The media has created quite the campaign for Donald Trump, genuinely free of charge, and has done a remarkable job of giving Trump more credit than is due. Certainly, he’s been the front-runner in the primary race thus far, but how much of the popular vote is he really getting, based on pre-primary standing? Is he, indeed, outperforming himself as the media touts, or are the actual daily polling projections off-base and giving him more of an edge than he actually has? Is he just a couple of states away from securing the campaign nomination, and those against him should just accept the inevitable? Let’s look at a couple of charts:
This first chart we’re going to view is the Huffington Post 2016 National Republican Primary poll. This shows the averages taken from national opinion polls of voters, updated on a daily basis or whenever a new predictive poll is released. As you can see, potential voters polled showed an increasing enthusiasm for Trump from early June, which eventually plateaued around September, and began to rise steadily from November, on. The support poll for Trump capped off at around 36.4 percent February 1st, when the Republican Party Primary began, and has continued to surge to a present-day figure of 43%, as of March 2nd.
Those concerned about Trump’s support surge can take a look at this average of all polls released and be worried. Trump’s support seems to be surging as the primaries move forward, heads and tails above the other candidates combined. In fact, as shown on Feb. 1st of this graph, support for the three remaining candidates, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich, did not even equal the total percentage of Trump support. One could say that, nationally, Trump could go up against any one of these candidates with the combined support and still win out, according to these charts and graphs. But, does this really reflect what is actually happening when people get out and vote?
Well, let’s look at the actual numbers, by week:
This chart shows what really matters: the actual vote. While one can look up at the fancy Huffington Post model, which averages out hundreds of polls from multiple sources, it shows the predictions, and not the reality. This above chart, I plugged in the actual percentage of the vote that was awarded by week/primary (or caucus). The actual breakdown shows Trump starting out at 24.3 on February 1st (a 12.1 point difference in Huffington Posts poll), and currently, Trump is sitting at 34.5 percent of the actual vote (an 8.5 point difference). Actual delegate allocation doesn’t match the Huffington Post poll, nor does it follow predictions moving into the upcoming primary.
So, where does this Huffington Post data come from?
Well, besides the obvious – 308 polls from 35 pollsters, as cited – this comes from an outdated polling technology and analytics that have been giving voters bad data since the 2012 Presidential election. If we can all remember that far back (and I really hope we can), many of the political pollsters (including the Gallup poll) had Mitt Romney winning the 2012, up to the very last vote that was cast. The final projection was Romney winning by 1 point. However, as we all know, Obama took the election by 4 points, with almost 2/3 of the electoral vote. One new to the game pollster, Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, correctly predicted the winner to be Obama.
Similarly, many political pollsters were caught off guard in the mid-term elections, failing to predict the late surge of Republican seats gained around the country. One would think the analytics would be examined with 2 swings and a miss in two consecutive national votes. One would believe that the predictive models and polling data wouldn’t be pushed so soundly into the daily forefront of our lives if the model seemed to be broken – especially considering a small sprinkling of other pollsters were hitting the mark more often with their own analytics and technology. One. Would. Believe. But, here we are again, in another important election cycle, with clearly off-the-mark polling that is being sold to the American people.
Even fivethirtyeight.com is consistently missing the mark this year, handing Trump far more wins than he’s garnered thus far.
One thing is certain: regardless of what Donald Trump thinks about his own support, the country doesn’t seem to want him, specifically. In fact, given the actual percentages of cumulative support, Republican Primary voters overwhelmingly (2:1 at this point) want someone OTHER than Trump. His popularity among voters grew throughout the weeks, but actually fell in the largest single primary day thus far. The real damage here, though, is that the collective “other” isn’t running against Trump. In the end, there will be only 1, not a collective. Unfortunately, the “other” has all but created a necessity for these 3 candidates (Cruz, Rubio and Kasich) to remain in the race to keep a majority of delegates from being awarded to Trump.
Cruz may theorize that, if Rubio and Kasich drop out of the race, their votes will be awarded to him. This may not be the case, as Cruz is hanging more far-right than Rubio and Kasich, along with Trump, but is less likeable than Trump. Even if Kasich drops out, his votes don’t necessarily go to Rubio, nor do they split with Rubio and Cruz. Same holds true for Rubio leaving the race. While it is apparent that there is a definite foundation of Trump support that has not waivered, the actual support versus tactical support (voting for the worst performing “enemy,” so to speak) for Trump has not been explored. The closest you can find to pinpointing a theoretical number for actual Trump supporters wavers just under the 10% of all voters margin – that, of course, coming from polling.
So, what’s the answer here? Should the media continue to scare the general public into believing that Trump’s support is snowballing into a real threat, even though they know their data has been wrong for four years running? Or, should they pipe down on the daily polls and data they are receiving, which has shown to be off the mark yet another year? Is this dangerous to do in a Presidential primary, or does it really have little to no effect on the outcome of election races? This has been a long-argued theory, but does not have a real consensus. Typically, polls are used to narrow down the field of candidates to look at for many voters, but that doesn’t necessarily point to measurable bandwagoning.
Or, should they simply start giving equal, fair coverage to all remaining candidates, instead of campaigning for Trump?
I think we know the answer here. Just make sure you let other people know.