HUFFPOLLSTER: What To Watch For In Tuesday's North Carolina Primary

Republican senatorial candidates Greg Brannon, left, and Thom Tillis shake hands as Mark Harris and Heather Grant, right, loo
Republican senatorial candidates Greg Brannon, left, and Thom Tillis shake hands as Mark Harris and Heather Grant, right, look on following a televised debate at UNC-TV in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Monday, April 28, 2014. (AP Photo/ Pool)

It's primary night in three states, but North Carolina could offer the best gauge of the Tea Party's strength. Election modelers from the New York Times and Washington Post explain why their Senate forecasts differ. And who wants to poll a millionaire? This is HuffPollster for Tuesday, May 6, 2014.

THREE STATES HOLD PRIMARIES - Tuesday marks the primary election in Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio. Of the three, by far the most closely watched has been North Carolina's, where a crowded field of Republicans are competing to challenge vulnerable Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)

Heading into election night, the top candidate is State Rep. Thom Tillis, considered the favorite of the GOP establishment. The three most recent polls on the race -- two from the Democratic firm PPP, and one by SurveyUSA for the conservative Civitas Institute, show Tillis surging ahead of the pack, but hovering near the 40 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff. HuffPost Pollster's average, relying largely on those those data points, puts Tillis just above that level.

Nate Cohn has more thoughts on the polling: "It is not easy to poll primary contests, since only a sliver of registered voters will participate. Voters who will never participate in a party primary may tell a pollster that they will, potentially distorting the results. And in a low-turnout election, even slight changes in the numbers of voters can significantly alter the composition of the electorate….Rather than taking a random sample of households, SurveyUSA selected its sample from a list of registered voters who cast a Republican ballot in either the 2010 or 2012 Republican primaries. [SurveyUSA] also said that it conducted live interviews with respondents who weren’t reachable on a home telephone, suggesting that it did reach people who have only a mobile phone.Those methodological choices should have helped narrow SurveyUSA’s sample to something more reminiscent of the Republican primary electorate. That makes it more likely that Mr. Tillis really does have about 40 percent support, but it certainly doesn’t make it clear whether Mr. Tillis will avoid a runoff, especially given low turnout." [NYT]

More on the North Carolina primary

-Eric Ostermeier looks at the history of North Carolina's Senate primaries. [Smart Politics]

-Mark Binker lists five questions the North Carolina primary could answer. [WRAL]

-Jon Bernstein explains why the North Carolina primary matters. [Bloomberg]

More contested GOP primaries than Democratic ones - Elaine Kamarck: "As we saw last month when we wrote about the first primaries of this season, (Illinois and Texas), the conventional wisdom that Democrats are less internally conflicted than Republicans seems to have been borne out in today’s states as well. As the chart below indicates, Republican incumbents are more likely to draw a challenger than are Democratic incumbents. In addition, the Tea Party remains a force to be reckoned with within the Republican Party. Even though they have not had any high profile wins so far, the very fact that Tea Party supporters actually run in Republican primaries guarantees that Republican incumbents next year will continue looking over their right shoulder as they make decisions on policy." [Brookings]

Reassessing the Tea Party candidates - Sean Trende: "As with 2010 and 2012, there are a fair number of 'Tea Party' challenges to Republican incumbents and establishment primary favorites. Today we see if establishment favorite Thom Tillis can clear the 40 percent benchmark in North Carolina and avoid a Senate runoff. Next Tuesday insurgent Senate candidate Ben Sasse will try to clinch the nomination in Nebraska. Primaries the following week in Kentucky and Georgia will test establishment moxie, while June will see key races in Iowa, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Analysts are already preparing to declare the Tea Party dead or, in the alternative, to write the inevitable 'Republicans pull defeat from the jaws of victory' storyline….The Republican Party establishment and its more conservative base have been at varying degrees of conflict for over a half century….Lost in much of the shouting about the Tea Party is the fact that it really has had significant successes….Let’s also remember that the 2012 elections weren’t just a Tea Party failure. The GOP establishment got its preferred candidates in Senate races in Montana, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin. They all lost….[T]he track record of these candidates is far more complicated than the conventional wisdom would suggest, and it would be a mistake to write off any Tea Party primary victors (assuming there are any) immediately as the next Sharron Angle." [RCP]

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TWO FORECASTS DIFFER ON WHETHER SENATE IS A TOSSUP OR LEANING GOP - The NYT's Nate Cohn, Josh Katz and Amanda Cox compare their model to the Washington Post: "John Sides, Ben Highton and Eric McGhee of The Monkey Cage have started Election Lab, a Senate forecasting model at The Washington Post. Their model gives Republicans more than an 80 percent chance of retaking the Senate; that’s much more than the 54 percent chance that Leo, The Upshot’s Senate model, gives the G.O.P….Some of the biggest discrepancies are in less obviously competitive races, where The Post tends to give Republicans a far greater chance of victory…The Post is also more optimistic about the G.O.P.'s chances in New Hampshire...[and] Iowa...Leo and The Post also take different approaches in dealing with races in which the primaries have yet to take place. Instead of incorporating information about the candidates who are running and estimating each candidate’s odds of winning the nomination, the Post model assumes that a candidate of 'typical' quality will emerge." [NYT]

WashPost's John Sides responds: "There is a rough consensus that the GOP is likely to gain Senate seats, but no necessary consensus on whether they will gain enough to control a Senate majority. Our current forecast gives the Republicans a higher likelihood of taking the Senate (82 percent) than does The Upshot’s (54 percent)....In terms of the differences between the models, four main things stand out to me: Leo is based on elections from 1992-2012, while Election Lab is based on 1980-2012….Leo includes approval ratings for incumbent Senators....Leo includes fundraising. We’ll be adding this to Election Lab soon — for both the House and Senate….Leo includes polls. We’ll be adding this as well….So, in short, most of the discrepancies between these two models won’t persist. Indeed, to the extent that these and any other models rely increasingly on a polling average as the election approaches, they’ll be generating similar Senate forecasts. This is one reason why the 2012 presidential election forecasts that relied mostly or entirely on polls — 538, Votamatic, Princeton Election Consortium, Pollster — were all saying the same thing by the end of the campaign." [WashPost]

MILLIONAIRES SEE INEQUALITY AS A 'MAJOR PROBLEM' - Robert Frank: "CNBC's first-ever Millionaire Survey reveals that 51 percent of American millionaires believe inequality is a 'major problem' for the U.S., and nearly two-thirds support higher taxes on the wealthy and a higher minimum wage as ways to narrow the wealth gap. The findings show that—far from being a purely self-interested voting bloc—American millionaires have complicated views when it comes to the wealth gap and opportunity in America. They are unashamed of their own wealth and attribute their success to hard work, smart investing and savings. They also believe that anyone in America can get wealthy if they work hard.
Yet millionaires also believe that cultural and family issues prevent many Americans from climbing the wealth ladder. They advocate improved education, higher taxes on the wealthy and better savings incentives for the poor and middle class as important changes that would reduce inequality." [CNBC]

How did CNBC survey millionaires? Frank: "The CNBC Millionaire Survey polled 514 people with investable assets of $1 million or more, which represents the top 8 percent of American households. The respondents came from around the country and were split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents." Via email, CNBC adds further detail: "The CNBC Millionaire Survey is an exclusive semi-annual summary of the investment attitudes and behaviors of investors with $1 million or more of investable assets. The survey of 514 people was conducted by Spectrem Group, the leading research provider in the wealth management marketplace, in March 2014, utilizing a panel representative of the affluent population in the United States...respondents qualified for the survey based on their aggregate household investable assets as indicated by a series of survey questions about their investments. Respondents also had to be the financial decision maker or share jointly in financial decision making within the household. Respondents reside in a variety of regions, states and areas of the United States providing a representative geographic sample across the country." Neither the Spectrem Group website nor the details disclosed by CNBC explain how the company recruits its panel. [Spectrem.com]

Why worry about 'elite' opinion? - Political scientist Larry Bartels (writing in early April): "[P]olitical scientists are belatedly turning more systematic attention to the political impact of wealth, and their findings should reshape how we think about American democracy. A forthcoming article in Perspectives on Politics by (my former colleague) Martin Gilens and (my sometime collaborator) Benjamin Page marks a notable step in that process. Drawing on the same extensive evidence employed by Gilens in his landmark book 'Affluence and Influence,' Gilens and Page analyze 1,779 policy outcomes over a period of more than 20 years. They conclude that 'economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.'" [WashPost]

LITTLE CHANGE IN SUPPORT FOR DEATH PENALTY - Emily Swanson: "Americans claim they don't want those condemned to death to suffer needlessly, but recent news of painfully botched lethal injections has not shaken their support for the death penalty, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows. Sixty-five percent of Americans -- including 82 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats -- said they support the death penalty for people convicted of murder. A January HuffPost/YouGov poll similarly found that 62 percent of Americans favor the death penalty. " [HuffPost]

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

-CNN finds Jeb Bush edging up in a 2016 GOP primary poll. [CNN]

-The Supreme Court's popularity rebounds. [Pew]

-Economic confidence, as measured by Gallup, remained unchanged in April. [Gallup]

-Americans are outliers in their views on climate change. [NYTimes]

-Democrats are divided on the Keystone pipeline. [Pew Research]

-A Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll shows Americans "evenly split" on the Affordable Care Act. [CSMonitor]

-An internal poll for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) doesn't include ballot tests, but shows her well-liked. [POS]

-Harry Enten notes that even a "virtual tie" on the generic U.S. House vote puts Republicans ahead of where they were in 2010. [538]

-Kyle Kondik assembles 10 maps that explain the structure of 2014 politics. [Politico]

-Scott Clement and Aaron Blake expect no change in Obamacare's popularity anytime soon. [WashPost]

-Charlie Cook says 2014 analysis should focus on fundamentals like the election map. [National Journal]

-Aaron Blake counts seven different leaders so far in polling for the 2016 GOP nomination. [WashPost]

-Jonathan Bernstein ponders the Republican 2016 polling muddle. [Bloomberg]

-More than 10 million Americans changed their response to the race and Hispanic origin questions on the U.S. Census between 2000 and 2010. [Pew Research]

-More than half of journalists now identify as political independents, while just 7 percent say they're Republicans. [WashPost]

-Lori Weigel breaks down the demographics of the rising tide of Americans with tattoos. [POS]