Caution on assumptions from Utah

There is much chatter about polls in Utah favouring independent candidate Evan McMullin.

Most articles are like this one from The Hill:

Independent candidate Evan McMullin is leading in Utah, according to a new Emerson College Polling Society survey released Wednesday.

McMullin is favored by 31 percent of likely voters in Utah. Republican presidential nomineeDonald Trump has the support of 27 percent and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is backed by 24 percent.

Another 5 percent of voters support Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and 12 percent are undecided.

The poll finds both Trump and Clinton are viewed unfavorably by a majority of voters in the state.

Clinton is viewed favorably by 23 percent of voters and unfavorably by 74 percent. Trump is viewed positively by 24 percent of voters and unfavorably by 72 percent.  

The poll finds 51 percent of those who supported Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the Utah caucuses are backing McMullin and only 29 percent are supporting Trump.

Among voters who supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich, only 4 percent plan to cast their ballots for Trump.

McMullin leads his rivals among young voters aged 18 to 34 with 36 percent of the vote. Trump has the advantage among voters aged 55 and older.

The poll was conducted from Oct. 17 to 19 among 700 likely voters. The margin of error is 3.6 percent.

But other polls have also shown McMullin, a Mormon, in striking distance in Utah. According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls in Utah, Trump has a 6.3-point lead over Clinton, 31.8 to 25.5 percent. McMullin falls in third place with 22.8 percent of the vote, according to the average.

If he takes Utah on Election Day, McMullin would be the first presidential candidate not running as a Republican or Democrat to win a state since 1968.

But there should be some caution in leaping to conclusions on the basis of polling.
In the 2014 Gubernatorial race in Kansas, the incumbent Sam Brownback was trailing in all the polls for Governor of Kansas but won.

All the commentators were saying the race was too close to call despite the polls showing Brownback in a losing situation. In the end, Brownback won what was seen as a referendum on his performance by 3.7%. The pundits and polls were wrong.

Sometimes it is just too hard to pull the lever for the opposing side no matter how bad your own candidate is.

While it appears that Mormons don’t much like Donald Trump, they also don’t like Hillary Clinton. I’m not so sure that McMullin can carry this off given the history of independents in the US.

For Utah though, it seems that the choice is between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich.


-The Hill