Do these numbers matter?

One of the websites that I visit a few times a week is Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. Silver is a statistician. Numbers and polling are his bread and butter. Poor guy. I think if I had to endure a steady diet of polls I’d want to tear my hair out. I’d rather shovel snow. And that’s saying a lot since, in the last 24 hours, I have shoveled snow five times and am really, really sick of it.

FiveThirtyEight isn’t a strictly political site — it is a blog operated by ESPN and sports plays a central role there. But he does venture into politics and political polling. And he knows his numbers.

The other day, Silver had a column about net favorability of the Republican primary field among not only Republicans, but Independents and Democrats.

[It’s interesting to me how nobody ever bothers polling the net favorability of Democrats among Independents and Republicans. Why the hell is that? Is it that modern mathematical principles cannot record negative numbers that large?]

One of the arguments made for Donald Trump is that he would have crossover appeal — being able to garner votes from solidly Democrat and Independent voters. But the numbers just don’t add up.

From Silver’s article:

It’s hard to say exactly how well (or poorly) Trump might fare as the Republican nominee. Partisanship is strong enough in the U.S. that even some of his most ardent detractors in the GOP would come around to support him were he the Republican candidate. Trump has some cunning political instincts, and might not hesitate to shift back to the center if he won the GOP nomination. A recession or a terror attack later this year could work in his favor.
 
But Trump would start at a disadvantage: Most Americans just really don’t like the guy.
 
Contra Rupert Murdoch’s assertion about Trump having crossover appeal, Trump is extraordinarily unpopular with independent voters and Democrats. Gallup polling conducted over the past six weeks found Trump with a -27-percentage-point net favorability rating among independent voters, and a -70-point net rating among Democrats; both marks are easily the worst in the GOP field. (Trump also has less-than-spectacular favorable ratings among his fellow Republicans.)

The truth is, among Independents, only three Republicans have a positive net favorability: Ben Carson (+5), Marco Rubio (+4) and Carly Fiorina (+1). The two frontrunners both have a negative net favorability among Independents: Ted Cruz (-3) and Donald Trump (-27).

Naturally, among Democrats every single Republican is in the red. And only John Kasich has single-digit negative net favorability (-4). Frontrunners Cruz and Trump hold double-digit negative favorability among Democrats (-37 and -70 respectively).

In truth, among Republicans only Jeb Bush (+13), Chris Christie (+23) and John Kasich (with a sorry +7) have lower net favorability than Donald Trump (+27). Cruz is far and away the leader with +51 among Republicans followed closely by Carson (+47) and Rubio (+46).

Now the question is, do these numbers matter?

Are they predictive in any way?

Probably not. But what I do find interesting about them is they don’t seem to mesh with the narrative we have been hearing — not just in the Enslaved Press, but among Republicans.

The narrative is, among the frontrunners, Cruz could never be elected because Independents and Democrats would never vote for him. But, Trump would have crossover appeal and would draw voters who ordinarily vote for the Democrat nominee, thereby putting even the bluest states like New York in play.

But with a negative seventy among Democrats, I don’t see Trump winning New York.

Honestly? I never really bought these claims about who is and is not “electable.”

Remember why we got stuck with John McCain in ’08 and Mitt Romney in ’12. We were told in no uncertain terms that only they could win. Nobody else running had a snowball’s chance in hell to win in the General.

And, just asking, but how did they do?

Back in 1980 (for those of you old enough to remember), we were told that Ronald Reagan would never be able to beat Jimmy Carter. He was too far to the right and he would turn off too many voters. He simply was not electable.

So when I hear things like, “Trump is the only one who can be elected,” or “Cruz will never win the General,” or “Rubio would never beat Hillary,” it gets my Spider Senses tingling. Mostly because the conventional wisdom has been so terribly wrong so many times.

The thing we need to take into account is that this year, the presumptive nominee for the Democrat Party has a net favorability among Democrats of minus eight. The highest net favorability among the three Democrat candidates is Bernie Sanders with +3. Among Democrats, you guys. O’Malley (-11) and Clinton (-8) are in the red. Among Democrats.

Meanwhile over on the Republican side, the lowest net favorable is John Kasich with a +7. Not one Republican candidate is in the red among Republican voters. The fact that two of the three Democrats have a negative net favorability among their own voters should really have the DNC panic-stricken.

The enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats is enormous. This will mean one of two things (or a mixture of both): Democrats won’t turn out to vote in November or some Democrats might actually vote for the Republican. If the latter happens, can Trump expect those to vote for him when his net favorability among Democrats is minus seventy?

Now, this is all academic, I know. Not one person has voted as yet. We’re still a couple weeks away from the Iowa Caucus. These numbers will no doubt change radically once candidates begin winning some states.

But I think it is well to keep in mind that with a candidate so deeply disliked among both Independents and Democrats, Trump’s supposed “crossover appeal” may not be as solid as some are hoping.

Now, Silver, not being a conservative Republican, closes his article with this observation. You can take it or leave it as you like.

Head-to-head polls of hypothetical general election matchups have almost no predictive power at this stage of the campaign, but for what it’s worth, Trump tends to fare relatively poorly in those too. On average, in polls since Nov. 1, Trump trails Clinton by 5 percentage points, while Clinton and Marco Rubio are tied.
 
You could plausibly argue that Ted Cruz would be a worse nominee than Trump despite having better favorability ratings and faring slightly better in general election head-to-heads. There’s reasonably clear evidence that voters tend to punish candidates with “extreme” (far right or far left) ideologies, and by statistical measures Cruz would be the most conservative nominee since (and possibly including) Barry Goldwater in 1964. Trump’s ideology is harder to pin down.
 
But that Cruz might be a bad nominee doesn’t make Trump a good one. It’s a [sic] perplexing that Republican elites have resigned to nominating either Trump or Cruz when nine other candidates are running and no one has voted yet.

You might find the entire article rather interesting. You can read the whole thing HERE.

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