The polls might have missed in Iowa, but they were right on in New Hampshire: Businessman Donald Trump has won the Republican primary, and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has won on the Democratic side, just as the polls projected.
HuffPost Pollster’s averages showed Trump up by 16 points, with 67 percent of precincts reporting that he was leading by 18 percent. The averages showed Sanders up by 14 points, with two-thirds of precincts reporting he held a 21-point lead.
The close race for second place in the Republican primary seems to be settling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has about 16 percent of the vote. But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) look to all finish in double-digits.
Rubio is notably underperforming his polling numbers, which had him averaging nearly 15 percent. His poor showing in Saturday’s debate could have factored into his underperformance -- exit polls showed that 56 percent of GOP voters said the debates were one of several important factors in determining their vote.
Pollsters had warned all week that New Hampshire could surprise everyone, but those cautions seem to have been largely unnecessary. The state’s electorate certainly could have offered surprises, with estimates of up to half of voters undecided going into Tuesday’s voting.
So what’s different between the apparent poll failure in Iowa, and the success just over a week later in New Hampshire? In part it’s because the format of a primary is more stable than the caucus. Unlike in the caucuses, where voters have the opportunity to be swayed by their fellow community members, primaries are traditional elections with secret ballots. The propensity for voters to change their minds at the last minute -- although still high -- is lower than in a caucus situation.
Additionally, the primary format makes turning out to vote easier for the voters -- in a caucus, they all have to show up at the caucus site at the same time and be there for as long as the caucus process takes. That means lower turnout, which is more difficult to predict. The Iowa caucuses had just under 16 percent turnout among the voting-eligible population, whereas the New Hampshire primaries are projected to have nearly 45 percent turnout.
It’s also important to note that Sanders and Trump held much stronger leads in the New Hampshire pre-primary polls than Trump and Clinton did in the Iowa polls. No one had come close to challenging Trump in the state since late June. Sanders passed Clinton in the HuffPost Pollster average in late August, and although the race remained fairly close through the end of the year, Sanders never lost his lead. It would have been a huge upset for Sanders or Trump to lose.
Every state and every primary or caucus is a new event, though, so just as we warned not to assume polls would be inaccurate based on Iowa, don’t assume polls will be accurate from now on based on New Hampshire.
Also on HuffPost: