CNN poll: Dead heat for Dems in Nevada

posted at 8:41 am on February 17, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

Small wonder that Hillary Clinton’s team has been backpedaling away from the Nevada caucuses after New Hampshire. The next contest on their calendar looks like a nailbiter in CNN’s new Nevada poll — although it’s a poll that should be taken with a grain of salt in both races:

Likely Democratic caucusgoers in Nevada are split almost evenly between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ahead of Saturday’s caucuses, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll.

Though Clinton holds an edge over Sanders on handling a range of top issues, the results suggest the extremely close race hinges on divided opinions on the economy.

Overall, 48% of likely caucus attendees say they support Clinton, 47% Sanders. Both candidates carry their demographic strong points from prior states into Nevada, with Clinton holding an edge among women, while Sanders tops the former secretary of state among voters under age 55.

Team Hillary has discounted Nevada’s caucuses as not diverse enough to reflect the party’s desires across the country. CNN takes issue with that characterization, at least in terms of two states that Hillary took more seriously:

One exception emerges though: Although the pool of potential caucusgoers in Nevada is more racially diverse than those who participated in Iowa or New Hampshire, the racial divide among likely caucusgoers isn’t nearly as stark as among voters in South Carolina, with both white and non-white voters about evenly divided between the two candidates.

Now the grain of salt: the sample size on this CNN/ORC poll is remarkably low, at least when it comes to likely Democratic caucus-goers. Despite a polling cycle of six days (February 10-15 inclusive), the pollster only made contact with 1,006 adults, and only 282 of those were likely participants for Saturday’s Democratic contest. That leaves the poll with a 6.5% margin of error, which seems like a rather large amount of uncertainty for a poll published four days before an electoral event.

However, it does align rather well with another poll taken about the same time. TargetPoint conducted a survey for the Free Beacon of 1,236 likely Democratic caucus-goers, as reported by Jon Ralston, and found almost exactly the same topline — a 45/45 tie. If the numbers in CNN’s poll are correct, Hillary has lost a 16-point lead since October in Nevada.

CNN’s polling of the Republican primary has the same flaw, but it matters a lot less. The poll only includes 245 likely GOP caucus-goers, but Donald Trump’s dominating lead in this poll goes far beyond the margin of error. Trump has picked up a little more support to get to 45%, while Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are in a virtual tie for second place (19/17 respectively). Ben Carson dropped from 22% to 7% in four months, but none of the other lower-tier candidates benefited from his collapse.

The only glimmer of hope for the runners-up is that 41% of likely GOP participants have not definitely decided on a candidate; 26% aren’t even leaning in one way or another. It’s possible that either Rubio or Cruz could leverage that into a big challenge to Trump’s domination. However, Trump also has wide leads on most issues as well — the economy (61% of respondents pick Trump as best suited), immigration (58%), foreign policy (42%), and ISIS (55%). The only close issue is social issues, and Trump even leads that category, 28% to 21% for Cruz and 20% for Rubio — bearing in mind the MoE issues, of course.

But even accounting for MoE and ground-game differences, Trump’s lead here looks insurmountable for next Tuesday’s caucuses — unless something dramatic happens.


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