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:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is Mark Pryor Following In Blanche Lincoln's Footsteps? Not Necessarily From A Polling Perspective

A vehemently anti-Democrat view of politics has taken hold in Arkansas, at least at the federal level, and is no doubt partially responsible for Blanche Lincoln's (2nd from left) 2010 landslide loss. And while Sen Pryor might not look quite as weak, he's no doubt in danger. Photos courtesy of Getty & Washington Post

Since 12 year Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) was defeated three years ago by Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) in a 58-37% landslide, Republicans have licked their chops at the idea of turning a state recently represented in D.C. by two Democratic Senators into a state represented by two Republicans, all over the course of just four years.

Partly because of Sen. Lincoln's humiliating 2010 loss, Arkansas again looks like a top pick-up opportunity for the GOP in 2014, thanks to an eerily similar positioned Sen. Mark Pryor (D).

Like Lincoln before him, Pryor was elected to an Arkansas more amenable to southern moderate Democrats, having taken office in January 2003. And like Lincoln, Pryor's two previous Senate runs have been relative cakewalks, winning by an eight point margin in 2002, and 80% in 2008 (he was unopposed by Republicans). But also like Lincoln before him, Pryor finds himself facing talented Republican opposition at a time when Obama is VERY unpopular in the state, and not on the ballot.

In 2010, not only were Arkansans down on the federal government (74% described themselves as angry/dissatisfied with it, 25% were satisfied/enthusiastic about it), down on Obamacare (55% wanted to repeal it), and down on the Democratic Party (a 40/57% favorability rating, vs. 51/43% for the Republicans); they were also very disappointed with their President, giving him a dreadful 37/62% approval rating, with 47% "strongly" disapproving.

Unfortunately for Sen. Pryor (D), some things never change, especially in Arkansas.

They still hate Obamacare (pg. 11), still prefer Republicans to Democrats (pg. 3), and still aren't particularly fond of the President, OR the job he is doing:

* denotes the survey measured Obama's favorability rating, rather than his job approval.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Steve Lonegan Looks Dead On Arrival Thanks to Chris Christie, Cory Booker, & A Special Off-Year Electorate

The trio of a popular Booker, a popular President, and a less than helpful Governor have all but sealed Steve Lonegan's fate. Photo courtesy of

Both Democrats AND Republicans can find reason for optimism in New Jersey this year. While Barbara Buono has been headed for certain and substantial defeat at the hands of Governor Chris Christie since Hurricane Sandy, the death of Senior Senator Frank Lautenberg provided Democrats with a golden opportunity to fast track one of their up and coming stars into national political office.

Though what appears to be a sure snoozer of a Special Senate contest this October between Cory Booker (D) and Steve Lonegan (R) didn't always have to be that way.

New Jersey Republicans anticipated challenging either an aging Sen. Lautenburg, or a primary battered Cory Booker in November 2014, not October 2013.

And failed 2005 and 2009 Republican primary challenger for Governor Steve Lonegan was likely FAR from their first choice to take on the popular Newark Mayor. With a statewide electoral record bad enough to make any Republican squirm, Lonegan seems particularly out of his depth against the Obama-esque Booker, especially when accounting for the incredibly abbreviated campaign schedule in a very blue state.

Then came the double-whammy - Republican Governor Chris Christie would be scheduling the special Senate race three weeks in advance of his own gubernatorial re-election, on October 16, 2013, thereby ensuring Lonegan and political observers would be denied learning whether the New Jersey Governor's coattails matched his lofty job approval ratings. It also ensured that Lonegan would likely not lose to Booker by anything less than an embarrassing margin, especially if the early and limited polling on the race is any indication:

Photo courtesy of Real Clear Politics.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How Concerned Should Hillaryland Be About Barack Obama's Political Standing In 2016?

Though Clinton's soaring approval ratings seemingly did little to help Gore in 2000, and McCain's popular vote percentage far exceeded the number who approved of the job Dubya was doing, the elder Bush's electoral performance in 1988 closely mirrored public approval of his boss, Ronald Reagan. Photo taken July 1988, courtesy of the Reagan Library.

President Barack Obama's job approval rating currently sits at about 45/50% per the Real Clear Politics aggregator, 44/50% according to Huffington Posts's Pollster, or 46/49% per TPM Polltracker.

All in all, these are some pretty rough numbers for the President, especially considering where he stood for most of the 2012 election year, and represents one of his worst periods in terms of job approval since the Fall of  2010 and 2011.

Fortunately for Obama, he'll never have to stand before voters for re-election again. Unfortunately for Democrats, they'll endure the burden of running for office with the anchor of an unpopular Presidency around their neck, assuming Obama's ratings hold at current levels or get worse.

In fact, recent history would suggest that 2014 Senate and House contenders should fear the President's popularity the most. In 2010, Obama sported an abysmal 44/55% job approval rating, and Republicans won in a landslide. Something similar happened in 2006, when George W. Bush had a 43/57% approval rating, and the Democrats won in a landslide. In 2002, a hugely popular post-9/11 George Bush was able to flout tradition when his party won an impressive popular vote victory and picked up several seats.

But what if we look further down the road? Can the way voters feel about President Obama on election night 2016 affect the vote count for Hillary Clinton? Or Joe Biden? Or Howard Dean? Or any number of possible 2016 Democratic nominees? Intuition and common-sense suggests yes, and at least one poll-analyst seems to agree. But historical evidence provides room for doubt.

The series of tables below detail outgoing Presidential job approval ratings in the final month(s) of the presidential campaigns to replace them. And as you can see, especially with regards to the 2008, 2000, and 1960 presidential elections, the term-limited President's ratings didn't appear to make or break his party's nominee:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Peculiar Disconnect Between PPP's Early State & National 2016 Polling

Hillary Clinton could join her husband and Jimmy Carter as the only Democrats to carry Georgia since 1960, if early PPP polling is any indiciation. About the photo: Bill Clinton dines with Jimmy Carter in a bar in Atlanta in August 1992. Courtesy of AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

In what had to be considered excellent news for Democrats across the country last week, another PPP 2016 survey in loyally Republican Georgia shows Hillary Clinton amazingly competitive in what has typically been unfriendly territory for Democrats, and Hillary Clinton personally.

Democrats haven't won in Georgia at a presidential level since Bill Clinton's narrow half-point victory in 1992. Before that, it was native son Jimmy Carter in 1980. As for Hillary, though she's never faced the Georgia general electorate, her own party wasn't very kind to her on the only occasion she's ever had to run on their statewide ballot (losing to Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary by 35 points).

But that could all change in 2016 if Public Policy Polling's state surveys are on the mark. For the second time this year, Hillary Clinton essentially TIES or LEADS all of her likely Republican competitors in the largest state of the Deep South:

Those would be very impressive numbers for any Democrat, especially considering Barack Obama lost the state by 8 and 5 points in 2012 and 2008, while John Kerry and Al Gore lost the state by 17 and 12 points in 2004 and 2000.

But the Georgia numbers caught the eye of at least one pollster for another reason - how exactly could Hillary Clinton be performing so well in Georgia, while finding herself in a tie with most of her GOP opponents in a NATIONAL survey from the same polling company just two weeks prior?

Consider this: in each of the last four presidential elections (2000-2012), the state of Georgia has voted about a net 12 points more for the Republican over the Democrat than the nation as a whole. For example, while Barack Obama carried the national popular vote by a margin of 4 points in 2012, Mitt Romney won Georgia by 8 points.

Obama dispensed of McCain nationwide by 7 points in 2008, while McCain still managed to carry Georgia by 5.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Michelle Nunn Looks Strong In Early Georgia Senate Polling, But Beware of Undecided Romney Voters

State Legislator Jim Martin nearly rode Obama's coattails into office in 2008, holding Sen. Saxby Chambliss to just 49% of the vote. He subsequently lost the Dec 2, 2008 run-off, despite the support of hip-hop artists T.I., Young Jeezy, & Ludacris. No Democrat has won a statewide race for President, Senate, or Governor in Georgia since 2000. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

If anyone familiar with recent presidential electoral history said they weren't a little surprised by the 2008 election results in Georgia, they're probably bluffing.

The only Deep South  state in the last 5 presidential elections to see a Democrat come within 5 points of a Republican would hardly be recognizable to the Georgia that re-elected George W. Bush by 17 points just eight and a half years ago.

Yet four years later, the McCain-Palin ticket earned a worryingly low 52% of the vote, while Obama-Biden nabbed 47%, the highest percentage for a Democrat in the Deep South since Bill Clinton's 52% Louisiana victory in 1996.

And again in 2012, the year that Republicans were supposed to take back the White House after four years of a sluggish economy, Romney's margin over Obama was much closer than GOP strategists would have liked (slightly less than 8 points), and far from an '04-like landslide. 

Though for all their recent success at the presidential level, Georgia Democrats remain in pretty rough shape statewide.

 In 12 statewide elections for President, Governor, or Senate since 2000, Democrats have won ONE (and that was in 2000).

But fortunately for likely 2014 Democratic Senate nominee Michelle Nunn, her father and former 24 year U.S. Senator Sam Nunn is one of the few Georgia Democrats that still carries any sort of considerable bipartisan clout, boasting a 50% favorable rating with Democrats, a 58% rating with Republicans, and 64% with Independents. And if recent PPP poll results are any indication, his daughter is making good use of his political capital.

Of the seven total candidates tested against Nunn in a hypothetical 2014 Senate race, the Democrat leads or ties ALL of them, earning between 40-42% of the total vote. Her Republican opponents garner between 35-41%.

So, you can see why Georgia Democrats might find reason to rejoice in the wake of PPP's latest release. With the sole exception of the 2008 Senate contest between Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin (pre-run-off, and in a wave year), Democrats really haven't come close to beating Republicans in statewide elections for 13 years.

So why were a few pundits quick to dismiss PPP's results on Wednesday?

2014 just happens to fall during Obama's second term, which historically speaking, has been VERY harsh to the incumbent President's party.

But more than that, as Real Clear Politics Senior Elections Analyst Sean Trende noted on Twitter, most of the undecided voters in the PPP poll are likely to lean to the GOP Senate candidate.

Consider the chart below, which highlights the percentage of poll respondents who said they were "not sure" regarding their 2014 Senate vote, broken down by 2012 presidential vote, party I.D., and ideological I.D.:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lessons from 2010, 2006, & 2002: Why You Shouldn't Read Too Much Into Early Generic Ballot Polling

Democrats are polling slightly ahead of Republicans in the generic ballot. But the GOP is still better positioned than at this point in 2009.

It's been a rough few months for President Obama, both in terms of polling and external political events.

Barely 6 months into his 2nd term, he's seen both his job approval and favorability ratings slide, while unexpected and distracting scandals involving the IRS and the NSA have angered both opponents and allies.

Yet for all the President's troubles, his party has held up well, at least from the perspective of 2014 Midterm Election polling to date.

Excluding Rasmussen Reports, the Republicans have led the Democrats in only one generic House ballot survey taken since the November 2012 election (out of 26 total polls), and have averaged a 43-40% deficit against the party that currently holds the White House and the Senate. See the table below:

*because Rasmussen tracks the generic congressional ballot every week, their numbers in the above chart are monthly averages. Data compiled from Huffington Post Pollster, Real Clear Politics, & TPM Polltracker.

The Democrats' 3 point house ballot advantage seems all the more impressive when considering the fact that the President's party very rarely performs well in second-term, midterm elections.

But try not to draw too many conclusions from the current state of polling regarding the 2014 election, especially considering the state of generic House ballot polling at this point in 2009.

From immediately following the 2008 Presidential election, until August of 2009, the Democrats averaged a House ballot lead over the Republicans of 44-38%; this, at the beginning of an election cycle in which the Republicans ultimately won the national House vote by 51-45%, and gained 63 seats in the House of Representatives.

Rasmussen & YouGov/PoliMetrix tracked the House ballot weekly. Their numbers in the chart above represent monthly averages. Data compiled from Huffington Post Pollster, Real Clear Politics, and Polling Report.

In other words, Republicans performed a net 12 points better than the average of polling at this point in 2009 predicted. Furthermore, at this point in 2009, Republicans led Democrats in only 4 of the 38 generic ballot polls taken since the November 2008 election, as compared to leading in all but 2 of the 39 surveys conducted in the final month of the 2010 election.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Paul Ryan: Beloved By Republican Primary Voters, But Not Their Pick For President

Rep. Paul Ryan is the most popular of all 2016 Republican Presidential candidates in terms of favorability, but lags in horse-race polling.
Congressman Paul Ryan, the young, wonky, slightly-awkward Wisconsin Congressman and most recent Republican Vice Presidential nominee has had his ups and downs since the start of the 2012 Presidential cycle. After what were surely flattering entreaties from his party to enter the race for the White House that year, he was picked from a large and impressive line-up of Republican politicians as one-half of the Presidential ticket with Mitt Romney.

Despite a close race, the Romney-Ryan ticket lost to Obama-Biden by a disappointing 51-47%. Both men appeared shell-shocked.

The undeniable disappointment on behalf of Republican voters and punditry at the result took a slight toll on the House Budget Committee Chairman's personal popularity. He saw a net positive favorability rating pre-2012 election turn negative afterwards.

In the 13 national surveys of Ryan's favorability since November 2012, only four of them found him with a higher favorable than unfavorable percentage. Since November 2012, he averages a 39% favorable rating, and a 41% unfavorable rating.

But while Ryan may need a little rehabilitation on his image with general election voters before running for President (which he has not ruled out), he's as beloved as ever by Republican primary voters, as a recent Pew Research poll made clear:

According to Pew, 2/3 of Republicans and Republican leaners view Ryan favorably, putting him in a very comfortable position when compared to other likely 2016 GOP contenders (Rand Paul is viewed favorably by just over half of Republicans, Marco Rubio by half, and Chris Christie by 47%).

Fortunately for Ryan, the Pew finding showing him the most popular 2016 GOPer is replicated in ALL TEN post-2012 election surveys of Republicans and/or GOP primary voters. In every single survey, Ryan's favorability score exceeds all other Republicans.

The data in the table below shows the average favorability rating of every potential major 2016 GOP primary candidate since the 2012 election:

All surveys used in the averages can be found here.

For whatever reason (which must at least partially include name recognition), Ryan leads a pretty impressive list of potential candidates in terms of favorability, while the nationally popular Chris Christie ranks 2nd to LAST, behind the uber-socially conservative Rick Santorum, and the  humiliated Rick Perry.

That's why some might be surprised to learn that despite all the love from his party, Ryan's not performing all that well in the early 2016 primary horse-race. In fact, in an average of all primary surveys since the presidential election, Ryan finishes third, behind Marco Rubio and Chris Christie: