Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Council of State Numbers

Nothing too surprising here:

Lieutenant Governor:

Walter Dalton 40
Robert Pittenger 36
Phillip Rhodes 6

We may poll this one again in a couple weeks since Pittenger's on tv to see if that's having any impact.

Attorney General:

Roy Cooper 54
Bob Crumley 32

Crumley's even polling at just 65% with Republicans.


June Atkinson 45
Richard Morgan 38

Atkinson has shown a pretty steady mid single digit lead in all of our polling.

Next week we'll have numbers for Auditor, Secretary of State, and Agriculture Commissioner.

Full results here

We've been here before

With five weeks left to go until the general election, Bev Perdue is at her worst standing in the polls yet. Over PPP's last five surveys her lead has gone from nine points to five to one to one again and now to a three point deficit.

During the primary campaign our poll five weeks out from the election represented rock bottom for Perdue. She went from leading by 27 points at the start of March down to ten then seven and finally a single point at the end of the month.

The next five polls after that showed her up eight, then ten, then nine, then 14, and finally 18 before she finally won by 16.

March and September have been marked by similar problems of message discipline for the Perdue campaign: attacks ads that go all over the place without really establishing a coherent theme that hits home with voters, a lack of visibility from Perdue herself in her ads, etc.

She got her act together in April and ended up winning a comfortable victory. I don't think she can roll out the positive pledge again so it remains to be seen what she can do to fundamentally change the direction of the race from its current course. But I wouldn't underestimate her.

If she is able to replicate her final month success after a disastrous second to last month for the second time this year, one might just have to conclude that Perdue and her campaign team like living dangerously.

McCrory takes lead

Pat McCrory 44
Bev Perdue 41
Michael Munger 5

For the first time in a PPP gubernatorial poll Pat McCrory has taken the lead.

Here are some of the reasons why:

-He's getting a decent amount of crossover support, holding Perdue to a 69-19 lead among Democrats.

-He's holding his own party's voters at a very high rate, 84-7, allowing almost no bleeding across party lines.

-He has a 38-32 advantage with independents.

-Perdue only has a three point lead with women.

-McCrory's running 14 points ahead of John McCain and 20 points ahead of Elizabeth Dole with urban voters.

Many Democrats are frustrated that Bev Perdue is not giving them any reason to vote for her rather than against McCrory. Her campaign has not had much of a focus on economic issues so far even though almost two thirds of voters in the state list it as their top concern. Those are a few of the things she'll have to get righted in the next five weeks to get the race headed back in her direction- she's done it before.

Full results here.

Obama takes a small lead in Florida

Barack Obama 49
John McCain 46

Concern over the economy has allowed Barack Obama to take a small lead in Florida.

64% of Floridians surveyed say the economy is their top issue, and Obama has a 55-40 lead with those voters. In a January PPP poll just 26% of voters in the state said they were most concerned with the economy.

The events of the last few weeks seem in particular to have helped move independents into the Obama camp. Three weeks ago the candidates were tied, now Obama has a 48-40 advantage with those voters.

Perhaps the most important development for Obama's prospects in the state is significantly improved standing with white voters. Where John McCain had a 27 point advantage with them right after his party's convention, that is now down to 11 points.

Another factor that could be hurting John McCain is the rapidly declining popularity of Sarah Palin:


Palin Favorability





Sarah Palin's net favorability with Florida voters has dropped 12 points over the last three weeks.

Initially 41% of independents said her selection made them more likely to vote for John McCain with 38% saying it made them less likely to do so. Now just 32% say she makes them more favorable to McCain with 46% saying they are less likely to vote for him.

Full results here

Monday, September 29, 2008

Your Florida Clue

This post could also be titled 'Palin is tanking everywhere.'


Palin Favorability

Horse Race



McCain +5




What's your guess? This will be out tomorrow afternoon.

Hagan expanding lead

Kay Hagan 46
Elizabeth Dole 38
Christopher Cole 6

Kay Hagan now has her largest lead yet in North Carolina's Senate race. She led by 5 points a week ago and a single point three weeks ago.

Particularly troubling for Dole is how well Hagan is connecting with white voters. She trails Dole just 47-38 with that group. Usually for a Republican to win statewide here they need at least a 20 point advantage with whites to offset overwhelming African American support for Democratic candidates.

Hagan has expanded her lead with independents from 9 points to 14. She leads in almost every region of the state, and perhaps most significantly is up 55-32 with the increasing group of voters listing the economy as their top issues.

Full results here

The Declining Popularity of Sarah Palin


Palin Favorability





The Sarah Palin pick has not worn well with North Carolina voters, as her net favorability has gone from +8 to -3 in the course of three weeks, for a negative shift of 11 points.

She is particularly unpopular with independents in North Carolina. 46% of them now say her selection makes them less likely to vote for John McCain compared to just 36% who say her spot on the ticket makes them more inclined to support him. Even among Republicans enthusiasm for her has dropped from 75% to 67%.

The economic troubles are the main thing driving Barack Obama's movement in North Carolina, but Sarah Palin is not doing John McCain any favors here.

Last week PPP found a similar 12 point drop in Palin's favorability in Colorado.

Obama takes the lead in North Carolina

Barack Obama 47
John McCain 45
Bob Barr 3

With concern about the economy continuing to mount, Barack Obama has taken the lead for the first time in a PPP poll of North Carolina.

Over the last year there's been a strong relationship between the number of North Carolinians listing the economy as their biggest concern, and Obama's standing in the polls. In January when just 39% of voters said it was their biggest issue John McCain led by 14 points. In August with it up to 48% Obama trailed by just three. Last week with 58% listing it number one the race was tied, and now with the number up to a record 64% Obama has taken a small lead. He is up 55-38 among respondents citing the economy as their main concern.

While the economy has become increasingly important, issues that don't bode well for Democrats in North Carolina have gone to the back burner. In January 13% of voters listed moral and family values as their top issue while 9% said immigration was. Those figures have now dropped to 9% and 2% respectively. Given that McCain leads 86-9 on moral and family values and 94-0 on immigration it seems safe to say that what is no longer as important to North Carolina voters is just as important to Obama's success as what is important to North Carolina voters.

Independents are moving toward Obama in droves. Where last week he had a 42-39 advantage with them, now he is up 48-37. He also now receives 36% of the white vote, up from 33%. He will likely need 35-38% in that demographic to win the state, depending on how high turnout from black voters is.

Full results here.

North Carolina Poll

We'll have it out later this afternoon, but until then here's an update to last weekend's teaser table:


% listing economy as top issue




McCain +14



McCain +7



McCain +3







Saturday, September 27, 2008

McHenry is wrong

Apparently today Congressman Patrick McHenry claimed that Barack Obama is only making in roads in the Democratic parts of North Carolina.

PPP has done full scale polls in three Congressional districts that George W. Bush won by double digits in 2004:

Congressional District

2004 Result

PPP 2008 Result

Net Change


Bush +33

McCain +19

D +14


Bush +9




Bush +34

McCain +21


As you can see Obama is doing an average of 12 points better than John Kerry in these deep red districts, and it's not particularly surprising. There are not enough voters in the state's major urban centers to explain Obama tied or even leading in the polls in North Carolina given how much George W. Bush won the state by. He has to be making gains in every part of the state to explain his surprising success.

Some of those districts have been hit particularly hard by economic struggles over the last four years, and we've found that's causing some former Bush supporters to turn over to Obama.


We went in the field in Florida this morning, and so far 68% of respondents have listed the economy as their top issue.

I'll leave it to your imagination who's winning by more than a few points.

Standard caveat: it's the first round of calls and it could change over the field period. Look for the results Tuesday.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Colorado's Swing Voters

Our Colorado survey this week found 5% of voters undecided, and another 9% who do have a current preference amenable to changing their minds. That means about 13-14% of the electorate is still persuadable.

Who are these swing voters?

-A significant plurality- 45%- are independents. That may seem like a no brainer but in a lot of other states there are a good number of them who are Democrats not convinced about Barack Obama. That doesn't seem to be as much of a problem for him in Colorado- his party is pretty strongly lined up behind him.

-55% of them list the economy as their biggest issue, compared to 51% in the overall electorate. This is becoming a trend in PPP's state polls across the country. There seems to be a small segment of the electorate that is going to wait to definitively pick a candidate until they decide that one is clearly better equipped than the other to bring the sort of leadership that can help out people's pocketbooks. Whoever can do is that is likely to win not just in Colorado but nationwide.

-They are very disproportionately male and under 30. 58% are men compared to 48% in the total sample, and 23% are young compared to 15% overall. In particular there are a lot of young Hispanic voters who could go either way. We found a similar trend in the New Mexico poll we released earlier this week.

Good news for Obama:

-The voters who are still up in the air for President support Mark Udall 46-24. So they're quite open to voting Democratic.

-They're ok with Joe Biden, not with Sarah Palin. Biden's favorability with these folks is 36/32, Palin's is 29/50.

The Bottom Line:

Every poll that's come out recently has shown Obama with a decent lead in Colorado, and there's not much in analyzing the swing voters to indicate it's a particularly favorable group to John McCain.

Wake County: Statewide Races

A look at how the Democratic candidates for the major statewide offices are doing in Wake County compared to their counterparts in 2004 tells the same story a lot of our recent data has- good news for Barack Obama and Kay Hagan, bad news for Bev Perdue:


2004 Results

Poll Results


Bush +2

Obama +17


Bowles +4

Hagan +19


Easley +19

Perdue +9

To put into perspective how important Wake County is toward Obama's surprisingly strong standing in the state, consider this:

-There are, still five and a half weeks out from the election, about 75,000 more registered voters than there were in Wake County for the 2004 election.

-Even if no one else registered to vote in the county, and turnout as a percentage was not higher this year than in 2004 there would be 410,000 voters this time compared to about 360,000 last time.

-That means if the election was today Obama would take the county by roughly 70,000 votes. Given that Kerry lost it by around 7,000 that's a 77,000 vote gain for Obama in Wake County alone. That's 18% of the 435,000 vote margin George W. Bush took the state by last time right there.

One other note:

We talked last week about the new age of ticket splitters- those voting Democratic for President and Republican for Governor rather than the traditional Republican for President and Democratic for Governor combo. Wake County exemplifies this new trend. There are almost twice as voters planning vote an Obama/McCrory ticket here as there are a McCain/Perdue one.

Full results here.

Wake County Poll: Commissioners

Stan Norwalk 46
Kenn Gardner 36

Betty Lou Ward 50
Larry Tilley 35

Harold Webb 46
Venita Peyton 36

Wake County is trending strongly Democratic this year, and it looks like incumbent Republican Kenn Gardner is likely to lose his seat, tilting the balance of power among the County Commissioners.

Gardner trails by ten points in his reelection bid despite voters being largely unfamiliar with his recent issues concerning advocating for public money to go toward a swimming poll that he received design fees from. Just 38% of voters reported being aware of that controversy, and it's a good thing for Gardner because among those folks Norwalk is leading by an even wider 53-29 margin.

When presented with some basic facts about the swimming pool problem, 54% of voters said it made them less likely to vote for Gardner this fall.

The changing political landscape of Wake County probably would have made reelection a difficult proposition for Gardner anyway, but as voters become more aware of his recent issues his prospects for reelection will likely fade even more.

Incumbent Democrats Ward and Webb look safe for reelection.

Full results here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Suburban Independents in North Carolina

The fastest growing class of voters in North Carolina is probably suburban independents, and their voting preferences provide a pretty good clue as to why Barack Obama and Kay Hagan are doing so well in the state- and why Bev Perdue is under performing.

This overwhelmingly middle aged swath of the electorate, focused mostly in the Triangle, Triad, and greater Charlotte supports Barack Obama 54-30 over John McCain. It supports Kay Hagan 49-19 over Elizabeth Dole. But it also supports Pat McCrory 39-37 over Bev Perdue.

Even as 58% of voters overall list the economy as their top issue, among these voters that figure increases to 68%. Why is Perdue faring so poorly? Perhaps because she's not talking enough about what she will do for the economy. Her attacks focus on stem cell research and vouchers, while her positive ad focuses on past accomplishments. The voters, and this group in particular, are dying to hear what candidates for office would do to turn things around. Her ability to provide a clear answer to that question may determine whether Perdue is successful this fall or not.

For what it's worth these voters also support Janet Cowell by a 35 point margin, Mary Fant Donnan by an 18 point margin, and Wayne Goodwin by 15 points.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Provincialism and the Governor's Race

I've never thought there was a Charlotte curse. But for Pat McCrory being from Charlotte may even be a blessing.

The reason? An analysis of how Bev Perdue, Kay Hagan, and McCrory are doing in their home regions relative to their party's counterpart in the other major statewide race shows that Charlotte voters are the most provincial in the state:




NE North Carolina

Hagan +5

Perdue +18


Dole +1

Perdue +2



McCrory +18

McCrory is running 18 points ahead of Elizabeth Dole on his home base (I guess you could argue it's her region too but I don't think she's really strongly associated with it the way the other three candidates are with theirs.) By comparison Bev Perdue is only running 13 points ahead of Hagan in her regional area of strength, and at least in this poll Hagan is actually running three points behind Perdue in the Triad even as she runs four points ahead of her statewide.

Charlotte area voters, more than those in any other part of the state, are putting Charlotte first, party second. Our poll this week found Perdue leading by 20 points less with Democrats in the region than either Barack Obama or Kay Hagan is. Also, among Charlotte area independents, Barack Obama leads by one, Kay Hagan leads by five, and Pat McCrory leads by 39.

It seems that folks in Charlotte, more than elsewhere in the state, want to vote for a candidate who is one of their own. That should more than make up for animosity McCrory gets for being Mayor of Charlotte from voters in lesser populated areas of the state.

New Mexico's Swing Voters

The New Mexico poll PPP released on Monday found 5% of the population undecided, with 7% of those who did have a preference open to changing their minds between now and the election. That means about 11-12% of the electorate in the state is up for grabs six weeks out from the voting.

Who are these voters?

-They have a decided Democratic tilt to them. 49% identify as Democrats compared to just 19% Republicans, with 32% independents. They support Tom Udall by a 61-17 margin over Steve Pearce.

-They're also on average more rural than the overall electorate of the state. While 64% of voters in total describe themselves as living in a rural area, 71% of the swing voters do.

-Although 54% of voters in general are women, 54% of these voters who could go either way are men.

-Somewhat surprisingly they're younger than the population at large, with 23% under 30.

-They don't like Joe Biden or Sarah Palin, with each having a negative net approval around 10%.

What does it all mean?

Like he does in many states Barack Obama still has some work to do winning over rural Democrats. The good news for him is that in New Mexico there aren't that many going right over to John McCain's side. They're almost all still open to voting for him and he just needs to convince them to.

New Mexico is a rare state, like Virginia, where the voters seem to be even more enamored with the Democratic Senate candidate than they are with the Presidential nominee. Usually down ballot candidates die to have a national candidate appear with them, but in this case any time Obama or Biden or one of their major surrogates comes to the state they may want to make sure they're seen with Udall.

Obama has a big lead in the state already, and the profile of the swing voters is such that it seems likely to expand if anything, as long as the current political climate continues through November.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama, McCain, and Financial Stress

A new PPP national poll finds a 34 point separation in which Presidential candidate voters think can best help the economy depending on whether they are experiencing financial stress in their lives.

51% of those surveyed said they are having stress over financial concerns while 49% said they are not. Among those who are 57% think Barack Obama can better handle the economy while 37% think the same of John McCain. Among those who are not 54% think McCain would do a better job compared to 40% for Obama.

This data provides a pretty clear indicator of how important the economy has become to determining the next President, and why the bad financial news over the last week has coincided with gains in polling for Barack Obama.

Full results here

Colorado Senate

Mark Udall 48
Bob Schaffer 40

Mark Udall has increased his lead for Colorado's open Senate seat by two points since PPP's previous poll of the race last month.

Udall is winning independent voters 52-25, leads across every race and age demographic, and has a 57-30 advantage with the 51% of the state's voters who list the economy as their top issue.

Certainly this race is not over but Udall's stable, outside the margin of error, lead across PPP's surveys over the last three months bodes well for his chances in November.

Full results here

Colorado Poll

Barack Obama 51
John McCain 44

Sarah Palin's popularity with Colorado voters over the last couple weeks has plummeted, and as it has Barack Obama has opened up his biggest lead yet in a PPP survey of the state.

Immediately after the Republican convention 41% of Coloradoans said John McCain's choice of Palin to join him on the ticket made them more likely to vote for him while 38% said it made them less likely to do so. Now the number of people saying Palin's selection makes them less likely to vote for McCain has climbed to 47% with the number of people viewing it favorably dropping to 38%.

The movement over the last couple weeks has been particularly acute with independent voters. 56% of them say that the Palin choice makes them less likely to support McCain and what was a 49-38 lead for Obama with that group is now a 58-31 advantage.

Obama's margin with Hispanics is pretty steady since the previous poll, but he has improved from a six point deficit to a one point lead with white voters.

Full results here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Colorado Clue

Our new Colorado poll will be out tomorrow morning. Here's your clue:




Palin Favorability




Obama +1


New Mexico Senate

Tom Udall 57
Steve Pearce 37

Tom Udall is pretty much dominating Steve Pearce across the board. He has a 30 point lead with independents, a 30 point lead with women, a 28 point lead with Hispanics, etc. He has a lead, usually double digits, with every single demographic group sampled.

Some recent polls had shown the contest tightening up but that no longer seems to be the case. Barring some major development in the race Udall can start picking out his office in the Senate.

Full results here.

New Mexico President

Barack Obama 53
John McCain 42

Republican hopes of holding onto this state George W. Bush took in 2004 are dwindling as Barack Obama has opened up a double digit lead.

Since New Mexico has a heavy Hispanic population, all Barack Obama needs to do with white voters in the state is keep it somewhat competitive. Right now John McCain has only a 49-47 lead with them, and combined with Obama's 59-35 lead with Hispanics that adds up a strong overall advantage for the Democrats.

Sarah Palin is not playing well with New Mexico voters. 46% say her selection made them less likely to vote for John McCain, compared to 38% who say it made them more likely to do so. Among independents her disapproval rating is 47%, and Obama has a 51-35 advantage with that group.

Obama has a 20 point lead with women while leading men by a single point. He leads across all four age groups, including a 61-30 advantage with voters under 30.

Full results here.

Council of State: Gains for Democrats


Janet Cowell 45
Bill Daughtridge 39

Insurance Commissioner:

Wayne Goodwin 41
John Odom 34
Mark McMains 9

Labor Commissioner:

Mary Fant Donnan 43
Cherie Berry 43

These races are starting to look more the way you would expect in a state with a major Democratic registration edge and in a political climate that appears favorable to Democrats. Incumbent Democrats and those in open seats, like Cowell and Goodwin, should win comfortably. And in races with Republican incumbents- like Labor- the contests should pretty much be toss ups given the overall circumstances of the 2008 election.

Just to review we are going to be polling the down ballot races in clusters of three. Next week will be Lieutenant Governor, Agriculture Commissioner, and Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Full results here.

NC Governor: Pretty Much the Same

Bev Perdue 44
Pat McCrory 43
Michael Munger 6

For the second week in a row Bev Perdue is holding onto a small lead for Governor. She remains in place even as Kay Hagan and Barack Obama each gain four points compared to our previous survey.

Some of the problems she's having:

-Connecting with urban voters. While Obama has a 19 point lead and Hagan has a 15 point lead with those folks, Perdue's lead is just nine even though its party breakdown is 62% Democrats and 27% Republicans. A lot of that has to do with McCrory's standing in Charlotte but it's nevertheless somewhere she probably needs to improve.

-Democratic Men. Perdue is losing 21% of the votes of men within her party to McCrory. This is not being balanced by support for her from Republican women. Just 11% of them are planning to vote for her.

A problem he's having:

-Connecting with rural voters. McCrory has an 18 point lead with rural voters, but that's not near as good as the 32 and 23 point leads John McCain and Elizabeth Dole have with them respectively. There may not be a Charlotte curse but it's clear the urban Mayor is not doing as well with these folks as the other major candidates of his party.

Perdue's probably still the favorite in this race but she isn't getting much momentum.

Full results here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

NC Senate: Hagan up 5

Kay Hagan 46
Elizabeth Dole 41
Christopher Cole 6

Kay Hagan continues to fare surprisingly well against incumbent Elizabeth Dole, with a five point lead in this week's poll.

Hagan, like Barack Obama, is benefiting from increased voter worry over the economy. 58% of North Carolina voters list it as their biggest issue, and Hagan has a 57-30 advantage with those voters.

She's also doing well with North Carolina's fastest growing group of voters: suburbanites. They now represent a plurality of the state's voters, and Hagan is the most popular with them of any of the candidates for President, Governor, and Senate. She leads 53-36 with that emerging power broker.

Hagan is winning 40-31 among independents, and has also begin to shore up her support with black voters in the state. Elizabeth Dole did surprisingly well in 2002 with those folks, but Hagan's lead is now up to 79-11 with them, a major improvement since the early summer.

Full results here.

Economy drives NC race into tie

Barack Obama 46
John McCain 46
Bob Barr 5

With voter concern over the economy in North Carolina at an all time high, Barack Obama has pulled into a tie with John McCain in the state for the first time in a PPP survey.

Republican Presidential candidates tend to win in North Carolina even though the Democrats have a large registration advantage because conservative Democrats and independents so often choose the GOP candidate. Their choices are often driven by social issues and immigration. The more those voters make their decisions based on the economy the more likely Democrats are to succeed.

Barack Obama's standing relative to John McCain in North Carolina has improved over the year as more voters name the economy as their top issue when deciding who to vote for:


% listing economy as top issue




McCain +14



McCain +7



McCain +3




Obama has a 58-34 advantage with those voters who say the economy is their biggest concern. He has reclaimed a small lead with North Carolina independents and increased his share with Democratic voters since a PPP survey conducted a week and a half ago in the state.

The Obama campaign has invested heavily here, banking that increased turnout from black and young voters could make the state competitive. These numbers are confirmation that in the current political climate their efforts in North Carolina could pay off.

Full results here

New North Carolina Poll

We're going to release our newest North Carolina poll tonight. I'll give you a clue:


% listing economy as top issue




McCain +14



McCain +7



McCain +3




I disagree

A somewhat convoluted editorial in today's Daily Press, which covers the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia, argues that the emergence of cell phone only households has made polling so undependable that we should all just go out of business.

Their idealistic (naive would be a better way of describing it) solution is that then the only way politicians would have to find out what their constituents really think about things is to:
"Hold lots of "town hall" sessions in which candidates don't just deliver a stump speech — they listen. And not just to landline subscribers."
That's a pretty good way to ensure that the only opinions elected officials would ever hear would come from the squeakiest wheels of society, probably representing about 1% of the population, and more often than not representing extreme views on both sides of the spectrum. There aren't a lot of moderates who would rather go mouth off at a town hall meeting than spend time with their family or watch tv at night.

Certainly polling is not perfect and we face challenges as the way Americans communicate change, but it's a much more representative way of gaging public opinion than listening only to the voices of those who show up.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Virginia: Suburbs will decide

The race for the White House in Virginia will be decided in the suburbs.

In our most recent poll almost half of respondents described the community where they live as suburban, with 20% saying it was rural, 17% saying it was urban, and 15% saying it was a small town.

Two of those groups of voters have pretty clear preferences. Urban voters prefer Barack Obama 56-40 and rural voters go for John McCain 55-39.

It's closer in the small towns where McCain has a 48-44 edge and in the suburbs where Obama is up 51-45.

But with so much more of the state's population in suburban areas and the race so closely contested there it seems pretty clear that as go the suburbs so will Virginia.

These voters are about as politically divided as they could possibly be. 38% identify as Democrats, 37% as Republicans, and 25% consider themselves to be independents.

John McCain's Vice Presidential choice may hurt his cause with these voters. 43% say Sarah Palin makes them less likely to vote for McCain with only 38% saying she makes them more likely to vote for him.

These folks love Mark Warner, supporting him by a 60-32 margin, even better than his statewide lead.

With it looking increasingly possible that Virginia could determine the next President, there suburbanites may be the most important voting bloc in the country this year.

Persuadables in Ohio

Our Ohio poll this week found 7% of voters undecided and 9% of those who do have a current preference open to changing their minds between now and the election. That means Barack Obama and John McCain will be fighting over a group of voters that comprises about 15% of the electorate over the final six and a half weeks of the campaign.

Who are these persuadable voters?

-They have a more Democratic lean than voters who have their minds made up. 15% more are Democrats than Republicans, compared to a 6% Democratic party identification advantage in the population at large. This is a function of two things. First, Republicans in the state are pretty universally lined up around and committed to John McCain. Second, there is a segment of Democrats in Ohio that is still pretty unsure about Obama- not to the extent that they're crossing right over to the Republicans, but they still need to be convinced by the Democratic nominee that he's worthy of their support.

-Perhaps on a related note, these voters disproportionately live in small towns and few live in urban areas. For the state as a whole 18% of voters described their location as urban while 20% said it was a small town. Among those folks whose support is up for grabs just 12% are urban and 25% are in small towns. Barack Obama and his surrogates may need to work in more visits to places like Portsmouth and Lima over the rest of the campaign along with trips to shore up the base and increase turnout in urban areas of strength.

-Finally, these voters are older than the population at large. Issues like Social Security and Medicare may be particularly important to emphasize with these folks in this time of economic uncertainty.

Whichever candidate can win over this small remaining segment of the population that doesn't have it minds firmly made up may have the inside track to victory in Ohio.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Ballot

Lord knows nothing drives me much crazier than shoddy media coverage of polling.

That's why I appreciate the effort Peter St. Onge of the Charlotte Observer is making with the paper's election blog, The Ballot, to help make readers more informed about the ins and outs of polling in this election cycle.

We're collaborating on a regular q&a about current polling issues to help people move beyond the toplines and get a better understanding of the survey landscape. Today we talked about whether a poll's sponsor biases the numbers, and earlier this week we talked about some shifts in Ohio.

Check it out and I'll also link to pertinent discussions here.

Coming up...

Our polls for next week will be North Carolina, New Mexico, and Colorado. There will be a North Carolina one every week from here on out, and we will be alternating on a three week cycle Michigan/Florida, Ohio/Virginia, and Colorado/random other battleground state that we feel like polling.

We chose New Mexico this time around because there has been wide variation in the polls there and based on our first night in the field I would say the CNN poll of a few weeks ago seems to ring true the most- but that was just the first day of a three day poll.

Palin's effect in Virginia

There are some very interesting similarities between the PPP and SurveyUSA polls of Virginia this week:

1) Both show Barack Obama doing better with Democrats than John McCain is with Republicans. We have Obama up 91-7 in his party and McCain winning his 85-12. They have Obama up 87-12 with Democrats and McCain with an 80-17 advantage among Republicans. As far as I can remember we have not found a higher degree of party unity for Democrats than Republicans in any other state.

2) Neither company found that same trend in its final pre-Palin poll. We had McCain winning 89-7 with Republicans and Obama up 84-12 with Democrats while their figures were 89-7 also for McCain and 86-10 for Obama.

So if our companies are right, Republicans in Virginia are less behind McCain now and Democrats in the state are now more behind Obama.

What's driving that?

-66% of the Republicans supporting Barack Obama said John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate made them less likely to vote for him. That may be helping to move a few more GOP voters toward the Obama camp.

-In most of the battleground states we've polled since the conventions, Republican voters like Palin more than Democratic voters dislike her. But in Virginia it's almost equal- 73% of Republicans say having Palin on the ticket makes them more likely to vote for McCain while 71% of Democrats say it makes them less likely to do so. The unusual level of dislike for Palin among Virginia Dems may be having the effect of increased party unity.

We'll stay tuned to whether this trend continues.

White, Rural Democrats in North Carolina

The ability to keep rural white Democrats in the party fold could be the key to victory for Barack Obama, Bev Perdue, and Kay Hagan this fall.

Right now they aren't doing such a good job of that. Barack Obama leads 48-38 with those voters, Bev Perdue leads 54-26, and Kay Hagan leads 59-34.

There are indications though that these voters can be won over. For instance Libertarian candidates Bob Barr and Michael Munger are earning 11 and 8% respectively from folks within that demographic. Third party candidates usually don't do as well at the ballot box as they do in polls, and high levels of support expressed for them could be a sort of placeholder while people decide if they're going to vote for McCain or Obama.

What's important to these voters? Their top issue is overwhelmingly the economy, even more so than it is for most in the state. 64% of them say that's their biggest thing. Whichever candidates can convince these folks that putting them in office will make a difference in their daily economic lives will probably win these votes. These folks may identify as Democrats, but their support is pretty much up for grabs, and their votes are still critical even as we move toward a more urbanized state.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Diverging Virginia Polls

In response to several inquiries, I just sent this e-mail to our Virginia press list:

I have received several questions about the disparity between our Public Policy Polling survey today showing Barack Obama with a two point lead in Virginia and a Christopher Newport University survey showing John McCain leading by nine points in the state.

While only the election will answer who is right or wrong, the demographic composition of the polls can easily be compared to the state’s demographics.

About 20% of Virginians are black and according to the 2004 exit polls for the state, 21% of voters that year were black. PPP projects blacks to make up 22% of the electorate, while Christopher Newport projects blacks to be less than 10% of the electorate.

To put this into voter turnout figures, for the Christopher Newport survey to be correct there would have to be 55% turnout from non-black eligible voters, while only 25% of black eligible voters would have to turn out. PPP thinks that black voters and those who are not will turn out at roughly equal levels.

There is also an age disparity. We project that 44% of the electorate will be under 45 years of age, while Christopher Newport anticipates only 12% of the electorate being under the age of 40. According to the 2004 exit poll 49% of voters were under 45.

A poll that significantly undercounts young and black voters will also significantly undercount support for Barack Obama. It is vitally important to look at the demographic compositions of polls and how they compare both to the demographics of the state and those of past electorates when trying to sift through disagreements like the ones found in today’s polls.


I think Bev Perdue's newest ad is exactly what she needs to be doing.

As I've written before I think the reason Pat McCrory has been gaining relative to Perdue over the last month is that the voters have not seen or heard enough of her since the primary. I thought her campaign was at its best the last few weeks of the spring when she was the star in her own ads. Thirty seconds of her talking about what she's accomplished on the issues in her career is the sort of thing that voters need to hear.

It's also an effective counterbalance to the RGA's ads. She's talking about everything she's gotten done while fighting the status quo- in some sense separating herself from the Raleigh establishment that McCrory wants to tie her to and talking about what she's done to bring change to North Carolina.

It's a great start. I also think Democratic candidates need to remember this year that many voters, especially those in the middle, are going to be basing their votes on which candidate they think will be able to do something to improve their every day economic situation. Perdue, Kay Hagan, and Barack Obama should all be running an ad between now and the election that answers this simple question: "How will I be better off economically a year from now if I put you in office?" The answer needs to be straight forward and understandable and not at some high level of complication. If the Democrats can answer that question better than the Republicans they'll be in good shape.

Virginia President/Senate Poll

Barack Obama 48
John McCain 46

For the fourth month in a row Barack Obama is ahead by two points in PPP's Virginia poll. He's dominating among black voters, has a solid lead with other non-white voters, and is holding onto just enough white voters at this point for an overall lead in the state.

Virginia is the only battleground state PPP has surveyed since the conventions where Joe Biden gets better overall reviews from the electorate than Sarah Palin. His favorable rating is a net positive of 11 points, with 38% of Virginians saying they're more likely to vote for Obama with him on the ticket and 27% saying they're less likely to. Palin has more folks- 42%- who say they're more likely to vote for John McCain because of her, but she also has a lot more folks- 40%- who say they're less likely to vote for McCain.

Her selection may have helped crystallize support for Obama with the Democratic base. 91% of Democrats in the state are planning to vote for Obama, an unusual level of unity for the party especially in the south. It's a good thing too because McCain has opened up a 51-34 lead with independents.

In the state's Senate race Mark Warner continues to move toward an easy victory, with his lead 57-33 over fellow former Governor Jim Gilmore this month.

Full results here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ticket Splitters in Focus

There is a long tradition in North Carolina of voters choosing a Republican for President and a Democrat for Governor. This year though, there are an increasing number of voters planning to split their ticket the other way with votes for Barack Obama and Pat McCrory.

85% of North Carolina voters have made up their mind about who to support for both President and Governor. Within that group 41% are voting Republican for both offices and 38% are voting Democratic for both offices. That leaves the rest of the voters splitting their ticket in some form or other.

62% of those planning to vote a mixed Democrat/Republican ballot for those offices are supporting John McCain and Bev Perdue, while 38% are supporting Barack Obama and Pat McCrory. It seems safe to say based on past results that this is a significant increase in the percentage of folks voting Democratic for President but Republican for Governor.

Who are these new age ticket splitters? Compared to the rest of the population they are disproportionately suburban, middle aged, and somewhat surprisingly female. They are also predictably heavily concentrated in the Charlotte metro area. It will be interesting to see if the Perdue campaign's efforts to de-moderate McCrory on his home turf will prove to be successful- that appears to be the key to restoring the normally heavy balance of ticket splitters toward the Republican President/Democratic Governor variety.

Ohio: Palin Effect

43% of Ohioans say they're more likely to vote for John McCain because of his choice of Sarah Plain as his running mate, compared to 36% who say they're less likely to do so. Two key observations beyond that topline figure:

-Among independents there is a 41/36 favorable reaction to Palin and a 23/30 negative reaction to Biden. McCain is now leading by eight points with independents in the state after trailing by 17 with them in our Ohio poll last month. Some of that is just noise since the sample of independents in any individual poll is just around 200 but it does appear the VP choices have had an effect there.

-Palin is very popular with the self identified Democrats who are crossing over to support John McCain. Whether that's causation or correlation is unclear, but a whooping 79% of them said that the choice of Palin made them more likely to vote Republican for President.

Full results here.

Ohio Poll

John McCain 48
Barack Obama 44

John McCain leads Ohio for the first time since the winter in a PPP poll, taking a four point lead after the race in the state was tied a month ago.

Obama is losing ground as undecided white voters in the state make up their minds. Last month McCain had an 11 point lead with whites while 13% remained undecided. The percentage of undecideds in that group is now down to 8%, and McCain's advantage with them is now up to 18 points.

If the breakdown of the electorate in Ohio is 85% white and 15% nonwhite, and Obama wins 93% of the nonwhite vote then he will need to capture at least 42% of the white vote to take the state. Right now he's not there. He'll need to either win back over some of the 20% of white Democrats in the state currently planning to vote for McCain, or turn out newly registered young voters at an incredible rate.

Full results here

Under the Dome Bias

Today's Under the Dome headline screams "New SurveyUSA poll shows McCrory in the lead."

New? That poll's a week old, and two North Carolina-based polls released since continue to show Bev Perdue with the advantage. But you didn't see PPP's latest Governor poll in the print edition of the N&O. Civitas' was, but not with the gaudy headline.

Not to mention that there are times when the N&O might give some context when discussing the results of a poll. For instance, a brief discussion of this might have given readers a better base of information when contemplating those results.

This comes barely a week after the headline 'Democratic poll is good news for McCrory' about the Democracy Corps poll. They saw fit to publish the Governor results from that poll, but not the Senate results that showed Kay Hagan with a five point lead over Elizabeth Dole.

I don't think the N&O is actually biased in its reporting of polling results, but sloppy. Hopefully this recent trend will not continue.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Plan

We'll have the Ohio poll tomorrow and the Virginia poll Wednesday. I would say each of them is good news for one of the campaigns.

Exit Polls and Party ID

Frequently when we put out a poll I get e-mails criticizing our party identification breakdown because the exit polls in 2004 said 'x.'

I don't put much stock in the relevance of party id breakdowns in exit polls to what we're finding in our current polling for two reasons, one of which is a fault of the exit polls and one of which is just a function of human nature:

1) Many of the 2004 exit polls were badly off on their calculations of fixed demographics, such as gender, race, and age. If they couldn't get those things, which you can actually go back and look up, right why should they be trusted to have gotten the correct breakdown of non-fixed demographics like party?

2) I believe that how an exit poll respondent just voted for President has a much greater impact on how they fill out their survey than it would in a pre-election survey. For instance, the exit polls almost always find a much higher percentage of independent voters than we do in our polls. I think it is entirely plausible that if you generally consider yourself a Democrat but just voted George W. Bush for President, you might check the independent box instead of the Democratic box. But if I call you in September and you plan to vote for John McCain but to vote Democratic for the state offices that you don't get asked about on an exit poll, you might still tell me you're a Democrat.

There are many more folks who otherwise consider themselves Democrats who vote Republican for President than there are folks who otherwise consider themselves Republican but vote Democratic for President. I think that may lead to an unrealistic tilt in a Republican direction on how party id is calculated for exit polls, and it's why I'm not going to worry about whether the party id ratios we find are in line with 2004 or not.

I think we're getting pretty reasonable overall results while frequently finding a party breakdown that is much more Democratic than past exit polls would indicate. I'm a lot more concerned with the the numbers for the former than the numbers for the latter.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Civitas Governor

Civitas finds the same one point lead for Bev Perdue over Pat McCrory that we did the other day.

One of the key things here: Perdue is under 70% with black voters. That squares with our recent finding and reminds me of this advice I have for the Perdue campaign and basically all down ballot Democrats:
Court black voters hard. The Perdue campaign did a tremendous job in the primary of reaching out to black voters through robocalls, direct mail, and radio. While it may be tempting to just assume that everyone turning out to vote for Obama this fall will fill in the straight ticket oval, I think it's dangerous to take that for granted. Our polling is showing a surprising number of black voters reporting as undecided in the races other than President. I'm sure many of those folks will end up voting the Democratic ticket, but better safe than sorry- go back to the outreach efforts that worked so well against Moore.
These numbers are not what they should be for Perdue. I think the new ad running on stem cell research is very good and a step in the right direction, but I still think the biggest problem for the campaign right now is that the voters are not hearing her talk directly to them about the issues:
Most voters in the state have probably not heard a word out of Bev's mouth since the primary. While Pat McCrory was up on the air in August telling us personally what he was going to do to help our pocketbooks (even if it's mularkey) the ads running on Perdue's behalf were almost all of the 'sinister voiceover' variety. Perdue's best run of this entire campaign was the three weeks leading up to the primary when her ads were heavily focused on herself talking about what she was going to do if she was elected. I think the most effective way Perdue can be presented these last two months is in ads where she's talking the whole thirty seconds about what she'll do if elected on pocketbook issues, health care, and education. Sometimes going back to basics is the best course of action. When people see and hear Bev, most of them like her. Put that reality to good use.
Just 53 more days...

Black Voters in North Carolina

In the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor, there was a perception that Hampton Dellinger might win a surprise victory over Walter Dalton because he was endorsed by most of the major urban black political groups in the state and folks coming out to vote for Barack Obama would choose him too.

But our final poll, which came pretty close to the final outcome, showed Dalton leading 41-24 among black voters.

Where's the disconnect? I think there's a perception that most of the state's black voters live in the urban centers of Durham, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte. But that's not really the case. We broke down our poll this week by whether people considered the place they live to be urban, suburban, rural, or a small town. 17% of African Americans described where they live as urban, really not that different from the 13% overall in the state's population. On the other hand 29% of black voters said they live in a small town, compared to 25% of the state in general.

Dellinger certainly got a ton of black votes in those urban centers- but I'm guessing Dalton did equally well with the ones in small towns and rural areas, and there are actually more of those.

Just something to keep in mind when thinking about the black vote in North Carolina- it's not a monolithic urban entity.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Research 2000 NC Poll

Look the Tar Heels kick off in less than an hour and I already wasted one night this week debunking a cruddy North Carolina poll so this is all I'm going to say:

-Research 2000 is a good company, but the last time it and PPP had a major conflict about a North Carolina contest, this is what happened. They missed the margin by 25 points, we missed it by two.

-There is no way Democrats will do as badly with white voters as that poll indicates. And don't throw the 2004 exit poll at me- because the exit poll way over represented black voters, it means Democrats did much better with white voters than the exit poll indicated. Although the demographic breakdown of the poll generally passes the smell test, it's the results for that group that are throwing off the whole thing. I think Obama will end up with at least about 33% of the white vote while Kay Hagan and Bev Perdue will get 40% or more.

I guess North Carolina is a hard state to poll. I hope Research 2000 and Survey USA do a better job of it the next time they survey the state. All their previous general election polls here had looked fine this cycle.

Civitas confirms PPP

A new Civitas poll has John McCain up 47-44 in North Carolina.

Convention Effects

The four main effects of a successful Republican convention being bandied about are that John McCain is receiving a bounce, that there's been an increase in Republican party identification, that more independents are now supporting McCain, and that more white women are now supporting McCain.

A PPP analysis of poll results this week in the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina show that most of those things have happened, compared to our previous polls of those states, but the shifts are relatively small.

First the horse race shifts:

State (release date of previous poll)

Colorado (8/11)

Florida (8/6)

Michigan (7/30)

North Carolina (8/26)

Horse Race this week

Obama +1

McCain +5

Obama +1

McCain +4

Horse Race in previous poll

Obama +4

McCain +3

Obama +3

McCain +3






McCain has made gains in all four states we polled this week, but it's an average of just two points and the leader has remained the same in each of them.

Now party identification:

State (release date of previous poll)

Colorado (8/11)

Florida (8/6)

Michigan (7/30)

North Carolina (8/26)

Party ID this week





Party ID in previous poll






No Difference




There's been an average movement of one point toward the Republicans in the party identification spread for these states. It's hard to tell why there has been an increase in Michigan, although it could be a product of embarrassed Democrats happy that the Kwame Kilpatrick situation has finally been resolved.

White women:

State (release date of previous poll)

Colorado (8/11)

Florida (8/6)

Michigan (7/30)

North Carolina (8/26)

White women this week

Obama +2

McCain +25

McCain +11

McCain +20

White women in previous poll

Obama +2

McCain +25

McCain +7

McCain +25


No Difference

No Difference



This is really a wash. Key to note in the southern states of North Carolina and Florida is that Obama is faring much better with white Democratic women now than he was before the party convention. In Florida he led 63-23 with them before the convention, now it's 77-19. In North Carolina it was 59-27 before the convention, now it's 70-21. Hillary supporters may be returning back to the Democratic fold in those places.

And finally independents:

State (release date of previous poll)

Colorado (8/11)

Florida (8/6)

Michigan (7/30)

North Carolina (8/26)

Independents this week

Obama +11



McCain +1

Independents in previous poll

Obama +15


Obama +4



R +4

No Difference



An average Republican gain of two points.

The bottom line: McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate has certainly done him some good, but it doesn't appear to be a move that fundamentally alters the state of the election. We'll continue to follow these indicators in the next few weeks to see if they stick or wear off in key states.
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