Bernie Sanders

Polls Fail to Predict Sanders Upset in Indiana Primary

RealClearPolitics had Clinton up almost 7 points in the Hoosier State.

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Bernie Sanders
Phil Roeder / Flickr

Only a handful of polling outfits were surveying voters ahead of the Indiana Democratic primary—but none of them saw a Bernie Sanders win coming.

The RealClearPolitics polling average for the state had former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton up by just under 7 percentage points as of this morning. But minutes ago, the TV networks began to call the race for the senator from Vermont.

It still looks mighty unlikely that Clinton will fail to accrue enough delegates to ensure a win on the first round of voting at July's Democratic convention—and that's if Sanders doesn't drop out before then, which he may well do. But a state that was supposed to deal a major blow to his campaign is instead giving him a chance to remind people it ain't over yet.

Ultimately, this should also be a reminder that primary polling is susceptible to major misses, in large part because a primary electorate is so hard to pin down. Far fewer people turn out at this stage than will for the presidential general, and figuring out who will actually cast a ballot on Election Day is, as I explained in my feature for the February issue of Reason ("Why Polls Don't Work"), the most difficult part of conducting a good poll.

Modern survey takers know that, due to plummeting response rates (that is, people's refusal to answer questions from a stranger), they probably aren't getting a true random sample of voters. So they take pains to carefully adjust their data using statistical weights, trying to make their numbers approximate the demographic characteristics not of the group of people they managed to get on the phone but of the group that will actually show up.

But of course, this assumes that they can accurately guess what percentage of the future electorate will belong to various demographic groups, something we can't possibly know for sure until after the election has happened.

Pollsters also generally try to "screen out" from their surveys people who they believe are unlikely to show up for the primary. One way to do that is by limiting yourself mostly to people who have a track record of voting in similar races in the past. But that assumes large numbers who didn't vote in prior years won't be motivated by an usually exciting candidate to "surge" to the polls this time around. Sanders—who likes to say the country is ripe for a political revolution—is arguably one such candidate, and indeed, he's done significantly better over the last three months in "open primary" states where people not formally aligned with the Democratic Party can nonetheless participate.

The team over at FiveThirtyEight is pointing out that this is nowhere near the shock upset that Sanders' win in the Michigan primary was. There, the pre-election polls were consistently finding Clinton up by close to 20 points. Here, they found her up by more like 7. "That was an historic upset for Sanders," writes Nate Silver; "this would be a pretty normal primary miss."

Still, it's a miss that no one saw coming. Even in the best of times, the polls are going to be off-target once in a while, especially in a state like this where there are so few data points to look at. (All the polls in the RCP average finished fielding before the weekend, as well, meaning it's also possible voters changed their minds in the final stretch.) But as I wrote the morning after the New Hampshire primary, it's virtually impossible to know ahead of time which races are the ones pollsters are getting right and which are the ones they're getting wrong.

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99 responses to “Polls Fail to Predict Sanders Upset in Indiana Primary

  1. Socialist SURGE !!!

    lagging indicators

    Polls aren’t showing the true depths of Hillary’s negatives.

    1. Oh please tell us more all-seeing one.

    2. Polls aren’t showing the true depths of Hillary’s negatives.

      It’s more like pollsters are having a hard time figuring out whether voters hate Hillary or Sanders more; with two such awful candidates, that’s understandable.

      We’ll face this again with Hillary vs Trump

  2. Eugene V Debs hit hardest.

  3. Still, it’s a miss that no one saw coming.

    Come on, Stephanie. H treated the state with disdain, and reaped it.

  4. So I was reading the Wikipedia article on the Chilean Presidential Election of 1970. Seems the CIA didn’t directly support Allende’s opponents but the KGB did actively support Allende. Conveniently this is ignored. I mean it is a lot easier to look into US Cold War meddling and act as it is a case of enlightened democrats fighting for Independence the People on one side and CIA-backed thugs whose claims of fighting communism are always full of it on the other.

    1. He who controls the present, controls the past. It is in the same basket as, say, Oswald’s party affiliation, Ho-Chi Mihn’s “non-communist nationalism” or Mosadegh’s “democratic victory” – when you look up actual historical events, it’s the opposite, but leftists repeat propaganda until it’s received wisdom.

      1. And “anti-war” libertarians always follow the leftist line.

        Speaking of Mossadegh it is interesting how the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran is always memory-holed. I mean that was the event that actually installed the Shah on his throne, allowed the Soviets to create the Tudeh party and involved Churchill and Eden as well. Seems like a good example of “blowback”, right? However memory-holing this event and glossing over MI6’s role makes Stalin look good. Convenient that.

        And US funding of Italy’s Christian Democrats get attacked yet the fact that the KGB funded Italy’s Communist Party is ignored. Specifically in the 1946 Italian Election the Soviets put up more funds then the Americans did.

        1. Oops I mean the *1948* Italian election.

        2. And “anti-war” libertarians always follow the leftist line.

          Not at all. Anti-war libertarians just don’t want to be forced to spend money on, or die while, ousting some tinpot third world dictator.

          Leftists are “pacifist” only when it comes to not interfering with leftist regimes.

          1. There is a decided faction of “libertarians” who describe themselves as “anti-war” which basically amounts to always supporting or at least apologizing for the “not US” party in any conflict involving the US, up to and including the USSR and other communist regimes.

            You may call them leftists, but that’s not what they call themselves.

      2. Oh and I have seen people on this site claim that Castro, unlike the US, has not intervened into other’s affairs. This overlooks Castro’s support for the Sandinistas and actually sending troops to Africa to fight in Angola.

      3. More importantly, the left controls the History departments, which is where the history books get written.
        Thus it should not be a surprise that everyone “knows” the CIA overthrew Allende and installed Pinochet. Or that the US “installed” the Shah in Iran, or any number of other interesting examples of US imperialism.

        1. I hear the CIA was somehow responsible for Saddam, too. Probably how he bought all those Soviet and Chinese tanks… via the CIA.

          1. It’s all part of the narrative that foreign strongman have no agency whatsoever and there is no possible reason for some foreign strongman to distrust the USSR (since they never funded strongmen) and when they are US allies it is due to CIA brainwashing because why would anyone want some foreign government providing them with free shit?

          2. By the way the Baathist Coup that Saddam participated in back in 1968 lead to a pro-Soviet regime.

  5. Indiana had the Carrier effect with 1400 jobs leaving for Mexico.

    Both anti-traders (Trump and Sanders) benefited from falsely blaming free trade for job losses in Indiana.

    Trump should just choose Bernie the Marxist for his VP and fuck everyone’s Bingo card up. They are so similar (as Reason has so often written about).

    1. As I said elsewhere, Bernie I think has some principles – as deranged as they may be – and would refuse the offer of a VP slot but Trump is going to be shifting leftward now that he’s running in the general rather than the primary and given where he’s starting from he can’t hardly shift left and still stay within the GOP. John Boehner, maybe? But it would make strategic sense for Trump to pick a Dem as a running mate since Hillbern is leaving him all that manuevering room. Somebody with experience and gravitas, someone who’s run for pres, almost been pres, has been a heartbeat away from the presidency, somebody the left would love to see back in DC, somebody tanned, rested and ready – Trump/Gore 2016.

      1. No. Trump will pick some Stockdale type (Perot style) – his ego will want some lightweight nothing-man so as not to distract from his fabulous Donaldness.

        1. This is probably right. Plus he can hardly pick an “establishment” candidate since that would alienate his supporters.

          1. Plus he can hardly pick an “establishment” candidate since that would alienate his supporters

            There is nothing Trump can do to alienate his supporters. They are True Believers. Which is why Trump is now perfectly free to be as establishment as he wants to be, as liberal as he wants to be, as crazy as he wants to be. Anything he does will be applauded as proof of his genius, whether he shows some consistency or does the exact opposite of what he said, it just doesn’t matter and it’s all the same to his worshippers. All that matters is whether or not it will gain him some votes, there is no losing votes. You thought Obama had sycophants and apologists and lap dogs? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

            1. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

              I’ve seen the commenters here. That was enough.

        2. Says a semi coherent dip fuck who likes young kids.

      2. Or he will go with his intellectual twin – Charlie Sheen.

        WINNING!!!

        YOU LOSERS!

        1. Pay your bet, fuckstick.

      3. Jim Webb!

        (I still haven’t lost my small bet that it’ll be him yet… I should just pay up already)

        1. You know who else lost a bet and welched…

          1. Did Obama ever send that beer to Harper?

          2. Matt? That’s why he’s named that, right?

      4. A fusion ticket would be great IMO. Trump & a Democrat. It’d crack the parties better than anything else that’s been talked about.

        The only thing is, I doubt the Republican delegates would go for it. A lot of them are pledged to Trump only by the national GOP rules, not because they really support Trump. So they’ll nominate Trump, but maybe not his preference for running mate.

      5. An administration headed by an orange mullet and orange skin.

  6. OT: You’re almost there, Facebooker…

    Updated annually, the press freedom map ranks all countries on the basis of how accessible, unbiased, and unrestrained media outlets are within each country. It is disappointing, but not surprising, to see my country close to the bottom of the list. Nationalization of media outlets and governmental sanctioning of the remaining sources has placed ?#?venezuela? close to countries where warlords and terrorism don’t leave room for free speech. However, it is always worth noting that great evil hides behind the polar opposite case. The unregulated privatization of media outlets allows for a minority to distribute their own agenda, bending the truth as much as the most fascist leaders… ?#?dc? ?#?newseum?

    Regulated media don’t have their own agendas, apparently. Government regs make everything double-plus good!

    1. Nationalization of media outlets and governmental sanctioning of the remaining sources has placed ?#?venezuela? close to countries where warlords and terrorism don’t leave room for free speech.

      Don’t worry, princess, this will change soon. The World Press Freedom ranking is based on surveys of working journalists in the country; once Venezuela has gotten around to kicking any dissident journalist out of the profession (maybe they can be put to work in toilet paper factories), it will rise again in the rankings.

  7. This is why social scientists should stick to explaining why it was inevitable that things happened the way they did after the fact rather than trying to explain what’s going to happen beforehand like real scientists do. If a chemist tells you you can mix those two liquids together and get a sweet tasty beverage and instead it blows your hands off, it’s pretty obvious the guy’s a really shitty chemist and nobody should hire him to chem for them. All those poli-sci majors who explained why Hillary was going to win Indiana? They all still have jobs.

    1. “This is why social scientists should stick to explaining why it was inevitable that things happened the way they did after the fact rather than trying to explain what’s going to happen beforehand like real scientists do.”

      I’ve noticed “socialist” is a much more apt term for a great many of them.

    2. This isn’t poli-sci predictions, it’s statisticians. The thing about statistics is it only gives you a probability of what’s going to happen. The prediction is based on a sample; the quality of the sample is important in the accuracy of the prediction. I think the problem these days is it can be difficult to get a good sample. Sometimes it’s close enough that it doesn’t matter, but sometimes the predictions are way off.

      1. I think the problem these days is it can be difficult to get a good sample.

        The problem is that its easier than its ever been to get a sample; its more expensive than its every been to get a good sample.

        Consequently, the trend is to do “Lots more”, but “generally shittier” polling.

        The real money being spent on the ‘good kind’ (screened panels, etc) is most likely being done by parties & campaigns on their own, and done for the purpose of finessing messaging & strategy… not simple stuff like “guesstimating results”

      2. The best poll with the most representative sample still can’t account for the fact that people change their minds.

  8. Nothing matters and everything is terrible and we’re all doomed.

    1. You’re so right. DOOM!

      5% UE, inflation dead, 4% mortgages, Dow record highs, US Dollar up 20%, lower deficits, record exports, low gas prices, etc..

      MAKE AMURICA GRATE AGIN!

      1. Dude, you need to lay off the cocaine. It’s doing a number on your brain.

        1. I always saw him more as a methhead.

          1. He fancies himself a Wall Street type, and I take him at his word.

        2. Facts really bother you.

          1. Here’s a fact: you need to pay your bet, fuckstain.

        3. It’s the 8% solution.

      2. Tell us how gold is going to 900.

      3. Lowest labor participation rate since the 70s, stagnant economy with the only president to not have a single year of 3% GDP growth for his entire term, skyrocketing health insurance costs, idiotic and ineffective military interventions creating chaos around the globe, etc. And are you really retarded enough to think that Obama had anything to do with low gas prices?

        1. The only way Obama could possibly be “credited” with low gas prices is if he made some kind of deal with the Saudis, which basically means that on top of all that you said, he’s a literal traitor to his own country.

          Yeah, I’m gonna go with he’s just an incompetent buffoon who lucked into being around when the Saudis decided to fuck with Russia.

  9. Where I live, in St. Louis, the term “hoosier” is equated with white trash/idiot.

    Until tonight, I never really agreed.

    1. It is the state with the highest KKK enrollment.

      1. Pennsylvania is #2

    2. What do you call the people who live over the river in Illinois?

  10. But as I wrote the morning after the New Hampshire primary, it’s virtually impossible to know ahead of time which races are the ones pollsters are getting right and which are the ones they’re getting wrong.

    Now who can argue with that?

  11. I wonder if the Berninator can win Cali? Doesn’t he have to win pretty much everything from here on out to have a chance?

    I think people are getting nervous about Hillary. Bernie probably would do better in the general, despite his crazy economic policies. Most people don’t understand that he’s wrong about all that anyway. At least no one on the left.

    1. The Dems heavy dependence on superdelegates denies him the nomination regardless. However, a strong showing in remaining states for Bernie will hurt enthusiasm for Hillary. That’s not a bad thing.

      1. There’s ‘enthusiasm’ for Hillary?
        I think that’s the problem.

  12. Same deal as Michigan. Clinton Democrats crossing party lines to vote for Trump. Either because they are working class whites, or because they want to make sure the Republicans nominate someone who will lose badly to Hillary.

    1. Leaving the Democratic primary to Bernie? Wouldn’t they think that’d make things look a little worse for Hillary?

      1. This notion of “spoiler democrats”? – people who care enough about Hillary to …switch parties and intentionally voting for trump in some complex scheme to ‘hurt the GOP’ – is pretty ridiculous.

        It makes slightly more sense the other way around; there were some independent GOP-leaning voters in 2008 who voted for Obama just to fuck over hillary. I know many in NY.

        There’s no evidence of any significant numbers of those type of people affecting Trump’s outcomes, even if they did exist. The margins are far too wide.

        1. Yup. Let’s put that theory to rest.

  13. The surge is a very positive sign for Trump. It means that people are spoiling for a fight, doesn’t really matter which candidate brings it on. (If they wanted status quo they’d vote for Hillary.) So assuming Hillary wins the primary, those guys will vote for Trump. All he has to do is say a few things that sound good to a Bernie supporter. Things like truth, consistency and experience are irrelevant – just bring on the battle.

    1. So it’s corrupt establishment stooge versus fascist egomanic. Yum, all the selection of a typical Latin American election.

      1. Yes – any way you look at this you lose. They key is to protect the Constitution especially First Amendment. Not sure who’s the greater threat.

    2. You have no clue what the typical Bernie voter is like. Lots of them are young college dummies who hate Trump and will fall right in line with Hillary.

      1. Lots of them are young college dummies who hate Trump and will fall right in line with Hillary will stay at home on election day.

        FTFY

    3. But was Ind. thought to be contestable between the Rep & Dem nominees for prez?

  14. 538 will have such a sad!

    They get so mad that not all human behavior is predictable with numbers. I know, Nate Silver, it makes central planning so hard.

    1. Wait, wasn’t he just sentenced to prison?

    2. Nate Silver is still gonna nail the general election. It’s what he does.

  15. Oddly enough, Jane Jacobs is Google’s mascot-of-the-day for May 4th.

    1. So is her “anti-bigness” good or bad today?

  16. Doesn’t matter she’s gonna be president anyway.

    Honest to God, Rand and the other sane GOPers should just form their own party. There is no other way to avoid the slaughter coming in November.

    1. Honest to God, Rand and the other sane GOPers should just form their own party.

      “Fringe Fascists Reichwing nutjobs who think Trump is too moderate”/ MSM

      1. Still better than the Party of Trump.

  17. So has the pants shitting shifted in to 3rd gear at the Reason office, here, and elsewhere now that Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee?

    i enjoy the pants shitting so much that I volunteer to change Nick’s diaper.

    Bernie is the “i Ain’t Dead Yet.” guy in the Holy Grail.

    1. It’s not pants-shitting when the fear is completely reasonable.

      The mongoloids in these parts sure do love using words and terms they don’t understand.

      1. Morons r us, trollin, troliin, trollin, piss off dipshit.

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  19. As much as I hate the phrase, “I can’t even…”

    Argle bargle. How can we live in an America where the presidency comes down to criminal Hillary and nutjob Trump? It shouldn’t matter that much, but we have gifted way too much power to the president so that it actually does matter a lot.

    At this point, I am leaning toward Trump simply for entertainment and the fact that he might shift positions in order to stay popular (unlike Hildog, who is a committed socialist).

    1. Argle bargle. How can we live in an America where the presidency comes down to criminal Hillary and nutjob Trump? It shouldn’t matter that much, but we have gifted way too much power to the president so that it actually does matter a lot.

      You have the answer right there: we are using a process that was intended to elect someone for a boring task that rarely mattered to most Americans (defense, interstate commerce) in order to elect someone who decides on the budget and 40% of national spending.

      At this point, I am leaning toward Trump simply for entertainment and the fact that he might shift positions in order to stay popular (unlike Hildog, who is a committed socialist).

      Hillary is just selfish, arrogant, and corrupt. Trump is unpredictable. It’s hard to know which one is the lesser of two evils. Why not vote third party?

      1. You have the answer right there: we are using a process that was intended to elect someone for a boring task that rarely mattered to most Americans (defense, interstate commerce) in order to elect someone who decides on the budget and 40% of national spending[, controls the national police and intelligence apparatus, has the power to direct punitive enforcement priorities in taxation and regulatory agencies, can declare states of emergency and suspend the rule of law, and can radically alter the state of the law by personal orders, pardons, and judicial appointments.]

        In the end, the republic always collapses to dictatorship.

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  21. “So they take pains to carefully adjust their data using statistical weights, trying to make their numbers approximate the demographic characteristics not of the group of people they managed to get on the phone but of the group that will actually show up”
    Taking a page from the climate “scientists”?
    Honesty and integrity are foreign words in the US.

  22. Just like your prediction, Stephanie, that Trump will never win the nomination. Remember that one? It was when you were touting Stossels election betting odds site, where you said bettors usually get things right and they were saying Rubio would win.

    That was funny.

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  24. Trump needs to pick a principled outsider with great name recognition but insufficient charisma to overshadow The Donald himself. He also needs to lean left of Hillary to scoop up some of those disgruntled Bernie supporters and he could use someone who comes off as a bit more articulate and educated in order to appeal to the snob element while still keeping the ordinary riffraff engaged…

    I say he chooses Michael Moore!

    I can already picture all the heads that would explode. It would be a hugely entertaining ticket. The slogans just about write themselves, too.

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    The Bronx Billionaire and the Fraud from Flint!
    Liar, Liar!
    This election — it’s conspiracy theories all the way down!

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