Thursday, April 30, 2009

Georgia should definitely be on the radar

Daily Kos polled Johnny Isakson and produced pretty similarly mediocre numbers to what we found on him way back in November: a favorability/approval rating barely in positive territory and single digit leads against some opponents who have not shown any interest in running.

I actually think the situation for Isakson is probably worse even than they show. While they have only 12% of Georgians holding no opinion about him one way or the other, we found 45% with no opinion about him. For whatever reason I think the Kos polls tend to overestimate folks' name recognition. For instance they showed 93% of North Carolinians with an opinion of Richard Burr when we find only 65-70% with one and Civitas shows it even lower, around 50%. So I imagine Isakson is a blank slate to many Georgians in addition to having only slightly positive ratings from the ones who do know him.

By the time Democrats realized how vulnerable Saxby Chambliss was last year it was too late to get a real strong candidate- you really have to wonder how someone with a little more charisma than Jim Martin might have fared at the polls in November. Hopefully someone will see this strong opportunity and go for it.

Madigan in rare company

On our Illinois poll 52% of Republicans said they view Lisa Madigan favorably.

That puts her in company only with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Delaware Congressman Mike Castle, and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe as politicians who we've found are more popular than not with voters of the opposite political party over the last year.

Madigan and Cuomo may well end up having something else in common next year as politicans who were successfully able to primary incumbent Governors of their own party who took office due to scandals.

Our Governor approval ratings

Here's the ratings on all the Governors we've looked at so far in 2009:



Mike Beebe (D-AR)


Jack Markell (D-DE)


Pat Quinn (D-IL)


Ted Strickland (D-OH)


Steve Beshear (D-KY)


Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)


Bev Perdue (D-NC)


Rick Perry (R-TX)


Bill Ritter (D-CO)


Our updated Senator approval ratings

Our chart, updated to include our Illinois and Colorado polls from the last couple weeks, is pasted below:



Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)


Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)


Tom Carper (D-DE)


Kit Bond (R-MO)


Mark Pryor (D-AR)


John McCain (R-AZ)


Dick Durbin (D-IL)


Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)


Jim Webb (D-VA)


Mitch McConnell (R-KY)


Bill Nelson (D-FL)


Mark Udall (D-CO)


Ted Kaufman (D-DE)


Richard Burr (R-NC)


Michael Bennet (D-CO)


Kay Hagan (D-NC)


Michael Bennet (D-CO)


Johnny Isakson (R-GA)


George Voinovich (R-OH)


Jim Bunning (R-KY)


Mel Martinez (R-FL)


Roland Burris (D-IL)


Illinois Senate: General Election

If by some chance Roland Burris was able to win the Democratic nomination for a full Senate term next year, the seat would likely go Republican. Mark Kirk leads him 53-19 in a hypothetical contest.

Burris' approval rating is just 17%, easily the lowest PPP has ever registered for any politician. In the contest against Kirk he gets just 34% even of the Democratic vote and trails 62-8 among independents.

It looks like Kirk has some potential to be competitive even if Burris is not the nominee though. He is tied 35-35 with Alexi Giannoulias in a hypothetical contest and leads Jan Schakowsky 37-33.

Those numbers are a little optimistic for Republicans because in each of those contests more than 30% of Democrats but fewer than 20% of GOP voters are undecided. That is likely a function of the uncertainly about what will happen with this seat next year from the Democrats' end and as that gap closes both Giannoulias and Schakowsky would lead Kirk. He would still be in striking distance though thanks to a double digit lead among independents in both of those contests.

If Lisa Madigan made a surprise decision to run for this seat it would be no contest, as she leads Kirk 49-33.

Full results here.

Illinois Governor: General Election

Lisa Madigan would start out with a strong lead against Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady, while the contest would be closer if current Governor Pat Quinn was nominated for a full term.

Madigan leads Brady 46-27, with Quinn holding a 39-32 advantage.

Madigan does better than Quinn largely because she is more popular among independents (getting 43% of the vote compared to 34% for Quinn) and Democrats (earning 67% compared to 58%.)

Brady is a blank slate to 61% of voters in the state with 23% holding a favorable opinion of him and 17% having an unfavorable one.

Quinn's overall approval rating is 49% with 27% holding no opinion about him and 25% disapproving of his work so far.

These numbers are artificially close because Quinn and Madigan are both under performing with black voters right now, as Madigan gets 51% and Quinn only 34% of the African American vote at this early point. They probably do each have some work to do to shore up their support with that important Democratic demographic, but those figures are likely to be upwards of at least 80% when election time does come around.

Full results here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Republican ID

Taegan Goddard points to a couple recent national polls showing the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans down around 20%.

I don't think there's much doubt the GOP is a big old mess right now, but I don't think it's that bad either.

We've polled in eight states over the last two months and all of them had at least 28% of voters describe themselves as Republicans. Here's the breakdown:


Republican Identification









North Carolina










Illinois, Delaware, and Minnesota are all pretty darn blue so if they're averaging 29% of voters identifying as Republicans the true number still has to be somewhere in the 30s.

Maybe this is some sort of twisted Bradley Effect where Republicans are more willing to share that allegiance in an IVR poll than a live interviewer one.

Learning the Lessons of Dole

I was really glad to see about this event Kay Hagan is having on the stimulus in Durham next week.

On two fronts it's showing she hasn't forgotten who helped her get elected:

-She got a larger percentage of the vote in Durham County than anywhere else in the state and also had her second largest margin of victory there at over 68,500 votes (only considerably more populous Mecklenburg was bigger.)

-By focusing on how minority-owned businesses can benefit from the stimulus package (at the request of the NAACP) she's showing black leaders that she's not going to be a politician who only pays attention to their concerns at election time.

And it gives her an opportunity to show folks what she's doing on the economy, still by far and away the biggest issue for voters in the state.

These are the sorts of things Elizabeth Dole didn't do enough of. Hagan knows better than most people what flaws Dole had in the way she conducted herself as a Senator- those are the things that helped her get elected- and if she continues to learn from those lessons she might just be the rare North Carolina Senator who actually gets a second term.

Illinois Senate: Dreadful Numbers for Burris

PPP has never found an elected official getting more negative than positive reviews from voters within their own party. Until today.

Only 27% of folks who say they're likely to vote in the Democratic primary next year in Illinois approve of Roland Burris' job performance. 49% disapprove and 24% aren't sure.

Alexi Giannoulias appears to be the strongest candidate at this point unless Lisa Madigan changes her mind and decides to make the race.

Giannoulias leads Burris 49-20 in a head to head contest. When you put Jan Schakowsky into the mix Giannoulias gets 38%, followed by Schakowsky at 26%, and Burris at 16%.

One particularly interesting thing to note here is the black vote. A majority of black Democrats still say they approve of Burris' performance by a margin of 53/28. But they're not necessarily that committed to voting for him. While Burris does lead Giannoulias 48-30 in the two way contest among black voters, when Schakowsky is included Giannoulias actually leads among them with 39% to Burris' 36% and 14% for Schakowsky. Obivously if Burris decided to seek a full term getting near univeral black support would be critical to pretty much any hope of his winning, and right now that would not happen.

Giannoulias is a little better known statewide than Schakowsky, with 53% of likely primary voters holding a positive opinion of him and 37% with no opinion. For Schakowsky 42% have a favorable view of her and 50% don't have a stance one way or the other at this point.

The wild card in this race is whether Lisa Madigan changes her mind about whether she's interested in it. If she does, it appears to be hers for the taking. In a four way contest including Madigan she leads with 44% to 19% for Giannoulias, 13% for Burris, and 11% for Schakowsky. Our early poll numbers indicate she can probably get elected Governor too, but she would start out with a greater advantage for the Senate contest.

We'll release numbers tomorrow looking at how all of these folks match up with possible Republican contender Mark some of the contests it's a little closer than you might expect.

Full results here.

Illinois Governor: Quinn popular but Madigan favored

Pat Quinn has a 56% approval rating among Illinois voters who say they would likely vote in a Democratic primary next year, with only 14% disapproving. But that level of support still may not be enough to hold off the immense popularity of Lisa Madigan if she decides to challenge him in the primary.

Madigan is viewed favorably by 74% of likely primary voters, and holds a 45-29 lead over Quinn in a possible contest.

Quinn has two basic problems. One is that even among voters who like him, a significant chunk of them like Madigan even more. He leads her just 44-38 with the folks who approve of his job performance. The second is that he's simply not as well known as Madigan. Among the 30% of respondents who don't know enough about him to have formed an opinion, 69% of them have one about Madigan one way or the other and she has a 48-11 lead with those.

This is not to say things are impossible for Quinn. He does get very strong numbers from those who do have an opinion about him and nine more months as Governor before the primary should certainly increase his visibility. But Madigan would still be pretty tough to beat if she decides to make the race.

Madigan leads Quinn across the ideological spectrum of the Democratic Party, but has a particularly strong 52-26 lead among voters describing themselves as liberals. Her lead is much better- 21 points- among women than it is among men- 9 points. Women can account for as high as 60% of the electorate in a primary. Quinn keeps the race to ten points with white voters but Madigan does particularly well with minorities- a 37 point lead among Hispanics and a 21 point one with African Americans.

We'll release the figures for general election match ups with Republican state senator Bill Brady tomorrow.

Full results here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Political Impact of Furloughs

It will be interesting to see what impact Bev Perdue's executive order allowing furloughs for teachers and state employees has on her approval rating.

She has already seen a pretty significant drop in her approval from our poll in mid-March, before she announced her budget, to the one we did in mid-April. She went from a +9 spread at 44/35 to just a +1 at 41/40.

That drop did not come among Republicans, but with her political base. With Democrats her numbers dropped from 66/17 to 61/22 and the drop was particularly large among voters describing themselves as liberals who went from 70/14 approval to 63/22.

Today's move is likely to further antagonize these groups that were so key to her Gubernatorial bid, particularly in the primary, and who were already dropping some in their support of the Governor.

Of course the reality is that being Governor right now is inevitably going to involve some tough decisions, and it would be virtually impossible for her to both keep the state solvent and all of her allies happy. But unless Republicans and independents start to show a higher level of approval for her this move could push her approval rating into negative territory next month.

Another thought on Specter

Arlen Specter’s move today to the Democratic Party is pretty reflective of where moderates are finding a party home on a national basis. PPP’s national survey last week found that 45% of voters describing themselves as moderates were Democrats, 37% were independents, and just 18% were Republicans. 72% of Republicans now describe themselves as conservatives and given that it is not surprising that Specter would likely have lost in a primary to Pat Toomey next year and it’s not surprising that moderates increasingly feel like they don’t have a voice in the party.

Few Permanent Truths in Politics

Six weeks ago we were planning to do a poll on what Pennsylvanians would think about Arlen Specter switching parties and how he would fare as a Democrat at the polls.

Then he pretty unequivocally said he wasn't going to change parties so we didn't do it.

Sure wish we had that data today!

Right now almost all of the polling we're doing is speculative since there are very few things we definitely know about how the races will stack up in 2010. This particular 'flip flop' though is perhaps a reminder that sometimes we should just poll to see how things stack up regardless of what the principals involved have said about their plans.

We actually did sort of take that attitude with the Illinois poll we're releasing tomorrow, testing Lisa Madigan as a Senate candidate even though she hasn't shown any interest in the seat.

The only polling we have on Specter does speak pretty positively of his prospects though. We tested him against Chris Matthews back in November and found him trailing only 35-30 in the Democratic vote, a pretty exceptional showing. I know he says he's still going to oppose card check but I really haven't seen a ton of indication that issue resonates strongly with the Democratic rank and file- it's more of an inside the Beltway thing- so I don't think Specter should have too much trouble getting the party behind him.

Obama's standing with Republicans

It was interesting to note on our Illinois poll this week that even in his home state Barack Obama's approval rating is extremely polarized along party lines, with just 22% of GOP voters in the state giving him good marks.

That's actually not the best Obama has fared with Republicans in any of our polling over the last two months. Here's the breakdown:


Obama Approval with Republicans















North Carolina




There are some interesting implications in these numbers, particularly in Texas. Some Democrats point to the demographic shifts occurring in the state as possibly making it more hospitable for their candidates in the future, and while that may occur to some extent it's hard to make too much progress when it has some of the most partisan Republicans in the country.

It also points to the importance of Mike Castle in Delaware taking a moderate course, as much as it may sometimes frustrate some folks within his party. Not only is he representing an extremely Democratic state, but even the Republicans there are unusually supportive of the President.

Obama, Durbin Popular in Illinois

Barack Obama is putting up good approval numbers in his home state of Illinois, but they're about as polarized along party lines there as they are everywhere else, our newest numbers find.

He gets good marks from 61% of voters in the state, with 31% saying they disapprove of his performance. 91% of Democrats but only 22% of Republicans give him their approval. He's also earning strong marks from independents, with 55% of them saying he's doing a good job to only 32% who express the opposite opinion.

Obama's 22% rating from Republicans is slightly better than the 18% we recently found for him on a national basis but indicates that even in the state he spent four years representing in the Senate he's not getting a ton of crossover support for his work so far.

Obama is not surprisingly getting some of his best overall reviews from two of the groups that give him his highest levels of support last year. 88% of African Americans and 73% of voters under 30 are happy with the job he's done so far.

Dick Durbin's approval rating is 47% with 34% disapproving and 19% having no opinion. That ranks him 7th for home state popularity of 22 Senators PPP has done approval ratings for in the last year. It's interesting to note that while Obama's approval is a net +23 among independents, Durbin's is split right down the middle, perhaps an indication of voter unhappiness with Congress.

Full results here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

More on Race and Ideology

A couple weeks ago I commented on the interesting fact that contrary to conventional wisdom, more black voters in North Carolina describe themselves as conservatives than liberals.

I've been tracking this on some of our other polls too and the trend continues:

-In Illinois, where we'll be releasing poll results from Tuesday to Thursday, 54% of African Americans identify as moderates, 25% as conservatives, and 21% as liberals.

-On our national poll last week the breakdown was 55% moderates, 30% conservatives, and 15% liberals.

I think the biggest implication of this is for Democratic primaries: running as the 'left' candidate is not necessarily a good path to winning the black vote, so important in many states.

It also makes you wonder how much better Republicans could do if they were able to shed the racist image they've built up over the years with many black voters.

What the conservative Republicans think

Last week we looked at what moderate Republicans think about some of their most likely 2012 Presidential candidates, so today we'll look at the conservatives:

The most popular is easily Sarah Palin. 85% have a positive opinion of her compared to only 10% who have a negative one.

In the middle with nearly identical numbers are Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. Both are viewed favorably by 71% with 13% holding an unfavorable opinion of Gingrich and 14% doing the same for Huckabee.

By far the least popular among conservative Republicans is Mitt Romney, with a 65% favorability rating and 17% dissenting.

When it comes to the horse race against Obama though there's a curious disconnect with the favorability numbers. Huckabee does the best, getting 86% against the President, followed by Gingrich at 85% and Romney at 80%. Palin actually does the worst on that count, getting 78%.

What does that mean? That there are a decent number of Republicans who really like Palin, but don't necessarily consider her to be Presidential timber. That could make a possible candidacy very difficult for her.

Notes on Elon's Latest

A few things caught my attention in today's release from Elon:

-The first is that by a slight margin more North Carolinians think the federal government regulates business too little (35.1%) than regulates it too much (34.8%). I would not necessarily have expected that in this business friendly state.

-It's a different story when it comes to business and labor though. 51% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of labor unions compared to 31% who have a favorable one. When respondents were asked generally whether they think unions or business are in the right when there's a dispute 47% say business and 26% say unions. And by a 50-36 margin they think unions have a negative impact rather than a positive one on the economy.

I don't always put a ton of stock in Elon polls, more than anything else because they don't release full demographic breakdowns on who they interview, but these numbers generally back up similar private polling we've conducted.

Just another reminder that recent voting patterns notwithstanding we are still a pretty conservative state.

-63% of South Carolinians say they would have told Mark Sanford to take the state's share of the stimulus money, which is not surprising, and shows even in that conservative state some of his decisions are increasingly being seen as goofball. A quixotic Sanford Presidential bid would be entertaining to watch though.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Perdue in Charlotte

Ancedotally Bev Perdue has been getting good reviews in Charlotte since she took office. But the statistics back it up too.

Perdue's approval rating in the region has been better than it is overall statewide on our last three polls. In February she was at +11 statewide but +17 in Charlotte. In March it was +9 throughout the state and +13 in Charlotte. Our most recent survey showed a +1 for everyone and a +4 in Charlotte. On average that means she's doing four points better in the region than she is in North Carolina as a whole.

That's somewhat surprising. Our analysis in February showed that Perdue won every tv market in the state last fall except Charlotte where she lost 57-41.

Her strong standing there speaks to her outreach efforts since the election, but it may speak to something else as well: the results in greater Charlotte last year probably had a lot more to do with people liking Pat McCrory than they did with them disliking Bev Perdue. There may have been some 95th percentile followers of politics who really gave thought to the possibility of eastern North Carolina benefiting at the expense of Charlotte if Perdue was elected, but I think for the most part folks just knew McCrory and liked him rather than the region's vote really being an indictment of the Governor.

Moderate Republicans want more choices

Our national poll yesterday found that moderate Republicans weren't all that fond of any of the folks currently mentioned as top GOP candidates for 2012.

Mike Huckabee did the best of the bunch, with 54% viewing him favorably. For Sarah Palin it was 53%, then 46% for Mitt Romney, and 42% for Newt Gingrich.

When it came to matching them up with Obama Huckabee led 56-32, Romney was up 53-29, Palin had a 55-35 advantage, and Gingrich was up 49-36.

Suffice it to say there's no way Barack Obama is going to lose reelection if he can pull a third of the vote from moderate Republicans. In a country with a significant Democratic identification advantage it's going to be very hard for any GOP candidate who can't pull at least 90% of the party's vote to be successful.

That doesn't mean the moderate wing of the Republican Party is necessarily going to have any luck getting a candidate it finds more acceptable as the party's nominee in 2012. Our survey showed only 25% of Republicans identified themselves as moderates. 72% of the party faithful are conservatives, and 3% are liberals still holding on.

Closing the book on Colorado

My final thoughts on Colorado this week:

-I am pretty sure Michael Bennet will get elected to a full term. His numbers aren't that great right now but he's done a good job of fundraising and when he gets to go on tv next year he should be able to convince the voters in the state, most of whom do not know a ton about him, that he deserves to stay. That's particularly helped by the very weak GOP candidate field. If a Bill Owens got into the race it would be a different story but it doesn't look like he's going to.

-That said, I'm not sure why folks were so shocked that Bennet's numbers this week weren't setting the world on fire. Just because Colorado went well for the Democrats the last few election cycles doesn't mean it's all the sudden a deep blue state. Last summer we showed Ken Salazar's approval rating around 38 or 39 percent. Why would Bennet's be better when he's never run for office before? It's not at all unreasonable to think that a political neophyte would not just coast to election in a state that five or six years ago we might have thought of as 'red.'

-I think Bill Ritter is probably more in trouble than Bennet. His numbers have not been very good for a while- last summer Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli wrote a column about how Rasmussen showed his approval at 45%. Voter opinions about him are likely to be more entrenched than those of Bennet because Governors have more visibility and because Ritter has been prominent on the Colorado political scene longer. That said, I remember seeing some pretty bad approval ratings in 2005 for Governors who ended up doing fine at the polls in 2006 so it's too early to make any real definite conclusions.

We'll poll Colorado again probably in July and see what the trends are.

Our liberal 'bias'

In recent days we've been criticized by the chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, Michael Bennet's campaign manager, Blanche Lincoln, and the North Carolina Republican Party sent out a press release touting our results.

The truth is it's been happening because we're doing just what we've always done- releasing numbers on key things around the country whether they're good for Democrats or not. It just happened that last year almost all of the news was good for Democrats. Most of it has been so far in 2009 as well, but there has been some bad news and now we're getting it from our own side just like we always have from the Republicans.

That's just part of the business. There are very few folks out there who truly judge polls and pollsters on their merit or track record- whether a poll 'sucks' or not pretty much depends on whether you like the results. It gets a little annoying some times but if you can't deal with it, polling probably isn't the right profession for you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ritter in trouble

Bill Ritter's approval numbers have gone into negative territory in Colorado, with 49% of voters in the state saying they disapprove of his job performance compared to 41% who say they like what he's doing.

Ritter's standing has seen a gradual drop over our last three polls of the state, from a 49/36 spread in mid-December to a 47/40 one in late January to today's numbers.

There isn't really any one place you can point to explain the drop in his popularity. He's seen a drop among Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

He trails former Congressman Scott McInnis 48-41 in a possible contest. McInnis is viewed favorably by 32% of voters in the state, the same number we found when we polled on him as a possible Senate candidate back in January.

McInnis leads the hypothetical match largely because he has his party more unified around him than Ritter does. While 81% of Republicans say they would vote for McInnis just 73% of Democrats commit to Ritter. Independents are basically a wash.

Ritter does lead another potential GOP candidate, Josh Penry, 42-40.

It's a long way until November 2010, but for Bill Ritter reelection is no guarantee.

Full results here.

More on Party and Ideology

In our national survey:

78% of liberals identified as Democrats, 6% as Republicans, and 16% as independents.

21% of conservatives identified as Democrats, 58% as Republicans, and 21% as independents.

As previously noted, 45% of moderates identified as Democrats, 18% as Republicans, and 37% as independents.

2012 President Survey

Is it too early to poll Barack Obama against potential opponents in 2012? Sure. But that doesn't mean people don't find it interesting, and it gives us something to track against moving forward so here goes:

On our newest national survey we looked at Obama against Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney.

Huckabee fares the best of the top Republican contenders at this point in time, trailing Obama 49-42. That margin is basically the same as what Obama won by against John McCain in November. Huckabee also has the best favorability numbers of the Republican quartet at 42/34. Even after running for President last year a quarter of the country doesn't have an opinion about him one way or the other.

Sarah Palin's numbers are an interesting conundrum. She easily has the best favorability among Republicans voters, with 76% saying they have a positive opinion of her. The other three range from 60-67 with the party base. But she also has the largest percentage of GOP voters- 21%- who say they would vote for Obama if she ended up being the party nominee. So for the folks in the party who don't like her that feeling is strong enough they'd rather vote for a Democrat. It adds up to a 12 point deficit for her, 53-41. Overall the electorate has a negative opinion of Palin, 42/49.

The low 60% favorability rating among GOP voters belongs to Mitt Romney, certainly an indication that securing the nomination is likely to once again be a struggle for him. He is viewed favorably by the largest numbers of Democrats for any of the Republican candidates in the survey, at 27%. He trails Obama 50-39.

The weakest of the potential Republicans at this very early stage is Newt Gingrich, who despite being out of the national spotlight for ten years still appears to have a lot of people who don't think much of him. 36% of voters in the country have a favorable opinion of him with 44% saying it's unfavorable. It's interesting that more voters have a take one way or the other on Gingrich than on Huckabee and Romney who ran for President just last year. Gingrich earned his fame as a partisan warrior and perhaps as a result of that he gets the lowest level of crossover popularity from Democrats, as only 15% of them say they view him positively.

Obama's approval is at 53% with 41% disapproving. Those might not be as good as some of his numbers earlier in the year but he's certainly in solid shape politically overall.

Full results here.

Senate Dems having trouble with independents?

There were two main reasons for the bad polling numbers we released on Michael Bennet yesterday. The first is that a lot of Hispanics are not happy about him. Overall 23% of the Democrats we polled were Hispanic. But among the Democrats who said they disapproved of Bennet's performance so far, 46% were Hispanic. What that mean was there were more Democrats (16%) who said they didn't like what Bennet was doing than there were Republicans (11%) who said they did like it.

That makes independents key to Bennet's standing in the closely divided state, and his numbers weren't very good with them (32/43).

We've done approval ratings on eight Democratic Senators over the last six weeks, and even though their average review with all voters is a net +12, the average with independents is just barely in positive territory at +.125:


Overall Approval

Approval w/ Indys


Michael Bennet




Mark Udall




Amy Klobuchar




Kay Hagan




Blanche Lincoln




Mark Pryor




Tom Carper




Ted Kaufman




This is a small sample but the fact that all eight of these folks are doing worse among independents than their overall approval numbers is a trend we will certainly continue to watch over the course of our polling this year, and it could have implications for 2010.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Obama doing well with conservative Dems in NC

Barack Obama trailed in the polls in North Carolina for most of last year, until the financial crisis really heated up in September. If you had to point to a single reason for his difficulty it would probably be the fact that he was having trouble shoring up support within his own party.

In our last three polls before mid-September Obama was receiving 69, 73, and 76 percent of the Democratic vote, losing many of the conservative Democrats to John McCain that had precluded the party's Presidential candidate from taking the state since 1976.

When the economy started really going bad a good portion of Democrats who might have voted against Obama because of his stances on social issues or even his race ended up deciding to give him their support based on pocketbook issues. Our final three polls before the election showed him winning 79, 81, and 82% of the Democratic vote.

I've been interested since Obama took office to see if he's holding up that level of support within his own party, and more specifically from conservative Democrats. And the answer is a definite yes.

On our last three approval polls Obama has had 82, 84, and 85% levels of approval from Democrats. That's better than he did at the polls, so it means he's held on not only to the folks who were leaning against him until the financial crisis but is also earning approval from some people within his party who didn't vote for him last fall.

His approval rating among conservative Democrats is 60%, perhaps not great, but a better standing than most national Democratic politicians have had with that group over the years.

It all adds up to a 54% approval rating.

Bennet's Numbers

Some blogger in Colorado whacks our poll today, saying there's no way 75% of voters in the state really have an opinion about Michael Bennet.

I think that's probably true, but it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with our poll. We choose to include party labels whenever we do approval or favorability ratings on pretty much any politician. That's because for a lot of voters party labels go a lot further toward their perceptions of elected officials than anything specific to the individuals themselves. So there were probably a lot of Republicans in this poll who don't know much about Bennet but disapprove of him because he's a Democrat and a lot of Democrats who don't know much about him but said they approved of his work for the same reason. If you don't include party label you probably get more than 50% with no opinion, but since voters making their decisions based solely on party labels and little else is a real fact in politics we give them when we're polling.

As for all the other nasty stuff this particular blogger says about us, the truth is we've released nine or ten public polls in Colorado over the last year and I don't remember them expressing all these concerns about us the other times so it's pretty clearly just complaining when you don't like the results rather than a true issue with PPP. Somebody in Colorado came into our site last night googling for negative information about us and I guess this was probably the culprit. Just goes with the business. Our final pre-election poll last year there showed Obama winning by ten points, pretty much right on the mark.

Bennet standing a little shaky

Almost four months after being appointed to replace Ken Salazar in the US Senate, Michael Bennet still has a lot of work to do to appeal to Colorado voters in advance of seeking reelection next year.

41% of voters say they disapprove of Bennet's performance so far, with just 34% saying they approve. He has more Democrats (16%) who disapprove than there are Republicans (11%) who express support for his work. He also has negative numbers (32/43) with independents.

It appears one of Bennet's problems may be residual unhappiness from Hispanic voters that he was appointed to replace Ken Salazar instead of another Latino. His approval with them is 36/45, compared to 58/36 for Barack Obama in the state. That's a 31 point disparity in the margin for the two politicians of the same party.

The good news for Bennet is that none of his most likely opponents are particularly well known or well liked either. Ryan Frazier, Ken Buck, and Josh Penry all have net negative favorability and are unknown to at least 50% of voters in the state. The only one with significant statewide name recognition is Bob Beauprez, and his favorability numbers are pretty dismal at 33/43.

Bennet leads three of the four in hypothetical contests, 39-35 over Frazier, 40-34 over Buck, and 41-34 over Penry. Beauprez leads him 43-42.

Bennet hasn't had the opportunity yet to define himself positively to the voters in a campaign the way most Senators have, and these numbers seem like they will inevitably improve. Nonetheless it is clear that his reelection is by no means a certainty, and given that it is somewhat surprising that no higher tier Republican candidates have entered the race. This has to be considered one of the better opportunities for a GOP pickup next year.

Full results here.

CQ: Burr Race 'Tossup'

Congressional Quarterly becomes, I believe, the first one of the race raters to put North Carolina's Senate race next year as a tossup.

I think you'll see others follow suit if Roy Cooper enters the race, and given where Richard Burr's approval numbers are I think this race is going to be a tossup even if Cooper doesn't run so long as someone steps up who the Democrats can mold into a good statewide candidate, ala Kay Hagan.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A simple problem for the GOP

You want to know why the GOP has done so badly at the polls of late? On the national survey we'll be releasing Thursday only 18% of voters who described their ideology as moderate are Republicans. 45% are Democrats and 37% are independents.

There are a heck of a lot more conservatives than liberals in this country so if the GOP inched enough to the center that even a third of the moderates felt an affinity for their party they'd probably be in much better shape. I know the concern is always there that you're going to then turn off the conservatives, but honestly, where are they going to go? There is no viable alternative right now for them.

The moderate class is larger than the far right, and Republicans will really have to think about what risks they're willing to take to become a majority party again, especially if next year's election turns out to be the third disaster in a row.

Different ideas about sins along generational lines

Our North Carolina poll last week showed majority support for Bev Perdue's proposals to raise the cigarette and alcohol taxes.

Digging into the crosstabs the most interesting thing about those numbers may have been that the age group most supportive of the alcohol tax was the least supportive of the cigarette tax, and the group most supportive of the cigarette tax was one of the least supportive of the alcohol tax.

Voters under 30 gave the cigarette tax hike its highest level of support at 57%. Those over 65 were the least supportive of it at 47%. Clearly the message has pretty much gotten across to the younger generation that smoking is bad, while older North Carolinians are both more likely to be smokers themselves and the most likely to remember the days when tobacco was so much more essential to the state's economy.

It's a different story when it comes to the alcohol tax though, with senior citizens giving that proposal its highest level of support at 65%. The youngest group of voters gives it only 56% support, the lowest of any group besides the 30-45 cohort.

Older voters are more accepting of smoking and less accepting of drinking, while younger voters are more accepting of drinking and less accepting of smoking. That surely says something about the transformation of North Carolina.
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