Nevada hasn’t been polled since Valentine’s Day, and it’s been an eternity since then in the Republican race. The debate has happened. South Carolina itself happened. Jeb Bush has dropped out of the race. Trump spent a solid week going full metal truther. Neither of the two polls conducted over Valentine’s Day weekend are worth the paper they are printed on, especially the CNN poll with a 6.5% margin of error.
The result is that we are flying more or less blind into a critically important Nevada caucus – maybe the most important Nevada race that’s ever been. But that’s really okay; the Nevada caucuses are completely impossible to poll accurately in any case, and even if a pollster tries to release a flash poll tomorrow (taken over some combination of Sunday or Monday) it should be automatically disregarded as garbage.
In 2008, two pollsters tried to poll Nevada in what was at that time a relatively static race and both missed the final result by laughable margins. Mason-Dixon, one of the most respected pollsters in the nation, predicted that Romney would get 34%, McCain 19, and Huckabee 13. They missed outside the margin of error for all three candidates as the final result was Romney 51%, McCain 12%, and Huckabee 8%. ARG fared even worse, predicting an absurd (in retrospect) finish of Romney 28, McCain 21, Giuliani 11 (Giuliani ended up with 4%).
In 2012, the two pollsters who attempted to predict the race actually did a decent job of predicting the final level of Romney support at 50%, but both drastically understated the Paul support. Again, however, the Republican race was comparatively stable by this point, and it looked very evident that Romney was ready to run away with Super Tuesday.
Even if polls get released tomorrow, they will do well to match the 2012 performance, which is to say, to accurately predict the winner, who will likely be Trump. The far more important race – the one for second – has been much harder for Nevada pollsters to predict in the Nevada caucuses. That is especially true this year where every race is dominated by late deciders and where the sudden vacuum presented by the absence of Jeb Bush has likely created a decently sized pool of still-undecided voters in Nevada.
So if you have anxiety about what’s happening in Nevada tomorrow, don’t fret; new polls will likely not make it better, if it’s accurate information you’re after. And if one actually is released, we’ll cover it and talk about it here, but just know that you should take it with a very healthy grain of salt.