Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Polling Update: Hillary Clinton's Image Dinged In Wake of Email Scandal, Though The Injuries Are Minor

Photo courtesy of Yana Paskova/Getty Images

In the seemingly never-ending spectacle that is the modern day presidential campaign, the month of March 2015 will likely be remembered for the New York Times story revealing Hillary Clinton skirted State Department rules requiring work-related email retention. The fact that the former New York Senator was conducting government business over a private, in-home family email server dominated 2016 news for days afterwards. Naturally, three weeks into this story, the headlines and questions have taken a toll on Clinton's image.

The days of soaring, rockstar-like favorability ratings have come to an end for Mrs. Clinton (though this trend was emerging even before 'emailgate'). In fact, her post-scandal numbers more closely resemble the contentious days of the 2008 Democratic Primary than the lofty highs from her stint as Secretary of State.

Of the nine surveys to measure Clinton's favorability rating before and after the email scandal broke, all but one found her net favorable rating had dropped in its aftermath. The one that did not was conducted March 1-5, even though the email story broke late in the day on March 2, and didn't reach peak media fervor until days later. The poll was also completed five days before Hillary's largely-panned press conference on March 10.

Beyond the NBC/WSJ poll, Clinton's net favorable rating dropped anywhere from six to twenty-four points before and after the story broke. Economist/YouGov has taken two polls since the Clinton scandal broke, and has measured the smallest drop (from 52/44% on July 7-10, 2014, to an average 48/46% post-controversy).

The post-controversy Economist/YouGov numbers represent an average of two surveys, one conducted on March 14-16 and March 21-23, 2015.

Public Policy Polling, of all pollsters, measured Hillary's largest favorability drop. Granted, their pre-email story survey is two years old. Regardless, a 56/37% to 43/48% drop is stark nonetheless.

Clinton averaged a 52/38% favorable/unfavorable rating among pollsters that tested her favorability both before and after the email story. She averaged 46/43% after the story broke.

Other pollsters measured the effect of the email story on Hillary's public image in different ways, and the results are more mixed for the former First Lady.

Economist/YouGov, for example, conducted extensive post-email polling on Clinton, and found doubts about her sincerity up sharply from last year.

On the other hand, a Republican pollster found that just 36% of Americans have a less favorable view Mrs. Clinton as a result of the email scandal. Twenty-nine percent say the same in a recent CBS News survey. For comparison, 45% held a less favorable view of Mitt Romney as a result of the infamous "47%" remark in the early fall of 2012. Thirty-two percent felt the same about Barack Obama's 'You didn't build that' remark earlier that same year.

Furthermore, Hillary's outstanding numbers in the 2016 Democratic Primary are still in great shape:

*The pre-email scandal PPP poll in Wisconsin included former home-state Senator Russ Feingold as a 2016 Democratic Presidential primary candidate, while the post-email scandal survey did not. ^The post-controversy Economist/YouGov numbers represent an average of two surveys, one conducted on March 14-16 and March 21-23, 2015.

And while Mrs. Clinton's lead over her potential 2016 GOP contenders dropped across the board in the latest CNN poll, she still maintains double-digit leads against all of them.

It may sound fair to say the Clinton's are nothing if not deceitful. But as they've shown time and time again, they are resilient as well. While emailgate has undoubtedly been unhelpful for Hillaryland, it's not as bad as it could be, and seems far from fatal. Absent new information, Clinton will survive with minor scrapes and bruises.

Updated on March 25 to include new St. Leo University, PPP, Economist/YouGov, and CBS News polls. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Operation Chaos Part Two? What The Lack Of A 2016 Democratic Primary Could Mean For The Republican Contest

These two men may not share much in common, but both were the prime beneficiaries of independent and Democratic votes in their respective Republican presidential primary bids. Photo courtesy of AP/Dennis Cook.

A recent piece featured in U.S. News & World Report by The Run 2016 founder Dave Catanese briefly examined the effects of a non-existent Democratic Presidential primary on a competitive GOP nominating contest.  His focus was New Hampshire, where self-identified independents make up a larger than average share of both the Republican and Democratic electorates. Catanese's suggestion is that with Clinton virtually clearing the Democratic field, the Granite State's independent base will flock to the Republican primary.

Exit polling indicates Catanese is correct. In 2008, when both political parties were deep in the throes of competitive contests, self-identified independents and Democrats made up 39% of New Hampshire Republican Primary voters. Four years later, with President Obama running unopposed on the Democratic side, independents and Democrats, as a percentage of voters, jumped twelve points to 51%.

To be fair, this anomaly isn't limited solely to the Granite State. In Iowa, independents and Democrats jumped from just 14% of GOP caucus-goers in 2008 (when both Republican and Democratic primaries were competitive), to 25% in 2012 (when Obama ran unopposed).

The number of non-Republicans voting in the GOP nominating contest increased from 2008 in sixteen of the twenty states that conducted exit polling in 2012, or 80% of the time.

Why the sharp increase? Absent a uniform national 'open primary' movement, the lack of a competitive primary on the Democratic side seems like the obvious culprit.

Based on data compiled from the twenty-seven states to feature an exit poll in the 2008 GOP primary, and final vote counts provided by Dave Leip's US Election Atlas, self-identified Republicans made up 76% of the Republican primary electorate, independents made up 20%, and Democrats made up 3%. All total, those who identified as something other than a Republican made up 24% of the national electorate.

In 2012, with all eyes on the GOP contest, Republicans dropped to just 70% of the primary electorate, versus 26% who identified as independent, and 5% who identified as a Democrat. That's a total of 30% of GOP primary voters who identified themselves as something other than a Republican. Again, these numbers are based on the twenty-states that conducted exit polling in the 2012 GOP primary.

Red cells highlight states where self-identified Republicans failed to make up more than a majority of the electorate.