Indiana Gov. Mike Pence did better than expected, according to early vice presidential debate polling. Voters who don’t like either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are starting to settle on the one they dislike less. And North Carolina is trending toward Clinton. This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, October 5, 2016.
CNN SNAP POLL SHOWS PENCE OUTPERFORMING KAINE IN VP DEBATE - Americans who watched the vice presidential debate gave a narrow edge to Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, with 48 percent saying that he won and 42 percent that Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine did a better job, according to CNN/ORC. Two thirds said that Pence did a better job than they had expected. Watchers largely viewed both men as qualified, with 70 percent saying Kaine could serve as president if needed, and 77 percent saying the same of Pence. Kaine was seen as the clear winner on defending his running mate, but trailed badly on likability and was perceived as spending more time on the attack.
Results aren’t representative of the entire electorate - The survey called back poll respondents who planned to watch the debate and agreed to be re-interviewed afterwards. As we noted after the first presidential debate: The results are a step up from focus groups and online ‘reader polls,’ in that they’re making an effort to be representative of the audience that watched the debate, rather than merely recording the opinions of whomever happens to be around to talk on TV or click on a button. Still, there are plenty of reasons to take them with a grain of salt. Polls that rush into the field will, by necessity, make some tradeoffs to do so. And to the extent that debates matter ― which they often don’t ― their impact depends in large part on how they’re covered after the fact. All of that goes quadruple for the vice presidential debate, which is likely to draw a far smaller audience and to have considerably less impact on the sliver of viewers who have yet to make up their minds. Even among those polled, the majority said it would not affect their vote. [CNN results]
Prior to the debate, neither vice presidential candidate was well-known - Janie Velencia: “As Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) head into the vice presidential debate on Tuesday night, polls reveal that voters don’t know enough to have much of an opinion of either candidate. According to the HuffPost Pollster favorable rating chart, Pence has a net positive rating of 6 percent, with a 37/31 percent favorable/unfavorable score. A significant number of voters ― 32 percent― are undecided on how they feel about him. Clinton’s running mate is in a similar position. Polls show Kaine with a net favorable rating of just over 1 percent. His favorable/unfavorable rating sits at about 32/30 percent.” [HuffPost]
UNDECIDEDS MIGHT NOT BE THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE ELECTORATE - Mark Blumenthal: “You may have read or heard that “the Undecided Voter is a myth, or at least, that the ranks of the undecided are so small that they are not the most important group in the election. Both arguments are largely true…. [T]he relatively small size of the “undecided” category masks much more uncertainty among voters who have a preference between Clinton and Trump, but are not happy with either, and are weighing whether to vote for a third party candidate or perhaps not vote at all. These conflicted voters are crucial targets for the two campaigns…. Although the candidates’ negative ratings are unusually high, the vast majority (76 percent) like one and dislike the other. More specifically, 40 percent rate Clinton favorably and Trump unfavorably, while 36 percent rate Trump favorably and Clinton unfavorably. Consistent with the change in the individual ratings, the size of each group has ticked up two percentage points over the past two weeks. In other words, as the campaign progresses, some voters with misgivings are warming up to their preferred candidate…. To be more specific, among those who dislike Clinton less than Trump (who rate Trump strongly unfavorable, but Clinton only somewhat unfavorable), support for Clinton has increased from 60 to 67 percent over the past two weeks. Among those who dislike Trump less intensely than they dislike Clinton, Trump’s vote has increased from 61 to 65 percent.” [HuffPost]
Most partisans are voting with their party, as usual
CLINTON IS IMPROVING IN NORTH CAROLINA - Nate Silver: “One particular area of concern for Trump is North Carolina, where the polls we added on Tuesday were the fourth and fifth since the debate to show Clinton ahead there. They also had favorable trend lines for Clinton, with SurveyUSA showing her with a 2-point lead rather than a 4-point deficit in their early August poll, and Elon University showing her up by 6, instead of down by 1 point in their mid-September poll. North Carolina is not a state where you want to be trailing in the polls in October, hoping for a late comeback. That’s because it typically has high rates of early and absentee voting. In 2012, for example, about 60 percent of ballots in North Carolina were cast before Election Day. Absentee voting is already underway there, while in-person early voting begins on Oct. 20…. [I]t’s a little different than most of the other swing states. Its mix of voters — a combination of college-educated whites (and college students) in Charlotte and the Research Triangle, African-Americans, and often very conservative white evangelicals elsewhere in the state — is distinctive.” 
The HuffPost Pollster chart shows Clinton leading by 2.6 points.
WHY POLLS SHOW DIFFERENT RESULTS - Keith Naughton: “Trump rising, Trump falling. Clinton up, Clinton down. The mass of conflicting polls can be maddening and provokes the question: Why can’t the pollsters agree? The simple answer is that polling is not an exact science. Even though the media outlets who sponsor many of the polls like to present them as the definitive state of the race, the fact is that there is a lot of guesswork involved and plenty of room for error. The fundamental problem for the pollsters is figuring out just who is going to come out to vote. While voting is a habit and patterns are durable over time, small changes can mean a lot in a close race and each presidential election has its own dynamic that will interest some voters and turn off others…. In tight elections, small differences mean a lot. In the 2012 election white non-Hispanic vote turnout dropped from 66% to 64% while African-American turnout increased from 65% to 66% — those small changes were enough to tilt the race to President Obama. This election is similarly close and that means small variations in turnout models can easily flip a Clinton lead into a Trump lead.” [Daily Caller]
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WEDNESDAY’S ‘OUTLIERS’ - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
-A Time/SurveyMonkey poll finds that most women, but not most men, are scared by the election. [Time]
-Michael C. Bender looks at Hillary Clinton’s support among older voters. [WSJ]
-Cary Funk and Brian Kennedy delve into the politics of climate issues. [Pew]
-Jennifer Cyr and Carlos Meléndez explain why Colombia’s recent referendum may have had an unexpected outcome. [WashPost]
-A fifth of Americans eat pizza at least weekly. [SSRS]