Friday, February 27, 2009

Next week

Coming next week we'll have the second of our monthly tracking polls on the Virginia Democratic race for Governor. It will be interesting to see if Terry McAuliffe's big bucks have allowed him to take the outright lead or if Brian Moran is hanging on. Also, last month we saw Creigh Deeds behind the pack and we'll find out if he's closing in at all.

We're also going to have another vote next week on where we should poll next weekend. We'll offer the Connecticut (Chris Dodd v. Rob Simmons, Richard Blumenthal v. Rob Simmons), and Delaware (Mike Castle v. Beau Biden, Mike Castle v. John Carney) options again. We'll add Kentucky to the list as well since Jim Bunning has had a bunch more missteps since Kos did a poll there a month ago.

Anything else we should put on the radar screen?

Notes on the Elon Poll

-Sometimes Civitas, Elon, and PPP generate very different numbers on the same issue...and sometimes we don't. Elon found 52-39 support for the stimulus, Civitas got 50-36, and we got 50-39. The consistency of those numbers would lead me to believe that's about right.

-Elon, like Civitas, finds Barack Obama's approval rating much higher than us at 59-25. Just more evidence of a possible IVR/live caller disparity as I suggested earlier this week. I hope their numbers are the more accurate reflection but I'm guessing Republicans are being more charitable to human interviewers.

-They also found 73% support for an increase in the cigarette tax. That's consistent with other polling showing strong majority support for that, which is why I found the quick efforts of legislative leadership to scuttle it last year kind of curious. I'm sure they were more concerned with how the increase would be portrayed in campaign ads than with general public opinion on it.

Crossover Appeal

Digging through the crosstabs of our Texas poll yesterday, it really caught my attention that 37% of Democrats said they had a positive opinion of Kay Bailey Hutchison. It got me wondering if she had the strongest bipartisan appeal of any public official we've polled on in the last few months.

Since December we've done favorability or approval ratings for 40 politicians in Texas, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, and New Hampshire. Of that group only four had better than 30% approval/favorability from the opposite party.

The one who did best across party lines was Andrew Cuomo in New York. 49% of Republicans said they had a favorable opinion of him. That may be somewhat inflated because of the timing of the poll- it was at a juncture where it looked like Hillary Clinton's replacement might come down to him or Caroline Kennedy, and they certainly liked him more than her. Either way, quite an impressive performance.

Hutchison was tied for second best at 37% with Kit Bond of Missouri. We took the temperature on Bond within a couple days of him announcing his retirement and he definitely benefited from that. His numbers with Democrats had been a lot worse last summer.

The fourth member of the 30+ club is North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. He gets a 31% approval rating from Republicans, made all the more impressive by the fact that 32% don't have an opinion of him one way or the other.

This quick analysis indicates that 30% or better is the 90th percentile for crossover popularity on a politician, so that's certainly something we'll pay attention to as we continue conducting surveys looking toward 2010.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Civitas on Bev

Civitas finds a strong 52/16 approval rating for Bev Perdue even though 65% of voters say it was not appropriate for her to take a vacation a couple weeks other words the media and punditry cared and the population at large didn't. Not the first time, won't be the last.

Especially when it comes to something like Perdue's approval, I'm always particularly interested to see how she's polling in the Triangle because voters there get so much more exposure to state government on tv, radio, and in the newspaper than folks in the rest of the state do. There her numbers are particularly strong, with a 61% approval.

I think it's safe to say that the decisive and proactive image Bev is projecting on the economy matters a lot more to voters than when she goes on a trip. If this Bev had been around for the duration of the general election the contest with Pat McCrory would never have been so close.

More on Rush's Gender Gap

Well apparently our poll gave Rush Limbaugh a couple days of material for his show. On Tuesday he announced he was going to have a female listener summit to figure out how to address the gender gap we found in his poll numbers, and then yesterday he actually held the summit. You can read that transcript here.

Someone asked me yesterday if it was possible the gender gap was simply a product of it being more likely that women are Democrats and men are Republicans, so I ran the numbers this morning by gender and party and here's what we got:



Gender Gap


14/73 (-59)

22/73 (-51)



75/10 (+65)

84/13 (+71)



30/56 (-26)

55/32 (+23)


So there is a gender gap within both the Democratic and Republican respondents to the poll, but the really huge one is among independents.

The Republican ladies love you Rush, and I don't think you have much chance with the Democratic ones. But you really need to appeal to those moderate women if you want to get that approval up over 50%.

Obama approval polarized in Texas

46% of Texans disapprove of Barack Obama's job performance so far, with 45% approving.

The views toward him are extremely polarized along party lines, with 90% of Democrats but only 8% of Republicans expressing support. Independents are nearly split down the middle, with 42% giving him their approval and 46% dissenting.

This mirrors PPP's findings in other states. A North Carolina poll last week found 82% of Democrats and only 12% of Republicans approving of Obama, and a New Hampshire poll earlier in February found 83% of Democrats but only 15% of GOP voters supporting Obama's stimulus package. As hard as he has tried to earn support across party lines, not much is coming.

In Texas women, African Americans, Hispanics, and voters under 30 all give the President pretty strong approval while men, whites, and voters over 65 give him poor marks.

Full results here.

Hutchison, Perry both best Schieffer

Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry would both best Democrat Tom Schieffer in a potential gubernatorial face off next year, although the race has some potential to be competitive if the current Governor is renominated.

Hutchison leads Schieffer 54-30 while Perry has a 45-35 advantage over him, below the magic 50% number considered safe for incumbents.

Hutchison appears to be close to unbeatable in a general election. She pulls 20% of the Democratic vote, has a 23 point lead among independents, and has 86% of Republicans committed to voting for her.

Perry's standing pales on all three of those fronts. Only 13% of Democrats say they would vote for him, he actually trails Schieffer by a small amount among independents, and he gets a smaller 78% segment of the Republican vote.

Perry would certainly still be favored over Schieffer, but compared to Hutchison his winning the GOP primary would leave the door ever so slightly open for a possible Democratic takeover. If Hutchison is the victor that door is pretty much shut.

Hutchison is the only one of the trio with a positive favorability rating. 58% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of her compared to 31% who view her negatively. 48% have an unfavorable take on Perry compared to 41% who give him their approval, and Schieffer's breakdown is 25/31.

It appears Texas is more than likely to vote next year for 20 years of Republican governors.

Full results here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

PPP getting the love from Rush

When I was looking through the crosstabs on our Rush Limbaugh poll earlier this week to pick out stuff to write on the blog about, I never imagined what an impact deciding to write about the gender gap in his poll numbers would have.

What we found was that while 56% of men reported having a favorable opinion of Rush, only 37% of women did.

Apparently that really caught the attention of the man himself, and after calling us 'a bunch of liberals' he announced on the show yesterday that he's going to have a 'Female Listener Summit' to discuss his gender gap. You can read the transcript of his reaction to the poll here.

Here's the gist of his 'summit'
So, you ladies be on standby. Be ready at any moment for me to declare the summit officially underway, and we will take calls only from women who want to seriously discuss the proposition of this giant gender gap that I have, and what I could do to close it. In other words: What could I do to attract a higher favorability rating among more women in America? I own the men, and what must I do now to own women?
Almost immediately after Rush discussed this yesterday I got an e-mail from a Robert Wiseman informing me:
So there you go Rush. You are loved by women named 'Robert.'

You can read the many interesting comments Rush's listeners have sent our way here.

Never a boring day...

Ban on Illegal Immigrants in Community Colleges

By Katherine Rumbaugh, PPP Spring Fellow

In light of the bill filed in the state senate earlier this month, PPP ran a poll testing whether North Carolina voters thought illegal immigrants should be allowed to enroll in the state's community colleges.

Do you think illegal immigrants should be allowed to attend community colleges in North Carolina?

Yes 19
No 74

Obviously, 55 percentage points is a huge disparity. North Carolina may have gone blue in the November election, but the majority of the state's electorate still don't have sympathy for those who enter the country illegally. That's in line with the community college system's current policy prohibiting illegal immigrants from enrolling as students.

Voters' sentiments apparently extend to the children of illegal immigrants as well. 52% of respondents said they do not think illegal immigrants' children who have attended N.C. public K-12 schools should be allowed to take classes at community colleges. In regards to children born to illegal immigrants in this country - remember, that makes them American citizens - 48% still said that they should not be allowed to attend community colleges.

Across party lines, the majority of voters desire to bar undocumented immigrants from attending public colleges, with 63% of Democrats, 89% of Republicans, and 73% of independents reporting as such.

While the bill proposed in the state legislature still received majority support from voters regardless of political affiliation, the numbers were slightly lower than for the aforementioned questions. 52% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans, and 62% of independents reported that they supported codifying the existing policy.

It's worth noting that in a PPP survey conducted two weeks ago only 3% of North Carolina voters listed immigration as their top issue.

Side note: Fortunately, the bill is not as punitive as some voters might be. It does not bar from enrollment children born in this country to parents who are here unlawfully.

Full results here.

Texas Senate could be competitive

Polling on the Senate vacancy that would occur if Kay Bailey Hutchison becomes Governor of Texas is kind of a crap shoot at this point, since it's not clear what high profile Republican candidates might make the race. Nevertheless PPP's early snapshot of how some possible match ups might play out gives an indication that it could be the most competitive Senate contest Texas has seen in a number of years.

We tested Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott, and state Senator Florence Shapiro on the Republican side against Houston Mayor Bill White and former Comptroller John Sharp on the Democratic side.

Abbott, who has not announced plans to seek the seat, appears to be the strongest initial candidate. 43% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of him compared to only 25% that view him negatively. He leads Sharp 44-36 and White 42-36 in possible contests.

Dewhurst is almost as strong, with a 43/30 favorability breakdown. He leads Sharp and White by slightly more narrow margins than Abbott, 42-36 over the former and 42-37 over the latter.

It seems inevitable that one of those heavyweights will get into the race if there is indeed a vacancy, but we also tested Shapiro to see how competitive the contest would be if the GOP ended up nominating one of the less well known candidates who have already made their intentions to seek the seat known. Shapiro leads White 37-36 but trails Sharp 37-34, an indication the race could pretty much be a tossup if a more well known Republican doesn't run.

It appears that Dewhurst or Abbott would be an early favorite, but it's worth noting that Sharp and White have a lot more room to grow in terms of name recognition. 43% of the electorate has no opinion of White and 41% has none of Sharp, figures much higher than the 27% for Dewhurst and 32% for Abbott. That gives them an opportunity to define themselves positively with the voters who haven't formed an opinion about them yet.

Texas hasn't had a Senate election decided by less than ten points since John Tower held off Bob Krueger in 1978. With the Democrats getting a couple of their strongest possible candidates into the field already it appears there is potential for that to change if there's a Hutchison vacancy.

Full results here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama and Perdue

You might expect that with Barack Obama and Bev Perdue both being Democrats, most North Carolina voters either approve of both their job performances or neither. And for the most part that's true. 38% of voters like how each of them is doing and 25% don't like how either of them is doing.

There is a segment of the population though that approves of Obama but not Perdue and another that approves of Perdue but not Obama. Who are those people?

73% of the folks who approve of Perdue but not Obama are conservatives and 53% are Republicans. That's an indication that she's both getting more crossover support than Obama and appealing better to the more right leaning segment within her own party. 43% of them are from eastern North Carolina compared to just 28% of the overall population so it looks like the popularity across party lines in her home region that helped get her elected continues.

A 53% majority of the folks who approve of Obama but not Perdue are Democrats. They're also mostly liberals and moderates- 71% compared to 56% for the electorate as a whole. Additionally, they're much younger than the general populace- 55% under 45 compared to 40% overall. During the election it seemed like even though most young voters and liberals were still planning to vote for Perdue, they were a lot more enthusiastic about Obama. These figures would seem to indicate that continues to be the case.

IVR making a difference in Obama approval?

I have not seen enough evidence yet to say I've made a firm conclusion on this issue, but I think there may be a divide in the approval ratings pollsters are finding for President Obama depending on whether they're using IVR or live callers.

A few things have put this on my radar screen:

-If you look at Obama's national approval on's chart, most of the lower approval levels are coming from Rasmussen.

-While Civitas found Obama's North Carolina approval this week at 65/16, we only had it at 52/41 last week.

-The other places we've asked poll questions about Obama this month were New Hampshire and Texas. We'll release the Texas result later this week, but we found a net negative approval for him there. I haven't seen any live operator approval ratings for him there yet.

In New Hampshire we did not ask an approval question, but one about the stimulus. 50% said they supported it and 40% were opposed. I think that's a pretty good surrogate for Obama's approval since we found the exact same +11 for both the stimulus and his approval in North Carolina. Those are much more modest numbers than the Granite State poll, which found 66% approval and 21% disapproval for Obama in the state.

Is the Bradley Effect finally showing up? I doubt it. My guess is that if this really does prove to be a trend it's that Republicans are more likely to want to seem bipartisan to a live caller than on an automated poll. Our NC poll last week found a very strong partisan divide on Obama that does not seem to have been as pronounced on the Civitas poll.

Again the body of evidence is limited at this point but it's certainly something to watch.

Hutchison with large lead over Perry

If the Republican primary were held today, Rick Perry's tenure as Governor of Texas would be coming to an end, the newest survey from Public Policy Polling finds.

Perry trails Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison 56-31 among likely GOP primary voters.

Hutchison is viewed favorably by 75% of voters likely to vote in the Republican primary, while 60% have a positive opinion of Perry.

The 27% of primary voters who have an unfavorable opinion of Perry are obviously a problem for him. Hutchison leads 85-8 with those voters. But perhaps the even bigger problem for him is the Senator's sheer popularity. 47% of those surveyed have a positive opinion of both Perry and Hutchison, and among those voters she has the 49-33 lead. So while Perry still is viewed positively by a majority of likely primary voters, the simply reality is that they like Hutchison more. He's going to have to change that for any chance at political survival, and that's why this race is already and will continue to be quite a nasty one.

Another problem for Perry is that Hutchison leads with every subgroup of the population PPP tracks by gender, race, and age. There is a slight gender gap with Hutchison leading by 28 among women and 22 with men but it's still a substantial lead either way.

Perry is going to have an uphill climb to keep his seat.

This is the first of three Texas releases PPP will have this week. Wednesday's will look at how some possible Hutchison replacements stack up, and Thursday's will look at Barack Obama's approval rating and how Tom Schieffer matches up against both Perry and Hutchison.

PPP was the most accurate pollster in the Texas Republican primary for President last year.

Full results here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Obama, Hunt, and Helms

In writing about our Jesse Helms/Jim Hunt poll on Friday I noted that the results weren't quite as polarized on party lines as you might have expected, with 16% of Democrats saying they had a more favorable opinion of Helms and 16% of Republicans expressing the same about Hunt.

There was a greater divide between admirers of Hunt and Helms, however, when it came down to whether respondents approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as President or not. Among those who like his performance so far, 70% said they had a higher opinion of Hunt and only 9% picked Helms. Among the voters who disapprove of what the President has done in his first month, 72% are more favorable toward Helms and just 11% say Hunt.

Put another way, the Democrats who like Jesse are the same ones who don't like (and probably didn't vote for) Obama. Not a big surprise, but it's interesting to see that the polarization is greater along Obama lines than it is along party lines.

Public Divided on Limbaugh

A new national survey from PPP finds 46% of Americans have a positive opinion of Rush Limbaugh while 43% view him unfavorably.

The numbers break down on demographic lines pretty much as one would expect. Men, Republicans, whites, and older voters like him. Women, Democrats, young voters, African Americans, and Hispanics don't. The gender gap is one of the largest PPP has seen on any issue it's polled in the last year, with Limbaugh having a +19 (56/37) net favorability among men, but a -12 (37/49) with women. 31 point gender gaps don't come along all that often.

Even if voters are pretty split on whether they like Limbaugh or not, there's more of a consensus on how much sway they think he should hold in American politics, which is not much. Only 23% of respondents said Limbaugh should have 'a lot' of influence and the most common answer, given by 42% of respondents, is that he should have no influence at all.

Even among Republicans only 39% think Limbaugh should have a lot of influence, an indication that some GOP elected officials have perhaps been more eager to stay on his good side than necessary in the early days of the Obama administration.

Full results here

Broad Support for Sex Ed Bill

A bill being considered in the Legislature would give parents the choice of having their children receive comprehensive sex education or abstinence only sex education. Would you support this proposal?

Yes 69
No 31

There is broad support among North Carolina voters for the basic premise of the Healthy Youth Act, which would let parents choose whether their children receive comprehensive or abstinence only sex education.

Even among voter groups traditionally most opposed to any increase in sex education there is majority support, including conservatives (58%), Republicans (54%), senior citizens (63%) and rural voters (69%).

Groups whose support exceeds 80% include liberals (88%), urban dwellers (86%), and African Americans (83%).

It's particularly interesting to note that the group of voters that is most likely to have recently gone through the public schools in North Carolina, those under 30, give the bill one of its highest levels of support at 76%.

Any time you combine politics, sex, and education you're likely to get a lot of emotional and overheated rhetoric and that's certainly bound to happen again as this bill makes it way through the legislature. But the reality is that when you cut all of that out and tell voters in a straight forward manner the crux of what the bill would do, every demographic subgroup of the electorate we track gives it majority support.

Full results here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Our Record in Texas

It's safe to say after the first few days in the field of our Texas poll that Rick Perry isn't going to like it, and a lot of the time when that's the case our polls get attacked so we're just going to get out in front of that and remind folks that we were by far the most accurate pollster in the GOP Presidential primary there last year.

It'll start coming out on Tuesday.

Early Name Recognition and the Senate Race

Someone asked me yesterday: "what does it matter if Jim Neal and Cal Cunningham have low early name recognition? So did Kay Hagan."

That's absolutely true. Hagan's success showed that with the right amount of money you can turn a relatively unknown elected official into a US Senator in the matter of a year. That said, the less well known someone is, the more expensive it is to create a positive image of them with the electorate. That's why, generally speaking, you want to get your most well known and popular possible candidate into the race ala Robin Carnahan in Missouri for next year, or Mark Warner in Virginia last year. Warner, in particular, was such a dynamo that it freed the DSCC up to spend money in other places.

There's no doubt for Democrats in North Carolina that person is Roy Cooper, who already has 44% positive name recognition. If he doesn't run the party will still more than likely have a strong contender- but if you can get your best prospect, why bother with anyone else? It would take a lot more work and resources to turn Neal or Cunningham into a top tier challenge to Richard Burr than it would take Cooper or even Heath Shuler, who would have a strong ability to self fund.

It will be interesting if Shuler ends up being the guy though to see if there is a well funded progressive challenge to him in the primary.

Hunt beating Helms in the legacy battle

Do you have a more favorable opinion of Jesse Helms or Jim Hunt?

Jim Hunt 43
Jesse Helms 37

Jesse Helms may have beat out Jim Hunt at the polls when they faced off for the Senate in 1984, but when it comes to who North Carolinians say they have a higher opinion of now, the former Governor is winning out.

That fact has a lot to do with the changing demography of the state. Among natives of North Carolina Helms has the better legacy, 42-41. But with folks who have moved into the state Hunt has a substantial 45-31 lead.

The numbers break down pretty much as you would expect. Liberals, moderates, women, urban and suburban voters, and African Americans all have a more favorable view of Hunt. Conservatives, whites, men, and rural voters all prefer Helms.

The results are not quite as polarized along party lines as one might expect. 16% of Democrats say they have a better opinion of Helms, an indication that even though the influence of the Jessecrats has clearly been diluted, as evidence by Barack Obama's victory in the state last fall, they're not completely gone. At the same time, 16% of Republicans say they have a more favorable view of Hunt. That is particularly true among non-native Republicans, 25% of whom say they like Hunt more.

I think this poll actually says a fair amount about where North Carolina is today politically. When we decided to ask this question I expected Hunt to win by a much larger margin, and I think the further into history we go the more favorably Hunt will be viewed in these types of comparisons. But the reality is that even though the state is turning in a more progressive direction, shifting the pendulum to Hunt after he lost to Helms at the polls, there is still a very strong conservative base of voters in the state whose influence will remain strong if not necessarily dominant moving forward.

Full results here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stimulus easing minds on economy?

On our North Carolina poll last weekend 51% of respondents named the economy as their top issue. That's the lowest level since a survey we did in late August when only 48% of voters said that was their main concern.

In mid-January, right before Barack Obama was inaugurated, 64% listed the economy. Is it possible that the passage of the stimulus package in Congress has some folks' minds more at ease? It could just be a blip unique to this month's poll but we'll certainly be watching in March to see if that trend continues.

O Civitas...

My friend Chris Hayes blogs that when it comes to polling on the smoking ban, it's all about how you word the question in explaining why our companies have generated different results. He's exactly right.

The question we asked dealt directly with the bill being pushed by Majority Leader Hugh Holliman in the General Assembly this session:
Currently being considered in the legislature is a bill that would ban smoking in restaurants and public places, with very few exemptions. Do you support a ban on smoking in public places?
We found 64% support from North Carolina voters.

The question Civitas asked is:
Would you support or oppose legislation allowing a restaurant, bar or tavern owner to decide their own smoking policy as long as the policy was clearly posted at the entrance to their business?
They found 62% support from North Carolina voters.

Here's the thing though: Civitas is trying to change the topic. The Majority Leader is pushing a bill to do what we asked about, not what Civitas asked about. Those guys over there are smart so it's not like they don't understand this. They know public opinion is not with them on this one so they're trying to blur things by polling on a different issue than the one one of the most powerful legislators in the state is pushing.

Here's the bottom line though: every poll that's been conducted over the last three years that dealt directly with what Holliman's trying to make happen has shown strong public support for it. That doesn't necessarily count for anything over at the General Assembly, but it is the truth.

Assessing Blunt's Chances

When PPP looked at how Roy Blunt would fare as a Senate candidate in a poll last month we found both good and bad news for him.

The good:

-He polled the closest to Robin Carnahan of any potential GOP contender, trailing her just 45-44.

-He gets a lot of crossover support from Democrats in SW Missouri, which he has represented in Congress. Our early look found him taking almost 25% of the vote within her party away from Carnahan.

-He is much more popular with the Republican base than possible primary opponent Sarah Steelman. 70% of GOP voters view him favorably while only 51% do the same of her.

The bad:

-There are actually more Missouri voters who have an unfavorable opinion of him than a favorable one- 40/43.

-A 42% plurality of independents view him unfavorably with only 37% having a positive opinion off him. For Carnahan those numbers are 40% positive and just 33% negative. Blunt's reputation as a partisan warrior in the GOP House leadership may not go over well with voters who don't identify with either party.

-His son's tenure as Governor could be an albatross for him. As the younger Blunt left office, we found that 50% of Missouri voters thought Jay Nixon was going to be a better leader compared to just 32% who picked the outgoing Governor. The Blunt name may be a liability with some segment of the electorate.

The full results of our January poll here.

Burr v. Cunningham and Neal

PPP's newest survey finds Richard Burr polling under the magic 50% mark against two Democrats with virtually no positive statewide name recognition.

He is up 44-30 against former US Senate candidate Jim Neal and 46-27 against former state Senator Cal Cunningham.

Burr isn't exceeding 50% against these guys even though Neal is only viewed favorably by 15% of North Carolina voters and Cunningham by just 10%.

Burr's approval rating actually has hit its highest level in a PPP survey, with 41% of voters approving of his performance compared t0 34% who disapprove. A month ago it was 33/30. His improvement on that front has largely come from playing to the base: in January only 54% of Republicans reported approving of the job he was doing and that number is now up to 70% after a period where he was very visible in opposing the economic stimulus package that most Republican voters share an opposition to. His net approval among Democrats has actually worsened over the last month, going from 18/40 (-22) to 21/52 (-31). He's remained pretty steady with independents, going from +7 last month to +8 this time.

Neal and Cunningham don't appear to stand a chance of even getting out of the primary if one of the better known potential Democratic candidates like Roy Cooper or Heath Shuler ends up making the race. Even among Democrats only 26% have a favorable opinion of Neal and just 18% have a positive view of Cunningham.

Finally, every time we do one of these polls on Burr it seems relevant to compare his standing to where Elizabeth Dole was at this time two years ago. In February 2007 PPP found Dole with a 43/31 approval rating, a net five points better than where Burr stands today. That poll also found her winning a hypothetical match up against Bob Etheridge, a stronger potential candidate than the two we tested against Burr this month, by a comparable 45-30 margin. Burr continues to be in a weaker position politically than the defeated Dole was at the same time in the last election cycle.

Previously PPP found Cooper leading Burr 39-34, and Burr leading Shuler 39-28.

Full results here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Texas Update

Texas was the overwhelming winner in our vote on where we should do a poll this weekend, capturing 63% of the 549 votes cast. Thanks to our friends at Swing State Project for helping to generate many of the votes. I'm sure we'll do those Connecticut and Delaware polls sometime in the next couple months as well.

A couple wrinkles on the Texas poll from the suggestions in the comments: we'll do a favorability for Tom Schieffer and match him up with Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Also, we're going to add announced Republican candidate Florence Shapiro to the Senate part of the poll to get a general idea of what Bill White and John Sharp's chances would be if the Republicans don't end up nominating one of their heavy hitters. I know there are a number of other GOP candidates who have made their intentions to run public as well, but we don't want to make the poll too long and at this point we're more interested in the big picture than what the numbers are for every possible permutation of the contest.

PPP in Roll Call

Yesterday Roll Call wrote a piece that I thought did a very good job of getting to the heart of what PPP is all about. Subscribers can read the story here.

The headline pretty much sums up what we're about: "NC Polling Firm Building a National Reputation." We're working to make our polls some of the most respected in states all over the country, while never forgetting where we're located and our mission to help folks better understand public opinion in North Carolina.

Perdue approval better than Easley's

Bev Perdue approval:

Approve 43
Disapprove 32

PPP's first look at Bev Perdue's approval rating finds decent numbers for her a month into her term as Governor. They're positively glowing compared to our final look at Mike Easley's approval ratings last June, which found only 33% of voters in the state happy with his performance compared to 37% who disapproved.

Perdue's strongest marks are coming from her home base in the eastern part of the state, where 51% approve of her performance compared to just 26% who disapprove. Her weakest numbers are in the mountains, where 32% approve and 45% disapprove. Perhaps the most notable thing about Perdue's approval is that at 46/29, her numbers are better in greater Charlotte than they are statewide, perhaps an indication that her outreach efforts in the section of the state she fared poorest at in the election are starting to pay off.

It's also interesting to note that Perdue's numbers are slightly less polarized on party lines than Barack Obama's. 15% of Republicans approve of her work compared to 55% disapproving, a considerably better ratio than Obama's 12/79. But folks within her own party are also a little less supportive, with 66% approving and 13% disapproving compared to 82/12 for Obama.

With her initial approval numbers much better than those of her predecessors, it doesn't appear that all the ballyhoo about Perdue's vacation last week is having an impact on the voters.

Full results here.

Obama approval over 50

Obama Approval in North Carolina:

Approve 52
Disapprove 41

Barack Obama has the highest approval PPP has ever found for the President in North Carolina. Of course that may have something to do with the fact that we were formed during the Bush administration...

Nonetheless public opinion toward Obama is heavily fractured along party lines. While 82% of Democrats like the job he's doing, only 12% of Republicans do. Independents are pretty much split right down the middle with 46% approving and 45% expressing disapproval.

That party line breakdown is pretty similar to what we found the last time we looked at George W. Bush's approval rating, which was 41% in late 2007. Then 74% of Republicans but only 15% of Democrats approved of his work. The big difference is that while Obama does get decent marks from independents, they were not enamored with Bush at all, with only 33% approving of him compared to 57% who disapproved.

Beyond that the differences along demographic lines in Obama's approval ratings largely mirror how he performed with various groups at the ballot box. Women, African Americans, and younger voters all give him strong levels of support. He's below 50% with men, whites, and voters over 65.

It's interesting to note that Obama's +11 net approval rating is the same as the +11 support for the stimulus PPP found in a North Carolina poll last week. It's clear that issue became very entwined with his popular support in the state, turning most Republicans against him but keeping folks from his own party within the fold.

Full results here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Brunner and Fisher

Looking for clues about how a possible Lee Fisher/Jennifer Brunner primary might play out in Ohio?

When we did an Ohio poll last month we found that 52% of Democrats had a positive opinion of both of them, 18% had no opinion about either of them, 14% had a positive opinion of Fisher but not Brunner, 9% had a positive opinion of Brunner but not Fisher, and 7% had a negative opinion of both of them.

In other words, there doesn't seem to be a clear early favorite.

Little Support for Appointed Council of State Positions

Do you think that positions such as Agriculture Commissioner, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Labor Commissioner, and Insurance Commissioner should be appointed or elected jobs?

Elected 65
Appointed 22

The immediate reaction of most North Carolina voters to the possibility of giving up their votes for some of the more low profile Council of State positions is a pretty clear 'no.'

The practical reality of that is that even if the legislature passed a bill to hold a referendum on making Superintendent or any other position appointed, someone would have to fund an expensive advocacy campaign to explain to voters why giving away their votes would be a good idea in order to change their initial opposition to it. It seems safe to say that no one cares enough about whether any of these positions are elected or appointed to put a significant quantity of money behind such a campaign.

While 26% of Democrats support a move to appointing these positions only 15% of Republicans do. That gap may be a product of the fact that electing Commissioners of Labor and Agriculture has made it possible to keep Cherie Berry and Steve Troxler as Republican voices on the Council of State that wouldn't be there if Bev Perdue got to appoint the people who hold their offices.

There are no subgroups PPP tracks that give even plurality support to this possible move.

Full results here.

Bipartisan Consensus on Smoking Ban

Currently being considered in the legislature is a bill that would ban smoking in restaurants and public places, with very few exemptions. Do you support a ban on smoking in public places?

Yes 64
No 31

Last week when we polled on the economic stimulus package in Congress we found the North Carolina electorate about as polarized along party lines on that issue as it could possibly be. That's not the case when it comes to the proposed smoking ban the General Assembly is considering, which is earning majority support across partisan and ideological lines.

68% of Democrats, 62% of Republicans, and 58% of independents support it. So do 72% of liberals, 65% of moderates, and 60% of conservatives.

A majority of every demographic group that PPP tracks expresses support for the ban. The lowest levels of support come from voters in the Triad (52%) and those in rural areas (57%).

It's unusual for public opinion to be so lopsided on an issue generating as much heat as this one is. If the General Assembly doesn't pass the smoking ban this year it seems pretty clear that will be a response to special interests rather than public opinion.

Full results here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Baselines for Approval

On Wednesday we'll release our first approval figures for Barack Obama and Bev Perdue in North Carolina. One thing we can tell you for sure is that they'll be a lot better than their predecessors' numbers were down the stretch.

The final poll we took on Mike Easley's approval, last June, showed 33% of voters approving of his job performance with 37% disapproving.

I regret that we stopped tracking President Bush's approval in the state last year, mostly because it was becoming a broken record, but in November of 2007 53% of voters viewed him negatively with only 41% having a positive opinion of his work. Those numbers were even worse in other polling I saw over the course of 2008.

We're going to be more careful about tracking Obama and Perdue's approval every month so that there's a good historical record of how it changes over time.

Obama's military strength?

There were eight counties in North Carolina last fall where Barack Obama did eight points or better than John Kerry did in the state in 2004. Interestingly, two of them were Onslow and Cumberland Counties, perhaps the most military heavy locales in the state.

Now granted Obama did not exactly do well in Onslow- he only got 39% of the vote- but that's a lot better than the 30% Kerry pulled. Obama did have quite a good performance in Cumberland, getting 59% after Kerry narrowly lost it in 2004.

I don't know whether these numbers are a reflection that Obama resonated better than expected with military interests, or if the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads just really depressed Kerry's strength in those places four years ago.

Fayetteville was one of Obama's favorite campaign stops in the state over the course of last year.

The other six counties where Obama did eight points or more better than Kerry were Pitt (54 for Obama to 46 for Kerry), Durham (76 to 68), Wake (57 to 49), Forsyth (55 to 46), Guilford (59 to 50), and Mecklenburg (62 to 52).

Vote on where we poll

Ok, we're going to let you vote on what state we poll in this week. We'll leave it open for 48 hours. The choices:

Connecticut: Chris Dodd v. Rob Simmons to see if Dodd's unpopularity could actually make him vulnerable at the polls and Richard Blumenthal v. Rob Simmons to see if Democrats might be better off with a Dodd retirement.

Delaware: Mike Castle v. Beau Biden in a possible 2010 Senate contest, John Carney v. Mike Castle in a possible House challenge.

Texas: Kay Bailey Hutchison vs. Rick Perry in the GOP primary, Bill White and John Sharp v. David Dewhurst and Greg Abbott for Hutchison's seat.

You can vote at the top of the page.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Anti-Stimulus Democrats

According to Hotline, six Democrats voted against both versions of the stimulus package: Bobby Bright and Parker Griffith of Alabama, Walt Minnick of Idaho, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Gene Taylor of Mississippi, and Heath Shuler.

Taylor's district only voted 32% for Obama. Bright and Minnick's gave him 36%, and Griffith's gave him 38%. Those are some of the most conservative Congressional districts in the country represented by a Democrat and the votes are understandable.

Shuler and Peterson's districts are pretty evenly split though. Each gave Obama 47% of the vote.

Looking through Swing State Project's Presidential vote by Congressional District for 2008, there are at least two dozen districts where Obama did worse than in Shuler's and Peterson's that are represented by Democrats who voted for the stimulus.

Given that, I don't think Shuler needed to vote against it politically, so he may well have done it genuinely on principle. That's certainly respectable, but I imagine a lot of involved North Carolina Democrats unsure whether they would rather see Shuler or Roy Cooper as the Democratic nominee against Richard Burr next year have now had their minds made up for them.

Of course none of that will matter if Shuler ends up being the only high profile Democrat willing to make the race next year

Lots of good stuff next week...

We're going to have four releases on North Carolina public opinion next week:

-We'll take a fresh look at the smoking ban and find out if folks are willing to give up their vote on offices most of them probably don't really care about.

-We'll take our very first monthly look at Barack Obama and Bev Perdue's job approval ratings. Their transitions got good reviews. Is Perdue's vacation actually hurting her with the public? Has the stimulus hurt Obama's standing with Republicans? Hopefully we'll get some idea of the answers to those questions.

-We'll have our monthly pulse of where Richard Burr is. He trailed Roy Cooper in our December poll and was under 40% against Heath Shuler in our January one. This month we'll test the less well known Jim Neal and Cal Cunningham. It will be interesting to see if all of Burr's recent visibility has helped his approval numbers.

-Finally we're going to take a unique look at the changing North Carolina...stay tuned for details.

Another note on New Hampshire

Our New Hampshire poll this week showed Paul Hodes narrowly leading John Sununu and Carol Shea-Porter narrowly trailing him.

Looking at who the undecideds in those races are, I think Democrats are in even better shape than the poll immediately indicates.

In the Hodes-Sununu match up 33% of the undecideds are Democrats compared to just 13% who are Republicans. In the Shea-Porter-Sununu contest 34% not taking a side are Dems with just 15% Republicans.

It makes sense after a term in the Senate and an unsuccessful reelection that Republicans in New Hampshire would know whether they support Sununu or not. But since Hodes and Shea-Porter have each represented just half of the state, whichever one ends up as the nominee will still need to get better known by the other district's Democrats. It seems a safe bet that once that's happened, those undecideds will get behind them.

For a little while there yesterday afternoon I thought Judd Gregg pulling out at Commerce had set a new speed record for making one of our polls obsolete. But I guess if he's still not going to run for reelection the data is still important. You certainly have to like the Dems' chances here.

Inside the Numbers: Governor's Race

In 2004 Mike Easley beat Patrick Ballantine by about 444,000 votes. In 2008 Bev Perdue beat Pat McCrory by about 145,000 voters.

That means McCrory cut the Democratic margin of victory by 299,000 votes...but where did they come from?

A new PPP analysis finds that 226,000 of the 299,000 vote shift from the previous election came exclusively within the counties of the Charlotte tv market.

There were 13 counties where Perdue ran ten points or more behind Easley's 2004 performance and 12 of them were in metro Charlotte. The exception was Brunswick County, where Easley lives:


Perdue 2008%

Easley 2004%






















































Overall Perdue won in every media market in the state except for Charlotte:

TV Market




























There were 22 counties where Perdue exceeded Easley's performance from 2004. All of them were in eastern North Carolina except Swain County in the west.

The bottom line? While Pat McCrory did surprisingly well last fall, he was too much of a regional candidate to get across the finish line. If he's going to run statewide again in the future he's going to need to do a much better job of appealing to voters outside his home base in metro Charlotte, particularly rural voters east of I-95.

One other interesting finding from our analysis. We pointed out several times last fall that our data showed Michael Munger was pulling more votes from Perdue than McCrory, contrary to the conventional wisdom that Libertarians take from Republican candidates. The county where he ended up doing best? Deep blue Orange, where he pulled 5% of the vote.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Appointing the Superintendent...

Dome reports Leo Daughtry filed a bill today to appoint the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

That topic's been on our minds too, and one of the questions on this weekend's tracking poll asks voters whether they think not just the Superintendent, but also the Commissioners of Agriculture, Labor, and Insurance should be elected or appointed.

I have a feeling the reality is going to be that as little as voters know or care about these positions, they still want the power to elect them. Republican voters in particular might want to keep them elected since Steve Troxler and Cherie Berry are their only voices on the Council of State.

I personally think these positions should all be appointed. My home state of Michigan is a particularly egregious offender of electing positions that people don't care about, with the governing bodies for U of M, MSU, and Wayne State all popularly elected. Very silly. But I'm not going to hold my breathe on the system being changed in Michigan or North Carolina any time soon.

What should we poll next?

This weekend we'll be doing our monthly comprehensive look at issues and politics in North Carolina and we'll roll that out over the course of next week but I am undecided about what we're going to do a survey on next week for release the following one.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Connecticut: Quinnipiac had the very interesting finding this week that only 42% of voters say they would vote to reelect Chris Dodd. I'm not sure how much trouble Dodd is really in, since 27% of Democrats said they would probably or definitely not vote to reelect him. Would they still say that in a poll where Dodd was matched up directly with a Republican? We would look at Dodd and Rob Simmons and see how that shakes out. Also, a Dodd retirement doesn't seem all that likely but it might be interesting to look at Richard Blumenthal or some other prominent Connecticut Dem against Simmons to see if the party might actually be better off if he did.

My sense is that Dodd will be fine, but it would be interesting to see.

Delaware: It would be interesting to see both how Mike Castle would do against Beau Biden, if he did decide to go for the Senate seat, and how former Lieutenant Governor John Carney would do against Castle if he decided to challenge him for the state's House seat.

Texas: We could provide an independent look at how the Rick Perry/Kay Bailey Hutchison primary is shaping up right now, as well as how Bill White and John Sharp look as Democratic candidates for Hutchison's seat. I'm not clear on who the GOP's best prospects are for that seat so someone would need to help us fill in the gaps.

Anyway, those are some of the things I'm thinking about right now. What do you all think we should poll? Is there a potentially competitive Senate race that's gone under the radar? I'll compile some of the best suggestions for poll topics over the weekend and let you all vote on what we do Monday and Tuesday next week.

Don't worry, you get to keep your weapons

By Katherine Rumbaugh, PPP Spring Fellow

Last fall, gun rights groups were up in arms about their arms and whether then-candidate Barack Obama would be “the most anti-gun president in American history.”

And although not many NRA members live in North Carolina, 56% of the state’s gun owners reported being worried that Obama’s administration will take away their guns in our most recent poll.

That’s highly unlikely, even if he is the most anti-gun president yet. Obama might support moderately strict to very strict gun control laws – as do 78% of North Carolinians – but somehow I don’t buy the gun control slippery slope argument. It goes something like this:

1. Liberals push for moderate gun control legislation, such as a national identification system for handguns, then,

2. Sporting weapons are banned, and after that,

3. The government confiscates every kind of firearm from everyone (a la Great Britain in 1997), and finally,

4.Government-sanctioned genocide (as in Nazi Germany).

I may have skipped a few steps in there, but that still seems like a stretch, particularly in light of the Supreme Court case last year that struck down the handgun ban in Washington, D.C.

There’s that, and there’s the gun lobby pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into protecting our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Oh, and there’s the economic downturn, climate change, and the War in Iraq that the new administration has to deal with – and I’m guessing all three of those take priority over guns.

So calm down, pro-gun activists. Obama’s not coming around for your weapons just yet.

The full results of our poll here.

Don't Forget Isakson

I really think the Georgia Senate race next year is a sleeper possibility for a Democratic pick up, just as it was this year. But it's going to be all about candidate recruitment.

Jim Martin, a candidate who was by most accounts bland and uninspiring, still came awfully close to knocking off Saxby Chambliss in November. Yes, he got trounced in the runoff, but while the turnout of Democratic leaning demographics might not be as good in November 2010 as it was in November 2008, I still think it will be a lot better than it was in December 2008.

And Johnny Isakson's approval numbers are weak. In November we found his approval at 30% and his disapproval at 25% with a whooping 45% of respondents having no opinion. When an incumbent is that much of a blank slate to the electorate it leaves organizations like the DSCC a lot of room to define them.

Speaking of the DSCC and defining candidates, Elizabeth Dole's approval numbers in February 2008 were 43/32. That's a lot better than Isakson's faring right now. And as Kay Hagan showed, whoever challenges Isakson doesn't necessarily need to be widely known at this point in the game- they just need to have the right stuff. If Democrats make this race a priority I think it could be surprisingly competitive next year.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

NH 2010: Hodes leads tight field

Paul Hodes has the best net popularity of four possible 2010 New Hampshire Senate candidates, our newest survey finds.

Hodes is viewed favorably by 42% of voters in the state, with 34% seeing him unfavorably. Carol Shea-Porter and John Sununu each have a +3 net positive image with state voters at 43/40 and 46/43 respectively. Charlie Bass is the least popular of the quartet at 33/37.

Hodes holds a slim lead over Sununu and Bass in hypothetical contests, 46-44 and 40-37. Shea-Porter narrowly trails each of the possible GOP candidates by a single point, 46-45 to Sununu and 43-42 to Bass.

Digging deeper into the numbers it is interesting to note that Shea-Porter is actually viewed slightly more favorably by Democrats than Hodes. 74% of Democrats have a positive opinion of her compared to 70% for Hodes. His numbers are better overall because more independents like him and fewer Republican dislike him compared to Shea-Porter. Nonetheless Shea-Porter has a history as a contrarian and if she decided to run too it looks like a primary contest would pretty much be a tossup.

The significant takeaway on the Sununu numbers is that despite his loss for reelection last year, it's not as if New Hampshire voters significantly dislike him, as is sometimes the case when an incumbent is deposed. More Democrats- 20%- have a favorable opinion of Sununu than there are Republican voters who have a positive opinion of either Hodes or Shea-Porter. He is probably the strongest candidate the Republican could get to run.

With Hodes in the race the Democrats have succeeded in their recruitment efforts. If the GOP does the same by getting Sununu to make another run for it this race would have to be considered a tossup at this early stage and is likely to be among the most competitive races in the country next year. If not, Hodes probably has a slight early edge over the Republican field.

Full results here.

Q-Poll Good News for Specter?

Today's new Quinnipiac survey shows that 43% of Pennsylvania voters think that Arlen Specter should not be reelected next year, while only 40% think he should return for another term.

On the surface that's pretty bad news for the long time Senator. But digging into the crosstabs, I'm not sure he has that much to worry about.

The reason Specter's numbers are so bad on that front is 42% of Republicans don't think he should be reelected. But Pat Toomey has already passed on a possible primary challenge. Maybe there is another GOP candidate strong enough to take out Specter but I'm not sure who that person is.

If he can get through to the general election he looks to be in pretty good shape, with 41% of Democrats saying he deserves to be reelected. That's a remarkable amount of crossover support, and with none of the Dems' possible A-list candidates, like Ed Rendell, seemingly interested in making the race Specter is in an overall strong position.

It is certainly unusual to see a Senator whose reelect numbers are identical among voters of both parties.

Stuff to know about gun owners in North Carolina

By Katherine Rumbaugh, PPP Spring Fellow

More than half of all North Carolinians, 52%, report keeping some sort of firearm in their homes. Some things to keep in mind:
  • The National Rifle Association apparently doesn't recruit here. Only 10% of respondents said they belong to any sort of pro-gun rights organization.
  • The presence of young children doesn't seem to make a difference as to whether people own guns. 48% of people with kids under age 16 report having a gun in their home.
  • Men like guns more than women do. By a significant margin, men are more likely to belong to a pro-guns organization, keep a gun in their homes, use that gun for protection, or go hunting.
  • Don't break into these people's houses. 76% of those who own a gun reported that they keep it as a protective measure against criminals.
  • Don't talk to them about the results of the 2008 presidential, senate, or governor's races. They're probably not happy because nearly two-thirds of them are Republicans.
Full results here.
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