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.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Obama's State Job Approval Collapse, And What It Could Mean For 2014

Photo found here.

November 2013 is likely to be remembered as the worst month of Barack Obama's presidency, that is, if he's lucky enough to stop the bleeding over the course of the next few weeks. Republicans, fresh off of what was perceived at the time as a historic misstep in shutting down the federal government to defund the Affordable Care Act, were handed a life-line with the disastrous rollout, followed by nationwide cancellations of millions of people's health insurance.

What came next was predictable. The President's numbers remained steadily negative up until late last month, when they turned steeply southward.

The last non-daily tracking poll to find the President in single-digit negative territory was a GWU/Battleground poll from one month ago. No less than 6 separate surveys taken this month have shown his approval rating in the 30% range. And a recent CBS/NYT poll gave Obama the worst job approval rating of his presidency, in *any* poll.

Making things more difficult for the White House, a flurry of state polls indicate negative impressions of the President's job performance have filtered down to the states.

Consider the chart below of every state-based survey to test Obama's job rating since November 1, 2013 (approximately the period at which Obama's *national* ratings began to drop):

With relatively few exceptions, the President's numbers are quite poor, especially when compared to his performance against Mitt Romney in last year's general election. And when considering JUST the numbers taken over about the last two weeks, the picture gets even more grim, especially with respect to five swing-states with high profile Senate or Gubernatorial races in 2014: Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio.

What does a term-limited President's job approval rating have to do with Democrat's chances in 2014? Sean Trend of Real Clear Politics recently concluded that, at least from an aggregate, national perspective, it matters a lot. But what kind of correlation, if any, is there between a President's state-based job approval rating, and that particular state's Senate or Gubernatorial midterm result? On the more micro level, the relationship between presidential approval and his or her party's midterm result gets murkier.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Predictive Power of (Very) Early Presidential Primary Polling Part IV - 2008 GOP & 1980 Democratic Primaries

Both Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) led primary polling for the first three years of their respective party's primary process, only to come up empty handed. Photos courtesy of Joan Readle/Getty (left), and Corbis (right)

Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie would stand a fair chance of winning their party's nomination if Republicans and Democrats decided on a nationwide basis at the ballot box today. But then again, so would General Colin Powell at a similar point in 1997, and Senator Edward Kennedy in 1981. Unfortunately for them, that's not how the party's pick their nominees.

As discussed in part 1 of this series, there have only been three instances in the last forty years of presidential primary polling in which the frontrunner in the first year following the preceding election went on to win his party's nomination.

Clinton and Christie can't like those odds. But about 80% of the time, or three out of the last fifteen primaries, early surveys were unreflective of final results.

The twelve Republican or Democratic primaries since 1976 to feature non-predictive early primary polling split roughly into two groups - 1) those where the eventual nominee showed up in early surveys, but not as the frontrunner (as discussed in Part 2 and 3 of this series), and 2) those where the eventual nominee seems to have come from nowhere, emerging in much later polling, sometimes after primary contests have begun.

This fourth installment will continue to focus on group one above...namely the 2008 Republican and 1980 Democratic Presidential Primaries.


It's been less than ten years, but some may be surprised to recall that there was a definite polling frontrunner in the early 2008 primary process - it just wasn't John McCain. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had been in the spotlight since the September 11th terrorist attacks, which took place in the waning three months of his eight year mayorship. That adoration turned to presidential speculation not long after the Republicans renominated President Bush in 2004. By the next year, the speculation had translated into a fairly consistent lead in early 2008 Republican presidential primary polling:

Across sixteen surveys in the first year following the 2004 presidential election, Giuliani led likely GOP foes in twelve of them, tied for first place in two, and finished a close second place in the remaining two.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Predictive Power of (Very) Early Presidential Primary Polling Part III - 1984 Democratic Primary

From left, Gary Hart, Walter Mondale, John Glenn, George McGovern, and Jesse Jackson participate in a primary debate in March of 1984. John Glenn and Gary Hart seriously challenged Mondale in national polling at various stages of the pimary process, though none of the three candidates led in the first year of 1984 primary polling. Photo courtesy of Wally McNamee/CORBIS

The wealth of 2016 polling, of both the general election and primary sort, led veteran news journalist Tom Brokaw to quip yesterday morning on "Meet the Press": "We have an hour to fill." Los Angeles Times writer Mark Barabak recently dedicated an entire column to their futility. And the mere existence of a recent NBC/WSJ poll on the 2016 general election practically ruined NPR reporter Don Gonyea's breakfast last week.

Overly dramatic or not, many of the talking heads looking down on early 2016 polling, at least on the primary level, are justified in their skepticism. Early presidential primary polling, especially those taken the first year following the preceding presidential election, are historically unreliable. In fact, only 3 of the last 15 Republican or Democratic primaries saw the leader in very early polling go on to win the nomination (as noted in parts one and two of this series).

To be fair, as Nate Silver has noted in the past, presidential primary polling accuracy rises sharply following midterm elections. But surveys conducted between the preceding general election and the midterms accurately forecasted the eventual nominee for just three people: Al Gore in 2000, Bob Dole in 1996, and George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Part 2 of this series began exploring those primaries where the eventual winner was on the polling radar very early in the process, but was not the initial leader (such as the case with George W. Bush in 2000). In this third installment, I'll continue in the same vein by looking at 1984 Democratic Primary Polling conducted between November 4, 1980 and December 31, 1982. Like in 2000, the eventual nominee (Walter Mondale) showed up in early polling, just not as a frontrunner. That title belonged to Edward Kennedy.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Predictive Power of (Very) Early Presidential Primary Polling Part II - 2000 Republican Primary

Elizabeth Dole polled a closer 2nd place to George W. Bush in 2000 Republican Primary polling than John McCain ever did.

This is a continuation of a piece I wrote last week that examines the last 40 years of Republican and Democratic presidential primaries in an attempt to understand the predictive value of polls taken two to three years before the start of actual primary contests.

Just before the 2012 race, Nate Silver looked at whether polls taken ONE year before the Iowa Caucuses presaged the eventual nominee, and found that yes, in many instances, they do. This series will look back even further, before the ink dries on your just-cast presidential ballot, to see if polls did as well further out from the primary race. Not surprisingly, the answer is no.

As discussed yesterday, very early primary polling had predictive value as to the final result in just three of the fifteen Republican and/or Democratic primaries examined dating back to 1976 (the 2000 Democratic and 1988 & 1996 Republican presidential primaries). But excluding those three contests, very early primary polling has been unhelpful in identifying eventual nominees.

One of the best examples of early primary polling's failure at political forecasting is the 2000 Republican contest. Contrary to how it may seem, the massive lead that eventual winner George W. Bush commanded for most of the primary season did not exist in 1997, the first year of Clinton's second term, before any layperson had heard the name Monica Lewinsky, and before Bush had been overwhelmingly re-elected to the Texas Governorship.

That was thanks to a very popular African American General, Colin Powell. Powell surprised observers early in the '96 cycle with impressive, hypothetical head-to-head performances against President Clinton (even leading him by double digit margins on multiple occasions.) So you can understand why, following a disappointing presidential loss, 35% of Republican primary voters were willing to support him as their candidate for President in 2000.

As you can see, Powell's early strength in 2000 primary polling was briefer than in the '96 cycle. By mid-1998, after repeated assertions he would not be running for President "or anything" in 2000, pollsters got the hint and dropped Powell from their surveys. But he led in five out of the six polls in which his name was included (and was a close second to Bush in the one he did not). The final survey to include Powell as a candidate for President put him ahead of George Bush 25-16%, with Elizabeth Dole, Jack Kemp, and Dan Quayle trailing at 8%, 7%, and 7% respectively.*

So Powell exited the race on a high note.

With the exception of 1997, the 2000 GOP primary process closely mirrored the three I discussed yesterday - Bush positively dominated polls throughout 1998, 1999, & 2000. Senator John McCain, despite the media excitement he created following his New Hampshire win, never seriously threatened Bush from a national polling perspective. In a Gallup survey taken prior to the February 1st NH primary, McCain managed just 15% in a national poll of Republicans, vs. Bush's 65%. After the NH primary, the lead was a considerably smaller, but still daunting 56-34%. That Gallup finding also represented John McCain's national peak, as it was downhill from then until his official exit on March 10, 2000.

Out of 131 total 2000 GOP Primary surveys taken, Bush led in all but five. But traveling back in time to 1997, no one could have foreseen that based off polling alone.

Fun facts: Outside of Colin Powell, former Secretary of Labor, N.C. Senator, and would-be First Lady Elizabeth Dole was Bush's strongest polling foe in 2000 primary surveys (even more so than John McCain), trailing him by as little as 9 points in a February 1999 Fox News Poll of Republicans.

*Harris Poll, Jul, 1998. Retrieved Nov-12-2013 from the iPOLL Databank, The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut.
**Harris Poll, Oct, 1997. Retrieved Nov-12-2013 from the iPOLL Databank, The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Predictive Power of (Very) Early Presidential Primary Polling Part I - Historically Unreliable

Colin Powell was grabbing headlines as a potential candidate for President in 1996 as early as 1993. Though he never actually led Dole in primary polling until just before he announced he would not be a candidate in November of 1995.

Though the 2016 presidential primaries won't officially get under way for another two years, the shadow campaign is upon us, as indicated by the flourish of recent polls and articles on the subject.  And the tea leaves for both parties couldn't be more different; for Democrats, the race appears to be Hillary's to take - if she wants it, while the Republican race is anyone's guess.

Hillary Clinton, should she decide to run, looks poised to wrap up the Democratic nomination in one fell swoop, as early polling has shown her very strong in the Democratic primary - stronger, in fact, than any candidate in a contested primary dating back to 1976.

Republican primary polling has been a bit more topsy-turvy to date, featuring no less than five different leaders over the last year (making it awfully reminiscent of the 2012 primary process). Those leaders have been Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio:

In spite of the deluge of early primary surveys since last year's election, there are many who find the early speculation premature at best, or entirely futile at worst. “But early primary polling isn’t predictive of actual primary results!” is a frequent refrain for the many that abhor such early conjecture about an election that’s still three years away.

So in an attempt to settle the issue, I decided to take a look at the predictive power of Democratic and Republican Presidential primary polling from 1976-2012. And there were more than a few surprises.

Note, Nate Silver did something similar a few years ago, though if you click on the link, you'll see his focus was on polling one-year out from the start of actual primary contests. This piece will examine the predictive power of those polls two and three-years out from the start of the contests (where such polling data is available).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Six Polls In Two Days: Cuccinelli Is Definitely Losing, But Pollsters Disagree On Whether He's Closing Or Fading

By far his highest profile campaign surrogate, Hillary Clinton's widespread popularity may indeed help McAuliffe to put it away next week. And more than a few DC journalists have reported that the McAuliffe '13 campaign serves the dual purpose of being a test run Hillary's old inner circle. A.P. photo.

For anyone trying to get a handle on the state of the Virginia Governor's race with just a week to go, today was not the best day to tune in. No less than SIX polling firms have released new numbers since Tuesday, all without a lot in common. Though one overiding theme is present in all of them: Ken Cuccinelli is losing.

In fact, McAuliffe has led his opponent in the last 32 consecutive polls. But agreement on who is winning is where the similarities stop. Consider the small table below, which groups all five recent surveys into one chart:

The Democrat leads by anywhere from a 4-pt to 15-pt spread, with McAuliffe ranging between 42-51% of the vote, Cuccinelli 33-41%, and Sarvis 8-12%.

So take your pick, right?

The problem for Republicans, however, is no matter how you mix and match those polling numbers, there just isn't a winning scenario for Ken Cuccinelli. McAuliffe's worst performance (42% in the Hampton poll) is still better than Cuccinelli's best (41% in the Quinnipiac poll).

Digressing back to the recent poll variation; the trajectory of the race is hard to decipher not simply because of the topline result, but because of divergent trendlines as well. The Washington Post and Roanoke College polls seem to think the ground is crumbling beneath the Republican nominee. In mid-September, McAuliffe led Cuccinelli 47-39%. That lead grew to 51-39% five weeks later. Roanoke found a similar trend, though to a greater extent. Just 3 weeks ago, the local Virginia pollster found the Democrat up against the Republican and Libertarian, 41-36-9%. He's now at 48-33-10%.

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's A LONG Way From 2010: Number Of Self-Identified Democratic Voters Skyrocket In Kentucky

Opponents Alison Grimes (D) and Mitch McConnell (R) appear with their more popular colleagues at campaign events (Gov. Steve Beshear and Sen. Rand Paul). The good news for Grimes, if PPP is any indication, is that her party is likely to dwarf Republicans in turnout in 2014. Photos courtesy of  Pablo Alcala/Lexington Herald-Leader (right), and Ed Reinke/Associated Press (left)

In what has become typical of the controversial Democratic polling firm, PPP, (see their surveys post Newtown shooting, post failed-immigration-reform, post government shutdown) they're out with new numbers illustrating how Democrats have been able to capitalize on the latest drama being played out in D.C.

According to pollster Tom Jensen, Kentucky likely voters are furious over the government shutdown, and "taking it out on Mitch McConnell," the Senate minority leader. Though looking at the numbers themselves, it's still not entirely apparent what evidence he is basing his conclusion on.

It can't be the topline result, which shows Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes leading Mitch McConnell, 45-43%. That's because their previous poll, taken months before the shutdown, found nearly the same thing. To Jensen's credit, Kentucky voters disapprove strongly of the government shutdown (60-32%), and also claim they'd be less willing (48%), rather than more willing (34%), to support a candidate who supported the government shutdown. But outside of those findings, McConnell doesn't appear to have been harmed by recent events in Washington - not even when PPP asks respondents who they'd vote for, knowing Mitch McConnell supported the shutdown (the result is unchanged, with Grimes maintaining 47-45% lead).

Besides the misleading memo, the PPP survey looks sound in terms of demographic findings, at least compared to the last midterm election. Whites make up the overwhelming proportion of the electorate, with older voters being over-represented in comparison to the general population.

But one data point stands out for diverging remarkably from past Senate results: self-identified partisan identification.

At the time the poll was conducted, PPP found 53% of likely 2014 Senate voters calling themselves Democrats, with only 37% identifying as Republican (11% identifed as Independent). Put another way, Democrats hold a 16-pt party I.D. advantage over Republicans (matching the party's advantage in deep blue states like Vermont, California, New Jersey, and Illinois). It's that advantage that explains how McConnell trails Grimes overall, despite winning more of his own base, more crossover support from the opposing party, AND more Independents.

Such a high Democratic partisan identification advantage in Kentucky wouldn't be all that surprising in a survey of REGISTERED voters, as Lake Research Pollster Matt McDermott notes. Democrats have held a large, long-term advantage in partisan registration for years in Kentucky. But in actual elections, that registration advantage has evaporated, sometimes significantly. Consider the chart below:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monmouth, Rutgers-Eagleton Final NJ Senate Polls Disagree On Strengh Of Lonegan Surge

Conservative heavyweights that you wouldn't expect to see campaigning for Republicans in blue New Jersey, like Rick Perry, Rand Paul, and Sarah Palin, began descending on the state in mid-September, about the same time Lonegan's polling rise began. From left to right, photo courtesy of John Munson/The Star-Ledger, Ruby Cramer/Buzzfeed, and Julio Cortez/A.P.

The New Jersey special Senate election set by Governor Chris Chrstie last spring for a random weekday in October is finally upon us. And if you're the Booker campaign, you're probably thanking your lucky stars it's over. If you're the Lonegan campaign, you're wishing there was more time.

That's because the trajectory in the special Senate race is clear: Republican Steve Lonegan has cut his initial deficit against Cory Booker in half.

Fortunately for Booker, his initial lead was substantial enough (about 20-22 points, according to Huffington Post Pollster) to sustain a fall. With the race coming to a close, he now leads an average 52-41%.

Today alone, with 48 hours remaining before polls close in New Jersey, two new surveys have been released, with Monmouth giving Steve Lonegan his best result to date (52-42%), while Rutgers-Eagleton finds Cory Booker winning by a landslide 58-36%.

Monmouth University has released four surveys on the special New Jersey Senate race since June, with Lonegan making steady progress in each (from Booker +16, to +16, to +13, to +10 now). Rutgers-Eagleton's two surveys on the race agree with Monmouth in finding Lonegan making gains since September, though Booker's lead over Lonegan was always much more formidable according to their numbers (from +35 to +22 now). For the record, recent polls from Stockton University, Rasmussen, and Quinnipiac tend to line-up more with Monthouth's latest overall finding.

So how can two surveys that were in the field at roughly the same time produce such dramatically different results? By disagreeing entirely on the candidate's strengths among various political and demographic groups:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Internally Splintered:" Gallup Reiterates Fact that Democrats Are Fond Of Themselves, Republicans More Self-Critical

Gallup analysis confirms a long-running trend of Republicans being more harsh on their own party than Democrats with theirs, and points the blame at "internal strife." If there is any "strife," it exists between the groups represented above, with (from left) Demint, Cruz, and Limbaugh representing the Tea Party/Heritage wing of the party, and Boehner, Peter King, and Karl Rove representing the "GOP Establishment." Photos courtesy of Donkey Hotey.

Twitter lit up once again this afternoon when the Gallup organization released an attention-grabbing headline: Republican Party Favorability Sinks to All-Time Low. And below is just a small sample of reactions to the news.

How bad could it possibly be, you ask? Precedent-setting awful, that's how bad. Barely over one-quarter of Americans have a favorable view of the Grand Ole Party (28%), while roughly two-thirds view it unfavorably (62%). And as Andrew Dugan of the Gallup organization notes, it's the lowest popularity rating for Republicans OR Democrats since they began polling the question twenty-one years ago.

For their part, the Democrats are also near-record setting popularity lows (43/49%). They just have a much higher floor than Republicans.

The Gallup numbers would be a little easier for Republican spinsters to dismiss if it weren't for the fact that similarly poor numbers are popping up all over the place. But Dugan also cites a particular phenomenon in the Gallup press-release that might provide a bit of relief for fretful Republican campaign operatives across the country:

"Self-identified Republicans are more than twice as likely to view their own party unfavorably (27%) as Democrats are to see their own party unfavorably (13%). . . These findings may be consistent with the widely circulated narrative that the Republican Party is internally splintered on how best to handle the budgetary negotiations."

This phenomenon isn't limited to the new Gallup poll, either. Consider the chart below, which documents how consistently Republican voters have offered up less favorable or approving views of their own party than Democrats, at least over the course of the last several months (please keep in mind that only polls with readily retrievable crosstabs could be used in the tabulation):

*denotes survey asked poll respondents whether they approved or disapproved of the Republican or Democratic Party, rather than whether they felt favorably or unfavorably toward the party.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Embracing Charlie Crist With Open Arms, Florida Democrats Look Poised To Bury Gov. Rick Scott In 2014

In some political parties, the desire to win trumps old disagreements, which must be the case for Charlie Crist's success with Florida Democrats in recent polls. But expect Rick Scott's team to play-up past associations like the ones above (a campaign appearance with Palin in 2008, then Obama four years later) to highlight Crist as a political chameleon.

The current state of Florida politics would be entirely unrecognizable to a to a time-traveling political observer from the year 2006. Then, a popular politician named Charlie Crist looked like a rising Republican star who drew barbs from Democrats rather than adoration. In fact, he performed down-right poorly among traditional Democratic voting blocks in his successful gubernatorial run, winning just 14% of self-identified Democrats, 21% of liberals, and 18% of African Americans.

My, how things change.

Flash forward through a bitter 2010 Senate primary campaign against Marco Rubio (which, rather than lose embarrassingly, Crist withdrew from), a failed Independent bid for US Senate, and a speaking slot at the 2012 DNC, to the man who will again seek the seat he abandoned for Washington D.C., this time as a Democrat.

And Democrats seem entirely willing to welcome him into the fold. In a recent survey, Crist attracts 85% of the Democratic vote against incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott. He garners over 80% of liberals, and over three-quarters of African Americans - literally, the polar opposite of the coalition he built to defeat Democrat Jim Davis in 2006.

And lest you think Democrats are simply flocking to Crist as the lesser of two evils between he and Gov. Scott, he's killing it in a match-up with his only announced competitor among likely Democratic Primary voters, 59-16%. 62% of Democrats view him favorably, as compared to 43% of ALL likely Florida voters.

The sitting Governor's political evolution may not be nearly as complicated as Charlie Crist's, but his current political standing is in much more dire straits.

Unlike Crist in 2006, Scott was never elected with a real mandate from Floridians - he defeated his Democratic opponent Alex Sink just 48.9 - 47.7% in what was otherwise a wave-Republican election year. He's suffered from uniquely poor job approval ratings his entire term in office, and currently sits  at 33/55% per PPP, leading their President, Dean Debnam, to label Scott "one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. . . "

Based on his head-to-head numbers against Charlie Crist, he's also one of the most at risk of losing his seat, trailing 50-38% in the most recent poll. And the bad news runs deeper than the top line.

Pull back the curtains of the PPP survey, and you'll see that women and men, young and old, black, white, and Latino - virtually every demographic & political group surveyed prefers Crist over Scott. And despite what the information in the chart below might suggest, no, it isn't because PPP finds a much more racially diverse electorate than the one that turned out in 2010 (and in some ways, 2012).

Monday, October 7, 2013

Very Conservative Voters Lift Ted Cruz In Latest Repubilcan Primary Polling

Photo courtesy of

The 10-month Senator from Texas has made quite the stir in the last few weeks, much to the chagrin of the GOP Establishment upper-brass, yet to the delight of the conservative grassroots. Conducting a 21-hour Senate filibuster can do that to you. And whether by calculated design or not, Cruz has gotten the attention of Republican primary voters, at least according to a recent Public Policy Polling Survey.

In a crowded field of 9 candidates, he manages 20% of the vote, good enough for first place over Rand Paul's 17%, and eight points better than his performance in PPP's last 2016 poll.

Indeed, Cruz's rise has been a fast one, if you buy PPP's numbers. After debuting in their GOP primary polling in mid May at 7% (good enough for 6th place in a 9 candidate field), he jumped to 12% in July. And for the third survey in a row, Cruz gained again, settling at his current 20%.

At that rate, Cruz could be well on his way to a third of the primary vote within the next couple months. Of course, PPP has featured an array of GOP primary leaders since starting their 2016 polling last year (Christie, Rubio, and Rand Paul have all led in the survey at some point), and Cruz's rise may be as temporary as some of theirs. But one thing is for sure: the more self-identified "very conservative" voters showing up in 2016 GOP primary polling, the better for Ted Cruz.

Why is that? Because he's performing really well among this segment of Republican primary voters. He picks up 34%, the largest  percentage obtained by any potential 2016 GOP candidate polled by PPP to date (Marco Rubio won 29% of 'very conservative voters' in a January survey). Not only that, but Cruz towers above the rest of the field in this category, leaving Rand Paul and Paul Ryan far behind in 2nd and third place with 17% and 12%, respectively.

This matters because very conservative voters make up such a large portion of the likely GOP electorate. Consider the table below:

At the time the poll was taken, 'very conservative' respondents made up the largest block of Republican primary voters. In fact, conservative voters in general haven't dropped below 74% of primary voters in a PPP poll yet.

Friday, October 4, 2013

SHUTDOWN 2013: A Close Look At Public Opinion Towards The President, The Parties, Congress, and More

Congress, the President, Democrats, Republicans...EVERYONE was better liked by the public during the 1995 government shutdown. New polling indicates Americans are more short-tempered than they wee 18 years ago.

We've been here before.

At least eighteen times since 1976, according to Wikipedia. In fact, George W. Bush has the praiseworthy distinction of being the only President since Gerald Ford to avoid a government shutdown during his time in office. 

But most of those shutdowns garnered light interest from public opinion pollsters, scant attention from the political press, and were generally far less glamorous than the one that took place between the Republican Congress and Democratic President in the 1990s, and the one happening now.

There's been a wealth of excellent articles written over the last week by TNR's Nate Cohn, Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics, and Harry Enten of The Guardian, regarding the polling differences between the two shutdowns. Enten blew a hole in the mythology surrounding the '95 stalemate, suggesting the 1996 election results were more the consequence of economic fundamentals than the budget showdown. Cohn piggy-backed off this days later, arguing that the GOP's hold on the House of Representatives is unlikely to change in light of events following '95. Trende set out to distinguish the tactics and goals of the '95 battle with today's.

This post intends to dive further into the data points driving these three mens' pieces, with a focus on the comparison of public blame then and now, Presidential and Congressional approval, generic Congressional ballot polling, and more.


Enten noted in The Guardian the marked difference in the level of blame the public placed on the political parties in '95 and now. Sure, Republicans are again on the receiving end of most of the finger pointing, but not to the extent they once were.

In fact, the Republicans most favorable data point out of shutdown polling to date comes from a week-old Pew Research survey finding American adults would blame Republicans in Congress only slightly more than the Obama Administration in the event of an actual shutdown.

If the federal government shuts down because Republicans and the Obama Administration can't agree on a budget, who do you think would be more to blame? (September 19-22, 2013, MoE +/- 3.7%)
  • Republicans  -  39%
  • Democrats  -  36%
  • Both Equally  -   17%
  • Don't know/Other  -  8%

If public opinion data regarding blame for the current shutdown stopped at the Pew Research poll, well, then the Republicans wouldn't seem to be freaking out so much right now, would they? But a few more pollsters have weighed in since Pew, and they find larger pluralities of Americans holding Republicans responsible for the gridlock:

The Global Strategy Group Poll listed Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats as separate question responses, unlike the other three pollsters who grouped the President with Congressional Democrats into one response.

In the 6 surveys that specifically asked about blame for a potential shutdown since the start of September, 43% on average have blamed Republicans, 36% have blamed Democrats.

But that's still good news for the GOP, at least from a purely comparative standpoint.

In the weeks leading up to the 1995 government shutdown, (which occurred initially on November 14, 1995), well over two-thirds of Americans (39%) blamed the newly-elected Republican Congress for the deadlock, while just a quarter blamed President Clinton and the Democrats (25%); making the Republican's average "margin of blame" 7 points smaller in 2013 than in 1995.

So where should you expect public sentiment to go now that the shutdown is underway? It's hard to say. Immediate media reaction has been overwhelmingly negative for Republicans. Though as Day 2 came to a close, right-wing media, powered by Fox News and The Drudge Report, had been moderately successful at shifting focus to the White House's refusal to sign House-passed appropriations bills that would fund the National Institute of Health, Veterans Affairs, and national parks.

Though if 1995 is any guide (and it hasn't been, at least with regards to public blame for the shutdown), things are about to get a little worse for the GOP. See the table below of every survey to ask Americans who they blamed for the government shutdowns in 1995-96:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

North Carolina Looking Less And Less Like A 2014 GOP Pick-Up Opportunity, Courtesy Of Gov. McCrory

Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) is starting to look like one lucky Freshman, in part thanks to the increasingly unpopular Repulican Governor, Pat McCrory. Photo on right courtesy of Donkeyhotey.

Congressional Republicans really, really need North Carolina's Senate seat to fall in their column next November if their dream of capturing BOTH houses of Congress for the 1st time during the Obama Presidency are going to be realized.

Fortunately for them, Barack Obama, after a brief reelection honeymoon, is again unpopular (thanks to a persistently weak economic recovery, and more recently, a foreign policy blunder that would make even Jimmy Carter blush).

This fact, coupled with the structural advantages the party out of power typically enjoys in midterm elections, has the GOP seeing visions of 2010 on the horizon.

But 'not so fast' says one of 2012's most accurate pollsters, the notably partisan and recently embattled Public Policy Polling . . . or at least, not if the Republicans path to 51 Senate seats runs through North Carolina.

The current breakdown of the 113th Congress is 54 Democrats and 46 Republicans, meaning the GOP would need to pick up at least 5 seats to obtain a majority. According to an array of political forecasting reports, the Republican's are all but assured a three-seat pick-up (the retiring Democrats in South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana). The remaining pick-ups are expected to come from 2 of the following red-state Democrats up for reelection in 2014: Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, or Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

And according to last week's numbers from PPP, Sen. Hagan (NC) looks like the LEAST vulnerable. She leads all 7 of her most likely Republican contenders by double-digit margins ranging from 12-17 points.

As the excuse for poor poll numbers, the GOP camps will rightfully note their candidate's near-anonymity with voters. But Senator Hagan isn't that terribly well-known herself, especially for a five year Senator.

What's more? The potential GOP nominees are polling the weakest they have to date in head-to-heads against Hagan, and PPP's been following this race every month since December 2012.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Prime-Time Addresses Have Moved Public Opinion Before, But Obama's Starting From FAR Behind On Syria

All five men have delivered prime-time TV addresses regarding imminent military action from behind the desk above, though none have faced a Congress as skeptical, or an American public more unified in opposition.

In less than 12 hours, President Obama will deliver a national address in prime-time in an attempt to rally the country, and congress, behind a possible military strike against a chemical-weapons yielding Middle Eastern dictator.

But it's far from the first time a commander-in-chief has pep-talked the nation in advance of (or as often the case, just after) the commencement of major military endeavors. In fact, Presidents have spoken to the nation in televised addresses designed to coincide with imminent overseas hostilities no less than nine times across the last five Presidents over the last 30 years.

Unfortunately for Barack Obama, his "rally-to-the-flag," pre-war address will have two dubious distinctions.

First, unlike President Reagan's military outings in Grenada and Libya, or George Bush Sr.'s Panama and Iraq Invasion, or Clinton's Somalia, Sudan and Kosovo bombings, or George W. Bush's wars in Afghanistan & Iraq, or Libya in 2011, President Obama is tasked with selling a phenomenally unpopular mission in Syria.

Furthermore, though each of the last four Presidents have seen worse job approval ratings than Obama is currently seeing at some point in their respective presidencies, none of them were so unpopular as he is now on the eve of a potential military strike against another country.

Consider the table below, which documents Barack Obama's job approval rating since the August 21, 2013 Syrian WMD attack that got this mess started, as well as support vs. opposition for military action in Syria since the same date:

The characters beside pollster identification in the table on the right above corresponds to survey question wording. Please feel free to ask me for any particular poll's question wording.

Over the last 2-3 weeks, Barack Obama has averaged a 45/50% job approval rating, while support for the proposed military operation in Syria has been anemic, at 32/52%.

What's worse? Over the last 7 days, Obama's average job approval rating has dropped to 44/51%, while opposition to engagement surged upwards (averaging a 30/60% support/oppose rating).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Introducing Governor-Elect...Terry McAuliffe?? Ken Cuccinelli's No Good, Awful Week

After a brief surge in his poll numbers this Spring, Ken Cuccinelli is behind Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia Governor's race, and by an increasing margin. The billboard pictured above is featured along I-95 in Richmond, and attempts to lump Cuccinelli in with Gov. McDonnell's "gift-gate" scandal.

2013 Virginia Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli just had a terrible week last week.

Labor day has come and past, which means the majority of Virginia voters are just tuning into a race that until now had been largely ignored by everyone but reporters and political junkies. And there's little doubt that the Cuccinellli camp would rather them stay tuned out a bit longer, at least according to three new polls.

On top of the likely harmful side-effects of Republican Governor Bob McDonnell's growing scandal, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has apparently done a good job of painting Attorney General Cuccinelli (R) as an archaic social conservative who is too ideologically driven and extreme for Virginia's increasingly blue electorate. He's done so by calling attention to Cuccinelli's push for a ban on oral sex and sodomy, as well as his staunch opposition to abortion.

Cuccinelli, for his part, has unleashed a barrage of attacks on McAuliffe's perceived weak point - his propensity for honesty and truthfulness. Whether it be his involvement in Greentech, a company he co-founded that is now under federal investigation, or the failure of a second energy company with McAuliffe backing to bring jobs to Virginia, Cuccinelli has relentlessly gone after his Democratic opponent in a style familiar to Obama's attacks on Mitt Romney's experience at Bain Capital in the 2012 Presidential election.

But the verdict is in on the first half of the long 2013 Gubernatorial slug-fest in Virginia, and the polls have called the first part of the battle for Terry McAuliffe. Not only that, but the three most recent Virginia surveys suggest the race is tilting decidedly in McAuliffe's favor:

The above numbers represent Cuccinelli's worst showing of the race in any PPP or Quinnipiac survey since the start of the year. And though this is Emerson College's first outing in Virginia, they paint the bleakest picture of all for the Republican.

So where exactly is Cuccinelli weak? Pretty much everywhere, according to the cross tabs. The table below notes the performance of McAuliffe and Cuccinelli among gender, racial/ethnic groups, and political party:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Democrats Struggle Out West, Steady In The East: An Early Quinnipiac Swing-State Analysis

There's been a discernible decline in the President's job approval ratings in the West and Midwest, according to 2013 Quinnipiac swing-state polling to date. The drop is punctuated by notably weak 2016 performances from Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

Though it may not feel like it, we're rapidly approaching the one year anniversary of the painfully close presidential election that wasn't; a contest who's much-hyped competitiveness failed to match its anticlimactic 51-47% result.

Its been nearly a year since ratings-hungry pundits and wishful Republicans were surprised to learn that, prior election results aside, Americans liked the job the President was doing (54% vs. 45%, to be exact), primarily blamed his predecessor for the disastrous economy (53% vs. 38%), and believed economic conditions were improving rather than worsening (39% vs. 30%).

So as we approach the Fall of his 5th year in office, how is the President holding up?

The answer depends, at least from a regional standpoint.

Fortunately, Quinnipiac has been in the field in swing-states across the country on a number of occasions so far this year for 2014 and 2016 election purposes, allowing us a glimpse at both the President and his potential successor's standing. And according to their findings, Barack Obama has held up well in East Coast swing-states (Virginia, Florida, and Pennsylvania), especially since the May 2013 IRS/NRA fall-out, while falling precipitously in the West and Midwest (Colorado, Iowa, and Ohio).

Consider the table below:

The difference in Obama's approval rating in East Coast vs. West/Midwest swing-states is unmistakable. His approval rating in the 3 East Coast states surveyed by Quinnipiac is roughly par (48/48%) with his winning margin in those states (51-48%).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Christie's Team Finally Breaking A Sweat? Buono Approaches 40% Milestone In NJ Gov. Race

Christie is still by-far the favorite in the New Jersey Governor's race. But unfortunately for him, pundits are expecting more than just a win. And Monmouth University suggests Buono is making gains. Photo features Christie and Buono's faces cut into a corn field in Chester, NJ. Courtesy of the A.P.

For the first time in the 2013 New Jersey Governor's race, and with just over two months left in the campaign, Governor Christie has hit his first polling snag.

Monmouth University, a frequent pollster of various statewide New Jersey races, finds Democratic gubernatorial challenger Barbara Buono getting dangerously close to 40% of the vote, by far her largest share in any poll taken to date, and by a fair margin at that. Her 36% vote share is 5 points higher than her previous record set in June of 31%, again in a Monmouth poll.

Chris Christie has dropped to 56% of the vote, also his lowest share to date, having hit 57% previously in a June Fairleigh Dickinson survey.

So exactly how can the fact that Christie leads Buono in a blue state by a 56-36% margin be labeled a "snag," or any other negative term? Well, because when compared to Christie's polling so far in the Governor's race, it is a snag.

Prior to the new Monmouth poll, Christie led Buono by an impressive 60-26% average across 24 different surveys, 14 net points higher than the margin by which he currently leads in the Monmouth survey. See the table below of all Buono vs. Christie polling to date:

(*) indicates a pollster defined that particular demographic or partisan characteristic differently from the percentages without a (*). Compiled from RCP, Huffington Post Pollster, & Argo Journal.

The six columns from the right of the chart above tell us why Christie's standing against Buono has dropped a net 10 points in two months.

A crucial aspect of the Governor's wild popularity in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was the extent to which traditionally hostile electoral groups (Democrats, African Americans, etc) rallied behind the Republican head of the state. There are only so many Republicans in New Jersey, and you don't obtain 40 point leads against your opponent without a fair amount of cross-over support.

In fact, as the Monmouth poll from February notes, Christie ran nearly even with Buono at one point...among DEMOCRATS.

He also led Buono among Democrats AND African Americans in Farleigh Dickenson, Rutgers Eagleton, and PPP surveys from earlier this year.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Governor John Kasich Plummets In Ohio...or does he? It's Quinnipiac vs. PPP, Again

Quinnipiac University's polling not only positioned Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) well for his 2014 re-election bid, but made him an ideal 2016 candidate - a popular governor from the most highly sought-after electoral prize in the country. But PPP poured cold water on that notion Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

Public Policy Polling and Quinnipiac University are apparently butting heads again, this time in Ohio.

New survey findings on Ohio voters' attitudes towards their Governor and the 2014 Governor's race allow for only one of two conclusions: (1) either something near cataclysmic is taking place on the ground to cause Governor John Kasich's (R) job approval ratings & 2014 standing to tank, or (2) a couple of prolific polling firms are missing the mark in measuring Ohio public opinion.

See the new Ohio survey released by Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling Tuesday:

PPP survey of 551 "Ohio voters" from August 16-19, 2013, MoE: +/-4.2%

For recent observers of local Ohio political polling and current events, it seemed as though we had stepped back in time, 2011-12 to be exact.

Then, Governor John Kasich was struggling with the aftermath of prolonged high unemployment, an unpopular collective bargaining bill, and a powerful Obama reelection organization. In fact, from the start of Kasich's term in January 2011, through election day 2012, Gov. Kasich only averaged a 38/48% job approval rating, per PPP.

Other polling organizations also caught on to Kasich's abysmal approval numbers, though as usually the case with Republican politicians, to a lesser extent than PPP (he averaged a 40/43% rating with Quinnipiac during the same time period).

But starting in the fall of 2012, before the presidential election was held, most pollsters found Kasich's Administration experiencing a public opinion recovery. In fact, between the 2012 Republican National Convention and election day, an average of 12 non-PPP Ohio surveys from Quinnipiac, Rasmussen, University of Cincinnati, and Fox News found Gov. Kasich with a healthy 51/38% job approval rating. An average of 4 PPP surveys from the same period found Kasich with an average 43/41% rating.

Then following the election, as Ohio voters took note of a steadily lower unemployment rate, Quinnipiac found Kasich's numbers soaring, even as President Obama's fell. See the table below: