Reading the Early Vote Can Be Screwy, But in Florida the Trump Camp Has Reason to Be Optimistic
(UPDATE: As of Sunday, Democrats have expanded their early vote advantage to 80-plus thousand. Nevertheless, my analysis below still stands. Those gains only mean Mrs. Clinton has modestly improved her standing juxtaposed to Mr. Obama to 50% levels, and absentee ballots will continue to trickle in, further cutting that advantage. Also, according to our most recent polling released Monday, Mr. Trump continues to carry the independent vote and leads by a wide margin among those who say they are voting on Election Day.)
Compared to 2012, early voting indicates Donald Trump heads into Election Day in far better shape than Mitt Romney, while Hillary Clinton lags Barack Obama.
We have cautioned our readers not to read too much into early and absentee ballot returns–the reasons why were laid out by Sean Trende at RCP–but since the media made such a splash about the “surge” in Hispanic voting in Florida on Saturday we feel the need to shine some light during what has become the Dark Ages of American journalism.
In 2012, after the final day of early voting, Republicans had cut Democrats’ aggregate lead from 8 points in 2008 to 4 points. In total, Republicans cast 79,000 more absentee ballots than Democrats, but trailed in the in-person early vote (EV) by 247,000. The combined advantage for Democrats was roughly 168,000 partisan ballots.
The final 2016 totals after the last day of early voting show Democrats cast roughly 102,000 more in-person early vote ballots than Republicans, or 1,461,358 to 1,359,284, which is about 140,000 fewer ballots than they did in 2012. Meanwhile, Republicans cast roughly 70,000 more absentee ballots than Democrats, or 1,043,583 to 974,135, which is slightly fewer but still roughly on par.
Democrats will head into Election Day 2016 with a combined advantage of just 32,000, down significantly from 168,000 in 2012. Clearly, after three cycles, with all the demographics in their favor, Democrats are still headed in the wrong direction and Republicans continue to cut into early vote advantages in Florida.
We’ll have our final survey out on Monday, but the latest People’s Pundit Daily (PPD) Sunshine State Battleground Poll finds Mr. Trump leading Mrs. Clinton in a four-way matchup by 3 points, 48% to 45%, with both Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein flat at 4% and 2%, respectively. That came after the Bloomberg Politics Poll conducted by Selzer & Co. that found Mr. Trump with a 2-point lead.
In both polls, Mr. Trump carried independents, a group that Mr. Obama carried by 3 points in an election he only managed to win by 0.4%, or less than 70,000 votes. We understand that other polls contradict our own poll and Ms. Selzer’s, but I would argue that the other polls are based on models that mirror the electorate Mr. Obama enjoyed, which clearly is not the case in 2016.
To put it nicely, the PPD Poll and Bloomberg Poll make no assumptions about the electorate and mold the data to those assumptions, like other pollsters. We ask the electorate what it will look like, we don’t tell it what it will look like. Mr. Obama won the black vote almost monolithically and Mr. Trump continues to flirt with touching the low double-digits, coming much closer to the levels reached by President George W. Bush in 2004.
White voters made up roughly 66% of the electorate in the PPD Poll and were breaking big for Mr. Trump 58% to 37%. Black voters only went for Mrs. Clinton by 81% and participation among this group was and still is down from 2012.
Leslie Wimes, the president of the Democratic African-American women’s caucus, recently told MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson that the Clinton campaign was right to be in “panic mode” about low voter enthusiasm in the black community.
“We love President Obama,” she said. “That doesn’t transfer to Hillary Clinton by osmosis. It’s over now as far as the African-American community is concerned. She had time back then to get into the community and get people out to vote. Now, you know, the numbers are the numbers. There’s nothing she can do now.”
Further, much of the Hispanic “surge” over the weekend–which may end up simply bringing them close to their 2012 levels, as they trailed those levels until Saturday–came from Miami, home to the state’s more conservative Cuban population. Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama split the Cuban vote in 2012, while they are breaking for Mr. Trump enough that he has a slight edge overall in the vote-rich region among Hispanics, even as Mrs. Clinton carried the vote statewide.
Mrs. Clinton leads among Hispanic voters statewide by 53% to 42%, a smaller margin than the poll found in the previous week. Latinos made up 16% of the electorate in the previous PPD Sunshine State Battleground Poll, but now increased their share of the electorate to 18%. Still, after we released our poll we spoke to several leaders in the Cuban community who tell us they think it is closer to 60/40 in favor of Trump (we had it 49% to 44%).
But here is what is going to be the deciding factor.
In 2012, independents made up roughly 18% of the electorate and cast 805,869 early and absentee ballots. In the end, the swing independent vote broke for Mr. Obama by roughly 3 points and he carried the state by only about 70,000 votes.
Now, after Saturday, 1,165,084 independents had cast early and absentee ballots, giving them a slight increase to 19% of the electorate. Both the PPD Poll and Bloomberg Poll found this group breaking slightly for Mr. Trump and, if it holds in tomorrow’s poll, it bodes well for the Republican businessman.
As far as crossover support, Mrs. Clinton took roughly 8% of the Republican vote in our previous poll while Mr. Trump took 10% of the Democratic vote. PPD has found each candidate losing much larger shares of their base in other battleground states, including Pennsylvania for Mr. Trump and North Carolina for Mrs. Clinton.
Bottom line: Donald Trump is in a far better position to carry the state of Florida than Mitt Romney was in 2012 before Election Day. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton does not have the large advantage that Mr. Obama enjoyed and lags behind his performance among demographic groups that are key to a Democratic candidate’s chances of carrying the ever important swing state of Florida.
Could Mrs. Clinton still carry the state? Sure. But independents would have to break her way, the crossover vote would have to move her way en masse (only one outlier found that), and Democrats would have to excite the black vote closer to Obama levels. Until we see evidence of that, Florida continues to LEAN TRUMP on the PPD Election Projection Model.
(Editor’s Note: It’s also worth mentioning that PPD’s Election Projection Model is based out of Florida and, not only are we the only “forecasters” to have correctly predicted Governor Rick Scott would win reelection [see predictions in Wiki], but we did so by almost pegging his vote margin exactly. We missed it by only 5,000 votes.)