Never pay attention to just one poll, unless it’s the only poll of its kind, and even then take it with a grain of salt. That’s the advice I routinely offer to readers when it comes to polling data, which can often be useful but only if it’s looked at appropriately, and that’s something that the likes of cable news is almost never willing to do as it throws random outlier poll numbers at viewers. Nonetheless I’ve been waiting intently to see the first new national polls that include Hillary Clinton’s clinching of the nomination and her endorsements from President Obama and Elizabeth Warren. Today we finally got one of those pieces of data, and the results are eye popping.
The last six national polls before Hillary’s clinch all had her in the lead, but by an average around five points. Today a new national poll from Bloomberg has has Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump by twelve points, suggesting that she may have received a seven point bump from her nomination and endorsements. That’s above the three to five point range bump I had been predicting, and if it ends up being confirmed by the next round of the other national polling outlets, it’s really good news for Hillary. Twelve points is an unusually large blowout margin for a Presidential election, and would result in a historic electoral college landslide. But in addition this being just one poll, there is another major caveat here.
This particular poll from Bloomberg makes the irresponsible and arguably intentionally dishonest move of including Gary Johnson as a named polling option alongside Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He’s the libertarian party candidate, and while he will be on the November ballot, very few voters have heard of him. Johnson received an absurd nine percent in this poll, which is almost certainly a result of the most jaded participants choosing him because he was the one name they weren’t familiar with, as a form of passive protest.
That won’t translate to people actually turning out to vote for Gary Johnson, particularly once they get wind of his extremist and often incomprehensible positions that arguably make Trump sound normal in comparison. So the nine percent that Johnson received in this poll is an obviously inaccurate number, and wouldn’t have happened if the pollster hadn’t pulled the stunt of naming him in the polling question. The same result would likely have been achieved by throwing a fictional candidate named “John Smith” into the question alongside Clinton and Trump.
Once you back that number out, you’re left trying to guess what those nine percent are likely to actually do in November. Because one-fourth of the people surveyed in this poll didn’t identify themselves as being likely voters, the most probably conclusion is that those who picked the unknown Gary Johnson from the list simply aren’t planning to vote at all.
And if that’s the case, then the twelve point lead that Hillary Clinton holds over Donald Trump in this new poll just might be accurate. But over the next week we’ll see the other polling outlets releasing their updated polls with the nomination and endorsements factored in, and we’ll get to see what those numbers look like without the Gary Johnson stunt included.
But for now at least, if you’re Hillary Clinton, this new poll has to leave you hopeful, and if you’re Donald Trump you have to be really hoping it’s inaccurate. In any case, the one truly valid thing that a single available poll tells us is that we need to wait for subsequent polls from other outlets to either confirm or dispute its results before making any serious conclusions.