Friday, May 29, 2009

Coming next week...

We'll have kind of a random variety of stuff:

-Approval ratings for Barack Obama and the state's Governor and Senators in West Virginia. His level of popularity with Democrats there is about the same as we found last week in Oklahoma so that probably tells you what you need to know.

-A look at whether North Carolinians think Sonia Sotomayor should be confirmed- the results so far have been a little surprising.

-Our second to last Virginia primary poll. That one's a surprise so far too although we'll be in the field a couple more days. Looks like the WaPo endorsement could really make a difference.

And the road to Omaha for the Tar Heel baseball team starts this afternoon so I'm off to see a thrilling Coastal Carolina-Kansas game before the main event tonight- go Diamond Heels!

Looking at the Kentucky Poll Dispute

Jack Conway and Dan Mongiardo are fighting over a new poll from Mongiardo's campaign that shows him with a 43-28 lead in their probable primary face off.

We polled in Kentucky last month, and although we didn't look at the primary match up we can break this down a little based on the data we did get.

Conway and Mongiardo have almost equal favorables among Democratic voters- 58% have a positive opinion of the Lieutenant Governor and 57% have one of the Attorney General. Mongiardo's negatives are slightly higher within the party at 18%, compared to 10% for Conway.

Although it's possible that primary voters like both Mongiardo and Conway but like Mongiardo a lot more, as the internal poll would suggest, it would nevertheless be unusual for a candidate to hold such a large lead against an opponent with the same level of favorables.

Where there's a bigger difference in voter perceptions about Mongiardo and Conway is among non-Democratic voters. While Mongiardo and Conway are basically equally popular among Democrats, Mongiardo gets much worse reviews from Republicans and independents. For instance both candidates are viewed positively by 35% of independents, but 48% have a negative opinion of Mongiardo compared to just 28% for Conway. It's a similar story with Republicans- slightly more- 21% have a favorable opinion of Mongiardo than the 19% who have one of Conway. But when it comes to levels of unfavorability with GOP voters Mongiardo is at 49% and Conway is at 34%.

How much does any of this mean? Probably not much with about a year to go until the primary.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Liberals and the NC Primary Electorate

Today's discussion at BlueNC about whether Heath Shuler is progressive enough to be deserving of a Democratic nomination for the Senate next year reminded me of the report we wrote about how voters define themselves ideologically within their parties last year. Among Democrats in North Carolina 35% are liberals, 46% are moderates, and 19% are conservatives.

What are the implications of that?

It means that for liberal voters to keep someone from being nominated they would have to be pretty universally supportive of another candidate or candidates. And since we showed yesterday that Mike McIntyre and Heath Shuler are actually pretty popular with liberal Democrats at this point that doesn't seem a likely scenario.

It also means that if McIntyre or Shuler decides to make the race and has the support of the DSCC the chances of them not winning the nomination are pretty small. They each have plenty of money already and if they have institutional support behind them fundraising for any other candidates is going to be a tough proposition.

I'm not saying that's a good thing- I think Democrats would be best off next year with a candidate who can run against the Washington establishment- but that is how I see it playing out if a sitting member of Congress agrees to run.

Young People and the 2010 Senate Race

There's been a lot of speculation related to Democratic hopes in North Carolina next year predicated on whether black turnout will come close to matching its 2008 levels but another thing Democrats need to look out for is the voting patterns of the under 30 crowd- both whether they show up and whether they vote as strongly Democratic as they did last fall.

On our poll earlier this week Barack Obama got by far his best numbers from young people, with 58% approving of his job performance and just 34% dissenting.

But despite their like of the President those same young people weren't necessarily that supportive of giving him another Democrat to work with in the Senate:

-Elizabeth Edwards led 46-37, Richard Moore led 40-35, Cal Cunningham led 39-31, Dan Blue led 38-32, and Bob Etheridge led 35-34.

-Walter Dalton trailed 40-31 and Heath Shuler did 36-35.

Those levels of support for Democratic Senate possibilities aren't anywhere near the President's popularity. Just because young people like Obama doesn't mean they're going to vote universally Democratic so it's going to be important for their prospects of beating Richard Burr that whoever ends up as the nominee is someone who will a) appeal to young people and b) make an effort to turn them out.

Breaking down Virginia's undecideds

Sometimes voters are undecided because they like multiple candidates in a race and can't make up their minds. And sometimes they're undecided because they don't know who any of the candidates are. The latter is the case in Virginia's Democratic contest for Governor.

Among the voters still undecided 66% don't know enough about Creigh Deeds or Brian Moran to have an opinion about them one way or the other, and 55% don't know enough about McAuliffe.

That's going to make late advertising crucial to winning those final votes. It's unclear who that benefits. On one hand you could argue that Terry McAuliffe has been on the air for months and not won these folks over, so the door is open for Moran or Deeds to earn their voters. On the other hand McAuliffe's considerable financial advantage will still likely make it so that he's more able to reach those voters with his message in the closing days.

Who are these remaining undecideds?

-They're disproportionately African American- 37%, compared to 27% of the overall primary electorate in our most recent survey. So far McAuliffe has had the upper hand with them so that could work to his advantage.

-They're disproportionately not from northern Virginia. While 29% of voters total in this race are, just 22% of the undecideds hail from the metro DC area. That's bad news for Brian Moran, who hasn't been able to get much momentum anywhere else in the state, and good news for Deeds whose weakest performance is in that region.

-They're more conservative and less liberal than primary voters as a whole. Among undecideds 27% are liberal and 22% are conservative, while in total 34% are liberal and just 14% are conservative. This could help Deeds, who does best with conservatives and worst with liberals, and hurt McAuliffe who does the best with liberals.

Just 12 more days...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kissell Update

So Mike Minter, who we didn't think would be a very good candidate anyway, isn't going to run against Larry Kissell.

The most interesting thing about his announcement was his opening the door for Robin Hayes to try to reclaim his old seat.

I actually think that would be the best potential outcome for Republicans here, although not necessarily for a very flattering reason. The truth is that there are 64 Congressional districts held by Democrats that voted more Republican at the Presidential level than NC-8 last year. This really is not a first tier pick up opportunity for them. So they might just be better off running Hayes, who can self fund, than having to spend any of their own money here. If it's not Hayes this could very well end up being Heath Shuler redux, where he won a blowout victory against a weak opponent in his first reelection campaign after Republicans failed to come up with anyone better.

It's worth remembering though that Hayes got plowed last year- a double digit defeat that can't be pinned solely on the Obama factor- and that Republicans who had been defeated in 2006 and tried to get their old seats back in 2008 laid an egg, going 0 for 5.

Someone could come out of nowhere- Kissell himself did- but right now the freshman Congressman is sitting pretty.

More on how the Democrats view their candidates

There is a perception out there that Mike McIntyre or Heath Shuler could have trouble in the primary running for the Senate because they're too conservative or that Richard Moore left a lot of unhealed wounds in the wake of his contest with Bev Perdue last year. Do the numbers back that up?

The simple answer is no. The percentage of Democrats who have an unfavorable opinion of their prospective Senate candidates ranges from 18% for Dan Blue to just 6% for McIntyre.

Shuler and McIntyre are actually more popular with liberal Democrats than moderate or conservative ones. 50% of liberal Democrats across North Carolina have a favorable opinion of Shuler compared to 39% among moderates and 22% among conservatives. For McIntyre the numbers are 45, 35, and 31% across the ideological spectrum.

Since liberal Democrats are not inherently suspicious of Shuler or McIntyre it means that for their ideology to become an issue in the primary an opposing candidate or third party group would have to make a large investment in air time, mail, etc. getting that message across and that doesn't seem particularly likely.

The 12% of Democrats holding an unfavorable opinion of Moore is average among the candidates we tested so it doesn't seem he did a lot of long term damage to perceptions of him among the party's rank and file with some of his campaign tactics in the closing days of the Gubernatorial primary last year.

It's interesting that the highest level of negativity among Democrats toward one of their own is directed at Dan Blue. I wondered if it might be a racial thing but among conservative white Democrats Shuler actually gets the largest percentage of respondents who have an unfavorable opinion of him, so it may be more residual reaction to Blue's efforts in the late 90s to become Speaker with the support of most of the Republican caucus.

The bottom line on these potential candidates, at least when it comes to how voters within their own parties view them, is that none of them are overwhelmingly popular or unpopular. That gives whoever ends up running the opportunity, as long as they have the money, to craft the image they want with the electorate because there aren't a ton of preconceived notions about any of them.

Turnout in Virginia

I've had several folks ask me what I think turnout is going to be for the primary in a couple of weeks. Here's my very much back of the envelope projection:

-156,000 people voted in the 2006 Democratic primary for Senate.
-Let's assume that 90% of those folks will vote in this year's primary for Governor. That puts you at about 140,000.
-On our most recent poll 48% of those who responded had voted in one of the low turnout primaries between 2005 and 2007 while 52% had voted only in the higher interest 2008 Presidential primary.
-Take 140,000, divide it by .48 and you get a turnout around 290,000.

Brian Moran strategist Steve Jarding predicts turnout won't exceed 200,000. Terry McAuliffe's folks say it could reach as high as 350,000. It's in each of their best interests to be right. Among the most frequent voters the race is essentially a three way tie with Creigh Deeds at 26%, McAuliffe at 23%, and Moran at 20%. Among the more sporadic ones McAuliffe is running away with it at 34% with Moran and Deeds well behind at 20 and 16% respectively. The fewer of those folks who turn out the better the chances of someone other than McAuliffe winning are.

Some folks are obviously skeptical of whether those more casual primary voters are really going to turn out but there were a couple of interesting things within the results of the poll that confirm my feeling they will. The first is that there is not a meaningful difference in the number of undecideds between the frequent primary voters (30%) and Presidential only ones (31%). When it comes to openness about changing their minds on who they'll vote for the difference is equally small- 43% of '08 only primary voters say they could shift while 42% of more frequent primary voters do.

To me, if those folks weren't really going to turn out they would have higher levels of undecideds and they would be less committed to the candidates they say they currently plan to vote for . But that's not the case. So I would expect turnout to be closer to 300,000 than 200,000. But I'm a pollster and not a turnout predictor!

This is definitely where McAuliffe's money might end up making the difference. He's just been able to connect with lower intensity voters, particularly over the airwaves, in a way that the other candidates have not.

Some thoughts on the public finance poll results

Post by Jonathan Crook, PPP Summer Fellow

Last week we took a look at how North Carolinians view the N.C. Judicial Finance Reform Act, the official name of the full public finance system for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals elections. The results generally show that voters like the program, with 60% saying that they either strongly or somewhat favor it.

However, not everyone is sold on the effects that the law is having. While a whopping 71% feel like candidates cannot take money from lawyers without creating a conflict of interests, only 28% feel that the law, first put into action in the 2004 election, is helping to curb corruption.

Obviously the word "corruption" carries some weight that differentiates it from other forms of malfeasance, but look at the numbers. In 2002 40% of the money donated to state Supreme Court candidates came from lawyers. That number dropped to 11% in 2004 after the enactment of the law, with the majority of funds, 64%, coming from the program.

Clearly the respondents who said that money from lawyers undermines the system would be pleased with this data, but what explains the dropoff in those who think the law is actually working? It may stem from the fact that only 48% of voters knew the program existed before taking our poll.

The public finance system in North Carolina is a sound one, and the numbers are showing that it is effective. Maybe the laws that actually work don't get the same amount of publicity as those that fail.

Full results here

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More of Palin's Dichotomy

Last week on our national poll Sarah Palin was the most popular of the Republicans we polled among respondents who said they did not approve of Barack Obama's job performance. 75% said they liked her, followed by 67% for Mike Huckabee, 62% for Mitt Romney, and 54% for Newt Gingrich.

But when it comes to the percentage of the vote each of those folks got against the President among his detractors Palin came in worst at 68% with Huckabee at 81%, Gingrich at 75%, and Romney at 70% all doing better. It's just another example of one of Palin's core problems looking toward 2012- even among people who like her there's no overwhelming sense that she should be President.

It's also worth noting that among people who disapprove of Obama or are ambivalent toward him the party breakdown is 60% Republicans, 26% independents, and 15% Democrats. While Republican voters will by and large get to make the decision about who their 2012 nominee is, they need to make sure that person will appeal to the 40% of voters skeptical about Obama who don't identify with their party.

Creigh Deeds: Everyone's Second Choice?

On our most recent Virginia poll we found that Creigh Deeds had the best favorables of the Democratic field, but was still a good bit behind front runner Terry McAuliffe.

Here's Deeds' problem:

-67% of voters with a favorable opinion of McAuliffe are planning to vote for him.
-50% of voters with a favorable opinion of Moran are planning to vote for him.
-Only 44% of voters with a favorable opinion of Deeds are planning to vote for him.

What's going on here is that Moran and McAuliffe's supporters hate the other candidate, but tend to be fine with Deeds because he's stayed above the fray.

For instance among supporters of McAuliffe Deeds' favorability is 32/24 while Moran has a net negative ratio at 23/28.

Among supporters of Moran the divide is more stunning: McAuliffe's spread is 12/71, while Deeds' is 44/17.

It appears for most McAuliffe and Moran voters Deeds would be their second choice...but in a state without runoffs that's not going to do him much good. It's just another example of how this being a three candidate field may be what propels McAuliffe to the nomination with well less than a majority of the vote.

Letting you choose

We said earlier we were going to do a general election match ups poll in Virginia this week so that folks could see the comparative electabilities of the Democratic candidates a week out from the primary. But after Research 2000 and Survey USA put out their own numbers on that last week several people have written and asked why we can't just do another primary poll.

So I'm going to let you vote. We can do the general election poll we had planned (which would also include approval ratings for Tim Kaine, Jim Webb, and Mark Warner) or we can do a primary poll. If we do the primary poll we'll add a series of questions hitting at electability along the lines of 'If Creigh Deeds was the Democratic nominee for Governor, would you vote for him this fall?' and ask that for each of the contenders.

So you can vote and we'll do whatever wins out.

How possible challengers to Burr stack up

PPP looked at seven potential challengers to Richard Burr last week and found the incumbent leading them all by varying degrees:

-He has an 11 point advantage over Elizabeth Edwards (46-35) and Dan Blue (44-33)
-He has a 13 point lead over Richard Moore (47-34)
-He has a 16 point edge on Bob Etheridge (47-31) and Heath Shuler (44-28)
-He has a 19 point margin over Walter Dalton (48-29)

We also tested Cal Cunningham, providing a two sentence biography of him as part of the question to compensate for his low name recognition, and found him trailing by just eight points (42-34). That's an important reminder that having a good story to tell is more important for potential challengers to Burr than initial name id, a lesson that was learned well in the laborious Democratic recruitment saga of 2008 that ended up with a winner in Kay Hagan.

This is also an appropriate spot for a reminder that when we tested Mike McIntyre against Burr last month he trailed by just five points.

All of these potential candidates hold Burr under the 50% mark generally considered safe for an incumbent.

There is some good news for Burr in the numbers. He holds at least a double digit lead among independents in every one of the potential match ups, continuing a trend PPP is finding with those voters across the country that may indicate some folks will be voting for divided government next year to keep Democrats from consolidating too much power.

Pulling together all the information we have, here's the state of the race: when Roy Cooper decided not to run Democrats lost the only candidate who would have made this an instant tossup. But Richard Burr is still in a vulnerable position pretty comparable to where Elizabeth Dole found herself at this time two years ago. But whoever the Democratic standard bearer ends up being will have to be molded into a formidable candidate, as Hagan was, rather than just inherently starting out as one. Now Democrats are going to have to make a choice- do they get a Shuler or McIntyre who have big bank accounts and a good position from which to raise more or do they go more towards a Cunningham who might need more help raising money but can run as an outsider in an election cycle where not having any Washington taint could be a very good thing? It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Full results here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Closing the book on Oklahoma

Well I don't think there's much hope for Democrats in Oklahoma next year.

Tom Coburn might retire but I doubt Brad Henry is going to get in the race and even if he does I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being 2004 all over again, when Brad Carson was a great candidate who just couldn't overcome the conservatism of the state.

The fact that Henry doesn't start out with the lead against some possible opponents is pretty discouraging because this is actually one state where running against Barack Obama likely would be effective. The message that Democrats in Washington don't need any more control would be a powerful one in the Sooner State, and could very well have the potency to overcome someone like Henry's personal popularity.

Republicans aren't likely to have the kind of success Democrats did in 2006 and 2008 running against the President, but if there's one place where they will it's Oklahoma.

Needless to say when the voters in a state think Rush Limbaugh's vision for America is better than Barack Obama's, Democrats are going to be fighting an up hill battle.

Deeds with Momentum, McAuliffe with Lead

There hasn't been much movement over the last two and a half weeks in the Virginia Governor's race, but what has occurred is all in Creigh Deeds' direction.

That doesn't change the fact that Terry McAuliffe continues to hold a solid lead.

McAuliffe is at 29%, followed by Deeds and Brian Moran each tied at 20%, McAuliffe and Moran have stayed in place since the last poll, while Deeds has made a six point gain.

McAuliffe's continued lead speaks to a savvy campaign strategy. In the places where none of the three candidates had a natural base- greater Richmond and Hampton Roads- he has made himself the candidate of choice. And in the places where Moran and Deeds do have a natural advantage- northern Virginia and the more rural parts of the state respectively- McAuliffe has done a good job of at least making himself the second choice even if he is not likely to score outright victories in those areas.

Since going on the air Deeds has made significant gains Southside and in Hampton Roads and Richmond. He also now has the best favorability ratings of the trio, holding both the highest positives and the lowest negatives. Deeds' spread is at 42/16, followed by Moran at 38/20, and McAuliffe at 37/36.

The reason that Deeds and Moran are having trouble catching up even with such a large swath of the primary electorate holding a negative opinion of McAuliffe is that neither of them has been able to break away with the support of the front runner's detractors. Among people who view McAuliffe unfavorably Moran leads Deeds 40-35. The fact that those votes are splitting so evenly may end up being what hands the nomination to McAuliffe. A two way contest would likely be a dead heat at this point.

With 31% of the electorate undecided and 42% of those with a current preference open to the possibility of changing it there continue to be quite a few votes up for grabs. Here are some key points of strategy for each of the contenders in the last two and a half weeks:

Creigh Deeds:

-Improve his standing in Northern Virginia. Although he has made strides of late he is still in a distant last place at 11% in the most voter rich part of the state. He needs to find a way to turn the momentum from his Washington Post endorsement into votes.

-Cement his status as the candidate of choice for conservative Democrats. He leads McAuliffe 32-13 right now with them but 49% are undecided compared to just 24% of liberals and 30% of moderates. It might not be the largest swath of the primary electorate but getting all those undecideds to come down in his camp would do a lot to move him closer.

Terry McAuliffe:

-Firm up the black vote and get it out. This contest is in the margin of error right now among white voters, but McAuliffe has a solid lead overall because he has nearly a 20 point advantage with African Americans. 43% of black voters are undecided compared to 25% of whites so he needs to continue lining up their votes and he also needs to make sure they hit the polls in what is shaping up as a pretty low interest election. The higher turnout is the better shape McAuliffe will find himself in.

Brian Moran:

-Build some support outside of Northern Virginia. Right now he is in last place in every section of the state except for his home region. It may have more voters than any other part, but he's not going to win unless he significantly improves his standing in the other parts of the state down the stretch run.

Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran:

-Step up efforts to turn out independents and Republicans. Our numbers have consistently shown that McAuliffe is the least well liked of the Democratic trio with these voters. In most of the state there's really no reason to turn out for the GOP primary this year, so if those folks could be convinced to turn out and vote against McAuliffe it could provide a boon to Deeds and/or Moran.

In the race for Lieutenant Governor Jody Wagner leads Michael Signer 21-11.

Full results here

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Teasers on Virginia

The poll will be out sometime around mid day tomorrow morning but a couple points of preview:

-Only one candidate has gained since our last poll two and a half weeks ago.

-Primary voters with a negative opinion of Terry McAuliffe are almost evenly split with 40% supporting Brian Moran and 35% for Creigh Deeds. That divide may be what ends up ensuring a victory for him- if it was a one on one contest I have to think the race would be tied or even showing a slight advantage to the candidate who was not Terry. But the field is what it is and the inability of either candidate to corral the anti-McAuliffe vote is allowing him to maintain a lead.

Obama looking strong for 2012

PPP's monthly look at how Barack Obama fares nationally against some potential 2012 rivals again shows him in solid position, with Mike Huckabee coming the closest for the second time in a row.

Obama leads Huckabee 52-39, Newt Gingrich 53-36, Mitt Romney 53-35, and Sarah Palin 56-37. Any of these match ups, at this point in time, would give him a margin of victory far exceeding what he won against John McCain last November.

Although that's certainly somewhat attributable to Obama's popularity it's also an indication that the GOP- like the Democrats last year- might end up better off if a fresher candidate emerges than the ones currently most well known and discussed.

Huckabee has the best favorability rating of the GOP quartet, at 44/32. That's followed by Romney at 40/36, Palin at 42/50, and Gingrich at 30/47.

Palin is actually the most popular among Republicans with 76% viewing her favorably, compared to 67% for Romney, 64% for Huckabee, and 57% for Gingrich. But she also has the weakest numbers among Democrats and independents, with 74% and 58% respectively viewing her negatively. All The GOP contenders get unfavorable reviews from independents with the exception of Huckabee, who manages a positive 44/36 spread.

Palin is also the best known of the group with fewer than 10% of the respondents having no opinion of her. About a quarter didn't know enough to take a stance on the other three.

Obama's approval rating is at 55%, a finding pretty consistent with where he was in April (53%) and March (55%). His reviews continue to be very polarized along partisan lines (84% approval from Democrats but just 19% from Republicans) and he's at a solid 55% with independents.

Full results here.

An opening for Deeds and Moran?

The thing that caught my attention most in yesterday's new SurveyUSA poll on the race for Governor in Virginia was that they had only 63% of the electorate as Democrats, with 25% independents and 12% Republicans.

That's a lot more independents and Republicans planning to vote in the Democratic primary than we're finding, but if true, those voters could be the path to victory for Brian Moran or Creigh Deeds.

We have shown Terry McAuliffe doing much better with Democrats in the primary electorate than with independents or Republicans. With not much on the GOP side worth turning out for, it will be interesting to see if one of the underdog candidates makes a concerted effort to get those folks out to vote against McAuliffe in the Democratic primary. It's a long shot but with Moran and Deeds lagging in the polls lately it might be something worth making an investment in.

Updated Senate Approvals

Jim Inhofe's approval rating is 52/35. Here's our updated chart:



Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)


Tom Coburn (R-OK)


Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)


Tom Carper (D-DE)


Kit Bond (R-MO)


Mark Pryor (D-AR)


John McCain (R-AZ)


James Inhofe (R-OK)


Dick Durbin (D-IL)


Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)


Jim Webb (D-VA)


Mitch McConnell (R-KY)


Bill Nelson (D-FL)


Mark Udall (D-CO)


Richard Burr (R-NC)


Ted Kaufman (D-DE)


Michael Bennet (D-CO)


Kay Hagan (D-NC)


Johnny Isakson (R-GA)


George Voinovich (R-OH)


Jim Bunning (R-KY)


Mel Martinez (R-FL)


Roland Burris (D-IL)


Obama not doing too well in Oklahoma

A majority of Oklahoma voters disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as President, not a great surprise in the state he fared poorest in at the ballot box last year.

Just 38% of voters approve of his performance so far, with 56% disapproving.

Even among Democrats 31% disapprove of Obama's work, a rate far higher than PPP has found in any other state. And while he's doing pretty well with independents nationally, 58% disapprove of him in the Sooner State.

To get a gauge of just how conservative Oklahoma is we also took a look at public opinion about Rush Limbaugh in the state, and asked respondents whether they think Limbaugh or Obama has a better vision for America.

Even in this reddest of states, more voters have a negative opinion of Limbaugh than a positive one, by a margin of 45-39. But when it comes to whether they think the country should head more in the direction the President envisions or the one the talk show host would like to see Limbaugh wins out 56-44. 81% of Republicans, 58% of independents, and even 29% of Democrats picked him.

Full results here

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oklahoma's Tough!

We're releasing the President's approval rating in Oklahoma tomorrow, but to give you a flavor for it here is his level of disapproval among Democrats in each state where we've polled it so far:


Democrats Disapproving of Obama







North Carolina










Suffice it to say, it ain't gonna be pretty!

North Carolinians on the Issues

There's been some interesting shifts lately in terms of what North Carolinians list as their top issues. Here's how the top five for voters in the state have broken down since the beginning of 2008, looking at it every four months:

Top Issue












Moral/Family Values


















Health Care






War in Iraq












What seems particularly interesting here is the large decline since the start of the year in voters listing the economy as their top issue. Most of this movement has been among conservative Republicans, who have shifted their biggest concern to being moral and family values, most likely due to the recent increase in states legalizing gay marriage. This presents an interesting conundrum for Republican voters. Many, especially at the national level, think that the party needs to move to the center to get things turned around and that gay marriage in particular is an issue that really hurts the GOP with young people. But at the same time we have an increasing number of Republican voters in the state who are getting more and more squeamish about this issue and are going to want the party to stand as firm on it as possible. When your party's base is moving to the right while the path to victory is moving to the middle you have a party with an identity crisis, and that's pretty clearly where the Republicans stand today.

The drop in voters naming the economy as their top issue is not exclusive to Republicans though. An increasing number of Democrats are saying it's education or health care, somewhat of a return to pre-recession norms. I'm not sure why that is since the economy is clearly not fixed, but maybe people are realizing that life goes on even if you have to make some changes to how you would normally do things during tough times. There also may have been a feeling late last year and earlier this year that the worst was yet to come that perhaps has passed. It is nevertheless surprising that the economy is at the same exact level of voters naming it as their top issue as a year ago at this time, given everything that has transpired.

One final note: immigration, so high on the list of issues for North Carolinians throughout much of 2007, still has not returned as a big concern for voters in the state even as the number of people saying it's the economy has declined. I don't think it's that voters are getting more liberal on the issue so much as that it's just not a priority concern for them. At this point it's hard to imagine it being a big issue in the 2010 elections.

Interesting Stuff in Virginia

Because we don't want to poll over Memorial Day weekend we put our second to last Virginia primary poll in the field last night, and we'll release it Friday or Saturday.

We decided to look at the race this week in a new way: how are the folks who pretty much always vote in primaries leaning versus the preferences of people who turned out last year for the Presidential primary but did not vote in one of the primaries between 2005 and 2007?

A pretty clear divide is emerging. Among the frequent primary voters Terry McAuliffe, Brian Moran, and Creigh Deeds are basically in a three way statistical tie based on the interviews conducted so far. But among the more casual primary voters who did not find Webb-Miller compelling enough to head to the polls but who are intending to come out this time McAuliffe has a substantial lead.

It looks like it would be in Deeds and Moran's best interests for turnout to be as low as possible because if it does get up over 200,000 or so it appears, at least three weeks out, that McAuliffe would be the beneficiary.

Stay tuned for that later this week, and just a reminder of our schedule for Virginia, we'll be conducting a general election poll next weekend so the candidates' comparative November electability can be assessed and then we'll release one final primary poll the day before folks head to the polls.

Republicans favored to take back Oklahoma Governor

Republicans will start out with an advantage in next year's contest for Governor in Oklahoma, our newest survey finds. Mary Fallin and J.C. Watts each start out with solid leads over likely Democratic contenders Jari Askins and Drew Edmondson.

Fallin is the most popular candidate of the quartet, with 51% of voters in the state viewing her favorably. That's followed by Watts at 46%, Edmondson at 43%, and Askins at 35%.

In head to head contests Fallin leads Edmondson 48-38 and Askins 50-34. Watts has a 47-39 edge over Edmondson and a 47-36 one over Askins.

The reason for the Republicans' early leads is pretty easy to ascertain. They have an advantage of more than 20 points among independent voters in the state in all four of the possible match ups. They also get more than 20% of the Democratic vote, showing much more popularity across party lines than Edmondson and Askins do with Republicans.

Although these numbers are not great for Democrats they can take heart in the fact that it's safe to say Steve Largent would have led Brad Henry by a margin far exceeding these numbers if a poll had been taken in May 2001. 18 months is a lifetime in electoral politics.

Although these numbers have limited value in assessing who would win a primary contest, we'll still note that Fallin and Edmondson are slightly more popular within their own parties. 70% of Republicans view Fallin favorably while 62% say the same of Watts. For Democrats the numbers are 59% for Edmondson and 48% for Askins.

Full results here

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A chance for Republicans?

Generally speaking Democrats in North Carolina have been the party of teachers and state employees, with Republicans much less supportive of those groups and their compensation levels.

That's why it was interesting to see on our poll last week that when it came to the recent furloughs/pay cuts for those groups of workers it was actually the Democrats who were most supportive and the Republicans who were least supportive.

42% of Democrats, 35% of independents, and 29% of Republicans supported the cuts.

Obviously this is a case of the power of the messenger. Most likely more Democrats were supportive because they feel like they should stand behind the initiatives of Bev Perdue, their party's Governor. Republicans are more inclined to inherently oppose such measures just because of the party of who is bringing them forward.

Still, it would seem there might be an unusual opportunity here for Republicans to reach out to these groups of voters. Our poll also found that state employees and teachers are not as universally Democratic as you might expect. 56% of public school teachers in the poll identified as Democrats with 36% Republican and 8% independents. For state employees the breakdown was 56/33/10. It will be interesting to see if the GOP makes any real efforts here to curry favor with these traditionally Democratic constituencies. It may be a while before they have another chance like this.

The NC Senate Race

We're going to do a poll this week that includes Heath Shuler, Richard Moore, Walter Dalton, Bob Etheridge, Dan Blue, Elizabeth Edwards, and Cal Cunningham.

I know some of those folks have pretty much said no, but Kay Hagan did two years ago also. We'd rather just have the data whether it ever becomes relevant or not.

That's basically every serious name out there who we haven't polled in the last month already (Mike McIntyre and Kenneth Lewis.)

The other six have all been in positions where they could reasonably accrue some statewide name recognition so we're going to give Cunningham a bio this time around so respondents can react in a more informed fashion to his possible candidacy. That will also be a reminder of a lesson some folks already seem to be forgetting even though it was so relevant just last year- having a good story to tell is more important than initial name recognition.

My gut tells me Cunningham is actually the best of the candidates currently being mentioned. He has a background that's going to play great in 30 seconds, but perhaps even more importantly he has no Washington stench. I think 2010 is going to be a great year to be an outsider regardless of your party- our polling is so consistently showing Senators of both parties not to be particularly popular that I don't see it shaping up necessarily as a Democratic or Republican year so much as a good year to be able to run against the establishment. Cunningham would be more in a position to do that than a Shuler or McIntyre who would otherwise be good candidates.

Anyway, we'll plan on releasing that next Tuesday...something to look forward to.

Oklahoma Senate Could be Competitive

With a 59% approval rating, Tom Coburn is the second most popular Senator out of 24 PPP has polled on in the last year, trailing just Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. If he decided to run for reelection he'd be a shoo in, leading Governor Brad Henry 52-40 in a hypothetical contest and holding a 53-36 advantage over Congressman Dan Boren.

It's not clear Coburn will run though, and if that proves to be the case and Democrats do a good job with recruiment this could be a competitive race.

Henry is getting solid approval ratings as Governor, with 52% giving him good marks and 36% disapproving. Those numbers would always be pretty good, but they're really good in the context of many state executives across the country seeing their popularity plummet with the bad economy.

Henry's approval rating compares favorably to the favorability ratings of two potential Republican candidates in an open seat situation. J.C. Watts is viewed favorably by 46% of voters in the state with 35% seeing him unfavorably and Tom Cole is seen positively by 43% with 28% looking at him negatively.

Despite Henry's greater popularity Watts and Cole each lead him by one point in a possible contest, a nod to the state's increasing Republicanism at the federal level. Watts has a 45-44 advantage and Cole leads 44-43.

Digging deeper into the numbers there seems to be a suggestion that Oklahomans would prefer divided government to giving Democrats more control in Washington. For instance even though 48% of independents give Henry a positive approval rating, he trails Watts 52-34 and Cole 48-30 with those voters. A lot of folks who like Henry's work as Governor are still saying they'd vote against him as a possible extra Democratic vote in the Senate.

Boren trails Cole 42-40 and Watts 46-41.

Depending on how things play out this race at least has the potential of becoming one to watch.

Full results here

Monday, May 18, 2009

Liberal Agenda in the Leg.?

The News&Observer declared yesterday that the Legislature has been 'leaning to the left' this year based on the passage of a number of bills that 'push liberal ideas.'

That was news to me. The good news is that we've polled on almost every individual issue they named, and the results have shown these initiatives have support across the ideological spectrum of North Carolina voters.

-On comprehensive sex ed: 88% of liberals, 75% of moderates, and 58% of conservatives in support as well as 80% of Democrats, 70% of independents, and 54% of Republicans.

-On specifically naming sexual orientation as something kids need to be protected against bullying for: 91% of liberals, 73% of moderates, and 55% of conservatives in support as well as 86% of Democrats, 62% of independents, and 51% of Republicans.

-On the smoking ban: 72% of liberals, 65% of moderates, and 60% of conservatives in support as well as 68% of Democrats, 62% of Republicans, and 58% of independents.

-On a more wide ranging plastic bag ban than the one that ended up passing: Democrats with 51/26 support, independents with 54/32 support, and Republicans with 39/36 support (we didn't ask ideology on that particular survey.)

Legislative Republicans have largely opposed these measures- which just shows that they are operating to the right even of their party's rank and file members across the state. The widespread support in the court of public opinion for these initiatives shows that they are pretty mainstream. I think the premise of a leftward tilt in the General Assembly implied by the story is pretty flawed.

Polling in Virginia

Over the weekend the Washington Post had a story about how they haven't been running any of the poll numbers on the Democratic primary for Governor essentially because they're taking the paternalistic attitude that their readers need to be 'protected' from automated polls.

Rather than being offended by this I was actually quite amused. Perhaps 10 or 20 years ago it would have been a real problem for PPP if our numbers didn't get run in the Washington Post but the fact of the matter is people who want to know what the polls are saying are finding out just fine. Every time we've put out a Virginia primary poll we've had three or four days worth of explosion in traffic to both our blog and our main website. And folks are able to see all of the data from the polls and decide for themselves what it means rather than just getting whatever the Post filtered from it. There's been wideranging discussion of each of the polls throughout the Virginia blogosphere so basically this is just another case of a newspaper ceding their once upon a time authority to the internet. No complaints from us on that front.

What I do find interesting is the lack of methodological rigor behind the Post's choice not to run automated poll results, given that's essentially what they're accusing our polls of lacking. They have no statistical evidence pointing to a lack of reliability in IVR poll results, just a couple anecdotes from campaign pollsters about how they don't use it. They say more research is needed on the validity of automated polls.

Well here are some places to go:

-The National Council on Public Polls broke out all the 2004 public polling by mode and found IVR slightly more accurate than live interviewers.

-The AAPOR report on what went wrong in the primaries last year found no difference between the accuracy of IVR and live pollsters.

-Wall Street Journal analysis of active swing state pollsters from last year showing Survey USA and PPP more accurate than equally prolific live interviewer competitors.

There's much more out there but at this point I'm not sure the media outlets that refuse to print IVR polls really care about the track record. Numerous election cycles in a row now have shown that automated polls are just as accurate as others. Kudos to Hotline and Roll Call which have looked at that and changed their policies recently, but there are some places I'm not sure are ever going to change.

What I find most disappointing is the fact that the Post isn't conducting its own polling on the race. It's a good chance for them to put their money where their mouth is and prove their superiority to us and Survey USA. They might be right, but we'll never know if they don't try.

North Carolinians on the Presidents since 1980

North Carolina voted heavily Republican in Presidential races most years from 1980 until last year, when Barack Obama won a surprising victory in the state. Why the sudden shift? A new PPP poll looking at the perceptions of North Carolinians about the Presidents since 1980 may give a clue.

Ronald Reagan gets the most votes for the most popular President in the state during that period of time at 44%. But George W. Bush gets the nod as the least well liked President over that time at 43%. The massive downward shift in popularity of Republican Presidents from Reagan to Bush may go a long way toward explaining the Democratic resurgence at the federal level for the state in 2008.

Barack Obama finishes second in the most popular category at 29%, followed by Bill Clinton at 18%. Those two get second and third spots in the least popular category as well, at 26% and 21% respectively.

Overall these numbers are a good prism into how politically competitive this state is. 53% of respondents picked a Republican as their favorite with 47% choosing a Democrat. But 53% also chose a Republican as their least favorite with the Democrats at 47%. Taken overall those numbers are basically a wash between the two parties. It's just another indicator that North Carolina should be pretty competitive at the Presidential level in the years to come.

Full results here

Friday, May 15, 2009

Obama approval consistent in NC

Four months into his term President Barack Obama continues to get consistently solid reviews from North Carolina voters.

51% approve of his job performance, with 41% disapproving. His approval has been in the 51-54% range every month since he took office.

It's interesting that Obama's popularity in the state has remained steady while Bev Perdue's has plummeted. Clearly she is getting more of the blame for the bad economy than he is. With the stimulus package and other initiatives he's had more of a chance to articulate to the electorate what he's doing to try to turn the economy around, where Perdue has been more in a position where she just has to deliver one piece of bad news after another.

Obama's numbers also provide more confirmation of where Perdue's support is falling apart. While the President and Governor have similar reviews from conservatives, Obama is running 38 points ahead of Perdue among liberals and 23 points ahead with moderates.

The same basic contour of Obama's numbers continues: very popular with Democrats, not at all popular with Republicans, pretty much split with independents. 81% of folks in his own party but only 12% of GOP identifiers approve of his job so far, and he has a positive 48/45 spread with independents.

Full results here

Cooper announcement doesn't really change Burr vulnerability

There's no doubt that Democrats would have liked for Roy Cooper to be their candidate for the US Senate next year. But the news today that he's not running doesn't make Richard Burr that much less vulnerable than he was a week ago.

Like the Senate election in North Carolina last year, next year's contest is likely to be much more a referendum on Burr than his Democratic opponent. The fact that his approval rating is only 36% right now- and that 32% of likely voters in the state have no opinion about him- speaks to the fact that he is likely to have some of the same problems in standing for reelection that Elizabeth Dole did. His level of visibility has not been enough to make a positive impression with two thirds of the electorate, and he doesn't necessarily have a lot of accomplishments from his first term he'll be able to point to in making the case to the voters that he's been a strong advocate for them deserving of a second term.

The fact that Cooper's not running doesn't change the fact that only 29% of North Carolina's moderate swing voters approve of his job performance, with more disapproving. Or that even voters within his own party don't have that much enthusiasm for him- a 59% approval rating from Republicans.

Democrats showed last year that as long as they can recruit an attractive candidate with a story to tell that will resonate with the voters, initial name recognition isn't all that important. Kay Hagan started as an unknown statewide and trailed Elizabeth Dole 43-27 in the first poll where they were matched up.

Burr's vulnerability has a lot more to do with Richard Burr than it did with Roy Cooper, and as long as Democrats can get a reasonably compelling candidate today's news doesn't change the fact that Burr is one of the most endangered incumbents in the country running for reelection.

Mike Minter

You can count me as someone unconcerned that former Carolina Panthers player Mike Minter would be a particularly strong candidate against Larry Kissell.

The first reason is that I imagine his name recognition is actually not very high. My guess is that maybe 20% of 8th District voters have heard of him. We did a poll in Minnesota last month where we asked people whether they considered themselves sports fans and 55% of respondents said yes. I imagine that number is pretty similar everywhere so you have almost half the population right there not interested in sports, and within that I bet more than half are casual fans who have maybe heard of Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, and Julius Peppers and probably not much of anyone else.

The second reason is that just because you're involved in sports and people like you does not mean they think you should be elected to public office. We saw that just yesterday when we tested Roy Williams against Richard Burr. 61% of folks across the state said they had a favorable opinion of Williams, but within that group only 44% said they would vote to elect him to the Senate.

And the third reason is that sometimes these non politicians- and football players in particular- who decide to run for office don't hold up so well when they're actually asked to provide some substance. If you have not seen the infamous Brock Olivo video from Missouri last year, watch it. I'm sure Minter won't flop that badly if he runs but his background almost puts more pressure on him to prove he knows his stuff than he would have otherwise.

And I don't think black voters are likely to vote for Minter just because he's black. My guess is if Minter is who the Republicans end up with Kissell gets reelected with 60% of the vote. If he really gets in we'll poll it and see where it starts out.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How ACC fans break down by party

Is it true that Carolina folks are more Democratic than Duke and State ones?

Our latest poll would indicate yes.

Among respondents describing themselves as UNC fans, 55% are Democrats, 30% are Republicans, and 15% are independents.

Duke fans are 46% Democrats, 40% Republicans, and 15% independents.

State fans are 46% Democrats, 43% Republicans, and 11% independents.

It's interesting to note that there are a lot more political independents among respondents who do not express loyalty to any of the teams- 21%. Maybe those are less partisan about sports are less partisan about politics or vice versa.

Williams well respected- even by Duke fans

Basketball fans in North Carolina might not be as partisan as you think.

On our poll this week 61% said they have a favorable opinion of UNC coach Roy Williams with just 9% saying they have an unfavorable one. But what's really interesting is how those numbers break down among fans of Duke and NC State.

68% of Duke fans have a favorable opinion of Williams with 15% unfavorable. Among State fans it's 60% favorable and 11% unfavorable. Among Wake Forest fans the spread is 59/12.

Maybe Roy Williams is just such a quality guy he transcends school loyalties- or there might just not be as much hate out there as you might expect. I think we might have to look next month at whether people are equally as admiring of Mike Krzyzewski.

Among UNC fans 76% have a favorable opinion of Roy with 3% unfavorable. I guess some folks just expect the team to win the national championship every year. Or maybe they were disgruntled they lost four games last year instead of going undefeated. Some people are hard to please.

Full results here

Burr approval more of the same

Richard Burr's approval rating in PPP's newest survey continues to lag in the mid-30s. 36% of voters like the job he's doing with 32% disapproving and 32% ambivalent.

By comparison Elizabeth Dole's approval was 45% at the same point in the election cycle two years ago.

One reason for Burr's difficulties is a relatively weak standing even within his own party. Just 59% of Republicans approve of the job he's doing. Next year this race will be the only thing really drawing people out to the polls in North Carolina, and if GOP voters aren't enthusiastic about Burr they will be much more inclined to just stay at home. That could certainly play to the Democrats' advantage if they are able to convince Roy Cooper or some equally popular candidate to get in the race.

PPP's first look at how Burr does against recently announced opponent Kenneth Lewis finds the incumbent holding a 45-31 lead. It should be noted that the first time we tested Kay Hagan against Elizabeth Dole she trailed 43-27. At this point these numbers are little more than a generic ballot.

Just for fun we also tested UNC basketball coach Roy Williams against Burr. Although Williams is immensely popular- 61% of people in the state have a favorable opinion of him with only 9% having a negative one- he trails Burr 46-34. That's a weaker showing than Dean Smith had two years when we looked at him against Dole. The retired UNC legend was within six points at 41-35. The divergent standings of Williams and Smith as possible political candidates is likely attributable to Smith being more overtly political throughout his career, although Williams did make it public that he voted for Barack Obama last year.

This Democrat and UNC alum thinks we need Roy coaching the Tar Heels a lot more than we need another Democratic Senator, and I'm sure some of that plays into his relatively weak standing against Burr as well. Much more on how North Carolinians view Coach Williams here.

Full results from the poll
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