May 4, 2016 – As has happened across the country, Donald Trump used a wave of events and free media in the last week before the Indiana primary election yesterday to post a substantial win, and all but locked up the GOP nomination.
Polling in the race was all over the map – some late polls showing Cruz winning by double-digits and others showing Trump winning by the same margin. Our polling, conducted a week before the election and at the very beginning of the earnest campaigning by both Cruz and Trump, showed the match-up leaning slightly towards Trump. It seemed like the more the two candidates campaigned, the bigger the gap grew in Trump’s favor.
Our polling showed 11% yet undecided heading into that final week, and that just 68% were firm in their choices. In other words, it was a recipe for volatility and yet another state tailor-made for the whirlwind that is the Trump campaign for President. His last-minute of endorsements from Indiana legends Bobby Knight and Lou Holtz were likely key in moving voters into his camp – in part because those endorsers were almost perfect in that they appealed most to the types of voters Trump has won across the country – white men and sports nuts who favor a “locker room” approach to politics. Trump has been throwing political chairs around arenas across this country for months now, and it has been the unwillingness or inability of his opponents so far to match Trump that has made him such a powerful force. Watching Rubio try to match Trump in the insults game was like watching Obama try to bowl – unnatural and embarrassing. Trump + Knight + Holtz was a perfect match with each other and with their target voters. And, Trump’s timing with the endorsements, right after our poll was released, was also perfect. He maximized their impact just when many Indiana voters were beginning to make up their minds.
We were pleased to capture the Indiana transition from Cruz to Trump (early polling had Cruz leading in the state), but this primary election, like so many this year, is so dynamic that it reinforces the idea that polling is just a snapshot in time. Our data showed an electorate in flux but leaning toward Trump, and now we see that lean was confirmed.