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New Florida poll has some eye-popping cross tabs, pollster responds

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With a new poll showing Donald Trump ahead by four points in Florida (46-42), he now inches ahead by one-tenth of one percent in the Real Clear Politics average. With Hillary Clinton’s email troubles and new concerns over her health, Trump could continue to rise, provided he sticks to his script. That is never a certainty.

First, we should all wish Secretary Clinton a quick recovery. No one should want their candidate to benefit from an opponent’s medical issue. On something as serious as a person’s health, the Basket of Deplorables should be empty.

JMC Analytics and Polling, based in Louisiana, has provided Trump with his best Florida numbers over the summer. They reported a five-point lead in July.

Poll respondents were 43 percent Democrat, 39 percent Republican and 18 percent independent. They were 69 percent white, 13 percent black, 13 percent Hispanic and six percent “other.”

While the margin of error is 3.5 percent, the cross tabs show a few eye-popping figures.

According to JMC, Clinton has a big problem in Florida within her own party. Only 68 percent of Democratic respondents support Clinton and 17 percent are with Trump.

This man-bites-dog statistic was not even mentioned in the poll’s summary. That is a “gee whiz” fact. Clinton is routinely considered to possess a strong advantage among party voters, gaining up to 90 percent of Democrats in most polls.

This poll shows Trump with 76 percent of GOP respondents. He has seen similar numbers in other polls. Trump has an eight-point lead among independents, also not out of the ordinary.

Another significant number comes from women, who comprised 56 percent of the respondents. JMC reveals a gender gap in Florida, but it is Clinton, not Trump, who is on the wrong end of it. Trump holds a 48-39 percent lead among men, but Clinton does no better than a 44-44 tie among women.

There’s more. Clinton enjoys the customary huge advantage among black Floridians, while Trump has a 21-point advantage with white voters. Among Hispanics, Clinton leads by only 44-42 percent.

President Barack Obama carried 60 percent of Florida’s Hispanics in 2012. If the JMC numbers are anywhere near accurate, Clinton would face a tough campaign just to earn a majority of these Floridians.

Trump leads in most parts of the state, except South Florida, where he trails by 20 points.

In the Senate race, Sen. Marco Rubio has a 43-38 percent lead over Patrick Murphy. However, when the question is asked if Rubio deserves re-election, 40 percent support, but 42 percent are against. Go figure.

What is JMC’s track record? Nate Silver’s 538 organization grades the multitude of polls around the country for accuracy. Several get A’s and B’s, while some D’s and F’s appear. JMC earned a C for work in the previous cycle.

The bottom line is the Clinton campaign is clearly leaking oil. At the same time, many would have a hard time digesting the more eye-catching numbers contained in the JMC poll.

Taken at face value, it shows the high-end of where her campaign is heading in Florida and beyond. It also shows some hope for an underdog such as Murphy.

We are about to be carpet bombed with polls over the next eight weeks, some of which will tell us many different things. Head for shelter.

[Update 09.14.16]

Wednesday, pollster John Couvillon posted this response on the JMC Enterprises blog:

Two days ago, JMC Analytics and Polling conducted an independent poll on both the Presidential and U.S. Senate races in Florida, and this poll was reviewed yesterday in SaintPetersBlog by Bob Sparks, who characterized this poll as “eye-popping.” However, while he was correct to perform due diligence on this poll (and hopefully, he has given other polls similar scrutiny), his conclusions were hastily reached, and I respectfully disagree with him in the following three areas:

(1) Mr. Sparks made a false assertion with regards to Hillary Clinton’s Democratic support. On Page 2 of my poll summary, I stated: “What will keep the race in Florida competitive is that Hillary Clinton’s Democratic voter base is solidly behind her as well, with an 81-6% lead among blacks, a 68-17 percent lead among Democrats (66-23 percent among white Democrats), and a 55-35 percent lead in South Florida, which voted 62-37 percent for Obama in 2012.”

A 4:1 (or a 41 point) lead among registered Democrats should hardly be a source of concern for the Clinton campaign (which is what I basically stated in the poll summary), but Bob incorrectly concluded that “according to JMC, Clinton has a big problem in Florida within her own party.” Not only is this a false conclusion, but I never made this statement in my poll summary. I would respectfully encourage him to reread my analysis of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic support (it’s near the bottom of Page 2 of the poll release).

(2) Mr. Sparks used 2012 data to question the legitimacy of the 44-42 percent Clinton preference of Hispanic respondents. Using 2012 is not necessarily an “apples to apples” comparison, for three reasons: (a) as a minority candidate, Barack Obama outperformed Democrats among this demographic both in 2008 and 2012, but to assume that Hillary Clinton (as a white candidate) can reach President Obama’s historic level of support among Florida’s Hispanics without using 2016 poll data to back up this assertion is a lazy assumption; (b) Florida’s Hispanics are not as monolithically partisan as they are in other states (the “Bookclosing report” generated by the Florida Secretary of State shows that 39 percent of Florida’s Hispanics are Democrats, 26 percent are Republicans, and the remaining 35 percent are not affiliated with either of the two major parties; and (c) the 42 percent Hispanic support Trump is getting in the poll is not that much different from the 42 percent John McCain received in 2008, the 39 percent Mitt Romney received in 2012, or the 38 percent Governor Rick Scott received in 2014. Furthermore, as an additional validation check, JMC poll tested Trump’s immigration statements and found that by a 40-39 percent margin, Florida’s Hispanics “support Donald Trump’s immigration platform.”

(3) Finally, Mr. Sparks considered it necessary to mention my “C” rating from noted statistician Nate Silver. I’m glad he did, although had he done some basic research from Nate’s detailed data, he might realized there is more to the story. The vast majority of my prior polling has been for down ballot races (countywide, legislative, and the like). That polling is typically NOT externally released, and even if it were, those polls would NOT be included in Nate’s analysis. In fact, my grade was based on five (yes, FIVE) of the polls I have conducted at the statewide/Congressional level between 2010 and 2015 that did get Nate Silver’s attention, and in the interest of transparency, here’s how I did:

(2010) MS CD2: 42-41 Dem (Actual: 61-38 Dem)
(2014) LA CD6: 61-35 Rep (Actual: 62-38 Rep)
(2014) LA Senate: 55-40 Rep (Actual: 56-44 Rep)
(2015) LA Governor: 51-35 Dem (54-38 Dem with “leaners” included) (Actual: 56-44 Dem)
(2015) LA Governor: 47-43 Dem (49-44 Dem with “leaners” included) (Actual: 56-44 Dem)

With regards to the other polls that are not considered as part of Nate Silver’s “grading system,” I can unequivocally say that I’ve been involved in numerous successful Congressional, legislative, and local races where my polling was used to enable campaign staff to make intelligent, well-informed decisions about appropriate campaign strategy.

In conclusion, while I applaud Mr. Sparks’ critique of my poll, I do respectfully ask that in the future, he perform some basic due diligence before making the hastily drawn conclusions that I listed above.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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