Why Is Clinton Polling Worse Than Her Delegate Count? Early Voting.
Another instance of Clinton polling far below her delegate count. In this poll, she's losing.
by Gaius Publius
Yes, the answer, unique to this contest, is early voting. Let me explain.
Anyone who's breathlessly watched as voting returns come in knows at least two things: early voting totals (from votes by mail, for example) are reported first; and on the Democratic side early voting heavily favors Clinton.
Most of the analysis of this phenomenon ignores the way this "primes the pump," as it were, by creating the initial impression that Clinton will win a given contest, and instead focuses on other factors.
(About pump-priming: In Arizona reporting early voting first did more than that. It may have helped determine the outcome. News organizations reported early voting totals — a large percentage of the total vote — and not much else, then after their pre-selected precincts reported, they called the race for Clinton while voting was still going on. Why was voting still going on? Because voting lines were often so long, and so many voter registrations were erroneous, that polls had to he held open past pre-determined closing times. In other words, people waiting in line were told by news outlets that the race was over in Arizona. How many voters abandoned waiting in lines that in some cases were five hours long? We'll never know. But keep reading. This piece may hold the answer to why the Arizona vote was more one-sided than it could have been.)
Analysis of Clinton's early-voting advantage generally focuses on which age and gender groups tend to vote early, versus which ones vote on election day. What's missing is analysis of the "information gap." If I vote three weeks early in a state where one candidate is little-known, I likely know little about that candidate. If that candidate then "introduces himself or herself" via media appearances, campaign events and advertising, an election day voter is likely to be making a more informed choice than an early voter — depending of course on the value of the information presented prior to election day.
The contests between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are near-textbook examples of that disparity in information. Clinton is one of the most recognized figures in modern politics. Sanders is one of the least recognized. Without candidate "introduction" in the lead-up to voting, Clinton is simply the default because for a great many voters, she's the only one they've heard anything at all about.
Hillary Clinton and Early Voting
Which leads to a rather stunning discovery — if you subtract out the early voting totals in the Democratic contests and look at election day totals only, Sanders ties or beats Clinton, even in some of the "Clinton states" like North Carolina.
Seth Abramson, writing at the Huffington Post, tells the tale (my emphasis):
[L]et’s make an important observation: Bernie Sanders has tied or beaten Hillary Clinton in a majority of the actively contested votes this election season.That's an important observation about caucuses, by the way. A caucus is, by definition, an election day event.
You doubt it? Okay, let me explain.
Bernie Sanders has terrible name recognition in states where he hasn’t advertised or campaigned yet; meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has universal name recognition everywhere. Realizing this, the Clinton camp pushed hard to rack up the early vote in every state where early voting was an option. They did this not primarily for the reason we’ve been told — because Clinton performs well among older voters, and older voters are more likely to vote early than other age demographics — but rather because they knew that early votes are almost always cast before the election season actually begins in a given state.
That’s right — in each state, most of the early primary voting occurs before the candidates have aired any commercials or held any campaign events. For Bernie Sanders, this means that early voting happens, pretty much everywhere, before anyone knows who he is. Certainly, early voting occurs in each state before voters have developed a sufficient level of familiarity and comfort with Sanders to vote for him.
But on Election Day — among voters who’ve been present and attentive for each candidate’s commercials, local news coverage, and live events — Sanders tends to tie or beat Clinton.
In fact, that’s the real reason Sanders does well in caucuses.
Abramson looks at voting patterns in North Carolina as an example of a "Clinton state":
Consider: in North Carolina, Hillary Clinton only won Election Day voting 52% to 48%. Given the shenanigans in evidence during the live voting there — thousands of college students were turned away from the polls due to insufficient identification under a new voter-suppression statute in the state — it wouldn’t be unfair to call that 4-point race more like a 2-point one (51% to 49% for Clinton).If you consider, as Abramson does, that without (Republican-created) voter suppression, Clinton and Sanders ran basically even, it casts new light on the race as a whole, and goes a long way to explaining those narrowing national polls, like the one featured above, from Bloomberg.
Bernie Sanders is introducing himself to the nation. There's no "early voting" in these polls, and the results are steadily narrowing, as a trip to a site like RealClearPolitics shows. And remember, this is just the halfway mark. The contest started on February 1. It will end on June 14. We're not even through the second month of a 4½ month-long contest.
I keep saying this is far from over, because it's far from over.
Early Voting and Arizona
The author makes an interesting point about Arizona. Keep in mind, the piece was written before all of the election-day votes were counted, but he points to some interesting trends (emphasis in original):
[I]n Arizona yesterday, the election was called almost immediately by the media, with Clinton appearing to “win” the state by a margin of 61.5% to 36.1%. Of course, this was all early voting. CNN even wrongly reported that these early votes constituted the live vote in 41% of all Arizona precincts — rather than merely mail-in votes constituting a percentage of the total projected vote in the state — which allowed most Americans to go to bed believing both that Clinton had won Arizona by more than 25 points and that that margin was the result of nearly half of Arizona’s precincts reporting their live-voting results. Neither was true.Without the combination of Republican voter suppression (the Maricopa County official who strangled the vote by eliminating most of the polling stations is a Republican), the media calling the race over with a great many voters still in line, and Clinton's natural lead in early voting, the race in Arizona may have had a very different outcome. How different? Again, we'll never know.
In fact, as of the time of that 61.5% to 36.1% “win,” not a single precinct in Arizona had reported its Election Day results.
Indeed, more than two and a half hours after polls closed in Arizona, officials there had counted only 54,000 of the estimated 431,000 Election Day ballots.
That’s about 12%.
So how did Bernie Sanders do on Election Day in Arizona?
As of the writing of this essay (2:45 AM ET), Sanders was leading Clinton in Election Day voting in Arizona 50.2% to 49.8%, with just under 75,000 votes (about 17.3% of all Election Day votes) counted.
What If Early Voting Is Always Reported Last?
Finally, Abramson asks us to consider a thought experiment, one I consider rather fascinating (my emphasis below):
So imagine, for a moment, that early votes were reported to the media last rather than first. Which, of course, they quite easily could be, given that they’re less — rather than more — reflective of the actual state of opinion on Election Day. Were early votes reported last rather than first, Arizona as of 2:45 AM ET would have been considered not only too close to call but a genuine nail-biter. In fact, only 400 or so Election Day votes were separating the two Democratic candidates at that point — though the momentum with each new vote counted was quite clearly in Sanders’ favor.Reporting that election day momentum may have kept more Sanders voters in those five-hour lines — or more Clinton voters. I fear we'll never know which, though every candidate, Democratic and Republican, should ask for a revote.
Election Day Voting Patterns Explains a Lot
Abramson makes other points as well (the whole piece is worth reading through). He uses this information to help determine why Clinton is close to tied in the national race, why Clinton is "'beating' Sanders among American voters despite having a -13 favorability rating nationally, as compared to Sanders’ +11 rating," and why Sanders consistently outperforms Clinton in head-to-head races against all Republicans.
Including this, about super-delegates:
But what about the argument, implicitly being made to super-delegates now, and likely to be made to them explicitly in Philadelphia this summer, that Bernie Sanders has, broadly speaking, out-performed Hillary Clinton in Election Day voting? Given that Election Day voting in the spring is the very same sort of high-information voting that will occur in November, you’d think super-delegates would be quite interested to know that, in live voting, Bernie Sanders beats Hillary Clinton more often than not.At the same time she underperforms Sanders in all general election polling. Do the super-delegates want to know that? That answer we will know. At some point — at the convention, in fact — super-delegates will cast a vote as well.
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