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WSW: Surprises, Polling And Strategy In Michigan's Presidential Primary

Tom Arthur/Wikicommons

Western Michigan University Political Science Professors John Clark and Peter Wielhouwer agree that Bernie Sanders’ win in Michigan’s Presidential Primary was surprising. But they say the nature of primary elections and difficulties in polling may explain why the Vermont Senator won despite Hillary Clinton’s large lead in pre-election polls. 

Clark and Wielhouwer joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans for a recap of Tuesday’s primary results.

Wielhouwer says the one daily tracking poll that released results every day relied solely on cell phones, which don’t capture people who only use cell phones, which means surveys often don’t capture younger voters.

Clark says voters normally don’t focus on a Presidential primary race until it reaches their state. Many candidates who were in early states have dropped out of the race. Clark says the expense of polling means not as many surveys are conducted, especially close to the election. He says that means that people who decide late don’t figure into public opinion surveys.

Michigan voters supported anti-establishment candidates for both the Republican and Democratic nominations. Sanders is running for the Democratic nomination despite officially being an Independent Senator, and a “Democratic Socialist.” Donald Trump won the Republican Primary in Michigan, despite questions about his past party affiliation.

Many Republican Party officials have expressed concern about Trump being the party’s nominee. Wielhouwer says nothing in the Michigan vote demonstrates a way to “stop Trump” from getting the nomination. But Clark says it’s now known if there is a “ceiling” for Trump’s support. He says if the ceiling does exist, it’s not clear how high it can go.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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