican nominee in public perceptions of who can best handle education and healthcare, with 61% and 56%, respectively, choosing Clinton over Trump on these issues. Both issues rank among the top five Americans say will influence their vote for president….Overall, Trump leads Clinton in public perceptions of who would better handle eight of the 17 issues….Meanwhile, Clinton has advantages on eight other issues...On average, 75% of Americans rate the eight issues Trump leads on as extremely or very important to their vote, slightly higher than the 67% who rate the eight issues Clinton leads on this highly." [Gallup]

TRUMP VIEWED MORE FAVORABLY BY THOSE WHO THINK NEW IMMIGRANTS ARE A THREAT -  Bradley Jones and Jocelyn Kiley: "Among the vast majority of GOP voters who think that the growing number of newcomers to the U.S. 'threatens traditional American customs and values,' 59% have warm feelings toward Donald Trump – with 42% saying they feel very warmly toward him. By contrast, among the much smaller share of Republican voters (just 21%) who say that the growing number of newcomers 'strengthens American society,' half as many (30%) have warm feelings toward Trump, with only 14% feeling very warmly toward him. An analysis of 'feeling thermometer' ratings of Trump finds that attitudes about immigration, Islam and racial diversity are strongly associated with Republican voters’ views of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Other political values – including opinions about whether the U.S. economic system is unfair and whether business profits are excessive – are less closely linked to feelings about Trump." [Pew]

Trump’s rhetoric implies a return to good times for white male culture - Ronald Brownstein: "The most important word in Donald Trump’s lexicon may be: 'again.' The word anchors many of his signature declarations, as when he insists: 'If I’m elected president, we will win again.' ...In the Trump vocabulary, the word 'back' ranks closely behind 'again.' Trump is forever promising to 'bring back' things that have been lost….These phrases capture the mission of restoration underpinning Trump’s campaign. They touch the pervasive sense of loss among many of his supporters—the belief that the changes molding modern America have marginalized them economically, demographically, and culturally. These words allow him to evoke a hazy earlier time when American life worked better for the overwhelmingly white, heavily blue-collar coalition now drawn to him. And they help explain the visceral connection he has established with those white working-class voters, a connection strong enough to survive a concatenation of controversies that might have exploded any other candidate. [Atlantic]

Election Trivia - Get your daily fix of presidential trivia questions and see how much you know! Starting next Tuesday in the HuffPollster’s email newsletter, we will have entertaining, provocative and informational questions every day – provided by prominent election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder.  Don’t miss it – sign up for our newsletter here. 

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

-Glenn Kessler dives into the delegate math to explain why Hillary Clinton will likely become the presumptive nominee next week. [WashPost]  

-Nate Cohn summarizes how the Democratic primary will probably end. [NYT]  

-Amy Walter analyzes Donald Trump's ability to expand. [Cook Political Report]

-David Wasserman thinks that white voters' support for Trump may not matter in the end. [538]

-David Moore says it's hard to prove whether changing the nomination process would make people happier. [ImediaEthics]

-David Rothschild questions whether Trump vs. Clinton is the best way to measure support in a poll. [PredictWise]

-Some pollsters explain why the presidential election could be difficult to predict. [The Hill]