Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Davis and the Health Care Bill

Artur Davis' numbers on our Alabama poll today may serve as a bit of a warning sign to other House Democrats who voted against the health care bill that they might be held accountable for it this fall anyway.

Davis is trailing Bradley Byrne 78-7 among voters opposed to the President's health care plan. Ron Sparks, who was vocal in his support for it, is actually doing slightly better though still trailing 72-9.

Most Alabama voters probably don't know that Davis voted against the bill and just assume that he supported it because he's a Democrat. He can certainly run ads this fall emphasizing his independence from the Democratic Congressional leadership and that he voted against the bill, but whether that would win over more Republicans and conservative leaning independents or cause more Democratic base voters to just sit at home is hard to say.

I'm not particularly surprised that Davis has little support among voters who joined him in opposition to the health care bill. Our polling in Bob Etheridge and Heath Shuler's Congressional districts the week prior to the vote indicated their constituents would hold them responsible for the passage of health care, by virtue of their party affiliation, regardless of how they personally voted on the bill. Davis is suffering from that sentiment right now and it'll be interesting to see if that continues to crop up in House race polling.

None of this is to say that Davis would have been better off politically voting for the bill. A majority of voters in Alabama were opposed to it and if he can survive the primary he may end up benefiting from not being on the wrong side of public opinion on that issue. The whole situation is just another reminder of how tough it is to be a Democrat- particularly a Congressional Democrat- running for office in 2010.

GOP leads in Alabama

It doesn't matter who the Republicans or the Democrats nominate at this point for Governor in Alabama- the GOP candidate will be favored to win this fall.

The Republican leads by anywhere from 5 to 16 points in the eight match ups we looked at. Based on yesterday's primary polling the most likely contest right now is between Artur Davis on the Democratic side and Bradley Byrne on the Republican side, and Byrne leads 48-32 in such a scenario. He wins independents 41-25 and gets 84% of the Republican vote to Davis' 67% of the Democratic vote. It's important to note that there are more than twice as many undecided Democrats as Republicans, so if those voters ended up 'coming home,' this would be a much closer race.

The best Democratic hope for winning this fall may be if the Republicans end up nominating Roy Moore. He fares the weakest of the GOP contenders against both Davis and Ron Sparks, leading the former 43-37 and the latter 42-37. 12% of GOP voters say they would vote for Davis or Sparks over Moore, a larger portion of the base vote than any of the other Republican candidates are losing. Sparks even has a small lead among independents against Moore, something virtually unheard of for a Democrat in the South this election cycle.

Sparks polls better than Davis against all four of the Republicans we tested. He trails Byrne by 13 to Davis' 16 point disadvantage, is down 6 to Kay Ivey compared to Davis' 11, has a 5 point deficit against Tim James to Davis' 5, and trails by 5 against Moore to Davis' 6.

The Gubernatorial candidates are largely unknown at this point so things could shift a lot between now and the fall as voters in the state become more familiar with them. A majority of voters have no opinion about all of the candidates with the exception of Moore and Davis. 67% have a take on Moore, 56% do of Davis, 44% do of Ivey, 40% do of Sparks, 39% do of James, and 36% do of Byrne. Byrne is oddly the strongest candidate for both the general and primary elections despite his being the one voters are most ambivalent toward. In this political climate where voters dislike most all politicians it may be a good thing to be the candidate folks know the least about.

Republicans certainly have the advantage now, and it's going to be a tough road for Democrats to win something they don't currently hold in 2010 in a state as conservative as Alabama. But if the Republicans nominate Moore, or if Davis or Sparks really catches on once the voters become more familiar with them it could get interesting.

Full results here

Huck up in Missouri and Alabama

Confirming that he's still the strongest potential Republican Presidential candidate in the South, Mike Huckabee is the early favorite of party voters in both Missouri and Alabama.

Huckabee had earlier led PPP surveys in North Carolina and Georgia, as well as finishing second behind Mitt Romney in Florida and Texas.

In Alabama Huckabee has 41% to 27% for Sarah Palin and 20% for Mitt Romney. Huckabee has double digit leads with both moderates and conservatives in the state, where he edged out John McCain in the 2008 primary.

In Missouri Huckabee leads with 32% to 28% for Palin and 22% for Romney. That 32% is identical to his vote share there in 2008, when he was narrowly defeated in the state by John McCain. Romney's 22% actually represents a weaker performance than he posted last time, when he received 29%.

This makes ten states now where we have looked ahead to the 2012 Republican contest. Romney has been first in six and Huckabee in four with Palin getting shut out so far. While Huckabee is still strongest in the South our small sample size so far suggests Romney is the leading candidate in the Midwest and the Mountain West. We haven't polled any in the Northeast lately, but Romney would presumably be the top candidate there as well.

Of course it's important to keep in mind that the candidates have been pretty evenly matched in all of these states and it wouldn't take a huge shift to make it seem as if someone else had the momentum.

Here are the results from the ten states we've looked at so far:

























New Mexico




North Carolina
















Blunt under 50%

Benefiting from anti-Washington sentiment within the GOP primary electorate, little known State Senator Chuck Purgason is holding Roy Blunt under 50% in his bid to be the Republican nominee for Kit Bond's Senate seat.

Blunt is getting 48% to 18% for Purgason. 31% of Republican voters in the state say they're unhappy with their party's leadership in Congress and among those folks Blunt leads Purgason only 32-27.

The support Purgason's receiving seems to derive more from an 'anyone but Blunt' phenomenon than anything else. He's at 18% despite the fact that only 7% of likely primary voters have a favorable opinion of him. 84% don't know enough about him to have an opinion.

Even Blunt has a relatively big chunk of Republicans voters who don't have an opinion about him. 34% say they're ambivalent while 47% view him favorably and 19% have a negative view of him.

It's unlikely Blunt has to worry about not winning the Republican nomination but these numbers are underwhelming considering his major presence in Missouri GOP politics over the last several decades. A big thing to watch moving forward is the extent to which Robin Carnahan can win over these Republican voters who don't like Blunt- right now she has basically no support from them but if she could get even a quarter of their votes by November that would make a big difference.

Full results here

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Responding to Tim James

When campaigns attack pollsters it's almost always a sign of desperation. In the case of Alabama Gubernatorial candidate Tim James today it's also a sign of stupidity.

James put out a press release attacking our Alabama primary poll today because it showed Barack Obama with an 84% approval rating when he only got 40% of the vote in the state in 2008. That would be a valid criticism...except for the fact that the 84% approval rating for Obama was with Democratic primary voters! Reading comprehension is evidently not one of the stronger suits of the James campaign. Nor is making sure it has its facts straight before putting out a press release.

The most amusing claim from the James camp is that our numbers were intended to prop up Bradley Byrne. The general election numbers we'll be releasing tomorrow show that Byrne is easily the most formidable Republican candidate for the general election. If we were trying to prop someone up as a Democratic polling company in hopes of aiding Artur Davis or Ron Sparks, we'd be much more likely to inflate the numbers for James, who it appears Democrats would have a much better chance of defeating in the general election.

Of course in reality we're not looking to prop up anyone, just putting out the numbers as we see them. And this press release makes the James campaign look like a decidedly minor league operation.

Repeal in Alabama and Missouri

We now have a couple data points on how people feel about health care and repealing it in the wake of the bill's passage. Here's what our early polling in Alabama and Missouri tells us:

-Most voters who are opposed to the health care bill do want to see it repealed. In Missouri 87% of folks who are against the bill support repealing it to 7% who disagree and 6% who are unsure. In Alabama 89% of folks who are against the bill support repealing it to 5% who disagree and 6% who are unsure.

-Still, support for repeal is not as strong as the opposition to health care. In Missouri 37% of voters support the health care bill and 54% oppose it for a net -17. But only 51% support repealing it with with 42% opposed for a net +8. So there's a nine point disparity between opposing the bill and supporting repeal. In Alabama 39% of voters support the health care bill and 56% oppose it for a net -17 identical to the numbers in Missouri. 54% support repeal with 40% opposed for a net +14. So there's a three point disparity between opposing the bill and supporting repeal.

Just a couple states, we'll certainly continue to look at this everywhere we poll.

Byrne, Moore lead the way for Republicans

Bradley Byrne and Roy Moore appear to be the early front runners for the Republican nomination for Governor of Alabama.

Byrne leads with 27% and Moore is close behind at 23%. Clustered in what is more or less a three way tie for third are Robert Bentley and Kay Ivey at 10% and Tim James at 9%.

Moore is easily the most well known and popular of the Republican candidates. 76% of primary voters have an opinion of him and it breaks down favorably 48/28. A majority of voters have no opinion one way or the other about the rest of the GOP field. 60% are ambivalent toward Byrne with 31% seeing him favorably and 9% unfavorably. For Ivey it's 54% with no opinion, 20% positive, and 26% negative and for James it's 59% with no opinion, 20% positive, and 21% negative.

The fact that Moore is the most well known and liked of the GOP candidates but still trails is a sign that many voters like him but don't necessarily think Governor is the position he's best suited for.

Byrne leads with moderates and conservatives alike. It's just 27-25 over Moore with voters on the right but with the small group of GOP centrists he has a wider advantage, getting 30% to 14% for Ivey and 12% for Moore.

This race could change a lot once the candidates pick up their name recognition but for now it looks like a battle between Byrne and Moore.

Full results here

Davis ahead in primary

Artur Davis is ahead in the Democratic primary for Governor of Alabama, but there are some warning signs for him in the polling as well. Davis is getting 38% to 28% for Ron Sparks and 9% for Sam Franklin Thomas.

Despite his lead there are actually more primary voters with an unfavorable (34%) than favorable (28%) opinion of Davis. That may tie back to his recent vote against the Democratic health care plan. 80% of likely primary voters support the bill that passed last week compared to only 14% opposed to it.

Despite his serving in statewide office a majority of primary voters don't know enough about Sparks to have formed an opinion of him. 27% view him favorably to 17% unfavorably with 57% ambivalent.

Sparks is ahead 33-29 with white voters, but Davis has the overall lead thanks to a 48-23 advantage with African Americans. There is not a strong split along ideological lines in how the candidates are faring right now with Davis up 14 among moderates and 8 with liberals and conservatives.

Sparks certainly has an issue to play with here- it's not often to have a primary where the leading candidate recently cast a vote that 80% of the electorate disagrees with- but whether he will have enough resources to milk that issue for what it's worth and defeat Davis remains to be seen.

Full results here

Blunt takes the lead

Missouri voters continue to be unhappy with Barack Obama and his health care plan and that's helped Roy Blunt to take the lead in the US Senate race.

Blunt is up 45-41 on Robin Carnahan, but that result probably has more to do with how the state feels about Barack Obama than it does about the candidates themselves. Voters who approve of Obama are voting for Carnahan by an 84-6 margin. Voters who disapprove of Obama are voting for Blunt 80-6. The problem for Carnahan is that a 52% majority of voters in the state fall in the disapprove column when it comes to the President compared to only 43% who think he's doing a good job.

Blunt's advantage comes thanks to a 47-35 lead with independents and also because Republicans are remarkably unified. He leads Carnahan 84-1 with his party's voters. The controversy over health care is helping to keep GOP voters on the same page, as they oppose the plan signed into law last week by a 93-1 margin. Overall 54% of voters in the state are against it with 37% in support, and 51% think Republicans should work to repeal it compared to 42% who believe the party should let it stand.

There are some warning signs for Blunt in the poll though. Only 25% of voters say they have a favorable opinion of him to 41% who view him unfavorably. Carnahan isn't all that popular either with 38% holding a positive opinion of her to 43% whose opinion is negative, but those personal favorability numbers are a lot better than Blunt's. Beyond that 55% of voters trust Jefferson City politicians most to deal with Missouri's problems compared to only 13% who pick Washington DC. Drawing a contrast between herself as someone who's worked hard in the state and Blunt as a Washington insider has the potential to pay dividends for Carnahan further down the road.

There are two ways to see Carnahan coming out on top in this race. If Obama's approval gets even just to the point where the state is equally divided in its feelings about him Carnahan will probably come out on top because of her greater personal popularity and the anti-Washington sentiments of the electorate right now. If Obama's numbers don't get any better Carnahan's going to have to try to shift the election from a referendum on the President to a referendum on Roy Blunt and his record in Washington.

This election's a great example of how important timing is in politics. 2006 or 2008 and Carnahan destroys Blunt. But in 2010 it's not going to be an easy road.

Full results here

Monday, March 29, 2010

Missouri Poll Preview

We're going to have a new Missouri Senate poll tomorrow and it doesn't suggest much momentum for Democrats in the wake of health care passing.

When we looked at the state in November Barack Obama's approval was a negative 52/43 spread. It is still that exact same negative 52/43 spread.

In November 55% of voters opposed the health care bill with 34% supporting it. Those numbers are slightly better now at 54% opposition and 37% support but still pretty bad for Democrats.

Missouri's just one state- albeit an important swing state with perhaps the best opportunity for Democrats to win a GOP held Senate seat this year- but what we found there is what I expect to find across the board in our polling in the coming weeks. Passing health care won't make things any worse for Democrats- because the political damage had already been done- but it's probably not going to make things much better either.

That's because most folks who disapprove of Obama and are planning to vote for Republican candidates this year were opposed to the health care bill. So its passage isn't exactly going to win them over to the Democratic side. The concept that Obama's ratings would go up after the passage of health care because Americans 'like a winner' strikes me as first degree wishful thinking.

What impact does this all have on the Roy Blunt/Robin Carnahan race? We'll tell you tomorrow.

Wake Schools Poll

Wake County voters are extremely polarized in their feelings about the new majority on the School Board, but one thing there does seem to be a consensus on is that there should be a price tag before the district moves forward with changes to its assignment policy.

47% of voters in the county disapprove of the actions of the new majority so far with 42% approving. Feelings about them divide strongly on party lines. 61% of Republicans think they're doing a good job to 25% who disagree, while only 29% of Democrats like what they're doing to 64% who dissent. Independents are almost evenly divided with 46% supporting the new majority to 42% disapproving.

There's considerable division about some of the key issues in the district recently. 42% think changes to the assignment policy will result in segregated schools while 45% disagree. 42% think the School Board has been respectful to people with differing viewpoints while 48% do not believe it has.

One thing there is general agreement on is that the Board should do a full analysis of the cost to taxpayers before proceeding with changes to the assignment policy. And if the proposed changes would result in any additional cost to taxpayers voters in the county are opposed to it.

62% of voters support the full cost analysis to only 25% in opposition. 69% of Democrats, 65% of independents, and 49% of Republicans think that needs to happen. Only 32% of voters would support the changes to the assignment policy if they resulted in any additional cost with 42% opposed and 26% unsure. Bucking the usual trends Republican support the new policy regardless of its fiscal impact by a 43/27 margin. Democrats are against it by a 56/26 margin if it's more expensive and independents are nearly evenly divided.

Based on these poll results it's pretty hard for either side to claim a mandate right now for anything other than knowing the costs before moving forward. Beyond that the county is extremely divided in its feelings about the changes to the assignment policy.

Full results here

Friday, March 26, 2010

Obama in Ohio

Our Ohio poll this week is a pretty good indication of the extent to which Democrats will sink or swim this fall depending on Barack Obama's popularity.

Ted Strickland has poor approval numbers right now but he's still leading John Kasich 79-4 with voters who approve of Obama. At the same time he's down 72-7 with voters who disapprove of Obama. There's almost total correlation between how people feel about Obama and how they're planning to vote for Governor and that makes you wonder how much of Strickland's trouble he really owns personally and how much of if it is just because people aren't that thrilled with the President.

It's a similar story in the Senate race. Jennifer Brunner's up 76-7 with voters who approve of Obama and down 65-8 with voters who don't. Lee Fisher's up 77-4 with folks who like Obama and down 71-5 those who don't.

Because feelings about the President are so polarized it seems to be having an impact on how willing voters folks are to support a candidate across party lines. That's a big part of Blanche Lincoln's problem in Arkansas right now. She got reelected in 2004 because people were willing to vote for her even as they voted against John Kerry. But voters don't seem to be separating her from Obama in their minds that much this year and although there is no doubt much of her trouble right now is self inflicted the reality is that she may have no chance this year no matter what she does because of Obama's unpopularity in the state.

There's no doubt Obama's numbers will be the biggest factor shaping this fall's results.

Opposition to McHenry proposal

Bipartisan is not a word that comes up frequently when talking about Patrick McHenry, but he's gotten Democrats and Republicans to agree on something. They're both opposed to his proposal to replace Ulysses Grant on the $50 bill with Ronald Reagan.

67% of voters in the state are opposed to the idea with 16% favoring it. There's not a single demographic group we track that supports the change. Even conservatives split against it by a 54/26 margin, as do Republicans at 52/27.

It's not that North Carolinians dislike Reagan. A poll we conducted last year found he was the state's favorite out of the last five Presidents. But Grant did, you know, kind of help keep the country together by leading the Union to victory in the Civil War and even we here in the old Confederacy seem to appreciate that.

And maybe most importantly in a time when 53% of North Carolinians name jobs and the economy as the most critical issue to them switching up the President on the $50 bill doesn't rank as a particularly high priority.

Full results here

Candidates matter

The poll results we're seeing in a lot of races right now have very little to do with the candidates themselves and everything to do with the political climate. That should provide some hope for Democrats, who in many of these cases appear to have superior candidates that just aren't well known yet.

One of the things that really exemplifies this is that in the last month alone we've polled six races where the Democratic candidate was more personally popular than the Republican candidate with independents, but the GOP one had the edge with those voters anyway.

We saw it in both Wisconsin races this week. Tom Barrett has a +11 favorability spread with independents compared to +6 for Mark Neumann and +3 for Scott Walker. Yet Barrett at this point trails Neumann by 17 with those voters and Walker by 12. In the Senate race independents are split on Tommy Thompson while giving Russ Feingold a +3 favorability number. Nevertheless Thompson leads by 5.

Same thing in the Ohio Senate race. Jennifer Brunner and Rob Portman have identical personal numbers with independents, but Portman leads her by 12 in the horse race. Other races we've seen this trend in lately include the Florida Governor, New Mexico Governor, and the potential Roy Barnes/Nathan Deal match in Georgia Governor.

Right now the national climate is dictating these numbers more than the candidates themselves. But candidates do matter and these races could be reshaped come the fall once voters become more personally familiar with their choices.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Brown and Nelson upside down

Our Florida and Ohio polls over the last couple weeks were good news for Democrats in the sense that they showed the party with a chance of picking up the Senate seats in those states this year despite the tough national political climate. But they also suggested potential trouble for the party looking toward 2012 when its incumbent Senators will be up for reelection in those states.

Bill Nelson in Florida and Sherrod Brown in Ohio both won by overwhelming margins in the strong Democratic year of 2006. But now both have approval ratings in the 30s and more voters who disapprove than approve of the job they're doing.

32% of voters give Brown good marks to 39% who disapprove. Nelson gets support from 37% of his constituents to 40% giving him bad reviews.

Given the large margins Brown and Nelson won by the last time around these seats really should not be on the front line of things Democrats have to defend in 2012. You would expect those to be folks who either barely won in 2006 or are in pretty red states- the Claire McCaskills, Jon Testers, Jim Webbs, and Ben Nelsons of the world.

Of course the country is in a very anti-Democratic and anti-politician mood right now and these numbers could be a whole lot different when things really start to get going a couple years from now. But these kinds of approval ratings are a reminder that simply holding onto the Senate this year may not be victory enough for Democrats because Republicans will have a much wider playing field in 2012 and a good opportunity to 'finish the job' if they come up just short this time around. Holding onto 52 or 53 seats this time around could simply be delaying the inevitable.

Romney up in Ohio and Wisconsin

Our state by state look ahead to the contest for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination continues to find the same result over and over again: a closely clustered field but one almost always led by Mitt Romney.

In Ohio Romney leads with 32% to 28% for Mike Huckabee and 26% for Sarah Palin. Romney is also at 32% in Wisconsin, followed by Palin with 27% and Huckabee with 23%.

The numbers in these two midwestern states follow the big trend we've been seeing across the country, which is that conservatives are split pretty evenly in their support between the three candidates at this point but Romney leads overall because of a wide advantage among moderates.

In Ohio Palin has the lead by two points with conservatives over Huckabee and Romney, but Romney's at 43% with moderates to 26% for Huckabee and only 15% for Palin. In Wisconsin Romney leads Palin by 3 with conservatives but widens his overall lead thanks to a double digit edge with moderates. At this (very early) point there is no clear preference among conservatives for any particular candidate, but moderates are going strongly for Romney and that's fueling these leads.

Out of the eight states we've looked at now Romney has led in 6, finished second in 1, and finished third in 1. Huckabee has led in 2, finished second in 3, and finished third in 3. Palin has finished second in 4, and finished third in 4. Here's the full breakdown:

















New Mexico




North Carolina
















We're polling Alabama next week

There are actual people voting for Alabama, while Washington's support seems to be coming from a robot (40 votes for it in the last 2 minutes when there haven't been 40 visitors into the blog in the last 2 minutes?)

Repeal Polling

If you thought the health care polling was all over the place I imagine the numbers on repeal will be even more so as they start to come out in the next few weeks.

Because most voters didn't really have a handle on the details of the health care bill the poll numbers, especially in the early stages, were highly influenced by question wording and in some cases ordering. Voters may understand repeal even less than they did the bill itself and because of that I think the poll numbers that come out on it will be highly variable.

Want a poll that shows support for repeal? Ask folks if they want the health care bill passed by the Democratic Congress overturned. The Democratic Congress is very unpopular. If you ask folks if they want the health care bill Barack Obama signed into law repealed you're going to get less support for repeal because compared to his Congressional colleagues he's pretty popular.

Want a poll you can say shows opposition to repeal? Ask folks if they think Congressional Republicans should focus on repeal or move on to other issues. Hard core conservatives might want the party to fight this fight, but I don't think independent voters who are mainly unhappy with Obama because of the state of the economy do.

Question order's a big thing here too. If you ask folks if they support the health care bill first, and then whether they think it should be repealed, you're going to get a higher level of support because people who are opposed to the bill will be likely to say it should be repealed so their answers are consistent. But if you ask folks if the bill should be repealed first, and then whether they support it you may get less support for repeal because a good number of folks opposed to the bill might be ready for Congress to move on from this issue.

I know what's going to happen- both sides are going to have polls whose results they like and they're going to get cherry picked big time. On an issue like this I think it's going to be hard to get a handle on what the public really thinks but the best way to do that, as is usually the case, is going to be to look at all the polls as a whole rather than fixating on individual ones.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

E-Mail of the Day

Always love the e-mails accusing us of being a front for Republicans!

Sent: Wed 3/24/2010 8:58 AM
To: PPP Information
Subject: Congratulations:

Please be aware rthat you have been added to our list of phony pollsters.
These are Republican controlled pollsters who put out bisased, slanted
Our list is sent to over 235,000 subscribers and media outlets.

Byron Vanderway
Media Watch USA

Obama in North Carolina

Barack Obama's approval rating in North Carolina remains in negative territory and the numbers make it pretty clear that won't change until the economy starts really turning around.

46% of voters in the state like the job the President is doing to 49% who disapprove. Obama's popularity in the state has been pretty steady since he first dropped into negative territory in August, with 44-48% of voters giving him good marks on every poll since then.

One of Obama's biggest problems is that 51% of North Carolinians think their personal economic situation has worsened in the last year with 39% saying it has remained about the same and only 10% saying things have gotten better for them. There is a significant correlation between how voters feel about the economy and how they feel about Obama. Among voters for whom things have remained the same or gotten better his approval is a positive 66/28 spread. Among voters who say things have gotten worse for them his approval is a negative 27/68. Obama isn't likely to get his approval in the state back over 50% until the economy starts really turning around.

Democrats continue to be happy with Obama, giving him a 77% approval rating. But support from Republicans is virtually nonexistent at 7%, and independents are arrayed against him by a 50/41 margin as well.

Full results here

Republicans lead in Wisconsin Gov race

The race to be the next Governor of Wisconsin is a close one with Republicans Scott Walker and Mark Neumann both holding a small lead over likely Democratic nominee Tom Barrett.

Neumann is up 43-38 and Walker's advantage is 42-39. Very few Democrats or Republicans are crossing over to the other side in their support, but the GOP candidates both have a wide lead with independents. Walker is up 41-29 and Neumann has a 43-26 advantage.

At this stage none of the candidates are all that well known. Walker is the most prominent, but 43% of voters still have no opinion of him with 31% viewing him positively and 27% negatively. Barrett and Neumann are both blank slates to 49% of voters in the state. 29% see Barrett favorably to 22% unfavorably and 24% have a positive opinion of Neumann to 27% negative.

One thing that may not be doing Barrett any favors is the unpopularity of outgoing Governor Jim Doyle. His approval rating is just 29% with 58% of voters disapproving of him. His 5% approval rating with Republicans is even worse than Barack Obama's, and he's at a negative 22/64 ratio with independents as well.

With the candidates pretty much unknown at this point the early lead for the Republicans would seem to be a result of the general mood of the electorate right now, which is a negative one toward Democrats. The race is basically a toss up and things could change a lot between now and the fall as voters become more familiar with their choices.

Full results here

Portman with a small lead

If there's a race that exemplifies the extent to which Barack Obama's popularity will determine whether Democrats rise or fall it's the Ohio Senate race.

None of the candidates are well known to voters in the state. 66% don't know enough about Rob Portman to have an opinion and the same holds true for 62% of voters when it comes to Jennifer Brunner and 55% for Lee Fisher.

With the candidates themselves relatively anonymous the numbers at this point are more a reflection of the general political mood in Ohio than anything else, and with Obama's approval in the state at 40% to 53% disapproving it's no surprise that Portman leads both Democrats at this stage. If anything it's a surprise Portman's not up by more.

His advantage is 38-37 over Jennifer Brunner and 41-36 against Lee Fisher. When PPP last looked at this race last June Brunner and Fisher led Portman by 8-9 points. The candidates were all just as anonymous then as they are now, but at that point Obama's approval rating was still over 50% and the downward trend in his numbers goes a long way toward explaining Portman's improved standing.

Portman has a 37-25 lead over both Brunner and Fisher with independents, reflective of national trends.

This is a very close race, and there is a plausible path to victory for the Democratic candidates. First off, if the President's popularity has started to recover by the fall the eventual nominee's prospects will be a whole lot better. Second, Portman's status as a Washington insider could make things hard for him. 65% of voters in the state say they trust Columbus politicians most to deal with Ohio's problems compared to only 11% who trust Washington politicians. Brunner or Fisher will be able to contrast their record in state office with what Portman's done in Washington, and that could prove to be a winning message.

Democrats are having a hard time nationally and Portman would probably win if there was an election today but it's close and a whole lot could change between now and November as the voters become more familiar with the candidates.

Full results here

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tough Times for Dems in the Midwest

It's really looking like a brutal year for Democrats in the Big Ten states.

Barack Obama's approval numbers in the two places we polled this week- Wisconsin and Ohio- tell the story. He won Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008 but we find his approval there at a net -2 (46/48) for a 16 point drop since the election. It's a similar story in Ohio. He won there by four points in 2008 but our approval numbers there for him tomorrow will show him at -13 (40/53) for a drop of 17 points. If his national approval rating was falling the way it is in these two states he'd be at about 43/53 for the whole country.

If the election was today Democrats would likely lose something they currently hold in every state where they have something to lose- Pennsylvania Governor and perhaps Senate, Michigan Governor, Ohio Governor, Indiana Senate, Iowa Governor, Wisconsin Governor and perhaps Senate, and Illinois Senate and/or Governor. Only Minnesota doesn't join the party because Democrats have nothing to lose there.

What all this really makes me wonder is just how many House seats Democrats are going to lose in the region this year. The smattering of polling we've seen has not been very good for the party, but because it's so limited it's hard to get a handle on just how bad the situation is. Given the Obama numbers and what we're seeing in Senate and Gubernatorial polls though I'm guessing it's not a good picture for Democrats. It's going to be a very difficult year for the party in this region.

Politics of Repeal

We'll see how it develops but even though the health care bill is unpopular I think repealing it is going to end up being bad politics for Republicans.

One of the biggest problems for Democrats on this issue and one that has contributed to the bill's unpopularity is that health care is not high on the list of things most Americans are concerned with right now. They've overwhelmingly focused on jobs and the economy, and they've seen the Democratic fixation on health care as a distraction from more important and pressing issues. We've seen over and over that much of the actual content of the health care bill is perfectly popular. It's the overall process that has really turned voters off and for that Democrats have received the blame.

If the Republicans now keep health care in the spotlight by trying to repeal it, they will be the ones independents voters see as having skewed priorities and they may start to pay the price. Yes, repeal will play well with the base. But focusing on that has a high potential to turn off independent swing voters who have been leaning toward the GOP but are sick of the health care debate and want Washington to be more focused on something else.

And let's be realistic. Nothing gets Democratic voters more energized than Republicans misbehaving. Democrats really aren't all that good at getting their own base excited- we saw that in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia. But if Republican leaders try to repeal the health care bill that could rekindle the anger of the Bush years and get drop off voters mad and out to the polls this fall.

Perhaps repeal will end up being a political winner for the GOP but I think it will do them more harm than good.

Kasich leads in Ohio

Despite continuing to be relatively unknown, John Kasich leads Ted Strickland 42-37 in his bid to be the next Governor of Ohio.

50% of voters have no opinion about Kasich and among those who do feelings about him are pretty evenly divided with 25% viewing him favorably and 24% unfavorably. Kasich's advantage likely has a lot more to do with Strickland than it does with himself. The Governor's popularity continues to decline with only 33% of voters approving of him to 47% who disapprove.

Strickland's base is not all that enthused about him with just 53% of Democrats expressing approval of him to 23% who disapprove and 23% with no opinion. Majorities of independents and Republicans disapprove of him by margins of 54/28 and 69/14 respectively.

Strickland and Kasich both win over most of their party's voters in the horse race, with the incumbent up 70-10 with Democrats and the challenger holding a 73-10 advantage with Republicans. Kasich's lead is due to an overwhelming 47-24 lead with independents. Independents are leaning toward the GOP everywhere this year, but the margin in Ohio is particularly wide.

With the country as polarized as it is right now it seems pretty safe to say that there won't be a lot of Democrats or Republicans crossing party lines in their votes for Governor this year. That means the race will come down to the independents. Right now they dislike Strickland and don't really know Kasich. For the Governor to get reelected he will have to get those voters to change their minds about him- or convince them that they dislike Kasich even more. It's going to be a difficult fight for reelection.

Full results here

Feingold continues to lead Thompson

Tommy Thompson is gaining on Russ Feingold as the likelihood of his candidacy increases, and now trails just 47-44. Feingold had a 50-41 advantage when PPP looked at a hypothetical contest back in November. Nevertheless the poll finds warning signs for Thompson on the road ahead.

Feelings toward Feingold and Thompson are highly polarized with neither having much in the way of crossover support. Feingold's approval rating is a 45/41 spread with 73% of Democrats approving of him and 71% of Republicans disapproving of him. Thompson's favorability is a negative 40/44 spread with 70% of Republicans viewing him positively and 73% of Democrats holding an unfavorable view. Independents are relatively split on both politicians, with Feingold getting a 46/43 approval rating with them and Thompson standing at 40/40.

Both candidates continue to have their parties lined up overwhelmingly behind them with 89% of Democrats supporting Feingold and 83% of Republicans going for Thompson. The main reason the race has tightened since November is that Thompson is now ahead 45-40 with independents, where he trailed 47-41 before. The shift toward him among independents is reflective of the national trend with those voters, who are leaning toward the GOP in generic ballot polling and in most individual races this year.

One thing that could be a major liability for Thompson if he decides to make the race is what he's been doing in the private sector since leaving the Bush administration. Only 1% of Wisconsin voters have a favorable opinion of Washington lobbyists to 77% who view them negatively, and if Thompson can be effectively portrayed as such it has the potential to be a major liability in his campaign.

For now though it looks like a Thompson-Feingold race would be a toss up. And it appears a Thompson candidacy is the only way this contest will be close. Against existing Republican candidates Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, Feingold leads by margins of 48-34 and 48-31 respectively.

For the GOP to have even a small chance at taking back the Senate this year, this is a seat it probably needs to win. Thompson's final decision could have pretty significant national implications.

Full results here

Monday, March 22, 2010

And the finalists are...

Thanks for all your suggestions on where to poll this week.

Here are the finalists, voting will be open until Thursday morning:

-Alabama. Once upon a time this looked like a good opportunity for Artur Davis. I don't know if that holds true in this political climate. And who knows, maybe Ron Sparks' prospects have improved. Definitely worth a look.

-Illinois. The polling on the Governor's race since Bill Brady clinched the Republican nomination has been all over the place. Also, we haven't seen any poll trouble for Alexi Giannoulias as a result of his family's issues yet but it won't necessarily stay that way.

-Maryland. One of the most under polled states in the country and it would be interesting to see the extent to which Bob Ehrlich would pose trouble for Martin O'Malley and/or Barbara Mikulski.

-Washington. Is Patty Murray really in trouble? Limited polling has indicated yes, would be good to get another voice there.

Vote away!

Wisconsin Poll Preview

We'll have our full Wisconsin Senate numbers out tomorrow, and it's a close race between Russ Feingold and Tommy Thompson. But there was one piece of information in the poll that bodes particularly ill for Thompson...and Dan Coats in Indiana as well.

1% of Wisconsin voters have a favorable opinion of Washington lobbyists. I think something polling at 1% is a new one for us. 77% view them negatively. And you better believe that if Thompson gets in the race that Washington lobbyist card will get played over and over and over again.

Tax and spend liberals, which Feingold is sure to be labeled as, are considerably more popular than Washington lobbyists. Only 53% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of them, and 18% even like them!

A bad national political climate has Feingold looking potentially a lot more vulnerable than would have been expected a year ago, but what Thompson's been doing since leaving the Bush administration could end up being baggage on par with Feingold's association with an unpopular Congress. We'll have those numbers out in the morning.

Political Fallout of the Health Care Vote

There was a lot of interest in the last week over which individual members of Congress in vulnerable districts would be given 'permission' to vote against health care and which other ones would have to 'walk the plank' by voting for it. But polls we conducted in a couple of key North Carolina districts last week indicated that Democratic members of Congress may be held responsible for the bill regardless of how they voted for it personally.

In both Bob Etheridge and Heath Shuler's districts we asked whether voters would be more or less likely to vote for their representative if they supported the bill, then whether they would be more or less likely to vote for their representative if the bill passed regardless of how their actual representative voted.

In Etheridge's district 47% of voters said they'd be less likely to vote for him this fall if he supported the bill. And 47% said they'd be less likely to vote for him this fall if the Democrats in Congress passed the bill, regardless of how Etheridge himself voted.

It's a pretty similar story in Shuler's district. 51% of voters said they'd be less likely to vote for him this fall if he was a 'yes' vote.' But 46% also said they'd be less likely to vote for Shuler this fall if the bill passed, whether it did so with his support or not.

If voters are mad about Democrats passing the health care bill, they're likely to take it out on Democratic members of Congress regardless of how they actually voted. The conventional wisdom may be that it was good politics for Democrats to vote no, but they may find an unenthusiastic base and little gratefulness from Republicans and conservative leaning independents since their no votes didn't end up making a difference. I have no doubt the health care bill is unpopular, but I think its political fallout for Democrats is more complicated than saying the ones who voted for it are in big trouble and the ones who voted no are less so.

The Politics of Road Money in NC

There's something North Carolinians across party lines and in every part of the state agree on: they all think they're getting the short end of the stick on money for roads. We find that 55% of voters think their area does not get its fair share of road money to only 23% who think their section does.

The Charlotte area tends to be the loudest in complaining about inequity, and the numbers bear that out. 69% of voters there think they don't get the money they should to only 12% who believe they do. But voters in eastern North Carolina- which many urbanites think gets too much money- also think they're being treated unfairly. Only 22% there think they're getting what they deserve to 54% who disagree. The only region that comes anywhere close to saying it's getting what it wants is the Triangle, where 38% say the area is getting what it deserves to 40% who disagree.

These numbers speak to one of the fatal errors Pat McCrory made in his Gubernatorial campaign two years ago. He was too vocal in complaining about Charlotte's share of road money, not understanding that voters everywhere in the state think they're being sold short. That gave Bev Perdue's campaign an easy issue with rural voters in the east and the mountains, telling them that McCrory was going to hurt them for the good of the cities. Harping on road money is good for a legislative candidate who only needs to appeal to voters in one area, but it proved to be dumb politics at the state level.

58% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans think their area deserves more money, speaking to the fact that this is something voters agree on across party lines.

Full results here

A health care bump for Obama?

Last night's health care vote was a great victory for Barack Obama but I wouldn't expect much, if any, of a bounce in his approval rating.

That's because on our last national survey 93% of the voters who disapproved of Obama said they were opposed to his health care plan with only 3% in support. So it doesn't seem all that likely that his getting a bill passed that they oppose would now make them like him.

Beyond that the small segment of voters who said they were undecided on Obama's job performance expressed opposition to the health care plan by a 45/24 margin.

Of course the real deal with health care is that if Democrats were just worried about the next election or if Obama was just worried about his approval numbers, they would have never messed with it. The bill is likely to have short term consequences for the party, and it's impossible to say whether those will be offset by long term gains or not. But Obama and Congressional Democrats were willing to do something unpopular because they thought it was the right thing to do.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Taking Suggestions

We haven't done much in the Midwest lately so we're looking at Ohio and Wisconsin this weekend, and I'm pretty sure we'll do Missouri next weekend. What other state should we look at next week? We'll take nominations until Monday and then put it to a vote.

Has to have a 2010 Senate/Governor race and beyond that we're open to suggestions.

Perdue's monthly numbers

Bev Perdue's gradual rise to respectability continues this month, as her approval rating is above 30% for the first time since last May.

32% of North Carolinians approve of the job Perdue is doing while 47% disapprove. That -15 approval spread is still pretty poor, but as recently as October it was -30 at 24% approving and 54% disapproving so she's half way back to even.

As Perdue's numbers have improved, many of her peers across the country have seen their numbers decline to record poor levels. Because of that Perdue is no longer an unusually popular Governor. The 47% disapproving of her is just slightly higher than the 45% we've found for Governors on average over the last six months.

Perdue is now just short of getting back over 50% with voters in her own party. 49% of Democrats like the job she's doing to 29% disapproving. She continues to sport poor numbers with independents (28/47) and Republicans (10/72) although those are pretty much par for the course for Democratic politicians across the country right now. Her main challenge if she wants to get her numbers back in positive territory is to push closer to the 70-80% range of approval from her party's faithful.

Generic legislative ballot polling continues to indicate North Carolina will see a spirited and competitive battle for control of the General Assembly this year. 42% of voters say they plan to vote Democratic in the fall and 42% say they plan to vote Republican. Independents lean toward the GOP by a 35-26 margin, but Democrats keep it tied overall thanks to their large identification advantage in the state.

Full results here

More on Health Care

On our last national poll folks who supported Barack Obama for President in 2008 but are now undecided on how to vote for Congress this year said they supported the health care bill by a 59-17 margin.

That doesn't sound like a group of undecideds that the Democrats could lose to the Republicans, but it sure sounds like a group of undecideds that could decide to sit at home this year if they feel like their votes the last time around didn't accomplish anything.

As we've said repeatedly, the political damage to Democrats on health care has been done whether the thing actually passes or not. Republicans are going to be fired up right through the fall and the small number of Obama supporters who have gone over to the Republicans will come back when the economy gets fixed, not because health care fails. At this point what Democrats need to do is make the base feel like coming out in 2006 and 2008 made the country better, and that coming out again in 2010 is vital to continuing the progress.

Romney leads tight Republican race

Our first national look at who Republicans would prefer as their 2012 Presidential nominee confirms the wide open nature of the field. The leading candidates are all within the margin of error of each other, with Mitt Romney leading at 28% followed by Mike Huckabee at 24% and Sarah Palin at 23%. Ron Paul pulls 11%, 9% say they're undecided, and 6% say their preference would be someone else.

Romney's lead speaks to the fact that moderates could actually pick the GOP nominee in 2012. That's because there's gridlock among conservatives about who their preferred candidate is. Huckabee leads with 28% to 27% for Palin and 25% for Romney. But the former Massachusetts Governor has a large advantage with moderates, getting 35% to 17% for Palin and 16% for Huckabee. That significant edge with them gives him the overall lead.

Palin is the most popular candidate with self identified Republican voters, as 69% have a favorable opinion of her compared to 58% for Romney and 54% for Huckabee. Palin's problem is that the people who like her aren't necessarily committed to voting for her. Only 32% of folks with a positive opinion of her say she would be their choice for the nomination. By comparison 45% of Republicans who view Romney favorably support him and 39% with a positive take on Huckabee say they would vote for him.

One of the things holding Palin back may be electability concerns. 48% of Republican primary voters say the most important thing is getting a nominee who can beat Barack Obama, and with those people Palin lags well behind at 15% to 32% for Romney and 27% for Huckabee. 42% say the most important thing is getting a candidate who's conservative on every issue and Palin does lead with those folks at 36% to 24% each for Huckabee and Romney.

The main takeaway from these numbers? There continues to not really be a Republican front runner.

Full results here

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Looking at the big tent

There's been endless rhetoric from Republicans over the last year about how far to the left the Democrats have gone and how that's turning centrist voters away from the party.

Not true. In our April 2009 national poll Democrats had a 27 point identification advantage among moderates over the Republicans, 45/18. In our national poll this week that's actually widened slightly to +28, at 50/22.

What has happened over the last year is an erosion in support for Democrats from conservatives. Last April we found 58% of conservatives identifying as Republicans and 21% as Democrats. Now 64% say they're Republicans and 15% Democrats.

As President Obama has aggressively pursued his agenda some folks have exited the Democrats' big tent. But you have to ask yourself the question: if the only way to keep everyone in the party is to not do anything, what's the point of being in charge? The Democratic Party is ideologically diverse, and that means there's going to be some division in the party about most anything. Is the solution to that to do nothing, or do you just forge ahead and accept that the price of progress is losing some voters? Clearly the President has his answer to that question- we'll see about the Democrats in Congress this weekend.

Mixed Messages on Health Care

Our newest North Carolina poll finds once again that voters are opposed to the health care bill not so much because they don't like what's in it but because Republicans have won the messaging battle.

58% of voters in the state say that they oppose the plan with 35% in support.

But if you ask them about the bill preventing children from being denied health care because of preexisting conditions there's 59/33 support.

If you ask them about giving tax credits to small businesses that provide their employees with health insurance there's 57/37 support.

If you ask them about stopping health insurance companies from putting caps on how much they will cover there's 52/38 support.

If you ask them about eliminating the Medicare 'doughnut hole' there's 51/38 support.

And if you ask them again at the end if they support the health care bill there's a nine point shift in support of the bill. Voters still oppose it by a 39/53 margin but that net -14 is a lot smaller than the -23 when they were first asked the question about two minutes earlier.

If/when health care passes it will not have the support of the public because Democrats have not done a good job of selling it up front. But what these poll results show is that there is a lot in the bill that the voters are happy with, and if it goes into effect the party and its candidates will just have to emphasize those points and try to flip a skeptical public once it has been enacted.

Full results here

A third party?

Sifting through our last national poll really makes me think the time is ripe for a third party to have some success.

Consider these findings:

-Independents are extremely fed up with both parties, giving Congressional Democrats a 61% disapproval rating and Congressional Republicans a 63% one.

-Beyond their general disapproval independents think both parties are too extreme ideologically. 50% think Congressional Republicans are too conservative and 49% think Congressional Democrats are too liberal compared to only 29% and 31% respectively who think those entities are 'about right.'

-The ideological unhappiness is not exclusive to independents. 20% of Democrats think that their party is too liberal and 20% of Republicans think that their party is too conservative.

Combine the Democrats and Republicans who think their party's too extreme with the independents who don't like anyone and you have a pretty significant swath of the electorate.

Of course there are a lot of reasons why a meaningful alternative won't emerge in 2012. For a third party to have any success it would really have to stand for something, and it's hard to say if being the great moderate alternative can get peopled fired up and rallied around the cause. I think it also needs to be bigger than a single politician's raging ambition- can a party really be built up around Michael Bloomberg's desire to be President?

The conditions are right for someone besides the Democrats and Republicans to get some traction. But there's a long way to go for that to happen.

The 2012 Poll

For the third month in a row our look ahead to the 2012 Presidential race makes it clear that a race between Barack Obama and either Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney would be a tossup at this point in time.

Obama and Romney tie at 44% each. Romney wins independents 45-38 and gets 80% of the Republican vote to Obama's 76% of the Democratic vote.

Obama leads Huckabee just 46-44. He wins independents by a 43-42 margin and would also benefit from a more united party than Obama, getting 82% of Republicans to Obama's 76% of Democrats.

These numbers really shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The polling out there on Obama's approval ratings now shows the country pretty much split between approval and disapproval, and it's a reasonable leap for it to be pretty evenly divided on whether the country would be better off with Obama or a Republican as President.

The Republicans nominating Sarah Palin in 2012 continues to be the Democratic dream scenario. Obama leads her 49-41. Where Romney leads by seven with independents and Huckabee leads by one, Palin has a 14 point disadvantage. Palin does continue to be the best liked of the GOP candidates within the party, as 69% of its voters have a favorable opinion of her compared to 57% for Romney and 55% for Huckabee.

Mitch Daniels was the 'wild card' on this poll and as you might expect voters aren't particularly familiar with him. 74% say they have no opinion of him, and he trails Obama 45-34.

There are a couple ways you can look at these numbers. Obviously Obama's position is much weaker than it was in November of 2008. There's no way he would win a Presidential race by seven points today. There's a positive way to look at it though as well- even in a political climate for Democrats that's about as bad as it can get, losing in Massachusetts bad, Obama is still running even. That bodes well for him assuming that 2010 does represent a low point for the Democratic brand and things are at least somewhat better come 2012.

Full results here

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Obama's Decline

Barack Obama dropped into negative territory in Gallup for the first time today, and I can tell you one big reason why from our polling.

Since the calendar turned to 2010 there has been a noticeable drop in Obama's approval among people who say they voted for him in 2008. Our monthly surveys from August to December found him at anywhere from 89 to 93% approval with his original voters. Our January to March polls have shown that number down in the 83 to 85% range.

Most of Obama's approval drop over the course of 2009 was the result of people who voted for John McCain but initially wanted to give Obama a chance shifting from approval to disapproval of him over the course of his first year. That was really no big deal for Obama and a perfectly normal thing to happen to any President once the honeymoon is over. But this drop in support he's seeing now from his core supporters is a more troubling sign and something he's going to need to overcome.

The Monthly Burr Checkup

Stability is the story when it comes to Richard Burr's poll numbers. For 13 months in a row now his approval in our polling has fallen somewhere between 35 and 40%. He's right at 35% right now, with 37% of voters in the state disapproving of his job performance.

Burr's approval with Republicans is a 64/12 spread, with that small disapproval number again providing confirmation he has nothing to worry about despite a crowded primary field. With Democrats he sees a 12/56 spread, an indication of limited crossover support. And with independents he's at 37/35, pretty solid standing in a time when those voters tend to be unhappy with everyone.

Burr continues to lead all of his Democratic opponents. It's a 41-36 advantage over Elaine Marshall and 43-32 over both Cal Cunningham and Kenneth Lewis. Burr leads by anywhere from 16-20 points with independents against each of the Democrats. He also has his party's vote pretty much locked up at 83-85% support while many Democratic voters remain undecided, with only 59-64% of them committed to their candidates at this point in time.

Burr's early leads are similar to what Elizabeth Dole had against Kay Hagan two years ago. Hagan polled well behind initially because she was not well known, and the Democratic candidates this year are no different. 71% of voters have no opinion about Elaine Marshall, 85% are ambivalent toward Kenneth Lewis, and Cal Cunningham is an unknown to 86%.

Because the candidates are pretty obscure at this point the best measure of Burr's standing right now may be how he fares against a generic Democratic candidate. He leads 41-39 there, indicating that this could be a highly competitive race once the Democrats have a nominee who has built up some name recognition.

The first poll we do after the primary will be telling. Two years ago Hagan took about ten points off Dole's lead from February to May as she became better known over the course of her primary campaign. If the eventual Democratic nominee sees a similar gain this time we probably have another tossup on our hands.

Full results here

Health Care support on the rise

Barack Obama's approval rating really seems to have entered into a holding pattern. Every national survey we've done in the last four months has shown his approval fluctuating between 46 and 49%, and his disapproval fluctuating between 46 and 49%. This month he comes down at 47% approving and 48% disapproving.

While Obama's numbers have remained steady, support for health care is on the rise. 45% of voters now say they're for his plan while 49% are opposed. A month ago the spread was 39% in support and 50% opposed.

Dennis Kucinich's flip on the health care vote this morning is symbolic of a broader shift among liberals. Last month 73% said they supported the plan with 19% opposed. Now 89% say they support the plan with only 3% opposed. Whether it's because of the President's increasing visibility on the issue or because liberals finally decided the current bill is as good as they're going to get and better than nothing, there's been a big rise in support since early February.

The shift has come completely with Democratic voters. A month ago 39% of independents said they supported it, now 40% do. A month ago 10% of Republicans said the supported it, and that's now actually down to 8%. But Democratic support has risen from 63% to 76% in the last month. Obama seems to have succeeded in better unifying the party around his goals.

Republican voters are still more unified in their opposition to the bill (88%) than Democrats are in their support (76%), but the gap is a lot narrower than it had been.

Full results here

Generic Congressional Numbers

Republicans continue to lead the national generic Congressional ballot by three points, as has been the case on every PPP poll so far in 2010. 46% of voters say they would vote for the GOP if there was an election today compared to 43% who would go Democratic.

There are two major trends that are driving both the Republican lead on the generic ballot and the Republican leads in many of the key races across the country. The first is a strong advantage with independents- they lead 44-26. The second is that GOP voters are more unified than Democratic ones- 87% of Republicans are committed to supporting their party this year while only 80% of Democrats are.

The Republican lead on the generic ballot can hardly be taken as mandate, given that 60% of voters disapprove of the Congressional GOP compared to just 23% who think it's doing a good job. Those numbers are actually worse than the Congressional Democrats' spread, which is 31/56. But among voters who dislike both parties the Republicans have a 49-28 advantage, indicative of an 'they're all bums but we might as well throw out the bums in charge' mentality.

The key to Democrats minimizing their losses this year may be figuring out a way to convince angry voters that things would be even worse if the Republicans were in charge. But that's going to be a hard sell.

Full results here

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Support for Health Care up

Smart commentators like Mark Blumenthal of have noticed support for the Democratic health care plan increasing in recent days and our newest national poll, which we'll release tomorrow, finds the same.

45% of voters support the bill while 49% are opposed. This is the first time since October that we've found support over 40%, and it's the first time since September that it's hit 45%.

Ever since we started polling on health care in August there's been a large disconnect among 2008 Obama voters between their approval of the President and their support for him on health care. On seven polls between August and February his approval with his supporters was anywhere from 10-21 points higher than their level of favor for the Democratic health care bill.

This month, for the first time, that gap has been pretty much erased. 83% of 2008 Obama voters approve of the job he's doing and 81% of them support the health care bill. It's clear that as Obama has become more forceful in selling the bill over the last month his core supporters have gotten behind it to a much greater extent than they were before. Perhaps declarations that Obama didn't have much sway over his supporters after the Democratic losses in New Jersey and Virginia were a little premature.

Tough numbers on health care

Voters in 2 of North Carolina's most competitive Congressional districts- the 2nd represented by Bob Etheridge and the 11th by Heath Shuler- are strongly opposed to the health care bill being debated in Congress right now, showing again the tough politics of this issue for Democratic officials.

Etheridge and Shuler both have to decide between voting the way that folks in their party would like them to, or voting the way voters in their district as a whole would like them to. In Etheridge's district 59% of Democrats support the bill to 29% opposed. But 90% of Republicans and 68% of independents are opposed, making the overall numbers 53% opposed to 37% in support. It's a similar story for Shuler. In his district 60% of Democrats are supportive to 32% opposed. But 90% of Republicans and 60% of independents are opposed, making the overall numbers 57% opposed to 35% in support.

In both districts voters are concerned that the bill will increase health care costs while decreasing health care quality. 56% of voters in each think health care will become more expensive if the bill is passed, while just 29% in Etheridge's and 27% in Shuler's think it will make health care cheaper. 55% of Shuler's constituents and 54% of Etheridge's think it will reduce the quality of health care while only 27% and 24% respectively think it will improve the quality of care.

Whether those perceptions about the impact the health care bill will have are true or not is debatable, and we may not really know the answer unless it's enacted and we see the impact. But it does make it clear that Republicans have won the messaging battle on this by a wide margin in these two districts. It'll be interesting to see if either Etheridge or Shuler changes his vote from the first time around.

Full results here

North Carolina Primaries

In North Carolina's Democratic Senate primary Elaine Marshall continues to lead the way but Kenneth Lewis and Cal Cunningham have made the largest gains over the last month.

Marshall has 20% to 16% for Cunningham and 11% for Lewis. Minor candidates Susan Harris, Marcus Williams, and Ann Worthy combine for another 6% and the big winner remains 'undecided' at 47%.

Lewis is up six points from a month ago while Cunningham has improved by four points. The candidates continue to be largely unknown. 63% of primary voters have no opinion about Marshall and that makes her the prominent one in the race. 79% are ambivalent toward Lewis and 83% are toward Cunningham.

Most of the findings in the crosstabs are within the margin of error. Marshall does have a clear lead with conservatives (23-9 over Lewis), whites (23-14 over Cunningham), and senior citizens (29-14 over Cunningham.)

Little of what's going on with these campaigns in public right now will have much relevance to the final outcome. These folks are not seeing their name recognition increase and there hasn't been much of a decrease in the percentage of undecided voters. For all intents and purposes this is likely to be a two or three week campaign in late April/early May when the candidates go on the air and the voters start getting more exposure to them and really thinking about the primary. There's a plausible path to victory for all three of the front runners.

On the Republican side Richard Burr has nothing to worry about with 58% to 5% for Brad Jones, 4% for Eddie Burks, and 1% for Larry Linney. The 33% who remain undecided is a small source of worry not so much for the primary as for the general because it shows many Republican voters are ambivalent toward Burr, which could make it hard to make them motivated to go vote in the fall. But for May he has nothing to worry about.

Burr said last month it would be impossible for any candidate to get to the right of him, and for the most part voters within his party agree. 68% think that ideologically he is 'about right' compared to only 14% who believe he is too liberal.

Full results here

Monday, March 15, 2010

Florida on its Governors

One of the things we like to do sometimes on our polls is ask people in a particular state who their favorite and least Governors are out of the last five. We did that on our Florida poll and the results were kind of interesting:

-Jeb Bush rated as both the state's favorite and least favorite Governor since Bob Graham. 42% picked him as their favorite, leading Graham at 23% and Lawton Chiles at 21%. 33% picked him as their least favorite with the other four recent Governors all falling between 16 and 19%. I know it's shocking that a Bush would have this kind of polarizing impact.

-These numbers are yet more bad news for Charlie Crist. Only 4% of Republicans picked him as their favorite recent Governor, behind Democrats Graham and Chiles. 23% chose him as their least favorite. Just another data point indicating he's in a lot of trouble for the primary.

Full results here
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