Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Accuracy of March 4th Democratic Delegates Predictions (And Updated Estimates)

With most of the delegate totals from the March 4th contests now known, it is time to once again check up on how close my predictions were to predicting the actual delegate count from the four primaries held on that day. In the table below, I present the predictions I made (based on Pollster.com survey averages) compared to the actual delegate totals that the candidates took from each state. Keep in mind that we still do not know how 9 delegates from the Texas caucuses will be allocated.

As you can see, in Ohio and Vermont, the pre-election estimates I generated got the delegate totals exactly correct. In Rhode Island, Clinton's victory was bigger than the polls predicted, which meant my estimates were off by two delegates (she took 13 delegates from the state, rather than the 11 I predicted). Finally, in Texas, the estimates were quite close to the final tally. Even if one candidate gets all of the remaining 9 delegates, the estimates will have only been off by 7 delegates; if those delegates are allocated roughly evenly, then the estimates will have been off by 1 or even exactly correct. The bottom line: the survey-based estimates I generated predicted that Clinton would pick up 10 delegates from the March 4th primaries and those estimates will be off by no more than 5 (Clinton will finish anywhere between a net loss of 4 delegates and a net gain of 5 delegates, depending on how those final 9 delegates are allocated).

One thing that is notable about these estimates is that they were so close in Texas, even though I and others suggested that the polls would not be a very accurate guide to understanding how delegates would be allocated in that state. Some districts in Texas had a lot more delegates available than others and the caucuses threw another hiccup into the estimates, but at the end of it all, the polls did a reasonably good job, even in a state with such an odd system.

So, what do the surveys say about the primaries coming up in the next two months? Currently, there have been no polls in Indiana, but we do have at least three surveys to work from in each of the other three states. Based on these surveys, Obama will pick up 5 delegates in Mississippi, which, combined with his win in Wyoming over the weekend, will mostly cancel what Clinton picked up on March 4th. Clinton is still favored to win Pennsylvania by a wide margin, which would give her a net gain of about 20 delegates in that state, but North Carolina favors Obama by a fairly significant margin, which would allow him to make up about half of the delegates Clinton would pick up in Pennsylvania. Bottom line, as the polls currently stand, it is going to be difficult for Clinton to make up significant ground in the delegate count in the coming months.

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