Monday, June 20, 2016

Who Will Win? Depends on Who You Ask?

I wrote here about survey questions that ask not just who you're going to vote for in November but, more interestingly, who do you think is going to win? Read that entry to understand the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the two questions. Here, I want to break down the only Clinton v Trump question I've found so far this election cycle, one that was conducted in March by CNN/ORC. Go here if you want to wade through the results, or just follow my summary below and save yourself the pain. The question asked:
Regardless of who you support, and trying to be as objective as possible, who do you think will win the election in November if these are the candidates on the ballot -- Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?
Fifty-six percent predicted Clinton would win, 42 percent Trump. That's covered in my previous post. Today let's dive deeper to make the point that people believe what they want to believe and they're more often to predict their own candidate will win. See some of the breakdowns below.

  • Among Trump supporters, 92 percent predicted he would win.
  • Among Clinton supporters, 92 percent predicted she would win. 

Let that sink in for a moment. People tend to believe their own candidate will win, concept us PhDweeby types call wishful thinking. It's been studied in politics, sports, and a few other areas. No real surprise, but important to note. Now:

  • Men (51 percent) and women (61 percent) predicted Clinton would win.
  • Seventy-two percent of college grads predicted a Clinton win, while 48 percent of non-grads predicted a Clinton win (50 percent predicted Trump).

No doubt the gender differences above are reflected in Clinton's success with female vs. male voters. The education effect also reflects the differences the two candidates demonstrate in supporters.

  • Among Dems, 87 percent predict a Clinton victory. 
  • Among Republicans, 75 percent predict a Trump victory.
  • Among independents, 53 percent predict Clinton, 47 percent Trump.
What's important above is fewer GOPers predict a Trump victory than actual Trump supporters. There's a lot going on there, suggesting the uneasiness with Trump's campaign or, perhaps, a better sense of electoral reality. 

  • Urban respondents believe Clinton wins (66-33 percent)
  • Among suburban responds, it's Clinton (56-44).
  • But, among rural respondents, 53 percent predict Trump will win to 45 percent for Clinton.
I should point out that even seeing, reading, or hearing about polls has little effect in shaking people from their loyalty to their preferred candidate. It's really difficult to break people from this wishful thinking. The more strongly people feel about the candidate or campaign, the more likely they are to fall into this trap. Consider this the Karl Rove effect, for lack of a better name, for his infamous meltdown on Fox News during the 2012 election night.

As I discussed elsewhere, three polling firms traditionally ask these "who's gonna win" questions. Two of them have yet to release any questions, though it should be soon, and at least one academic poll always asks this question but those results won't come out until after the election. That is more useful for academics like myself who want to understand why people engage in wishful thinking and what the consequences such beliefs may have, such as being a "surprised loser" in an election. 

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