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   [ + ]

The Murkiness of the Minimum Wage Debate

Last weekend, the Democrats running for the presidential nomination gathered in Des Moines, Iowa for the second Democratic debate of this presidential election cycle. The field was notably smaller, with Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb dropping out between the first and the second debate. The debate was fairly uneventful, with most analysts agreeing that the debate will do very little to change the direction of the contest. However, there was at least one important exchange during the debate on the topic of raising the minimum wage. Although all three candidates agreed that it needed to go up, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley want to raise it to $15 an hour, while Hillary Clinton only wants to raise it to $12 an hour. When asked about the potential consequences of a $15 minimum wage, Sanders responded:

Real inflation accounted for wages has declined precipitously over the years. So I believe that in fact this country needs to move toward a living wage. … So I believe that over the next few years, not tomorrow, that over the next few years we have got to move the minimum wage to a living wage $15.00 bucks an hour. And I apologize to nobody.

O’Malley then chimed in with support for a $15 minimum wage and then said that while he was governor of Marlyand, the state raised the minimum wage:

$10.10 was all I could get the state to do by the time I left in my last year. But two of our counties actually went to $12.80. And their county executives if they were here tonight would also tell you that it works.

Clinton defended her proposal for a raise to $12 an hour, explaining:

That is why I support a $12.00 national federal minimum wage. That is what the Democrats in the Senate have put forward as a proposal. But I do believe that is a minimum. And places like Seattle, like Los Angeles, like New York City, they can go higher. It’s what happened in– Governor O’Malley’s state. There was a minimum wage at the state level. And some places went higher. I think that is the smartest way to be able to move forward because if you go to $12.00 it would be the highest historical average we’ve ever had.

It makes sense that all Democratic candidates want to stress their plans to raise the federal minimum wage, which is currently at $7.25 an hour. Roughly 70% of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage, and just over 90% of Democrats are in favor of a minimum wage hike. The problem is, no one is really sure how much.

The motivation behind the moderator’s question in the debate was a recent New York Times opinion piece by Alan Krueger, a Princeton University economist and the former chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, which suggested that a minimum wage greater than $12 would set the country in uncharted territory and could be potentially runious for the economy. However, Alan Krueger’s view is far from the consensus among economists. The Initiative on Global Markets at the Chicago Booth School of Business surveyed 42 prominent economists and found that most economists remain uncertain about the effect of a $15 minimum wage while the rest are pretty evenly split. In spite of the uncertainty of economists in how to raise the minimum wage, the Democratic candidates all came out on Saturday staunch in their policy positions. Only Hillary Clinton acknowledged some level of nuance by admitting that different states have different levels and that may be the best way to do things.

Part of the reason that the minimum wage debate is so complex is because the cost of living is drastically different across the country. Take, for example, my home county of DuPage County, Ill. According to The Living Wage Calculator, a project of Amy Glasmeier of MIT, the living wage1 for a single person is $11.66 an hour. Travel just an hour and a half southwest to La Salle County, Ill. and the living wage is just $9.84 an hour. And yet in both counties, the Illinois minimum wage is $8.25 an hour.

The anecdotal evidence is one thing, but this trend is prevalent across the entire country. In that vein, I have created a series of maps2 to demonstrate the variance in wages across the country. First, we can take a look at the current minimum wage in each state.3
Minimum Wage in Every State
We can compare this to a map of the living wage in every state:
Living Wage in Every County
What is immediately apparent, just by comparing the two maps (which are on the same color scale), is that in most counties, the minimum wage is not nearly as high as the living wage. The exception seems to be some parts of eastern Washington, where the minimum wage is the highest in the country and the living wage is not too high. To get a fuller picture, we can take the difference between the living wage minus the minimum wage to get the following map:
Living Minus Minimum Wage in Every County
There is clearly a lot of variation from county to county in this difference. The county where the living wage most exceeds the minimum wage is Honolulu County, Haiwaii, where the minimum wage is $7.25 and the living wage is $14.66, a difference of $7.41. On the other hand, 21 of the 3143 counties have a minimum wage greater than the living wage, with the largest difference in Pend Oreille County, Washington, where the minimum wage of $9.32 is $0.65 greater than the $8.67 living wage. The mean difference was $2.45, which is fairly clear from the prevalence of green counties in the map.

The point is not to offer any concrete policy prescriptions for how to deal with the minimum wage, although this map shows that by and large, it needs to be raised in order to keep up with the living wage, but rather to suggest that this issue is a lot more nuanced than most politicians are willing to admit. While I can hardly blame Sanders, Clinton or O’Malley for really wanting to get into the messiness of this policy debate when they are only granted 90 seconds to speak, it is important to recognize the complexity of the issue. An additional layer of complexity, which I did not even address in this post, but which is included in Glasmeier’s data, is that the living wage also depends on your marital status and whether or not you have children. The data used in my maps is only for a single person without children, but the minimum wage is the same across the board regardless of if that is the case.

Although last weekend’s debate was fairly clear cut as $12 versus $15, in order to have a productive conversation about this issue on the national level, more nuance and murkiness must enter the conversation. It is hard to say that, across the board, $15 is a living wage or that $12 is a living wage, when really it depends on where you are. Although little will likely change about the rhetoric of the Democratic candidates, we can at least hope that when actual policy is hammered out, lawmakers take advantage of the data available, such as Glasmeier’s, in order to make more informed policy.

Footnotes   [ + ]

Just How Important is the House Freedom Caucus?

The House Freedom Caucus has been huge in the news recently. They brought down Speaker John Boehner, ended Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid to replace Boehner, and their blessing was the final step for Rep. Paul Ryan to go ahead with his bid for the speaker’s gavel. But given all of the press surrounding the HFC, just how influential are they?

Because we are statistics junkies here at Electoral Statistics, we of course are going to turn to numbers to answer this question. For now, we are going to put aside their influence in the Speaker’s race (which was visibly large) and consider whether they are all that influential legislatively. When talking about the House, most activity goes on behind closed doors, so the public is only able to understand a certain amount of the influence of any one legislator. However, one of the primary points of influence for the HFC is their supposed position as obstructionists. For this, we can look at roll call data1 to find when certain legislators voted against their party leaders. Because we are looking at the HFC, we will focus on Republican leaders (although I may apply this same technique later to Democrats). “The leadership” is a broad, nebulous term, but in this case we looked at the two main GOP House leaders: Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steven Scalise.2 It turns out that this year, Scalise and McCarthy voted together all but one time on the final passage of bills. That one time, Scalise did not vote, so it can be ignored.3 Because of the similarity in the voting records of Scalise and McCarthy, we choose McCarthy’s voting record to be the main point of reference to represent the GOP House Leadership. The most simplistic analysis is to look at how often legislators vote against McCarthy.4 By this metric, the top five dissenters are:

Legislator (District) Percent of Dissenting Votes
Jones (NC 3) 34%
Amash (MI 3) 25%
Gibson (NY 19) 25%
Massie (KY 4) 21%
Dold (IL 10) 21%

Amash (bolded) is the only member of the HFC in the top five. However, many of these votes are simple procedural ones or votes on amendments. The more powerful vote a representative has is on the final passage of bills, so we can narrow it down to just these votes and find the following:

Legislator (District) Percent of Dissenting Votes on Bills
Jones (NC 3) 47%
Amash (MI 3) 34%
Massie (KY 4) 28%
Sanford (SC 1) 22%
Gibson (NY 19) 21%

By this more specific metric, only Amash and Sanford (again bolded) are HFC members. So clearly, HFC members are not the most contrarian Republicans, but they still occupy some of the top seats. In total, the average HFC member votes against the leadership 10% of the time, while the average Republican only does so 7% of the time. The difference becomes starker when again restricting to just votes on the final passage of bills, where the average Republican dissented only 5% of the time while the average HFC member did so 10% of the time. Furthermore, of all the votes cast against the leadership, 20% came from HFC members, who only make up 14% of the Republican House Caucus.5 Again restricting to votes only on the final passage of a bill, HFC members cast 33% of votes against the leadership, which is double the portion of the House GOP members in the HFC. Clearly, although HFC members are not much more contrarian than your average Republican in the House when looking at all votes, they are significantly more willing to vote against the leadership on a bill.

However, this simplistic analysis ignores a key fact: not all votes are created equal. For example, votes taken on the big budget deal that just passed the House is of significantly more importance than, say HR 623 which established a “Social Media Working Group” in the Department of Homeland Security. As such, a dissenting vote on the budget was probably a bigger deal than HR 623, but such judgements of the importance of bills (or amendments or any other business that the House votes on) is rather subjective. Moreover, the House has had about 580 roll call votes to date, and just under 80 were on the final passage of bills. Indexing the importance of these bills individually is therefore not very feasible. However, we are not just interested in how important a singular vote is, but specifically how important a dissenting vote is. For example, if a bill passes by just one vote, every dissenting vote is a lot more meaningful than a bill that passes with 217 votes to spare, meaning that the dissenting vote was the only dissenter. From this idea, we have created something called the Dissent Importance Index (DII). This is a simple, linear model that maps how important any singular dissenting vote is. If for a particular vote, a representative votes on the same side as the leadership, their DII for that vote is a 0. If they vote against the leadership, their DII falls between 0 and 100, where 100 means that that representative was the deciding vote and 0 meaning that the only impact of that dissenter was to rob the leadership from a unanimous vote. We treat the relationship between the margin of victory6 and DII as affine.7 In this way, we assign each legislator a DII for each vote, which we can then sum or average over all votes in order to draw some conclusions about how often representatives vote against leadership in important votes.

The HFC member has a DII average of 7.06 across all votes, while the average Republican has a DII average of 5.67 across all votes. Restricting to just bills, HFC members average a DII average of 6.56 across votes on the final passage of a bill, compared to 3.04 for all Republicans. Although when considering all votes, HFC members only have a slightly higher DII average than an average Republican representative, their record of voting against the leadership remains much more steady on the final passage of bills than the average Republican. We can also give each representative a DII sum, meaning their DII from each vote added together. While this is not entirely informative in the abstract, we can use it to find how much of the total DII of the House GOP the HFC makes up. This is still a bit abstract, but it gives us insight into how impact the HFC is as a whole body. On all votes, the HFC makes up 18% of the total GOP DII, which is not much more than the 14% of the House Republican Caucus that makes up the HFC. However, on just the final passage of bills, the HFC makes up 32% of total GOP DII, double its membership portion. Using the DII confirms the story told by just the raw percentages, which is that the HFC is definitely slightly more willing to vote against the leadership than the average Republican, but when it comes to the final passage of bills, they are much more likely to vote against the leadership.

In the end, the House Freedom Caucus is clearly a body which is hostile to the leadership of the House GOP Caucus. At a macro level, they appear to be no more hostile than any other Republican group.  However their influence clearly stems from their willingness to disobey the leadership on key votes concerning the final passage of bills. While many Republicans are willing to diverge from the leadership on procedural votes or amendments, when it comes to the final vote for a bill, they tend to fall in line. The HFC does not follow this same pattern, and in their willingness to compromise on the passage of bills, they find their power.

Edit (November 13, 2015): You can now check out our data and the code we used to scrape the data on our GitHub.

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.

Jeb Bush’s Chance at Nomination May Be Overstated

Set aside for a moment the media frenzy surrounding Donald Trump and the recent rise in polling by Ben Carson, Jeb Bush remains seen as the frontrunner in the Republican presidential nomination race. The folks over at FiveThirtyEight subjectively give him the best chance to win the nomination, the prediction markets are giving Bush the best chance to win, and until August, a plurality Republicans thought he was the most likely to win. Despite the recent success of Donald Trump, many still believe that after Trumpmania dies down, Bush will be left standing and will eventually become the inevitable candidate. To be clear, no one is particularly excited about Bush and pretty much everyone realizes that, but many seem to think that Bush will eventually get the nod from the Republican party. However, looking more closely at the numbers tells a completely different story.

This early in the race, polls tell us virtually nothing about the race. Candidates tend to take turns getting caught in a sort of feedback loop: their polling surges a bit, the media begins to talk about them more, leading their polling to surge and so on. Because of that feedback loop, polls months away from the first caucuses and primaries are virtually useless as predictors. Instead, many tend to look towards endorsements from party elites in what is known as the “invisible primary.” However, these endorsements have failed to produce any level of consensus in the Republican party this year. In 2012, Republican elites fairly quickly coalesced around Mitt Romney, so even though his polling fluctuated, he was the favored establishment candidate. This year, Jeb Bush has more endorsements than any other candidate, only barely edging ahead of Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker.

However, while voters may change the candidate they support between now and February, how voters feel about candidates is less volatile. Because of the high level of variability in polls, polls which  When it comes down to it, there are certain metrics that may indicate how well a candidate can expect to do.

The first, most publicized of these metrics is favorability. Polls often ask the public if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of many public figures, including the President, Congressional leaders, certain Cabinet members and political candidates. In our case we are concerned with these opinions as they pertain to the Republican primary candidates. Rather than talk about pure favorable or unfavorable percents though, it is often more useful to look at what is referred to as “net favorability,” which is simply the percent of people who view the person as favorable less those who view the person as unfavorable. For example, 40% of Americans view the Democratic Party as favorable, while 49% view them as unfavorable, resulting a net favorability of -9%. The net favorability for each of the Republican candidates, as aggregated by HuffPost Pollster are in the chart below.

Republican Net Favorability

Bush is very clearly at the bottom of the pack, with a Net Favorability of -28, while Ben Carson sits at the top of the pack with 12. Carson’s result and Carly Fiorina’s 1 are the only net positive favorability ratings of all the candidates. Trump, for his supposed polarizing, sits near the middle of the pack with a -8. The median net favorability is -11, while the mean is -11.33. However, for some of these candidates, their net favorability is not incredibly informative because of a general lack of knowledge surrounding them. To get a feel for name-recognition, we can look towards the same favorability ratings and look at the percent who respond with “Undecided” to each candidate. While not a perfect reflection of name-recognition (some may legitimately be undecided), it gives us a fairly good idea of it. The graph below represents that data for each candidate.

Republican Undecided Favorability

What this tells us is that for certain candidates, net favorability is not very informative since so many respondents of favorability polls simply don’t know enough to form an opinion of the candidate. So Jim Gilmore’s -14 net favorability and George Pataki’s -16 is not incredibly significant in view of the 68% and 51%, respectively, of those asked in polls who simply do not have an opinion of these candidates. However, since only 14% of respondents are undecided on Jeb Bush, his -28 net favorability is incredibly damning. Certainly, many associate Bush with his brother and father and may change their minds as they hear more about Jeb’s life story and policies, but he will be fighting an uphill battle in trying to do so.

The one potential downside to drawing inferences about the primary from net favorability is that net favorability reflects the entire American populace, and the primary only reflects Republicans. However, by many metrics, Bush is not more well liked among Republicans than others. For example, we can look at questions fielded by pollsters which are asking how Republicans would feel about each candidate winning the nomination. Each pollster asks this question in a slightly different way, so it is difficult to aggregate the results or compare them directly, but we can still examine each and draw a conclusion from them collectively. However, because each of the results is from a single sample of around 300-500 Republicans, they have a fairly large margin of error (~3-5%).

The first result comes from a poll fielded by CBS, which asks “Regardless of how you intend to vote in 2016, which one of these Republican presidential candidates would you be most dissatisfied with as the Republican nominee?” and the results are in the following chart.

Republican Dissatisfied

While Bush is not the candidate that the most Republicans would be dissatisfied with, he is second only to Donald Trump. He also is the highest of any of the establishment candidates, a group which includes Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Lindsey Graham.

We can look at another poll released by CNN which asks Republicans if they would be “Enthusiastic”, “Satisfied but not enthusiastic”, “Dissatisfied but not upset” or “Upset” with each candidate if that candidate won the nomination. Looking first at the net result of the negative responses, we notice that almost half of Republicans would be dissatisfied or upset if Jeb Bush were to win the nomination.

Republican Dissatisfied/Upset

Bush leads the other candidates by 15%, outside of the margin of error of the poll (reported to be 4.5%). Similarly, when just looking at the percent of Republican voters who would be “Upset” with Jeb Bush’s nomination, Bush is leading, albeit by a smaller margin and within the margin of error.

Republican Upset

The CBS and CNN poll indicate a high level of dissatisfaction that many Republicans would feel with the nomination of Jeb Bush. Not only would a Bush nomination be disliked by many Republicans, Bush also faces a ceiling in the level of support among Republicans he can gain. A poll by Quinnipiac asked “Are there any of these candidates you would definitely not support for the Republican nomination for president?” yielding the below results.

Republican Would Definitely Not Support

18% of Republicans said they would definitely not support Bush, and while he could win the nomination without 18% of the votes (Mitt Romney won 52% of Republican primary votes), the fact that so many voters are already ruling out supporting Bush this early in the campaign does not bode well for him. A poll by NBC/WSJ asking “For each one, please tell me, yes or no, if you could see yourself supporting that person for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.”, putting Bush more towards the middle of the pack, but still with 40% of Republicans saying they would not support him.

Republican Could Not See Supporting

However, despite his being in the middle of the pack, Bush is still is ahead of all other leading establishment candidates except for Christie. Moreover, of the 11 candidates who will be debating on Wednesday, 5 of them are behind Christie, with Carson and Walker almost half of Bush’s result. Again, this does not by any means indicate that it is impossible for Bush to win, he can easily win with 40% of Republicans not supporting him, but it does severely limit the size of the base from which Bush can draw supporters, making his candidacy very difficult.

While it may seem like many things are going Jeb Bush’s way, from his $114 million war chest to his tentative frontrunner status in the endorsement primary, he is ultimately not that well liked by the general voting population and his own Republican party. Even if Jeb Bush does win the nomination, the lack of enthusiasm around his candidacy and the many Republicans who would never support Bush in the primaries may translate into a lack of excitement in the base during the general election. One of the biggest arguments for Bush is the electability argument, an argument which becomes moot if he fails to turn out Republican voters, let alone swing independents.

Right now, candidates like Carson, Fiorina and Trump are doing fairly well in the polls. However, these candidates are liked for their personality and not any set of substantive policies. As the first caucuses and primaries draw closer, the Republican elites will likely throw most of their weight behind a candidate, and this candidate will likely be an establishment candidate. Essentially, the elites will be choosing from Bush, Walker, Rubio, Christie and Kasich. But while the conventional wisdom seems to indicate they would throw their weight behind Bush, if these elites are looking at the same numbers as the ElectoralStatistics team is, they would do well to first recognize the myriad limitations that Bush faces in his quest to become the Republican nominee for president.

Primary Poll Tracker: June 29

Since the last update of our Primary Poll Tracker, we have seen a few new polls which have changed the state of the primary race a little bit.



On the Democratic side, Biden has recovered a bit, but it is still unlikely that he will enter the race. Sanders has inched up, and Webb fell a bit to be virtually tied with O’Malley. Chafee has apparently lost what little steam he previously had. And Clinton remains far ahead of the rest of the pack. On the Republican side, things are a tad more interesting. Bush continues to lead the pack, but his small lead has been fairly stagnant. Rubio, Walker, Carson, Paul, Huckabee and Cruz remain more or less in the same position they were. The two primary changes that have taken place are the falling of Rick Perry1 and the unexpected rise of Donald Trump. These two are likely uncorrelated as the two candidates do not seem to share the same base. Trump’s rise probably mostly has to do with an announcement bounce, as many were not anticipating his run. However, with his rise, Trump now may stand a chance at being on the main stage for the CNN and Fox News debates. If our methodology were used to determine the debaters now, Bush, Rubio, Trump, Walker, Carson, Paul, Huckabee, Cruz, Fiorina and Perry would take the stage, effectively meaning that Trump is replacing Christie.

Footnotes   [ + ]

Primary Poll Tracker: June 23, A change and a Note on why you should read subscripts

As I was going back through my Kalman Filter code, I realized that I left in a hacky shortcut that I meant to go back and fix but never did. That shortcut was that I said that on any day where a poll showed 0% for a candidate, all polls from the same day showed 0% for that candidate, which is obviously wrong. I have since fixed it so that it is now a full weighted sum (where 0% is said to have the same variance as 3%), however when fixing this problem, I noticed another, much larger problem.

In the Kalman Filter, there are two terms, Var(et), which is the sampling variance from the polls. Then there is σu2, which I assumed to be the same thing. This is because I read the u in the subscript as a t. This led to a pretty large flaw in the code1, which honestly only translated into a small change in the chart. Nonetheless, read your subscripts, and here are your new charts!



Footnotes   [ + ]

Primary Poll Tracker: June 22, 2015

As Electoral Statistics launches, our first focus will be on tracking the primary polls. Initially, we will be doing this only for national polls, but as time goes on, we will also track state polls in important primary states. We will not be analyzing every poll that comes out–for that, turn to any major political news organization–because we believe that an individual poll in insignificant without context. Rather, we have built a tool to aggregate polls so we can get a better feel for the field as a whole. Our tool has its quirks, its flaws and is definitely a work in progress. Please, check out our full methodology for a full explanation of how these charts are made. So, here is our first picture of the primary fields of both parties, as it currently stands1:



As you can see, Hillary Clinton leads the Democratic field very comfortable, while her next nearest opponent, Bernie Sanders, is only polling at 10.5%, a solid 50.1% below Clinton. You’ll also notice that we are not tracking Amy Klobuchar or Kirsten Gillibrand, although we considered them to be “eyeing” previously. This is because they have already endorsed Clinton, have not been mentioned as possible contenders by any major news outlet in months, and do not appear to be making any moves at all towards running.

On the Republican side, things are a bit messier. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are virtually tied around 12%, but Rubio, Carson, Huckabee and Paul are nipping at their heels. If CNN or Fox News were to use our methodology in determining who shows up to the debates, the debaters would be Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina and Rick Perry.

Footnotes   [ + ]

Who’s In and Who’s Out–Part 4

This is our fourth update (of many to come) in who has announced their candidacy for President, who has already said they won’t run and who is thought to be eyeing a run. (Note: all potential candidates are listen in alphabetical order only, the order is not indicative of who is doing better than whom–yet.)

The list has now been updated to include Lindsey Graham and Martin O’Malley who announced this week.

The (crowded) Republican field:

Who’s In

Ben Carson

Ted Cruz

Carly Fiorina

Lindsey Graham

Mike Huckabee

George Pataki

Rand Paul

Marco Rubio

Rick Santorum

Who’s Out

Rob Portman

Mitt Romney

Paul Ryan

Rick Snyder

Who’s Eyeing

Jeb Bush

Chris Christie

Bobby Jindal

John Kasich

Mike Pence

Rick Perry

Scott Walker

The (less crowded) Democratic field:

Who’s In

Hillary Clinton

Martin O’Malley

Bernie Sanders

Who’s Out

Andrew Cuomo

Deval Patrick

Elizabeth Warren

Who’s Eyeing

Joe Biden

Lincoln Chafee

Kirsten Gillibrand

Amy Klobuchar

Jim Webb