Boy, polling has had a rough go of it the last few years. First, they vastly underestimated Obama’s 2012 margin of victory (thanks Gallup). Then they were significantly Democratic leaning in 2014. Combined with international polling misses in Israel, the UK and domestically with the Kentucky guberntorial race and you can see why polling misses get noticed more and more.
But, none of that can compare to the polling miss last week in Michigan. According to the RCP average of polls not a single poll had Clinton leading the state by single digits. Yet, when the final votes were tallied she lost narrowly.
The reasons offered for the miss but they seem to focus around the idea that Clinton damaged herself with trade. Sander’s focus on the issue probably hurt the wife of Mr. NAFTA. But that still does not explain why the last three polls up to election day had Clinton ahead by 27, 37 and 24.
I doubt we will get a good answer but exit polls showed Sanders crushed Clinton among whites and lost blacks 60-40. This suggests Midwestern blacks, more educated, unionized and middle class, are more receptive to the Senator than Southern blacks (just look at Mississippi).
Next week most of the focus will be on the GOP battles for Florida and Ohio but the Democratic races across the country will be interesting. Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida vote. Polling has been sparse in each state but Illinois and Florida stand out.
Polls show Clinton with massive leads in both and yet both places have fertile populations for Sanders support. Nobody expects a Michigan upset in either but that is exactly the problem. The polls could be well off the mark. In Florida, Sanders has a wealthy, liberal elite to poach and a young Cuban and Puerto Rican base to draw from. In Illinois, it is hard to see Cook County blacks acting differently than say Wayne County blacks.
The same dynamic holds true for North Carolina and Ohio. Blacks make up a sizeable chunk of the Democratic base in both states but so do young, college educated whites as well as rural, unionized whites (more so Ohio). Polling in Michigan significantly underestimated Sanders strength among the latter.
Now, a caveat is in order here. There are few good pollsters in Michigan but national outfits also thought the race was a foregone conclusion. Well, few good outfits have polled Illinois or Ohio. Heck, Missouri and North Carolina for that matter. Clinton will probably add to her delegate total and is the odds on favorite to win all 5 states. But, after Michigan, I don’t have much faith in the polls.