Arguably, the election results that will get the least attention today involve the hand recount underway in New Hampshire at the request of Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich. The results of the recount so far, as posted by the New Hampshire Secretary of State, show some minor discrepancies but nothing that would explain pre-election surveys over the final weekend of the campaign showing Barack Obama running ahead of Hillary Clinton.
In most cases, the minor glitches appear to involve uncounted write-in votes or minor clerical errors. As the Union Leaderreported yesterday:
The widest variations so far were in Manchester's Ward 5. Vote counters there mistakenly transposed write-in votes for vice president as votes for presidential candidate. As a result, all major candidates lost votes. Kucinich lost three in the ward and has a total of 20 votes there. Hillary Clinton lost 64 with a new total of 619; John Edwards lost 38 and has 217 votes; Barack Obama lost 39 and has 365, and Bill Richardson lost seven, leaving him 39.
For those interested, Salon's Farhad Manjoo has a nice review of the various fraud theories and the evidence (or lack thereof) behind them. One possibly overlooked point is that New Hampshire uses no touchscreen voting machines. Every ballot cast there was cast on paper, although as Manjoo reports, four out of five of the ballots were counted with optical scan equipment: "The machines that read the ballots and the computers that count the ballots and report the results are made by a company notorious for shoddy practices: Diebold."
Those who have raised questions about the count have pointed to vote returns showing Barack Obama doing better in the minority of mostly rural precincts that counted the votes by hand, while Clinton did better where votes were counted by Diebold machines. The most likely explanation, as Manjoo puts it: "Those places simply vote differently." See his article for the details, or the analysis of past vote results by the Washington Post's Jennifer Agiesta and Jon Cohen.
What about exit poll results cited by Chris Matthews showing Obama ahead? The problem is that the numbers that Matthews saw were likely based on a "composite" estimate that melds exit poll tallies and pre-election polls. It would not be surprising if those results showed an advantage for Obama (I blogged about that issue on Election Day well before any results were available).
I had no access to the "end of day" exit poll tallies available to the network decision desks, but Manjoo went directly to the source:
Daniel Merkle, who heads ABC News' "decision desk" -- which was getting the exact same exit polling data that folks at NBC were getting -- told me that the numbers he was receiving during Election Day did not show a certain Obama win. Merkle said the data indicated "a very close race on the Democratic side," and "that's what it ended up being."
"It was within a couple points," Merkle said. "When we're seeing an exit poll within a couple points, that's a close race." The exit poll numbers, he added, were a "surprise" compared to pre-election polls. "The exit poll was not showing an 8- to 10-point Obama lead. It was showing a close race."
Manjoo's piece is well worth reading in full, but he closes with a point made so well that I want to quote it in full:
Last night I had a long discussion with Brad Friedman, who runs the election-reform news Web site Brad Blog. Over and over, he said, "My biggest concern here is that 80 percent of the vote is uncounted by any human being." His request is simple and straightforward: "Why not count the damn votes?"
He's right. Why not count the votes?
And thanks to Kucinich, that's what will likely happen now. It will probably take some time; weeks, if not months. But soon, we'll know what happened.
But as many voting-reform experts have argued, manually counting the votes should be a routine in any race. There are logistical reasons why it would be impractical to hand count every vote in every election. But if we're going to use machines -- optical-scan machines that use paper ballots, that is; touch-screen machines everywhere ought to be burned -- we should, at least, conduct a randomized, accountant-approved audit of ballots.
In other words, after every election, officials should randomly count some number of ballots to double-check the machines' results. It is amazing that this is not a standard procedure across the country; it is a disgrace that election officials aren't rushing to implement such procedures now.
I couldn't agree more. Exit polls are extremely useful to those of us that want to understand who voted and the meaning of election outcomes, but they are a terrible way to verify the vote count. Random, hand-count audits coupled with optical scan voting would help raise everyone's confidence in the integrity of our elections. Without regular, independent, random audits, these perennial conspiracy theories will continue.
MSNBC is starting to report entrance poll results for Nevada (which are now posted on their website for Democrats and Republicans-- CNN also has entrance poll results here, CBS also has the results for Dems and Reps). MSNBC correspondent Nora O'Donnell just characterized the results as follows:
O'Donnell: We can characterize the voting right now on the Democratic side as a significant lead in the initial preference poll for Hillary Clinton, with Barack Obama in second place. Now it is important to remember that there are nine caucus sites inside the casinos...that are not included in our entrance poll.
Andrea Mitchell: And those are the areas of concentration for Barack Obama
O'Donnell: ...and the Culinary Worker's Union.
How much those missing precincts might affect the result, I cannot say. Keep in mind also that the entrance poll measures initial preference. The actual results are based on the second round of voting after candidates who receive less than 15% of the vote in a caucus location move to a second choice.
Update (6:07pm): The South Carolina Republican exit poll tabulations will be available when the polls close (at the following links) from MSNBC, CNN and CBS.
Update II (1/20): According to the entrance poll analysis from ABC News, those nine-caucus sites inside the casino's had a negligible impact:
The entrance poll excluded the at-large caucuses held in nine Las Vegas casinos, making the results not fully representative of all caucus-goers. However, turnout at these nine caucuses amounted to only about 2 percent of total turnout statewide, so the noncoverage had minimal impact on the entrance poll results.
An update on yesterday's post on the ongoing investigation by the New Hampshire Attorney General into a message testing survey allegedly conducted by Moore Information. The article I linked to asserted that Moore had "decided to cooperate" with the investigation and "agreed to turn over business records" in connection with the case. I inferred that this might mean disclosure of the identity of their client, but either the article or my inference (or both) were incorrect.
Bob Moore, president of the firm, left a comment this morning on my previous post challenging the facts of the AHN story:
The story is not accurate. Moore Information has not agreed to appear as a witness or provide documents. The subpoena was issued over our objections reserving our rights to further challenge the subpoena.
Moore Information also emailed a statement indicating that while they have provided "cooperation," they continue to challenge the applicability of the New Hampshire "push polling" law to their work:
Since this was not a push poll and since relevant statutes do not apply to the Presidential Primary Election, we believe it is appropriate to maintain the confidentiality of our client, a usual practice among opinion research firms.
See the full text of the statement after the jump.
South Carolina is looking quite interesting for the Republicans. There has been a decent amount of polling since Iowa, with Huckabee getting a brief bounce but subsequently subsiding a bit, while McCain has gained since the first of the year. There is little evidence that Romney benefited significantly from his Michigan win. Fred Thompson has risen a bit, based on the sensitive estimator, but still trails in fourth place.
If we try to pick these data apart a bit, the sensitive red estimator is trying hard to fit Huckabee's varying fortunes. His December rise, and Iowa bump are picked up, but if those were real then so is the decline we see to his current level of about 22%. Whether he has been trending up down, or flat depends on how wide your view of the polling is. The blue estimator has the longest run view, and still see's him improving over his showing in 2007, but that was ages ago politically. The sensitive red estimator is showing a downturn since Iowa, but if you squint hard and ignore the earliest post Iowa polls you might believe you can still see some rise in the last week or 10 days. But do note the bottom line: the two different trend estimates still put his current support at between 21.6% and 23.3%. So while they disagree on immediate trends, the end up close to the same bottom line.
For McCain, there is little dispute that he has surged since early December when he was in the low-teens to somewhere in the mid-to-upper 20s today. The sensitive estimator thinks the rate of climb since Iowa has been more rapid that does the blue estimator, but again both put his support between 26.9% and 29.3%.
One big question in South Carolina is whether conservative criticism of both Huckabee and McCain is having any effect. If Thompson is benefiting from that, his polls only modestly show it. The sensitive estimate suggests a rise from about 10% to about 14%, but there is no polling evidence for a surge that would allow him to compete for first place.
Finally, Romney's Michigan win seemed to help him in Nevada (based only on 3 polls, I should add) but there is no evidence of a bounce in South Carolina. After spending Wednesday and part of Thursday in the state, Romney appeared to concede the race and moved on the Nevada to campaign, where his chances look better. The Romney trends are also in complete agreement: No substantial trend, and both agree on 16%.
One big warning here. South Carolina has shown suprising numbers of undecided. The Fox poll today, for example, has an unbelievable 19% undecided. That is HUGE. And, if you add up the trend estimates for the four top candidates here, you get... 81% leaving the same 19% unallocated. In Fox's poll, less than 10% pick Paul, Giuliani or Hunter combined, so there is a gigantic amount of room for those last minute deciders to break one way or the other.
With a history of under-the-radar negative campaigning in the state, and evidence of the same this year, it would be surprising if we don't see some important shifts here at the end.
In New Hampshire and Michigan, those late shifts have benefited the first place finisher disproportionately.
This chart is an attempt to illustrate the variation in the polling over the past week. (A comment raised some good questions about it, so let me try to explain it better.) The horizontal axis is the current sensitive trend estimate for each of the top four candidates. The vertical axis is the actual poll results since the Michigan primary. The point is that the sensitive trend puts the order as McCain, Huckabee, Romney and Thompson. But the vertical spread of the points for each candidate shows how much variation we've see from poll to poll. While most of the McCain polls are higher than most of the Huckabee polls, there is some overlap. Likewise most of Huckabee's results are higher than Romney. But Romney and Thompson show considerable overlap. The less the overlap, the more reasonable it is to believe the separation between candidate trends is reliable, and the more overlap the greater the uncertainty. If all the polls showed exactly what the trend estimate shows, then the points would all be on the diagonal line, and there would be no disagreement at all. The fact that most of McCain's polls are below the 45 degree line shows that he has been trending up, while Huckabee's points are mostly above the diagonal, consistent with his recent downward trend. Romney and Thompson are about equally above and below the diagonal, showing little trend over the last eight polls since Michigan.
But the simple point is that the more spread you see vertically, the more uncertainty. And the more overlap between pairs of candidates, the more uncertainty.
For me, that 19% undecided in the Fox poll is scary. And fun!
The Nevada caucuses are upon us, but the polling is scant. As the graphs make clear, we have only four polls since New Years, so the trend estimates here should be taken with more than the usual grain of salt. With just 4 polls, the sensitive red estimator is going to try hard to come close to all the polls, making Clinton and Edwards look like they are experiencing huge trends. Obama's four polls are more clustered, so the red trend is a little better behaved, but still tries hard to find a trend when there truly isn't enough data to support one.
Also, there was no Nevada polling between December 3 and this week, so we have NO IDEA what happened during that time. Both trends are fit to all the data (including polls in 2007 not shown in the plots.) So the blue line is the best conservative guess given all the data in 2007 plus the four polls in 2008. The red line sensitive estimator is, in this case, I think hopeless.
If you force me to choose, I'd take blue in this case. With so little data, you want to be conservative. But you can see the poll-to-poll variation is large for Clinton and Edwards. Perhaps a lot has been changing this week, but you can't be sure it isn't just pollster variation.
And one more caution: as a caucus with very low expected turnout, polling Nevada is at least as perilous as Iowa, if not more so.
For the Republicans, we have only three polls taken this week. The only good news here (statistically speaking) is that McCain, Huckabee and Thompson are all tightly clustered without the large variation we saw for the Dems. Romney, on the other hand, shows a big gap between the first poll, completed BEFORE his win in Michigan and the two polls taken since then. Looks like a bump.
The lack of wild variation lets both trends come closer to the polls, but again just three polls is a ridiculously small number to base much on. I'd stay conservative with Blue here.
Ironic that where uncertainty is intrinsically great because of low turnout and the importance of organization that we also have magnified that uncertainty with so few polls. Makes it hard to be an odds-maker in Nevada.
If you were paying any attention to political news over the last few day, you have no doubt heard of Common Sense Issues, the group that has, according to the New York Times ,
begun making what it said were a million calls to households in South Carolina telling voters, according to one of the calls, that [John] McCain has "voted to use unborn babies in medical research."
"We hope to call 546,000 households in Nevada on behalf of Huckabee," said Patrick Davis, the executive director of Common Sense Issues, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Want to hear one of the calls? Here, via Ambinder, is audio (and video) of one of their calls as captured by a recipient:
Is this a so-called "push poll," an attempt to communicate an negative message under the false guise of a survey? Of course it is. But that's not the way Davis sees it, according to the Washington Post:
[Davis] questioned why McCain is characterizing the phone drive as an attempt to engage in push polling...Davis said the 45-second calls use a special technology that provides a different automated message, depending on how the recipient answers questions.
Moreover, Davis said, "A strict push poll is delivering not-truthful information. Everything we say is factual and backed up.
The Review-Journal adds:
Davis said the calls made by his group should not be called push polls because questions are asked of those called.
"A human voice is recorded asking the questions," he said. "You respond with your voice. How you respond dictates the next question. We are gathering information.
What a crock. The recipients that receive these calls are told they are participating in a survey, not a promotional message. Davis may have the high tech cover of asking questions, but the clear intent is to communicate negative messages. Check their web site's About Page. The expressed purpose of Common Sense Values is "educating and informing citizens in an in-depth manner about public policy issues." They say nothing about gathering data or measuring public opinion. They dress up their calls as "surveys" to add false credibility. Would the recipients stay on the phone if told they were about to be "educated and informed?" "Common sense" tells you they would not. The guise of a survey is a sham.
If you don't believe me, ask my colleague Nancy Mathiowetz, president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR):
Asking questions does not make it a survey. These calls are clearly a fraud that harm the survey research profession.
Interests disclosed: I am able to report a reaction from Mathiowetz because I am spending the day in a meeting fulfilling my duties as a member of AAPOR's Executive Council (so blogging will be light). AAPOR has a full statement condemning the so-called "push-polls" which groups like Common Sense Values conduct, and Mathiowetz devoted a HuffingtonPost blog to the subject a few weeks ago.
We may soon know** the identify of the client that hired Moore information to conduct a message testing survey that included negative questions about Mitt Romney and the Mormon religion, according to a report from AHN:
Concord, NH (AHN) - A pollster in New Hampshire has decided to cooperate with the state's attorney general in connection with allegations that a survey it conducted in November 2007 was biased against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
Moore Information agreed to turn over business records to Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte on Thursday, the same day a court hearing on the case was scheduled, according to the Concord Monitor.
The company was previously subpoenaed by Ayotte after it refused to disclose who had hired it to conduct what were allegedly push polls that violated state law.
The records will be examined during a closed grand jury proceeding in Carroll County. The jury will then decide if charges will be made against the company.
The report does not make clear whether the New Hampshire Attorney General can or will make public the identity of Moore's client.
**UPDATE: Either the facts of the AHN story, or my inferences from it were incorrect. Moore president Bob Moore left the following comment below:
The story is not accurate. Moore Information has not agreed to appear as a witness or provide documents. The subpoena was issued over our objections reserving our rights to further challenge the subpoena.
Moore information also sent a full statement that I have posted here.
The recent Pew poll of Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters nationwide finally provides us with some crosstabs of the Democratic presidential primary of gender by other demographic variables. We can now observe what I hypothesized last week from exit polls-the gender gap in the Clinton vs. Obama race can be substantially explained by other demographic variables. Age, socioeconomic status, and ideology may be driving the Democratic primary more than gender.
Overall, the Pew study shows that among Democrats, Clinton has a larger lead over Obama with women (+21) than she does with men (+5). The gender gap, defined as the gender difference in support for the winning candidate, is 8 points. The demographic breakouts are in the table below. (Pew surveyed 1515 adults, including 621 Democrats. We have no additional subgroup size information, nor have we performed significance testing.)
The gender gap almost disappears with older voters. Clinton has nearly the same large lead with older women (+26) as with older men (+21). However, among younger voters, she leads with women (+17) but trails with men (-9).
Socioeconomic status is a larger cleavage. The race is exactly the same with women in households earning over $50,000 as with their male cohorts (41% Clinton, 36% Obama). Clinton trails with college educated voters, regardless of gender (women: -3; men: -11).
But the most dramatic gender difference is along ideological fault lines. Obama leads with liberal women (+5 Obama), but trails with liberal men (+15 Clinton). Clinton has a strong lead with non-liberal women (+37 Clinton), but ties with non-liberal men.
These data suggest a few possibilities. First, ideology, socioeconomic status, and age are likely all more important drivers of the vote than gender. Second, there appears to be an interaction with ideology and gender. Of all the demographic groups of women examined, Obama does best with liberal women, and worst with non-liberal women.
This is not to say that the issue of Clinton's gender isn't important. But its importance is external; voters say others may respond differently to Clinton's gender. The same Pew study also shows more Democrats say Clinton's gender will hurt her if she is the nominee (34%) than say Obama's race will hurt him (29%). Similarly, more Democrats say Obama's race has not been a factor so far (57%) than say the same about Clinton's gender (38%).
I have been arguing this point here for a while. While the press continues to assume voters view Clinton through the lens of their own gender, perhaps it is the press's own lens that is clouded. At a minimum, we should recognize that gender patterns in the Democratic primary are more nuanced than the simplistic "Women Support Hillary" frame.
Given McCain's losses in Michigan and Iowa, his one New Hampshire victory is hardly a reason to believe he is an emerging consensus. But the trends in polling across the nation and nine early states points to McCain as the unique candidate in the Republican field who has been strongly rising across all states. Further, his rise is not a "bump" from an early win: the rise predates the primaries, a crucial point.
While McCain does not lead in all these states (and has now lost two of three) his polls now put him in the competitive range in each of these states.
The most striking and compelling feature of the chart is the simultaneous upturn across all states, especially following the long term decline in McCain's support over most of 2007. Why McCain, and why then?
Part of the answer must be the fall of Rudy Giuliani in the fourth quarter of 2007.
After leading in national polls throughout the first three quarters, Giuliani's support took a sharp turn downward in the late fall, closely associated with the timing of the indictment November 8th of his long time friend, partner and associate, Bernard Kerik. (I also think failing to compete in early primaries, and then doing quite badly, is a contributing recent cause of Giuliani's decline. Late win strategies do not have a good track record... ask John Connally.)
McCain's rise comes after Giuliani's decline begins. Given that both candidates appeal more to moderate and somewhat conservative Republicans (as opposed to the conservative base of the party) it is likely that these voters turned from Giuliani and found McCain the most attractive among the remainder of the field.
McCain also shares with Giuliani the advantage of perceived "electability". As Giuliani's fortunes fell, McCain emerged as the candidate Republicans see as having the best chance of defeating any Democrat in November. In primaries, perceived viability is an important asset.
We can also see support for McCain surge in favorability ratings among Republicans. In the Diageo/Hotline national poll taken January 10-12, McCain scores a remarkably high 78% favorable rating among Republicans (with 31% very favorable). Giuliani is at 67% (with only 15% very favorable), Mitt Romney at 55% and Mike Huckabee at 53%. Granted this poll's timing reflects the New Hampshire win and not the Michigan loss, these are still notably high ratings for a candidate who has often alienated important elements of the Republican party.
McCain led the vote choice among Republican primary voters in the Diageo/Hotline survey by 32% to Huckabee's 17% and Romney's 15%. (McCain also lead in the Pew poll 1/9-13 by 29%-20% over Huckabee, and in Gallup/USAToday by 33%-19%. Again, none of these reflect Michigan's impact.)
On electability, McCain was rated most likely to defeat the Democrat by 42% to 17% for Giuliani in the Pew poll. That reversed the result from Pew's November survey that had Giuliani most likely to win by 45% to 16% for McCain.
Among Republican primary voters, more also see McCain as most likely to win the Republican nomination, regardless of their own preference. Diageo/Hotline has McCain with 82% saying likely to win, 25% very likely and 57% somewhat likely. Compare Huckabee at 56% (6%/50%), Romney 53% (6%/47%) and Giuliani 45% (7%/38%).
Also surprising, given McCain's testy relations with so many Republican groups, is the relatively small number who would refuse to vote for him. McCain suffers only 9% of Republicans who would never vote for him in the Pew poll. Huckabee is at 8%, Giuliani at 15% and Romney at a devastating 20%.
Since his nadir in November, McCain has achieved a remarkable recovery among Republican voters. Perceptions of him have changed substantially in the last three months, both in favorability and in electability as well as in support. And those changes are reflected across all of these states and the national polling as well. That is hard to argue with.
But perhaps we still should argue a bit. There are two things that may yet halt the McCain victory. One is the opposition of important organized groups within the Republican party. While the rank and file may have come over to McCain, those groups bitterly opposed to campaign finance reform remain adamant in their opposition, and they wield great influence among party elites as well as some grass roots organizations. The second barrier is the calendar which looks to pit McCain against Huckabee in South Carolina on Saturday. (Romney has apparently conceded South Carolina in favor of a Nevada effort. Fred Thompson has yet to rise in South Carolina polling despite a surprisingly animated debate performance.) South Carolina was McCain's Waterloo in 2000, and its large religious base should be Huckabee's best shot at a win since Iowa. A McCain win can spur his campaign on, but a loss can shake the progress he's made with voter perceptions of his support within the party. (I should add a third threat: McCain's mouth. The "straight talk" he prizes has gotten him in trouble before, and can again.)
A McCain nomination will certainly shake many powerful elements of the party. Whether they can prevent that depends in part on the development of a common choice among the alternatives to McCain. Romney remains anathema to 20% of Republicans. Huckabee is opposed by economic conservatives. Thompson has failed to emerge, and Giuliani has other problems. So while many Republican groups despise John McCain, it is not clear they can unite in embracing one of the alternatives who has also proven attractive to voters.
The candidate profile most like McCain's is Huckabee's. His sharp rise in November and December was similar in appearance, covering a number of states and national polls. But Huckabee's rise stalled in most states and has taken a fall generally since mid-December. His poor third place finishes in New Hampshire and Michigan dampened any Iowa momentum, and he must now win South Carolina based on overwhelming support among conservative Christians to remain in competition. He probably couldn't have a better state to try to pick up that win, but it is a make or break opportunity.
Romney's win in Michigan was a life preserver, but not necessarily a life saver. The Romney decision to concede South Carolina must be bitter given the substantial spending he committed to the state. It is also proof that he has failed to overcome opposition from Christian evangelicals who remain very reluctant to embrace a candidate of the Mormon faith.
Still, Romney's poll profile is at least generally upward sloping. It lacks the amazing coherence of McCain's (or even Huckabee's.) One can still imagine Romney picking up wins in the trench warfare of February 5th, and making the delegate count a serious battle after. But he does not appear to have unified his support across a variety of states.
And Fred Thompson remains the disappointment of the year. In paper qualifications, both in office holding and in ideology, Thompson's campaign came from central casting. But the actor failed to grow into the role. Here the uniformity of polling is a uniform decline across all states since the peak, just before the official announcement in September.
So when we survey the Republican field, only one trend stands out unambiguously and uniformly across states: McCain's rise and emergence as the only candidate doing better and better almost everywhere.
In July I said a McCain recovery would be a miracle of Biblical proportions. Now I've seen, yet I still find it hard to believe.
(Darker points are polls taken closer to primary date, lighter points were taken earlier. All polls were completed after the New Hampshire primary.)
The Republican primary polls for Michigan did better than those for New Hampshire, but generally underestimated support for Mitt Romney. Only one poll got both Romney and McCain's vote within the five point error ring.
All three polls completed on January 14th, the day before the primary, got McCain's vote within a small error, but the Romney errors ranged from small to quite large for these last polls. Earlier polling was generally further from the final vote, suggesting that a trend to Romney was partially captured by the late polls, but only imperfectly.
For the second and third place finishers, the polls were quite good for McCain vs. Huckabee, with all three final polls inside the five-ring and all eight polls inside the 10 ring.
The pattern of underestimating the winner's percentage while doing quite well on the 2nd and 3rd place finishers suggests that much of the undecided category in the surveys eventually went to Romney, boosting his total beyond the support registered in the poll, while barely adding to the 2nd and 3rd place totals.
One of the theories about what went wrong for the polls in New Hampshire is that the apparent post-Iowa "bounce" for Barack Obama never really occurred. Perhaps the surge for Obama was just the artifact of some sort of sampling or other methodological distortion that created the false impression that some New Hampshire voters were moving to Obama (or away from Clinton) in the wake of the Iowa Caucuses. While it certainly does not resolve the New Hampshire mystery, there is one piece of forensic evidence on this point that most of us have overlooked: The "panel back" survey of New Hampshire Democrats conducted by CBS News.
Unlike the other pollsters, who contacted fresh samples of New Hampshire households over the final weekend, CBS did something different. They re-contacted 417 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters they had already previously interviewed in November, and were able to re-interview 323. This design, which pollsters typically call a "panel back," allows for an examination of individual change. In other words, instead of comparing the aggregate results of two totally separate samplings, the CBS pollsters were able to look for changed opinion among individual respondents.
The CBS panel-back study, completed on the Saturday and Sunday before the New Hampshire primary, found a large individual-level shift from Clinton to Obama (and Edwards), but virtually no shift away from Obama:
26% of likely Democratic primary voters have changed their preference since November. [...]
The New York Senator lost almost one in five of her November voters to Obama, and 10% of her voters have gone to Edwards. Obama, meanwhile, has kept 95% of the individual voters he had in November.
Those shifting preferences helped move the race, as measured by the two CBS surveys, from a 20-point Clinton lead over Obama in November (39% to 19% among those later re-interivewed) to a seven-point Obama advantage (35% to 28%) over the final weekend.
But that's not all. The design of this survey also provides the only data I am aware of to test another theory: Were Clinton supporters, having grown "dispirited" and "disillusioned by her decline in Iowa," simply "undercounted" by the pollsters, as political scientists Bob Erikson and Chris Wlezien theorize here on Pollster.com.
One check would be the response rate, as reported by CBS polling director Kathy Frankovic in her latest column:
The January response rate for the November Obama and Clinton voters was nearly the same, 74 percent for November Obama supporters and 68 percent for November Clinton voters.
But what about a likely voter screen? CBS polling analyst Anthony Salvanto emailed me to add that 71% of Obama's November supporters responded to the second survey and said they were still "definitely" or "probably" planning to vote in the Democratic primary, as compared to 64% of the Clinton's November supporters.
Were these differences statistically significant? Ah, there's the rub. The sample sizes involved are small and lack the statistical power to determine if the differences in response and intent to vote were real. Extrapolating from the November data suggests that CBS had to re-contact roughly 154 Clinton supporters and 92 Obama supporters from November. The margin of sampling error around each subgroup is in the +/- 8-10% range. So neither difference above is statistically significant (for the statistically fluent: I get p-values in the.20 to .30 range, though your mileage may vary).
Of course, significant or not, CBS did use the response variation in weighting their January data, although they saw "little" change in the Clinton-Obama margin as a result:
Before publication of the results, we adjusted (“post-stratified”) the results to account for that small difference in response by previous candidate preference (which is normally done in panel surveys). Correcting for that small difference in response changed little.
My own back-of-the-envelope estimate is that their non-response adjustment added maybe a point to Clinton's support and took a point away from Obama. Either way, their weighted result still showed Obama leading by seven percentage points (35% to 28%), and their individual level data showed a significant shift away from Clinton. Thus, individual-level shifts in opinion, rather than an enthusiasm gap, explained virtually all of the Obama weekend "surge" on this survey.
Kathy Frankovic's column also uses the same response rate data to question at least one interpretation of the so-called Bradley-Wilder theory:
The theory is that the respondent (white or black) might not want an interviewer to think they aren’t voting for a black candidate. They might think the interviewer will take offense, or believe the respondent to be racist.
Taken to its extreme, this theory predicts that respondents who think they have socially unacceptable opinions -- or situationally unpopular opinions -- simply won’t answer a questionnaire.
As Frankovic points out, "the theory would predict that those not voting for Barack Obama would be less likely to complete an interview." However, as the data above indicate, Obama supporters were just as likely to complete an interview as Clinton supporters, if not more so.
PS: If you like the notion of "panel-back" surveys, you will have more to chew over soon, as the Gallup Organization is apparently calling back respondents to its final New Hampshire survey. Susan Page, whose beat includes the Gallup polls sponsored by USA Today, made the following comment on MSNBC's Tim Russert Show this past Sunday (my transcript):
Page: I think it's going to be some time before we know [what happened in NH]. We're going back in the field to reinterview the people we interviewed in our poll that had [Obama] up thirteen points to ask who changed their mind, who didn't go to vote who said they were going to vote, maybe who did go to vote who told us there weren't going to vote who made it through our likely voter screen.
Russert: Are you going to publish that?
Page: Oh absolutely. We want to know why the poll was off, and we don't want to repeat the error.
I am assuming that other New Hampshire pollsters may have similar re-conctact studies in the works.
** 68% of voters in the Republican primary identified as Republican; a quarter said they were independents and 7% said they were Democrats.... (in 2000, only 45% said they were Republican)..
** 44% say they decided in the final week
These results are based on early exit poll tabulations which may be weighted heavily to what exit pollsters call the "prior estimate" -- in essence the average of the vote preference as measured by pre-election polls. As actual results become available in each sample precinct, they will adjust the results to bring the exit poll vote estimate (that we cannot yet see) into line with the actual count within the sampled precincts. In other words, be careful, these results may change.
The exit poll tabulations for the Republicans and Democrats should appear at the links in this sentence on MSNBC.com shortly after the poll close. I'm going to be offline for a few hours, but feel free to add your thoughts to the comments.
Back to the final polls in New Hampshire. One of the statements I have heard from some pundits over the last few days is that pollsters stopped calling on Sunday. While that was true for most of the organizations that conducted surveys over the final weekend, there were four pollsters that continued calling through Monday. Unfortunately, the results they reported do not show a consistent pattern, although the real story may be a bit more complicated.
All four were doing "rolling average" tracking, so their final release used data collected over the preceding two or thee days. If voter preferences changed radically on Monday those changes would only affect one third or half of their data. However, a comparison of their last two releases should give a good indication of whether the Monday night interviews showed Obama's lead expanding or declining, especially since all four showed Obama gaining over the weekend.
As the table below shows, the results are mixed. Two pollsters -- American Research Group (ARG) and Rasmussen Reports -- showed a slightly narrower Obama lead in their final release, but two pollsters -- Suffolk University and Zogby -- showed the Obama lead growing. None of the final shifts were big enough to be statistically significant, so if we take these results at face value, we are left with a picture of essentially random variation.
But can we take all of these results at face value?
Consider that on its six releases, the three-day rolling average Zogby tracking reported Obama's support steadily gaining. Their first track (finished just before the Iowa Caucus results were known) showed Clinton leading by six points (32% to 26%). Successive releases had that lead narrowing to four points, then to one point, then showed Obama suddenly leading by 10 points and then by 13 points (42% to 29%).
The big momentum behind Democrat Barack Obama, a senator from Illinois who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination, continued up to the last hours before voters head to the polls to cast ballots in the New Hampshire primary election, a new Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby daily tracking poll shows.
Yet the next day, in a release titled, "What Happened," John Zogby reports the following:
My polling showed Clinton doing well on the late Sunday night and all day Monday – she was in a 2-point race in that portion of the polling. But since our methods call for a three-day rolling average, we had to legitimately factor the huge Obama numbers on Friday and Saturday – thus his 12 point average lead. Unfortunately, one day or a day–and–a–half does not make a trend and we ran out of time.
So on Tuesday Zogby tells us of Obama momentum that "continued up to the last hours." On Wednesday he says the momentum ran out on Sunday afternoon. Some would see a contradiction there. Rather than focusing on the verbiage, let's focus on the numbers. Perhaps my mathematically inclined readers can come up with a realistic set of hypothetical single day results (and half day results for early and late Sunday) that can reconcile Mr. Zogby's data reported on Monday and Tuesday with his comments on Wednesday. I cannot.
I know, from personal experience, that Mr. Zogby gets very angry about suggestions that the remarkable last minute surge he was willing to report on the eve of the 2004 New Hampshire primary ("For Kerry the dam burst after 5PM on Monday") represents a last minute "correction" intended to bring his results into line with those of other pollsters.
While I assume he will be similarly unhappy about this piece, he has an easy remedy: Release the one-day results (and part-day Sunday results) used to calculate his rolling-averages. Each daily sample should exceed 250 interviews (more than some complete surveys we have reported in recent months). If nothing else, the day-by-day results will further our understanding of what happened in New Hampshire. And if the single-day results are consistent with both the previously reported data and Mr. Zogby's post election claims, I will happily apologize for any implication to the contrary.
On a related note, the Suffolk University survey, the one that also showed Obama's lead continuing to expand in interviews conducted on Sunday and Monday night, provided full cross-tabulations for all of their data releases (these are still online - see the links in the left column of the Suffolk web site). While the Suffolk University pollsters do not break out single-day results, they do provide the demographic and regional composition of each days' sample. Their sample composition in terms of age, gender and region showed only trivial variation over the last 3 to 4 releases -- certainly nothing that would explain away the continuing improvement in the Obama margin in their final tabulations. For what it's worth, the Suffolk poll featured the largest "undecided" percentage and the smallest sample sizes of the four pollsters that continued to call on Monday.
Finally, the Rasmussen Reports result is also intriguing, because their final release added 571 interviews conducted on Monday to to 1,203 conducted on Saturday and Sunday. As such, we can do a rough extrapolation, which shows Obama leading by only a point (35% to 34%, but there is much room for rounding error here) in the Rasmussen interviews conducted Monday night. Rasmussen hinted at this result in his own post-mortem but did not release single night numbers. For the Rasmussen data, at least, the numbers add up.
PS: Robert Wright, in an election day email that Mickey Kaus blogged earlier toay, noticed a similar pattern in the final CNN/WMUR/UNH release that added 258 interviews of likely Democratic primary voters conducted Sunday night to the 341 gathered on Saturday and early Sunday that they had released previously. The Obama margin narrowed by a single percentage point, neither statistically significant difference nor enough to enable a meaningful extrapolation, though it is consistent with both the direction of the final Rasmussen and ARG releases.
(Today's Guest Pollster contribution comes Professor Helmut Norpoth of Stony Brook University).
New Hampshire voters may mystify pollsters and pundits, but they have acquired an uncanny sense of picking candidates that go on to the White House. Whatever accounts for Hillary Clinton's surprising showing in her party's primary in New Hampshire, that victory makes her the best bet for Democrats to win the general election in November; likewise, John McCain's victory in the Republican primary in New Hampshire makes him the best hope for the GOP to retain the White House in November. These predictions are derived from a forecast model I developed that uses primary performance as the sole short-term predictor of the vote in the general election (the "Primary Model"). I have applied the model, with slight modifications, in the last three presidential elections, in which it correctly predicted the winners of the popular vote several months before Election Day. (See my 2004 paper in PS: Political Science & Politics). A race between the two New Hampshire winners, so the forecast, would be a nail-biter, with Clinton edging McCain by a margin of just a single percentage point of the two-party vote.
The use of primary elections to predict the outcome of the vote in the general election has some compelling advantages. One, it puts the estimation of a forecast model on a firm footing by letting us use elections all the way back to 1912, when presidential primaries were inaugurated. Two, it makes it possible to include both incumbent and opposition candidates in the model; granted, the incumbent candidate's performance may prove more powerful, but the effect of the out-party's primary showing is not negligible. And finally, the use of primaries as a predictor permits an unconditional forecast of the November vote at a very early moment. No ifs and buts. If one is willing to go with the outcome of the New Hampshire Primary, one can do it right now. The only uncertainty that remains is which of the match-ups will result from the nomination process. Chances are we may not have wait until the national conventions.
To measure primary performance in a standard format that allows for comparison across elections with varying numbers of candidates, I use an equivalent of the two-party vote in general elections. A candidate's primary showing is expressed as his or her vote relative to that of the winner (or in case of the winner in relation to the second strongest candidate). For incumbent-party candidates, the measure is adjusted, depending on whether they are sitting presidents or not. Moreover, the New Hampshire Primary is used only since 1952, when the state switched to a presidential-preference type of primary; prior to 1952, the model relies on the vote in all primaries.
Even though primary performance is the key, giving the model its name, the Primary Model also enlists a cyclical pattern of the presidential vote: the tenure of a party in the White House typically lasts between two to three terms. A compelling explanation for that dynamic is the term limit in presidential elections. Except for FDR, American presidents have eschewed running for more than two terms; and have been barred from doing so since then. The rule guarantees that incumbent presidents are missing from those contests in some periodic fashion, as is the case in 2008. In many such instances the absence of a sitting president with a high degree of popularity may improve the chances of the opposition party of capturing the White House. Given his high approval rating, Bill Clinton's ineligibility in 2000 probably hurt the Democratic prospects that year, although the absence of a much less popular George W. Bush in 2008 may be a blessing for the GOP. In any event, elections without a sitting president in the race tend to favor the opposition party more than elections with an incumbent running for another term. The Primary Model handles this dynamic by way of an autoregressive process (the presidential vote in the two previous general elections). In addition, given the use elections as far back as 1912, the model applies an adjustment for pre-1932 long-term partisanship.
From 1912 to 2004, the out-of-sample forecasts of the Primary Model pick the winner of the popular vote in 23 of the 23 elections, with 1960 being the only exception (and yes, that record includes Gore's popular vote win in 2004). The prediction equation for the presidential vote in 2008 (expressed as the Democratic share of the major-party vote) is:
where RPRIM and DPRIM represent the primary support of the Republican (incumbent party) and Democratic (opposition party) nominees for President, capped within a 30-70 percent range, and Vote04 and Vote00 the Democratic vote shares in 2004 (48.8%) and 2000 (50.3%). The measure for the Republican candidate is inverted (-1) because the Democratic vote is used as the dependent variable. The formula produces the following forecasts of match-ups between the leading contenders in either parties (the vote for each match-up being the Democratic percentage of the two-party vote):
The PRIMARY MODEL predicts that in a race of New Hampshire Primary winners, Democrat Hillary Clinton would narrowly defeat Republican John McCain in the November general election (50.5 to 49.5 percent of the two-party vote). The predicted margin of victory, however, is so small that the confidence attached to this forecast is less than 60 percent, given the size of the forecast standard error (2.5). In match-ups between the Republican primary winner and Democratic primary losers, McCain would end up in a virtual tie with Barack Obama (49.9 to 50.1 percent) while defeating John Edwards (52.1 to 47.9 percent) by a margin close to one unit of the forecast standard error (2.6). At the same time, in match-ups between the Democratic primary winner and Republican primary losers, Clinton would dispatch Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Rudolph Giuliani by margins way beyond that error range. Finally, in match-ups between primary losers, both Obama and Edwards would beat any of the Republicans, and quite handily so in most cases.
That is no sign of partisan bias. Rather, it has to do with the Model assigning more weight to the primary performance of incumbent-party candidates than to the performance of out-party candidates. Nominating a primary loser, or even a candidate with a lackluster primary showing, costs the incumbent party more dearly than it does the out-party. Candidates not listed in the forecast table would do no better than the weakest one in their respective parties.
My colleagues at AAPOR have just put out this release:
In the wake of the New Hampshire pre-election polls, the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) today announced the formation of an ad hoc committee to evaluate pre-election primary poll methodology and the sponsorship of a public forum on the issue.
"Pre-election polls have a long-running record of being remarkably accurate," said AAPOR President Nancy Mathiowetz. "Sixty years ago the public opinion profession faced a crisis related to the poll predictions of the Truman-Dewey race. The way survey researchers reacted then – with a quick, public effort to identify the causes – played a key role in restoring public confidence and improving research methodology."
The work of the ad hoc committee will be twofold: (1) To review and assist in the dissemination of the evaluations currently being conducted by the individual polling organizations who were engaged in polling prior to the New Hampshire primary; and (2) to request and archive the data related to the New Hampshire primary for future scholarly research.
As has become obvious over the last few weeks, we have no shortage of theories of what happened in New Hampshire. What we lack, and what AAPOR is stepping forward to provide, is an effort to collect, archive and evaluate the relevant data and make it available through a public forum. Hopefully, this effort -- like the one in 1948 -- will provide that function.
One interesting new wrinkle on the latest USA Today/Gallup survey. Editor in chief Frank Newport tells us on his Gallup Guru blog that, starting with this survey, Gallup will regularly sample cell phones:
[A]s of Jan. 1, 2008, Gallup has made the decision to include cell phone interviewing as part of the sample used for its general population studies.
This is a complex and costly modification in methodology. Our statisticians and methodologists have spent a great deal of time reviewing the procedures and implications of the change. Essentially, in addition to sampling from the traditional database of all landline telephone exchanges, Gallup now also adds in sampling from a new database of all cell phone telephone exchanges in the country. We screen for those individuals using cell phones who report not having a landline, and then interview a random sample thereof. We then weigh into the sample a proportionate percentage of these interviews conducted via cell phone.
For now, at least, this change is not likely to produce dramatic differences in the results. The ongoing cell phone surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center have shown that the missing cell-phone-only population rarely makes a difference of more than a point or two. But that point or two may sometimes make a difference, especially in a close race. Consider last week's Gallup poll in New Hampshire. USA Today polling editor Jim Norman let us know, via email, that they included a cell-phone sample on that survey:
[I]t added a point to Obama's total and took one away from Clinton. In other words, without the cell-phone-only respondents, Obama's lead among likely voters was 11, not 13.
The bigger significance in this change is symbolic. Gallup is the granddaddy of all polling firms. Their polling "time series" goes back to the 1930s. As such, they are typically the most cautious about changes in methodology, so their move to regular cell-phone sampling is likely to have a big ripple effect on the polling industry. At very least, this most closely watched poll will provide a regular source of data on the potential impact of the cell-phone-only households that will be missing from other surveys.
Norman also sent a long the actual text of questions used to identify and screen for cell-phone-only households. I have posted it after the jump.
One interesting footnote to the angst over New Hampshire: After email and comments on what went wrong in the Granite State, the question I've received most often over the last week is, "why so few polls in Nevada?"
Today, after a draught of more than a month, we finally have a new survey from Nevada, and will likely see another survey or two by week's end. Keep in mind that our inherently conservative trend estimator will try to essentially split the difference between the new results and the old trend.
But the answer to "why so few polls" in Nevada is something I tackled back in November. The problem is the exceptionally low turnout in past Nevada caucuses, which leaves pollsters guessing about turnout this time. Even optimistic turnout projections leave pollsters attempting to select and model a very small "likely caucus goer" universe (raising all the challenges of polling Iowa, and then some). Here are the critical statistics, as blogged in November:
In 2004, Nevada held traditional caucuses in mid-February that drew an estimate 9,000 participants (according to the Rhodes Cook Letter). That amounts to roughly one half of one percent (0.5%) of the state's voting age population at that time.
Of course, Nevada is switching to a party-run primary (the main difference being far fewer polling places). The states of Michigan and New Mexico have used a similar system, that produces a higher turnout than traditional caucuses (outside Iowa) typically get, but not much higher. The 2004 Democratic turnout, as a percentage of the voting age population, was 2.2% in Michigan and 7.3% in New Mexico (both events occurred a week before Nevada but a week after the New Hampshire primary).
So who turns out this time is anyone's guess.
So, while we will have survey results for Nevada, take them with the larger than usual grain of salt.
Michigan for the Republicans is a critical test for Mitt Romney. After two "silvers" in Iowa and New Hampshire (and a mini-gold in Wyoming which got little attention or credit) Romney badly needs a win in his original home state. With a win, Romney can become the third winning Republican going into the Nevada and South Carolina events this weekend.
But John McCain also needs a Michigan win. Coming back from the dead to win New Hampshire was a huge achievement for McCain, but he needs to prove he is for real outside of his best state from 2000. That year he also won Michigan, thanks in large part to Democratic cross-over votes. This year Democrats are again free to cross over for McCain, thanks both to open primary rules and the fubar Michigan Democratic primary stripped of all meaning by breaking party rules to move ahead in the voting. With no meaningful Democratic vote, those Dems who supported McCain eight years ago are again free to do so this time. Whether or not that happens is just one more nightmare problem for pollsters: how many Democrats will in fact vote in the Republican primary?
And Mike Huckabee could certainly use a strong finish to show that Iowa wasn't his first and last hurrah.
The numbers look not so good for Huckabee. There is the barest hint of a post Iowa bump for him. Rather his gains in November and December seem to be all the rise he's gotten in Michigan. Since Iowa, Huckabee's poll support in fact seems to be falling, as captured by the sensitive red estimator (but not the slow-to-change blue line.) Whether blue at 17% or red at 14%, Huckabee looks likely to be a distant third in Michigan.
McCain and Romney on the other hand are neck and neck and the polling variation is so large there is no way to declare either a leader. Romney has the slightest of leads in the sensitive estimator at 26.1% to McCain's 25.6%, but that difference is meaningless given the spread in polling. McCain has clearly picked up considerable support since Iowa and New Hampshire, but so has Romney. McCain appears to be gaining more rapidly but with so little time since New Hampshire it is impossible to get a reliable estimate of the rate of gain in the last 5 days.
The bottom right panel of the chart shows clearly how uncertain the top two spots in Michigan are. The blue Romney dots mix in with the red McCain dots, overlapping so much that there is clearly no reason to think one is ahead of the other. Even some Huckabee results are within the range of Romney and McCain support.
Most of Huckabee's higher polls are older, and his recent downward trend means that more of his polls are above his current trend estimate. For Romney and McCain, the polls are evenly scattered above and below trend.
Republicans have plenty of reason to turn out Tuesday. They can help make or break the candidacies of McCain or Romney. Those pesky independents and Democrats remain the huge unknown. See Mark Blumenthal's analysis of the recent polling and how many Democrats are included in the various samples for a good look at how squishy that number is.
Two notes about the final round of surveys now available for Michigan.
First, on the Democratic side, please note that we decided to stop updating our chart, since the last round of polls reports a very different trial-heat question than Michigan pollsters had been using previously. The earlier polls asked questions that included all of the Democratic candidates. However, the names of Barack Obama and John Edwards will not appear on the ballot that Democrats will use in Michigan on Tuesday, though voters will have the option to support an "uncommitted" slate of candidates. As such, our chart page for the Democratic contest in Michigan reports the most recent polls in a table at the top of the page, but does not include the new results in the chart.
Second, on the Republican side, we have something of a puzzle. Most have the Romney-McCain margin well within the margin of sampling error, although one (MClatchy/MSNBC) gives Romney a statistically significant eight-point lead while another (ARG) shows McCain with a significant seven-point lead. Needless to say, both cannot be right. Given the conflicting results, and the 39% that say they "could still change their minds" on the McClatchy/MSNBC poll, the outcome is still clearly in doubt.
I agree with many of our commenters that differences in the likely voter "models" -- and particularly the degree to which they include independent leaning voters -- probably explains much of the variation. MIchigan's primary is open. Eight years ago, when there was no contest on the Democratic side and John McCain defeated George W. Bush among an electorate swelled with independents and Democrats. The network exit poll showed 48% identifying as Republicans, 35% as independents and 17% as Democrats (Michigan has no party registration).
Here is what we know: According to the Zogby release, "Republicans made up about 51% of the sample, Democrats 22% and independents 27%." However, Republicans made up 70% of the respondents on the McClatchy/MSNBC/Mason-Dixon sample (and Democrats only 5%), 73% of respondents on the ARG survey, and 75% of the respondents on the automated Mitchell Interactive survey. The Rasmussen story does not report the party results, but the Republican percentage appears to be approximately 70%, given their crosstabulations showing Romney winning twice the support among Republicans (31%) as he gets from independents (16%). The Free Press story on the Free Press/Local4/Selzer survey says only that "relatively few Democratic voters plan to vote in the Republican primary," although it confirms the pattern present in the other polls:
Independent voters in the Michigan Poll favored McCain over Romney by 5 percentage points. But Romney holds an 11-point edge among self-identified Republicans.
Age may be another factor. Both the Free Press and Rasmussen surveys show Romney doing far better among older voters. The Free Press shows Romney winning the support of 33% of Republicans over 55 years of age but only 9% of those under 35. On the other hand, the McClatchy/MSNBC/Mason-Dixon survey -- the only one to report age composition data (45% of their respondents were 18-50) -- shows only a slight difference in Romney's support between those over (32%) and under (28%) 50 years of age.
When the results are in, we will learn yet another lesson on the perils of primary polling.
Does the world need one more explanation for the historic failure of the polls to predict Hillary Clinton's victory in the New Hampshire primary? We offer another possible account. Ours does not require unusual last-minute voter shifts in preference, voters lying to pollsters, or any disconnect between the campaign story line in the media and voter decision-making voters.
We suggest as the possible culprit the way pollsters' employ their likely voter screens. Pollsters may have been tricked not by voters shifting their candidate preferences but by a rapid shift in enthusiasm by Clinton supporters at the last minute. It may be that significant numbers of Clinton supporters were uninclined to vote at the time when the pollsters were doing their final interviews but then regained their interest just in time to vote. In short, the surge to Clinton could have been simply due to uncounted Clinton supporters who the pollsters dismissed as unlikely voters regaining their interest in voting.
According to most accounts, the late Clinton gains stemmed from sympathy for Hillary after her rough treatment in the media, Hillary's response to the questioning of her likeability in the final debate, and her tears on election eve. But how did this response come about? Was it due to truly undecided voters with their blank slates turning overwhelmingly to Hillary? Exit polls show no evidence of this. And it is unlikely that voters tuning in late would see the flow of the news moving in Hillary's direction. It is the idea that late-deciders could have done so that is so jarring to media watchers.
If late-deciders did not split for Hillary, maybe it was Obama supporters changing their minds? But it is even more implausible that voters who followed the campaign and settled on Obama as their choice would follow the late news and see a reason to vote for Hillary. Once people "make up their minds" in a campaign they rarely change and then only for seemingly good reasons. Did Obama supporters have reason to shift? Would the internal dialog of massive numbers of voters be: "I support Obama because he is such an exciting candidate...No wait, Hillary just shed a tear so I'll vote for her instead"?
Rather than voters deciding late for Hillary or shifting late to Hillary, we posit that her proportion of eligible voters in the New Hampshire primary was fairly steady in the final weeks. What changed was the enthusiasm of her supporters. It may be that Hillary supporters followed the news and became disillusioned by her decline in Iowa, her loss of momentum, and the general negative arc of her campaign. They were watching and they were responding to the media's storyline. Their response was not to shift to another candidate but to become dispirited. If interviewed by pollsters, their lessening enthusiasm placed them disproportionately in the "unlikely voter" column. Then, after the pollsters stopped calling, Hillary's supporters gained the enthusiasm necessary to motivate them to vote. This may be because Hillary showed her more human side late in the campaign or because it was her campaign was on the brink or for other less obvious reasons. The point is that the preferences of these voters were undercounted by pollsters. No unusual number of previously undecided voters or former Obama supporters is necessary to account for her late surge in the polls.**
Is our story true? We know that shifts in net enthusiasm from one candidate's supporters to the other's are more volatile than shifts in net preference. We also know that pollsters can be very sensitive to these shifts in enthusiasm when identifying likely voters. (See our paper from 2004 on "Likely Voters and the Assessment of Campaign Dynamics" in the Public Opinion Quarterly). Was it simply a very late shift in enthusiasm that caused the New Hampshire polls to go wrong?
Pollsters hold in their data banks the evidence that would tell if our conjecture is right or wrong. Our suspicion is that voter preferences among potential Democratic primary voters were more stable over the campaign's final weeks than generally realized. This shifting dynamic evident in the polls, we suggest, was exaggerated by daily shifts in enthusiasm that caused shifts in the composition of who gets counted as "likely voters." If likely voters first shifted against Hillary and then for, the shifting membership of the "unlikely voters" may have "surged" back and forth in the opposite way. It would be interesting to see if this was the case.
**Of course the pattern also could be explained by changes in enthusiasm among Obama supporters that mirrored what we have posited for Clinton supporter, flowing after the big victory in Iowa and then ebbing after the pollsters left the field.