Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recent Surveys Show Scott Brown Falling Well Short Of Markers Set By Romney, Ayotte In New Hampshire

Photos from left to right courtesy of Just Jared, Gretyl Macalaster, and Marc Nozell. Apologies for not being able to resist the gratuitous shirtless Scott Brown pic.
 
Given recent stories of New Hampshire GOP weariness regarding the now announced Scott Brown Senate bid, it's hard to believe there was a time when the pick-up truck driving, common-man type was a source of great Republican pride. After all, how could the establishment, or the Tea Party for that matter, begrudge the man who wrestled away the Senate seat held by liberal lion Ted Kennedy for five decades, in a state with a partisan bent like Massachusetts?

But a stinging, if not anticipated loss to Elizabeth Warren and the Democratic presidential turnout machine in 2012, on top of less than inspiring polling numbers against his new Democratic opponent Jeanne Shaheen, have caused the former model/attorney to lose a bit of his luster. Most recent surveys of the 2014 Senate battle find Brown trailing Senator Shaheen by around 10-pts or more. However, he's got three other headaches to contend with beyond the simple fact he's losing.

First of all, his polling trend lines do not look good. After a strong month in January (when he trailed Shaheen by an average of 44-40% across four surveys), Brown now trails by an average 50-39% (in four surveys taken since February). He's also lost ground among various demographic and political groups. Consider the chart below:

Polling used in the average can be found at Huffington Post's Pollster.

Brown went from leading among New Hampshire voters aged 18-45 years old by three points in January, to trailing with this group by eleven points in February/March. He held Shaheen to an eleven point advantage among women in January, though her advantage has now doubled to twenty-two points. Brown's lead among men dropped, while Shaheen's lead with >46 year olds and Independents grew slightly. The only positive trend for Brown from January to February/March was his numbers among Republicans, which improved from January ever-so-slightly.

The second headache for Brown? Not only is he trailing Shaheen, but he's WELL behind where his would-be Senate colleague, Kelly Ayotte (R) was polling at this point in 2010, and is failing to hit crucial markers reached by Mitt Romney in 2012. Granted, Brown has nearly impossibly large shoes to fill if he hopes to recreate Ayotte's landslide 60-37% victory over Paul Hodes (D) during the last Republican wave. But for the record, she was leading Hodes by double-digits before the Spring of 2010. Brown hasn't led a poll against Shaheen yet, at least not according to the Huffington Post or Real Clear Politics.

"No Man Is A Hero To His Valet" - The Home State Voter Phenomenon In Presidential Politics

The meaning of the proverb in the title above, as applied to the topic of this piece, is that no politician is a hero to his constituents, because it is those voters that know him best. And public opinion polls have certainly bore this out. More on the proverb, here. Photo courtesy of John Wagner/Getty Images

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was wildly popular in his home state, according to a mid-2012 Quinnipiac University poll - to the tune of a 73/16% job approval rating. Despite all the local love, just 36% of registered New York voters wanted him to run for President in 2016, including only 44% in his own party. Thirty-nine percent of all voters did not want him to run. A second survey taken by Sienna College just after the 2012 Presidential election showed that while Cuomo's job approval rating had deteriorated to some degree, he remained quite popular. Yet still - New Yorkers weren't willing to jump on board for a 2016 run, opposing such a move by an even larger 49 - 39% margin. It seems as though Andrew has followed in his father, Mario's, footsteps in more ways than one. A 1990 CBS News Exit Poll found just 45% of New Yorkers felt the popular, 8 year governor would be a good President, while an equally large share felt he would not be.

This apparent disconnect between a politician's home-state popularity, and the desire of their constituents to see them ascend to the presidency, doesn't end with New York voters. Governor Christie is in the same boat, even after his approval ratings shot through the roof in the aftermath of his apparently competent handling of Hurricane Sandy. Take, for example, a May 2013 NBC/Marist poll that found his statewide approval at 69%, with just 24% disapproving. Regardless, less than half of the number that approved of his job performance wanted him to run for President (34%), while a solid majority preferred he not run (55%). A Quinnipiac Poll from one month earlier had similar findings. Christie was again wildly popular (sporting a 70/23% job approval rating), while a slight plurality of New Jersey registered voters (47%) preferred he NOT run for President in 2016. And a six-month old Harper Polling survey, taken well before "Bridgegate" became a part of our political lexicon, found only 34% of New Jersey voters wanted Christie to run for President, while 43% would rather he didn't; this, despite a strong 56/34% favorability rating.

What drives this aversion to higher office so often seen in voters who are generally supportive of their home-state politicians? Is it mere selfishness - do they feel their Senator, or Governor, has done such a great job, that they couldn't bare for him or her to leave? Or is it less hero-worship, and something more apathetic? Do they fear national embarrassment? Either way, the phenomenon has reared its head time and again with both 2012 and 2016 presidential primary nominees, and throughout history (at least based on the somewhat limited public data I was able to retrieve on the topic.)

Consider the table below, which compiles state-based polls on local support for home-state Senators or Governors running for an upcoming Presidential race in one chart. The far right column documents the politician's local job approval or favorability rating at the time of the poll (where the information is available). Entries highlighted in red indicate at least a plurality of state-voters were supportive of the particular candidate running for President.

* denotes favorability, not job approval rating. **asks to rate the Governor/Senator's job performance as excellent, good, fair, or poor.  ^Asks whether Pawlenty/Bachmann should run for POTUS, Sen, House, or No Office.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Another Special Election Proves To Be Too Tricky For PPP, while Red Racing Horses Finally Shines

2010 Democratic nominee for Governor looks sternly at her opponent during that race. Her loss last night seems all the more surprising, given her status as a known commodity statewide, and Jolly's relative obscurity. Pic courtesy of Getty.

Special thanks to Greg Giroux, whose work is cited frequently throughout the article.

Last May, Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling caught a little flack for what more than a few observers considered a major polling miss in South Carolina's special election between Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. And though their single Florida Special House poll wasn't quite so bad, it wasn't good either.

Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink last night by about 2 points. Yet according to PPP, Sink was supposed to have won, and by 3 points. At the same time, PPP's Republican counterpart, Red Racing Horses, nailed the final margin with a poll they released last week. So score one for Red Racing Horses

In a survey that was concluded Sunday, PPP also found that Democrat Alex Sink was carrying early voters 52-45%. Red Racing Horses found Sink leading by just 2 points with early voters, 48-46%. The actual final result among early voters? Sink by 2 points, or 48.5 - 46.2%. Score two for Red Racing Horses.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ann Richards, She Is Not: Ominous Signs For Wendy Davis On Texas Primary Night

Photos courtesy of Bettmann/CORBIS and Erich Schlegel/Getty

Wendy Davis, as beloved by the liberal grassroots, Hollywood left, and abortion rights activists as she may be, doesn't seem all that poised to become the first Democrat to capture the Texas Governor's mansion since Ann Richards in 1990. In spite of an impressive fundraising presence, she's had a bumbling media presence, and poor poll numbers.

After a close look at last night's primary results, it's doubtful anyone will be disabused of the notion that Davis is likely to lose to Abbott in the fall. With 99.9% of precincts reporting, Wendy Davis defeated her primary opposition in a two-person field with an undeniably impressive 79% of the vote (about 432,000 people).

But the bright-spots stop there. She attracted less primary votes than three of the two Democratic Texas Gubernatorial nominees before her - Bill White in 2010 (517,000 votes), and Tony Sanchez in 2002 (609,000 votes). She outperformed the third only slightly, Chris Bell, in 2006 (325,000 votes). In fact, Davis's vote total was only a fraction of the woman's she no-doubt considers a hero, former Governor Ann Richardson (who attracted 807,000 votes in her primary for re-election 20 years ago).

As bad as that sounds, it gets worse. Republican Greg Abbott also won his party's primary last night, but by an even more impressive 92%. That's a whopping 1.2+ million votes, by far the most of any Texas Gubernatorial Primary candidate, Republican or Democrat, ever.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. Texas is filled with Republicans, so obviously, Abbott's primary vote total is is going to be higher than Wendy's. True, but her vote total, as a percentage of the winner of the GOP primary's vote total, is lower than Bill White and Chris Bell's before her (Rick Perry Ran unopposed in 2002).

Before going on to lose to Perry in the general election by 9-pts, Chris Bell (D) managed to win 59% of the total number of voters that Perry won on primary night, 2006 (553,000 votes). In 2010, Democrat Bill White won an even larger share of Perry's voters (68%) on primary night than Bell. He, too, went down in defeat to Perry that November, by 13-pts.

What share of Greg Abbott's vote total did Wendy Davis win last night? A pretty paltry 35%.

Yes, you read that correctly. Davis, in her primary, won just 35% of the total votes won by Greg Abbott in his.

Obviously, variables like primary vote totals don't necessarily predict the outcome of a general election months down the road. These races aren't frozen in vacuums. They're fluid, and susceptible to any number of things, like the noise of the 24-hour news cycle. And look no further than 1994 for an example of when the bigger primary vote-getter did NOT go on to win the general election.

...but still. Thirty-five percent, and 432,000 votes? Is this even remotely impressive for someone of Wendy's rock-star status?  More than that, what does it say of the Democrat's hopes of "turning Texas blue"?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Newest Michigan Senate and Governor Poll Provides A Great Lesson On Identifying Outliers

Photo courtesy of A.P.

One of the brightest spots for Republicans in the 2014 midterm cycle thus far has been the unexpected competitiveness of the Michigan Governor's and Senate race. Not so long ago, incumbent Republican Governor Rick Snyder's job approval ratings were in the doldrums, as Democrat Gary Peters enjoyed a near-year long polling advantage over Republican Terry Land in the battle for retiring legend Carl Levin's senate seat. To boot, Barack Obama had just won Michigan, Romney's home-state, by ten points, while incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow went on to topple her Republican challenger by 20 points. In other words, things just didn't look as feasible for Republicans as they do today in Michigan before the last few months.

But after several months and several polls, Democrats were finally thrown a bone from a new Democratic polling group called Clarity Campaigns. Yes, the website that had twitter ensnared yesterday in a clever name-game/political profile also released a survey that flies in the face of the most recent Michigan gubernatorial and senatorial polls that show the pair of Republicans with small to comfortable statewide leads. Clarity, on the other hand, finds both gubernatorial challenger Mark Schauer (D) and senate hopeful Gary Peters (D) with comfortable leads over Gov. Snyder (R) and Terry Land (R). Consider the chart below:

Only the last 3 Michigan Sen/Gov surveys with readily available crosstabs were used in this comparison.

As you can see, with regards to the 2014 Michigan Governor's race, it's as if Clarity and Epic/Harper/PPP are polling in two different universes. Of the twelve measurements considered across four demographic groups, Democratic challenger Mark Schauer leads Gov. Rick Snyder in all but two. The opposite is true for Epic-MRA, Harper Polling, and PPP. Epic-MRA finds Rick Snyder leading Mark Schauer in EIGHT of the TWELVE measurements examined. Harper finds him leading in TEN of TWELVE measurements, PPP finds Snyder leading in six of eleven measurements.



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Buoyed By 2008-like Racial & Partisan I.D. Survey Findings, Sen. Mary Landrieu's Still Locked In A Tight Battle

Cassidy and Landrieu are locked in a tight battle, though it's Phil Robertson who appears to be the strongest candidate to take on the Democratic incumbent, at least according to PPP. His lead grows to nearly double digits if PPP had found racial and partisan identification along the same lines as 2010, and not 2008.

Three-term Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D) is no stranger to tough races. In 1995, before being elected to the Senate, she finished third in her state's jungle primary for the governorship, shutting her out of the eventual run-off election. The next year, her attempt to leap into federal office nearly failed, when she defeated former Democrat-turned-Republican Woody Jenkins for the U.S. Senate seat by an exceedingly narrow 50.2 - 49.8% margin (under controversial circumstances), making it the most competitive of thirty-three Senate races held nation-wide that day.

For reelection in 2002, she narrowly escaped defeat by a 51.7 - 48.3% margin, even as Republicans, bolstered by intense focus on foreign policy in the wake of the September 11th attacks, racked up wins across the country. Only three Senate races were more competitive that cycle.

Barack Obama's election in 2008 brought with it a Democratic wave that saw their numbers swell in the Senate by eight, and by 21 in the House. Needless to say, it was Landrieu's best performance for her seat to date. She won by a reasonably decisive, though far from overwhelming 52.1 - 45.7%, making it the sixth most competitive Senate battle of the cycle.

Unfortunately for Senator Landrieu, it doesn't appear as if this cycle will be any different from the last three. And most of the polling to date has indicated it could be her toughest yet. Furthermore, the chart below, compiled from Huffington Post Pollster and RCP, indicates things may be trending Cassidy's way:


But what's more? Three of the five pollsters to dive into the field in Louisiana have found an interesting trend. At least in terms of racial/ethnic and partisan identification, PPP, Rasmussen, and Harper are finding an electorate more akin to the 2008 presidential election, when Landrieu won by her most impressive margin to date, than in 2010, when David Vitter (R) easily dispensed of his Democratic opponent by 20 points.

Unfortunately, there were no exit polls in Louisiana in 2012. But in 2008, as the historical candidacy of Barack Obama brought out a particularly racially diverse electorate nationwide, nearly 1/3 (29%) of Louisiana's electorate identified as African American, virtually identical to recent PPP (28%), Rasmussen (29%), and Harper Polling (29%) findings. White voters made up 65% of the 2008 electorate, again, nearly the same as found by PPP (66%), Rasmussen (66%), and Harper Polling (64%).

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Predictive Power of (Very) Early Presidential Primary Polling Part VI - The Nominees That Came Out Of Nowhere

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo (left) was mentioned as a possible presidential contender on three different occasions, and was a polling frontrunner on two of them, even polling well ahead of eventual President Bill Clinton at one point. He famously never took the plunge. Photo courtesy of AP/Stephan Savoia.

The sixth and final part to this series exploring very early primary polling in 15 different contested presidential primaries since 1976 will examine the six contests in which the eventual nominee did not make a splash in national polling until much later in the primary process than those discussed in parts 1-5 (found here, here, here, here, and here).

In other words, we'll be looking at Barack Obama's nomination in 2008, John Kerry's in 2004, Bill Clinton's in 1992, Michael Dukakis's in 1988, Jimmy Carter's in 1976, and Gerald Ford's in 1976. This group of six men never enjoyed the early and persistent polling success of Al Gore in 2000, George H.W. Bush in 1988, and Bob Dole in 1996. Far from Romney in 2012, McCain in 2008, Bush in 2000, Mondale in 1984, Reagan in 1980, and Carter in 1980, they were barely blips on the radar of most early national polling. These are the 6 presidential primary contests where a poll-watcher would have been the most wrong had they relied on those early poll numbers released in the weeks and months following the presidential election. And we'll start with the man who currently occupies the office, President Barack Obama.

For anyone who wasn't paying attention to election polling prior to Obama's 2008 nomination, they might be surprised to learn that the twice-elected, first Democrat to win a national majority since Jimmy Carter didn't even show up in regular Democratic Presidential primary polling until the fall of 2006. In the fourteen surveys conducted in the first year of primary polling following the 2004 election, Obama's name was only included twice. For comparison's sake, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards were included in all fourteen.


With the exception of a single, outlier Gallup poll in the summer of 2007, Obama never led Hillary Clinton in a multi-candidate or one-one-one survey of Democratic primary voters until February 2008, after the Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and South Carolina primaries had already been held. And even then, he relinquished his national lead back to her on a handful of occasions following her Texas/Ohio and Pennsylvania primary wins. For that matter, when considering ALL votes cast, Hillary likely won the popular vote, despite losing the delegate count.


If you think that what happened with Obama in 2008 can't happen again, then look no further than his Democratic presidential predecessor, Bill Clinton. In 1992, many commentators lamented the abnormally slow pace with which Democratic presidential candidates were entering the 1992 race. And the public seemed unusually disinterested for such a relatively late stage of the game, thanks in large part to a still war-strong President Bush. Obviously, it seems this would be the primary reason that so few national Democratic primary polls were conducted during the 1992 primary process, as you'll see in the table below. Regardless, eventual Democratic nominee Bill Clinton didn't appear in a single national survey until the Summer of 1991, two-and-a-half years after Bush's inauguration, and just five months before the start of primary contests. Not surprisingly, the frontrunner was Senator Ted Kennedy, the early polling favorite for the 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, and now 1992 Democratic nomination. It's worth noting, however, that this was the last Presidential cycle in which Senator Ted Kennedy started out as the early favorite, and was likely the last time he led in any Democratic primary poll ever again.

The Predictive Power of (Very) Early Presidential Primary Polling Part V - 1980 & 2012 Republican Primaries

Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford were interparty rivals for two consecutive primary cycles. Ford won their first encounter. The two were essentially tied in early 1980 GOP primary polling, until Ford announced he would not run for President a second time. Photograph by David Kennerly.

My original intent was to post this multi-part series all in sequence. But as it often does, life, work, and general procrastination took over. Oh well, better late than never. Here is the completed string of posts, in two final parts, on the extent to which very early primary polling has foretold final primary results, looking only at the fifteen contested presidential primaries dating back to 1976.

The data leaves room for one conclusion - the clear polling "frontrunner" in the first and/or second years following the preceding presidential election is seldom the eventual nominee. So seldom that it has only occurred three times since 1976, as discussed in Part I of this series.

The remaining twelve contested presidential primaries can be split evenly into two groups: (1) those where the eventual nominee appeared in early surveys, but not as the clear frontrunner (as discussed in Parts II through IV, and this post in particular), and (2) those where the eventual nominee seems to have come from nowhere, emerging in much later polling, sometimes after primary contests have begun (which is coming up in part VI).

Joining the 2000 and 2008 Republican and 1980 and 1984 Democratic primaries, the 1980 and 2012 Republican primaries wrap up this discussion of contests falling into group one discussed above. It may be surprising to learn that Ronald Reagan, who won both of his general election contests handily, and carried 60% of the primary vote in what was originally a crowded 1980 field, was NOT the clear frontrunner in 1977 and 1978, years before any contest was ever held. And the same can be said for Mitt Romney in 2012 - despite a decisive overall victory, his polling advantage was no where near as substantial in 2009. Consider the two tables below.



As you can see in the 1st table, Gerald Ford, who became an unexpected thorn in Reagan's second quest for the Presidency in 1976, was back and causing trouble again for his third. The unelected former President's close loss to Jimmy Carter led many to speculate Ford might run again, and he did little to squelch the speculation. As far as pollsters were concerned in the first year or so following Carter's victory, Ford's odds of winning the Republican nomination for a second time were as good as Reagan's. Across twelve surveys taken in 1977-1978, the two traded polling leads and averaged 35% of the Republican electorate apiece. Meanwhile, 1980 runners-up George H.W. Bush and John Anderson barely registered in early primary polls.

Mitt Romney, like Reagan before him, had also run for the Presidency before, and also had an old nemesis holding him back from "clear frontrunner" status in those first months of primary polling following Obama's historic win. Mike Huckabee had surged from no where in 2008 to win the Iowa Caucus, and was polling either in 1st or 2nd place in every '12 GOP primary survey taken in 2009. Romney was also locked in a three-way battle for early polling supremacy with the most recent Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. In fact, it was Palin who had the highest polling average among likely Republican primary voters in 2009, buoyed largely by a Rasmussen survey taken the day after the 2008 election showing her with the support of nearly 2/3 of likely 2012 primary voters. Though he was rarely tested in 2009, the few times he was, Rudy Guiliani posted formidable numbers, even leading the field in one Fox News poll.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Palin Nearly Ties Senator Begich in Democratic Poll, & the Crosstabs Indicate Room For Growth

PPP finds that Palin's support among Conservatives, Republicans, and 2012 Romney voters is less unified than Begich's support among Liberals, Democrats, and 2012 Obama voters. Yet Palin, who resigned from Alaska statewide office almost five years ago, only trails 44-40% in a new poll. Pic courtesy of Joshua Lott/Getty Images North America.

One of the country's most unpopular politicians, at least according to national favorability surveys, is competitive nonetheless in the state she governed for almost three years from 2006-2009. The latest poll from Republican agitator and Democratic pollster, Public Policy Polling, finds Senator Mark Begich's standing with Alaska voters deteriorating significantly over the last year, with what was once a near 20 point lead over former Governor Sarah Palin in a hypothetical Senate match-up deteriorating to just a 4 point lead, barely outside the poll's 3.6% margin of error. And a close look at the numbers indicates she's closer to her polling floor, while Begich is closer to his ceiling.

For the record, Palin isn't even all that popular in Alaska,  much less the brutal numbers she receives nationwide. A year-old Harper Polling (R) survey found Palin with an abysmal 34/60% favorability rating in The Last Frontier, while PPP puts her currently at 39/55%. But at least as far as the Democratic pollster is concerned, Palin's standing has gradually improved since their first survey in February of last year (from  34/59% favorability to 39/55%), reaffirming that absence can make the heart grow fonder. In fact, -15% represents her best favorability rating in PPP polling of the state of Alaska since 2010.

Furthermore, PPP's 44-40% Begich vs. Palin finding is the best she's performed against the incumbent in any survey taken of the race to date.


And if you dig into some of PPP's crosstabs, you can begin to see how Palin has more room for growth. Namely, Democrats, Liberals, and 2012 Obama voters are very united behind Senator Begich. Republicans, Conservatives, and 2012 Romney voters, on the other hand, are less united behind a Palin Senate candidacy.

For starters, take 2012 Obama voters. Those respondents supported Begich at a rate of 88%, while only 69% of self-identified Romney voters supported Palin. Among the 12% of Alaskans who said they voted for someone other than Romney or Obama in 2012, or didn't know either way, Palin led 36-30%.

Consider also PPP's partisan identification findings. Eighty-two percent of self-identified Democratic respondents said they would support Begich this November, while just 68% of Republicans said the same of Palin. Independent voters supported the Democrat by 16 points.

Finally, look in the crosstabs for the ideological findings. Palin carries roughly 1/3 of Conservatives (64%), while Begich nabs over three-quarters of Liberals (77%). He also wins moderates by a huge margin (64-26%).

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Republicans TIE Hillary Clinton In Latest 2016 Poll, Though Demographics Point To Friendly GOP Electoral Landscape

The topsy-turvy nature of 2012 GOP primary polling looks to be repeating itself in the 2016 cycle. Seemingly out of nowhere, former Governor Mike Huckabee has deposed Chris Christie as the Republican leader to take on Hillary Clinton.

There's good and bad news for both Democrats and Republicans in the new 2016 national survey from the pollster liberals love and conservatives love to hate, the occasionally accurate and always trolling Public Policy Polling.

The bad news for Republicans is their previous standard-bearer, Chris Christie, continues to take a beating in the polls for the "bridgegate" scandal. The New Jersey Governor was a fairly rare political figure for this day and age where everyone seems to hate anyone and anything associated with politics and Washington D.C. He had a double-digit positive favorability rating that stretched across party lines. But over the course of just one month, Christie's favorability rating dropped from the best of the field (43/31%) to THE worst (31/46%; even lightning rod Tea Partier Ted Cruz manages a -10% net rating). Having previously led Hillary Clinton by 3-pts (45-42%), Christie now trails by 2-pts (45-43%).

What's more, the entire Republican field looks pretty unpopular nationally. The most popular potential GOP candidate, Mike Huckabee, could only manage a 37% favorability rating. And even then, his unfavorable rating was slightly higher at 38%. The rest of the field ranges from a net favorability rating of -6% (Paul Ryan) to -15% (Chris Christie).

The good news, however, is that despite all of this, every Republican tested looks like they could be competitive in a national race against Hillary Clinton in 2016. All of them except Ted Cruz poll within the margin of error of Hillary (3.4%). And Christie, the GOP's most unpopular candidate at the moment, leads Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren by significant margins.

The bad news for Democrats is that like the Republicans, their standard bearer has also fallen in the court of public opinion. Hillary Clinton's favorability entered negative territory for the first time in a PPP survey in years. And potential primary competitors Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden look particularly weak.

The good news for Democrats isn't readily obvious on the face of the poll. But they can find a little relief by pulling back the curtains and examining the crosstabs, for PPP is finding a much more friendly GOP climate than existed in either the 2012 or 2008 presidential elections. In fact, at least two of their more significant demographic findings (race and age) much more closely resemble the 2010 midterm electorate, when Republicans picked up a nearly unprecedented number of House seats and carried the popular vote handily.

Consider PPP's race findings, in which 3/4 of poll respondents identify as white, the highest amount since the 2004 presidential election. We know from examining every presidential election since 1992 that the white share of the vote has dropped from 4% to 2% per cycle. If that tradition holds in 2016, we could expect the white share of the total electorate to be between 68-70% (it was 72% in 2012). For comparison, CNN exit polls showed that white voters made up 77% of the vote in the 2010 midterm election. Likewise, Hispanic voters have seen their share of the electorate increase in every presidential election since 1992 (between 3% and 1% per cycle). In 2012, they made up 10% of voters. By that standard, you'd expect Hispanics to make up between 11-13% of a 2016 presidential electorate, and not the 9% found by PPP (which is much more similar to the 8% found by exit polls in 2010). The African American and Asian share of the vote hasn't increased in ALL of the presidential cycles, but has been on a general upward trend of late.

So I'd posit that the 75 / 12 / 9 / 4% white/black/Hispanic/Asian-Other finding from PPP's national survey is less reflective of a likely 2016 presidential electorate than, say, a 69 / 13 / 12 / 6% finding. Had this been PPP's racial identification finding, Hillary Clinton's narrow margins over her Republican competitors naturally grows (as Democrats have historically performed stronger with minority than white voters). The chart below documents what the PPP results would have been had they found the more racially diverse electorate described above, all other findings remaining the same:


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Florida Governor Rick Scott Catches Ex-Gov Charlie Crist, In Spite Of Heavily Pro-Obama Electorate

Photo courtesy of the AP/Steve Cannon.

It's amazing what a year can do in politics. Last year about this time, still reeling from the aftermath of a devastating presidential election loss, Republicans looked awful on the generic congressional ballot. President Obama was still in the midst of his post-victory honeymoon with voters, at least as far as his job approval ratings were concerned. And up and down the 2014 Governor/Senate race roster, things just weren't looking as bleak for Democrats as they could.

Flash forward and Democrats and Republicans are virtually tied on the generic ballot (while Democrats haven't led in a single poll besides Rasmussen or YouGov for nearly two months). The President has recently gone through a spate of the worst job approval ratings of his presidency, and is still suffering on that front. And most importantly, more than a few 2014 races are looking better for Republicans than they did one year ago - namely, the Florida Governor's race.

Per Democratic pollster, Public Policy Polling, over the course of the last year, former Republican Governor and current Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist has gone from an impressive 53% of the vote in a match-up with Republican incumbent Rick Scott (against his 39%), to 43% of the vote (with Scott up to 41%). In other words, Crist's lead has dropped from a substantial 14 points, to a statistically insignificant 2 points - a net drop of 12 points.

What's worse, there's been a fairly miraculous turnaround in Florida voters' personal views towards the man who tried but failed to leap from the Governor's office to the US Senate in 2010. Consider the table below:


One year ago, half of Florida voters had a favorable view of Charlie Crist. Today, that number has dropped to barely over one-third (36%). Meanwhile, unfavorable views of the former of Governor have risen from 38% to 46%. Overall, Crist's net favorability score has dropped 21 points since last January.

Governor Rick Scott's suddenly competitive reelection bid is less due to any improvement among voters on his end, and more thanks to Charlie Crist's precipitous drop. While the governor's job approval rating has improved from -24 to -17 points, he's still at a measly 34% approval, with 51% disapproving.

President Obama's approval rating is down, but only slightly from just after the 2012 election (a notable difference from most recent state findings by other pollsters).

In sum, things just got a lot worse for Charlie Crist in Florida. And if you buy one particular crosstab provided by the Democrats most prolific pollster, things may be even worse for Crist than they appear on the surface. Peering through the PPP tabs, consider question #20, which asks Florida poll respondents to identify who they voted for in the 2012 presidential race:


Monday, December 2, 2013

It's Public Policy Polling vs. Quinnipiac University in Ohio...Again


This isn't the first time the two reputable pollsters have presented wildly disparate findings. Though it's becoming standard with their results in the state of Ohio. Back in August, I noted on this blog how recently released PPP and Quinnipiac University polls in Ohio diverged significantly. It was as though the polling firms had polled entirely different universes.

In one (found by Quinnipiac), the Governor of Ohio was pretty darn popular, sporting a 54% job approval rating, versus just a 32% disapproval rating. Voters said, by a 49-37% margin, that Kasich deserved reelection. And he led his most likely Democratic opponent, Ed Fitzgerald, by fourteen points. President Obama was in terrible shape in the state as well, with a 40/57% approval rating.

In the other (found by PPP), the Governor was struggling, managing just a 42/47% approval rating, and trailing his virtually unknown Democratic opponent by three points. President Obama was underwater (47/49%), but not nearly to the extent found by Quinnipiac.

Then last month, Quinnipiac and PPP smacked us with a dose of deja vu - the two pollsters were butting heads again, with PPP finding a notably more anti-Kasich electorate than the Q-poll, especially with regards to the Governor's job approval rating. Consider the chart below of Gov. John Kasich's job approval rating, as well as his performance against Ed Fitzgerald, in Quinnipiac and PPP polling over the last year:
Noting the two most recent polls in the above table, you can see how once again, PPP and Quinnipiac paint very different pictures for the state of Ohio voter's opinion on their Governor and the 2014 race. According to the former, Kasich is unpopular (37/42% job approval), and running neck and neck with his most likely Democratic challenger. According to the latter, Kasich is quite popular (52/33% job approval), and enjoys a modest but discernible lead in a hypothetical 2014 match-up.

What is the big discrepancy stemming from? It isn't that the two polling firms disagree on the likely makeup of the 2014 midterm electorate. Their demographic findings are practically identical. No, the variance simply stems from disparate findings with regards to the various demographic and political groups being tested. See the table below



As you can see, the gulf between the two pollster's numbers is so steep, it can't be explained by the larger-than-normal margin of error associated with specific demographic findings. The difference between Gov. Kasich's overall job approval in the November PPP poll and November Quinnipiac survey is a net 24 points. Among men only, it's a net 34 points. With women, 24 points. With 18-29 year olds, there is a staggering 52 point difference between PPP and Quinnipiac's job approval findings for Gov. Kasich. The discrepancies show up in the head-to-head polling against Democrat Ed Fitzgerald as well, though to a lesser extent than the Governor's job approval rating:


So what difference does any of this make, anyway? Well, it makes a huge difference to the Kasich and Fitzgerald campaigns, for obvious reasons. But beyond that, it makes a difference to Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute, and Public Policy Polling. There's just no way to test their accuracy at this point, at least not until more pollsters weigh in on the state of things in Ohio. Both polling firms performed relatively well in the 2012 election, and have strong track records. Quinnipiac is nonpartisan. PPP is not, and has come under a fair amount of fire recently from poll-watchers for suspect methodological practices. Regardless, both sides have some numbers to point to to prop up their standing. "Take your pick," so to speak.

And if that's what you intend to do, former TNR polling writer, and new New York Times employee, Nate Cohn offers his advice on which to pick.