What Our Forecast Says About The Nevada Caucuses At The District Level

For the first time this cycle, a state that isn’t more than 85 percent white will weigh in on who should be the Democratic nominee for president. There are significant demographic differences among Nevada’s four congressional districts, too, which could mean different candidates will win different districts — unlike in Iowa and New Hampshire where the district-level picture didn’t vary much. This is important because 23 of the 36 pledged delegates at stake in Nevada today are actually awarded based on the winner of each congressional district, not who wins statewide.

Our primary model takes this into account, calculating the average forecasted pledged delegates for each candidate in each district. And while we forecast that Sen. Bernie Sanders will win the state so handily that he also carries all four congressional districts, some of the lower-polling candidates are still likely to do better in some corners of the state than in others.

Nevada’s 1st Congressional District, which covers the heart of Las Vegas, is the least white district in Nevada — which also makes it the most racially diverse district to vote in the primary thus far. A plurality (45 percent) of the population here is Latino, while 31 percent are white and 11 percent are black. Given Sanders’s and former Vice President Joe Biden’s strength with Latino voters and black voters, our forecast thinks they will do the best here: Sanders gets 2.7 of the 1st District’s five total delegates in our average model run, while Biden nabs 1.0.

In addition, the 1st District has the lowest median income in the state, and few residents here have a college degree. That probably hurts candidates such as former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whose bases include college-educated white voters. We are forecasting all three to get fewer than one delegate in the 1st District.

However, Warren isn’t letting this district go without a fight — she has opened three field offices in the district, tied with Sanders for the most. And while philanthropist Tom Steyer technically has zero field offices in the 1st District, that doesn’t mean his field operation doesn’t have easy access to the area. His 3rd and 4th district field offices are just a few blocks away from the border with the 1st.

The 2nd Congressional District is the only one not to include a portion of metro Las Vegas; it covers the northern half of the state, most notably the Reno area, and it is the most rural district in Nevada. But before you picture a vast desert, consider that it is still about as dense as the most urban congressional districts in Iowa and New Hampshire.

In 2016, this was the only district in Nevada that Sanders carried, which he did by about 9 points. Our model anticipates that he will dominate here again in 2020, winning an average of 3.0 of its six delegates. But we’re also expecting Buttigieg to earn 1.4 delegates here, making it his best district. Buttigieg did well in rural counties in Iowa, and he appears to be courting them in Nevada too. Buttigieg has opened four field offices in the 2nd — his most of any district — and is the only candidate with an office in Fallon, a city of 8,500 on U.S. Route 50.

The 2nd, however, might be Biden’s worst district. He only wins, on average, 0.5 delegates in our forecast. This could be due to the fact that this is the whitest district in Nevada (although there is still a substantial Latino population). Perhaps to offset this, Biden also appears to be putting in a disproportionate amount of effort in the 2nd District: There are two Biden field offices here, while every other district has only one.

The 3rd Congressional District, worth six pledged delegates, covers the southern tip of Nevada, including southern Las Vegas and the booming suburb of Henderson. In this fairly working-class state, the 3rd District qualifies as Nevada’s most affluent and college-educated. That’s good news for the likes of Buttigieg, whom we expect to perform better here than in most other districts, with 1.2 delegates on average. (He and Sanders are the only candidates with more than one field office here.)

Despite voting for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by 5 points in 2016, this year the 3rd District is expected to be Sanders’s best district, awarding him 3.1 delegates. No other candidate — including Biden — averages more than one delegate here in our forecast.

Finally, the 4th Congressional District stretches from North Las Vegas to several rural counties upstate. In 2016, this was Clinton’s best district — she defeated Sanders here by more than 17 points. The fact that the 4th District has Nevada’s highest share of black voters, with whom Clinton excelled in 2016, may have contributed to that. And this year, although black voters have warmed to Sanders recently in national polls, most are still behind Biden, helping to explain why our forecast thinks this will be Biden’s best district: He gets 1.1 of the 4th District’s six delegates on average. Once again, Sanders is on track to receive the most delegates from the district, at 3.1.

However, Buttigieg has opened the most field offices of any candidate in the 4th District — three, including one in Pahrump in rural Nye County, where he is the only candidate with a presence. But while he may do well at the district’s rural caucus sites, the bulk of the Democratic vote has historically come from urban Clark County, explaining why he only gets an average of 0.8 delegates here in our forecast.

Got all that? There will be a quiz — it’s called the FiveThirtyEight live blog of the Nevada caucuses, coming to your computer screen this afternoon.

Election Update: We Got A Flurry Of New National Polls. Sanders Led Them All.

According to the FiveThirtyEight primary forecast, the single most likely outcome of the Democratic presidential primary is that no one wins a majority of pledged delegates (there is a 2 in 5, or 41 percent, chance of this). However, it is almost equally likely that Sen. Bernie Sanders will bag a majority (a 2 in 5 chance, or 37 percent). And a recent avalanche of national polls has been particularly good for Sanders.1

Sanders leads in 10 out of 10 national polls released since Monday — many of them from high-quality pollsters — giving him a firmer handle on the race. He currently sits at 25.3 percent in our national polling average — more than 3 percentage points higher than on Feb. 10 (the day before the New Hampshire primary). Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are roughly tied for second place in the polls, but they are heading in opposite directions. Bloomberg’s average is up 3.5 points since Feb. 10, while Biden’s is down 5 points.

[Our Latest Forecast: Who Will Win The 2020 Democratic Primary?]

Here’s a snapshot of how the candidates’ standing in those 10 polls has changed since the previous national primary poll from each pollster. (Note that the polls we are comparing to all predate the New Hampshire primary, and most predate the Iowa caucuses as well. The only one older than mid-January is Marist’s, which is from December.)

Sanders and Bloomberg up, Biden down in national polls

How the top six Democratic presidential candidates’ standing changed compared to each pollster’s last pre-New Hampshire national primary poll

Pollster Sanders Biden Bloomb. Warren Buttig. Klobuch.
ABC News/Washington Post +9 -16 +6 0 +3 +4
Emerson College +2 -8 +6 -1 +2 +2
Morning Consult +3 -3 +3 -1 +1 +3
NBC News/Wall Street Journal 0 -11 +5 -1 +6 +2
NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist +9 -9 +15 -5 -5 +5
Reuters/Ipsos +5 -4 +2 -2 +3 +2
SurveyUSA +8 -14 +9 -4 +3 +2
The Economist/YouGov +2 0 0 +1 +1 0
The Hill/HarrisX +2 -4 +2 +3 +1 +2
Zogby Analytics 0 -6 +9 -1 +1 +1
Average change +4 -8 +6 -1 +2 +2

Source: Polls

And here’s a rundown of those polls, from newest to oldest:

  • According to The Hill/HarrisX, 22 percent of voters back Sanders, 19 percent back Biden, 18 percent back Bloomberg, 12 percent back Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 10 percent back former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and 5 percent back Sen. Amy Klobuchar. However, the results look different if you account for the pollster’s house effects, which our forecast does. The adjusted top lines that our model digests are Sanders at 23 percent; Bloomberg, Biden and Warren all at 16 percent; Buttigieg at 12 percent; and Klobuchar still at 5 percent.
  • The Economist/YouGov gave Sanders 24 percent, Biden 18 percent, Warren 16 percent, Bloomberg 12 percent, Buttigieg 11 percent and Klobuchar 7 percent. When adjusted for house effects, the results are similar, per our model: Sanders 24 percent, Biden 18 percent, Bloomberg 14 percent, Warren 13 percent and Klobuchar 7 percent.
  • In ABC News/Washington Post’s latest survey, Sanders had 32 percent, Biden had 16 percent, Bloomberg had 14 percent, Warren had 12 percent, Buttigieg had 8 percent and Klobuchar had 7 percent.2 Our forecast didn’t really adjust these numbers much for house effects, either, so this was an unambiguously great poll for Sanders — and a bad one for Biden.
  • In Morning Consult’s most recent poll, Sanders got 28 percent, Bloomberg got 20 percent, Biden got 19 percent, Buttigieg got 12 percent, Warren got 10 percent and Klobuchar got 6 percent. But because Morning Consult often shows good numbers for Sanders, our model treated this poll as somewhat less strong for him after accounting for house effects. (Our model interpreted this poll as Sanders at 24 percent, Bloomberg at 18 percent and Biden at 15 percent.)
  • Emerson College also put Sanders in the lead at 29 percent, with Biden at 22 percent, Bloomberg at 14 percent, Warren at 12 percent, Buttigieg at 8 percent and Klobuchar at 6 percent. However, note that Emerson has typically had very rosy numbers for Sanders, so our model interprets this poll as more like one where Sanders leads Biden by a much smaller margin — 24 percent to 21 percent.
  • According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, Sanders had 27 percent, Biden had 15 percent, Bloomberg and Warren each had 14 percent, Buttigieg had 13 percent and Klobuchar had 7 percent.
  • A Reuters/Ipsos survey found Sanders at 25 percent, Bloomberg at 17 percent, Biden at 13 percent, Buttigieg at 11 percent, Warren at 9 percent and Klobuchar at 5 percent. However, once adjusted for house effects, the poll looks even better for Sanders: Our model reads it as more like Sanders at 26 percent, Bloomberg and Biden tied at 16 percent, Buttigieg at 13 percent, Warren at 12 percent and Klobuchar at 6 percent.
  • According to SurveyUSA, Sanders had 29 percent, Bloomberg and Biden each had 18 percent, Buttigieg had 12 percent, Warren had 10 percent and Klobuchar had 4 percent. And this poll is even worse than it looks for Biden because of SurveyUSA’s house effects, which tend to benefit Biden; his adjusted support is closer to 15 percent in our model.
  • An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll put Sanders at 31 percent, Bloomberg at 19 percent, Biden at 15 percent, Warren at 12 percent, Klobuchar at 9 percent and Buttigieg at 8 percent.
  • Finally, Zogby Analytics gave Sanders 24 percent, Bloomberg 20 percent, Biden 18 percent, Warren 10 percent, Buttigieg 9 percent and Klobuchar 5 percent. However, our model thinks Bloomberg is probably closer to 17 percent support in this poll than 20 percent, thanks to Zogby’s Bloomberg-friendly house effects.

With house effects factored in, these polls give Sanders an adjusted lead of anywhere from 2 to 15 percentage points. There’s simply not much ambiguity right now that Sanders is the first choice of a plurality of Democrats nationwide. Accordingly, if you look at who is most likely to get the most pledged delegates, though not necessarily more than half (we usually cite the forecast’s odds of a candidate getting a majority), our model is fairly confident it’ll be Sanders who gets a plurality (he has a 3 in 5, or 56 percent, chance of doing so). The big question is whether the other candidates stay competitive enough for long enough to deny him the majority he needs to win the nomination outright.

Election Update: Bloomberg’s Super Tuesday Gamble May Be Paying Off

It’s been a good 24 hours for Michael Bloomberg. Early this morning, on the brink of the deadline to do so, the former New York City mayor qualified for Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate thanks to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll that gave him 19 percent of the national primary vote. He’s up to 16.3 percent in our national polling average — essentially tying him with former Vice President Joe Biden for the first time. However, he’s still 9 points behind front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders, and — by Bloomberg’s own design — it will be a couple weeks before we know how much actual voter support Bloomberg has.

That’s because Bloomberg has decided not to contest the first four states on the primary calendar (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina), instead focusing his massive financial resources on the 15 states and territories1 that vote on Super Tuesday. Since he declared he was running in November, Bloomberg has built out a number of impressive field organizations and has aired millions of dollars’ worth of TV ads — and on Monday, we got a handful of state polls that suggest that investment may pay off. To wit:

  • Monmouth University, one of the best pollsters in the biz, found Bloomberg in a virtual tie for first place in Virginia. He and Sanders each received 22 percent support, while Biden grabbed 18 percent. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg got 11 percent, Sen. Amy Klobuchar got 9 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren got 5 percent.
  • The excellent SurveyUSA produced very similar results in a poll of next-door North Carolina for WRAL News. Bloomberg and Sanders netted 22 percent each, Biden received 20 percent, Buttigieg got 11 percent, Warren got 8 percent and Klobuchar got 5 percent. That said, SurveyUSA has some small house effects to consider, so our model interprets this more like a poll that showed Sanders and Bloomberg at 21 percent and Biden at 17 percent.
  • Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates also released an Oklahoma poll that gave Bloomberg 20 percent of the vote among likely Democratic primary voters, followed by Sanders at 14 percent, Biden at 12 percent, Buttigieg at 11 percent, Warren at 8 percent and Klobuchar at 6 percent. However, the sample size was only 172 likely voters, which is smaller than we like to see; accordingly, the margin for error is very high.

But Bloomberg may not want to let his Super Tuesday expectations get too high. We also got polls of two Super Tuesday states in which he was not doing so hot:

  • SocialSphere polled Maine on behalf of Colby College and put Bloomberg at only 14 percent support; Sanders led with 25 percent, followed by Buttigieg at 16 percent. Meanwhile, Biden got 12 percent support, Warren 9 percent and Klobuchar 4 percent. When adjusting this poll for house effects, however, Sanders has a slightly smaller lead: 22 percent to 17 percent over Buttigieg.
  • Finally, Braun Research (polling on behalf of Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS) unsurprisingly found that Sanders has a huge lead in his home state of Vermont. He nabs 51 percent of the vote, followed by Buttigieg at 13 percent, Warren at 9 percent … and only then comes Bloomberg at 7 percent. Biden got 5 percent, and Klobuchar 4 percent.

It’s probably not a huge deal that Bloomberg trails in the two New England states; they are worth only 40 pledged delegates, compared with 246 for the three other states. But it shows that he may not run the table on Super Tuesday, and that other candidates — namely, Sanders, who also held a share of first place in the Virginia and North Carolina polls — may do even better.

That’s a big part of why our primary model still thinks that Sanders and even Biden are likelier than Bloomberg to win the most pledged delegates. While we are forecasting Bloomberg to receive a hefty 812 pledged delegates, on average, after every state and territory has voted, his chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates are just 1 in 12 (8 percent). Sanders has a 2 in 5 (40 percent) chance of doing so, while Biden is clinging to a 1 in 10 (10 percent) chance. And as has been looming for a while, there is still a 2 in 5 (38 percent) chance that no one gets a majority of pledged delegates, which could lead to a contested convention.

Election Update: Biden Hasn’t Exactly Collapsed Since New Hampshire

Three days after the New Hampshire primary, we are finally getting some polls that reflect the new state of the race — including a poll in Nevada, the next state in the voting sequence, for the first time in a full month! And overall, they’re not showing that any candidate has grabbed a ton of momentum out of Iowa or New Hampshire. That’s probably good news for former Vice President Joe Biden, whose firewall in Southern states appears weakened but still standing. But mostly it’s a recipe for a long, drawn-out nominating contest. In fact, our national primary forecast currently says that the single most likely outcome of the primary season is that no candidate gets a majority of pledged delegates.

Let’s start with that Nevada poll, which was conducted Feb. 11-13 (which means some interviews were probably conducted before the results from New Hampshire were known) by WPA Intelligence for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and AARP Nevada. It showed Sen. Bernie Sanders with 25 percent, Biden with 18 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 13 percent, businessman Tom Steyer with 11 percent, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 10 percent and Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 10 percent.

Although Biden has topped most Nevada polls we have, this poll didn’t affect the toplines in our Nevada forecast too much because it was right around where it expected the race to have settled post-New Hampshire. Our model currently gives Sanders a 2 in 3 (64 percent) chance of winning the Nevada caucuses, while Biden is given a 1 in 6 (16 percent) chance. Buttigieg (1 in 10, or 10 percent) and Warren (1 in 15, or 7 percent) are also outside shots to win the state.

On Friday, we also got our first South Carolina poll in more than a week, courtesy of East Carolina University. The Feb. 12-13 survey gave Biden 28 percent, Sanders 20 percent, Steyer 14 percent, Buttigieg 8 percent and Klobuchar and Warren 7 percent each. (Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got 6 percent in the poll, but he is not on the ballot in South Carolina.) Compared with ECU’s previous South Carolina poll, which was conducted shortly before the Iowa caucuses, Biden fell 9 percentage points, and Steyer fell 5 points. Sanders rose 6 points, Klobuchar rose 5 points and Buttigieg rose 4 points.

Ever since he finished fourth in Iowa, Biden has no longer been the favorite in South Carolina, according to our model. Sanders currently has a 1 in 2 (47 percent) chance of winning South Carolina, while Biden has a 2 in 5 (37 percent) shot. However, part of the reason our model has Sanders as the favorite is that it thinks Biden could drop out before South Carolina even votes. In the scenarios where Biden is still in the race come Feb. 29, though, he is probably still favored in the Palmetto State.

The ECU poll in particular offered both good news and bad news for Biden: On one hand, he’s still leading in an important state after two disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. And according to the poll’s crosstabs, Biden also still has a strong lead (16 points over Sanders) among African American voters, a crucial voting bloc that has sided with the eventual nominee in every Democratic primary since 1992. But on the other hand, the poll shows that Biden has dropped a meaningful amount in South Carolina since late January — and it wouldn’t take much more of a drop to put Sanders in the lead in our polling average (there are still two weeks until South Carolina votes, remember).

We also got a poll of Georgia, which will vote on March 24. That survey put Biden in the lead with 32 percent, followed by Sanders and Bloomberg at 14 percent each. Landmark Communications and WSB-TV’s last Georgia poll was from September of last year, but the numbers didn’t change all that much, although Biden was down 9 points, while Sanders was up 6. (Bloomberg wasn’t tested in September, since he only became a candidate in November.) The state is demographically similar to South Carolina (for instance, the Democratic primary electorate in both states in 2016 was majority African American), so Biden’s durability in Georgia was another good sign for him, even though he did fall nearly 10 points.

Finally, a St. Pete Polls survey of Florida, conducted Feb. 12-13, put Bloomberg at 27 percent, Biden at 26 percent, Buttigieg at 11 percent, Sanders at 10 percent and Klobuchar at 9 percent. However, St. Pete has historically featured unusually high numbers for Bloomberg and fairly low numbers for Sanders, relative to other pollsters. Adjusted for these house effects, our model interprets this poll as saying Biden has 25 percent support, Bloomberg has 21 percent, Sanders has 13 percent, Buttigieg has 10 percent and Klobuchar has 7 percent.

This was still a bad poll for Biden, who lost 15 points since St. Pete’s previous survey in late January, and a good one for Bloomberg, who gained 10 points. But it also wasn’t a great one for Sanders or Buttigieg. It showed virtually no change for Sanders, and Buttigieg ticked up by a middling 5 points. Biden surely would have preferred not to have lost so much ground, but it’s definitely a silver lining for him that the new Democratic front-runner (Sanders) did not surpass him.

Taken together, these four state polls show Biden trending in the wrong direction, but paradoxically they are actually good news for his overall chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates, which have ticked up from 1 in 9 (11 percent) on Thursday afternoon to 1 in 8 (13 percent) now. That’s because the four polls also show that states like South Carolina are still very much open for the taking and that Sanders, Biden’s main competition for the nomination, is not riding a huge wave of momentum. As a consequence, Sanders’s chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates have dipped slightly from 2 in 5 (39 percent) to 1 in 3 (38 percent). And there’s now a 2 in 5 (37 percent) chance that no one will achieve a pledged-delegate majority, which could lead to a contested convention.

Election Update: The First Polls Since New Hampshire Show No Big Bounces

Three days after the New Hampshire primary, we are finally getting some polls that reflect the new state of the race — including a poll in Nevada, the next state in the voting sequence, for the first time in a full month! And overall, they’re not showing that any candidate has grabbed a ton of momentum out of Iowa or New Hampshire. That’s probably good news for former Vice President Joe Biden, whose firewall in Southern states appears weakened but still standing. But mostly it’s a recipe for a long, drawn-out nominating contest. In fact, our national primary forecast currently says that the single most likely outcome of the primary season is that no candidate gets a majority of pledged delegates.

Let’s start with that Nevada poll, which was conducted Feb. 11-13 (which means some interviews were probably conducted before the results from New Hampshire were known) by WPA Intelligence for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and AARP Nevada. It showed Sen. Bernie Sanders with 25 percent, Biden with 18 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 13 percent, businessman Tom Steyer with 11 percent, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 10 percent and Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 10 percent.

Although Biden has topped most Nevada polls we have, this poll didn’t affect the toplines in our Nevada forecast too much because it was right around where it expected the race to have settled post-New Hampshire. Our model currently gives Sanders a 2 in 3 (64 percent) chance of winning the Nevada caucuses, while Biden is given a 1 in 6 (16 percent) chance. Buttigieg (1 in 10, or 10 percent) and Warren (1 in 15, or 7 percent) are also outside shots to win the state.

On Friday, we also got our first South Carolina poll in more than a week, courtesy of East Carolina University. The Feb. 12-13 survey gave Biden 28 percent, Sanders 20 percent, Steyer 14 percent, Buttigieg 8 percent and Klobuchar and Warren 7 percent each. (Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got 6 percent in the poll, but he is not on the ballot in South Carolina.) Compared with ECU’s previous South Carolina poll, which was conducted shortly before the Iowa caucuses, Biden fell 9 percentage points, and Steyer fell 5 points. Sanders rose 6 points, Klobuchar rose 5 points and Buttigieg rose 4 points.

Ever since he finished fourth in Iowa, Biden has no longer been the favorite in South Carolina, according to our model. Sanders currently has a 1 in 2 (47 percent) chance of winning South Carolina, while Biden has a 2 in 5 (37 percent) shot. However, part of the reason our model has Sanders as the favorite is that it thinks Biden could drop out before South Carolina even votes. In the scenarios where Biden is still in the race come Feb. 29, though, he is probably still favored in the Palmetto State.

The ECU poll in particular offered both good news and bad news for Biden: On one hand, he’s still leading in an important state after two disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. And according to the poll’s crosstabs, Biden also still has a strong lead (16 points over Sanders) among African American voters, a crucial voting bloc that has sided with the eventual nominee in every Democratic primary since 1992. But on the other hand, the poll shows that Biden has dropped a meaningful amount in South Carolina since late January — and it wouldn’t take much more of a drop to put Sanders in the lead in our polling average (there are still two weeks until South Carolina votes, remember).

We also got a poll of Georgia, which will vote on March 24. That survey put Biden in the lead with 32 percent, followed by Sanders and Bloomberg at 14 percent each. Landmark Communications and WSB-TV’s last Georgia poll was from September of last year, but the numbers didn’t change all that much, although Biden was down 9 points, while Sanders was up 6. (Bloomberg wasn’t tested in September, since he only became a candidate in November.) The state is demographically similar to South Carolina (for instance, the Democratic primary electorate in both states in 2016 was majority African American), so Biden’s durability in Georgia was another good sign for him, even though he did fall nearly 10 points.

Finally, a St. Pete Polls survey of Florida, conducted Feb. 12-13, put Bloomberg at 27 percent, Biden at 26 percent, Buttigieg at 11 percent, Sanders at 10 percent and Klobuchar at 9 percent. However, St. Pete has historically featured unusually high numbers for Bloomberg and fairly low numbers for Sanders, relative to other pollsters. Adjusted for these house effects, our model interprets this poll as saying Biden has 25 percent support, Bloomberg has 21 percent, Sanders has 13 percent, Buttigieg has 10 percent and Klobuchar has 7 percent.

This was still a bad poll for Biden, who lost 15 points since St. Pete’s previous survey in late January, and a good one for Bloomberg, who gained 10 points. But it also wasn’t a great one for Sanders or Buttigieg. It showed virtually no change for Sanders, and Buttigieg ticked up by a middling 5 points. Biden surely would have preferred not to have lost so much ground, but it’s definitely a silver lining for him that the new Democratic front-runner (Sanders) did not surpass him.

Taken together, these four state polls show Biden trending in the wrong direction, but paradoxically they are actually good news for his overall chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates, which have ticked up from 1 in 9 (11 percent) on Thursday afternoon to 1 in 8 (13 percent) now. That’s because the four polls also show that states like South Carolina are still very much open for the taking and that Sanders, Biden’s main competition for the nomination, is not riding a huge wave of momentum. As a consequence, Sanders’s chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates have dipped slightly from 2 in 5 (39 percent) to 1 in 3 (36 percent). And there’s now a 2 in 5 (37 percent) chance that no one will achieve a pledged-delegate majority, which could lead to a contested convention.

Election Update: Our First Big National Poll Shows Just How Unsettled The Race Is

It’s been a week since Iowa voted, and we have few national polls to help us understand just how much the caucus results — messy though they were — have affected the attitudes of potential Democratic primary voters around the country. But today Quinnipiac University released a national survey conducted entirely after Iowa voted, and it found a new polling front-runner: Sen. Bernie Sanders, who led the field with 25 percent support.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, fell nine points since Quinnipiac last conducted a national survey in late January. This is the first time Sanders has led in a national Quinnipiac survey during the 2020 cycle. As you can see in our national polling average, the gap between Biden and Sanders is shrinking, too — they’re essentially tied at 22 percent.

The Quinnipiac poll also underscored just how fragmented voter support currently is — five candidates polled at least 10 percent. Just behind Biden, who polled at 17 percent, came former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at 15 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 14 percent. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg wasn’t too distant of a fifth at 10 percent, which marked a 4-point increase from Quinnipiac’s late January poll.

As for how this poll affects our primary forecast, it didn’t shift things that dramatically because the model had already anticipated Sanders’s national numbers would improve after Iowa while Biden’s would fall. However, the fact that Bloomberg made such a substantial gain — he nearly doubled his support from 8 percent in Quinnipiac’s January poll to 15 percent — means that it’s also increasingly likely that no one will win a majority of pledged delegates. Bottom line: Sanders’s gains were already priced in, so the Quinnipiac poll largely fit within the model’s expectations, but there’s also a lot of uncertainty and a 1 in 4 chance that no single candidate wins a majority.

In the meantime, though, the campaigns’ immediate focus is New Hampshire, which holds its primary tomorrow. With the new national poll plus several new New Hampshire polls from last night and this morning now incorporated into our model, the FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Sanders a 2 in 3 (67 percent) chance of winning the Granite State. Buttigieg — who had been gaining ground in New Hampshire but whose polling numbers there appear to have leveled out — has a 3 in 10 (29 percent) chance. No other candidate has more than a 2 percent chance of carrying the state, although our model has Warren and Biden in a tight race for third place — Warren is forecast to get 14 percent of the vote, on average, while Biden gets 13 percent (but remember, the margin of error of these estimates is quite large).

These odds have changed little over the last few days, in part because we keep getting a ton of New Hampshire polls that say roughly the same thing: Sanders leads, with Buttigieg hovering in striking distance and all other candidates trailing to various degrees. We’ve gotten five polls in just the last 24 hours, including the final installments of the three tracking polls in the state:

  • The final 7 News/Emerson College poll, conducted Saturday and Sunday, found Sanders at 30 percent, Buttigieg at 23 percent, Klobuchar at 14 percent, Warren at 11 percent and Biden at 10 percent. When you adjust for Emerson’s house effects (Emerson has tended to show better numbers for Sanders than other pollsters), our model interprets this as a 1-point Sanders lead.
  • The final Suffolk University/Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll, also conducted Saturday and Sunday, gave Sanders 27 percent, Buttigieg 19 percent, Klobuchar 14 percent and Biden and Warren 12 percent each. But because Suffolk has historically featured pretty poor numbers for Sanders, our model interprets this as a 10-point Sanders lead.
  • And according to the last installment of CNN/University of New Hampshire poll, conducted Feb. 6-9, Sanders at 29 percent support, Buttigieg at 22 percent, Biden at 11 percent, Warren at 10 percent and Klobuchar at 7 percent. After our house effects adjustment, the model interprets this as a 5-point Sanders lead.

These final tracking polls disagree more than they did yesterday about the size of Sanders’s lead, but are generally positive for Sanders. Emerson and Suffolk also found Klobuchar making a small charge into third place; for example, she has gone from 6 percent in Feb. 6-7’s Suffolk poll to 14 percent in this latest one. This has perhaps come at the cost of blunting Buttigieg’s momentum, as his vote share has not changed much over the last few days in either poll, even though he gained several points in them throughout last week. And the three installments of CNN/UNH’s poll that we’ve gotten have shown little movement for all candidates.

We also got two new non-tracking polls of New Hampshire:

  • According to the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Sanders has 25 percent in New Hampshire, Buttigieg has 17 percent, Warren 15 percent, Biden 14 percent and Klobuchar 8 percent. After the house effects adjustment, that’s akin to a 7-point Sanders lead. However, it’s worth noting that this poll is a little older than the others, as it was conducted Feb. 4-7.
  • Finally, American Research Group, in a poll fielded Saturday and Sunday, says that Sanders is at 28 percent, Buttigieg is at 20 percent, Biden and Klobuchar are each at 13 percent and Warren is at 11 percent. That computes to a 5-point Sanders lead in our model, after house effects are considered.

These polls suggest there is still a chance that Warren, Biden or Klobuchar could catch Buttigieg for second place. However, at the same time, they confirmed the findings of almost every other poll we’ve seen in New Hampshire this week: Sanders has a modest lead.

Election Update: The Polling Picture In New Hampshire Is Actually Pretty Clear

Just how close is the New Hampshire Democratic primary? The five latest polls of the state seem to disagree, but our forecast has Sen. Bernie Sanders has a modest favorite to win. He currently has a 2 in 3 (64 percent) chance of winning the most votes, while former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has a 3 in 10 (30 percent) chance. We actually have a pretty good idea of what’s happening in New Hampshire, too, as those five most recent polls actually agree more than they initially appear to. Let’s run through them:

At first glance, these polls appear to show a 10-point Sanders lead, a 7-point Sanders lead, a 4-point Sanders lead, a 3-point Sanders lead and a 2-point Sanders lead. How to reconcile this? This is where it comes in very handy to be familiar with what these pollsters have said in the past. And as it turns out, UNH, Emerson College and RKM have all tended to show higher numbers for Sanders than other pollsters have, and Suffolk University has historically tended to show lower numbers for Sanders than other pollsters have.

For example, based on the degree to which Emerson has overestimated Sanders in the past, our model treats his 30 percent in that poll as more like 25 percent once we adjust for house effects. And his 24 percent in that Suffolk poll is actually closer to 27 percent in our model.

So when you make these adjustments to the five polls above, a more consistent picture of the New Hampshire primary emerges: Sanders probably leads by about 5 points, although the RKM poll remains an outlier — it suggests that Buttigieg may actually be neck and neck with Sanders.

Sanders has a pretty consistent New Hampshire lead

Results of the five most recent polls of the New Hampshire Democratic primary for Sanders and Buttigieg, adjusted by house effects

Raw Results Adjusted Results
Pollster Sanders Buttigieg Margin Sanders Buttigieg Margin
Emerson 30% 20% Sanders +10 25% 20% Sanders +4
Suffolk 24 22 Sanders +2 27 22 Sanders +5
UNH 28 21 Sanders +7 26 21 Sanders +5
YouGov 29 25 Sanders +4 29 24 Sanders +5
RKM 23 20 Sanders +3 21 23 Buttigieg +2

Source: Polls

Of course, with still a few days left until the primary, 5 points wouldn’t be a safe lead for Sanders. But it’s notable that Buttigieg’s upward movement in the polls, which had been extremely evident in previous installments of the Emerson and Suffolk tracking polls, appears to have stalled out. From the Feb. 6-7 edition to the Feb. 7-8 edition of the Emerson poll, Buttigieg’s vote share, after days of steady increases, went from 24 percent to 20 percent. And in the Suffolk tracker, Buttigieg went from 11 percent in the Feb. 2-3 installment to a high of 25 percent in the Feb. 6-7 installment, only to fall back to 22 percent in this latest poll. Although these drops are all within the margin of error, we can at least say that Buttigieg’s climb has not continued. And Sanders’s vote shares have been quite consistent throughout the life of both tracking polls.

Another wild card is how far behind Warren is. Her 9 percent performance in the CNN/UNH poll was eyebrow-raising — but she got nearly double that support in the YouGov/CBS News and RKM polls. Here, house effects once again help explain some of the discrepancy, although not all of it. YouGov has been high on Warren all cycle, so our model thinks her 17 percent performance in that poll is more like 14 percent. Same with RKM — our model adjusts her 16 percent in that poll down to 15 percent. And UNH has slightly underestimated Warren in previous polls, so our model is treating her 9 percent in the UNH poll as closer to 10 percent.

By contrast, all the recent polls have had pretty disappointing numbers for Biden (between 10 and 14 percent). Factor it all in, and Warren is now ever so slightly ahead of Biden in our New Hampshire polling average, 13.1 percent to 12.7 percent. Needless to say, a second consecutive fourth-place finish (after Iowa) could create real doubts about the viability of Biden’s campaign.

Overall, Sanders remains the most likely candidate to reach a majority of pledged delegates, according to our national forecast. He has a 2 in 5 (44 percent) chance of doing so. The next most likely candidate is Biden, with a 1 in 5 (20 percent) chance — however, a scenario in which no one achieves a pledged-delegate majority is even more likely, at 1 in 4 (25 percent).

However, these numbers are in a kind of suspended animation, as we haven’t seen any national polls that have been conducted since Feb. 5, a time when the results out of Iowa were still very much in limbo (in fairness, they still are). Our model will likely react quite strongly to the next few national polls, as we get a much clearer standing of how Iowa and, by that point, maybe New Hampshire, have affected the national race.

Election Update: Buttigieg Is Rising In New Hampshire

Sen. Bernie Sanders, New Hampshire’s next-door neighbor who won the state by 22 percentage points in 2016, has been the front-runner in the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary for weeks. And according to the FiveThirtyEight primary forecast, he still has a 2 in 3 (68 percent chance) of winning the state. But former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is now making it interesting. His numbers are rising in almost every successive poll of the state, and he’s now up to a 1 in 4 (25 percent) chance of winning there.

Today’s piece of good news for the Buttigieg campaign was an NBC News/Marist poll of New Hampshire, conducted Tuesday through Thursday, that showed Sanders at 25 percent and Buttigieg at 21 percent. (They were followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 14 percent, former Vice President Joe Biden at 13 percent and Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 8 percent. However, New Hampshire is probably just a two-person race — our model thinks there is only a 7 percent chance that someone other than Sanders or Buttigieg wins.) In Marist’s last New Hampshire poll, conducted Jan. 20-23, Sanders had 22 percent and Buttigieg had 17 percent, so they both did a bit better in the latest poll — although the differences were within the margin of error. Still, no other candidate experienced a boost of more than 1 percentage point.

And given the evidence from other polls, it seems safe to say that Buttigieg, at least, is on the upswing in New Hampshire. Both Suffolk University/Boston Globe/WBZ-TV and 7 News/Emerson College have been conducting tracking polls of the Granite State, and the latest installment of each was released late last night. And the trend is clear:

Buttigieg is on the rise in New Hampshire…

Day-by-day results of the Suffolk University/Boston Globe/WBZ-TV tracking poll of New Hampshire, Feb. 2 – 6, 2020

Candidate Feb. 2-3 Feb. 3-4 Feb. 4-5 Feb. 5-6
Bernie Sanders 24% 24% 25% 24%
Pete Buttigieg 11 15 19 23
Elizabeth Warren 13 10 11 13
Joe Biden 18 15 12 11
Amy Klobuchar 6 6 6 6

Source: Suffolk University/Boston Globe/WBZ-TV

… No matter what poll you check

Day-by-day results of the 7 News/Emerson College tracking poll of New Hampshire, Jan. 31 – Feb. 6, 2020

Candidate Jan. 31-Feb. 2 Feb. 1-3 Feb. 2-4 Feb. 3-5 Feb. 5-6
Bernie Sanders 29% 32% 32% 31% 32%
Pete Buttigieg 13 12 17 21 23
Elizabeth Warren 12 13 11 11 13
Joe Biden 14 13 13 12 11
Amy Klobuchar 8 12 11 12 9

Source: 7 News/Emerson College

Since the final poll before the Iowa caucuses — which took place on Feb. 3, although the results have been announced slowly over the course of the entire week — Buttigieg has gained 12 points in the Suffolk poll and 10 points in the Emerson poll. The Suffolk poll implies he is getting this support from Biden, who has dropped 7 points since Feb. 2-3, although the Emerson poll doesn’t show nearly as significant a dropoff for the former vice president — so maybe Buttigieg’s claim of victory in Iowa is just causing undecided voters to finally settle on him as their choice.

And there is still plenty of room for Buttigieg (or another candidate — if, say, someone else has a good debate on Friday) to gain. According to Marist, 15 percent of likely Democratic primary voters who have a preferred candidate say they still might change their minds, and 5 percent say they are still outright undecided.

Just because Buttigieg has the momentum in New Hampshire, however, doesn’t mean his chances of winning the nomination have increased. Our overall primary forecast still gives Buttigieg only a 1 in 25 (4 percent) chance of winning a majority of pledged delegates. In a nutshell, proving you can (partially) win Iowa and (maybe) win New Hampshire doesn’t prove you can win more diverse states like Nevada and South Carolina — and Buttigieg is still underperforming with nonwhite voters, although we’d like to see more post-Iowa national polls to confirm this.

Election Update: There’s A New Face In Our Forecast. (It’s Bloomberg.)

As of Friday, you’ll see a shiny new face in our Democratic primary forecast: former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. We’re now featuring Bloomberg more prominently in our forecast interactive and in our polling averages; he joins four other candidates (Sen. Bernie Sanders; former Vice President Joe Biden; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren) who get their own color in the forecast (in Bloomberg’s case, gold). Bloomberg has always been in the underlying calculations and the detailed output behind the model,1 but he was lumped in with “all others” on many of the charts, making him hard to find.

Bloomberg is a tricky candidate to forecast, given that his strategy of essentially skipping the first four states but then spending enormous amounts of money on the race is fairly unprecedented. Although Bloomberg is at only 11 percent in national polls right now — below the 15 percent threshold required to pick up delegates in states and congressional districts — he’s getting close enough to the threshold that the model actually has him picking up a decent number of delegates in its average simulation.

On the other hand, the model thinks it’s quite unlikely that Bloomberg can get a majority of delegates because he’s getting off to a late start. It’s not that skipping out on Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina is itself all that costly; those states have relatively few delegates. Rather, it’s that Bloomberg is unlikely to have a huge surge before Super Tuesday.

Here’s why that matters. Bloomberg could certainly do reasonably well on Super Tuesday and get a surge in later states. But at that point, 38 percent of delegates will already have been chosen. Say Bloomberg wins 30 percent of the delegates on Super Tuesday; that would certainly get him some attention, probably make him a real contender, and perhaps knock other moderate candidates out of the race. Bloomberg, however, would need to get 64 percent of the delegates in all the states beyond Super Tuesday to earn a majority of pledged delegates, which is an awfully high bar to clear.

Bloomberg getting a plurality of pledged delegates, on the other hand, is more likely. (There’s a 1 in 40 chance of that, or about 3 percent, according to our model — as compared to a roughly 1 in 100 chance he gets a majority.) More likely still is that Bloomberg appears to be the strongest candidate at the end of the process, even though he doesn’t necessarily have a plurality. There’s a 5 percent chance that Bloomberg will be leading in national polls at the end of the race, our model estimates.2 Being able to point to indicators like that could be helpful to Bloomberg in the not-at-all-unlikely event of a contested convention.

These distinctions matter because – it seems like I can’t emphasize this enough, as I see people misquoting our forecast all the time — we are not actually forecasting the identity of the nominee. Rather, we are forecasting the chance of each candidate getting a majority of pledged delegates (or a plurality) after the Virgin Islands casts the final votes of the primary season on June 6. Bloomberg could easily become the nominee at a contested convention — and a contested convention is a reasonably likely possibility — but our model does not try to predict how a contested convention would turn out.

We’ve also made two subtle changes that should slightly help the model’s handling of Bloomberg, although they make little difference to the top line forecast.3 First, in the state-by-state regression analysis that we conduct to help forecast states with little polling, we are no longer using Bloomberg’s Iowa results as an input for him. In the regressions, the model doesn’t use a candidate’s performance from states in which they weren’t on the ballot. Iowa technically didn’t have a ballot, however. (Indeed, Bloomberg won a very small number of votes there.) But since he never set foot in the state after launching his campaign (his last visit there was in December 2018) nor made any other effort to compete there, the regression will ignore his performance in Iowa.

The other small change is in how we calculate what we call the “fundamentals,” which are a combination of indicators based on a candidate’s fundraising, endorsements and level of experience in elected office. (See Step 3 in our methodology guide for more about this.) We find that candidates who are strong in these areas tend to see their polling improve on average, and candidates who are weak tend to see their polling get worse. However, their effects are quite subtle and plenty of candidates defy the trends (see also: President Trump). The model now randomizes how much weight it puts on these categories in each simulation, instead of always treating them as equally important. Likewise, it randomizes the amount of weight it puts on the three categories of fundraising we track (small-donor contributions, all individual contributions, and all contributions from any source including self-funding). Thus, in some simulations, the model treats Bloomberg’s enormous spending as a relatively important factor in the race, and in other simulations, it gives it very little weight. This reflects the fact that the evidence is quite mixed on how self-financed candidates do as compared with candidates who raise money from individual donors.

There’s certainly a lot to think about here, so I may do some longer stories about Bloomberg after New Hampshire. But we’ll leave it there for now. Suffice it to say that I think there’s sometimes a lack of rigor when analyzing Bloomberg’s chances. The more you try to run through specific, realistic scenarios for exactly how Bloomberg wins the race — which is what our model is doing in trying to simulate all the possibilities — the harder you’ll find it is for him to get a majority of pledged delegates. It isn’t necessarily so hard to conceive of him accumulating a lot of delegates and winning the race via a delegate plurality or at a contested convention, however, and the model is more agnostic about those possibilities.

Election Update: What The First Few Post-Iowa Polls Say

Our 2020 primary model looks at the race sequentially: When a primary or caucus is complete, the model will try to anticipate whose support will rise or fall based on the result. Even before the mess in Iowa, though, where both Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders have claimed victory, we advised readers to interpret these projections provisionally — the model estimates how a contest will affect each candidate’s chances but will update those estimates once new polls come out.

So how are the model’s post-Iowa estimates looking now that we’ve gotten a few new polls since Iowa? Pretty good, actually. Let’s run through the latest surveys and what they mean.

Most of the new polls we’ve gotten have come in New Hampshire, which votes on Tuesday. There, Buttigieg has gotten a bit of a bounce; the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s chances of winning the Granite State are up to 1 in 5, from about 1 in 8 before Iowa. A new Monmouth University survey of New Hampshire conducted Feb. 3-5 found Sanders leading with 24 percent and Buttigieg in second with 20 percent. Two tracking polls in New Hampshire from Emerson College and Boston Globe/Suffolk University out Wednesday also found Buttigieg in second to Sanders.

Those polls also seemed to confirm the bad news for Biden, as his fourth-place showing in Iowa has really hurt his standing in our forecast. The two tracking polls in New Hampshire both put him at 12 percent, well behind Sanders and Buttigieg.3 Meanwhile, a series of national polls from Morning Consult measuring preferences each day between Feb. 3 and Feb. 5, showed Biden’s standing in falling from 29 percent to 24 percent. This was largely in line with what the model anticipated4 but still hardly qualifies as great news for him.

How representative New Hampshire will be for the race overall is still an open question — it just happens to be where we have the freshest data. Perhaps the Morning Consult polls suggest that Biden’s post-Iowa support will be more durable nationally, and in more diverse states, than in a mostly white state like New Hampshire. Or maybe more national polling will show a more drastic decline.

Buttigieg has the reverse problem (or opportunity): The New Hampshire polls show him gaining ground after his Iowa performance, but his chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates overall haven’t improved much. Morning Consult’s polling showed him gaining ground, from 7 percent to 12 percent. But 12 percent isn’t good for much. A YouGov poll released Wednesday had him at just 9 percent — not much changed from previous YouGov surveys. Buttigieg will need to expand his coalition, including to non-white voters, to stand much of a chance in contests beyond Iowa and New Hampshire.

***

So let’s get back to the model. Our forecast now gives Sanders about a 1 in 2 chance of winning a majority of pledged delegates. The second likeliest outcome (1 in 4 chance) is that no candidate wins a majority. After that, the next-strongest candidate is former Vice President Joe Biden, who has roughly a 1 in 5 shot (20 percent). No other candidate is currently above 5 percent, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana (5 percent and 3 percent, respectively).

But much of the movement in the model over the past 24 hours — including further gains for Sanders — has actually come from inputting the shifting results from Iowa, which have been trickling in from the state Democratic Party. For instance, when we restarted the model on Wednesday with partial Iowa results, Sanders’s chances of winning a delegate majority rose from 31 percent to 39 percent. Biden’s chances fell from 43 percent to 19 percent. And Warren’s and Buttigieg’s chances went up, from 5 percent to 9 percent and 4 percent to 6 percent, respectively.

Then another vote update in the wee hours of Thursday morning moved Sanders into a near-tie with Buttigieg for the Iowa lead in state delegate equivalents (Sanders already led the first and final preference vote counts). In turn, our model gave Sanders more of an Iowa bounce (and Buttigieg less of one), raising Sanders from a roughly 2 in 5 chance to about a 1 in 2 shot of winning a majority of pledged delegates.

Truth be told, we still don’t have that much post-Iowa polling, so the forecast could definitely shift in the coming days if fresh surveys show more gains or losses for these leading candidates. For now, though, the Iowa results have made Sanders the front-runner to win the Democratic nomination, and the new polls we have generally agree. Though maybe the true headline coming out of Iowa is simply how wide-open and uncertain the race is: No single candidate has better than a 50 percent shot to win a pledged-delegate majority, and there’s a 1 in 4 chance that we get through all the primaries and caucuses without anyone getting there.