Wednesday, May 23, 2018

California Polling

There's a new USC Dornsife/LA Times poll out and I'm not going to link it. Why? Because it's such an embarrassing poll for USC that they should really quit polling. It's an entirely online poll. There are good reasons to do online polling but polls that were entirely online produced some really funky results in 2016. They aren't as accurate as polls that include phone calls.

The poll was conducted between April 18 and May 18. I've never heard of doing over a period of a month because the data is inconsistent. The people who answered in the early part of the poll could've made up their mind or even voted by the later part of the poll. Their answers are meaningless. That's why polls are conducted over 3-4 days.

This poll has roughly 40% undecideds in both the gubernatorial and senate race. That's really strange so close to the election and inconsistent with other recent polls. A poll with that many undecideds doesn't tell us how people will vote. The 2014 primary had 4.5 million votes. So far over 500,000 ballots have been returned. So 10-12% of the voters have not only made up their minds but their vote is set. At this point a pollster should have two samples, people who have voted and people who will vote. That'll give them an accurate idea where the election is.

California political data expert Paul Mitchell on why pollsters are so wrong on California polling. California has a ton of data on who votes. Yet pollsters ignore it. Mitchell shows the share of voters by partisanship, geography, and ethnicity. Latino turnout in primaries has hovered around 12%. Yet the pollsters are showing on average a 24% Latino electorate. They look at what share of registered voters Latinos are and decide that's who is going to vote.

California has party registration. So we know the share of the electorate each party had in the past and we can get a good idea of how that fits in this year by looking at how the VBM returns compare to previous years. Right now it's 44%D/33%R. That's slightly more Democratic than 2014, 44%D/36%R, but less than 2016, 49%D/34%R. Mitchell points out that Republican average 31% of the voters in the public polls but have been 38% of the voters in the last three gubernatorial primaries. Republican share could certainly be lower this year due to Republicans re-registering as NPP but that's a lot lower.

Getting party ID correct is vital in top two. The biggest primary question is whether two Democrats make top two in the senate and gubernatorial races. A poll with 30% Republicans may miss that.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

How Will the California Primary Translate?

Is this a Democratic year? Do the special elections tell us that or are they unique one offs? One good way to tell will be the California primaries. Since it’s top two and everyone can vote for anyone it mirrors the conditions in November. So California will be a good indicator.

In order to give us an idea of what the primary results will tell us we’ll first look at the California general elections.

There were 29 congressional districts where a Republican faced off with a Democrat in the general elections in 2012, 2014, and 2016. The other 24 districts either didn’t have a Republican or a Democrat in one of those three general elections. Keep in mind that these 33 districts aren’t representative of California as a whole, just the districts where the two parties faced off. There are some heavily Democratic districts in there but many of the other 24 are the most heavily Democratic. So Republicans did better here than they did statewide.

Democrats got 54.6% of the vote in these districts in 2012, 51.6% in 2014, and 57.2% in 2016. So 2014 was a Republican year, 2016 a Democratic year, and 2012 in the middle. I want to reiterate that these aren’t the statewide vote. Democrats got 62.0% of the congressional vote statewide in 2012, 57.7% in 2014, and 64.8% in 2016. These numbers shouldn’t be taken as an accurate reflection of the statewide share either, however, since each district didn’t have a Republican and a Democrat running. In 2016, for example, these totals represent 60 Democrats and only 44 Republicans.

There’s a twist when looking at the primary, however. Even though 2014 was a very Republican general election the primary was actually even more Republican. In 6 statewide races Democrats got 56.3% of the two party vote in the primary but actually did better in the general election, getting 57.5%.

On the other hand, Democrats got 70% of the two party Presidential vote in the 2016 primary but only 66% in the general election. Hillary Clinton blew out Donald Trump in the general election but the primary was even more Democratic.

There are 13 congressional districts where the margin of victory for one party was 10% or less in one of the four primary or general elections in 2014 and 2016. They are CA-3, 7, 9, 10, 16, 21, 24, 26, 31, 36, 39, 49, and 52. There are 2 other districts that weren’t that close in any of the four elections, CA-45 and 48. Those 2 are expected to be close this year.

In 2014 Republicans averaged a margin of victory of 13.6% in the primary in these 15 districts. That dropped to only 5.8% in the general election. In 2016 Democrats had an average margin of victory of 1.2% in the primary and 2.4% in the general election.

The statewide primaries for senator, governor, and other downballot races should tell us a lot about what kind of year we should expect. If Democrats are close to the 70% they got in 2016 we should see a very Democratic year. Even when they did get 70% they didn’t win any district that they didn’t get more votes in during the June primary. If it’s a heavily Democratic primary Democrats shouldn’t count on winning any district in November that they don’t win in June. The Democratic statewide vote share in June is closer to the 56% of 2014 there won’t be a blue wave, although we should expect Democrats to make gains on their totals in November.

There’s a huge middle ground here between 56% and 70% and chances are the average statewide vote will fall between 2014 and 2016. Is it possible for Democrats to get more than 70% in a statewide vote? I don’t think so. The last election was a perfect storm for them. Competitive Democratic primaries with uncompetitive Republican ones in a Democratic year. I can’t see that replicated.

We don’t know what the primary statewide vote would have to be for Democrats not to make much in the way of gains but we probably can tell how Democratic the year is based on where it falls between 56% and 70%.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Gavin Newsom's Strategy Could Backfire

California gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom is out with an ad linking John Cox to Donald Trump and saying he's too conservative for California.

The LA Times has deduced that Newsome is doing this to help Cox get conservative votes. That'll propel him into the top two and Newsom would be better off facing a Republican than a Democrat. This was done by Claire McCaskill to great success in the 2010 Missouri Senate race. These ads could certainly help Cox, siphoning off votes from his conservative rival Travis Allen. Mission accomplished! High fives all around!

Wait

There's a big difference in California. Unlike Missouri, California has no Republican primary, only top two. It'll be a race where everyone can vote. That includes independents and moderate Republicans. In the 2016 election there were voters who vote Republican but voted for Hillary Clinton. In CA-39 Ed Royce won 57%-43%. He won 58%-42% in 2012. That's pretty consistent. The district went from Mitt Romney winning 51%-47% to Hillary Clinton winning 51%-43%. In 2012, Royce overperformed Romney's margin by 12%. In 2016 he overperformed Trump by 22%.

It's possible that these once loyal Republican voters will vote Democratic in 2018. They've already done it once. Their reason for voting Democratic then was Donald Trump. That's the same Donald Trump that Newsom is tying Cox to. These ads could drive suburban voters from Cox to a Democratic alternative like the moderate Antonio Villaraigosa. While Cox may pick up Allen voters, he might lose some to Villaraigosa. Cox might end up with a net loss in the mix while Villaraigosa gains. Newsom could help get the result he's trying to prevent.

Oops