Post-Iowa Polls (Democrats)

Unlike yesterday’s look at the post-Iowa Republican polls, when I quickly ran through the national numbers before taking a closer look at New Hampshire, for the Democrats I think it’s more relevant to quickly dispense with New Hampshire before examining national polling. Whereas the New Hampshire results can have many important consequences on the Republican Primary, I’m not sure where can say the same thing about the Democratic side.

We are fairly certain Bernie Sanders is going to win on Tuesday, and we have been for a while. Unfortunately for him, he’s run such a great campaign that he’s raised the expectations for himself in New Hampshire to the point where it will be very difficult to surpass them. If Sanders really wants to make a run at Clinton, he needs to start doing well in something other than the white, liberal states. National polling can show us if Iowa made him more competitive in that regard.

So let’s take that quick look at New Hampshire. Real Clear Politics lists six post-Iowa polls in New Hampshire:

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Sanders is looking strong indeed, though perhaps he’s trending down a bit since his loss in Iowa. Overall, the numbers haven’t changed too much since last month. He’s led every state poll since early January, and it’s usually by double digits. Here are Huffington Post’s trendlines since January 6:

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Clearly it’s an excellent trend for Sanders. In the next three days, however, he’ll worry about three related developments:

  1. The Democratic New Hampshire Primary may look like such a blowout that independents — who, remember, can vote in either party’s primary — might ditch him in order to have more of an affect on the Republican Primary.
  2. Challengers close well. It helped Sanders in Iowa and nationally, but now, funnily enough, it could work against him in New Hampshire.
  3. If those two things happen and Clinton has a better-than-expected showing, it’s easily spun in her favor, even if it is a loss. Remember, in primaries, the expectations game is everything, and Clinton will insufferably remind us that “New Hampshire is Senator Sanders’s backyard.” If Sanders wins, say, 54-46, I think Clinton comes out looking pretty good.

Even if Sanders does meet the lofty expectations in the state, it’s tough to know how much that will impact national polls. Everyone’s already expecting the win, so I don’t see it mattering much. To help us predict how national Democrats react to these early states, let’s see how his Iowa “virtual tie” affected national polling.


Just like the Republicans yesterday, we’ve only been gifted two national polls on the Democratic side. They tell quite the different story, though. Here are their results compared to the four most recent national polls before Iowa:

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While Public Policy Polling has Clinton strengthening her pre-Iowa lead, Quinnipiac says the lead has all but evaporated! (Last night’s newscasts, of course, more heavily promoted the one that showed the race tightening. Yeah, they’re tooootally rooting for Hillary, Bernie fans. They hate close races and higher ratings.) It’s hard to know which to believe. The PPP poll has Sanders at 32, his lowest national number since December, so you’d think that’s an outlier. But Quinnipiac’s 44 for Clinton is her second lowest national score (she once got a 43) since Biden’s decision in October. In other words, both polls look like statistical outliers, but since Iowa could have greatly affected the results of national polling, one of them might be accurate and the other junk, and we don’t know which is which!

To see if I could glean anything, I took a deeper look into each poll, but the immensely divergence between the two made that a pointless process. Take the favorability numbers of each:

PPP (“among usual Democratic Primary voters”)

  • Clinton: 71/22 (+49)
  • Sanders: 59/23 (+36)

Quinnipiac

  • Clinton: 75/22 among Democrats (+53), 39/55 among Independents (-16)
  • Sanders: 72/10 among Democrats (+62), 53/30 among Independents (+23)

In the PPP poll, Clinton’s favorability was 13 points stronger from voters that included Democrats and independents (they did not separate them). In the Quinnipiac, Sanders was 9 points stronger among Democrats alone and 39 points stronger among independents.

It’s easy to see that whichever one of these polls is the outlier, its mistakes permeate more than just the horse race figures. We don’t know which one to trust down the board. Therefore, I eagerly await more national polls.

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