Santorum Surges, But Not So Much in New Hampshire

UPDATED: Now includes WMUR/UNH New Hampshire Poll

Nearly 3 days after Iowa, Rick Santorum has seen sharp surges in support in national and South Carolina polls. He has also moved up in New Hampshire, but not nearly as much. With just 4 days to go, this raises doubt that Santorum can move up rapidly enough to challenge Ron Paul for second place.

With three new national polls and two new ones in South Carolina, Santorum’s trends are sharply up, to 21% in South Carolina and almost 15% nationally. In New Hampshire, where we have six post-Iowa polls, Santorum has gained support but is still in single digits at 7.6%. (If we consult the more sensitive estimate, he is at 8.2%). The latest Suffolk tracking poll, covering 1/4-5 puts Santorum at 11%, with Rasmussen 1/5 puts him at 13%, both still below the other trends or individual polls. The late Friday release of the WMUR/UNH poll puts him at 8%. The WMUR/UNH poll’s field dates were 1/2-5 so that includes two pre-Iowa days,

Santorum may yet pick up support in NH because both Huntsman and Gingrich continue to trend down, offering some potential converts. Ron Paul is holding steady at about 18 while Romney has gained maybe 3 points over the last fortnight.

Santorum may yet gain support, but the contrast between his New Hampshire and national or South Carolina trends seems to say he is not as good a fit with Granite State voters. In any case, time is short.

(Technical note: I’m counting the Suffolk tracking poll in NH and the Gallup national tracker as separate polls. The overlap of days included in each track means they are not independent readings of opinion, so they aren’t entirely “separate” polls. Still, we work with the data we have. Suffolk is only a two day track, so is pretty sensitive to quick changes. Gallup has a longer field period so probably underestimates national support for Santorum at this point.)

Santorum Surges in US, IA and NH

And now it is Rick Santorum’s turn to surge.

While the previous surges by GOP candidates took place in the national polls, Santorum’s began in Iowa and is only beginning to show up in national and New Hampshire polls. (Other states haven’t polled recently.)

But despite the differences in how much support he has, Santorum’s polls have clearly begun to turn up in national and New Hampshire polls, not just in Iowa where the caucuses focused attention on him. The differences in timing of surges is typical of candidates making a breakthrough in the primaries. The vastly different levels of information within a caucus state can drive opinion well before the national and other state polls catch up.

An interesting result, possibly with implications for next Tuesday, is that the national trend has turned up higher and sharper than the trend in New Hampshire. Given the NH primary is next Tuesday, this is not because of lack of attention by NH voters, though of course the candidates have been focused on Iowa. There has been a lot of speculation that NH conservatives are quite different from those in Iowa and that will limit Santorum’s appeal in the Granite State. That plausible speculation finds a hint of empirical support here. Given the same national news coverage, plus NH specific campaign messages, Santorum is underperforming in NH compared to his national trend. The cause of that is entirely speculative but the evidence shows he has not risen as fast in New Hampshire. Yet.

I suspect we’ll see some sharp increases as the field narrows, especially in light of Gingrich’s continuing sharp decline in New Hampshire and Huntsman continued lack of success.

And let’s not leave without putting Santorum’s national surge in perspective. While he may yet reach high levels of support, compared to the previous GOP surges this year, he still has a long way to go.

One note of warning. The national polls are currently dominated by the single Gallup tracking poll since other organizations took the last couple of weeks off. Likewise the New Hampshire data is mostly the Suffolk tracking poll. Both are quality polls but we always feel a lot better when several pollsters are contributing data rather than just a single source.

Gingrich Downturn In National and Iowa Polls

The Gingrich surge has now clearly reversed. In my previous post on this I explained the more sensitive red line trend estimate, (nicknamed “Ready Red”), and its strengths and weaknesses. See that for the details.

Now, with more Gallup daily tracking data, the national trend has turned sharply down, both for my standard trend estimate and for the more sensitive red line.

Here I want to point to the evidence a bit more, with a small caution about the lack of recent polling other than Gallup’s daily tracker.

By Thursday this week various sources began to point to a downturn in support for Gingrich. The evidence is real though the number of new polls is more limited than I for one would like. What bolsters the evidence is the consistency of the pattern in Iowa and Nationally, while New Hampshire supports it but less strongly. Lack of polls in South Carolina and Florida means those states aren’t helping establish what is going on.

In the national data, Gallup’s daily tracker is the only new polling since 12/12. While I think highly of Gallup and its people, tracking polls with their overlapping samples are always subject to some “funny” variation. Still, there have now been three non-overlapping Gallup samples and their trend for Gingrich is 37, 33 and 28 for 12/1-5, 6-10 and 11-16 respectively. These are samples of around 1,000 respondents, so a margin of error of about 3.1 points, making this trend unlikely to just be statistical noise. Still, I’d love to see some other major polls produce national numbers to confirm this. My “Ready Red” trend believes there has been a clear downturn, as shown in the figure above, which now incorporates all of Gallup’s tracks as well as all other national polls.
More convincingly, the gray standard trend estimate, which is by design conservative and demanding of convincing evidence, has now turned down as well. As of Thursday, the gray line hadn’t been convinced. Today it is.

So the national trend is now clearly down, and substantially so. The only reason to reserve judgement is that we’ve not had any new national polls since 12/12 except for the Gallup daily tracker. The tracker trend has been quite steady, which is reassuring but I’d always feel better if we had some polls from additional sources to confirm a change in trend.

One way to find confirmation of a change in trend is to look at the state polling. Iowa has some recent polling, at least through 12/13, that lends support to the evidence for a Gingrich trend reversal.

The Iowa data come from a number of different pollsters so we have some confidence no one pollster dominates this. The last 9 polls show Gingrich at 33, 31, 27, 33, 30, 22, 27, 22, 20. The median of the first 4 is 32, while the median of the last four is 22. Quite a change, and another way to see how sharp the downturn has been. While “Ready Red” is sharply down, the gray standard estimate isn’t quite ready to turn down, though it is developing a clear bend that usually indicates it will turn down if a couple more polls confirm the shift in trend.

Finally, we can look at New Hampshire, where Gingrich has also surged. There there are fewer recent polls, the last from 12/12. The standard trend has not yet turned down, but the sensitive red estimator suggests a flattening of support at least.

With the last poll on 12/13 we really need to see some more recent data to believe the change in trend, even if “Red” thinks there may be one.

But if we combine the national, Iowa and New Hampshire data, it seems pretty clear that the Gingrich surge has at the very least stopped growing and in fact is very likely turning down. The many, sometimes brutal, attacks on him from GOP and conservative sources must take a toll on voters who imagine him a clear conservative leader but who needed to be reminded that many conservative leaders view him as unreliable at best and erratic to the point of incoherence at worst. This is a great example of how elite opinion can modify mass reaction. Gingrich can be very appealing to GOP primary voters with his rhetoric and wit and seeming erudition. But elites remember his foibles as Speaker and the many issues he has embraced and then shrugged off. Those weaknesses have been the focus of conservative commentary for three weeks now, and they have taken their toll.

To wrap up, here is the entire set of national, Iowa and New Hampshire trends, including Ready Red for all candidates. Notice how Red sometimes gets overly excited but almost always comes back to the stolid but reliable gray line.