Suffolk Tracking and Election Day in New Hampshire

Suffolk took their tracking poll into the field one last night on Monday, so today we have a final update in New Hampshire.

I wrote yesterday about some differences between the Suffolk tracker and other polls. I’m pleased this morning to see the tracker moving back towards my trend estimates based on other polls. This is exactly what I’d expect if the Suffolk variation was random and today we see a return to the central tendency, reflected in my trend estimate.

On Monday, Suffolk had fallen to 33% for Romney, while my trend estimate based on other polling was holding at 38-39. This was the only major discrepancy, leading me to suspect Suffolk was becoming a bit of an exception. Today, the last night of polling finds Suffolk returning Romney support to 37%, comfortably close to my trend estimate of 39.4. The other Suffolk results are all quite close to my final non-Suffolk trends. This is good news from a polling consistency perspective. At this point there is relatively little disagreement. Of course today’s voters may or may not agree, as we discovered four years ago. But from a pure data perspective, the evidence has converged.

So now, mixing all polls, here is the final Fortnight Review for New Hampshire.

While Romney has clearly been trending down, he looks to end up at 37% regardless of which estimator we use. Ron Paul still looks to be a solid second place at 18% with virtually no trend over the fortnight.

The excitement remains between Huntsman and Santorum. Huntsman has been trending up but still trails Paul at 13.6. Here the more sensitive estimators suggest more of a trend than my standard estimator, putting Huntsman at 16-17, quite close to Paul. One always wants to hedge bets with late surging candidates. But my “standard” estimator is standard for a reason, so I’ll stand by the 13.6 estimate though I won’t hold it against you if you want to believe “ready red” at 16.5.

Santorum’s surge seems to have plateaued in New Hampshire, where he continues to do worse than nationally or in South Carolina. My estimate puts him at 12.3, probably headed for 4th place.

And then there is Newt Gingrich. The last few days suggest he finally stopped falling, which he has been doing steadily for a long while. But at 9% it looks likely to be a 5th place, distant, finish.

Rick Perry? 0.6%. Amazing.

This morning’s political shows include considerable speculation along the lines of “the polls mean nothing” given Mitt’s comments on firings, Huntsman’s eventual snappy response about putting country first, and Gingrich’s attacks on Romney’s record at Bain Capital. As all junkies, I too need to think exciting things are happening here at the end and our “feel” for the last couple of days is a reliable guide to the outcome. But ultimately, I won’t go there. The reason to do polling, and to take the results seriously, is that most of the time we get reliable data that turn out pretty close to election outcomes, and we do this without last second subjective modifications. So what to I expect tonight? I expect the gray standard trend estimator to be my best guess. I’ll stick to the data.

Postscript: I’m getting annoyed at late polling coming in. Every time I think we are “final” another one comes out. Now it is Rasmussen, with a Monday night only sample. The results are consistent with Suffolk and the overall trends above, so makes only modest difference to the trend estimates above. But in the interest of completeness, and with fervent hope this really is the “final” update, here are the trends including Rasmussen.

Final New Hampshire Trend Estimates

An ARG poll released late Monday is what I expect to be the last polling update for New Hampshire. So we will call this the last update, baring a surprise Tuesday morning.

For those interested in handicapping the race, I stand by the gray “standard” trend estimate. The more sensitive red and last fortnight only blue lines are fun to speculate about, and sometimes they respond better to late breaking news. But they also are often fooled by an outlier or a significant house effect. The standard trend isn’t as flashy but has had a good track record since 2006. It balances responsiveness with some circumspection.

New Hampshire Endgame: Romney How Big, Who is 2, 3, 4?

The last day of New Hampshire polling raises questions about how large Mitt Romney’s lead may be, and which candidates finish 2, 3 and 4.

The final Suffolk tracking poll has Romney sliding to 33%. Suffolk’s track for Romney since 12/31 has been 41, 43, 43, 43, 41, 40, 39, 35, 33. That 10 point drop over 5 days is a remarkable change. For comparison, over the same 5 days, the Suffolk tracker has a 4 point rise for Santorum, from 6 to 10, and Huntsman 6 points, from 7 to 13. The other big mover is Paul, from 14 to 20.

If we look at all the polls, the Romney decline looks less dramatic but detectible. The Fortnight Review above sees Romney still near 39% in the standard trend estimate. The more sensitive red estimator, or the blue trend based only on the last two weeks of polling, see Romney sinking to 36-37, being pulled down by the last two days of the Suffolk track.

Sunday night’s PPP poll also sees Romney at 35, but the WMUR/UNH puts him back up at 41. So the balance of the evidence is more mid-to-upper 30s than low 40s, but the variation across polls leaves some room for doubt. Also the trend is especially interesting. If the dramatic drop in Suffolk continues for two more days we would be looking at 30-31%, a disappointing finish even if good enough for first place. (Would two narrow wins continue the momentum?)

Then we get to the 2, 3, 4 places. Ron Paul seems to have a solid lead here for 2nd place. While he’s fluctuated a bit between 15 and 20%, all three trend estimates agree on 18-19%, with very little trend. The supposed surge candidates are a bit more puzzling. Santorum has certainly gained from his pre-Iowa levels below 5%, but seems to have stalled out in the 10% range. A couple of polls threatened 15%, but recently everything has been 10 +/- 2. All the trends see 11%, maybe 12. But not the larger surges he has seen nationally or in South Carolina. While his standard trend estimate puts him in 3rd place, the more sensitive estimates don’t think her will get past 4th.

John Huntsman had seen little movement for most of the fortnight, but the last few days have hinted at a surge. While the standard trend puts him at just 11.3, the sensitive and fortnight trends see 13-14, good enough for 3rd place, though still not ready to challenge Paul.

Newt Gingrich has shown no signs of resurgence. His support in New Hampshire, and nationally, has continued to decline, now to 8-10%. The sensitive estimates suggest he could end up in the three way tie with Santorum and Huntsman if a late shift goes exclusively to Gingrich.

Rick Perry is consistent. One percent.

Here is the long-term picture in New Hampshire. Remember the long-term makes trends over the last two weeks look a lot sharper than we see in the Fortnight Review above.