According to presidential campaign spending reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Jan. 31, Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders together have spent more on private polling than all of the remaining Republican contenders combined in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is by-far the largest investor in polling, as “Hillary for America” put $722,000 into conducting internal polls between October 1 and Dec. 31. In the third quarter, the number was even higher at $1.9 million.
By contrast, Ted Cruz’s campaign outspent their Republican rivals handily, shelling out $380,000 on polls. “Marco Rubio for President” and “Jeb 2016” each spent just over $150,000 for the same services.
Both Ben Carson and Donald Trump did no internal polling in Q4, while “Kasich for America” outlayed $150,000 on “polling consulting”.
For one anonymous GOP strategist, going as far as to not conduct any internal polling is a mistake because the campaigns can ask registered voters candidate-specific questions.
Speaking particularly of Trump, the political consultant told MSNBC, “He doesn’t understand it as a predictive or testing tool. He’s only interested in ‘Am I ahead or behind’, which is the least important thing if you’re using polling for predictive purposes.”
As for Bernie Sanders, his campaign, “Bernie 2016”, spent a surprising $500,000 on polling in Q4.
How much private polling really helps is up for debate. Obama’s 2008 analytics director, Michael Simon cautions candidates to not get too caught-up in the results of candidate-specific surveys.
“For winning a tactical battle in these early primary states, polling is a lot less useful and seems to fade in accuracy in every cycle,” Simon said.
Mr. Simon may be right. According to public polls, the candidates who have spent less on internal polling data than their rival(s), Sanders and Trump, are currently leading in New Hampshire by double-digit margins.
The New Hampshire Democratic and Republican primaries are scheduled for Tuesday, February 9.
[MSNBC] [FEC.gov] [Photo courtesy AP/David Becker]