Friday, January 29, 2010

Where should we poll next week?

We haven't had a lot of democracy around here lately in deciding where to poll because January has been quite a month, with a lot of stuff coming up that we just had to do rather than letting you choose. So to rectify that we're going to try something a little different. Please give us your suggestions over the weekend about where we should poll next weekend- statewide polls or house districts- and we'll pick finalists, let you vote, and do the top two for the week of February 8th.

As usual here's the stuff we're most interested in- races where there hasn't been a lot of polling, races where an incumbent may be more vulnerable than the conventional wisdom suggests, and obviously races that will be competitive.

Fire away and we'll get finalists up Monday.

Another Problem for Democrats

We have numbers on the Senate and House races in Alaska coming out Monday and one thing in them really struck me. Lisa Murkowski's approval rating with independents is a negative 43/44 spread. Yet she still leads a generic Democratic opponent by 15 points, 42-27.

As odd as that may seem it's not an isolated development in our polling. In November we found Roy Blunt's favorability with independents at a pitiful 23/44 and Robin Carnahan's at a still bad but much better 33/40. Despite that gap Blunt still led Carnahan 44-32 in the poll.

Our North Carolina Senate poll last month had Richard Burr's approval with independents at a negative 31/38. But he still led a generic Democrat 40-36 and held 7-9 point advantages against the three actual Democratic candidates with that group.

This is looking well into the future but when we polled John Ensign a couple weeks ago his approval with independents was 37/43 but that didn't stop him from having leads of 13-34 points against the three Democrats we tested as hypothetical 2012 opponents.

We saw in Massachusetts that independent voters are willing to go for a Republican even if they don't like the party, but in that instance they actually liked Scott Brown. What may be more disturbing for Democrats is the Republican officials who independents personally dislike, but will still support because they like the Democratic Party even less. It's something the party will have to find a way to overcome to be successful this year.

Independents in North Carolina

Republicans have won big victories in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia over the last few months thanks largely to overwhelming support from independents. That same trend is showing itself for the elections in North Carolina this year as well.

Our latest poll on Richard Burr showed him leading a generic Democratic opponent 46-25 and the actual Democratic candidates by anywhere from 20-26 points with independents. By contrast our final North Carolina poll in 2008 showed Kay Hagan leading 48-44 with unaffiliated voters. It's safe to say that if Democrats don't improve on their current numbers with those folks Burr will be reelected this fall.

It's a similar story with generic ballot polling. Voters in the state are planning to vote Republican by a 45-23 margin for the legislature and a 46-24 margin for House seats.

Independents in North Carolina are showing the same overwhelming trend toward the GOP that has fueled recent Republican successes in other states. It's something Democrats will have to overcome to preserve their standing this fall.

Palin Alaska Standing Falls

Six months after leaving office Sarah Palin hasn't regained her popularity with Alaska voters. Just 47% of them now have a favorable opinion of her with 45% seeing her negatively.

Palin hasn't seen much slippage with the Republican base in her home state- 78% of them view her positively to just 15% unfavorable. But she's disliked by more than half of independents (36/55) and Democrats (24/74). Her standing in Alaska also reflects a reverse gender gap that we've found in opinion about Palin on several of our polls- her net favorability is +8 with men but -5 with women.

The trends in Palin's Alaska numbers reveal the same fundamental truths as her national ones- she's beloved by the Republican base and loathed by most everyone else. Not a good formula for victory in 2012.

Sean Parnell is facing opposition from both Democrats and Republicans as he seeks a full term as Governor, but his popularity at this point would make him unbeatable if he's able to sustain it through the year. 58% of voters in the state approve of the job he's doing to just 19% who give him bad marks. He pulls off a feat only Arkansas' Mike Beebe has matched in our recent polling with majority support from Republicans (66%), independents (55%), and Democrats (51%). Those are not the numbers of a vulnerable incumbent.

Barack Obama's standing in Alaska hasn't changed much since he won 38% of the vote there in November 2008. His approval rating is 37% with 56% of voters disapproving of him. His party is happy with him (76% approval) but he's under water with independents at 43/49, and only 4% of Republicans like how he's doing. The Obama campaign gave serious thought to contesting Alaska in 2008 until Palin went on the ticket- in an odd twist of fate it seems the only chance Obama might have to make it competitive in 2012 is if Palin's on the ticket, given her steep decline in popularity.

Full results here

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Looking some more at SC-5

I don't know how much offense Democrats are going to be playing this year if they end up having to fight hard to keep the Senate seats they hold in Indiana and Wisconsin, but for the second month in a row we have some numbers showing Jim DeMint surprisingly vulnerable.

Last month we found DeMint leading a generic Democrat statewide by just a 47-38 margin and in our poll of John Spratt's Congressional district this week we found DeMint's lead over a generic Democrat at just 45-41. SC-5 is slightly more Democratic than the state as a whole but either way this seems like more confirmation that DeMint's inherent advantage right now is in single digits. DeMint has very little crossover support from Democrats.

I don't know if the resources will be there to make DeMint nervous this fall or not. It would have been real interesting to see what would have happened to DeMint if he'd been on the ballot in 2008 and Democrats had fielded a strong candidate- I think that could have ended up being a very close race similar to what happened in Georgia. But timing in politics is everything and that's why few from the Republican Senate Class of 2004 have much to worry about this year.

Lindsey Graham's approval is split at 41/41. Confirming our past polling he's unusually popular with Democrats (31%) and unusually not popular with Republicans (51%).

Finally the poll suggests Mark Sanford's popularity may have declined further in the wake of his wife's divorcing him. A month ago he was at 36/51 statewide, and now he's at 29/63 in SC-5. It's always good to be cautious in extrapolating district level results but a 19 point difference in the spread suggests something real happened.

Full results here

More on the TV Poll

I got a good question about our TV news poll from earlier this week: what's the deal with the Democrats who like Fox News and the Republicans who don't?

Not surprisingly there is a more conservative bent to the Democrats who trust Fox News. For instance 36% of them oppose the Democratic health care plan compared to only 16% of the party's voters overall. But to a larger extent it's a product of people who just generally trust the media across the board- more than half of the Fox trusting Democrats also say they trust ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC.

It's a relatively similar story with the Republicans who don't trust Fox News. 47% of them are moderates, compared to just 30% of GOP voters overall. But 56% of them are people who just seem not to trust any media- they give Fox News bad marks but they do the same for the other four as well.

I would definitely put this poll among the top five most discussed ones we've ever conducted- debates about the media certainly seem to get folks riled up.

Giannoulias leads Kirk in poll

In a reminder that contested primaries can be a good thing Alexi Giannoulias has jumped out to a 42-34 lead over Mark Kirk in the race to be Illinois' next Senator. When PPP last looked at such a match up in April the two were tied at 35.

The reason for Giannoulias' ascent is that where he was winning 60% of the Democratic vote last spring he's now at 72%. As his party's voters have become more familiar with him over the course of the primary campaign his support from them has increased. Right now he leads 72-7 with Dems while Kirk is up 76-5 with Republicans. Kirk also has a 33-27 lead with independents. It's close to impossible for a GOP candidate to win statewide in Illinois without at least a double digit lead among independents and a double digit level of crossover support, and right now Kirk isn't there.

Kirk does lead the other two Democratic candidates, currently trailing Giannoulias in primary polling, by small margins. He's up 38-36 on Cheryle Jackson and 37-36 on David Hoffman.

These numbers could change a lot between now and November, as none of the candidates are particularly well known yet. Giannoulias and Kirk each have around 50% name recognition, with favorability spreads of 31/19 and 27/22 respectively. Jackson and Hoffman are each known to a third of the electorate or less with breakdowns of 16/17 and 16/11 respectively.

One key thing to look at when Republicans try to win in blue states like Illinois is how the moderates are voting. Scott Brown won their votes in Massachusetts last week, something that has become a very rare occurrence for GOP candidates in the past few election cycles. Right now Giannoulias is ahead of Kirk 45-25 with them. Kirk will have to make some significant in roads there if he's going to win this fall.

It's a long way until November, one of the quirks of the Illinois election calendar. But in a month when most of the news for Democrats has been bad this poll stands out as a rare ray of sunshine for the party's hopes in the Senate.

Full results here

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Responding to ABC

ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer took on our survey about what tv news operations viewers do and don't trust yesterday on his blog.

I encourage you to read it but ultimately Langer's point is that you should only pay attention to polls that he finds acceptable, and to meet his standards for acceptability your poll pretty much has to be sponsored by a major news institution, foundation, or university.

Ultimately what I see coming through in Langer's writing is insecurity- not so much about the fact that ABC News came out poorly in the poll, but about the fact that he and the small fraternity of other polling organizations he finds acceptable no longer control the polling world. Organizations like Rasmussen and PPP that are getting more and more public attention and showing themselves to be as accurate or better than traditional pollsters are a serious threat to the folks who used to have the marketplace to themselves, and that's why you continue to see the likes of Langer cut us down whenever they have have the opportunity. They're still trying to fight the battle against people taking our polling as seriously as their polling, but they're losing it a little more day by day.

One of the most amusing things Langer and others in his cohort claim is that polls should not be judged by their accuracy- i.e. PPP, Survey USA, and Rasmussen are bad no matter how good their polls are at nailing election outcomes because he doesn't like the methodology. That attitude may still hold water in the small self appointed fraternity of elitist pollsters, but in our results oriented society most consumers of polls will continue to turn more and more toward organizations that have proven track records of accuracy.

One of the ironic things about ABC and similar polling operations is that they rarely poll anything they could be held to public account for. For instance the Massachusetts Senate race was undoubtedly of huge national significance but none of the outfits that pass Langer's litmus test of reliability conducted a pre election poll there that could have shown that they do- or don't- know what they're doing. We're just supposed to take their word for it that their polling is correct because they said so.

Langer went through our poll and nitpicked a bunch of stuff he didn't like from a demographic standpoint, generally because it didn't line up with his polls. You could go through and do that with any poll (and none of it would have significantly impacted the overall conclusions) but what I found most interesting was that he criticized the fact that the people we interviewed didn't report voting for Barack Obama by a 53-46 margin for President in 2008.

Beyond the fact (that I'm sure he would agree with) that we're not going to weight every poll for the next four years to the self reported 2008 vote, I find it most interesting that Langer levied no criticism of a June CBS/NYT poll where respondents reported having voted for Barack Obama by a 23 point margin. It's hard to justify that as a representative sample by any stretch of the imagination but Langer didn't see fit to say anything about that at the time probably because CBS is part of the insider club whose polls he sees fit for existence.

He also tries to undercut our finding that Fox News is the most trusted by citing a bunch of other polls while neglecting to mention a Sacred Heart University one last fall that found the same thing we did.

Whether ABC News does or does not cover our polls is really immaterial to our success as a company. Relying on the mainstream media to get your work out is so last century. But I do think organizations that continue to not report IVR polls do their readers/viewers a disservice. Three weekends ago two polls came out on the Massachusetts Senate election- one from the Boston Globe showing a 15 point lead from Martha Coakley and one from us showing a one point lead for Scott Brown.

Our poll got massive mounts of attention, but certainly not as much from the MSM gatekeepers as the Globe one. At this point it's pretty clear which of the polls gave a truer picture of the race but to Langer that doesn't matter- the Globe poll was still better because methodology is more important than results. He's entitled to that opinion- but I think few outside of the polling elite would agree.

GOP Party Unity

In the wake of NY-23 last fall a lot of Democrats hoped that the ideological war within the Republican Party would impede GOP progress in 2010. I just don't see it though.

Take a look at Florida- yesterday's Quinnipiac poll showed Marco Rubio getting 82% of the GOP vote against Kendrick Meek and Charlie Crist getting 80%. The Rubio people might be disappointed if Crist still manages to win the primary, but they'd still vote for him to keep Democrats from increasing their margin in the Senate. And the Crist people might think Rubio is too far to the right, but that would probably be outweighed by a feeling that Meek is too far to the left.

In either case Democrats are less unified. Meek gets 77% of the Democratic vote against Rubio and 69% against Crist. In 2008 there was no unity gap in Florida with both Barack Obama and John McCain getting 87% of the vote from their party.

You could try to chalk that up to Meek's low name recognition in comparison to Rubio and Crist but there's no gap in the number of undecideds between the Democrats and Republicans in Florida.

In Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia Republican voters have been more unified than the Democrats. Whatever ideological differences they may have within their party pale in comparison to their common hatred of President Obama and Congressional Democrats, and while the disunity story will probably still get a lot of press I don't think it will ultimately have much of an effect on what happens in November.

John Spratt Poll

John Spratt is facing his toughest reelection in years this fall, but he's in better shape than some of his Democratic colleagues in conservative leaning Congressional districts. Here's the bad news and the good news for Spratt from our new poll of SC-5:

The Bad News:

-The Democratic brand in Spratt's district is pretty poor right now. 55% of voters disapprove of Congressional Democrats to just 37% who think they're doing a good job. 48% of them think Congressional Democrats are too liberal. Only 33% support the Democratic health care plan with 51% opposed. And the President's approval rating is in negative territory at 46/49.

-Spratt's approval rating is in slightly negative territory with 41% of his constituents expressing support for the job he's doing and 42% unhappy. Predictably Democrats like him and Republicans don't, but by a 47/38 margin he's also under water with independents.

The Good News:

-47% of Spratt's constituents think that he's ideologically 'about right' compared to 34% who think he's too liberal. That means a significant percentage of his constituents perceive Spratt differently than they do Congressional Democrats as a whole rather than lumping him in as 'just another one of them.'

-Congressional Republicans are even more unpopular within the district than the Democrats are with only 27% of voters approving of the job they're doing to 58% who convey disapproval.

What does it all add up to? Spratt leads potential Republican opponents Mick Mulvaney and Albert Spencer by margins of 46-39 and 46-37 respectively. Spratt is actually winning more of the Republican vote than either of the GOP candidates is of the Democratic vote, an unusual trend in the south where many voters registered as Democrats frequently vote for Republicans at the federal level. That's an indication that Spratt is still in pretty strong standing with conservative Democrats and that his health care vote hasn't ended his ability to win over some of the more moderate GOP voters.

At the same time he does trail both Republican hopefuls with independent voters by 4-9 points. Those numbers don't seem so bad when you consider that Barack Obama's approval rating is a miserable 27/64 spread with independents in the district though. Spratt continues to earn a lot of support from voters not enamored with the President.

Spratt's going to have to fight a lot harder than usual to keep his seat this fall but early indications are that 28 years of service aren't going to get done in by his health care vote.

Full results here

Kay Hagan's Standing

Kay Hagan made a meteoric rise from the State Senate to the US Senate two years ago, thanks to a strong campaign but also in no small part to a great political climate for Democrats. As her party's image has worsened in the last year so has her approval rating and now just 29% of voters in the state approve of the job she's doing with 42% disapproving.

90% of the voters who disapprove of Hagan's performance are opposed to the Democratic health care plan, indicating that issue may be driving her unpopularity. In a state where a majority are opposed to it a rise in her disapproval numbers was probably inevitable.

Hagan has pretty solid numbers with Democrats at a 49/19 spread but faces strong disapproval from Republicans (5/72) and independents (21/48).

North Carolina's Senators are really in the same bag politically- they're not that well defined personally with the voters so their fortunes are more inclined to rise and fall with the popularity of their parties. Right now for Richard Burr that's a good thing- he got elected in a Republican year and now he gets to stand for reelection in a Republican year.

Hagan won in a Democratic year and her popularity has declined with voters turning away from her party. She'd probably lose if she had to run for reelection this year- just as Burr would have lost in 2006 or 2008- but things may be back in good shape for her party by 2014 just as they were for Burr's by 2010. Impossible at this point to say what her future holds.

Hagan's full numbers here

Illinois Governor Poll

It's not clear which candidates will face off in the general election for Governor of Illinois this fall, but early indications are that it will start out as a toss up.

We looked at four potential November match ups and found Dan Hynes leading Jim Ryan 40-35 and Andy McKenna 38-36 with Pat Quinn trailing Ryan 42-35 and McKenna 42-36.

Here are our takeaways from those numbers:

-Hynes is a more electable candidate for Democrats than Quinn. Quinn's approval rating has fallen to 25/55...those sorts of numbers make him virtually unelectable in the general election. His 9% approval with Republicans is par for the course in a time of polarized politics but the 16/55 spread with independents is bad and the fact that his standing with Democrats is under 40% is even worse. Matched against the Republicans Hynes gets around 70% of the Democratic vote and Quinn gets just 60%, which is why Hynes is ahead and Quinn is behind.

-This is probably going to be a close contest no matter who gets nominated. Three out of the four scenarios we looked at came out within the margin of error and there are a decent number of undecideds. Illinois will be one of the most watched states in the country this fall with close races for both the Senate and Governor.

-The same trends that fueled Republican victories in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia are showing up in Illinois. Independents are leaning strongly toward the GOP, leading by anywhere from 5 to 21 points in these head to heads. And Republicans are also more unified, getting 71-80% of their party's vote compared to 60-69% for the Democrats. That's the formula that makes Republican victory possible in Democratic leaning states.

*We tested Ryan and McKenna because earlier polling in the race suggested they were the GOP front runners. Given the lack of variability in their performance relative to Hynes and Quinn it seems likely Kirk Dillard or Bill Brady would have polled similarly.

Full results here

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Palin Conundrum...

Our monthly look ahead to the 2012 race for President is a good prism into the conundrum Republican voters face when it comes to Sarah Palin.

She continues to be the darling of conservatives in the party with 79% of them holding a favorable opinion of her compared to 61% for Mike Huckabee and 60% for Mitt Romney.

But when it comes to the general election match ups she loses 30% of the liberal/moderate Republican vote to Barack Obama compared to just 23% for Huckabee and 22% for Romney.

It's a simple reality that Sarah Palin is less electable than a more mainstream Republican candidate would be- GOP primary voters in 2012 may decide their party's fate by whether they vote with their hearts or their heads.

News Poll Illustration

Fox leads for trust

Americans do not trust the major tv news operations in the country- except for Fox News.

Our newest survey looking at perceptions of ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News finds Fox as the only one that more people say they trust than distrust. 49% say they trust it to 37% who do not.

CNN does next best at a 39/41 spread, followed by NBC at 35/44, CBS at 32/46, and ABC at 31/46.

Predictably there is a lot of political polarization in which outlets people trust. 74% of Republicans trust Fox News, but no more than 23% trust any of the other four sources. We already knew that conservatives don't trust the mainstream media but this data is a good prism into just how deep that distrust runs.

For Democrats the numbers are a complete opposite- a majority trust all of ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC while only 30% have faith in Fox News. Continuing the trend in our polling over the last few months that independents hate everything, a plurality of them distrust all five outlets we looked at.

NBC is the most popular choice among Democrats at a 62/17 spread. Although 'NBC News' was the entity named in the question it's possible respondents could have been lumping MSNBC in with it given the good numbers on the left. At a 17/69 spread CBS was the least popular with Republicans, perhaps indicating residual unhappiness from the Dan Rather days. CNN finished second among Democrats, Republicans, and independents suggesting that it may be the least polarizing of the major tv news operations.

These numbers suggest quite a shift in what Americans want from their news. A generation ago Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in the country because of his neutrality. Now people trust Fox the most precisely because of its lack of neutrality. It says a lot about where journalism is headed.

Full results here

Follow us on Twitter

Illinois Senate Primary Poll

Alexi Giannoulias holds a double digit lead in the Illinois Democratic Senate primary but there is a small ray of hope for his top competitors, particularly David Hoffman.

Giannoulias is at 32% to 20% for Hoffman and 18% for Cheryle Jackson. Giannoulias, although still not overwhelmingly well known, has a big name recognition advantage over his opponents. 58% have an opinion about him one way or the other compared to 42% for Jackson and 37% for Hoffman.

Whether that gap can be made up in the final week of the campaign or not remains to be seen but Hoffman actually leads Giannoulias 47-29 among that 37% of primary voters who do know who he is. That won't count for much if he can't make his way into the consciousness of the electorate over the final week but it at least suggests the potential for tightening.

Giannoulias is the only candidate polling in double digits with both white voters and black voters. With whites he's up 34-24 on Hoffman with Jackson pulling only 9% and with blacks he's trailing Jackson 48-30 with Hoffman getting just 5%. He has to be seen as an overwhelming favorite at this point but with 27% of voters still undecided his victory is not completely inevitable.

It's a different story on the Republican side where Mark Kirk has a 42-9 lead over Patrick Hughes. Hughes has tried to make himself the candidate of the right wing of the party and while he is more competitive with conservatives than he is with moderates, he's still at a 38-10 deficit with them. Not much to see on this one.

Full results here

Illinois Governor Primary Numbers

A primary loss for Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is looking more and more possible. He trails Dan Hynes 41-40 in our poll of the race.

Hynes' slight advantage is due largely to a 45-38 lead with African Americans, suggesting that a controversial ad featuring former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington making disparaging comments about Quinn may be working to Hynes' advantage. The two candidates are tied among white voters with Quinn holding a 44-36 lead with Hispanics.

Quinn's approval rating even among Democratic primary voters is just 38%, with an equal 38% disapproving of his job performance. 35% of voters view Hynes favorably to 25% unfavorably.
This race could still go either way but the momentum is in Hynes' favor given his huge deficit in polling just a month ago.

The Republican race is even more up for grabs with five candidates polling within eight points of each other. Kirk Dillard is at 19%, followed by Andy McKenna with 17%, Bill Brady with 16%, Jim Ryan at 13%, and Adam Andrzejewski at 11%. Of the remaining candidates only Dan Proft with 7% is not in double digits.

At this point it seems the momentum is with Dillard, McKenna, and Brady with Ryan suffering from whatever the reverse of momentum is but on the Republican side it is definitely anyone's game.

A week out from the primary there are still ten plausible match ups for the general election with five Republicans and two Democrats in serious contention- it's not too often you see this kind of pile up so late in the game.

Full results here

Monday, January 25, 2010

On Deck for this week...

Over the rest of this week we'll finish releasing our national poll, see where John Spratt stands in SC-5, and take a comprehensive look at the Illinois political landscape.

Here's what to watch for:


-Primary numbers for Governor and Senate in Illinois. Dan Hynes has been closing on Pat Quinn in recent polling...can he take the lead? And is anyone getting separation on the GOP side? The Senate numbers confirm the conventional wisdom.

-What is the most trusted news source in America? We looked at national perceptions of ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News


-General election numbers for Governor in Illinois...a Rasmussen poll last month showed Dan Hynes more electable than incumbent Pat Quinn...will that trend hold? And how good are Republican prospects for retaking the office this fall?

-The meat of the John Spratt poll- what's his approval, what do his constituents think of Obama and health care, and where does he stand relative to challenger Mick Mulvaney.


-General election numbers for Senate in Mark Kirk getting carried along with the Republican wave nationally or is the state holding to its usual Democratic leanings?

-And the 'other stuff' from the South Carolina poll- looking at where Mark Sanford, Lindsey Graham, and Jim DeMint stand in what is perhaps the closest thing South Carolina has to a 'swing district.'

Generic Ballot Numbers

Republicans lead the generic ballot 45-42 on our latest national poll. Their advantage is a function of the same formula that has brought them victories in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts of late: a double digit lead with independents (43-31), and a slightly more unified party base (87% of GOP voters say they'll support their party compared to 84% of Democrats.)

Congressional Democrats continue to have a higher approval rating at 32% than the 24% of their Republican colleagues, but that's mostly because Democrats are more likely to rate their own party well than Republicans are. 66% of Democrats express support for their Congressional leadership while only 50% of GOP voters do for theirs. Continuing a long running trend voters who don't like either party plan to vote Republican by a 59-20 margin, which is why the GOP can continue to be unpopular and still have successes at the polls.

Turnout from racial minorities is going to be huge for Democrats this fall because they actually trail 53-31 among white voters. The only thing keeping the generic ballot competitive is their 88-12 lead with African Americans and 67-27 one with Hispanics. Minority turnout is always important for Democrats but with their level of unpopularity among white voters right now at an extreme level it's going to be even more important than usual.

The relationship of generic ballot numbers to actual election outcomes varies from cycle to cycle but this is just another data point indicating that a GOP takeover of Congress is plausible, quite a contrast from even a few months ago.

Full results here

Thoughts on Delaware

It's bad news for Democrats that Beau Biden's not going to run in Delaware. I'm not going to dispute that. But it's not quite as end of the world for the party as you might think:

1) Beau Biden is not an overwhelmingly popular politician in Delaware. When we polled the race there last month his favorability breakdown was 43/35. That's solid but it's not great. He trailed Castle by 6-8 points each time we looked at it.

2) Right now voters are very much down on the political establishment. A Castle vs. Biden race would have been establishment vs. establishment. Democrats have an opportunity now to field a candidate who can run more credibly as an outsider against nine term Congressmen Castle than Biden could have.

3) Yes, Democrats will likely have to run someone now with less initial name recognition. But remember that Scott Brown's name recognition was just about zero at this time two months ago. And Kay Hagan and Jeff Merkley were both pretty obscure before being elected to the Senate two years ago. Initial name id tends to be pretty overrated in statewide elections.

It would have been better if Biden had run but I don't think chances of a Democratic hold are that much worse than they were before.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Looking at the Democrats

You wouldn't know it from reading the blogosphere but liberal Democrats are actually pretty happy with the direction of their party right now. On our most recent national poll 76% expressed that sentiment.

The other wings of the party are not that content- 58% of moderates say they like where the party's headed but only 39% of conservatives do.

Those conservative Democrats unhappy with their party aren't complaining too loudly about it- they're just going out and voting for Republicans, as many of them did on Tuesday in Massachusetts.

On the whole Democrats (60%) are happier with their party than Republicans (35%) are with theirs.

Personally I'd like to believe that being more forceful and progressive and exciting the base is what would get Democrats out of the hole they're in right now but my job is to draw conclusions based on our polling and based on that I think things are generally fine with the base- the party's problem is voters, even within the Democratic ranks, who think the party's gone too far to the left. I think it's entirely debatable whether the party has actually gone too far to the left but the perception is there- even in Massachusetts 53% of voters said Congressional Democrats were too liberal. I don't have any easy answers for how you solve that problem while also having substantive policy successes- and I don't think anyone else does either.

2012 Presidential Poll

For the first time in one of our monthly polls looking ahead to the 2012 Presidential election Barack Obama trails one of his hypothetical opponents, albeit by the smallest of margins.

Mike Huckabee has a 45-44 advantage over Obama, aided largely by a 44-38 lead with independents. There continues to be no evidence of any negative fallout for Huckabee after murders of police officers committed by an ex-Arkansas inmate whose sentence he had commuted. His 35/29 favorability breakdown is actually slightly better than it was in November before that incident.

Mitt Romney does the next best, trailing Obama 44-42. His favorability is 36/32, and he's the most popular Republican among independents (41/32). Romney actually matches Huckabee with GOP voters this month and gets over 50%, ending a trend in his numbers that had seemed to spell difficulty for snagging a Republican nomination.

Sarah Palin trails Obama 49-41 largely because she loses 14% of the Republican vote to him, making her the only one of the GOP candidates we tested who Obama could get double digit crossover support against. At the same time Palin continues to be the most well liked potential GOP candidate within her party- at 71% favorability. Her problem appears to be that the Republicans who don't care for her will go so far as to vote for Obama instead of her.

Finally our blog readers voted for David Petraeus as our wild card Republican this month and his numbers come out as a mixed bag. He has the largest deficit against Obama, trailing 44-34. But at +13 his net favorability is better than the President or any of the other Republicans we tested. The problem for him is that the numbers break down 25/12- 63% of voters in the country don't know enough about him to have formed an opinion. Who knows if Petraeus would actually have any interest in going into politics, but if he did he would be introducing himself to many voters for the first time.

Is it a big deal that Barack Obama trails Mike Huckabee by a single point in January 2010? Not really- we're mostly doing this poll every month so that we can have the tracking data over time. But it does reflect the reality that Obama has work to do in winning back over some of the folks who voted for him in 2008.

Full results here

Obama in North Carolina

With Democratic fortunes declining nationally it should perhaps come as no surprise that Barack Obama has now hit his lowest level of approval yet in North Carolina. 44% of voters like the job he's doing to 50% who are unhappy with him.

Obama's lower numbers are due largely to movement among independents. They've been pretty evenly divided about him through most of his first year in office but are now splitting against him by a 61/33 margin. As has always been the case most Democrats (73%) approve the job he's doing while most Republicans (88%) don't. Obama's health care plan continues to be unpopular in North Carolina as well, with 53% of voters opposed to it and only 38% supportive.

You might wonder how relevant Obama's approval rating is at this point when he doesn't have to stand before the voters for another 33 months- but Richard Burr's fate this year is inextricably tied up in Obama's. When the President's approval rating has gone down, Burr's generic ballot lead has gone up. In months when Obama's approval rating has improved, Burr's standing has looked more perilous.

Consider this- last June when Obama's approval was a net +7, Burr trailed a generic Democrat by 3 points. Now with Obama at a -6, Burr leads by 9. There's been virtually no change in Burr's approval numbers over that time. Whether Burr gets reelected or not in November may have less to do with his own approval rating than Obama's.

Full results here

The Direction of the GOP

One lesson that can be taken from the recent GOP successes in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia is that your party can be a complete mess and still win an election.

Our national poll this week found that only 19% of voters in the country are happy with the direction of the Republican Party, compared to 56% who are unhappy with it. Even among independents, who have voted overwhelmingly for Scott Brown, Chris Christie, and Bob McDonnell 58% say they don't like the direction the GOP is headed in.

The GOP's own voters are displeased with where the party's going- 38% say they are unhappy with the current direction to 35% who support it. In a trend that perhaps provides at least a ray of hope to Democrats the Republicans unhappy with their own party are disproportionately moderates. 54% of them are displeased to 25% content- the question is what Democrats can do to get those folks to actually jump ship.

This much seems clear- if the Republicans keep winning even with a heavily damaged national brand it's an indication voters are choosing much more by what they're against right now than what they're for. I think a GOP controlled Congress for next year is still unlikely but it could be the best thing that ever happened to Barack Obama's reelection hopes.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Obama approval negative

For the first time in our monthly national surveys Barack Obama's approval rating has slipped into negative territory. 46% of voters in the country approve of the job he's doing while 47% disapprove.

Obama's approval peaked in our polling last May at 55%. Since then his largest declines in popularity have come with whites (from 48% to 36%), independents (from 55% to 43%), and conservatives (24 to 14%). He's also seen a decent drop with moderates from 69 to 61%. With his core groups of support- Democrats, liberals, and racial minorities- he's seen only minimal change in his standing.

Obama's health care plan continues to be unpopular with 49% of voters opposing it to 40% in favor.

49% of voters say that Obama has not met their expectations as President to 41% who feel he has. Most people who voted for him- 71%- say that he's lived up to what they hoped for. In an odd finding just 14% of McCain voters say so- but they must not have expected much or they wouldn't have voted against him in the first place.

Full results here

Burr's monthly check up

Last month Richard Burr's approval rating was 35%. This month it's 36%. Despite that lack of change in voter perceptions of Burr his lead when tested against a generic Democrat has increased from one point to nine over the last five weeks. It's another reminder that Burr's fate is tied up in factors larger than him. When Barack Obama's approval goes down, Burr's chances of being reelected go up. And if the Obama trend ever reverses itself the Burr one likely will as well.

Burr has the approval of 63% of Republicans, 36% of independents, and 16% of Democrats. To get an idea of just how little perceptions of Burr himself have shifted, consider that in January of 2009 his approval was 33%, breaking down at 54% with Republicans, 34% with independents, and 18% with Democrats. So other than a slight shoring up of his support within his own party Burr's numbers are basically unchanged even as he's tried to increase his visibility in preparation for seeking reelection.

Burr leads a generic Democratic candidate 45-36. Tested against his actual Democratic opponents this month he leads Elaine Marshall 44-37, Cal Cunningham 45-36, and Kenneth Lewis 46-34.

The Democratic candidates continue to sport low name recognition, no surprise in what is at this point an insiders campaign with no money being spent on media. 70% of voters have no opinion of Marshall, 83% don't of Lewis, and 85% say the same of Cunningham. The Democratic field is actually faring well compared to Kay Hagan, who trailed Elizabeth Dole 48-35 at this point in January of 2008. Their numbers relative to Burr will likely improve as they become better known- our first poll after Hagan's successful primary campaign found her deficit narrowing 48-43 before she went on to victory in the fall.

Nevertheless the political climate in 2010 is fundamentally different than it was in 2008 and that is to Burr's considerable advantage.

Full results here

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Republican Round Up

We're going to have our monthly 2012 poll out Friday but here are some observations on the Republican possibles:

-There continues to be no evidence of any backlash for Mike Huckabee in the wake of the Washington cop killings. His favorability is at 35/29, which is a seven point net improvement from 36/37 in mid-November. He continues to poll the best of the leading GOP candidates being mentioned for 2012.

-As much as the political climate has turned in a Republican direction over the last year voters don't really like Sarah Palin any more than they did ten months ago. In March of 2009 her favorability was at 39/50. Now it's 42/51. Yesterday's election could be seen as an indication that Republicans do better when they nominate un-Palinlike candidates. We'll see if they get the memo.

Poll Media Coverage in Massachusetts

Here's one question that I think needs to be asked in the wake of the Massachusetts special election: did media outlets that reported at length on the Boston Globe poll showing Martha Coakley with a 15 point lead while ignoring the ones from Rasmussen and us showing a toss up really do their readers/viewers a service?

Maybe the Globe poll was correct when it was conducted but there's no question the one we put out the night of Saturday the 9th showing Brown up by a point and then the one Rasmussen put out Tuesday the 12th showing Coakley with just a two point lead gave a more accurate picture of the race. Yet some media outlets kept on talking exclusively about the Globe poll for five days, until Suffolk came out showing Brown in the lead.

For the most part this happened not because of liberal bias in the media but because some outlets are still sticking to 20th century policies against reporting automated polls, despite the fact that their predictive accuracy is proven one election cycle after another.

What was perhaps most amusing about this particular election is that several outlets, including the New York Times, actually talked about our polls and Rasmussen's in their pages generally but refused to name us or print the actual numbers. I will be interested to see if any of the outlets who gave their audiences an unrealistic picture of the race at this time last week by reporting on the Globe poll and ignoring the others out there will be transparent with their readers about why those decisions were made and either change their policies in the future or defend them in a way based on quantitative data and not just emotion or conventional outdated wisdom about what does and does not make an accurate poll.

But I'm not holding my breathe.

Jobs Governor?

Bev Perdue has some work to do if she wants the 'Jobs Governor' moniker she attached to herself last week to catch on.

Only 20% of voters in the state give her an 'excellent' or 'good' rating on the topic of job creation so far, with 38% saying she's done a poor job on that front.

Perdue's overall approval rating comes in at 30% this month, with 48% of voters expressing disapproval. This matches her highest level of approval since last May when it was 34%.

Her numbers are getting slightly better because Democrats are slowly starting to warm back up to her. She gets good marks from within her party by a 47/32 margin. With independents (21%) and Republicans (12%) she continues to post very poor numbers.

Republicans lead 45-42 on the generic legislative ballot this month, providing continuing evidence that their chances of gaining control of the General Assembly are the best they've been in a long time.

Full results here

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Takeaways from Massachusetts

At Public Policy Polling we are very proud of the surveys we did in Massachusetts. We first showed Scott Brown in the lead on Saturday, January 9th, 5 days before any other public poll was released showing him with the advantage. And it appears our final poll released this Sunday night will have nailed the final outcome almost perfectly.

Here are my biggest takeaways from tonight's results:

-This was a repudiation of Barack Obama. Certainly Martha Coakley was a bad candidate and ran a terrible campaign but that doesn't change the fact that we found Obama's approval rating at only 44% with the electorate for today's contest, a huge drop from the 62% of the vote he won in the state in 2008. Brown won over 20% of the vote from people who cast ballots for Obama in 2008, and we found that most of those Brown/Obama voters were folks who no longer approve of the job the President is doing. And in one of the bluest states in the country barely 40% of voters expressed support for the Democratic health care bill.

-Republicans win when they nominate mainstream candidates. Among voters who thought that Scott Brown was either a liberal or a moderate, he won 79-18. Among voters who thought that he was a conservative Coakley won 63-32. There are certain places where the GOP can get away with running far right candidates but they aren't the places where they're going to need to win to get the House back this fall and the White House back in 2012. Brown didn't come across as an ideological extremist and that helped him win over a lot of people who never would have voted for John McCain or George W. Bush- and sure won't vote for Sarah Palin.

-Voters hate both parties right now and that's to the GOP's advantage. One of the most remarkable things about Brown's victory is that it comes even though only 22% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Congressional Republicans, with 63% viewing them unfavorably. He was able to overcome that because almost 20% of voters held a negative opinion of both Congressional Democrats and Congressional Republicans. And with those folks Brown had a 72-24 advantage over Coakley, reflecting the reality that in a time when voters are disgusted with all politicians they'll vote for the one that's out of power.

Things could turn around for the Democrats between now and November but it's hard to dispute the notion that this could be 1994 all over again.

Inter Party Turmoil

Here is a key fact from our Massachusetts polling: even among Democratic voters in the state there are slightly more (25%) who think Congressional Democrats are too liberal than there are (24%) who think Congressional Democrats are too conservative.

Unhappiness with Democrats from the left seems to get more attention but the unhappiness from conservatives and conservative leaning moderates is a bigger threat to the party at the polls this year.

The Democrats who think Congressional leadership leans too far to the left voted 67-31 for Barack Obama in 2008. They express an intent to vote for Scott Brown by a 69-25 margin. I certainly agree that if health care and other major Democratic initiatives don't pass it could cause some of the party's base voters to sit on their hands this fall- but the bigger problem for the party is folks who think it's gone too far who aren't going to sit on their hands but will actually go out and vote Republican.

Kennedy and the Mass. race

One of the explanations if Scott Brown wins tonight will be that Massachusetts voters simply weren't that concerned with picking a Senator who would continue Ted Kennedy's legacy.

It's not that they don't look back on Kennedy fondly- 63% of them say they approve of the work he did in the Senate over the years compared to just 24% who disapprove. Even as independents split 2-1 for Scott Brown in the current race they also split 2-1 in favor of remembering Kennedy's tenure favorably.

In spite of that only 47% of voters say they want the state's new Senator to carry on Kennedy's legacy. Among those who do Martha Coakley unsurprisingly leads 88-8. But 53% of voters either don't want his replacement to continue Kennedy's work or don't care and with those folks Scott Brown is up 90-6.

It may turn out that Coakley's hope to maintain the Kennedy legacy just wasn't a very effective message with the state's voters.

Perceptions of Brown

A Scott Brown victory tonight will certainly be huge for Republicans- but will it be big for conservatives?

In the sense that it could kill health care and other major Democratic initiatives of course. But in the sense that Republicans are best off nominating far right candidates who the party base is completely comfortable with not so much.

Consider this: 41% of Massachusetts voters either think that Brown is a liberal or moderate and with them he holds a 79-18 lead. 59% think he's a conservative and with them Martha Coakley has a 63-32 lead.

Brown is doing well with the voters who don't think he's a conservative and badly with the ones who think he is. That has interesting implications for the party moving forward this year- they're better off nominating candidates who don't come across as extremists or tea baggers. Whether the base will get the message that that's the path to victory remains to be seen.

Edwards' popularity declines

In the wake of new revelations about them in the book Game Change John and Elizabeth Edwards have both seen their popularity in North Carolina decline.

John was already the record holder for the most unpopular person we've polled anywhere at any time but he's hit a new low now with 15% of voters in the state holding a favorable opinion of him, down from 19% last May. 72% have a negative opinion of him.

He's still seen positively by 25% of Democrats but only 9% of independents and 3% of Republicans. Interestingly despite his new image as a philanderer men have a more unfavorable opinion of him (75%) than women (68%).

Elizabeth has seen the larger decline in her popularity but that's mostly because she had a lot further to drop. 46% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of her, down from 58% in May. 27% now see her in a negative light. Her largest shift has come among Republicans. They saw her positively by a 50/27 spread last spring but now do so negatively 41/33.

It's important to note that despite her declining numbers Edwards is still more popular than the Governor or either of the state's Senators.

Game Change has definitely had a negative impact on the image of North Carolina's most famous couple.

Full results here

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Massachusetts means for NC

With the political world abuzz about a potential upset of massive proportions tomorrow in the Massachusetts Senate race it seems worth taking a look at the implications of what's going on there for North Carolina.

It looks increasingly likely that Republican Scott Brown will win in a state that voted 62-36 for Barack Obama. Out of North Carolina's 8 Democratic held Congressional seats only the ones held by G.K. Butterfield, David Price, and Mel Watt gave Obama that kind of support in 2008.

It's a given that Larry Kissell's seat will be strongly contested this fall but a Republican victory in Massachusetts will likely make the party see seats like Heath Shuler's, Mike McIntyre's, and Bob Etheridge's as more winnable than they've been in a long time.

If the GOP can win in Massachusetts that makes the prospects for winning in districts that split their Presidential votes pretty evenly look a lot better than they might have a year ago at this time. And that should help the fundraising efforts of Republican candidates in these North Carolina districts. We've only had one or two hotly contested House races in the state per election cycle most of the last decade but that has the potential to change in this political climate.

Of course there's a lot of reasons these races are different than Massachusetts. All of North Carolina's Democratic members of Congress have a track record of running strong campaigns and winning in their districts, a contrast to Martha Coakley. A Republican win in Massachusetts should also help Democratic incumbents in North Carolina and across the country to realize that nothing can be taken for granted this year- complacency bears a lot of the guilt for getting Democrats in their current situation in Massachusetts. And finally it's unlikely national Republican money would flow into any of the North Carolina Congressional races in the way that's happened in Massachusetts.

Nevertheless a Republican win tomorrow will have a significant effect on the conventional wisdom about where the party can and can't win, and that could lead to spirited races in several North Carolina districts that have seen mostly lopsided results in recent years.

Throw the bums out!

One of the most remarkable things about Scott Brown's potential victory tomorrow is that Massachusetts would elect him even though 63% of voters in the state have an unfavorable opinion of Congressional Republicans with only 22% viewing them favorably.

That speaks in part to a failure on the Coakley campaign's part to effectively tie Brown to his unpopular national brethren. Clearly he's been able to separate himself from his party's bad image, likely a result of the week at the beginning of this month where he had the airwaves all to himself and was able to create an image without any push back from Coakley.

It also speaks to the 'throw out the bums' mentality we're seeing in the electorate in Massachusetts and elsewhere though. 20% of voters in the state have an unfavorable opinion of both Congressional Democrats and Congressional Republicans. And with those voters Brown has a 72-24 advantage, accounting for all of his lead and then some. We've said it before but it bears repeating- voters disgusted with everyone are going to vote for the party out of power and that could create a big Republican victory tomorrow night- and an even bigger one in November.

ACORN in Massachusetts

Scott Brown may be leading in the race for Ted Kennedy's seat in the US Senate, but his supporters are still feeling some trepidation about his chances. 39% of them on our poll said they thought ACORN would try to steal the election for Martha Coakley while 23% think it will not and 38% are unsure.

Overall 25% of voters in the state think ACORN will mess with the Senate election while 38% don't and 37% are unsure.

I think to most sane people the thought that ACORN would or could steal an election is pretty goofball, but if Martha Coakley pulls out a small victory tomorrow after most of the polls have shown Brown in the lead you'd better believe you're going to be hearing the ACORN card played quite a bit.

Brown/Coakley Illustration

Obama and the Massachusetts Race

If Martha Coakley loses tomorrow it will certainly have a lot to do with her running a poor campaign, but ultimately it will be a repudiation of the President.

Scott Brown is winning 20% of the vote from people who voted for Barack Obama last year, but these are not people who think he's doing a great job and just think Coakley is a duddy candidate. For the most part it's people who voted for Obama and aren't happy with how he's performed in office. Among the Obama/Brown voters just 22% approve of the President's work and only 13% support his health care plan.

Coakley is leading Brown 87-10 among voters who still approve of Obama, so it's not as if she's losing a ton of support from people who are still happy with him. Brown has a 96-3 lead with ones who disapprove of Obama.

Coakley has run a bad campaign, no doubt. But the state of the race in Massachusetts is more a function of unhappiness with Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats than anything having to do with her.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Massachusetts Senate Poll

Scott Brown leads Martha Coakley 51-46 in our final Massachusetts Senate poll, an advantage that is within the margin of error for the poll.

Over the last week Brown has continued his dominance with independents and increased his ability to win over Obama voters as Coakley's favorability numbers have declined into negative territory. At the same time Democratic leaning voters have started to take more interest in the election, a trend that if it continues in the final 36 hours of the campaign could put her over the finish line.

Here's what we found:

-Brown is up 64-32 with independents and is winning 20% of the vote from people who supported Barack Obama in 2008 while Coakley is getting just 4% of the McCain vote.

-Brown's voters continue to be much more enthusiastic than Coakley's. 80% of his say they're 'very excited' about voting Tuesday while only 60% of hers express that sentiment. But the likely electorate now reports having voted for Barack Obama by 19 points, up from 16 a week ago, and a much smaller drop from his 26 point victory in the state than was seen in Virginia.

-Those planning to turn out continue to be skeptical of the Democratic health care plan, saying they oppose it by a 48/40 margin.

-Coakley's favorability dropped from 50% to 44% after a week filled with perceived missteps. Brown's negatives went up a lot but his positives only actually went from 57% to 56%, an indication that attacks against him may have been most effective with voters already planning to support Coakley but ambivalent toward Brown.

-56% of voters in the state think Brown has made a strong case for why he should be elected while just 41% say the same of Coakley. Even among Coakley's supporters only 73% think she's made the argument for herself, while 94% of Brown's supporters think he has.

Full results here

Follow us on Twitter.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What we're seeing in Massachusetts: week 2

Here's what we saw on day 1 of our Massachusetts poll:

-The electorate is becoming more Democratic. Last weekend we found it at Obama +16 and now we see it at Obama +20. So all the efforts to get the party base more engaged in the election are paying off.

-Balancing that out to some extent though is that we're now seeing Brown win about 19% of the Obama vote, in comparison to 15% on our poll last week.

-Both candidates have seen a pretty large increase in their negatives over the last week, reflecting the increasingly nasty nature of the campaign.

-Even though the race is too close to call overall, 58% of voters think Brown has made a strong case for why he should be elected while only 41% say the same of Coakley. That speaks to voter perceptions that Brown has run the superior campaign and again you have to wonder how different things might be if Coakley had acted with a sense of urgency ever since the primary.

If today's interviews hold up through tomorrow I don't think we're going to be able to make a clear prediction of the winner in our final poll- still too close. Expect the final results tomorrow night between 10:30 and 11.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Final Massachusetts Poll

Our final Massachusetts poll is going in the field tomorrow and will be released Sunday night. I'd estimate the release time at 10:30-11 PM but we'll put it out as soon as it's ready, be that earlier or later.

Perhaps we'll have some observations on how the poll's going over the weekend.

Pick a House District

It's hard to believe that a year ago people were talking about permanent Democratic strongholds in the Mountain West. Now Barack Obama's approval is in negative territory in both Colorado and Nevada, incumbent Democratic Senators trail by as much as double digits in polls in those states, and chances for the party for Governor this year look less promising than a year ago as well.

The demographic changes occurring in that region probably do mean in the long run that the years from 2000-2050 will be more friendly to the Democratic Party than the ones from 1950-2000 were. But in the short term those shifts, such as the increase in the Hispanic voting population, aren't enough to make up for the much larger and faster shift in the national political mood since the 2008 election.

With that in mind I'm interested in looking at New Mexico next weekend as we look to do a House poll in a district where a Democratic incumbent voted for the health care bill. Here are your choices:

NM-1: Martin Heinrich won election pretty easily as Barack Obama took a 60-39 victory in this formerly Republican held district in 2008. If the Dems are in trouble here, well, they're in trouble everywhere. But I guess we already know that because of Massachusetts!

CO-3: Staying in the region, John Salazar's done an impressive job the last three elections but his district voted for John McCain even as the state went strongly Democratic and the party's brand in the state is not at its best right now.

SC-5: The Republicans always seem to think this will be the time they can get John Spratt, and up to now they've always been wrong. But Democrats knocked off some comparable long time GOP Representatives in 2006 so it could be worth a look.

WV-1: Alan Mollohan came in with John Spratt and his district has trended strongly in a Republican direction in Presidential elections. Like, say, Vic Snyder he has not been seriously challenged of late- is this the political climate that does him in?

Voting is open until Wednesday, and we'll do a statewide poll in Arkansas next weekend in addition to whatever wins from these choices.

More on Kissell and Health Care

As much attention as Larry Kissell's no vote on health care has gotten from the media and political insiders, our recent poll in his district found that just 29% of his constituents could correctly identify how he voted on the matter. 44% thought he voted for it and 28% were unsure.

That finding is a good reminder that the average voter does not follow politics very closely and that it takes something dramatic to happen for them to take notice. For instance even though Bev Perdue has been very visible this week, I doubt we're going to see much immediate difference in her poll numbers because it's mostly being followed by strong partisans who have made up their minds about Perdue no matter what she does. Lower information voters who are more susceptible to changing their minds aren't really tuned in right now.

As for Kissell he may find himself in better shape once more voters in his district become aware of how he voted on health care. His approval with those who know he voted against it is 52%, compared to 44% with those who think he supported the bill. In a district where a majority are opposed to the Democratic health care plan he cast the right vote for his political future.

Republicans who cheat

Republican voters raised holy hell about Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs in the late 90s but when it comes to their own politicians they seem to be a little more forgiving:

-John Ensign's approval rating with Nevada Republicans is a 68/19 spread and he gets 77-82% of the vote from his party when tested against potential Democratic opponents.

-When we polled David Vitter last summer his approval with GOP voters in Louisiana was 62/19. You could make an argument that his constituents were separating his actions in office from his personal life- except that his favorability was even better at 64/20! And he pulled 74% of his party vote against Charlie Melancon.

-Republican voters in South Carolina are less forgiving of Mark Sanford, but our poll there last month still found him in positive territory at a 50/34 approval. And beyond that 58% of GOP identifiers said Sanford shouldn't resign with 75% opposed to his impeachment.

Cheating on your wife is a deal breaker for Republican voters- but only if you're a Democrat.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

John Ensign Poll

John Ensign's not very popular, but if the current political climate persists in 2012 he might be able to get reelected anyway.

Ensign's approval rating is just 38% with 44% of voters in the state disapproving of him. Yet at the same time he leads three potential Democratic opponents for reelection by margins of 2-11 points. It's 43-41 against Oscar Goodman, 49-40 against Shelley Berkley, and 47-36 against Ross Miller.

Those numbers say a lot about the priorities of voters in Nevada right now- they might not like Ensign on a personal level but having soured on Barack Obama and particularly the Democratic health care bill they're willing to put that aside to have an opposition voice in Washington.

This fact is perhaps best captured by Ensign's standing with independents. His approval with them breaks down at a negative 37/43 yet he holds leads of 13-34 points in the horse race with them. Those voters don't like Ensign but at this point they like national Democrats even less.

That's not to say Ensign's position is without peril. His numbers against the Democrats are very similar to those of Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian and you would usually expect a two term Senator to be in a much stronger position than a couple of relatively unknown candidates. And these numbers come at a time when Republican fortunes are at their peak- if Nevada's back to being as in Democratic a mood by 2012 as it was in 2008 Ensign would likely be in big trouble. But given what Ensign's been through over the last year these numbers are surprisingly good, and an indication that he's not DOA for reelection.

Full results here

More from NC-8

Finishing off our NC-8 poll here's what we found about some statewide stuff within the district:

-Bev Perdue's approval rating there comes down at 33/56. Given that the 8th is slightly more Democratic than the state as a whole that's probably an early indicator that when we look at her statewide this weekend she's still going to be hovering around that 30% mark.

-At 38/43 Richard Burr has a negative approval rating there, but he leads a generic Democratic candidate 45/44. Burr won the 8th District by a single point in 2004 as he won statewide by 5 so that suggests he's really in a very similar position right now to the first time he ran. In a bad political climate for Dems he's at about a 4-6 point advantage. We'll see where that goes if the economy gets better or Democrats can in some other way get their act together. He would have been toast in 2006 or 2008 but certainly timing counts for a lot in politics.

Another problem for Dems

Two of the main reasons we've heard over and over about why Republicans did so well in New Jersey and Virginia in November and why they continue to poll so well for 2010 races are that they're more motivated to get out to the polls than Democrats and that independents are leaning their way. Those things are definitely true and we're seeing them in Massachusetts too. One emerging problem for Dems getting less attention is that there's a decent amount of opposition to the health care bill within the party ranks and that's driving some of those voters over to the Republican side.

We stopped asking about health care in our NJ and Va. polling about a month before the election but in late September we found that Bob McDonnell had a 61-33 lead over Creigh Deeds with Democrats who opposed the health care plan and that Chris Christie was up 38-31 on Jon Corzine with those folks as well.

In Massachusetts it's a similar story with Scott Brown up 61-24 with those folks, which based on our current projection of likely voters accounts for 20% of Massachusetts Democrats. One of the keys to Democratic success in 2008, for all the bluster about the PUMA crowd, was a high level of party unity. Barack Obama held onto 89% of his party's voters. If health care creates bigger divisions within the party ranks than that this year it's just going to be one more strike against Democratic candidates in close races.

5 days to go...

Harry Reid Poll

Democratic hopes of keeping Harry Reid's Senate seat would probably be better with a different nominee. But the state has trended in a Republican direction since Barack Obama's strong victory there in 2008 and the party will have a tough time there this year Reid or no Reid.

On Reid our numbers find the same picture all other recent surveys in the state have: he suffers from 58% disapproval and trails Sue Lowden by a 51-41 margin and Danny Tarkanian by a 50-42 spread. It's worth noting that despite Reid's unpopularity only 42% of voters in the state think he should step down from his leadership position while 49% think he should remain.

Reid wins the Democratic vote and loses the Republican vote pretty handily, both par for the course, but he trails Lowden by 35 points and Tarkanian by 25 with independents. Those numbers would make reelection virtually impossible

Because of Reid's perilous position and the recent uptick in their fortunes Democrats in Connecticut found last week after Chris Dodd's retirement we decided to look at where some alternative nominees for the party would stand.

Congresswoman Shelley Berkley and Secretary of State Ross Miller don't do much better than Reid. Berkley trails Lowden 46-38 and Tarkanian 47-39, while Miller trails Lowden 44-34 and Tarkanian 45-34. Although their initial margins are no better than Reid's it appears Berkley and Miller would probably have more upside, as each is an unknown quantity to most voters in the state. 46% have no opinion about Berkley and 66% say the same of Miller.

Polling considerably better than Reid is Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, an independent but one who would presumably run as a Democrat in the event of a Senate bid. Goodman leads Lowden 42-40 in a potential contest and ties Tarkanian at 41.

Goodman is more popular than anyone else we tested in the poll on the Democratic or Republican side. 43% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 21% unfavorable and in an unusual twist he's viewed positively by a plurality of Democrats, Republicans, and independents. He polls better than Reid because he trails the GOP candidates by only 18-20 points with indys, in contrast to Reid's 25-35, and because he nabs 16% of the Republican vote in both match ups to Reid's 9%.

Goodman's initial polling numbers are encouraging comparative to Reid, but it's hard to say how he would hold up in a statewide campaign. One thing for sure is that Reid's issues are not exclusive to him and reflective of a general souring on national Democrats in Nevada. Barack Obama's approval rating is at a negative 44/52 spread in the state and the Democratic health care bill is even less popular at 36/54. Goodman or some other Democrat might have a better chance than Reid but it's going to be a tough road for the party in any scenario. A Reid retirement wouldn't have nearly the immediate positive effect for Democrats that Dodd's in Connecticut did.

Full results here

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Obama and Coakley

I'm sure the main reason Barack Obama's not going to campaign for Martha Coakley is that either a) the White House isn't that worried about her or b) they want to minimize the extent to which the President gets blamed if she does somehow manage to lose or only wins by a small margin.

What's interesting to note in the poll that we did on the race though is that Coakley is actually more popular than Obama- she has a 50% favorable rating while he has a 44% approval rating.

Now certainly you can make the argument that the reason for that is the conservative lean of likely voters at this point, and that if Obama showed up and changed the electorate he would have better approval numbers among those planning to go and vote.

But his visits in Virginia and New Jersey never did put any dent in the poll numbers- in fact Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell saw the polls move slightly in their direction after Obama's visits to their state. So there's an argument to be made that an Obama visit could actually have had more of a negative effect on Coakley than a positive one. But at this point it's academic.

Ford's Chances

Presumably if Harold Ford is going to beat Kirsten Gillibrand his two bases of support in the primary are going to be blacks and conservatives.

Looking back at the exit poll from the 2008 primary in New York 16% of voters were African American and 9% identified themselves as conservatives. Making the very unrealistic assumptions that there's no overlap in those groups and that 100% of them would vote for Ford that puts him at 25%.

Hard to see where he gets the other 25% with the rhetoric he's putting out there. His behavior is certainly a head scratcher.

Reid's standing with black voters

We're going to have a Nevada poll out tomorrow telling you the same thing about Harry Reid's standing that the last five million polls have but also looking at how some Democratic alternatives to Reid might do.

For now though it's worth taking a look at Reid's standing with black voters in the state after the last week of controversy.

The good news for Reid on that front is that his black constituents by a 48-39 margin don't think he should step down from his leadership position. Those numbers are a little shaky but at least suggest some level of forgiveness/feeling that his comments weren't that big of a deal.

At the same time Reid gets only 52% of the black vote against Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian in the poll, a weak standing for a Democrat to be sure, and worse than the 61% Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman gets in the survey. With Republicans and independents in the state pretty universally lined up against him Reid's margin for error with his base voters is very low and that 52% figure is not going to get the job done. Whether that standing is a short term reaction to the 'negro' revelation that will subside or a long term problem that will plague Reid remains to be seen.

This much seems clear: Reid's standing for reelection was perilous a week ago and now it looks even worse. Even an error free 2010 might not be enough for him to keep his seat, and any further mistakes will reduce his chances of winning to about nil. Look for the numbers tomorrow on whether Dems would be better off with someone else.

Kissell good for renomination

Support for a primary challenge to Larry Kissell from the left is limited. Only 29% of Democratic primary voters in his district say they would like to see him replaced by someone more progressive and asked directly about a match up between Kissell and 2002 Democratic nominee Chris Kouri they express support for the incumbent by a margin of 49-15.

Although a lot of attention has been given to the possibility of liberals unhappy with Kissell denying him renomination it's important to keep in mind a few key facts about the Democrats in his district:

-Almost as many of them (22%) identify as conservatives as liberals (23%)

-They are twice as likely (27%) to think that the Democrats in Congress are too liberal as they are (12%) to think they're too conservative.

The Democratic activists in the district may lean more to the left side but the rank and file Democratic voters are more center right in their views than center left and most of them seem fine with Kissell. His occasional votes against the Democratic agenda in the House are helping him more with some Republicans and conservative leaning independents than they are hurting him with the party base and that's why he appears to be in a better position for reelection than most freshman swing district Democrats.

Full results here

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

House Incumbents and Health Care



Lead w/HC supporters

Deficit w/HC opponents



86-3 (83)

73-14 (59)



88-5 (83)

69-24 (45)



81-6 (75)

57-27 (30)

We're going to be polling a lot more districts of Democratic House incumbents but it's hard to look at this chart based on the three where we've gone so far and not think voting against health care was the best vote politically in tough districts.

Larry Kissell and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, despite their votes against the health care bill, have very similar numbers with health care supporters to Vic Snyder, who supported the bill.

Herseth Sandin and Kissell have much better numbers than Snyder with people who opposed the bill though and because of that they're doing much better against their GOP opponents for this year than he is.

In our two party system there's just not really anywhere for voters on the left unhappy with their representatives for voting against health care to go. If they think the Democratic Party feels like they can take them for granted, well, the polling suggests that's the case. I'm not making a value judgment on that one way or the other but that's what the numbers are telling us.

Our next House district poll will be somewhere a Democrat in a tough district voted for the bill to see if their numbers fit this trend.

More on Massachusetts

Here are some additional observations from the Massachusetts Senate poll we released over the weekend:

-I wrote last week that if the turnout drop off in Massachusetts for Democrats was as bad as it was in Virginia and if Scott Brown and Martha Coakley got the same proportions of the McCain and Obama vote that Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell received that it would equate to a three point win for Coakley. But Brown is getting 15% of the Obama vote, better than the 12% McDonnell got in Virgina, and that's why he's in such a strong position right now. Who are these Obama voters going for Brown? Mostly white independents who seem unhappy with the Democratic Party across the board right now. Despite having voted for him they now give Obama just a 25% approval rating. Only 11% of them have a favorable opinion of Congressional Democrats. And they give Deval Patrick only 8% approval. The Democratic brand is not doing well with these folks across the board.

-Brown is winning moderate voters 49-42. Republicans just don't win with moderates these days. Even the day before they went down in flames Creigh Deeds and Jon Corzine were winning moderates in their races by margins of 56-42 and 47-37 respectively. It's going to be interesting to see if the attack ads going up against Brown now cut down his standing with voters in the middle.

-Even among people planning to vote for Brown 39% have an unfavorable opinion of Congressional Republicans to just 38% favorable. We're seeing this in a lot of our polling right now- people hate the GOP but that's not rubbing off as much as you would expect on the party's candidates. Figuring out a way to have voters make that connection more is going to be critical not just in this race but for Democrats across the board in the fall.

-Coakley was doing very well among minority voters on our poll, leading 89-11 with Hispanics and 79-14 with African Americans. The candidates are mostly fighting over the white vote in this final week of the campaign- that's what will decide it.

It'll be very interesting to see where things stand over the weekend after this flurry of activity.

Massachusetts Governor Poll

Deval Patrick's still leading in his bid for reelection as Governor of Massachusetts. But the numbers don't look particularly sustainable for him.

Patrick is at 29% to 27% for Charlie Baker and 21% for Tim Cahill in what currently looks like the most likely match up. But among the undecideds in that three way scenario Patrick's approval rating is just 7%, with 72% of those voters disapproving of his job performance. Those folks may end up with Baker or they may end up with Cahill but either way 30-35% is looking like a peak for Patrick right now and that makes his chances at reelection pretty tenuous.

Baker leads Cahill 39-27 with voters who disapprove of Patrick's job performance. If that vote consolidated more one way or the other that would be the end of the small leads Patrick's been showing.

Patrick's approval rating sits at just 22%, with 59% of voters in the state disapproving of the job he's doing. He has the support of only 8% of Republicans and 12% of independents, but perhaps most worrisome for him at this point more Democrats (40%) express disapproval than approval (36%) of him.

That he continues to lead in the horse race may have a lot to do with the current anonymity of his top opponents. Baker has only 30% name recognition (17/13) and despite serving in statewide office Cahill's is only 46% (24/22). Christy Mihos is better known at 55% but it's not a good thing for him with 35% of voters viewing him unfavorably to 20% positive. In a three way contest with Mihos Patrick gets 28% with Cahill coming in second at 25% and Mihos in third at 21%.

Because of Patrick's weak standing and the recent retirements of vulnerable Democratic incumbents in other states we also tested Secretary of State William Galvin to see how he might do in a Gubernatorial campaign. At a 36/18 favorability ratio Galvin is considerably more popular than Patrick but posts similar numbers in match ups against Cahill and Baker/Mihos, largely due to limited support from African Americans in comparison to Patrick.

If Patrick's approval ratings stay where they are right now he will not be reelected, regardless of the presence of a strong third party challenger. He's a good deal less popular than recently deposed New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine. For Democrats to hold onto this office they either need voters to change their minds about Patrick or nominate someone else.

Full results here

Kissell looking solid

A year into his first term in Congress, Larry Kissell is doing just fine.

45% of his constituents approve of the job he's doing to 30% who disapprove. Those numbers are comparable to where PPP found Virginia Foxx and Patrick McHenry's approval ratings in 2008 when each won reelection by 16 points.

It's a long time until November but if Kissell had to stand before the voters today it looks like he'd win by a similar margin. He leads a generic Republican candidate 53-39 and leads his actual GOP opponents by 14-18 points.

Although Kissell has earned a lot of fire from the left for his health care vote most of his constituents are with him. 52% say they are opposed to the bill with 35% in support. Kissell's no vote appears to have insulated him from some of the ill will toward national Democrats in the district. Despite winning it in 2008 Barack Obama's approval rating now stands at a negative 47/50 there and Congressional Democrats get a 40/53 approval. Given that context Kissell is doing alright.

That's not to say there's no unhappiness with Kissell over his vote. His approval with Democrats is just 58%, well below Obama's 76%. But Kissell stands at 28% with Republicans, considerably better than Obama's 6%, and his 40/37 approval with independents is markedly better than Obama's 35/62. Kissell's votes that have rankled some of the party base have positioned him well for reelection overall, assuming he can get through the primary. We'll have numbers on that tomorrow.

None of the Republican candidates are very well known at this point, so the eventual party nominee may move closer to Kissell come the fall when they start gearing up on their spending. Tim D'Annunzio is the most prominent of the challengers but still has just 35% name recognition. He's followed by Harold Johnson at 31% and Lou Huddleston and Hal Jordan at 26%. In the head to heads Kissell leads Huddleston 55-37, D'Annunzio 54-38, Jordan 55-39, and Johnson 53-39.

Kissell's district is a second tier pick up opportunity for Republicans this year. If they win here it will probably be in a landslide large enough to hand them control of the House of Representatives. Obama won here, a huge contrast from most of the southern districts where the GOP has a great opportunity this year, and Kissell has shown the sort of independence from Congressional Democratic leadership that will play well in a district where there are three conservatives for every liberal. Beyond that none of the Republican candidates appear to be that strong. A lot could happen between now and November but for now Kissell is in a position many of his first term colleagues would trade for in a second.

Full results here

Monday, January 11, 2010

Taking suggestions

Ok another busy week at PPP. We're taking your suggestions on three things:

1) Who should the fourth Republican be on our 2012 poll this month? Open to anyone but Ron Paul or Tim Pawlenty because we did them the last two months. I'll take nomination for a day or so and then put it to a vote.

2) Outside the box questions- in August we did birthers, in September do you think Obama is the anti-Christ, October do you think Obama loves American, November do you think ACORN stole the election, December would you rather have Obama or Bush...what are the off beat questions the more staid pollsters won't ask? We will if we like your ideas,.

3) And time for the monthly North Carolina poll...what should we be looking into besides the obvious stuff?

Always appreciate the good ideas people give us

Kissell in context

In July 2008 we found Virginia Foxx's approval rating at 45/38. She won 58-42 in the fall.

In June 2008 we found Patrick McHenry's approval rating at 45/31. He won 58-42 in the fall.

Right now we find Larry Kissell's approval rating at 45/30. Full numbers on his general standing tomorrow, but precedent indicates that's a good place to be.

Patrick and Paterson

Deval Patrick got 30% of the vote in a Boston Globe poll out today and our numbers on the race tomorrow will show him in even worse shape.

It makes you wonder: why is the Obama administration trying to get David Paterson out but not Patrick? They're really in very similar positions. Certainly in Andrew Cuomo there is a more obvious alternative for the Democrats in New York, but there are no shortage of Democrats in high elected offices in Massachusetts either.

It's probably because Obama is much closer to Patrick than Paterson, but given the President's usual bottom line oriented nature it's a little surprising the White House would let that get in the way if they think Patrick's at serious risk this fall. Maybe they think he's going to be alright.

We actually tested a Democratic alternative to Patrick on our poll and found him considerably more popular than the Governor, but that his horse race numbers weren't much different because black voters hesitated to commit to supporting him in the general election.

We'll have that all out tomorrow.

PPP and Roy Williams

You know your polling company has hit the big time when you make the autobiography of the best college basketball coach in the country.

I was finishing up Roy Williams' book Friday night when I was stunned to come across a passage reading:

"Wanda and I both got a big kick out of a local newspaper poll that came out after the 2009 championship, which determined that 76 percent of North Carolina Tar Heels fans have a favorable opinion of me. When I read that I was thinking, "Gosh, in the previous five years we've won more games than anybody else in the country, we've been to three Final Fours and won two national championships. If it's 76 percent now, it isn't going to go anywhere but down. What the heck do I need to do to please those other 24 percent?"

He got the attribution wrong- we conducted the poll and he probably read about it in the newspaper. But his sentiments on hard to please Carolina fans are pretty similar to the ones I expressed at the time of the poll:

"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."

Anyway I was very pleased to see our numbers make it into the book of one of the people whose work I most admire and appreciate of anyone out there, and I encourage all of my fellow Carolina folks to read his book.

Expect to see some new polling about the Carolina-Dook rivalry as we move toward their first match up of the season next month.
Web Statistics