The Problem with Primary Polls

In the days leading up to the California primary, polls showed Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in a dead heat in that state.

Take, for instance, the most recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll, which found likely Democratic primary voters slightly preferred Clinton over Bernie Sanders 49 to 47 percent. When they polled all Democratic voters, the results flipped with Sanders over Clinton 48 to 47 percent.

Then the election happened, and Clinton won by a landslide 13 points.

That’s the problem with putting too much faith in polls.

Melinda Jackson, a political science professor at San Jose State University, says voter sentiment in California is not the same thing as voter behavior.

“The trick is always trying to figure out who is going to turn out on Election Day,” she said.

“Sanders really having a lot of support from younger voters and new voters, who don’t always reliably show up on Election Day, it just makes it really difficult to predict,” Jackson added.

Hoover Institution research fellow Bill Whalen agrees.

The key word, he says, is “turnout.”

For Sanders to have carried California, he would have had to do best with voters under age 30, Whalen said.

“And June the 7th is a very tough time to get college-aged kids to vote!”

Meanwhile, Clinton’s crushing victory in California has set history into motion.

She collected more than 300 delegates in this state, padding her total lead over Sanders to a virtually indestructible 900.

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