A new poll released yesterday by Christopher Newport University shows former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) with a slight lead over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) in the key swing state of Virginia. The same poll does show Clinton with a lead over the Republican field excluding Jeb Bush. The poll must be encouraging for the Bush campaign which seeks to market itself as the only realistic competition to Clinton in the Republican field. The following is a breakdown of the poll, including a look at the impact of the poll, the sample, and a comparison to other polls. For more polling updates up through 2016 presidential election follow this page on Twitter or Facebook.
The Overall Numbers
Jeb Bush (R-FL) (48 percent) versus Hillary Clinton (D) (46 percent)
Hillary Clinton (48 percent) versus Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) (43 percent)
Hillary Clinton (49 percent) versus Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (47 percent)
Hillary Clinton (49 percent) versus Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (44 percent)
Hillary Clinton (49 percent) versus fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) (46 percent)
Hillary Clinton (47 percent) versus Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) (45 percent)
Hillary Clinton (49 percent) versus fmr. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (45 percent)
What the Poll Means
Virginia is worth 13 Electoral College voters to whoever wins the state in 2016. In 2012 President Obama won the state by four points over Mitt Romney and in 2008 President Obama won the state by seven points versus Senator John McCain (R-AZ). In 2004 John Kerry lost the state by eight points against President George W. Bush, and in 2000 Al Gore lost the state by nine points against President George W. Bush.
A candidate needs 270 votes to win the Electoral College. While Virginia only has 13 of those votes, the state is one the key swing states in a list that also includes Florida, Ohio, Colorado, and Iowa. The Democrats can count on states like California to go their way and the Republicans are assured of states like Alabama (barring a political disaster). In a close presidential race (and 2016 is certainly expected to be one) it is the swing states which decide the winner. Virginia will undoubtedly be hotly contested in 2016 with both parties investing significant resources to try and win the precious Electoral College votes. The winner of the presidential contest in Virginia may also influence the US Senate race there, with Republicans trying to hold on to their majority in the US Senate and Democrats try to steal enough seats to take control.
It is worth remembering that this is just one poll, and we are still well over a year away from the actual election. With that in mind, the Bush Campaign should not start buying champagne yet, but the poll certainly is an encouraging sign for them.
Comparison to Other Polls
A Quinnipiac University poll released in early April showed Clinton with a seven point lead over Bush in Virginia, a seven point lead over Scott Walker, an eight point lead over Marco Rubio, a four point lead over Rand Paul, a six point lead over Chris Christie, a ten point lead over Ted Cruz, and an eight point lead over Mike Huckabee. The Quinnipiac poll suggests that Clinton may actually be in a stronger position that the Christopher Newport University poll purports.
Every poll is ultimately based on a sampling of potential voters. A number of factors can influence the poll’s accuracy such as sample size and composition
In this poll Christopher Newport University surveyed 658 registered voters, which gives the poll a margin of error of +/-4.6 percentage points. The inclusion of all registered voters, as opposed to just likely voters, may have favored Clinton to some degree. This sample size is very small, and there is no data currently available showing the breakdown of how many of the participants were Republican, Democrat, or independent.
In his 2012 ratings Nate Silver did not rate Christopher Newport University in the presidential election, likely because the pollster did not release enough surveys to be evaluated. This is another reason to be somewhat skeptical of the results of these polls until we have more of track history with which to judge the pollster.