Gallup’s decision not to poll the presidential horse race this cycle has opened up opportunities for other polling firms to fill the void, albeit with a new kind of survey.
Gallup, which has been polling the race since Franklin Roosevelt was president, received plenty of criticism for its inaccurate 2012 election polls, largely because of a problem many other traditional polling firms are also running into.
The issue is that organizations like Gallup are still polling the way they did more than half a century ago. Their views on voters tend to be binary — you’re either a candidate’s supporter or not — and they treat every supporter of a candidate to be roughly equal. These methods are too static and simplistic in today’s world and yield little information about voters’ behavior or future movement.
At our firm, we’ve unveiled a platform called Trendency Research, which measures, among other things, how firm a voter is supporting a certain candidate and whether he or she is likely to change camps. This Threshold Analysis compares the strength of a candidate’s support at varying levels on a 0-to-100 scale.
For example, a voter who’s a supporter at the 90 threshold is considerably different than one who is at the 60 threshold. Traditional polling would treat them the same, but we don’t.
The ability to measure not just movement from one candidate to another, but the levels of support within a candidate’s numbers allows us to detect trends overtime. When it comes to the Republican field, we’re seeing support for Donald Trump to be firmer than his rivals for the White House nomination, but only among voters who are certain of which candidate they’re voting for.
In Iowa, the Real Clear Politics average currently has Trump leading with 22 percent support, followed by Ben Carson at 17 percent, and Carly Fiorina at 10 percent. Through our analysis, we see that although Trump is leading among the highest threshold of voters (90 and higher), he drops from the top of the pack when we look at voters who are less sure of their ultimate candidate. In fact, if we just drop the threshold analysis to 75, Trump is tied with Carson, and is actually trailing Carson among even lower thresholds.
This shows that currently Trump’s support band is very concentrated among his true believers, and while it’s good to have this group behind you, the fact that the race is so much closer just a little further down the Threshold scale points to the fact that it wouldn’t be surprising to see a dip in Trump’s overall support in public polling soon and even for him to be surpassed by another candidate (namely Carson) as more voters make up their minds about a candidate to vote for.
Moreover, we’re using our Commitment and Rejection Indexes as a way of determining voters who are strongly committed to a candidate and those who have little chance of supporting a candidate.
Through this analysis we see low commitment for all of the Republican candidates in Iowa with the highest ratings at 12.8 percent commitment for Trump and 10.6 percent for Carson. When we look at the Rejection Index, 68 percent of voters are unlikely to support Carson, while three-quarters reject Trump and nearly 90 percent reject Fiorina. Put another way, in Iowa Fiorina is at her current ceiling of support.
Looking at New Hampshire, Trendency not only reinforces Trump’s double-digit lead over Fiorina, according to Real Clear Politics, but goes further to show that Trump leads among Granite State voters at all threshold levels of support. Although it’s rather unsurprising that Trump holds the largest Commitment Index in New Hampshire at 15.7 percent, it’s interesting to see that he also has the smallest Rejection Index at 78 percent.
As a result, Trump’s support appears more solid at the moment in New Hampshire than it does in Iowa, and with it, a lower expectation of a dip in the polls. As always, a change in the national poll numbers or narrative could affect state polls and we’ll keep a close eye on when or if this happens.
Still, with the leadoff caucus and primary election still more than three months away, support for the 12 remaining Republican candidates is likely to shift significantly.
Stefan Hankin is founder and president of Lincoln Park Strategies, a Washington D.C.-based public opinion firm. Follow him on Twitter at @LPStrategies.