POLITICS
10/16/2015 08:45 am ET Updated Oct 16, 2015

HUFFPOLLSTER: Bernie Sanders Wins Focus Groups And Social Media, But Hillary Clinton Wins Post Debate Polls

Focus groups, social media and search data suggest a Bernie Sanders debate win, but a new HuffPost/YouGov poll tells a very different story. Democratic Party activists are taking Sanders more seriously but still stand by Clinton, while GOP activists are warming to outsiders. And we preview the polling on next week's elections in Canada. This is HuffPollster for Friday, October 16, 2015
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DEMOCRATIC VOTERS GIVE CLINTON DEBATE WIN - HuffPollster: "Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate on CNN did what debates usually do, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. It allowed the two leading candidates to make a positive impression on an audience of millions. More critically, however, the debate allowed front-runner Hillary Clinton to boost her standing among a far bigger base of support, making her the clear winner in the eyes of most Democratic voters. A 55 percent majority of registered Democratic voters who watched the debate said Clinton won. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who saw a surge in online interest and fundraising, was a distant second, with only 22 percent saying he was the best of the night. Clinton also saw an uptick in the proportion of Democrats who say they want her to be the party's presidential nominee. Before the debate, 44 percent of registered Democrats said they wanted Clinton to be the nominee. After the debate, the figure had risen to 52 percent." [HuffPost]

Clinton's bigger base the key, but Sanders also benefited - More HuffPollster: "Democrats tended to think their favored candidate prevailed Tuesday night. Among those who want Clinton to be the nominee, 82 percent thought she was the winner. Only 15 percent of those who prefer someone else said Clinton won, while 61 percent of those people judged Sanders the winner. The poll also shows that both Clinton and Sanders made good impressions on Democratic voters -- 52 percent said their view of Clinton improved, and 42 percent said the same of Sanders. The difference between candidates disappears if Democratic-leaning independents are included with Democratic voters. Among this larger group, 46 percent say their opinion of each candidate improved."

NBC/Survey Monkey poll finds similar result - Allison Kopicki and John Lapinski: "Hillary Clinton's performance in Tuesday night's debate resonated strongly among members of her party, with more than half—56%—saying [Clinton] won the debate. Just 3% of Democrats who watched or followed coverage of the debate said she did worst, giving her a net performance score of +53. Bernie Sanders scored a +30, showing he still appealed to a significant number of Democrats, according to the latest NBC News online poll conducted nationwide by SurveyMonkey from Tuesday evening immediately following the debate until Thursday morning." [NBC News]

Similar to view of Democratic insiders - Katie Glueck: “Clinton was the clear winner of the first Democratic presidential debate, according to the assessment of both Democrats and Republicans in this week’s POLITICO Caucus, our bipartisan survey of the top activists, operatives and strategists in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Seventy-nine percent of Democratic insiders surveyed said she dominated her four opponents onstage. Fifty-four percent of Republicans said the same.” [Politico]

But social media, focus groups and search data told a different story - Andrew Prokup: “The consensus of political commentators is clear: Hillary Clinton won the first Democratic debate….Yet focus groups, search data, and social media information all tell a different story — one in which many viewers loved what Bernie Sanders had to say, or were, at the very least, quite interested in him….Fox News’s focus group wildly praised Sanders [for defending Clinton on her emails]…Sanders won the most new Facebook followers, according to data from Crowdtangle. He added more than 35,000, increasing his following by 2 percent, to 1.69 million. Clinton added about 18,000, increasing her following by 1 percent, to 1.54 million….Sanders also dominated in Google search traffic of the candidates who were onstage.” [Vox]

What about those other ‘instant online’ polls? - Josh Voohees: “As of late Wednesday, 75 percent of the roughly 95,000 responses to [Slate’s] “Who won the Democratic presidential debate?” instapoll selected the self-styled democratic socialist as the answer. Hillary, meanwhile, wasn’t even in Bernie’s ballpark. She received only 17 percent of the vote—just 13 points more than Jim Webb…The results weren’t just unique to Slate: Bernie topped countless other online polls, including those at two other national outlets that had also called the fight for Clinton on their home pages that night….So, what gives?…Instant online polls are informal and unscientific. The results rely on a self-selecting group of respondents with no regard to political affiliation, age, country, or even whether the person doing the responding actually watched the debate. Respondents, meanwhile, don’t have even the slightest motivation to be objective…Like tracking new Twitter followers or Google searches, the online surveys provide an interesting snapshot of the mood of a particular slice of the Internet, but they’re mostly for entertainment (for the reader) and traffic (for the outlet). No one should mistake them for the scientific surveys done by professional pollsters.” [Slate]

And what about social media metrics? - Matthew Dickinson: “I tend to put less stock in the social media metrics than do a lot of pundits. My guess is that the main explanation for Sanders’ boost in google searches is that a lot of viewers were seeing him for the first time in a sustained setting, and were simply trying to find out more about him by going online. It is also the case that the skew in social media trends reflects the deep generational divide in Clinton’s and Sanders’ supporters – his are younger, more passionate and, most importantly, far more comfortable with using social media as their primary platform of communication than are Clinton’s more seasoned supporters.” [Presidential Power]

DEMOCRATIC ACTIVISTS THINK SANDERS IS MORE VIABLE THAN BEFORE - HuffPollster: "Sen. Bernie Sanders' surging poll numbers and record-breaking crowds have convinced his party's grassroots base to take him more seriously as a viable nominee, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey of Democratic activists finds. But the shift may not be enough to make him the first choice of party activists, among which Hillary Clinton still holds a diminished advantage. And, as the Democratic candidates prepare for their first debate this week, both Clinton and Sanders face added complications from Vice President Joe Biden's possible entry into the race." [HuffPost]

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REPUBLICAN ACTIVISTS INCREASINGLY PREFER OUTSIDERS… - HuffPollster: "The most politically active Republicans -- those who participate in politics and follow it most closely -- now look remarkably like the rest of their party in their affinity for a trio of candidates with nontraditional backgrounds, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll of activist Republicans conducted in late September….The rise of Carson, Fiorina and Trump, which comes against a backdrop of widespread Republican disaffection with their party and its leaders, is ammunition for those who believe the establishment has lost its grip on the nomination process. Arguments about the party's veto powers, however, are predicated on the notion that the establishment is monolithically opposed to those candidates. That degree of opposition is no longer a given…. If political scientists are right to think that 'party elites' will ultimately choose their nominee, however, Rubio is now best positioned to straddle the gap between the expectations of activists and the mores of the party establishment." [HuffPost] 

...and think a staunch conservative can win - John Sides: "Republicans seem not to believe that there is any electoral penalty for being strongly conservative. But Democrats do believe a strong liberal will be penalized. That’s the conclusion from the newest Huffington Post surveys of Republican and Democratic activists. These surveys asked activists to rate their party’s candidates on a five-point scale ranging from 'very liberal' to 'very conservative' and also to check a box beside any candidate who 'is capable of winning the general election for president' assuming that this candidate did win the nomination….Although Sanders is perceived as more electable than in the last Huffington Post survey of Democratic activists, he is still perceived as less electable than Clinton and Biden. In turn, both Clinton and Biden are perceived as more centrist than Sanders…[GOP] activists see Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina as equally electable, even though they see Carson as more conservative." [WashPost]

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LIBERALS LEAD IN CANADA- Canada is having a parliamentary election on Monday, and most of the polls and election forecasts show that the battle for the most seats will be a nail-biter between the Liberal and Conservative parties. The latest poll average from Election Almanac shows the Liberals with just under 35 percent of the vote nationwide and the Conservatives pulling just over 30 percent support.

Neither party is expected to reach a majority of the seats, though, as the New Democratic Party (NDP) is averaging about 24 percent support, and the Green Party and Bloc Québécois are around five percent each. There are 12 different seat count forecasts reported by Election Almanac. On average, these show that the Liberals will win 133 seats, the Conservatives will get 121 and the NDP will end up with 79. Bloc Québécois is expected to get four seats, and the Green Party will only get one.

Small poll errors could erase Liberal lead - Blogger and election forecaster Bryan Breguet, Too Close To Call:  “If the numbers on election night turn out to be different from the voting intentions indicated by the polls, our projections will obviously be off. There is really no way around it. … [P]olls can be wrong in Alberta without causing major mistakes. Specifically, a one-point overestimation of the Tories (i.e: polls show them at 50 percent but they'd only receive 49 percent on Monday) would cost the party only 0.5 seat in average. On the other hand, the same [small] error in Ontario could put our projections off by up to six seats. Indeed, imagine the Liberals to be underestimated by one point and the Conservatives to be overestimated by the same amount. In such a case, the Liberals would win 2.86 more seats and the Tories 2.65 fewer. Rounding and summing, it's a total difference of six seats, more than half of the current Conservative lead in our overall projections.” [HuffPost Canada]

Last-minute deviations from the polls could work in the Liberals’ favor - Éric Grenier, founder of poll tracking and forecasting site ThreeHundredEight.com: “From the perspective of the numbers, the Conservatives were clearly en route to a majority government at this stage of the campaign in 2011. … By election day, the Conservatives picked up another two points while the New Democrats gained six. The Liberals dropped five. By contrast, the Liberals now appear to have the momentum. ... So if we apply the 2011 shift in the polls in the final week to the party with the momentum in this campaign, the Liberals might be heading toward a majority government. Of course, just because something happened in the last election does not mean it will happen again. ...But this does serve as a strong reminder that nothing in this election is yet settled.” [CBC]

THIS WEEK'S POLLS

-Republican voters think their party is mostly divided, and are fed up with their current elected officials, but they're still overwhelmingly happy with their 2016 contenders. [HuffPost]

-Joe Biden looks to be more electable than Hillary Clinton in general election match-ups. [Fox]

-The number of Republicans who say they would "never" vote for Donald Trump falls to 18 percent from 59 percent in June to 33 percent in August. [Fox News]

-Trump has double digit leads in Nevada and South Carolina [CNN]

-Clinton continues to maintain a wide lead in the Democratic primary nationally. [CBS]

-Trump viewed as the most electable candidate in the general election by Republicans. [CBS]

-A majority of Democrats think there's still time for Biden to join the race. [YouGov]

-Clinton's approval rating improves slightly. [WashPost]

-John Boehner image improves slightly post resignation announcement. [Gallup]

-A large majority of Americans continue to remain favorable of the death penalty. [Gallup]

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THIS WEEK'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Nate Silver says Clinton did well, but it's weird to call it a comeback when she was winning to begin with. [538 via @NateSilver538]

-Harry Enten examines why Donald Trump's vote and favorable rating have fallen among Republicans. [538]

-Sean Trende contemplates how Hillary Clinton could lose. [Politico]

-Ron Brownstein reviews the challenges facing Clinton and Sanders in putting together a winning coalition among Democrats. [National Journal]

-Lynn Vavreck sees a silver lining in Clinton's "summer of decline." [NYT]

-Matt Yglesias explains why "liberal" isn't a dirty word anymore. [Vox]

-Mark Mellman (D) sees a Republican revolt, not just among House members, but GOP voters too. [The Hill]

-Alan Reifman and Sylvia Niehuis study whether calling cell phones made polls more accurate in the 2014 election. [Survey Practice]

-Politifact rates claims by conservative radio Host Steve Deace that "pollsters don't actually believe our own data" to be "half true." [Politifact]

-Data scientist Felicia LeClere explains the "Macher" model of opinion formation. [HuffPost]

-Democratic pollster Mark Penn has his GWU students design message testing poll questions on former client Hillary Clinton. [Politico]

-RealClearPolitics introduces a tool to create and reallocate Republican primary vote scenarios based on polling averages. [RCP]

-CBS News contracts with L2 Political (formerly Labels & Lists) to provide data to bolster election coverage. [Campaigns & Elections via @kwcollins]

-Polarization over Tom Brady's "deflategate" is greatest among football fans who know the most about it. [NYT]

-More Americans are in support of the TPP than against it, but most probably don't understand the specifics of the policy. [Gallup]

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