HUFFPOLLSTER: Polling Won't Tell Us Who'll Win The Nevada Caucuses

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders might be tied, but there's not enough data to know.
Ethan Miller via Getty Images

Democrats caucus on Saturday, but there’s only been one poll of either race in Nevada since the start of 2016. Polling in South Carolina also lags behind earlier states. And Antonin Scalia’s death puts the Supreme Court center stage in the election. This is HuffPollster for Tuesday, February 16, 2016.

WE HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THE RACE STANDS IN NEVADA - Byron Tau: "Nevada is the third state in the Democratic nominating process, but only six public polls have been conducted in the last year. Iowa, by contrast, was polled nine times in January alone—and nearly 100 times in the year leading up to the February caucuses. New Hampshire residents were polled nearly 50 times in the weeks leading up to their primary. As a result of the scarcity of public polling, the race between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the state is almost totally unknown." [WSJ]

Little polling since the start of 2016 - Nevada Republicans will caucus next Tuesday, February 23, but no polls on the race have been conducted since December. There's only marginally more data on the Democratic side, where the only poll since January shows Clinton and Sanders tied. Since there’s no other data, the HuffPost Pollster average is simply the result of that one poll. But the pollster, TargetPoint Consulting, is a Republican firm, and 70 percent of the responses were obtained using automated voice technology on landlines only. The remaining 30 percent were live interviewers calling mobile phones, but that might not be enough to get a complete picture of the race. By 2013 estimates, 43 percent of Nevada adults didn’t have a landline at all and an additional 18 percent mostly relied on their mobile phones. Minorities, particularly Hispanics, are even more reliant on mobile phones. Following the ballot test, the pollster also asked a string of questions highlighting negative messages about both Clinton and Sanders. [TargetPoint, NCHS]

Voter registration rules further complicate Nevada - Jon Ralston: "Nevada has a closed caucus system -- that is, only Democrats can participate on Feb. 20 and only Republicans on Feb. 23. But because of a quirk in the system -- cue the national ridicule again -- Republicans could vote in both caucuses. How? Republicans closed their registration rolls on Feb. 13, and that is the file that will be used on Feb. 23. Democrats are allowing same-day registration on Saturday. So: A Republican registered by Feb. 13 could show up at a Democratic caucus site on Saturday, switch to the Democratic Party, vote and then still participate on Tuesday because the party switch would not show up on the GOP caucus rolls." [Ralston Reports]

NOT A LOT OF POLLING IN SOUTH CAROLINA EITHER - There have been only a handful of polls in South Carolina since the New Hampshire primaries. Those polls don’t show much movement in recent weeks: Donald Trump maintains a 16-point lead over Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) not far behind. On the Democratic side, Clinton has a lead of more than 20 points over Sanders.

But be careful with “internal” leaked poll results - A polling memo for Jeb Bush’s super PAC, released Sunday, showed Bush taking third place in South Carolina behind Trump and Cruz. Internal polls rarely provide much data about the methodology they use to find and screen voters, and, because they're released at a campaign's discretion, tend to be more favorable to the campaign that conducted them.

SUPREME COURT VACANCY WILL IMPACT PRESIDENTIAL RACE - Alex Seitz-Wald: "The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the renewed attention on superdelegates will likely thrust electability back into the forefront in the Democratic presidential primary… With control of the high court now essentially on the ballot in November, Clinton is hoping to subtly remind Democratic voters currently enthralled with Bernie Sanders of the dire stakes in this election, aware that most currently perceive her as the stronger general election candidate…. Meanwhile, Sanders and his allies believe he has a strong case to make on electability and say they are eager to make it, especially to the party leaders known as superdelegates, most of whom currently back Clinton." [MSNBC]

Opinion of the Court was already low, particularly among Republicans - The loss of one of the Court’s most conservative justices probably won’t help. Pew Research Center, July 2015: "[U]nfavorable opinions of the Supreme Court have reached a 30-year high….Currently, 48% of Americans have a favorable impression of the Supreme Court, while 43% view the court unfavorably….[M]ost of the increase in unfavorable views of the Supreme Court has come among Republicans. Just 33% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of the court, while 61% have an unfavorable view….Republicans’ views of the Supreme Court are now more negative than at any point in the past three decades." [Pew]

HALF OF AMERICANS DON’T THINK U.S. IS TOP MILITARY POWER - Frank Newport: "Americans are evenly split when asked if the U.S. is No. 1 in the world militarily, with 49% saying 'yes' and 49% saying 'no.' The current percentage who view the U.S. as No. 1 is, by a small margin, the lowest Gallup has recorded in its 23-year trend. It also marks a significant downturn from last February, when 59% said the U.S. was the world's top military power…. As might be expected given the less positive views of U.S. military power, more Americans than in recent years say the country is spending too little on its military…. Even with this shift, however, the 'spending too little' sentiment remains relatively low. Nearly as many, 32%, say the U.S. is spending 'too much,' and the remainder, 27%, say defense spending is 'about right'" [Gallup]

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

-Donald Trump maintains a strong lead in a new SurveyMonkey national poll, while Bernie Sanders gains on Hillary Clinton. [MSNBC Republicans, MSNBC Democrats]

-Nate Silver argues that Hillary Clinton's superdelegates advantage may not be enough to save her. [538]

-Aaron Blake digs through old polls to explain why Donald Trump's attack on George W. Bush in last Saturday night's debate might not turn Republicans against him. [WashPost]

-A majority of Americans has a favorable opinion of Cuba for the first time since 1996. [Gallup]

-The Republican party's brand is hurting among Latino voters, and it's not just because of Donald Trump. [NYT]

-Eighteen percent of Supreme Court nominations have occurred later in a presidency than Obama currently i. [I Quant America]

-The New York Times maps out how long it's taken to nominate Supreme Court justices under each US president. [NYT]

-Exit pollster Joe Lenski talks about tabulating poll results while the entire country watches. [The Pollsters]

-The Monocle interviews pollsters on whether polling shapes a campaign or reflects it. [Monocle]

-David Rothschild explains how prediction markets differ from polling. [Imus In The Morning]

-A national survey finds that today's youth are engaging in less at-risk behavior than previous generations. [Vox]

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