The State of Student Debt

A college education can seem essential to live a life most people would like to live. Students dream to be successful or to get a job that requires a college education yet most must face a fear they saw coming: student debt. With more students attending college as time passes, there are also higher costs of education and higher levels of student debt.  Currently, there is an extraordinary total of 1.3 trillion U.S dollars student debt owed which is spread among a population of 44 million borrowers (Student Loan Hero).

Among students taking on debt, the average st udent debt for students that spent four years at a public college comes to $22,550. The average student debt for students that spent four years at a private university comes to $39,950 ( The Institute for College Access & Success).  With these sorts of high debt loads, it’s no surprise that students are worried about their financial futures.  When we asked a sample of American college students if they worry about their financial futures, 88% of them expressed at least some worry, and 71% of respondents were specifically worried about student debts. A whopping 96% of respondents said that college was too high.  Following national trends, the majority of our sample reported expected student debts upon graduation of between $0 and $50,000.  However, it is also important to point out that student indebtedness is skewed right with a long upper tail, meaning that 16 percent of our sample expected to have a debt of more than $90,000 after completing their education.  While it is important to note that we asked students to consider possible graduate school debt when answering the survey, the fact that a significant fractionof students are contemplating debt loads of nearly six figures or more showcases the stress many students face when making choices about their educational future. The decision to continue education after a bachelor’s degree normally increases one’s student debt. If a student only plans to get their MBA, the average student debt tends to be $42,000. Master of education, master of science, or master of arts range from a national average of $50,000-$60,000. If students plan on going into law or medicine their debt majorly increases to $140,000 to $160,000 (New American Education Policy Program). The percentages of students that go into these fields decrease as debt goes up. Thus, medicine and law have the fewest number of students. Clearly, student debt places a large toll on these students, and is also likely to act as a barrier dissuading many poorer students from entering these fields.

While the average student debt nationally is around $30,000, 65% of our respondents answered with a value of more than $30,000 when asked what they thought the average level of student debt would be.  This discrepancy highlights the fact that many students are relatively uneducated about student debt even as they find themselves taking on loans.  Our data suggests that more can be done to educate students about both the statistics and the risks of student debt.

Perhaps the scariest statistic is that 75% of the respondents to our poll agreed with that statement that if college costs continue to rise, at some point college will not be a good investment.  The current system of higher education can not afford to alienate students and threaten their financial futures indefinitely.  We hope that our data shows that college costs must be lowered, and that university students need more readily available channels to understand the current situation of student debt.  Students in our survey commonly mentioned increased government funding of higher education as well as decreased university amenities as ways to lower the cost of college and reduce student debt.  We support these ideas, and urge people to contact higher education officials, state and congressional representatives, as well as other lawmakers, to express their support for these changes as well.

StudentDebt

Students thoughts on other

CITATIONS:

  1. “U.S. Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2017.” Student Loan Hero. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.
  2. The Institute for College Access & Success, and Loan. DEBT (n.d.): n. pag. Quick Facts About Student Debt. The Institute for College Access & Success, Mar. 14. Web.
  3. New American Education Policy Program. (n.d.): n. pag. The Graduate Student Debt Review. New American Education Policy Program, Mar. 14. Web.

 

 

How Franklin Roosevelt will cost Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination

Bernie Sanders’ loss to Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s New York state primary served as an unofficial final nail in his campaign’s coffin.  Sure, he is likely to remain in the race for a while longer, but the mathematical truth is that his current delegate deficit would require him to win impossibly large majorities in the remaining states in order to still be competitive.  Sanders’ fans all along have charged that bias towards Hillary Clinton at the DNC and the DNC’s use of undemocratically appointed superdelegates, who heavily favor Hillary Clinton, have been the root of Sanders’ electoral woes. And while these concerns might be more salient if the contest was neck-and-neck, it’s important to realize that Clinton has garnered 2.7 million more votes than Sanders, giving her a 277 delegate lead, without counting superdelegates.  So, instead of treating superdelegates or the DNC as scapegoats for Sanders losses, his supporters would be wise to find someone else to blame.  Namely, Franklin Roosevelt.

That Franklin Roosevelt? Yep, our nation’s 32nd president actually is having a large effect on the selection of its 45th.  As the only president to be elected four times, Roosevelt clearly understood how to win elections, and his best campaign tactic was assembling diverse groups of voters to support both him and his programs.  Roosevelt’s coalition of urban voters, white Southerners, intellectuals, and minorities has since been dubbed the New Deal coalition. While the last 80 years have made slight adjustments to this voting bloc – white Southerners now tend to vote Republican, and younger voters now represent a stronghold of Democratic support – the New Deal coalition remains the basis for Democratic turnout.

The problem with assembling a coalition of voters, however, is that in order for the coalition to last, there has to be some unifying factor to tie the coalition together.  Roosevelt’s coalition was successful because it was tightly unified in support for his administration’s New Deal programs. Unfortunately for Bernie Sanders, his failures in this primary cycle can largely be traced to his inability to unify enough support from enough facets of the Democratic coalition.  Winning a primary campaign for a major party is more about breadth of support across groups than depth of support in a certain group, and Sanders’ campaign was only able to come up with the latter.  For example, even in his loss to Hillary Clinton in New York, he still won the under-30 vote by a whopping 34%.  Winning a group by margins like that, as Sanders has learned the hard way, is only a recipe for electoral success if the group represents a large size of the total electorate or those large margins can be repeated in other demographic groups.  But in New York, under-30 voters only made up 17% of the electorate, and Sanders has been unable to translate his fervent support from young people to other classic Democratic demographics.

Take, for example, urban voters.  City-dwellers have tended to lean Democratic ever since the days of the New Deal coalition, but Sanders has had trouble attracting widespread support in big cities.  Just look at the county by county results in New York:

New York Results

Considering that Clinton won New York readily, it’s surprising to see Sanders’ light blue dominate the state.  Clinton’s key to victory was the state’s urban areas – as the only counties she actually won were in the New York metro area as well as the counties where the cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse are located.  Sanders actually won both suburban and rural voters in New York, but since Democrats are most densely packed in cities, Clinton’s urban advantage was all she needed.

Sanders has also had trouble attracting minority support, especially among black voters, who have historically made up a key component of the Democratic coalition.  Reasons abound for why black voters tend to prefer Clinton, from lower African-American unemployment rates during her husband’s administration to Clinton’s longer time dealing with racial issues in the public eye and Sanders’ campaign gaffes while discussing racial topics.  There’s no simple underlying answer – the reason for high Clinton support among minorities likely comes from a mixture of these factors and individual voter preferences.  But while it’s easy to argue about the rationale for Sanders’ struggles to win minority support, it’s hard to argue about the ultimate effects of minority voters heavily favoring Clinton.  Plotting voter demographics against Sanders support shows a clear racial disparity between Sanders and Clinton supporters1:

SandersBlackSandersMinority

Clinton has won fifteen of the sixteen states with more than 10% of black voters, while Sanders has won every state with less than 3% of black voters. Reciprocally, with the exception of Iowa (which voted first, when Sanders had less name recognition than he does now), Sanders has won all of the eight whitest states that have voted so far.  Hawai’i is a notable exception to the general trend, as its high proportion of Asian and Pacific Islander residents makes it have low percentages of both white and black voters.  However, ignoring Hawai’i, we discover that Clinton has won all thirteen of the least white states that have cast their vote.  In a party that prides itself on being multiracial, that’s quite a racial divide.  And unfortunately for Sanders, his campaign has cobbled together a losing demographic mix from the diverse party Roosevelt helped establish.

At the end of the day, it takes a coalition to win an election.  The Democrats have had a competitive and remarkably stable coalition of voters going all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt, but Sanders’ inability to spread his appeal across the modern Democratic coalition has, more than anything else, helped hand the nomination to Hillary Clinton.

Footnotes   [ + ]

Doing the Delegate Math in the Wake of Super Tuesday

With Super Tuesday now behind us and hundreds more delegates awarded to their respective candidates, the path to the end of the primary season seems much more clear.  The big delegate winners of the night were Trump and Clinton, who won seven states each.  However, the endgame of the primaries is not to win the most states but to win the most delegates, so let’s take a look at the number of delegates each candidate has won to date.

The Democratic side only has two candidates competing for the nomination, so it should be the easier side to analyze.  However, giving delegate totals for the Democratic side is actually a little tricky due to the large amount of superdelegates whose votes are not tied to any primary or caucus result.  Many, but not all, of these superdelegates have already expressed preference for one candidate or the other, allowing us to include them in each candidate’s delegate total.  However, it is important to recognize that these superdelegates can change their support at any time leading up to the nomination.

Including superdelegates, Hillary Clinton has 1,052 delegates to Bernie Sanders’ 4271.  2,383 delegates are required to win the nomination.  This means that Clinton still requires 1,331 delegates to clinch the nomination.  Considering that there are 3,284 Democratic delegates not yet allocated, a little bit of division tells us Clinton needs to win 40.5% of the remaining delegates to secure her position as the Democratic nominee.  On the other hand, Sanders would require 59.6% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination.

However, there is a critique to counting superdelegates in the totals at this state of the nomination process.  Since superdelegates are not bound to candidates, they can change their preferences and affect our previous calculations.  Many Sanders supporters argue that if Sanders starts outperforming Clinton later in the primary process, superdelegates that currently support Clinton will be pressured to support Sanders.  Since Clinton currently has an overwhelming lead in superdelegate support, this would make the nomination easier for Sanders.  We can mathematically adjust for this assumption by ignoring the existence of superdelegates and calculating how many regular delegates each candidate would need to clinch the nomination.  This model works under the assumption that superdelegates will ultimately cave in to popular support.  Ignoring superdelegates, Clinton still has a delegate lead of 594 to 405.  In this hypothetical system, winning 2,026 regular delegates ensures a majority, and Clinton would need to win 46.9% of the remaining delegates while Sanders would require 53.1%.  So yes, Sanders supporters are correct in arguing that a late superdelegate shift would help their candidate, but it is important to note the effects of such a shift are minimal.

The Republican side is a little more complex, as there are more than two candidates to consider.  It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination.  Of the 695 delegates already awarded, Donald Trump has 319, Ted Cruz has 226, Marco Rubio has 110 and John Kasich has 252. Interestingly, even though Trump has been billed by the media as the presumptive Republican nominee, he has only won a plurality of the delegates so far and not the majority he would need to win the nomination without a brokered convention.  Trump needs to win 51.7% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination, while Cruz needs 56.9%, Rubio needs 63.4% and Kasich needs 68.2%.  Of course, due to the possibility of a contested convention for the Republicans, the candidates know that they do not necessarily need to win a majority of the delegates to have a shot at the nomination.  Instead, they simply need to prevent other candidates from winning a majority.

So, if Hillary only has a slim delegate lead over Sanders and Trump hasn’t even won a majority of delegates so far, why is the media portraying them to be the presumptive nominees?  The answer is less to do with math and more with scheduling.  The early Republican primaries and caucuses tend to allocate delegates more proportionally, while the later ones allocate using a winner take all system.  In most states, Trump has rather safe, steady leads, and instead of having to split delegates proportionally with the losers, he will soon win all delegates from each state.  This is crucial for Trump, who leads many states with a comfortable plurality of voters but not a majority.  That situation has cost him delegates up until now, but starting March 15th when every contest is winner take all, he will be racking up all the available delegates without having to worry about his margins of victory.

Meanwhile, the early primary and caucus states have actually been rather generous to Sanders demographically.  Nationally, he is losing to Clinton 52% to 38%, and his 14 point deficit puts him in an especially dire situation because, unlike the Republicans, Democrats award their delegates more proportionally.  This means that he not only needs to catch up to Clinton in a more diverse slew of states than he has already won, but he also must win by large margins in order to overcome his current delegate deficit.

At the end of the day, can we say for sure that Trump and Clinton have their respective nominations locked up?  The numbers say no.  But perhaps more importantly, the calendar says that unless something drastic happens soon, the numbers won’t be so tenuous for long.

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

New Hampshire Results and the Limitations of Data Analysis

Before the Iowa primary, we showed the data behind the conventional wisdom that outperforming expectations in Iowa generally leads to a polling bump in New Hampshire.  The logic behind this argument makes perfect sense, as positive media coverage and the bandwagon effect attracts voters who are still making up their minds.  And plotting the data from the last few elections, we were able to see a clear positive trend in support of this theory.  However, the recent New Hampshire results demonstrate an important but often overlooked truth about poll-based predictions – they assume the status quo remains unchanged.  The poll averages that many media predictions are based on do a decent job of measuring current support, but they simply cannot account for future events that have nothing to do with the numbers.  So when a surging candidate like Marco Rubio trips up in a debate with heavy media attention, all our predictions go out the window.

For all the uncertainty on the Republican side of things, our simplistic model of converting Iowa support to New Hampshire success actually worked quite well for the Democrats.  We first calculated the percent that Bernie Sanders overperformed and Hillary Clinton underperformed against expectations in Iowa.  To calculate the expectations, we modified the HuffPost Pollster average with corrections for both the viability rule that hurt Martin O’Malley’s final vote tally as well as for undecided voters1.  Using this calculation as our baseline, we found that Bernie Sanders overperformed by 1.2% and Hillary underperformed by 0.6%.  In our article on Iowa, we explained that in the last few elections, each percentage point above expectations in Iowa tends to raise New Hampshire performance by 0.55%.  This allowed us to calculate, using our historical model2, a prediction for the New Hampshire vote and compare it to the actual results:

Iowa

HuffPost Pollster Average Average Adjusted for O’Malley + Undecideds Actual Result Result against Expectations
Sanders 44.6 48.4 49.6 +1.2
Clinton 47.7 50.5 49.9 -0.6

 

New Hampshire

HuffPost Pollster Average Feb. 1st Average Adjusted for O’Malley + Undecideds Actual Result Model’s Predicted Result
Sanders 54.7 58.4 60.4 59.1
Clinton 39.4 41.8 38 41.4

All in all, the historical model was fairly accurate at predicting the actual New Hampshire results, missing by just 1.3% for Sanders and 3.4% for Clinton. While the magnitude of the shift was slightly larger than predicted by our model, the model was successful in adjusting the expectations in the correct direction for both candidates.  The relative success of the model for the Democrats was likely caused by the Democratic race progressing more or less how the model’s assumptions predicted them to.  Sanders’ campaign beat expectations in Iowa, received energetic press, and saw a small bump in New Hampshire.  The Clinton campaign faced media questions about the rising threat of Sanders, and saw a small drop in support in New Hampshire.

The Republican results in New Hampshire, however, defied the expectations set by our model as well as most political pundits.  Most pundits declared that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz beat expectations in the Iowa caucus, while Donald Trump underperformed.  Following conventional punditry as well as our quantitative model, we would thus expect Rubio and Cruz to see a bump in support in New Hampshire while Donald Trump’s numbers fell.

In actuality, the exact opposite happened.  Trump’s final results actually surpassed his New Hampshire HuffPost polling average from the day of the Iowa caucus, even though his campaign had to fight off negative media attention arguing many of his supporters were unlikely to turn up at the polls. Meanwhile, Rubio’s and Cruz’s final vote tallies were lower than their polling averages a week earlier.  What happened?  Well, to put it simply, events happened that broke the assumptions made by both our model and the political pundits.  Our model predicted that momentum from Iowa for someone like Rubio would carry on to positively influence his level of support in New Hampshire.  And this prediction seemed to be coming true, as Rubio’s HuffPost polling average in New Hampshire was climbing the week before the primary.  However, an unforeseen and unpredictable debate gaffe likely cost him supporters in the crucial few days before votes were actually cast.  Cruz faced favorable demographics in Iowa but unfavorable demographics in New Hampshire, likely playing a role in his disappointing finish.  And Trump’s surprisingly high turnout proved to the media once again that it is notoriously difficult to compare Trump’s supporters with historical examples.

So, in conclusion, New Hampshire’s results show that while our models and punditry occasionally get it right, both attempts at political prognostication work best when certain assumptions hold.  The Democratics had no last-minute surprises, and estimates were pretty close to the final result.  However, the last-second poll swings of the Republicans demonstrate that even the so-called experts base their predictions on imperfect assumptions, and it’s sometimes best to take both polls and pundits with a grain of salt.

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

Simplifying the Crowded Republican Field

After five Republican debates and what has seemed like endless weeks of campaigning, many news organizations are giving increased coverage to the primary race. It seems like every single day a new poll is released, and each new poll is met with analysis about what it means for each individual candidate. While this sort of analysis fills up time for our 24 hour news media, it also ignores a simple truth about the Republican race: with nine candidates still competitive, the field remains too crowded for any one candidate to become dominant. Sure, Trump is considered the “frontrunner” by polls and the news media, but that doesn’t mean he enjoys majority support among Republican primary voters. The actual breakdown of results for the top nine candidates invited to the last debate looks like this:

Admittedly, the data still shows that Trump is maintaining a commanding lead over other candidates. However, Trump’s 38% support in the polls hardly guarantees him victory, as he would need over 50% of the delegates to secure the nomination.1 Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, it seems like his support has more or less maxed out at its current levels. We here at Electoral Statistics have already explained how Trump sees little to no bump in support when poll respondents are asked to choose between candidates in a smaller GOP primary field, even though he has a commanding lead in the current polls. Support for more traditional candidates is currently split among the wide crowd, but is likely to coalesce behind one or two more traditional candidates when the field inevitably starts to winnow down. This means that Trump is likely to face increased competition in the future as other candidates approach him in the polls. 38% support gives one a commanding lead in the polls when there are nine competitive candidates left in the race, but doesn’t look as dominant once the field narrows to two or three candidates. Worse, even as a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed him in the lead by a whopping 23% margin, it also showed that only 29% of registered voters in the general populace would be very or even somewhat comfortable with a Trump presidency.

A better way to look at the polls is to split the candidates between the outsider candidates and the more mainstream candidates. This more accurately represents how the field will look at a later stage in the race, once the field has narrowed down to a clear establishment favorite. Treating Trump and Ben Carson as the “outsiders” and everyone else as the more traditional candidates, we find an almost perfect split within the Republican Party, with the two main outsider candidates receiving 48.0% support in recent polls and the mainstream candidates receiving 42.4% of the support.2

This approximately half and half split is a telltale sign of the internal rift currently present within the Republican Party. Establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio would likely have trounced outsider candidates like Trump or Carson in years past. However, the anti-establishment push that we first saw in 2012 with Republican voters giving brief surges in popularity to a whole slew of candidates before finally settling on Mitt Romney has grown stronger in the last four years. The result is that, with outsider candidates polling at near 50%, Republican leadership has been forced to consider scenarios in which their nominee is not an establishment favorite.

Of course, there is no fine line between outsider candidate and establishment candidate, and the perfect example of why that is true is the sudden polling rise of Ted Cruz. As a U.S. senator, Cruz is hardly a political outsider, and yet many members of the Republican leadership have shown open dislike for Cruz. A loner within the Republican Party, but also a high profile senator, Ted Cruz seems to have a foot in each camp. Because of Cruz’s ability to play to both outsider and insider support, many pundits have forecast that he would start to see a surge in the polls, and his increase from 6% to 13% support in the last two months means that those prognostications are becoming true.

The presence of firebrand Ted Cruz, who has equal standing both as an insider and outsider, means that the most effective way to split up the current long list of candidates is not to use the simple insider v. outsider approach, but rather to include a third option just for Ted Cruz. Breaking the race up into three categories creates a breakdown of support that looks like this.

Outsiders (Trump and Carson) – 48%

Cruz – 13%

Insiders (Rubio, Bush, Christie, Kasich, etc.) – 29.4%

While Trump and Carson enjoy the lead right now, our previous analysis shows that they will have a hard time keeping their numbers up and an even harder time acquiring new supporters. Carson’s support has been falling recently, and many of his evangelical voters have been turning to the Cruz camp. This means that even though the “outsider” category has the highest percent support here, they are not by any means in the strongest position. In addition to receiving defecting Carson supporters, Cruz also benefits from his ideological position between the outsider and insider camps. This means that if current supporters of insider or outsider candidates have doubts about their chosen camp or simply change their mind before the primaries and caucuses begin, they are more likely to switch to the Cruz camp than make the leap from insider to outsider or vice-versa. This means that even though Cruz has the lowest support of the triad, he is not necessarily in the worst position long-term.

That leaves the tired-and-true insider camp. They might be behind the outsiders right now, but it is also important to note that we have already seen a pivot to the establishment candidate after outsiders gained great traction early on just in the last election cycle, when Republican voters seemed to play a game of “anyone but Mitt Romney” before finally choosing Romney as the candidate. Additionally, endorsements from influential figures have often been much more predictive of final primary outcomes than early polling data, and establishment candidates have dominated both the outsiders and Ted Cruz in getting influential endorsements.

It’s still too early to determine which of these three camps will ultimately win out. History tells us the more moderate, establishment candidates are favored in the long run, but we’ve also not seen a campaign with such anti-establishment fervor in recent history. Regardless, narrowing the crowded field down to three groups serves as a useful analytical tool, and can help us make more accurate predictions as the race progresses.

Footnotes   [ + ]

When Numbers Lie: Looking Beyond the Current Polling Data

The presidential primary race isn’t about receiving the most media attention or donor dollars, or even about winning early primaries and caucuses that are so often declared to be crucial by the news media. This is especially true in light of the large fields that have contested Republican primaries in recent election cycles. For all the attention over swings in the polls and debate performances, it’s important to remember that polling numbers now, still early in the election cycle, are not indicative of eventual primary success. Case in point, the polling averages in the 2012 Republican primary showed eight different lead changes between five different candidates, and eventual winner Mitt Romney did not even solidify his lead in the polls until March, well after the primaries had already started.

For as much media attention as the first states receive, they simply aren’t that indicative of who will eventually win the national primary race. Mitt Romney didn’t win the Iowa caucuses in 2012. McCain got 4th in Iowa in 2008. Going back all the way to 1980, only two winners of the Republican Iowa caucuses in contested primaries have actually gone on to win the primary: Bob Dole in 1996 and George Bush in 2000.

Early wins are important to demonstrate the legitimacy of one’s campaign, as is early media attention, but organization, money and party support mean a lot more. Following that logic, even though many polls and the shifting leads they show are highlighted in the news at this time of the election season, it’s important to look beyond the fluctuating polling data and instead focus on longer-term fundamentals when making election predictions.

One way to compare current polls with long-term expectations is by examining the prediction markets. Polls show how people would vote if the race were held today, but online prediction markets allow people to bet on who they expect to ultimately triumph in the primaries. PredictWise takes market data from PredictIt, Betfair and bookie data, aggregates it and derives a likelihood of winning from that data. While not a perfect predictor of a candidate’s probability of winning, a side by side look at current polling data versus the PredictWise probabilities demonstrates the effects of long-term thinking in primary analysis.

The difference between the current polling data and prediction markets is obvious. Outsider candidates like Trump and Carson may enjoy high polling support now, but their long term path to electoral success is rockier than more established candidates, like Bush and Rubio, who see large increases in their prediction market percentages compared to their current polling data.

Another key thing to point out is that the “leads” that candidates like Carson and Trump have had in recent polling are not even close to majorities. These candidates currently appeal to larger percentages of the electorate than anyone else, but that’s also because the many establishment candidates still in the race are splitting the vote. Hypothetical head-to-head polls show that even though more establishment candidates are behind Carson and Trump in the polls right now, they will benefit once the field starts narrowing. For example, even though Trump is still well ahead of candidates like Rubio and Fiorina when all candidates are included in the polls, he loses to them in head-to-head matchups.

Carson is high in the polls and making a great deal of money through fundraising, but his use of campaign funds so far has called into question his campaign’s ability to handle money. Carson has achieved his high fundraising totals largely because he has been spending large sums of his current campaign cache to acquire more campaign funds – a whopping 54% of funds he has raised have been poured right back into fundraising efforts. The result of this oddly cyclical spending is that the Carson campaign has spent a great deal of its war chest to get to where he currently is.

This might not be a bad strategy, if Carson had unlimited funds, but the most recent filing of PAC and Super PAC funds shows that Carson lacks the critical support needed from outside groups to raise large amounts of campaign dollars. Compared to other major candidates (ignoring Trump, who has refused support from Super PACs but also has the personal wealth to finance his own campaign), Carson’s PAC support barely even registers.

So yes, Carson has been able to raise a lot of money for his campaign, but his high spending rate and lack of PAC support could make funds tight down the road as the competition heats up. Carson’s campaign would do well to focus on the long term, and perhaps be willing to accept a few less percentage points of support now in exchange for having plenty of campaign money when delegates actually start being awarded a few months from now.

A recent CBS/NYT poll garnered a great deal for showing Carson having passed Trump in national polling. What didn’t make the headlines was that 71% of those sampled in the poll may have a preference for a candidate, but also said they had not yet made up their mind for sure. The message is clear: polls at this stage of the race simply don’t serve as viable predictions of ultimate electoral success.  Even us quants here at Electoral Statistics realize that sometimes you have to toss the polling data aside and look at the fundamentals of the race.  The candidates and news media would be wise to do the same.