Naturally, the LA Times buried the lede: their title is “Donald Trump leads in California primary race but threatens a GOP fracture.” Which, of course, fits the LA Times‘ preferred narrative of the election cycle: Donald Trump is poised to take the GOP down with him into a fiery crash into a dumpster fire at the goat rodeo while the clown show watches. But if you take a look at the actual numbers? Well, among registered voters that poll has it Trump 37, Cruz 30, Kasich 12. Not actually in itself bad news for Ted Cruz, because he was polling at single digits in California up to this point, and he can make up the difference. But if you look at likely voters? Then that poll gives you Trump 36, Cruz 35, Kasich 14.
Why is this important? Because California is a Winner-take-all state, sure… by statewide and Congressional District. The statewide winner only gets 10 delegates of 169: the other 159 are apportioned three to a Congressional District. 53 CDs, to be precise. I’d love to see how the vote broke down among regions – the article only notes that Ted Cruz (presumably using the registered voters numbers) is ahead in the Central Valley and almost tied in Los Angeles County*, which is hysterical if you look at a map – but I guess that there’s maybe a reason I won’t, right away. Go figure, huh**?
Now, let’s establish something at this point: the polls this cycle have been horrible. But they haven’t been consistently horrible in Trump’s favor; pretty much the opposite, in fact. If he’s still floating at 36 or 37 at this point in California, it’s not actually reasonable to assume that he’ll do better as the campaign grinds on. Which is to say, it’s not actually reasonable to assume that he’ll win California. It could still happen, but it’s not something that you should assume.
But that’s not really the point: the point is that the LA Times should have done a better job at reporting this. If anybody is wondering why people are getting more and more exasperated at the way the news gets reported, stories like this are a primary (pardon the pun) reason. But I suppose that “Ted Cruz rockets to second place in California” doesn’t really soothe the nerves of nervous newspapermen…
*To give you an idea: Los Angeles County is represented in eighteen Congressional Districts.
**To be fair, California is a big state; getting a sufficiently large likely voter sample size for each of the 53 CDs would be a logistical nightmare. But the pollsters surely did regions.