2020 Democratic primaries on March 10: My final polling update

[Updated at 4:00 pm EST to account for late polls]

On March 10, 2020, six more states will hold primaries to help select the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, bringing the total number of such contests to 24. Table 1 lists these states, sorted by poll closing times, and the number of pledged delegates each state will provide to the Democratic National Convention, which will be held July 13-16, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A total of 352 pledged delegates are available on March 10, 8.8% of the total 3,979 to be awarded.[1]

Table 1: Democratic presidential nominating contests, March 10, 2020 by Poll Closing Times

Jurisidiction Poll Closing (EST) Pledged Delegates
Mississippi 8 pm 36
Missouri 8 pm 68
North Dakota 8 pm 14
Michigan 9 pm

(79 of 83 counties close at 8 pm)

125
Idaho 11 pm 20
Washington 11 pm

(balloting by mail)

89
TOTAL PLEDGED DELEGATES 352

In a previous post, I presented final polling updates for the 14 states (including American Samoa and Democrats Abroad) holding Democratic presidential nominating contests on March 3. Unlike previous contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, however, I have not yet posted a comparison of these polling averages to the final results. That is because votes are still being counted in California, while Dallas County in Texas may recount its votes.

Nonetheless, it is apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden strongly overperformed his final polling averages, emerging with an overall lead of 77 pledged delegates,[2] while United States Senator (“Senator”) from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren largely underperformed. Indeed, Warren ended her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on March 5; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had already ended his bid one day earlier. However, while Bloomberg immediately endorsed Biden, Warren has yet to endorse any other candidate. Meanwhile, on March 9, 2020 two more former rivals, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and California Senator Kamala Harris, endorsed Biden at a Detroit, Michigan rally.

Three declared candidates remain for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination—down from 28 in total:

  • Biden
  • United States House of Representatives Member from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard
  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders

**********

In the remainder of this post, I present final WAPA (weighted-adjusted polling average) for Biden, Gabbard and Sanders in each state, calculated up to two ways depending upon available data polls are up-to-date as of 2 am EST March 10, 2020. As with the 18 previous contests, a candidate must win ≥15% of the vote to be awarded delegates either statewide or within a Congressional district. All publicly-available polls conducted since January 1, 2019 may be found here.

And here is my updated weighting scheme:

  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 3, 2020, but before February 12, 2020 are weighted 2.00 or 1.00+fraction[3] times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 4, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 11, 2020, but before February 23, 2020 are weighted 3.00 or 2.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 12, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 22, 2020, but before March 1, 2020 are weighted 4.00 or 3.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 23, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 29, 2020, but before March 4, 2020 are weighted 5.00 or 4.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 29, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after March 3, 2020, but before March 11, 2020 are weighted 10.00 or 5.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before March 4, 2020.

To provide context for the percentage either truly undecided or selecting a different candidate (“DK/Other”), I also include the aggregate final state WAPA for Bloomberg; former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Warren combined (“BBKSW”). Their supporters still comprise a sizeable proportion of the “DK/Other” group in some states, adding a modicum of additional uncertainty to the outcomes of Tuesday’s races.

8 pm EST

Mississippi

Only four polls were conducted here, with only two—with an average rating of C+ according to FiveThirtyEight.com’s pollster ratings—conducted after July 2019. Overall, Biden leads Sanders 72.1 to 24.5%, with Gabbard at 0.5% It would not be surprising if Biden netted more than 12 pledged delegates here

Missouri

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Missouri Democratic Primary:

  • 9 since January 1, 2019
  • 5 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 2: Final Missouri Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 53.9 54.3
Sanders 34.5 35.0
Gabbard 2.0 2.1
DK/Other 9.6 8.7
BBKSW 4.3 3.6

Biden appears headed for a sizeable victory in the Show Me state and could easily net 12 or more pledged delegates.

North Dakota

Only one polls was conducted of the 2020 North Dakota Democratic presidential primary, by Swayable (C+) from March 7 to March 9,  2020; Biden led Sanders 65 to 31%, with 0% for Gabbard. In 2016, though, when North Dakota held caucuses, Sanders beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 64.2 to 25.6%, netting eight pledged delegates; all 2016 Democratic presidential nomination contest results are from Dave Liep’s invaluable Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Rather than extrapolate from a single, low-rated poll, so I will split the difference and say both Biden and Sanders earn seven pledged delegates here.

9 pm EST

Michigan

The company for which I worked in 2000-01 was headquartered in Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, so I spent the equivalent of four weeks in Michigan over those two years. Here I am standing in front of the original headquarters of Motown Records in June 2001.

Scan0028

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Michigan Democratic Primary:

  • 21 since January 1, 2019
  • 10 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 3: Final Michigan Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 52.0 53.2
Sanders 31.8 32.6
Gabbard 0.8 0.8
DK/Other 15.4 13.4
BBKSW 4.9 3.8

While it might appear that Biden is headed for a win of a least 20 percentage points (“points”) in the Wolverine State, a similar polling lead for Clinton here four years ago turned into a 49.7-48.3% upset for Sanders, though Clinton still net 2 pledged delegates. Splitting the difference would give Biden a solid 10-point win, netting 12-15 pledged delegates.

11 pm EST

Idaho

Only two polls were conducted of the 2020 Idaho Democratic Presidential Primary, both by C+ pollsters after the Iowa Caucuses; on average, Biden led Sanders 51.5-42.5%, with Gabbard earning 2%. A close Idaho finish between Biden and Sanders would be in stark contrast to 2016, when Sanders won what were then caucuses 78.0 to 21.2%, netting 13 pledged delegates. I expect a tighter race this time, with maybe an 11-9 split in delegates for Sanders.

Washington

Every election in the state of Washington is conducted by mail; all ballots for this primary must be postmarked by March 10 or placed in a ballot drop box by 8 pm local time. As with California, no winner could be declared until Wednesday morning at the earliest.

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Washington Democratic Primary:

  • 7 since January 1, 2019
  • 4 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 4: Final Washington Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 35.0 35.6
Sanders 35.1 35.4
Gabbard 1.1 1.1
DK/Other 28.8 27.8
BBKSW 11.8 11.1

Four years ago, when Washington—like Idaho and North Dakota—held caucuses, Sanders crushed Clinton 72.7 to 27.1%. This year, though, the race between Biden and Sanders appears much closer—though with two in seven potential primary voters up for grabs, either candidate could win by a double-digit margin. On balance, though, a 53-47% Sanders win is a plausible outcome, with a net of four-five pledged delegates.

There are two reasons to be extremely cautious about these “projections.” First, of these six contests, only Michigan’s Democratic voters were polled more than nine times, and even they were only polled 21 times by a total of 18 pollsters whose average rating is B-. Second, it is not unusual for primary and caucus voters to hit the brakes on a seemingly-certain nomination process; this is one explanation for Sanders’ Michigan upset in 2016. This can occur in one of two ways: voters who are only leaning toward the front-runner stay home, and other voters affirmatively choose an alternate candidate as a way of declaring “the race is not over because we have not yet had our say.”

All of this is to say: while Biden could easily come out of the March 10 primaries with a net gain of 56 pledged delegates (splitting the BBKSW percentage 3-2 for Biden and the “pure DK/Other” percentage 2-1 for Sanders)…

…there is a plausible scenario—Biden and Sanders split Idaho and North Dakota, Sanders wins Washington 53-47% and splits Michigan nearly evenly—in which Biden “only” nets 24 pledged delegates.

We shall see.

Until next time…

[1] An additional 764, at least, “automatic delegates” (also known as “superdelegates”)—mostly elected Democrats—would vote on a second ballot if no candidate clears the 1,991-vote threshold on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention.

[2] According to NBC News, as of 2 am EST on March 10, 2020

[3] Percentage of days the poll was being conducted were after the most recent primary or caucuses

2 thoughts on “2020 Democratic primaries on March 10: My final polling update

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