Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Undecided Voters Poised To Flock To Mark Pryor's Republican Challenger in Senate Race, Says New PPP Poll

Photo courtesy of Club For Growth TV ad.

A new poll in Arkansas from the Democratic leaning pollster Public Policy Polling puts incumbent Senator Mark Pryor ahead of his Republican opponent Congressman Tim Cotton by just one point, or 43-42%, with 16% undecided. This result might be interpreted by some as impressive for a Democratic Senator in a deep-red state, especially considering the conventional wisdom around the race for much of the last year as one of the Republican Party's likeliest Senate pick-up opportunities.

But not so fast. Tom Jensen tweeted out this crucial bit of information following the official poll release:

In a race where both major party candidates are polling in the lower 40s, the undecided vote could dramatically alter the outcome. And there are several data points that would assist in providing clues about where those undecided voters will ultimately end up. Are they Democrats or Republicans? Young or Old? Liberal or Conservative? Among PPP respondents who said they voted in the 2012 election, it's the Romney voters that remain more undecided than Obama voters (17% to 8%). That's an obvious plus for Tom Cotton (R). Conservatives are more undecided than liberals (16% to 12%), another plus for Cotton. A full eighteen percent of Independent voters remain undecided (more than Republicans or Democrats), and they support Cotton over Pryor 50-31%. Yet at the same time, women, who support Pryor by greater margins than men, are more undecided than men. African Americans, as well as younger voters, both of which being groups more likely to support Pryor, are more undecided than whites or older voters.

But perhaps more important than any of these stats regarding undecideds is what Tom Jensen tweeted above - the fact that the President's approval rating is upside down with these voters by 61 points!

Unfortunately, PPP didn't provide a crosstab of how poll respondents that approved or disapproved of Obama's job performance said they would vote in a Pryor vs. Cotton match-up. But pollsters that have provided such info in the past would note that there's a very close correlation between a voters feelings towards the President's job performance, and how he or she may cast a vote in a federal partisan contest.

Suppose those sixteen percent of Arkansas voters that said they were undecided between Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton supported the two candidates by the same proportion they approved or disapproved of President Obama? Or in other words, suppose 13% of those undecided voters end up supporting Mark Pryor, while 74% end up supporting Cotton. How would PPP's final result have looked?

Senator Mark Pryor's one point lead over Tom Cotton evaporates into an eight point DEFICIT in the event undecided voters break for the candidates in a proportion identical to their approval of Obama's job performance. What was a 43-42% Democratic lead becomes a 53-45% Republican lead.

Obviously, this is purely speculative. But the big news from this PPP poll shouldn't be the fact that Pryor's clinging to a lead. It should be that if the crosstabs are to be believed, Pryor's lead is fleeting.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Despite Some Screwy Crosstabs, NYT Polling Finds Unpopular Obama Hasn't Sunk Senate Democrats Yet

Photos courtesy of Corbis Images.

A spate of brand new surveys put out by the New York Times and conducted by the Kaiser Foundation finds once incredibly vulnerable Democratic incumbent Senators hanging on, and in some cases, leading their Republican opponents in four states carried by Mitt Romney in 2012:

  • Arkansas, which Obama lost in 2012 61-37%
  • Kentucky, which Obama lost in 2012 61-38%
  • North Carolina, which Obama lost in 2012 50-48%, and
  • Louisiana, which Obama lost in 2012 58-41%.
The Democratic resilience found by the Kaiser Foundation seems all the more miraculous considering how deeply unpopular the president is in all four states. His most positive rating is 41/51%, found in North Carolina, with his most negative rating coming from Kentucky, where just 32% of registered voters approve of the job Obama is doing, and 60% disapprove. Yet still, in those states, both incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, and Democratic challenger Allison Lundergen Grimes, are exceeding expectations considering the unpopularity of their party boss. Hagan's net job approval rating is 10 points higher than the President's, and she actually leads both of her likely primary opponents by 2. Grimes, who is saddled by a President with a 60% disapproval rating, only trails McConnell 44-43%.

The same applies in Arksansas and Louisiana. In the former, Obama is stained by a 33/60% job approval rating, a full THIRTY-SIX net points LOWER than Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Pryor's 47/38% job rating. Not only that, but Pryor leads Cotton (R) 46-36%. In Louisiana, the President's net job rating is SIXTEEN points lower than Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu's.

All in all - this is some much-needed decent news for Democrats. But a word of caution regarding the results...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Unknown Charlotte Pastor Performs Stronger Against NC Sen. Hagan Than Establishment-Backed Tillis

Taken during the Tuesday Night, April 22 North Carolina Republican Senate Primary debate. From left, Pastor Mark Harris, Nurse Heather Grant, Physician Greg Brannon, and State Legislator Thom Tillis.

The Republicans vying to take on North Carolina's Junior Senator Kay Hagan (D) met last night in a debate format for the first time prior to the May 6 primary. Besides a few barbs thrown at the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads backed Thom Tillis (R), the event likely did little to shift opinion in the largely unsettled primary. But there was one claim made during the closing arguments of First Baptist Church of Charlotte Pastor Mark Harris that sounded dubious coming from someone who is largely (73%) unknown outside of his congregation.

Consider the tweet below from debate viewer Jonathan Kappler, Director of UNC's State Government Relations:

The poll referred to by Pastor Harris was conducted by SurveyUSA at the end of March, and showed Sen. Hagan trailing Harris 47-43%, more than she trailed anyone else, though NOT outside the poll's 2.6% margin of error (that would have required Harris lead Hagan by at least 49-43%). But SurveyUSA isn't the only pollster to find Harris leading the incumbent Senator by a larger margin than the rest of the field. Local partisan pollster Public Policy Polling also found Harris with a four point lead against Hagan, better than all but one primary opponent, (but again, inside the survey's 3.6% margin of error). For what it's worth, the establishment-backed Tillis only led Hagan 46-45% in the SurveyUSA poll, and actually trailed Hagan 43-41% per PPP.

President Hits 6-month Job Approval High on Gallup and RCP

Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

Today's Gallup tracking update fits nicely with the new Democratic narrative that, just maybe, despite years-long conventional wisdom, Obamacare and its creator aren't as doomed as originally thought. For the first time since their October 8, 2013 update, President Obama's job approval rating came within two points of matching his disapproval rating on Gallup.

In the intervening period since October, the President's net approval (the difference between his approval and disapproval rating) has ranged from -4 (on April 19-20 and March 19-20), and -16 (on March 1-2 and March 15, 2014). Furthermore, today marks only the second time since October 8 that Obama's approval rating has reached as high as 46% (the other time being on February 20). Today also marks the first time since October 8 the President's job DISAPPROVAL rating dropped below the 49% level.

You have to go all the way back to September 26th to find the President's net job approval higher than it is now. And unfortunately for Republicans, the Gallup daily tracker isn't the only pollster showing Obama's job ratings improving from months ago. Check out his RCP and Pollster averages. Obama's at his best net average job rating since October 29 per the former, and since September 24 per the latter.

There are two obvious theories behind the ratings change: 1) the outrage over the Obamacare website's failures and canceled insurance policies, which began in early October, roughly around the same time as Obama's approval rating drop, is subsiding. Though the evidence for this seems split at best. 2) The Gallup tracker has a history of bouncing around on a day-to-day basis, which is most likely all we're seeing in today's numbers. Afterall, the President was at 42/52% on April 16, just six days ago. And over the course of two days earlier this month, the President's job rating fell from 45/49% to 40/55%, a net drop of eleven points. On the other hand, Obama's WEEKLY average job approval (which is a better metric for spotting trends), is the lowest its been in two months, even before factoring in today's lofty 46/48% figure. You have to go back to the week of September 29 to find a higher average weekly net job approval for the President.

In the end, remember, we're talking about Gallup's daily tracker. It can be erratic, sometimes wildly so. But today's numbers, taken in the context of most recent national surveys, bode well for Democrats.