Friday, December 11, 2009

Public Policy Polling: December 2009 Presidential Trial Heats In Depth

You can find the archive of all the 2012 trial heat polls here.

In a month when President Obama slipped into the 40s against each Republican polled against him in a hypothetical 2012 general election match up (via Public Policy Polling [pdf]), things obviously were not looking that good across the board. In an overall sense, we quickly get a feel for that tightening simply by looking at the trendlines for each of the prospective Republican presidential aspirants (There's now even a trendline for Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty -- see below and in the left sidebar).

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Obama: 46%
Huckabee: 45%
Undecided: 9%

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Obama: 50%
Palin: 44%
Undecided: 6%

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Obama: 48%
Pawlenty: 35%
Undecided: 17%

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Obama: 47%
Romney: 42%
Undecided: 12%

Margin of Error: +/- 2.8%
Sample: 1253 registered voters (nationwide)
Conducted: December 4-7, 2009

There isn't really much to the poll other than to say that overall, things are much closer than they were, say, at the beginning of PPP's process of looking at the the 2012 back in March (Palin) and April (Gingrich, Huckabee, Romney added). And that largely tracks with the president's approval numbers throughout the year. FHQ would be remiss, though, if we didn't at least bring up a few nuggets from the internals of the poll.

On the 2008 presidential vote:
  • Huckabee does the best of any of the Republican candidates at pulling together the most McCain voters (85%) and minimizing the number of repeat Obama voters (89%). The former Arkansas governor was the only Republican to keep Obama's support among his former voters below 90%.

On ideology:
  • President Obama is still approaching 90% approval among liberals and is right at two-thirds approval among moderates. Not surprisingly, the president is taking the biggest hit among self-described conservatives (only 15% approve).
  • Sarah Palin is the most favorable candidate to conservatives, but both she and Mike Huckabee garner 79% support from the group against the president.

On age:
  • Obama consistently loses the 65+ set and essentially breaks even (to slightly loses) the 46-65 demographic to all the Republicans polled. However, the president is well above 50% with everyone under 45.

On race:
  • Palin is the most favorable Republican among Hispanic respondents, but only reaches 37% favorability. The president continues to hold over 90% support among registered African American voters and about two-thirds of Hispanic voters against all four Republicans.

On gender:
  • Men still prefer Republicans and women Obama, but this is noteworthy because it is the first time Sarah Palin has led the president among men (48-45) in a PPP survey.

On region:
  • The quirk is gone ( December at least). Obama didn't sweep the South as he has on several other occasions in these PPP polls. Instead, the president was swept in the region where the Republican Party found its base in the 2008 presidential election. More troubling to Obama from an electoral standpoint is that the president was swept by all four Republicans in the midwest. The president was able to make inroads in the peripheral South in 2008 and can potentially afford to jettison states like Virginia and North Carolina in 2012. But if Michigan and Indiana and Ohio begin to creep into the mix in terms of competitiveness, things could get interesting in the fall of 2012. Much of that will depend on the state of the economy, though.
What will January and a new year bring? Stay tuned.

Recent Posts:
The Links (12/10/09)

PPP: 2012 Presidential Trial Heats (Dec. '09): Huckabee within 1 Point of Obama

Democrats and Republicans Unified on a March Primary Start? All Signs Point Toward Yes


Anonymous said...

One quirk in the sample of the poll is who people voted for in the last election:

47% people sampled in this poll voted for Obama in 2008 vs. 53% of voters in the real world. Though 8% say they don't remember. (The over 65 demographic?) The poll seems to significantly under-sample people who voted for Obama in 2008 and with those voters largely still on board, the tightness of the hypothetical race shown in the poll is a bit suspect.

Robert said...

I noticed the quirk too about the % who said they voted for Obama. I agree with Anonymous on that point. Also, the economy is in the pits and Obama is pushing hard on several fronts. As I have said before, much in 2012 depends on the economy and Afghanistan. A President has the first 12-18 months of his (or her) term to push through major legislation. The remaining 2.5 -6.5 years are a time of consolidating those programs. We'll know much more about Obama and his success by next June. The dream match at this time in 2005 was a Hilary/ Jeb encounter.

Josh Putnam said...

Nah, I was counting on a Clinton-McCain race in 2005, Rob (even with McCain's potential primary electorate problem).

I was going to argue with Anon2:39, but he/she is right. [I think my memory of the likely voters' 2008 vote in the Virginia gubernatorial race was clouding my vision. Those samples looked a lot like this one does.] Anyway, I looked back and PPP has been asking the 2008 question since August and Obama has yet to trail until this poll. Obama had never cracked 50% in any of these samples and McCain had been no higher than 45%.

So yeah, that is a major departure from past polls by PPP with 2012 in mind. Good catch Anon.

One thing to keep in mind is that PPP is polling registered voters and not likely voters. That may have something to do with this.

Anonymous said...

Actually, that percentage means nothing.

51% of the electorate were not saying they voted for Bush in 2004 in 2008 polling.

All that means is that fewer people are willing to admit they voted for Obama.

Leonard said...

I'm the first not last anon. I'll use Leonard to avoid confusion. I suppose it's possible people are not wanting to admit an Obama vote but, as his approval is presently 20 points or more higher than Bush's was in 2008, it doesn't seem likely to follow the same dynamic. More likely to me is they sampled a number of non-voters from 2008 as well as having an off ratio of Obama McCain voters.

I do wonder if these polls will persuade Huckabee to run. I'm betting on him passing (to the benefit of Palin and maybe Pawlenty), but polls like this could tempt him to roll the dice maybe.

Anonymous said...


Fair point.

But then again, 39% of the electorate is still Democrat, the same percentage that it was in the 2008 exit poll.

Other polls show that more adults are now identifying as conservatives (which is somewhat misleading because many blacks identify themselves as conservatives but they will never vote for a Republican as Virginia in 2009 evidenced).

I just don't see anything wrong with this poll. Keep in mind that this same pollster showed Obama leading Palin 55-35 in March, with a D/R split of +13.

What a difference nine months make?

Robert said...

Anon II,

I'm not sure that Obama's poll numbers mean a whole lot right now. He is spending his political capital on Afghanistan, the economy, health care, cap & trade, financial overhaul etc. According to Plouffe's book, health care and the environment were his major motivating forces to become President. If he wasn't spending his capital now, he wouldn't be a successful President. If we look at previous administrations, Bush II made his big legislative accomplishments (tax cuts and no child left behind) early and then rode 9/11 for the rest of his terms. Clinton blew his capital and was only saved by the Republicans over-reaching. Bush I and Carter were not effective at using their capital and went down in flames. Reagan was very effective in using his capital and survived an unemployment rate of 10.4% going into his election year (1984).

As I have commented before on earlier posts, if unemployment goes down, Afghanistan shows improvement, no other international crisis appears and he scores a major victory in Congress, he is going to be unbeatable in 2012. That represents many 'Ifs', but that is the agenda he has set. It is a high-risk/ high-return strategy. The unemployment rate will need to go down fairly soon to save many Democrats seats in the House. The two things to watch for are the December unemployment rate, which comes out the first week of January, and the health-care bill. Another decrease in unemployment and signed health-care legislation will start to turn his poll numbers around.

Robert said...


You may have posted this site before, but there is a plot of Presidential approval ratings at the WSJ website:

Josh Putnam said...

Thanks for the presidential approval link, Rob.

This one is actually new to me. The other one was from USA Today. I like this one better simply because it is more interactive. I'll tell you what: I'll put this one up in the side bar. I think its relevant enough to warrant that.