HUFFPOLLSTER: How Sanders Stunned Pollsters In Michigan

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump still lead their parties in delegates, but Clinton’s loss in Michigan is a setback.
GEOFF ROBINS via Getty Images

Polls faced one of the biggest misses in the modern polling era in Michigan on Tuesday. Marco Rubio also had a really bad night. And national polls show Donald Trump might have a ceiling among GOP voters, but benefits from the divided electorate. This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, March 9, 2016.

POLLS SERIOUSLY MISFIRED IN MICHIGAN - HuffPollster: "After a run of relative successes, polls missed in a big way Tuesday in Michigan's Democratic primary. Surveys showed Hillary Clinton a heavy favorite in the state, with those conducted in March giving her margins of between 11 and 37 points over Sanders. HuffPost Pollster, which includes all publicly available polling, gave Clinton an 18-point lead. Instead, Sanders pulled off a narrow victory, marking what could be a historic polling misfire. What happened? It's too early to know for sure, but there are a number of things that could have gone wrong.”

Scarce polling and underestimated turnout - More from HuffPollster: "According to preliminary results, [Sanders] led by 7 points among the small fraction of voters who made up their minds last week, but trailed by 3 points among voters who decided prior to then. The other possibilities largely revolve around demographics: Either Sanders turned out groups that favored him in heavier numbers than expected, or he managed to do far better among some groups than the polls anticipated. Results suggest that Sanders, who struggled to make any inroads among black voters in the South, fared significantly better in Michigan. Exit polls show him winning 30 percent of the state's black vote, compared with just 10 percent in Mississippi. The pre-election polls also appear to have underestimated turnout among young voters, who overwhelmingly support Sanders. Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray, whose survey found Clinton 13 points ahead, attributed the miss to 'voter volatility' rather than an error in sampling. He noted that their poll showed an older, more heavily female electorate than the results suggested by exit polls." [HuffPost]

The results are a historic upset - Harry Enten: “Both the FiveThirtyEight polls-plus and polls-only forecast gave Clinton a greater than 99 percent chance of winning. That’s because polling averages for primaries, while inexact, are usually not 25 percentage points off. Indeed, my colleague Nate Silver went back and found that only one primary, the 1984 Democratic primary in New Hampshire, was even on the same scale as this upset. In that contest, the polling average had Walter Mondale beating Gary Hart by 17 percentage points, but it was Hart who won by a hair over 9 percentage points….The question I am asking myself now is whether this means the polls are off in other Midwest states that are holding open primaries. I’m talking specifically about Illinois and Ohio, both of which vote next Tuesday.” [538]

Sanders’ economic message might attract more voters in the Midwest - Philip Bump: Part of the problem may be the economic issues central to Michiganders' concerns. We noted a few weeks ago that the state has shed a ton of manufacturing jobs over the last 25 years, thanks in part to free-trade agreements like NAFTA. In exit polls, nearly six in 10 voters thought trade took away American jobs -- and nearly six in 10 of people who said that, backed Sanders. Those who thought trade created jobs were slightly more likely to back Clinton….This is an issue that's very important to Michigan -- but also to other Rust Belt states, including Ohio, which votes next week. It gets to the key distinction that Sanders has been hammering for months, that he will address economic insecurity and that Clinton won't. Trade in Michigan is a very specific iteration of that issue. But it's clearly a point of weakness for Clinton." [WashPost]

Sanders racks up delegates but has a steep road ahead - Jeff Stein: "Sanders's win in Michigan is good for him not just because he will pick up around half of the state's 130 delegates. It also suggests Sanders has a real shot at many of the delegate-rich states — like Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin — that lie ahead. Of course, Sanders continues to face steep obstacles to the nomination. Even with his strong Michigan showing, he actually probably fell even further behind on Tuesday to Clinton in the metric that matters most: the delegates who determine the nomination. The states in the Democratic primary aren't winner-take-all. Instead, the margin of victory is critical to racking up delegates, meaning a candidate needs a big margin in a state's popular vote to gain a significant margin in its available delegates. Because of Clinton's huge victories across the south, she had amassed a big enough delegate lead — around 200 delegates — that most experts think Sanders will be unable to overcome without landslide wins of his own." [Vox]

GOOD NIGHT FOR DONALD TRUMP; BAD NIGHT FOR MARCO RUBIO - Nate Cohn: “[T]he results on Tuesday suggest that Mr. Trump remains in a strong position, at least as long as the field remains divided. He carried Michigan and Mississippi by healthy margins and later won in Hawaii. His opposition did not become as strong as he might have feared after Ted Cruz’s performance on Saturday, either. The results look a lot more like the race we had on Super Tuesday: a double-digit advantage for Mr. Trump, who holds an edge in a three-way race, rather than the close race suggested by new national polls.” [NYT]

Rubio doesn’t seem to have a path forward - Nick Baumann: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who was once called "THE REPUBLICAN SAVIOR" on the cover of Time magazine, lost big Tuesday night. Rubio's been losing for a while. Even before Tuesday's results, Rubio had less than half of the delegates that the number-crunchers at FiveThirtyEight said he would need to be 'on track' for the Republican nomination. But Tuesday night, when he lost badly in Michigan and Mississippi, made clear that he's a dead man walking. Rubio looks likely to finish fourth in both Michigan and Mississippi, behind Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. After Tuesday, Trump will have more than a third of the delegates he needs to secure the nomination. Unless Trump or Ted Cruz ascends directly into heaven in the next week or so, Rubio, who received more endorsements from more important party leaders than anyone remaining in the GOP presidential primary, has no realistic path to winning a majority of the delegates before the Republican national convention in July. At this point, his best hope for the presidency is a brokered convention, in which he and another loser -- probably Cruz -- have enough delegates combined to surpass Trump. Even then, Rubio would likely have fewer delegates than whoever he made the deal with, and would probably have to accept the vice-presidential spot on the ticket." [HuffPost]

TRUMP TRAILS NATIONALLY IN ONE-ON-ONE PRIMARY MATCHUPS - Gary Langer: "Donald Trump’s facing a wall within his party, with Republicans who don’t currently support him far more apt to prefer Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio in a two-way race -- or even to favor a contested convention to block Trump’s nomination. Trump continues to lead in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, with 34 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents who are registered to vote saying they’d like to see him win the nomination. But he trails both Cruz and Rubio one-on-one. And preferences for Cruz, Rubio and John Kasich have grown as others have left the race, while Trump’s support has essentially remained unchanged for months….In hypothetical two-way matchups, Cruz leads Trump by 54-41 percent and Rubio leads Trump by 51-45 percent" [ABC]

The general electorate sees Trump as unpresidential - Scott Clement and Dan Balz: "[Hillary] Clinton enjoys significantly stronger support among Democrats than Trump does among Republicans. It is probable that more Republicans would rally behind their nominee by the time of the election, as has been customary in recent contests, but the strong opposition to his candidacy inside the party could make the task of unifying the GOP more difficult than usual….Clinton, Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) were also tested on a series of four candidate attributes. Trump scored the lowest of the four, although on several of the attributes no one looked particularly good….Just 27 percent of Americans rated Trump as honest and trustworthy. That compared with 37 percent for Clinton, 42 percent for Cruz and 47 percent for Rubio….By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans see Clinton as having the experience to serve in the Oval Office; by an almost 3-to-1 margin, Americans say Trump does not have the experience. On the issues of temperament and personality, 58 percent said Clinton has what it takes to serve effectively as president, while 25 percent think that of Trump." [WashPost]

REPUBLICANS PREFER DONALD TRUMP TO MITT ROMNEY - HuffPollster: "Mitt Romney, who won the Republican nomination in the 2012 election, is back in the news this campaign cycle, appearing on news programs to advocate against Donald Trump and robocalling voters on behalf of Trump's rivals. But Romney's star within the GOP has faded considerably since his presidential campaign, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. Just before the 2012 election, Romney's favorability rating among Republicans stood at 86 percent. But that number has sunk to 46 percent….Trump, by contrast, garners a relatively healthy 57 percent. Asked which man they'd prefer as president, Republicans choose Trump by a 5-point margin, giving him 44 percent to Romney's 39 percent."' [HuffPost]

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

-Christopher Federico, Christopher Johnston and Howard Lavine argue Trump's authoritarian-minded voters favor his "liberal" economic protectionism. [WashPost]

-Keith Gaddie and Kirby Goidel use an 18th century French mathematician's theory to argue that Donald Trump is a loser. [HuffPost]

-Toni Monkovic explains why Donald Trump has performed more poorly in mostly white states. [NYT]

-A survey of Senate Republicans finds most indicate ready to support Trump as the nominee. [WashPost]