POLITICS
05/15/2013 04:51 pm ET Updated May 15, 2013

POLLSTER UPDATE: British Columbia's Polling Fail

A low turnout election in British Columbia yields the sum of all pollster fears. In New Hampshire, which knows of such meltdowns, Hillary Clinton dominates yet another poll of Democrats. And Virginia Republicans divide on gay marriage. This is the HuffPost Pollster update for Wednesday, May 15, 2013.

POLLS MISS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA - HuffPost Canada's Eric Grenier, who also publishes the polling aggregation site ThreeHundredEight.com: "It was a historic, completely unexpected comeback. After trailing in the polls for more than a year, often with a deficit of more than 15 points, the B.C. Liberals under Christy Clark managed to win re-election last night. And they did so easily, with 44.4 per cent of the vote against 39.5 per cent for the NDP (a wider margin than the one that elected Gordon Campbell in 2009) and 50 seats, more than the 45 seats her party occupied when the legislature was dissolved and the campaign got under way. Put simply, the polls got it spectacularly wrong." [HuffPost]

What went wrong? - Writing in a Globe and Mail column, Grenier finds no obvious answers: "The experience of the pollsters in the field was undoubted. And the pollsters were active in the final days of the campaign, some in the final hours. Worse, the polls were not suggesting that the margin was closing. The final polls by Angus-Reid and Ipsos-Reid showed a margin that was holding steady or even widening...Christy Clark's approval ratings were dismal. Those who did say they would vote Liberal expressed little enthusiasm in their support for the party. Reliable polls can help the electorate make a more informed choice, but polls do voters a disservice if they are not capable of accurately reflecting public opinion. Figuring out what went wrong, and ensuring it does not happen again, is absolutely vital if the polling industry is to regain any trust." [Globe and Mail]

Pollster blames turnout - The Globe and Mail's Rod Mickleburgh reports: "Still 'completely flabbergasted' by the results several hours after the polls closed, Mario Conseco, vice-president of Angus Reid Public Opinion, said a major factor may have been the NDP's failure to motivate young British Columbians, their strongest supporters, to vote...'If that young vote decides not to show up, you're kissing goodbye to a third of your base, and that's exactly what happened,' he said, noting that the overall turnout was an 'abysmal' 48 per cent...'Polls are based on stated preferences of the general population, not those who actually show up to vote, Mr. Canseco said. 'The electorate did not resemble the electorate we were polling.'" [Globe and Mail]

Many online polls - Of the nine organizations that fielded surveys in the last three weeks of the campaign (as reported by Grenier's web site), only one used live telephone interviewers. Six of the nine used online surveys, including the two most active firms in the race, Angus-Reid and Ipsos-Reid, that Grenier described as having "long and successful histories in British Columbia." Yet, the survey mode doesn't easily explain the misfire, as the one live interviewer and two automated telephone surveys produced results similar to those from the online surveys. [ThreeHundredEight.com]

CLINTON CONTINUES TO DOMINATE 2016 PRIMARY MATCHUPS HuffPost: "Early polling has consistently found Hillary Clinton with a commanding lead in the 2016 Democratic primaries. Two surveys released this week are no exception, showing the former secretary of state a wide favorite in New Hampshire and Wisconsin. A New England College poll, released Tuesday, found that 65 percent of New Hampshire Democrats said they would like to see Clinton as president....The latest findings track with two April surveys that showed Clinton taking more than 60 percent of New Hampshire's primary vote and Republicans yet to settle on a favorite. Meanwhile, a Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin voters, also released Tuesday, found strong backing for Clinton among Democrats and for [Paul] Ryan among his home-state Republicans." [HuffPost]

VIRGINIA'S 'MOVE TO THE MIDDLE' PRESSURES GOP - The Washington Post's Ben Pershing, Scott Clement and Errin Whack review shifts on social issues among Virginia voters that put new pressure on Republicans "who must strike a balance between catering to their core supporters and broadening their appeal to remain relevant in a rapidly changing state...The most visible shift has been in attitudes on gay marriage, the Post poll shows: 56 percent of Virginia voters now say it should be legal for gay couples to get married, up from 46 percent two years ago. That is a clear reversal from 2006, when 57 percent of voters backed an amendment to the state constitution outlawing same-sex marriage. Republican voters are now about evenly split on the question — 40 percent say gay marriage should be legal, 47 percent say it should be illegal — after being widely opposed in surveys in 2012 and 2011. In 2006, 85 percent of Republican voters opted to ban gay marriage, according to exit polling at the time. In the new survey, 56 percent of political independents and 75 percent of Democrats support legalizing gay marriage." [WaPost]

@RonBrownstein: "Big poll movement even in MI raises question: will any GOP blue state gubernatorial candidate support #gaymarriage in 2014?" [Twitter]

MORE ON PENNSYLVANIA AS ELECTORAL 'KEYNOTE' - TNR's Nate Cohen explains why Pennsylvania is an unlikely target for Republican hopes in 2016: "Pennsylvania is a diverse state—too diverse for the GOP to win by making narrow, concentrated gains among any single demographic group or region...The necessity of a broad coalition could make Pennsylvania a tougher target for Republicans than more homogenous battlegrounds, where big gains among a single, overrepresented group could turn the state red. For instance, if the next Republican candidate makes outsized gains in well-educated, Northern suburbs, that might flip Colorado, where suburban voters dominate the electorate, without Pennsylvania breaking for the GOP. Similarly, a big GOP comeback among rural, German, Protestant moderates, where Romney performed worse than Bush, might not matter too much in the Keystone State, but it could be enough to return Wisconsin to a dead heat—as it was in 2000 and 2004." [TNR]

WEDNESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to more news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-African Americans over-reported voting more often than whites on the Census CPS voter turnout survey. [Pew Research]

-PPP finds little change in the 2016 primary fields, excepting a bump for Rand Paul. [PPP]

-Americans think more Americans are "pro-choice" than "pro-life," even though they are split in applying the labels to themselves. [Gallup]

-The FTC finds one in 10 Americans fell victim to consumer fraud during 2011. [Fox Business]

-Anthony Weiner did not pay for a poll during the first eight weeks of his "trial balloon" campaign. [National Journal]

-NRCC chairman Greg Walden lays out his plan to improve the GOP's polling operations. [Politico]

-The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) to hold its annual conference in Boston Thursday through Sunday. [AAPOR]

-Huffington Post Senior Polling Editor Mark Blumenthal (aka "we") will moderate an opening plenary session Thursday evening featuring Ron Brownstein, Editorial Director of National Journal; Lynn Vavreck, professor of political science and communication studies at UCLA; and Dan Wagner, Chief Analytics Officer of the 2012 Obama campaign. [AAPOR]

-For the fifth straight year, NBC Election Polling Manager Mike Mokrzycki will be live-tweeting the AAPOR conference Thursday through Sunday this week on the official @AAPOR account [@AAPOR]

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