How Accurate are Republican Presidential Polls Today?

We seem to hear a steady drumbeat of poll results every week as we approach the 2016 presidential election.  But, how accurate are these polls anyway?  Some polls indicate that Jeb Bush is ahead and the frontrunner.  Some polls indicate Donald Trump has jumped into the second spot.  But, what are the problems with these polls?  Who’s really ahead today?  Who will be ahead after the first Republican debate in early August?  How much can you read into these polls anyway?  Let’s discuss these issues now …

How Accurate are Republican Presidential Polls Today?

Polls.  Polls.  Polls.  How much can we rely on them?  How accurate are they?  Here are some of the potential issues with the polls:

1.  Sampling Errors – Because polling is expensive to do, statistical sample sizes are not necessarily that large.  The results?  Often, sampling errors can be plus or minus 5%.  So, one candidate might be 5% too high, another candidate might be 5% too low.  It’s probably unwise to read the numbers as if they are precisely accurate.

2.  Actual Sample – “All Republicans” vs. “Republicans who will Participate in Primaries and Caucuses”  It doesn’t matter if all Republicans love one candidate, if the actual primary and caucus participants select another favorite candidate.  The poll results might be telling us that one candidate is popular, but the polls might fail to tell us who will actually be nominated next summer.

3.  Be Cautious if a Poll includes Independents – Some polls can include independents that are likely to vote Republican in the general election.  Independents might favor a more moderate Republican.  But, conservative Republican voters might not nominate a moderate Republican in 2016.  Many conservatives don’t want to lose the White House again, as they did in 2008 and 2012.

4.  It’s Early in the Election Cycle – Name Recognition is a Big Deal.  Jeb Bush and Donald Trump are doing well according to some polls.  But, they have very high name recognition, tilting the results in their favor for now.

Who Will be Ahead after the First Republican Debate in August?

Chances are one or two individuals who are lower down in the polls in July will move up in mid-August.  Some Republican candidates will shine during the debate.  They will likely jump up dramatically.  Voters are looking for a rock solid conservative winner for 2016.  They will quickly move to a Republican contender who appears to be a strong conservative leader.  Conversely, any one who appears weak and stumbles will drop like a boat anchor in the polls.

As I have predicted, 2016 will be a critical election.  It should be educational to watch the first Republican presidential debate in early August.

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