Demographically, West Virginia seems like it should be a blowout in favor of Bernie Sanders. The polls, despite being all over the place, also seem to imply that West Virginia will be a blowout, with some giving Bernie a margin of victory as high as +28%(!). Recent polling has come back down to more believable margins, like +4% and +8%, which I think are much more in line with reality. Here is my estimate for what we will see tomorrow in the Mountain State:
West Virginia is 3.4% African American, similar to states like Washington, Nebraska, and Colorado, all of which Hillary Clinton lost by margins that were quite large. But, there are other factors that point towards a <10% margin of victory. First, the relative search interest between the two candidates is leaning Hillary in West Virginia. The average relative search interest in all of the states that Bernie has won thus far is 2.23, whereas in West Virginia the relative search interest is 0.94; meaning that West Virginians are actually searching for Hillary Clinton more than they are Bernie Sanders. In fact, the lowest his three day relative search interest has ever been in a state that he ultimately won was 1.54 in Minnesota, and just last week in Indiana the relative search interest was 1.66. Secondly, Bernie’s share of Facebook Likes in West Virginia is only 75%, compared to an average of 81.2% for all of the states that he has won. I know that 6.2% doesn’t sound like much, but it really does make a big difference when you consider that the entire range of values for this measure is between 63.6%-95% (Mississippi-Vermont). West Virginia is also a relatively old state, with a median age of 41.9, compared to 37.78, which is the average median age of all the states that he has won.
Aside from this, West Virginia is a semi-closed primary, which usually helps Bernie slightly. In lieu of the Republican race being tied up at this point, it will be interesting to see if the semi-closed primary format attracts all of the independents to vote in the Democratic primary tomorrow. Also, Hillary’s comments on the coal industry have gotten quite a bit of media attention over the past week. This will probably help Bernie (even though Bernie pretty much has the same position on the issue). Also, the logged value of the relative number of campaign contributions is 0.36 in all of the states that Bernie has won so far, and in West Virginia this number is 0.405. This obviously looks positive for the Sanders campaign.
Lastly, on average, I underestimate Bernie’s vote share in semi-closed primaries by 3.27%, so I think we will end up with Hillary performing slightly worse in West Virginia than the numbers above indicate. Regardless, West Virginia is possibly the most unique state thus far with regard to the data that I look at. It’s really surprising how different pieces of data are really trying their best to pull my model very far in different directions in this state.
Thanks everyone, and happy voting to all of you West Virginians out there!
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