Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Peculiar Disconnect Between PPP's Early State & National 2016 Polling

Hillary Clinton could join her husband and Jimmy Carter as the only Democrats to carry Georgia since 1960, if early PPP polling is any indiciation. About the photo: Bill Clinton dines with Jimmy Carter in a bar in Atlanta in August 1992. Courtesy of AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

In what had to be considered excellent news for Democrats across the country last week, another PPP 2016 survey in loyally Republican Georgia shows Hillary Clinton amazingly competitive in what has typically been unfriendly territory for Democrats, and Hillary Clinton personally.

Democrats haven't won in Georgia at a presidential level since Bill Clinton's narrow half-point victory in 1992. Before that, it was native son Jimmy Carter in 1980. As for Hillary, though she's never faced the Georgia general electorate, her own party wasn't very kind to her on the only occasion she's ever had to run on their statewide ballot (losing to Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary by 35 points).

But that could all change in 2016 if Public Policy Polling's state surveys are on the mark. For the second time this year, Hillary Clinton essentially TIES or LEADS all of her likely Republican competitors in the largest state of the Deep South:

Those would be very impressive numbers for any Democrat, especially considering Barack Obama lost the state by 8 and 5 points in 2012 and 2008, while John Kerry and Al Gore lost the state by 17 and 12 points in 2004 and 2000.

But the Georgia numbers caught the eye of at least one pollster for another reason - how exactly could Hillary Clinton be performing so well in Georgia, while finding herself in a tie with most of her GOP opponents in a NATIONAL survey from the same polling company just two weeks prior?

Consider this: in each of the last four presidential elections (2000-2012), the state of Georgia has voted about a net 12 points more for the Republican over the Democrat than the nation as a whole. For example, while Barack Obama carried the national popular vote by a margin of 4 points in 2012, Mitt Romney won Georgia by 8 points.

Obama dispensed of McCain nationwide by 7 points in 2008, while McCain still managed to carry Georgia by 5.

George W. Bush's impressive 17 point win over John Kerry in 2004 was 14 net points better than he did nationwide that year (winning 51-48%).

And again in 2000, as Al Gore and George W. Bush reached 48% a piece nationwide, W. carried Georgia by . . . wait for it . . . 12 points.

So what, you might ask?

As the Tarrance Group Pollster pointed out, it's just incredibly unlikely that Chris Christie would be trailing Hillary Clinton by 1 point nationally, but only leading her 44-42% in Georgia. Likewise, Jeb Bush would probably be doing much better than a TIE against Hillary in Georgia if their recent national poll showing him trailing her only three were accurate. It would require a truly bizarre turn of events for Paul Ryan to actually lose the state of Georgia to Hillary Clinton 47-44%, while only losing to Hillary nationally 46-44% (both of which are PPP findings found two weeks apart).

No, national presidential elections just don't work that way, at least not for the last several cycles.

If the PPP Georgia findings were accurate, you would anticipate much harsher numbers for the potential 2016 GOP candidates nationwide than actually found. In fact, if you apply the average 12 point Republican swing from the actual election results of the last four presidential contests, you would find what could only be described as a nightmare scenario for Republicans:

If Hillary really is giving the Republicans as big a run for their money in Georgia as PPP finds, it's more likely her actual national numbers look like the column in the far right above, as opposed to the center column.

But what if it's PPP's national numbers that are correct? Naturally, the projected Georgia survey results would get a lot more GOP-friendly, but also start to look a lot more realistic (given the national numbers):

That's a pretty drastic change from the actual result.

And this peculiar disconnect between state and national polling isn't merely limited to Georgia. It shows up in recent surveys from places like Texas, Alaska, Louisiana, and Kentucky.

Texas, for example, like Georgia, has voted for the Republican over the Democrat by about 20 pts more than the nation at large in each presidential election since 2000. So if Christie were trailing Hillary Clinton nationally by one point, you'd expect his lead in Texas to be around 19 pts, not the 9 pts PPP found. Same for Jeb Bush, who only manages a TIE against Clinton in Texas, while trailing her just 3 pts nationally.

Of course, it's entirely possible that neither PPP's national or state polls are accurate reflections of the state of the country with regards to 2016. It's also entirely possible that either their recent state poll numbers in places like Georgia, Alaska, and Texas are correct, OR that their recent national numbers are correct. But not both. 

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