An Interview with Richard Baris, Director of Big Data Poll and the PPD Election Projection Model
In 2016, one pollster got both the national popular vote and Trump’s electoral victory correct. One.
Richard Baris then of the People’s Pundit Daily polling, now Director of Big Data Poll and the PPD Election Projection Model on People’s Pundit Daily, had Trump winning the electoral college by taking Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Rasmussen Reports had Hillary Clinton winning, 45% to 43%, while BDP/PPD had Trump winning the national vote by .6%.
So Baris emerged as the “most accurate pollster of 2016,” a point that really rubs Nate Silver’s 538 the wrong way, and Sean Trende at RealClearPolitics still refuses to include Baris in its list of polls.
I had a conversation with Baris about these and other issues, including the results of the Ohio 12 special election.
LS: Why do you think your model is better than everyone else’s?
RB: We dig down much deeper to determine who is a “likely voter.” Our model is about 60% more reliable in determining the true “likely voter.” We are doing something different and special at Big Data Poll, which we brought over to the model for People’s Pundit Daily. We are digging deeper into the data, our panels are more likely to vote than the overall voter file population. We approach polling very similar to how the AP will soon approach exit polls, only we’ve been doing it longer.
LS: Did you find that that included people who never voted before . . . at all?
RB: Yes. We found many of those people.
LS: You and I were in a Twitter chat room on election night 2016 and you were privately calling Florida an hour before the major networks, and calling Pennsylvania three hours before. How did you do that?
RB: Well, if you remember we were all—you, me, Deplorable Greg—were tabulating the returns from Pinellas County. Greg lives in that region and knows the precincts especially well. And we were going, “there’s not enough votes left here.” Because we knew the northern part of the states and the Panhandle were going to come in huge for Trump. They were running at record levels in some of their turnout, with margins often surpassing previous GOP presidential candidates.
LS: Let’s talk the OH 12 and PA 18 special elections. In PA 18, where Conor Lamb beat Rick Saccone by 500 votes, you think Trump nearly bailed him out?
RB: Yes. I know it. We had Saccone down five or six before Trump came in, and he almost pushed Saccone over the top.
LS: Same thing with OH 12?
RB: Yes. Troy Balderson had been up quite a bit, then fell a lot. We actually measured increased voter intensity after his rallies. Trump basically saved that seat for the GOP.
LS: Is it fair to say that in traditionally red districts, Trump adds 4-5 points to a Republican candidate?
RB: It seems that way based on PA and OH special elections. Look at Ohio 12. Delaware, where Trump had his rally, put Balderson over the top. Licking County voted at a higher rate than Richmond. Even in 2016. They benefited from his coalition more than he benefitted from their’s.
LS: But you still see an enthusiasm gap, right?
RB: Yes. Right now, Democrats have more enthusiasm. The “generic” preference isn’t as big as all the national outfits say—could be as low as three—but right now the Democrats are more motivated.
LS: You’ve also been beating the healthcare drum as an issue for Republicans.
RB: Yes. They can’t do it on just the economy. The Democrats are playing up health care—McCain’s torpedoing of the GOP bill last year was a serious blow. That’s the moment when the Republican enthusiasm post-2016 lost steam. The Republicans need to come up with any measure to show they are serious about addressing this before the midterms.
LS: You’re watching about 30 races as determining the House, right?
RB: Correct. Right now it’s so tight that enthusiasm will be a big factor. However, in OH 12 for example, I think in November you’ll see 40,000 more Republican voters than came out in this special. So in some cases, this will auto-correct. But in others, there are problems.
LS: Such as?
RB: Well, the Republicans are losing some of the suburban, traditionally RINO districts. These are the people put off by Trump’s brusqueness and language. For a lot of them it’s more about image than results.
LS: And there are several of these in NY, NJ, WI, PA, and MI?
RB: Yes and scattered elsewhere, like Issa’s seat in California and Comstock’s seat in Virginia. These are where the “Bush coalition” did well in 2004.
LS: So Republicans are doomed?
RB: No, not necessarily. For as many of those districts as are faltering—or even being lost—there are almost as many “populist” districts that are “Trumplican.” It may well be possible to offset the Bush districts with more Democrat/Independent Trumplican districts. But, of course, you have to actually appeal to those people, not look down at them.
LS: This is, for example, everything in PA outside of Philly and Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, virtually the entire eastern side of OH, and the big rural areas of WI and IA and MN. These are the areas that Salena Zito wrote about in The Great Revolt.
RB: Precisely. Republicans can win these, but it must be with a Trump message. You can’t win these with a traditional RINO agenda. If tax cuts alone were the motivator, OH 12 wouldn’t have been a race.
LS: You have thought for some time that the next domino to fall might be MN.
RB: Well, remember I told you that on election day Trump won all of Minnesota two-to-one outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul? We found that if not for the “Access Hollywood” tape affecting early voting, Trump would have won the 40,000 more votes in MN necessary to add that state in 2016.
So, in that state, we’re looking at the First Congressional District where Tim Walz stepped down. That’s an open seat where he won reelection with just 50.3%. In the Eighth District, Nolan won with just 50.2%. These are Trumplican districts, and they are flippable with that message.
LS: Thanks for your time. I won’t ask for predictions because those are proprietary and you only poll areas when you are paid—which I find refreshing. That means you are delivering an honest result, not using polling as a propaganda instrument.
RB: Thank you.