Media Democratic Delegate Trackers Still Not in Sync

While the total number of delegates assigned to Clinton and Sanders are similar, five major outlets do not agree on the delegate counts across 18 states

hillaryclinton20In early March, Smart Politics highlighted the discrepancies among the nation’s major media outlets in tallying the delegates awarded to the Republican presidential candidates this primary season.

Last week, stated support from unpledged delegates put Donald Trump over the top of the 1,237 delegate hurdle to become the ‘official’ GOP presumptive nominee.

Hillary Clinton is looking to do the same for the Democrats on June 7th – aided by her stockpile of superdelegates – most of whom seem immovable despite pleas by rival Bernie Sanders for them to reconsider as he points to numerous polls which suggest he is the stronger general election candidate for the Democratic Party.

But although news outlets are in universal agreement that Clinton will reach her magic number of 2,383 pledged delegates and superdelegates on June 7th, there are numerous disagreements as to exactly how many delegates Clinton and Sanders currently have, and how those delegates are distributed across the states.

A Smart Politics analysis finds that Democratic delegate counts conducted by the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, FiveThirtyEight, and NBC News differ in 18 of the states to hold primaries or caucuses thus far.

[Note: Many other major media outlets are in unison because they do not conduct independent delegate counts and instead use AP data such as ABC News, Bloomberg, FOX News, Huffington Post, New York Times, National Public Radio, POLITICO, Time, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post].

Through Sunday afternoon, three of the four major media outlets that maintain independent delegate counts for pledged delegates and superdelegates come up with differing numbers for Sanders’ total.

Including superdelegates, CBS News gives Sanders 1,536 delegates, with NBC at 1,541 and the Associated Press and CNN at 1,542. [FiveThirtyEight does not track superdelegates].

Three of these outlets – AP, CBS, and CNN – agree that Hillary Clinton has 2,310 delegates, though NBC puts her count at 2,304.

However, even though some of these outlets get to the same number – or come close – they disagree at multiple steps along the way.

For example, three outlets provide a detailed state-by-state breakdown on pledged delegates. CNN gives Clinton 1,768 while the AP comes in at 1,769 and FiveThirtyEight at 1,771.

Those are modest cumulative differences, to be sure. More striking, however, is that there are 13 states in which these outlets do not agree on Clinton’s pledged delegate counts:

  • Arizona: CBS (42), FiveThirtyEight (42), CNN (44)
  • Colorado: CNN (25), FiveThirtyEight (25), CBS (27)
  • Indiana: CBS (38), CNN (39), FiveThirtyEight (39)
  • Iowa: CBS (22), CNN (23), FiveThirtyEight (23)
  • Louisiana: CBS (37), FiveThirtyEight (37), CNN (39)
  • Maine: CBS (8), FiveThirtyEight (8), CNN (9)
  • Maryland: CNN (60), CBS (61), FiveThirtyEight (61)
  • Michigan: CBS (63), FiveThirtyEight (63), CNN (64)
  • North Carolina: CBS (59), CNN (60), FiveThirtyEight (60)
  • Oregon: CBS (25), CNN (25), FiveThirtyEight (26)
  • Pennsylvania: CBS (104), CNN (105), FiveThirtyEight (106)
  • Texas: CBS (147), FiveThirtyEight (147), CNN (149)
  • Virginia: CNN (61), CBS (62), FiveThirtyEight (62)

As a result, there is also a lack of agreement regarding the number of pledged delegates Sanders has received across 11 states:

  • Arizona: CNN (31), CBS (32), FiveThirtyEight (33)
  • Colorado: CBS (39), CNN (41), FiveThirtyEight (41)
  • Louisiana: CNN (12), CBS (14), FiveThirtyEight (14)
  • Maine: CNN (16), CBS (17), FiveThirtyEight (17)
  • Maryland: CNN (66), CBS (67), FiveThirtyEight (67)
  • Michigan: CNN (66), CBS (67), FiveThirtyEight (67)
  • Mississippi: CBS (4), CNN (4), FiveThirtyEight (5)
  • North Carolina: CBS (45), CNN (47), FiveThirtyEight (47)
  • Oregon: CBS (34), CNN (34), FiveThirtyEight (35)
  • Texas: CNN (73), CBS (75), FiveThirtyEight (75)
  • Virginia: CBS (33), FiveThirtyEight (33), CNN (34)

The AP and NBC, meanwhile, only provide a state-by-state breakdown for  the candidates’ cumulative delegate count (pledged delegates + superdelegates) and disagree on that number for Clinton in seven states:

  • Florida: NBC (164), AP (165)
  • Idaho: AP (6), NBC (7)
  • Maryland: NBC (77), AP (78)
  • Michigan: AP (75), NBC (76)
  • Minnesota: AP (42), NBC (43)
  • New York: AP (178), NBC (181)
  • Oregon: AP (32), NBC (33)

The two networks were in agreement on the delegates Sanders has won in all states except for Hawaii. NBC gives Sanders 18 delegates from the Aloha State while the AP allocates 19.

Because of Clinton’s nearly insurmountable lead, differences of a few delegates that appear in some form across 18 states do not seem particularly meaningful at this time.

But, in an election year during which delegate counts have been more front and center than they have across the last several cycles, the discrepancies demonstrate there is a degree of difficulty in both tracking and calculating actual delegates that the media has yet to master.

Perhaps that is why the task is outsourced by most news outlets to the AP in the first instance.

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