Showing posts with label polling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label polling. Show all posts

Monday, November 30, 2009

Washington Post Poll: 2012 GOP Primary Race

From The Washington Post:

Q: If the 2012 Republican presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, for whom would you vote?

[Click to Enlarge]

Yes, Sarah Palin is leading here, but the real news -- to FHQ anyway -- is that half of the survey respondents in this case either chose no one/other, wouldn't vote or had no opinion one way or the other about the 2012 Republican nomination. That is an awfully high number compared to other similar polls conducted during 2009. Granted, the question was slightly different than some of the other surveys we have seen on this subject as well. In other instances, names were provided, but respondents in the Washington Post were asked not to recognize names but to recall them. In that regard, it isn't terribly surprising that Palin -- someone with the most name recognition currently -- led the list. That neither Huckabee nor Romney fared any better than they did -- 10% and 9% respectively -- was also surprising. [And no, FHQ does not attribute Huckabee's pardon trouble for any of this since the story broke after the poll.]

And no one candidate cleared the 20% barrier either.

Poll: Washington Post
Margin of Error: +/- 4%, +/-5%
Sample: 485 Republicans and 319 Republican-leaning independents (nationwide)
Conducted: November 19-23, 2009

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Palin's Poll Numbers Look a Lot Like Quayle's

From Brendan Nyhan posting at Pollster:

[Click to Enlarge]

Once perceptions are formed, they are difficult to break. And we all know how Quayle 2000 turned out. He didn't make it to Iowa. Will Palin?

Incidentally, Jonathan Bernstein over at A Plain Blog About Politics has an interesting take on how Palin fits into the 2012 field; like an issue candidate (a la Kucinich or Paul) but with a much bigger following. I aptly, in my opinion, draws a parallel between her and Jesse Jackson's run in 1984. It's an good read; check it out.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Week Ahead

First, FHQ should apologize. I got called out of town on Friday and that kept me away from the computer for most of the weekend. What that means is that we'll likely have a busy start to the week. What's on tap?
  • A belated look at some of Rick Davis' comments on the McCain campaign's strategy down the stretch in 2008.
  • A look (with graphics) at the Rasmussen 2012 GOP primary poll released on Friday and the odd(-ish) head-to-heads among the various prospective Republican candidates for president.
  • I think the GOP primary poll was a signal that Rasmussen will also put out a series of 2012 presidential general election trial heats.
  • And that comes at a good time because Public Policy Polling will likely have their monthly trial heats out some time this week. Remember, they have substituted Tim Pawlenty in for Jeb Bush this month (who replace Newt Gingrich a month ago).
  • And finally, we'll continue to see a likely flood of polling from New Jersey and Virginia this week. With only two weeks to go, polling activity is going to be heavy. PPP will have their Virginia results out tomorrow some time.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Week Ahead

The big news this week, at least for regular readers, is that FHQ is hitching up its wagons and moving this week. I have no idea how big a damper this is going to put on the flow of posts around here, but I can speculate that it will probably be down at least somewhat until the new FHQ HQ is up and running. So bear with me.

That said, you can probably expect a few things:

And I'm sure there will be some surprises along the way as well.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Oops! A 2012 GOP Primary Poll FHQ Missed and Another Rant on the Over-Interpretation of These Polls

Home renovations like the ones FHQ did in mid-May can put a damper on your 2012 poll-watching in a heartbeat. And apparently my blogger-turned-handyman days caused me to miss one of the 2012 GOP primary poll conducted by FOX [pdf] during that period.

Excuses, excuses.

Anyway a hearty thank you to GOP12 via CQ PollTracker via GOP12 for the belated heads up. For the record, here are the particulars:

Huckabee: 20%
Romney: 18%
Gingrich: 14%
Palin: 13%
Giuliani: 12%
Sanford: 4%
Bush: 3%
Jindal: 3%

Margin of Error: +/- 3 points (+/- 6 points among Republicans)
Sample: 900 registered voters (274 Republicans)
Conducted: May 12-13, 2009

I'll skip the analysis and leave it at this: This is the only primary poll thus far that does not have Palin clustered at the top with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee; well above everyone else. [And yes, how quaint. Mark Sanford was included -- pre-Argentina.]

Sadly, with Giuliani and Sanford now tacked onto the list of candidates, the key took up too much room and the color scheme Google Docs provided was repetitive and confusing. In sum, that was not really a workable order. The key is now gone from the figure and the names are added nearby the lines or points they correspond to. Most of the color issues were moot once I withheld the "other" line. It matched nearly identically the color given to Jindal's data. The other change is that I've added in the element of time. Everyday is accounted for in the series now so that it doesn't appear as if each poll is equidistant from the next.

Here's the trend updated through today:

[Click to Enlarge]

[If you find anything about the above graph confusing still, please let me know in the comments section.]


Before I close, I did want to mention one other issue with this FOX poll and the poll ABC and the Washington Post released this morning. In each case, we are talking about a 2012 primary question that is based on the responses of less than 300 Republicans (and/or Republican-leaning independents) nationally. When the goal is 1000, less than 300 respondents has the effect of REALLY ramping up the margin of error. In the process, the representativeness of the poll is made all the more questionable for something that is already well in advance of primary season (or even the competitive tail end of the invisible primary for that matter). As I've said recently, I like seeing these numbers and I enjoy seeing the trends, but these things absolutely have to be taken with a grain of salt. And occasionally I like to fold in some discussion of fundraising or organization, but I try to avoid claims like these at all costs. To assert that Huckabee leads this race or that it is beneficial for Romney to "draft" behind Huckabee is patently ridiculous. Given the margins in the polls conducted so far, Romney and Huckabee are tied (with Sarah Palin). Now, it could be that the perception that Huckabee is ahead is helpful to Romney in that "everyone else" is gunning for the former Arkansas governor and not Romney, but still. Let's just watch these numbers come in and not over-interpret them.


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ABC/WaPo Poll: 2012 GOP Primary--Huckabee Back on Top, but...

ABC News and Washington Post have a new poll out that the blogosphere is jumping on to trumpet the decline of Sarah Palin's favorability. Yeah, FHQ won't be jumping on that bandwagon, but we will discuss the 2012 Republican primary question that was nestled deep in the results. [For the record, the Palin numbers reflect opinion of her among folks of all partisan stripes. The Republican ones are the only ones that really matter at the moment.] Yes, the usual cast of characters are represented,* but I like the fact that the names of prospective GOP candidates whose names were volunteered (not on the list of candidates named) were included in the results as well. Among that group -- which included Charlie Crist, Bobby Jindal, John Thune and other -- Jindal did the best, pulling in about 2% among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Both Crist and Thune garnered less than a percentage point each.

Here are the results:

Huckabee: 26%
Romney: 21%
Palin: 19%
Gingrich: 10%
Pawlenty: 4%
Bush: 3%
Jindal: 2%
Barbour: 1%
Thune: less than 1%
Crist: less than 0.5%

Margin of error: +/- 3.5 points
Sample: 1001 adults
approx. 292 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents
Conducted: July 15-18, 2009

[Click to Enlarge]

First of all, this figure is getting a touch messy with the inclusion of Thune and Crist. Even still, the same pattern we've seen in these polls reemerges here: the Huckabee/Palin/Romney trio continue to be clustered relatively close together, outpacing all other possible candidates. [And it should be noted that that pattern surfaces with just 292 GOP/GOP-leaning respondents nationally. So take this poll with an extra grain of salt -- this question at least. The margin of error among that portion of the sample is likely pretty high.] It just so happens that the former Arkansas governor is getting another turn at the top.

I wouldn't read too much into Huckabee's showing (or anyone else for that matter), but I will take the opportunity to say that if last year's delegate runner-up for the GOP nomination is serious about a repeat bid in 2012, he is going to have to get a move on. From a polling perspective, he's fine, but financially he's quickly falling off the pace being set by his leading counterparts' political action committees. Both Romney's Free and Strong America PAC and Palin's SarahPAC are doing quite well in the first half of 2009. Huckabee, on the other hand, has yet to report any numbers for his Huck PAC, and that fact in conjunction with the news that the PAC is undergoing some restructuring, is a troubling start.

Again, this is all extremely early. As John McCain demonstrated during the 2008 cycle, campaign restructuring and dire financial straits aren't necessarily dealbreakers. However, 2012 won't be 2008 for the Republicans. They are facing an incumbent Democrat in the White House and will likely be looking for someone who has some gravitas among the elites within the party and an ability to raise funds and lots of them. Romney meets both those criteria the best at the moment. Palin lacks the internal party connections and Huckabee trails on both fronts.

The main question now is whether 2012 will be like 1996 or 2000 for the Republican Party. Will they have a fairly active primary campaign like in 1996 or will most of the party quickly coalesce around a candidate as in 2000? Part of the problem of assessing that question is that we have reached something of a crossroads on the divisive primaries/parties question. The pre-2008 thinking was that the quicker you line up behind someone (thus avoiding drawn-out divisiveness), the better your chances are in the general election. Post-2008, though, the thinking is slightly different. Can a drawn-out, yet not personally divisive nomination battle actually help a parties nominee from an organizational standpoint? Obama's narrow electoral college wins in Indiana and North Carolina are often cited as evidence that the primary campaign organization helped in the general election.

My (two and a half years in advance) guess is that the GOP may pay some lip service to the organizational idea, but will ultimately make a quick decision on the 2012 nomination. And I should note that I've been talking about this as if the party has complete control over this. They don't. Conditions have a large say in the matter. Democratic primary and caucus voters were evenly divided in 2008, but Republican voters may not follow suit in 2012. That potential is there (Palin grassroots vs. Romney establishment, for example), but, as I said, I think it is more likely that a consensus forms around one candidate. If the GOP elite signal in a way similar to 2000 with Bush, that they are solidly behind one candidate, then it will be difficult for anyone to disrupt the inevitability story.

All that from a poll of 292 Republicans and independents leaning Republican? Yeah, I know.

*The list of candidates included Haley Barbour, Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Join FHQ for Presidential Primary Reform Week This Week

Democratic Change Commission and Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee meetings notwithstanding, there has been enough news about the parties' methods of nominating presidential candidates recently to warrant an entire week devoted to the process, and perhaps more importantly, the process of reform. Each day this coming week, then, FHQ will discuss one reform proposal specifically or some relevant news about the process that really has not seen the light of day yet. We'll start tomorrow off with an interesting new proposal I caught wind of late Friday and progress from there.

Also coming this week:

1) Tomorrow starts the week off with a bang and no, not just because of the announced series of posts above. [I've got better things to do than worry about that sort of thing.] Public Policy Polling will be releasing their July numbers for the 2012 general election trial heats (Obama v. Gingrich/Huckabee/Palin/Romney) on Monday. Be on the lookout for an update of our 2012 graphs and additional analysis soon thereafter.

2) Also, on Tuesday or more likely on Wednesday, PPP will have some numbers out of Louisiana. There's likely to be an Obama/Jindal head-to-head poll in there, but I may be guilty of having misinterpreted the intent of that poll in an earlier post. The line from the PPP blog read, " Bobby Jindal more popular in his home state than Tim Pawlenty?" Now, that seems like there is going to be a head-to-head between Pawlenty and Jindal in Louisiana, but was likely a reference to Pawlenty's position in an earlier survey the company did in Minnesota. If your hopes skyrocketed because of my post, I apologize. [But it does read that way. It should have been written, " Bobby Jindal more popular in his home state than Tim Pawlenty was in his?"]

3) There may also be a vote on the Sotomayor nomination sometime this week. Thus far, FHQ has remained quiet on this issue. That's mainly because the vote in the Senate is what I've been waiting for. Only that is likely to shift candidates' electoral fortunes in the future. If that hasn't been hammered to death by the blogosphere, then I may have something to say about a select few races (depending upon how the vote goes).

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Friday, July 17, 2009

What's Wrong with 2012 Polls?

There has been an entertaining discussion on the utility of polling going on this week between Conor Clarke over The Atlantic and John Sides (among others) at The Monkey Cage. Clarke got the ball rolling in the Idea of the Day special section of The Atlantic's site by questioning the usefulness of polls -- mainly the overabundance of them and the effect that has on democratic governance and government. Sides, in a rejoinder to Clarke's response to his rebuttal, counters by arguing polling's positives are based on the accountability, evidence and representativeness they provide. I'm not going to rehash the arguments here (but do urge you to go check the discussion out), but I did want to take issue with Sides on one of his closing remarks.
"Lest I sound like a cheerleader: some polls bug me, much as they must bug Clarke. I hate the vastly premature 2012 presidential trial heats, for example."
First, I should say that I obviously come down on Sides', uh, side of the argument, but this hits a little close to home considering the ramped up 2012 gazing on FHQ of late (see here, here, here and here). Also, before I get in to this, I think that it is instructive to make a distinction between the trial heats and the GOP primary polling for 2012. I find the latter to be of greater use simply because of the position the Republican Party finds itself in in the aftermath of last November's elections: out of the White House, out of power in both chambers of Congress and leaderless.

On that last point is where the primary polling is of particular import; it is gauging how Republicans perceive the field of candidates/leaders to be shaping up. Now, it may be that at this point in the cycle what we are seeing in the cross-tabs is being driven by nothing more than name recognition, but that is providing us with a baseline for comparison as this race fully formalizes over the next couple of years. Stated differently, it is providing us with some evidence of a basic ordering of candidates. We could rely on pundits to tell us that it is all Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee or we could poll it to find some evidence of this (Of course, the logical question that emerges here is whether the polling is influencing the pundit-speak or vice versa.). For a party that is leaderless on the national level, the 2012 nomination question is more than a mere proxy.

But what about these trial heats? I've tried to caution FHQ readers about the limitations of these polls. First of all, with the exception of the University of Texas poll last week, all of the national and statewide polls asking the "if the 2012 presidential election were held today" question have been conducted by Public Policy Polling. That, in addition to the relatively small sample sizes (only above 700 respondents) for their national polls, is a hit for these polls on the representativeness score. And I'll grant Sides that. This may not be the most representative series of polls and as a result may not be the best evidence of the true state of something (the 2012 GOP nomination) that may not be a race yet.*

Here's the kicker, though: You'd expect these trial heat numbers to track with either Obama's approval or favorability ratings. But they don't; not across the board at least. Let's look at those PPP trends (Obama v. Gingrich/Huckabee/Palin/Romney) on the national level versus the data on the president's approval and favorability:

Now, there's been a steady decline in both the approval and favorability trends since they peaked for Obama in December and January respectively. But that's not the trend we see across the Public Policy Polling surveys. Obama opened with good leads over all four prospective Republican candidates, widened those leads in May and came back a bit in June.

What's the deal with May? Why is it that those numbers go against the grain of what we might otherwise expect? It may be something as simple as sample size. The May poll was the only survey in which PPP had a national sample size approaching the 1000 (+/-) respondent mark that is standard. The others hover in the 600-700 range. Again, representativeness takes a hit in those circumstances. The interesting question from this is whether PPP's other numbers outside of May are over- or understating Obama's or the Republicans' positions relative to each other. If all the samples were 1000 respondents in size would we have witnessed a steady decay was we see in the national favorability and approval numbers for the president? That's really the question here.

So have I made the case for the 2012 polls here? No, I don't think so. There are some problems with these polls -- sample size and the fact that only one organization is doing the general election trial heats. But what this does provide is some context and that was one of Sides' underlying points in this discussion; that the interpretations of these polls be more than, "Here are the numbers" and that the folks consuming them do so with an eye to detail.

The thing about polling is that a snowball effect can build rather quickly. Once you start asking a question like "If the 2012 elections were held today who would you vote for?" all that does is trigger increased polling to find if there was any validity to the original results. And on and on it goes. Is it too early in the 2012 presidential cycle to begin asking this question? Maybe. McCain campaign (circa 2000) strategist, Mike Murphy just yesterday tweeted this: "New polling out on GOP '12 race. I say ignore it and heed the Milt Gwirtzman Rule; nothing matters till first contest." That dovetails with John Sides' statement and I partially agree with both of them.

But if the prospective candidates are seemingly acting as if they are running (There's no doubt in my mind that the not-so-behind-the-scenes campaigning and positioning that is currently going on is the opening salvo in the 2012 invisible primary.), then wouldn't it behoove us to have some data to back that up? If the candidates are active and fundraising (even if through their PACs), wouldn't make sense to have the other piece of the puzzle that is so often looked at in these candidate/nominee emergence models (Mayer, for example). And wouldn't that have at least some effect on the piece of the puzzle Cohen, et al. brought to the table in The Party Decides (endorsements)?

Perhaps. But it could also be that I just like the polls.

...even if they're too early and meaningless.

*Though, the actions of Huckabee, Palin, Pawlenty and Romney make it appear as if each is at least angling for a national run. Huckabee is making seemingly beneficial endorsements in Iowa (Chuck Grassley, Bob Vander Plaats) and Florida (Marco Rubio). Both are early states given the 2008 calendar (2012 is subject to change) and those endorsements are solid given that each would help among conservatives in primaries or caucuses closed to independents and Democrats. Palin's actions have been difficult to explain, but there seems to be some national ambition in there. Romney is building the organizational infrastructure necessary to be successful in 2012 given his fundraising and strategic disbursements to candidates and leaders within the party. And Pawlenty's decision not to seek a third term seems to have at least been somewhat politically driven. Again, there appears to be some upward ambition there.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Romney Leads 2012 GOP Race (...and in more than just the Gallup Poll)

FHQ has been in the habit of calling Mitt Romney the frontrunner for the 2012 Republican nomination despite polls conducted earlier in the year that have shown him trailing Mike Huckabee and/or Sarah Palin. That trend has also held in hypothetical general election match ups against President Obama. July, though, has been good to Mitt Romney. Perhaps it is due to poll respondents just coming around to the idea of Romney as a likable (and likable may not be the proper word) 2012 candidate or because all the commotion among other GOP prospects for 2012 (see Ensign, John and Sanford, Mark). That probably isn't an either/or proposition. Respondents likely look on Romney more favorably now simply because of what is going on among the other possibilities. Comparatively, the former Massachusetts governor looks quite good.

And though the favorable/unfavorable differential for Romney still trails both Palin and Huckabee among Republicans, the next-in-line guy for the GOP leads the pack in Gallup's look forward to the race for the Party of Lincoln's nomination. Here are the particulars:

And I'm assuming that the remaining 15% either did not have an opinion or named other candidates (who received 1% or less).

These results dovetail nicely with the similar Rasmussen results from last week. Romney leads but is clustered with Palin and Huckabee ahead of Newt Gingrich and well ahead of other prospective challengers with less name recognition (at this point). And though those top three have taken turns in the top spot, they have, as a group, consistently hovered above everyone else with only Gingrich coming close. Here's how the trend looks across the limited polling conducted thus far in 2009:

[Click to Enlarge]

But polling isn't really the full story. It never is. The Cohen, et al. (2008) book I've referenced several times in this space would have us look at fundraising totals and endorsements as well. As we're still in 2009, information on the latter is going to be hard to come by, so let's focus on the fundraising aspect, but more generally the financial activity of the top three's political action committees. With disclosure reports due to the Federal Elections Commission recently, a host of up-to-date data have been made public. Just this morning Chris Cillizza at The Fix examined not only how much Romney's Free and Strong America PAC had raised during the first five months of the year (the most recently filed report for Romney only covers January-May 2009), but also to whom the PAC was contributing. Here's Cillizza:
"Romney Fundraising Soars: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney proved he is light years in front of his 2012 rivals in the fundraising game by collecting more than $1.6 million through his Free and Strong America PAC in the first six months of 2009, and spreading donations out to a variety of candidates and causes in critical states. Romney donated the maximum $6,800 to New Jersey Republican gubernatorial nominee and made a series of $5,000 donations to Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli who are running for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in Virginia this fall. Romney also directed contributions to key 2012 states; he donated $5,000 to South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and used his affiliated state PAC to give $10,000 to the New Hampshire Republican Party and $1,000 to Jeb Bradley, a former congressman who won a New Hampshire state Senate special election earlier this year. A dozen Republican members of the House received $1,000 contributions from Free and Strong America including Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas). Romney ended June with $842,000 in the bank. The depth of Romney's fundraising coupled with the strategic smarts with which he doled the money out is evidence that he has never really stopped running for president following his primary loss to John McCain in 2008."
The formula, then, is not unlike Barack Obama's following the 2004 elections: raise money for and get involved in high profile races and strategically contribute to candidates in crucial (presidential) electoral locations. As the numbers indicate, Mitt Romney has had more of an opportunity to do this than the other two candidates he has been lumped in with in the early going of the 2012 cycle. Romney's Free and Strong America PAC has pulled in $1.6 million to Palin's SarahPAC's $733,000 to Huckabee's Huck PAC's $0 (Follow the links to the PAC's pages at OpenSecrets or the FEC.). [Note that the scales on the vertical axis in the figures below are different. Romney's bars may come in under where Huckabee's and Palin's are, but there's a more than 3:1 difference in those scales.]

[Click to Enlarge]

I actually saw Romney's financial numbers this morning before the Gallup poll and it got me thinking about the state of Huckabee's operation as well. Ed Kilgore, in tearing down what he called the Next-In-Line Myth, stated (I'm paraphrasing here) that if the measure of that status is the number of delegates won in a previous nomination cycle, then Huckabee has as much right to the next-in-line label as Romney. And that statement was in the back of my mind when I looked up Huckabee's (lack of a) haul during the first half of the year. What separates Romney from Huckabee and Palin is not polling (not at this point at least), but the money war and organization. In both regards, Romney has a pretty good head start over is competitors, making Cillizza's last statement above instructive.

The take home message here is that Romney is leading where it counts now -- fundraising -- and is angling for a solidification of the second part of the Cohen, et al. puzzle: endorsements. The former presidential candidate's ability to raise money allows him the relative luxury of contributing to the campaigns and PACs of leaders within the party and GOP candidates in close races for reelection. That sort of giving comes in handy when the invisible primary nears completion and endorsements are at a premium with Iowa and New Hampshire around the corner.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On the Polling Horizon: Louisiana 2012?

I ended today's North Carolina post bemoaning the fact that Louisiana had beaten out California and Iowa in Public Policy Polling's vote to determine the location of its next survey. But what's to bemoan. Sure we'll miss out on Iowa numbers three years in advance (Once we get to the end of 2011, there will be more Iowa polls than you can shake a stick at.), but Louisiana could be interesting as well.

...especially if...
"Louisiana: This one will be getting my personal vote. How does Charlie Melancon do against David Vitter, and in general is Vitter really vulnerable or not? Plus, is Bobby Jindal more popular in his home state than Tim Pawlenty?

Voting is open until 11 AM Wednesday, we'll do the poll in the winning state over the weekend, and start releasing numbers from it on Tuesday."
I don't think Jindal v. Pawlenty is a bad consolation, nor do I think Obama v. Jindal/Pawlenty in the Pelican state is all that bad (...if that's what we get). In other words, I'll see you all at the same time, same place as today next Tuesday or Wednesday.

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North Carolina in 2012: Obama - 49, Palin - 42

Public Policy Polling today released the second half of its survey of North Carolinians (full results here -- pdf). It isn't that yesterday's approval numbers for Governor Bev Perdue, President Obama and former-President Bush weren't interesting to look at, but FHQ would be lying if it said it wasn't more interested in the prospective 2012 general election match up between the president and Sarah Palin.

Though Obama's approval in the Tar Heel state declined to below 50%, the president has basically held steady at the 49% share of the vote he garnered in November's presidential election against John McCain. With Palin substituted as the GOP standard bearer for 2012, the Republican share of North Carolina drops from 49% (McCain's nearly identical portion of the vote in 2008) to 42%. As Tom Jensen at PPP points out, that would amount to the largest margin for Democrat since the last time a Democratic presidential nominee won the state (Jimmy Carter's 1976 win over Gerald Ford).

There are a couple of interesting points hidden in the cross-tabs:
First, Obama did better among North Carolina women (53-38) while Palin bested the president among men in the state (47-45). Despite a woman representing the GOP at the top of the ticket the gender gap still favrs the Democratic candidate. And in comparison with the 2008 exit polls, the Republican margin among males drops from 12 points to the 2 points in this poll. Meanwhile Obama maintains about the same level of support among women in the state.

Based on party identification, Democrats still overwhelmingly support Obama (79-13), while Republicans strongly favor Palin (83-9). Among independents the split is only advantageous to Obama to the tune of 45-42. These numbers seem to indicate there were more Democrats in the sample than Republicans. [They also seem to indicate that the powers of deduction are strong with FHQ. As AKReport and Jack both point out in the comments below, the party ID splits -- 47% Dem, 33% GOP, 20% Ind. -- are on par with registration in the Old North state.]

As I said earlier in the week, it is nice to have one of these polls emerge from a 2008 swing state. Texas and Minnesota are nice, but may not end up being very swingy in 2012. And even though other prospective candidates being included would have been ideal, it is at least something of a baseline to see where one of the most high-profile Republicans stands relative to the president. Now if only PPP had decided to poll Iowa instead of Louisiana next week, I'd be a happy camper.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

A 2012 Obama v. Palin Poll in North Carolina?

If you didn't catch my tweet earlier, Public Policy Polling is due to begin releasing some numbers from its most recent survey of North Carolinians tomorrow. Included are some questions regarding President Obama's favorable ratings in the state as well as Sarah Palin's. And as I alluded to in the above link, PPP has hinted at the fact that this will include a North Carolina sample on the Obama v. Palin question for 2012. Now, Minnesota and Texas weren't anything to sneeze at -- again, a poll is a poll, especially where 2012 is concerned -- but in North Carolina, you have one of the closest states from the the 2008 presidential election and a real potential barometer of the current (and distant) state of play for 2012. We may not be able to draw anything from this survey, but it will be interesting to see how the numbers shake out in a 2008 swing state.

Here's the link to PPP's blog. FHQ will have something up when and if they post the 2012 numbers. Last week's Minnesota poll came out in two parts, so it could be Wednesday before the 2012 numbers go live and the full results are made available. Stay tuned for that and a couple other little things I've put together for tomorrow.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

A 2012 Minnesota Toss Up, Too?

Eh, not so much.

I couldn't get much more than a tweet out yesterday about the Public Policy Polling [pdf] survey of Minnesota (It was my last day on the beach. What can I say?), but I don't want to let the results go by without comment.

First of all, PPP at least one-upped the Texas poll released a day earlier, by asking the hypothetical 2012 general election question with two candidates (Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin) instead of one (Mitt Romney). It would have been nice if they would have included all of the primary prospective candidates the organization has been polling on the national level. [Speaking of which, be on the lookout Sunday for an updated and long overdue version of the trial-heat graphs I started a while back to account for the changes from June.] But PPP didn't ask the hypothetical, "if the election were held today" question with Gingrich, Huckabee or Romney alongside Obama.

Oh well. I'm not going to get picky. This isn't 2011.

But PPP did provide us with some interesting information about the state of play in Minnesota:
Obama: 51%
Pawlenty: 40%
Not Sure: 8%

Obama: 56%
Palin: 35%
Not Sure: 9%
President Obama, then, is ahead of the state's outgoing (as of 2010) governor by roughly the same margin he bested John McCain by in the North Star state last November and he's leading the soon(er)-to-be outgoing Alaska governor by nearly twice as much. Now, this isn't earth-shattering news here. Minnesota has been a reliably Democratic state throughout much of the last few decades, but has tightened some in recent elections until 2008. As others have pointed out (here and here), the approval numbers for Obama, Pawlenty and Palin may be another number to focus on, but I'll stick with the election question.

What these results tell me is that 2012 is going to be a very difficult year for sitting or recently term limited/"stepping down" governors to do well in the presidential primaries. There is just too much for them to answer for, it appears. Granted, things could turn around on the economic front, but this past few years won't necessarily be kind to governors in the near future. Tim Pawlenty is exhibit one: a Republican governor in a blue state who is trailing the incumbent president in a poll of said state. And the speculation surrounding his decision not to seek a third gubernatorial term places him squarely in the 2012 sweepstakes discussion. It isn't as if John Hoeven was the prospective Republican candidate and the poll was conducted in North Dakota. Pawlenty is at least a legitimate candidate for the GOP in 2012. He may not win the nomination, but he is legitimate. To come up so far behind the president, then, is a bit of an eye-opener. Yes, this is still just one poll, but I do think it speaks to this larger point about governors in the next cycle. The task is going to be a daunting one with all the red ink at the state level these days. And for Pawlenty (and Palin, too), he won't be around to reap any rewards if things start turning around in any noticeable way between now and 2011-12. I mean, we're not talking about George W. Bush in the late 1990s here (popular governor of a populous state during an economic boom).

So let's put this idea on the shelf for the time being and revisit it when the field of candidates starts to take shape. Governors from states that are doing relatively well may have an advantage over those who either are from states that are doing worse or have since left office. Does Haley Barbour fit in the former category? Who else fits in the latter (other than Palin and Pawlenty)?


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Monday, June 22, 2009

Tale of the Tape: Health Care Polling

NOTE: FHQ doesn't typically wander into the area of policy polling, but I'm in the midst of a unit on sampling and survey research in my summer course political science research class and I'm looking for examples for illustrative purposes. At the moment, the contradictory findings from NY Times/CBS and Resurgent Republic offers the perfect example.

Depending on who you're listening to, the Obama adminstration's efforts to push meaningful (perhaps, "meaningful" as that is certainly in the eye of the beholder) health care reform through Congress is either going swimmingly or is a complete non-starter. [Actually, the sense I get from my view up in the nosebleed section -- definitely not on the sidelines -- is that the obstacles appear more daunting now than they did prior to health care officially being placed on the agenda.] You will find no better example of this than in the divide between the latest New York Times/CBS News and Resurgent Republic* polls (both pdfs) released in the last few days on the matter. Now, these aren't identical polls, but there are a few questions that offer a glimpse into the true contrast here. First, let's focus on question wording on the overlapping questions before we look at the underlying demographics of each poll's sample. For example:

On higher taxes and health care funding...

Would you be willing or not willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans have
health insurance they can't lose, no matter what?

57% Willing, 37% Not willing

Would you prefer a health care reform plan that raises taxes in order to provide health insurance to all Americans, or a plan that does not provide health insurance to all Americans but keeps taxes at current levels?

RAISE TAXES/HEALTH CARE FOR ALL.....................39%
DON'T KNOW...................................................................10%

On the federal government versus private health care... (And no, these questions do not necessarily offer an apples to apples comparison.)

Do you think the government would do a better or worse job than private insurance
companies in providing medical coverage?

50% Better, 34% Worse

Which would you prefer: (ROTATE: a system where most Americans get their health care coverage through the federal government, or a system where most Americans get their health care coverage through a private insurance company)?

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.............................................31%
PRIVATE INSURANCE....................................................60%
DON'T KNOW.....................................................................9%

Now, the first set of questions provides us with a much better direct comparison than the second set, but the nearly diametrically opposed numbers from each poll is eye-catching, to say the least. Question wording in each case, of course, may have a lot to do with this, but let's look at the partisan breakdown just for the heck of it. It wasn't all that long ago -- over this past weekend in fact -- that Nate Silver cautioned that these NYT polls typically trend Democratic in terms of sampling (He further adds that the ten point spread isn't all that extraordinary in the grand polling scheme recently.). And it also may not surprise you that a polling outfit called Resurgent Republic would have a more Republican-leaning sample. But let's have a look under the hood, shall we?

Samples (by party ID)...
GOP: 24%
DEM: 38%
IND: 31%
DK: 8%
GOP: 32%
DEM: 38%
IND: 26%
DK: 3%
The dispute isn't over the Democrats, where both polls have an equivalent proportion, but among the percentage of Republicans and Independents included. How does this stack up against the national poll average over the last six months (via Pollster)?
That NYT/CBS sample appears to be closer to the current D-R polling gap than the Resurgent Republic sample.** But does that mean health care reform is a done deal? Well, we'll have more polls over the next few weeks and months to tell us whether it is or isn't.

...not to mention some action or inaction on Capitol Hill.

*Incidentally, here is the scoop on Resurgent Republican for those interested.
**It should be pointed out that RR had 1000 cases while NYT had a sample size of 895.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Not That You're Reading Too Much into the PA Senate Polling, but...

I take issue with some of the "wide lead" talk concerning Arlen Specter's position in the Democratic primary polling relative to Joe Sestak. This isn't a new development: that I have an issue or that the media is talking up the numbers without digging terribly deeply into them. And for the record, Political Wire is technically right. It is a wide lead.

But is that what we should be focused on at this point in the race?

The margin isn't what matters. At this point, Specter's position in the polls relative to the 50% mark is what's important. And the Republican-turned-Democrat is hovering just over that point currently. The other thing to eye is the fluctuation in the level of undecideds in this race. That number is important because of a few things that are likely to keep the number higher [than they would be minus these factors]. First, this race involves a Republican-turned-Democrat. Secondly, Sestak has not "officially" entered the race. And finally, it is very early in the process.

So early in fact, that polling wasn't conducted nearly so soon in the cycle the last time an incumbent Pennsylvania senator was challenged in a primary. And for that information you have to stretch all the way back to 2004 when a political unknown, Arlen Specter, was challenged in the Republican primary by Pat Toomey. What pattern can we glean from that data?

First of all, polling on the Specter/Toomey race did not begin until the fall of 2003 before the April 2004 primary. Polling in May and June of 2009, then, precedes that point in the senate electoral cycle. The starting point is largely the same for the candidates in the polls, though. You can see the trendline here (see "Matchup Poll Graph" on the right side). But what OurCampaign provides is the polling without verification of the sources and without that undecided number. So let's look at the polling data and a better graphic of the trends from the fall of 2003 through primary day in Pennsylvania in late April of 2004.

The thing is that Specter jumped above the 50% mark in a few polls but for the most part was stuck just under 50% throughout. All the movement, not to mention momentum, was with Toomey across the five months of polling in the campaign. The more undecideds decided, the more Toomey gained on Specter among likely (Republican) voters in the closed Pennsylvania primary.

[Click to Enlarge]

If we contrast that with the average Pollster has for the six polls conducted in the last month and a half on this hypothetical Democratic primary race, we see that Sestak has already cut further into Specter's advantage without having even formally announced his intention to run. The 17 point advantage Specter now holds is more than half of what it was in the week after his switch to the Democratic party and all the Sestak talk began (The average of the three polls conducted during the first week in May had Specter up by 41 points.). The kicker is that that is with less than ten points having been cut off the undecideds value (The average undecided mark in those same three polls mentioned above was 21 points with the latest Rasmussen poll showing 13% undecided). In other words, Sestak is taking away from Specter more than he's picking up undecideds.

And it's still early (for polling in this race and for the levelling of wide lead charges).

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Is a Week Old New? 2012 GOP Primary Poll

FHQ is late on this -- about a week late -- but we find it necessary to keep a log of 2012 polls even if it means a delay.

CNN released a second poll on the 2012 GOP primary race; an update from February.

Pollster: CNN/Opinion Research
Date: 5/14-17/2009
Sample: 1010 adults (nationwide phone survey)
Margin of error: +/-4.5 points
Huckabee -- 22%
Palin -- 21%
Romney -- 21%
Gingrich -- 13%
Other -- 10%
Jeb Bush -- 6%

Not included: Bobby Jindal (in February -- 9%)

This isn't exciting because there aren't many polls, but like the trial heats PPP is doing with Obama, I feel compelled to create a visual for this:
Palin and Huckabee slip some from February, but both are still very much clustered together with Mitt Romney atop the pack still. Much of that could be attributable to Gingrich's inclusion in the second poll. The former Speaker pulled in 13% while Palin and Huckabee lost 12% combined. That conclusion, though, is a leap of faith to some degree. What's interesting is that 10% of Republicans are still planning on supporting "somone else," a result that didn't change with Jindal being dropped and Bush and Gingrich being added. I wonder if that is Ron Paul? Some of it likely is.

But all of this is silly. The 2012 campaign hasn't started yet.

...or has it.

Hat tip: GOP12, which wasn't late with poll commentary on this one.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Like a Kid in a Candy Store: A 2012 GOP Presidential Preference Poll

From CNN/Opinion Research Corporation:

Palin: 29%
Huckabee: 26%
Romney: 21%
Jindal: 9%

Sample: 429 Republicans (nationally)
MoE: 4.5%
Conducted Wednesday and Thursday of last week (2/18-19)

A couple of thoughts:
1) Palin, Huckabee and Romney are basically tied and Jindal is simply suffering from a lack of name recognition nationally at this point. The poll was done prior to his appearance on Meet the Press last weekend and before his response to Obama's speech to Congress this week. Poor performance or not, I suspect the Louisiana governor would have made it into the low to mid-double digits if the poll had been conducted this week.

2) If these are the candidates, I have to say that this bodes well for Mitt Romney. With Iowa and South Carolina having such conservative Republicans, there's the potential that Huckabee and Palin split the conservative vote (Huckabee's 2008 organization vs. Palin's appeal) and open the door for Romney. The former Massachusetts governor finished second to John McCain in New Hampshire and won the Nevada caucuses in 2008. Granted this is all predicated on both the idea that the calendar remains pretty much the same as it was in 2008 and that Jindal never gets off the ground in his efforts. Neither of those are sure things this far out.

Plus, as Pollster points out: at a similar point four years ago Hillary Clinton led John Kerry 40% - 25% with John Edwards at 18%. Barack Obama? He wasn't included. And we see how that worked out.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Who You Callin' Underpolled?

Just last month FHQ took a look at the relationship between the competitiveness of a state -- as measured by our weighted average -- and the frequency of polling in that state. The expectation is that the more hotly contested a race is in a particular state, the more apt we are to see a higher number of polls. The regression of this relationship (with the state's number of electoral votes thrown in as a control) explains just under 60% of the variation that we see in the number of polls from state to state. More than that, though, it allows us to predict where a state should be in terms of the number of polls given both its competitiveness and number of electoral votes.

[Click Graph to Enlarge]

In other words, that provides an indication of whether a state has been overpolled -- a concept I don't personally believe in -- and states that are underpolled. Ah, now there is something that is of interest. But there has been an awful lot of polling conducted between last month prior to the conventions and now, at the outset of debate season. The same cast of characters is still there though. Among the toss up states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania are getting polled more than any other state. And that has a lot to do with the head start each had. The advantage each had last month is still there and even augmented now. However, close states like Nevada and Indiana continue to be underpolled in light of how tight they are. New Hampshire, New Mexico and Missouri are also just under where we would expect them to be given their levels of competitiveness.

There's been a lot of talk about why it is that Nevada is underpolled. It has been said that the Silver state is notoriously hard to poll. But why? Well, fortunately FHQ has someone on the inside to help us all understand the polling situation in Nevada. The other day I spoke with David Damore from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Dave has stopped by here on occasion to comment on topics relating to Nevada, especially during primary season. So I put the question to him and here is what he had to say on the matter:
"There are a couple of things going on here. First, there is not an entity akin to say the California Field Poll in the state that consistently polls. Thus, what we get is a hodgepodge of polls done by the two biggest papers in the state (Las Vegas Review Journal and the Reno Gazette Journal) and whatever national firms take an interest (which tends to be pretty sporadic). I do not know much about the RGJ polling process, but from what I can glean from the RJ methods is that they are not good. They typically use small samples, which yield large margins of errors and they over sample rural Nevada intentionally because the rurals tend to have higher voter turnout, but of course vote 4 to 1 in favor of the GOP, so their polls always have about a four or five percent pro-GOP bias. For instance, a couple of days before the 2004 election the RJ had a poll with Bush up around five points. At the time I was on a radio program with the Kerry guy in NV and their polls had the state dead even.

"The second big issue is finding the voters. In particular, Las Vegas is a very transient place and pretty much anyone under 30 is cell phone only. This latter group is not included in any of the sampling frames and given that they lean overwhelmingly Democratic, they are missed. This is my guess as to why the latest NV polls are favoring McCain; a dynamic that is at odds with what is happening on the ground here."
Now, what is Indiana's excuse?

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Deal with Those Rasmussen "Leaners" [Update]

Yeah, what is the deal with that switch? On its simplest level, the chart below looks at the difference in the Rasmussen poll margins based on whether leaners were included in the data. That distinction seems to have been instituted following July 4. The polls that started coming out on July 9 began to use the language "with leaners" to describe the alternate numbers to what was in the headline. "With leaners" data gives McCain about a one point bump when we look at how the margin between McCain and Obama is affected based on whether leaners are included. It has been rare that Obama has gained once "leaners" are included with those who directly answer the candidate preference question. Interestingly, the two polls today gave the Illnois senator a boost once leaners are included.

Rasmussen Polls Since w/Leaners Distinction was Added (7/9/08)*
Statew/o Leaners
Undecideds Drop
Minnesota (7/10)
Minnesota (7/22)
New Jersey
North Carolina
North Dakota
South Dakota
Avg. Change+1.08-5.4
*The "with leaners" distinction was added to reports that were released beginning on 7/9/08. The date on which these polls were conducted (The ones that these releases were based on) stretches back to 7/7/08.
**Rasmussen has only conducted one poll in these states. Therefore, the difference was taken from between the with and without leaner numbers within the same poll in these cases.

The problem here is not one of the changes in the margins though. It is one of comparison. You can't directly compare the new "leaner" data to past Rasmussen polls that did not include the respondents that meet that description. Obviously if leaners are pushed in any one direction, the number of undecideds decreases. So, if we look at the data concerning undecideds plus those supporting other candidates (not McCain or Obama) in the most recent polls and in the one immediately prior to the inclusion of leaners, we get a better sense of how much the undecided total has dropped. We can look at this within each poll; looking at the with and without leaners numbers, but what we are trying to capture is the problem of comparing the new, with leaners polls with the old, without leaner polls. And what we see is that on average, the percentage of undecideds drops by more than five points per poll when leaners are included in the topline numbers. Now, we expect to see the number of undecideds drop this time of year...naturally. But we don't expect that decrease to be manufactured. And the catch is that everyone (FHQ included) has been using Rasmussen's "with leaners" numbers since the switch. The result is that comparisons and subsequent analyses--whether used for electoral college projections or not--are open to a potential bias.

In our case, here at FHQ, I took the liberty of changing data to reflect the "without leaners" view across all the Rasmussen data. I altered the margins of these 24 polls then, to pull them in line with the pre-switch polling methodology. The effect that had on our state-by-state averages was negligible. The only change was that Ohio slipped back into Obama's column (Due to the new Rasmussen poll in the Buckeye state, Ohio has moved from an Obama toss up to a McCain toss up.). Again though, that isn't the real issue. One poll among many in the average is not all that consequential. However, when we continue to compile "with leaner" polls, they collectively have the potential to skew our examination of the electoral college. And that just so happens to be contrary to what we want to accomplish with this endeavor. So let's just lop off the Rasmussen data and be done with it. Well, that deprives us of a valuable source of data. Since Rasmussen made the switch (post-July 4) there have been 43 new polls. 24 of those polls have been from Rasmussen. That's approaching 60% of the data. I don't then, want to throw Rasmussen out. What we can do is continue what we've begun here: to chart how much of a difference the "with leaners" data has on our electoral college projections. And as we do with the monthly examinations of how the averages have changed from state to state, we can observe these differences periodically as well. After a month or so, we will then be able to see if there is any significant bias attendant to including the leaner data and how large that impact is.

A belated thanks to reader, SarahLawrenceScott, for getting the ball rolling on this examination.

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