Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Civitas: Hagan better known than Burr

One of the interesting things to come out of last week's Civitas poll was that after just a couple months in office Kay Hagan appears to have much higher name recognition than Richard Burr.

47% of North Carolinians have a favorable opinion of Hagan according to their poll with 22% holding a negative view. For Burr the numbers are 37/12.

Now obviously Hagan just came off a statewide campaign. Still, it's amazing that 20% more of the population holds an opinion about her than Burr. Has North Carolina just gotten so big that it's impossible for a senator to hold up significant statewide name recognition over the course of a six year term or is it just Burr's fault for not being visible enough?

It would be pretty outside the box but if I was Hagan I would almost consider doing a significant ad buy two or three times a year to remind North Carolinians what I was up to. It would certainly be an unusual allocation of resources but it could make things a lot easier come 2014 if she doesn't have quite as much work to do to remind people who she is. Wonder if donors would be willing to put up the money for that...

Virginia Governor still close

Four weeks ago when PPP polled the Virginia Democratic primary for Governor 46% of voters were undecided. Another month's worth of campaigning later that figure is still at 45%. A combination of possible voter fatigue following the 2008 election cycle and the fact that the candidates have not really started heavy spending on advertising yet has the outcome of this race still very much up in the air 10 weeks out from election day.

Brian Moran has moved into a slight lead at 22%, with Terry McAuliffe at 18%, and Creigh Deeds at 15%. Compared to a month ago all of the movement is within the margin of error, with Moran going from 19 to 22%, McAuliffe going from 21 to 18%, and Deeds going from 14 to 15%.

The candidates all now have roughly equal swaths of the Democratic primary electorate who hold a favorable opinion of them- 34% for Moran, 32% for McAuliffie, and 31% for Deeds. McAuliffe's negatives, at 29%, are almost twice as high as the other two candidates. 15% have an unfavorable opinion of Moran and 12% say the same about Deeds.

There is a little more separation in the contest for Lieutenant Governor this month. Jody Wagner is now leading with 21% with all three of her opponents- Jon Bowerbank, Pat Edmonson, and Michael Signer- lagging at 4%.

Full results here

How is Burr doing with African Americans?

Congressional Quarterly has a story looking at Richard Burr's outreach to African Americans. Is it paying off?

Our data gives mixed messages. Only 16% of black voters expressed approval for his job performance on our last poll. In April 2007 we found Elizabeth Dole getting good reviews from 28% of blacks in the state . Despite that decent standing for a Republican, exit polls last fall showed Dole receiving only 1% of the black vote against Kay Hagan. So that respect she had earned from some African American voters after the first four years of her team did not end up translating into much of any support at the polls.

Our last poll found Burr getting 8% of the black vote against a generic Democratic candidate, a more standard level of support for a Republican candidate. But against Elaine Marshall he gets 17% of the black vote, against Cal Cunningham he gets 23%, against Jim Neal he gets 17%, and against Roy Cooper he gets 12%. The fact that all the potential Democratic candidates are under performing with African Americans relative to the generic ballot speaks to the fact that the eventual nominee will have to do at least some work to reach out to black voters and not just take their support for granted.

Taking everything together I don't really see any indication that Burr's current standing with black voters is strong enough to keep his Democratic opponent next year from earning 90% or more of the African American vote like most Democratic candidates do but I guess we'll see.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The AAPOR Primaries Report

AAPOR has its report out today on what went wrong with the polling in some of the early primary states last year. Most of the attention is being given to the findings in New Hampshire, where we didn't poll, but there's also some discussion about Wisconsin and South Carolina where we did.

We were actually the most accurate pollster for the Democratic primary in both of those states but we still underestimated Barack Obama's support. For us I'm pretty sure the culprit was poor weighting. We were using a turnout model predicated too much on past elections, not sufficiently taking into account the effect Obama's unique candidacy was having on the demography of the electorate. That led to us substantially undersampling the Obama friendly group of voters under 30 in both Wisconsin and South Carolina, and in South Carolina it also led to us underestimating the African American share of the electorate.

We made adjustments on those counts for the rest of the primary season that worked pretty well in all but one of the final six contests we polled.

Last year was a unique election cycle and I think pollsters who were able to adapt to changing realities over the course of the contest and not just fall into the trap of doing what they were accustomed to in the past ended up being pretty accurate by the end.

Reviewing our 2010 Polling

Here's a summary of all of our polling on 2010 Senate races involving folks who have not explicitly ruled out running (to my knowledge) ranked in order of the seat's likelihood to change hands based on initial horse race numbers from the hypothetical contests:




Margin for Incumbent Party


Robin Carnahan

Sarah Steelman



Beau Biden

Mike Castle


North Carolina

Roy Cooper

Richard Burr


New Hampshire

Paul Hodes

Charlie Bass



Michael Bennet

Bill Owens



John Sharp

Florence Shapiro


New Hampshire

Paul Hodes

John Sununu



Robin Carnahan

Roy Blunt



Bill White

Florence Shapiro



Lee Fisher

Rob Portman



Bill White

David Dewhurst



Bill White

Greg Abbott



Thurbert Baker

Johnny Isakson



John Sharp

David Dewhurst


North Carolina

Elaine Marshall

Richard Burr



John Sharp

Greg Abbott



Jennifer Brunner

Rob Portman



Jim Marshall

Johnny Isakson



Blanche Lincoln

Tim Griffin



Michael Bennet

Tom Tancredo



Blanche Lincoln

Gilbert Baker


North Carolina

Jim Neal

Richard Burr


North Carolina

Cal Cunningham

Richard Burr


Friday, March 27, 2009

Next Week...

-We're going to have our monthly look at the Democratic contest in Virginia. I kind of thought Terry McAuliffe would be pulling away by now because of his resources advantage, so I guess we'll see if there's any truth to that or not.

-Thinking a week ahead, any thoughts on what we should poll next weekend for release the first week of April? Nothing is totally jumping out so your suggestions are welcome.

McClatchy Papers Popular with the Public

There hasn't been much other than bad news at the state's two biggest papers over the last few months so here's a little good news for the folks at the Raleigh News&Observer and Charlotte Observer- they're more popular within their coverage areas than just about any politician in the state.

Statewide 31% of voters have a favorable opinion of the News&Observer with 15% viewing it negatively. But in the Triangle the numbers are much better, with 63% of respondents having a positive take compared to 16% dissenting.

There is a pretty significant party divide in those numbers, with 72% of Democrats but only 51% of Republicans across the region giving the paper good reviews. 67% of independents are positive as well. Somewhat surprisingly older voters, the most reliable paper readers, give the N&O its lowest marks at 56/22, although that could simply be a reflection of folks over 65 being more conservative.

The Charlotte Observer's overall numbers are 25/16, but within the greater Charlotte region they're 47/33.

There is actually much less of a political divide for the Observer than there is for the N&O. 50% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans alike have a positive opinion of the paper. Across ideological lines 50% of liberals and 46% of moderates and conservatives give the paper good reviews.

Barack Obama's getting the best statewide approval ratings of any of the major politicians in North Carolina right now with a net review of +13. At +47 for the N&O and +14 for the Observer, they're both beating that. The newspaper industry may be having a hard time but it looks like voters may still have more universally warm feelings for their papers than their politicians.

Full results here.

Impact of Newspaper Endorsements limited in NC

Last year when Pat McCrory was endorsed by many North Carolina newspapers that usually endorse Democrats for Governor, his campaign put a lot of resources into running television ads and otherwise bringing attention to them. But PPP's newest survey finds that most voters don't care.

69% of folks in the state say that who newspapers recommend has minimal or no effect on their voting choices. 20% say they have a moderate impact and just 11% say their influence is significant.

Perhaps not surprisingly given that many of the major papers in the state are often accused of liberal bias, conservatives put the least stock in newspaper endorsements, with 75% saying they have minimal or no impact on their votes. For moderates it's 66% and liberals it's 58%.

The numbers are pretty steady across every region of North Carolina, giving no indication that any particular papers are more or less influential within their coverage areas than others.

Political candidates certainly would always rather have the major newspaper endorsements than not...but it would appear their effect on the outcome of contests is limited.

Full results here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Who Lincoln needs to win over

Yesterday we showed approval ratings for Blanche Lincoln that left a little bit to be desired.

One thing holding her back right now is that interestingly, 26% of the people in the state who approve of Barack Obama's job performance either disapprove of Lincoln's or have no opinion about it. You wouldn't necessarily expect that in a place where the President fared poorly last fall and Lincoln has twice been elected to statewide office. That group of voters is 34% African American- more than twice the black percentage of the population- so that may be a constituency she needs to shore up her support with a little bit.

Another group she could use some help with is the 11% of voters who have a positive opinion of both Mike Beebe and Mark Pryor but not of her. That group is overwhelmingly white and disproportionately over 65. It is pretty diverse politically, with 37% of them identifying as Democrats, 32% as Republicans, and 31% as independents. Beebe will certainly be a strong vote getter at the top of the ticket next year and the more Lincoln can align herself with him the better off she's going to be.

I think Lincoln as a Senator is going to end up being like Mary Landrieu next door- someone who the Republicans think they have a chance of taking out every cycle, but who manages to just keep on surviving.

Burr's issues with a couple key voter blocs

PPP and Civitas have now both shown Richard Burr trailing in a hypothetical contest against Roy Cooper.

Burr is struggling with a couple of key demographics that he must perform well with if he's going to get reelected.

The first is conservative Democrats, the sort of folks who throughout the years elected Democratic Governors and legislators while also consistently voting for Republican Presidential candidates and Jesse Helms. With the state's significant Democratic registration advantage, Burr will need to win over a lot of those voters to get reelected. However, his approval rating with that group right now is only 30% in our latest poll. By comparison 67% of them like the job Barack Obama's doing, even though it's likely many of them crossed over to vote for John McCain last fall. That standing is not going to be good enough to get Burr reelected, particularly if Roy Cooper is the nominee. Our polling back in December found that Cooper would likely pull in more of the white Democratic vote in the state than either Obama, Bev Perdue, or Kay Hagan did in 2008.

The second group Burr is struggling to gain the level of support he needs from is moderate Republicans. His approval rating with them is 49%. Burr can't even start to think about pulling over moderate Democrats until he gets the ones within his own party in line, and for now it appears he has some work to do with a majority of those voters. Burr's overall approval from moderates across the party spectrum is just 26%, and given that those folks more often than not are going to hold the balance of power in North Carolina elections he'll have to improve that standing a lot.

It's a little more than 19 months until November 2010 and certainly Burr's position could be solidified by then. But right now he looks to be one of the two or three most vulnerable incumbents in the country.

From the Mailbag...

A couple gems for you today.

The first is one of the best e-mails we've ever gotten. We're accused of being on the take for Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, but also of being 'partisan hacks' in the same e-mail. Doesn't it have to be one or the other?

Interestingly this came during business hours from the state e-mail address of someone in Georgia. Sonny Perdue, if you need any help finding under productive positions to cut in tough budget times this might be one of them. The e-mail:

From: Rhondre Hall [mailto:Rhondre.Hall@DOR.GA.GOV]
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 4:26 PM
To: Jensen, Tom
Subject: The Obama vs Palin Poll

I find your study biased against Governor Palin. First, of all it is too early to be doing a poll for the 2012 presidential contest and you are obviously working for either Romney or Huckabee. The poll is garbage unless you also do a comparison of other potential nominees. Mr. Romney recently won the CPAC straw poll so I would be interested to see a poll done with a Obama vs Romney hypothetical matchup and a Obama vs Huckabee. McCain was right not to pick Romney for VP. I watched the primaries and he is such a fake and you can see right through him. Also, it would be wise to ask potential 2012 voters the question whether or not they would vote for a Mormon for President. I would be interested to see that number. Until, you can be an objective force in politics and not a partisan hack, please go away Mr. Jensen.


Rhondre Hall

The second one comes from a North Carolinian and I post it here as a reminder of who Republican politicians have to pander to during primaries in this state, and why it makes it harder for them to win general elections:

From: jmcdowell [mailto:jmcdowell4@triad.rr.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 6:59 PM
To: PPP Information
Subject: Polling

What a gathering of lying, liberal, and misleading sons of bitches. I love your polling against Rush Limbaugh. Rush could probably have a bowel movement smarter than all of you ragheaded, muslim, chicago thug loving bastards at this phony group. Rush scares you socialist assholes to the core. I noticed how many dems were polled. If Rush has the so called disapproval ratings, why does he have so many listeners in NC? Why has he been on WPTF 680, WSJS 600, and many others in NC since about 1988?

You lying bastards, you can poll just the libs in chapel hill and raliegh and come up with anything you want. I love what you lying scumbags are doing. carville, begalla, and greenberg thought they had a great idea last fall and would take on the Gorilla of talk radio. I see they called off the dogs after they learned the audience grew to unprecedented numbers for EL Rushbo. Please keep up the lying because you are growing his audience.

This phony group of pathetic imbeciles proves the gene pool needs and enema.

Have a nice day and screw all of you assholes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Civitas Cooper-Burr Poll

Civitas took a gander at the Roy Cooper-Richard Burr contest and found very similar results to what we got in December. We had Cooper up 39-34 while they have him up 41-38.

There are some pretty bad signs for Burr within the Civitas numbers. For instance 21% of Democrats are undecided in the hypothetical contest while only 14% of Republicans are. Most of those folks would end up supporting Cooper.

Democrats have a large advantage in North Carolina when it comes to both party registration and identification. That means for a Republican to win statewide he needs to get considerably more crossover support than his opponent and win the independents. But in this poll Cooper has a narrow advantage with unaffiliated voters and the two get almost equal levels of crossover support with 13% of Democrats going for Burr and 10% of Republicans supporting Cooper.

Cooper should get in the race. He will never have this clear an opportunity to move up. He could wait to run for Governor in 2016 but it's likely there would be a much more contentious path to the Democratic nomination. The Senate nod, on the other hand, appears to be his for the taking. And Burr's numbers are so weak there's no doubt he's about as beatable an incumbent as you're ever going to find who has no serious ethics issues.

Besides, if Cooper goes up to Washington and hates it he could still run for Governor in 2016 and that would likely be a field clearer on the Democratic side after a term in the Senate. Jon Corzine made that transition four years ago without even finishing his six years.

There's no doubt a Cooper candidacy is the best thing that could happen for the Democrats...and politically I don't think there's a lot of doubt it's the best thing for Cooper. Can't speak for family considerations, etc.

Perspective on Transit Polling

As I pointed out yesterday, a new survey from the Regional Transportation Alliance found 58% support for a quarter cent sales tax for transit projects in the Triangle.

If such a referendum ever actually gets on the ballot, I think support will be even greater than that.

In May 2007 a poll on the Mecklenburg transit sales tax repeal showed 57% of respondents in support of keeping the tax. Another poll in August showed 52% support. But when they actually had the vote in November a much larger swath of the population, 70%, voted to continue the tax.

Why is that? Transit funding is an unusual instance where the interests of the growth lobby and progressives are generally in line. That means there are a lot of resources, both monetary and grassroots, available to support referendums on transit funding. The opposition is generally less organized, less well funded, and less able to put together the sort of coalition they would need to defeat the funding. And when the pro-transit side is able to run a stronger campaign you see the sort of balloon support from preliminary polling to election day that you saw in Charlotte two years ago.

Barring some unforeseen circumstances, I expect you would see the same thing happen in the Triangle.

Where NC gets its news...and the implications for campaigns

Katherine's poll earlier this week showed that for 56% of North Carolinians television is their main source for news, as opposed to newspapers or the internet.

That's just another reminder why you need to have the resources to run a serious media campaign if you're going to win a race for statewide office. Showing up in Podunk, NC and getting a story about yourself in the local paper just isn't going to reach the folks in the way you need it to, nor are letters to the editor, or any other sort of earned print media that lesser funded candidates often hope to be able to use to effectively get their message out.

The preference for TV news is particularly strong among Republicans with 63% of them saying that's where they go. Fred Smith may have learned that lesson the hard way in the primary against Pat McCrory last year.

There are also indications within the poll that point to the unfortunate possibility of a newspaperless society further down the road...while 45% of senior citizens get their news from a paper that drops gradually with every age group, all the way down to 20% for those polled under the age of 30.

A newspaperless society is also likely to be a dumber society, since most television news coverage does not have nearly the depth and level of understanding that newspapers provide.

But the world moves on...

Lincoln's numbers: good but not great

PPP's newest survey finds Blanche Lincoln not necessarily in danger of losing reelection next year, but certainly not unbeatable either.

45% of voters in the state approve of her job performance, with 40% dissenting. Those numbers place her at about the median of the Senators whose approval ratings PPP has gauged since last summer.

Lincoln is struggling with independent voters in the state, 50% of whom say they disapprove of her work compared to only 31% approving. Her numbers are about as polarized along party lines as you would expect, with 73% of Democrats but only 22% of Republicans giving her good marks.

In hypothetical contests with former US Attorney Tim Griffin and state senator Gilbert Baker, Lincoln leads 46-38 and 48-37 respectively. Griffin and Baker each function basically as the generic Republican candidate, since neither of them has very much statewide name recognition. 58% of voters have no opinion about Griffin and 55% say the same about Baker.

Allocate the undecideds proportionately in those contests and you find Lincoln getting 54-56% of the vote, very much in line with what she earned in both 1998 and 2004. That would seem to be an indication that Lincoln hasn't reached an entrenched/unbeatable sort of status after a couple of terms that Mark Pryor would seem to have, but she isn't necessarily in grave danger either.

Whether this becomes a top tier race or not next year may come down to a matter of resources. Republicans will have to spend a lot of money to keep open seats in New Hampshire, Missouri, Ohio, Florida and possibly Pennsylvania if Arlen Specter loses in the primary. They also need to play a fair amount of defense in North Carolina and Kentucky. So that's a lot of seats they have to hold on to before they start going on the offensive. Arkansas would certainly seem to be at the top of the list along with Connecticut and Nevada as states where Republicans would have at least some semblance of a chance to take out a Democratic incumbent but whether they decide to make that investment or not remains to be seen. If they don't Lincoln's numbers are solid enough that she should get reelected fairly easily.

Full results here

Voters' Cable News Preferences

By Katherine Rumbaugh, PPP Spring Fellow

This week, we tested the favorability of the big three of cable news networks with North Carolinians: CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC.

CNN: 57/25
FOX News: 52/31
MSNBC: 42/28

We also tested which network voters trust the most for fair and accurate reporting of political news and found that voters are more or less split between conservative-leaning FOX News (42%) and the more moderate CNN (39%). MSNBC, the most liberal-leaning of the three, ranked third at 16%.

Among liberals, 78% have a favorable opinion of CNN, compared to 68% percent for MSNBC. 73% of conservatives view FOX News favorably.

Unsurprisingly, 72% of Republicans trust FOX News for their political coverage, and 54% of Democrats prefer CNN. Independents are about equally split between FOX (39%) and CNN (40%).

For financial news, CNN edges FOX News 34% to 30%. Overall, 19% of voters prefer MSNBC for business news, but among the 18-29 age group, 45% prefer its financial coverage - well over CNN (15%) and FOX (25%).

So overall, CNN is winning among liberals and FOX News gets the conservative viewership. Up til now, MSNBC is lagging behind among North Carolina voters, but if it keeps up with its coverage of the economy and young people keep watching, MSNBC could increase viewership in the state.

Full results here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Letter to Rush Limbaugh

Dear Rush,

I heard you saw our Arkansas and North Carolina polls about you yesterday, and although I know you're putting up a tough facade it's pretty clear your feelings are hurt or you wouldn't be talking about it on the air.

Now as you point out, we are liberals, and because we're liberals we are of course compassionate people. We don't want to hurt people's feelings, Rush. Not even yours.

So here's our offer to you. We know you want us to poll a state, and find out that you're more popular than Obama there and that a majority of the people in it like you. You might have thought Arkansas was that state, given that the President lost it by 20 points last fall, but I guess not. So just pick a state you want us to poll where you think you'll get good numbers and we'll poll it. Just let us know.



Transit Polling

A new survey out today from the Regional Transportation Alliance finds 58-38 support from Triangle voters for a quarter cent sales tax to fund transit projects. Voters support a half cent increase for the same purpose by the margin of 53-44.

That finding is pretty consistent with polling we did on this issue way back in December of 2007 when we found 55-37 support for a half cent hike that would pay for regional transportation projects. It's interesting to see that hasn't changed too much even with the downturn in the economy.

One thing both polls made clear is that Wake County voters are considerably less supportive of transit than those in Durham, who are considerably less supportive than those in Orange. That could lead to a pretty piecemeal system if some county's voters are willing to pay the bill and others aren't.

Arkansas Approval Numbers

Barack Obama is in positive approval territory in Arkansas, but just barely. PPP finds 47% of voters in the state expressing support for his work so far with 45% disapproving.

Like in most states there's strong polarization along party lines when it comes to Obama's job performance with 80% of Democrats but only 18% of Republicans approving. Obama also gets poor reviews from independents, with 54% disapproving and just 32% in approval. Those weak numbers with unaffiliated voters have become a trend in PPP's polls, including a national survey last week that showed his numbers with that group at 41/50.

Women and African Americans approve of Obama's work, while he gets negative numbers from whites and men.

One politician whose popularity is unambiguously high is Governor Mike Beebe. With an approval number of 68% and just 20% disapproving, he has the best ratings of any politician PPP has polled on in the entire country over the last year. Beebe even has a 55% approval rating with Republicans. He should be close to unbeatable for reelection next year.

Mark Pryor also benefits from solid numbers with 54% of voters in the state expressing support for his job performacne and 30% dissenting.

We'll release numbers looking at Blanche Lincoln's standing tomorrow.

Full results here.

Limbaugh gets poor numbers in North Carolina and Arkansas

New PPP surveys looking at the popularity of Rush Limbaugh in North Carolina and Arkansas find remarkably similar results, with only 31% of North Carolinians and 32% of folks in Arkansas holding a favorable opinion of the controversial talk radio host.

In North Carolina 27% of voters in the state believe that Limbaugh is the leading voice of the Republican Party. Interestingly the number of folks who think that is relatively equal along party lines- 30% of Democrats, 25% of Republicans, and 24% of independents hold that belief.

In some sense that speaks to the internal struggle Republicans have in North Carolina of finding the direction they should move the party in to overcome their recent losing streak in the state. The party needs to moderate its image to win, but a quarter of the party faithful see their voice as someone who's viewed dimly by 67% of self described moderates. How to keep that far right base happy while also trying to appeal more to voters in the center is a conundrum the party will have to figure out how to deal with to reach greater levels of success.

Other than Republicans (61%) and conservatives (56%) every demographic group that PPP tracks by ideology, party, region, gender, race, and age has a net negative opinion of Limbaugh. Only 26% of independents view him favorably, and even among conservatives 20% say they don't care for him.

In Arkansas 24% of the state's voters believe Limbaugh to be the voice of the party, and that view is held by 31% of respondents identifying as Republicans.

Full North Carolina Limbaugh numbers here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tobacco issue has potential to hurt Burr

A Charlotte Observer story over the weekend points out that Richard Burr ranks second in Congress for receiving tobacco money.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at our February poll and see how Burr's approval aligns with folks' opinions about the proposed smoking ban in the General Assembly.

The answer? Voters who don't have an opinion about Burr one way or the other- 25% of the electorate- are also the most supportive of banning smoking in public places.

Overall we found 64% of North Carolinians support the ban with 31% in opposition. But with the swath of the electorate that hasn't formed an opinion about Burr the numbers are 69% in favor of the smoking prohibition and just 26% opposed.

With the voters ambivalent about Burr pretty overwhelmingly not sympathetic to the tobacco lobby, it will be interesting to see if this becomes a liability in Burr's reelection campaign.

Interesting Analysis from SSP

I pointed out in January that even though Virginia Foxx and Patrick McHenry got reelected by large margins last fall, they actually each under ran John McCain within their districts, something I felt was an indication Daniel Johnson and Roy Carter ran very strong campaigns even in defeat.

The good folks at Swing State Project took this analysis a step further and did it for the whole country, and I'd say the results are pretty interesting.

There were actually only 23 Republican members of the House in the country who did worse than John McCain within their districts. McHenry's performance relative to the party nominee was the sixth worst of any member of the GOP caucus.

That has a lot to do with what what a top notch challenger Johnson was for that district, but I think it also has some serious implications for McHenry's political future. Some have suggested him as a possible challenger to Kay Hagan in 2014 but it's hard to see how he would be a good candidate statewide when he underperforms in the swath of the state he already represents.

All that said the fact that Carter and Johnson were such strong candidates and still got creamed is a pretty clear indication these districts are completely unwinnable for Democrats in their current configuration. I think Democrats have probably maxed out the number of House seats they can win in North Carolina, but if there's another prospect it's Sue Myrick's district, not either of these.

RIP Ann Arbor News

Exceptionally sad news about my home town paper.

I actually hated the Ann Arbor News, as I think many progressive people in town did, but the thought that a city of 120,000 and home of the University of Michigan would not have a daily newspaper is kind of unfathomable.

Things aren't going very well financially at our newspapers of record here in North Carolina either, but we're going to have some polling numbers later in the week about what the public thinks of the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News&Observer that should at least warm the hearts of the surviving souls at those places a little bit.

Elon's Latest...

Elon's surprising poll results on gay marriage are getting a lot of attention. While a lot of focus has been on question wording, I'd be very interested to see the demographic composition of the poll, particularly by party, and crosstabs. I've always been pretty consistent that I think all publicly released polls should include those things. Beyond that I'm not getting into the debate.

I was actually more interested in Elon's release from Friday, which goes a long way toward explaining why Republicans have had trouble in recent elections with getting their message across. 56% of respondents approve of the job the General Assembly is doing with only 23% disapproving. Railing on the corruption of a body that is generally perceived positively by the public isn't a good election strategy. Democrats in the legislature also get reviews (53/26) than their Republican counterparts do (41/37).

Here's the problem for the GOP and the corruption issue, as I see it:

-First, you have to convince the voters that corruption is a problem.
-Then, you have to convince the voters it's the other guy's fault.

Voters know that they care about the economy or education. So when you use those things as major campaign issues half the work is already done. But if it's something- like corruption in Raleigh- that isn't automatically on voters' minds, it gives you twice as much work to do. Republicans need to overhaul and simplify their message about things that voters inherently are concerned about if they're going to have more success at the state level in North Carolina.

I don't really anticipate that happening though.

NC voters prefer TV news over newspapers, online news

By Katherine Rumbaugh, PPP Spring Fellow

Even as technology progresses, print newspapers switch over to online versions, and more people turn to blogs and news websites, 56% of people in North Carolina report that the television is their favorite source for news.

This trend is, surprisingly, even stronger among the people who are supposed to be the most tech-savvy, the 18-29 age group; 65% of them report that the TV is their primary news source. Only 20% said they prefer reading an actual newspaper and 15% said they prefer online news.

Democrats are more likely to read a newspaper than Republicans, 63% of whom said they prefer TV news.

So, the idiot box is the most popular news source, and the most popular television news outlets are the ones with (in my opinion) some of the biggest idiots: cable news networks. 42% of respondents said they prefer cable news like CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC over regular broadcast networks (23%) and local TV networks (34%).

Between a national newspaper, like the NYT or WSJ, and a local paper, people overwhelmingly favor their local newspaper, 87% to 13%.

Among online news sources, the most popular are websites affiliated with newspapers, at 43%. That's a good sign for papers that might eventually have to switch to a solely online version. Blogs are only favored among about 6% for online news. That's probably because, at least so far, bloggers mostly comment on existing news rather than produce original reporting. Perhaps we need to step up our game?

Full results here

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Some folks on the far right, not surprisingly, are unhappy that our poll this week showed nominating the Republicans nominating Sarah Palin in 2012 would likely lead to the largest landslide in a generation.

But this 'refutation' of the poll is just bizarre:

-The blogger states as authoritative fact that PPP is run by Stan Greenberg. That's one you have to put into the category of 'where do they come up with this stuff?' There is of course no citation for that 'fact,' which must have come out of thin air.

-He also claims the poll is biased because more Democrats were polled than Republicans. Uh, that's because there's a lot more Democrats in the country than Republicans. Republicans don't seem to understand that aspect of polling. Long time readers of the blog may recall Pat McCrory's nephew having similar difficulty last winter.

-The analysis concludes with 'Mr. Greenberg, you're busted.' I'm sure that is quite some news to Mr. Greenberg.

The ironic thing about Republicans being angry with this poll? The approval rating we found for President Obama was one of the lowest in a national survey that anyone's released over the last month. But we don't expect deluded wingers to let a few facts to get in their way.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Next Week

-We're going to have an Arkansas poll looking at whether Blanche Lincoln really has anything to worry about or not. This was suggested by a blog commenter- we really do listen to your suggestions! I know I had said I thought we should poll Pennsylvania about Arlen Specter stuff but I believe Quinnipiac will have their monthly look there next week and we're trying to give you something different.

-Throughout the week we'll have the interesting results of a poll conducted by our spring fellow Katherine Rumbaugh about the North Carolina media landscape.

-And on Monday we'll have the numbers on how North Carolinians view Rush Limbaugh.

Hagan in Context

PPP's first look at Kay Hagan's approval rating finds 36% of voters in the state approving and 34% disapproving of her job performance.

Since last summer PPP has looked at approval ratings for 13 Senators across the country. Here's how they stack up:



Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)


Tom Carper (D-DE)


Kit Bond (R-MO)


John McCain (R-AZ)


Jim Webb (D-VA)


Bill Nelson (D-FL)


Kay Hagan (D-NC)


Ted Kaufman (D-DE)


Richard Burr (R-NC)


Michael Bennet (D-CO)


Johnny Isakson (R-GA)


George Voinovich (R-OH)


Mel Martinez (R-FL)


Hagan's full numbers available here.

Obama approval steady in North Carolina

PPP's monthly look at Barack Obama's approval rating in North Carolina finds his numbers pretty much unchanged from a month ago, with 53% of voters expressing support for his work so far and 40% saying they disapprove. The spread in February was 52/41.

The results are strongly polarized along party lines, with 84% of Democrats but only 15% of Republicans approving of his performance. Independents are split right down the middle with 46% approving and 46% disapproving. There is a strong ideological split among unaffiliated voters with 85% who describe themselves as liberals and 55% who identify as moderates giving Obama good marks while only 20% of conservative independents do.

Obama's numbers are in positive territory overall because of his strong numbers with moderates in general, as 65% of them approve with only 26% disapproving. For the most part in North Carolina if you have the support of the centrists you're going to be alright.

The groups that gave Obama the most support at the ballot box in November- women, young people, urban and suburban voters, African Americans, and those in the Triangle- predictably give Obama his best reviews. He's in negative territory with rural voters, whites, folks in the mountains and folks in the Triad.

Full results here

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Perdue by party and ideology

There was a lot of consternation during the campaign last fall about whether Bev Perdue was giving liberal Democrats a reason to vote for her, and our analysis repeatedly showed that Libertarian opponent Michael Munger was pulling more support from folks also voting for Barack Obama than those voting for John McCain. That, along with his best statewide finish coming in Orange County, is a pretty good indication he was pulling from the left.

But since she took office Perdue is earning her highest level of popularity from liberal Democrats:


Perdue Approval

Liberal Democrats


Moderate Democrats


Conservative Democrats


Moderate Independents


Moderate Republicans


Conservative Republicans


If there's a red flag for Perdue in these numbers it's the conservative Democrats. They were integral to the strong performance in eastern North Carolina that put her over the top last fall and she'll need to keep those folks in her corner moving forward. At the same time, only having 42% disapproval from moderate Republicans isn't bad and an indication that she's at least earning some support from the more moderate wing of the opposite party.
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