HUFFPOLLSTER: Here’s What To Expect In Nevada And South Carolina On Saturday

Nevada’s Democratic caucus is unpredictable.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Donald Trump has a solid lead in South Carolina’s Republican primary, but we have no idea what will happen when the Nevada Democrats caucus on Saturday.. Bernie Sanders' weakness with black voters is evident in South Carolina. And be careful how you interpret social media data about candidates. This is HuffPollster for Friday, February 19, 2016.

CLINTON AND SANDERS RUNNING CLOSE RACE IN NEVADA - Amy Walter: "[T]he Democratic caucus in Nevada looks neck-and-neck. For months we’ve been assured by the Clinton campaign that as long as Hillary Clinton holds onto her solid support among minority voters, she’ll stave off any serious threat from Bernie Sanders….Yet, as we head into Nevada this weekend, there’s evidence that her dominance among minority voters is on shaky ground. Clinton is either tied or just slightly ahead of Sanders in a state where non-white voters are likely to be at least 30 to 35 percent of caucus attendees.” [Cook]

Polling still won’t help us - Mark Z. Barabak: “In the ocean of polling that has come to define presidential campaigning, with new numbers released seemingly every hour, there has been but a trickle from Nevada….Some places are easier to poll than others, which may help explain the dearth of data from Nevada. It is among the most difficult places in the country to survey, meaning any poll numbers should be viewed with even more than the usual amount of caution….It’s even harder to guess who will show up at noon Saturday because the Nevada caucuses are a relatively new phenomenon. The first, and only competitive, Democrat caucuses were held here in 2008. That's not much history to go on.” [LA Times]

And polling didn’t fare well in 2008 - Jon Ralston reminds us just how far off the three polls we have could be:

TRUMP LEADS COMFORTABLY IN SOUTH CAROLINA - More from Walter: “On the Republican side, Ted Cruz’s firewall is the bloc of southern states that vote between February 20 and the so-called March 1 SEC primary….Yet, the latest polling out of South Carolina shows that the evangelical firewall is not looking all that fireproof. Almost every poll shows Cruz trailing Trump by double digits. More important, he’s losing among those evangelical voters he was counting on to boost him to victory. The CNN poll showed Trump besting Cruz with evangelicals by a whopping 19 points (42-23 percent).” [Cook]

SANDERS HAS MADE MINIMAL GAINS WITH SOUTH CAROLINA BLACK VOTERS - HuffPollster: "Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has spent months trying to win over black voters a demographic that is essential to winning the key primary state of South Carolina -- but a new Monmouth University poll released Thursday shows the Vermont senator has made minimal inroads with the group since November. The poll, in which Sanders trails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by 29 percentage points, shows that black South Carolina voters have remained unconvinced that he would do a good job addressing concerns pertaining to African-Americans. Overall, 43 percent of black voters are confident in Sanders compared with 73 percent who are confident in Clinton." [HuffPost]

Sanders faces similar challenges nationally - Mackenzie Israel-Trummel and Ariela Schachter: "We found that blacks’ evaluations of Clinton were much more positive than their evaluations of Sanders. We asked respondent to rate the candidates on a 'feeling thermometer' that ranges from 0 (very unfavorable) to 100 (very favorable)....On average, blacks gave Clinton a 72 and Sanders a 58 — only slightly above the neutral point. Among blacks who are registered to vote and know where to vote, Clinton’s advantage grows further….Among black voters age 18-29, the gap between Sanders and Clinton is indeed narrower. But younger black voters still rate Clinton more favorably than Sanders." [WashPost] Credit: Mackenzie Israel-Trummel and Ariela Schachter

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MORE VOTERS FEAR TRUMP THAN SUPPORT HIM - HuffPollster, with Emily Peck: "Judging by the relentless coverage he gets, you’d think Donald Trump had this whole president thing sewn up by now. He does not. In fact, more than twice as many voters say they’re scared of a Trump presidency than actually support the reality TV star’s bid for the Republican nomination, according to a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll. Thirty-eight percent of voters said they would be 'scared' if Trump scored the GOP nomination, with another 18 percent saying the prospect would leave them 'dissatisfied,...' Trump had the highest 'scare' score of all the leading contenders. The runner-up was Hillary Clinton, with 33 percent of voters fearing the former secretary of state winning the Democratic nomination." [HuffPost]

POPE FRANCIS HOLDS LIMITED POLITICAL INFLUENCE - Emily Swanson: "Pope Francis' comments Thursday that Donald Trump is 'not a Christian' if he supports a wall along the Mexican border put the Republican presidential contender in the uncomfortable position of being pitted against a more popular political figure, according to recent polling on the pope's standing among Americans and American Catholics. But the poll, conducted in October by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds the pope to be a relatively unknown quantity to many Americans and suggests his clout when it comes to influencing American political opinions may be limited." [AP]

TWITTER DATA MIGHT NOT CORRELATE TO VOTER SUPPORT - The 2016 election has been flooded with social media data tracking things like how many Facebook followers and Twitter mentions candidate receive. But a new study finds that, while tracking Twitter data can lead to insight on "temporal dynamics of public attention toward politics." it cannot accurately predict support for a party or candidate. The study collected Twitter data over a 3-month period before the 2013 German federal election to see if there was any correlation with polls or the final outcome of the election. The study found that Twitter activity across all metrics was "largely driven by public attention to politics" and argues that studies that have found a correlation between Twitter-based metrics and political support were most likely coincidental. [Social Science Computer Review]

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

-Americans' views of Russia have improved modestly since 2015. [Gallup]

-The Public Religion Research Institute takes an in-depth look at support for LGBT non-discrimination laws. [PRRI]

- Half of GOP voters think Trump's proposals are unrealistic, but it hasn't detracted from his support. [WashPost]

-David Wasserman argues that Ted Cruz's candidacy faces a long term math problem. [538]

-Nate Cohn thinks delegate math is a problem for all three mainstream GOP candidates. [NYT]

-Chris Cillizza explains why superdelegates won't be enough to save Hillary Clinton from Bernie Sanders. [WashPost]

-Research organizations are among those who filed a brief against the FCC calling its phone regulations "illogical and unworkable." [MRA]

-Someone is message testing attacks against Bernie Sanders in Nevada. [ABC]

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