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Why So Few Polls in Nevada? (Redux)

Topics: 2008 , Likely Voters , The 2008 Race

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.

 

Comments
Gary Kilbride:

Well, I plead guilty to never caucusing in Nevada, despite residency since the mid '80s. This year I was really looking forward to it (supporting Edwards) but I'll still be in Florida.

The Nevada caucus has always been even more obscure and irrelevant than those numbers indicate. The weekly specials at Von's received more attention. Besides, it always happens during the height of college basketball season and that's been the focus for myself and likeminded friends. :)

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Manio Dorcilorme:

I am delighted to see how politic can be dirty. I know what going on... I am in favor of any of the democrate leader. However Im still undecided downsouth florida.I am leaning toward Obama.
I would advise them to stop because hillary has been treated unfairly by the media, radio talk and by the obama camp. Everybody knows the Clinton, they are not racis, and they prove it. For me she was very clear Obama you know that. Advise your supporter to stop makinga political case out of hercomment. If not you are going to pay the price starting by me from florida. If you really want to be president you are going to need the Clintons to make it happen. John Kerry can not help you and you know it. I would advise Clinton the same thing. Let's move on do not let anybody to slit the party. Clinton did not say anything wrong about your candidacy, it is fair for everybody to know you. so let's move on.
If your camp keeg pushing hillary, I am going to vote for her and motivate many more to campain for her.

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Manio Dorcilorme:

I am delighted to see how politic can be dirty. I know what going on... I am in favor of any of the democrate leader. However Im still undecided downsouth florida.I am leaning toward Obama.
I would advise them to stop because hillary has been treated unfairly by the media, radio talk and by the obama camp. Everybody knows the Clinton, they are not racis, and they prove it. For me she was very clear Obama you know that. Advise your supporter to stop makinga political case out of hercomment. If not you are going to pay the price starting by me from florida. If you really want to be president you are going to need the Clintons to make it happen. John Kerry can not help you and you know it. I would advise Clinton the same thing. Let's move on do not let anybody to slit the party. Clinton did not say anything wrong about your candidacy, it is fair for everybody to know you. so let's move on.
If your camp keep pushing hillary, I am going to vote for her and motivate many more to campain for her.

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jd nelson:

Manio, It wasn't Obama's campaign or supporters. Some of Hillary's most vocal critics were her own supporters.
Clinton made some clumsy comments, and then tried to blame Obama for the backlash. Obama never even commented on Hillary's remarks until he was asked to comment on Sunday, after Hillary accused Obama of pushing the story. The race issue hurts Obama in the election, and that's why Hillary continued to antagonize Obama, and to falsely accuse Obama. Obama has purposefully tried not to make his campaign about race.

Obama didn't call the Clintons racist, he didn't encourage the media to pursue the issue, and Obama didn't do anything to justify Hillary's accusation of Obama "playing the race card". It was all just nasty politics from the Clintons.

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John Anderson:

Manio, JD, I agree that Hillary's remarks were not racist, but they were ill-advised because they allowed the media to bring up a race issue. Obama could help diffuse this and he should for the good of the party. But, on topic, we will have to get by in Nevada with fewer polls, but lets not lighten up on exit polling. Its one way to keep the process honest.

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Paul:

I have a somewhat related question for everyone on this blog? I now see why we aren't polling as much in NV but can anyone explain why the Republicans are practically ignoring it while the Democrats are salivating over it? I realise the Republicans have other fish to fry (MI and FL) but surely someone would put some attention here. It seems like prime Ron Paul country or McCain?? It almost seems like the media makes these decisions for the candidates - they hold Democratic debates in Las Vegas and they dictate Republican debates in Michigan and Florida etc. What gives??

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