Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fisher leads in Ohio

Lee Fisher has taken a 40-38 lead in the Ohio Senate race, representing a seven point improvement for him since PPP last surveyed the contest in March and found Rob Portman ahead by a 41-36 margin.

You might expect that uptick in Fisher's prospects to be attributable to strengthening his support with the Democratic base in the wake of his primary victory last month, but it's actually because he's showing stronger support from Republicans. He gets 69% of the Democratic vote this month, just a slight uptick from the 67% he was getting in March. But he's now getting 14% from GOP voters, up from 8% in the previous poll. GOP voters simply aren't that enthused about Portman yet. His favorability with them is less than a 2:1 postive ratio at 33/17. In contrast Fisher sports almost a 4:1 positive favorability within his own party at 47/13.

Fisher and Portman are each getting 69% of their party's vote, and Portman has a 40-25 lead with independents. One thing striking in the numbers is the level of voter indecision. 22% are undecided and they don't know their candidates particularly well yet. 45% don't know enough about Fisher to have formed an opinion and 53% say the same when it comes to Portman.

One finding in the poll bodes very poorly for Portman if Democrats are effective in getting their message across this fall. 59% of voters say they have more faith in Columbus politicians (a group Fisher falls into) to deal with Ohio's problems to just 15% who say their greater trust goes to Washington politicians, something Democrats will certainly attempt to make Portman out as at most any opportunity they get. 2010 is not a good year to be a DC insider and that could end up being the determining factor in a closely contested race like this.

A possible detriment to Fisher's prospects though is how Ohio voters feel about President Obama. His approval in the state is only 42%, with 54% disapproving of him. That's actually a slight improvement from PPP's March Ohio poll that found the President at just 40%, but it's still confirmation that Obama's more likely to be a liability for Fisher at the polls than an asset this fall.

I can't imagine either candidate really breaking away in this race- it ought to be a close one right until the end.

Full results here

McCain's Saving Grace

The list of far right Republican insurgents defeating candidates perceived to be 'moderates' in Senate primaries this year is getting longer and longer. Marco Rubio knocked Charlie Crist out of the party in Florida, Rand Paul destroyed Trey Grayson, Sharron Angle came from behind to defeat Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, and Ken Buck increasingly appears to be headed for a victory over Jane Norton in Colorado.

One race I don't think will be added to that list is Arizona. It's not that John McCain is more popular than those other establishment candidates- he actually had a negative approval rating with Republican primary voters when we looked at his race in late April at 44/45. But the simple reality is that JD Hayworth is a very unpopular, unappealing candidate. And my guess is that will prove to be McCain's saving grace.

That same Arizona primary poll we did in late April found that in contrast to these other up and coming GOP candidates Hayworth is already well known- and not well liked. We found a negative 37/40 favorability spread for him on that poll. A more recent Magellan poll taken last week after some bad press for Hayworth found his fav numbers with Republican primary voters even worse at 38/50.

The support for the Rubios, Pauls, Angles, and Bucks of the world is certainly being driven to some extent by anti-establishment sentiment but GOP voters also by and large like each of those politicians personally. They're not completely voting against something. But Republicans in Arizona simply don't like Hayworth and because of that I imagine McCain will hold on in the end. I actually think there's a very good chance McCain could have lost the primary if a less well known conservative rising star had challenged him, provided that person could have raised the money to be competitive. But that's water under the bridge now.

GOP up in Wisconsin GOV

Republicans continue to hold a small advantage in the Wisconsin Governor's race. Scott Walker leads Tom Barrett 45-38 on PPP's newest survey, while Mark Neumann's edge over Barrett is 41-36.

Recent advertising in the race has had a clear impact on voter perceptions of the candidates, with Walker seeing an increase in his favorability while Barrett's negatives have climbed. When we polled the state in March 31% of voters had a favorable opinion of Walker while 27% viewed him unfavorably. His positive number has increased five points to 36% since then while his negative has gone up only a point to 28% for a +8 overall spread. Barrett's numbers have gone in the other direction. The number of voters seeing him in a positive light is basically unchanged, going from 29% to 28%. But his negatives have risen eight points from 22% to 30%, and his favorability is now a -2 spread.

One thing that can't be helping Barrett's prospects for keeping this office in the Democratic column is the continuing unpopularity of Jim Doyle. Only 28% of voters are happy with the job he's doing as Governor while 59% disapprove. Usually when voters are that unhappy with an incumbent they don't replace him with someone else of the same party.

Walker has a more unified party than Barrett at this point and is also winning independents. He gets 85% of the Republican vote to Barrett's 78% of the Democratic vote and has a 43-30 advantage with unaffiliated voters.

None of the candidates in this race are particularly well known yet- 36% of voters haven't formed an opinion about Walker and 42% don't have one about Barrett- so it could certainly shift as voters start tuning into the race more but for now the GOP is favored to take this office back.

Full results here

We actually do our polls...

One of the unfortunate things about yesterday's news regarding Research 2000 is that it will have some people wondering if there are even more firms putting out poll numbers without actually conducting polls. Well we do conduct our polls and as a result get a pretty good volume of irate e-mails and phone calls from people telling us to never to call them ever again. Below is a small sampling, although I'm very disappointed I couldn't find the e-mail from the lady in Alaska chiding us because our interviewer didn't sound Alaskan...

From: Karin Whitten
Sent: Sunday, January 17, 2010 8:51 PM
To: PPP Information
Subject: ??

ENOUGH with the phone calls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You people are out of control!!!!!!!!!!!

I am on the DO NOT CALL list for a reason and people like you are the REASON!!!!!!!!!!!

Cease and desist calling my house!!

It is 8:45 PM on a Sunday night … totally Inappropriate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


From: Beverley Justice
Sent: Friday, January 15, 2010 1:47 PM
To: Jensen, Tom
Subject: Unsolicited phone calls in NC

I just received one of your calls. It is my policy to respond to lengthy surveys only when reasonable compensation is offered. You don't work for free, neither do I.


You can't be a "real maverick" and run for office, at least in Ohio.

It was a good choice for Senator George Voinovich to retire; now he should do it quietly. In our latest poll Ohioans disapprove of the Republican Senator 48:21. Voinovich won’t be any help to fellow Republican Rob Portman in his quest to fill the Senator’s vacant position. Not to mention, Ohioans aren’t fond of Washington insiders.

More Republicans disapprove of Voinovich than Democrats: 52 to 50. Maybe that’s because he has jumped the party ship one too many times for Ohio Republicans to handle. Many worried he might throw his vote in for the health care bill.

Senator Voinovich announced over a year ago that he wasn’t seeking a third term, following the release of dismal poll numbers showing the Senator losing to an unnamed Democrat. Unconcerned with public perception and reelection, such an announcement may have allowed the Senator the luxury of flexibility, freedom and ultimately the ability to be a real maverick.

Ben Lauderdale, a Princeton Politics Ph.D. student used a mathematical formula to find the real Mavericks in the Senate. Lauderdale based his rankings on the unpredictability of Congressmen’s voting records. He ranked Voinovich number two in the 110th Senate.

Apparently, you can't be a "real maverick" and run for office, at least in Ohio.

The other Real Mavericks:

110th House:

1. Paul (R-TX)
2. Kucinich (D-OH)
3. Cooper (D-TN)
4. Flake (R-AZ)
5. Duncan (R-TN)
6. Stark (D-CA)
7. McDermott (D-WA)
8. Blumenauer (D-OR)
9. Taylor (D-MS)
10. Jones (R-NC)

110th Senate:

1. Feingold (D-WI)
2. Voinovich (R-OH)
3. Hagel (R-NE)
4. Reid (D-NV)
5. McCaskill (D-MO)
6. Byrd (D-WV)
7. Gregg (R-NH)
8. Kyl (R-AZ)
9. Coburn (R-OK)
10. Bayh (D-IN)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Republican Conspiracy Theorists

I'm seeing a lot of conservatives, referring to the emerging possibility that Research 2000's polls for Daily Kos were fradulent, say that means all of the findings from the infamous poll about crazy things Republicans think are bogus. While I'd agree that Research 2000's poll may have been bogus, I would not agree it means Republicans don't think those things. We have polled on many of the same issue over the last year and in some cases found even more Republicans buying into some of those conspiracy theories. For instance:

-In September we found only 37% of Republicans believed Barack Obama was born in the United States while 42% think he was not and 22% were unsure. Those numbers actually showed a higher birther quotient than the discredited R2K numbers that claimed 42% of Republicans believed Obama was born in the country while 36% thought he was not, and 22% were unsure.

-In November we found 52% of Republicans thought ACORN stole the 2008 Presidential election for Barack Obama while 27% thought he legitimately won it and 21% were unsure. That again showed a much higher level of belief in election fraud than the R2K numbers that claimed 21% of Republicans believed the election was stolen while 24% thought it was not and 55% were unsure.

-In December we found 35% of Republicans thought Barack Obama should be impeached while 48% thought he should not be and 17% were unsure. The Research 2000 poll claimed a similar, although slightly higher, level of support for impeachment from Republicans with 39% favoring it, 32% opposed, and 29% not sure.

Would I be leery of the Research 2000 findings on some of these extremist Republican views? Absolutely. But other pollsters have found the same thing. The discrediting of R2K doesn't change the fact that many GOP voters do subscribe to these unproven conspiracy theories.

How to Win an Election: Get Cozy with Clinton and Criticize Obama

It’s no surprise Bill White is pushing away Obama and getting cozy with Clinton. Last week Texas Gubernatorial candidate Bill White invited Former President Clinton, not Obama to for his endorsement to help rally support.

Obama’s approval ratings are down to 40% in Texas according to our latest poll. Democrats and Republicans alike in other states polled (including Obama’s home state) would rather hear from Clinton than Obama. Voters in Louisiana and Illinois have a more positive reaction to an endorsement from Clinton than the current president. My guess is that Texans feel the same.

Maybe Houston’s former Mayor was right on the money when he told Politico yesterday; "If the President wasn’t spending so much money, borrowing money, it would probably help. "

Bill White clearly has his hand on the pulse of his state—he has to draw line between his policies and Obama's to have a chance of winning this election. Currently he is neck and neck with his opponent and the incumbent Governor Rick Perry; 42:42 with 14% undecided.

Kasich holds small lead

Independents in Ohio are way down on Governor Ted Strickland and he continues to trail John Kasich in PPP's polling of the race. The good news for Democrats is that the Kasich lead is getting smaller. He's up 43-41 this month after holding a 42-37 advantage in a March PPP survey of the race.

The continuing small Republican lead in this race has very little to do with Kasich and everything to do with Strickland's poor approval numbers. Only 37% of voters in the state give him good marks while 48% disapprove of how he's doing. Republicans are much stronger in their disapproval (79%) of Strickland than Democrats are in their approval (61%). Independents also split against him by a 36/47 margin.

Kasich is an unknown to 41% of voters in the state and for those who do have an opinion it leans toward being a negative one- 30% have an unfavorable view of him to 28% with a positive one. That's a change from PPP's last poll of the race when Kasich still had slightly positive favorability numbers and an indication that early attacks on Kasich are having some impact.

In the head to head Strickland and Kasich are doing basically identically good jobs at locking up the support of their parties. 73% of Republicans are going for Kasich and 72% of Democrats are going for Strickland. But Kasich holds the slight overall lead thanks to a 45-26 advantage with independents. That overwhelming support with them has held constant in PPP's polling of the race over the last year. In March Kasich was ahead 47-24 with independents and in June 2009 it was 54-33.

This race has looked like a tossup for more than a year now and these numbers don't do much to change that reality.

Full results here

Good News For Democrats?

Byrd will be replaced by an appointed Senator for the next two years. Since West Virginia has a Democratic Governor, the partisan balance of the Senate won’t be disturbed. But other things will be.

It is highly unlikely that Byrd’s replacement will have any of Byrd’s committee chairmanships or responsibilities and certainly none of the respect bestowed on the late Senator. West Virginia will lose its greatest advocate and will sorely miss its longest serving Senator. Byrd was committed to reducing the state’s immense poverty through his role as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Moreover, he was devoted to the Constitution and the institution of the Senate. His sound leadership (and poetic prose) will be missed throughout the Senate and across the aisle.

It will be a difficult feat to fill the shoes of Senator Byrd. This two year transition period may give Governor Manchin, who has shown interest in the office but has already said he won’t appoint himself, a chance to escape the direct shadow of Byrd and shape his own objectives during a campaign. Manchin made the right decision because he would ruin his chances if he appointed himself and attempted to live up to Byrd immediately following his death.

Does Anyone Care About Elena Kagan?

As Elena Kagan begins her second day of testifying, gallons of oil continue to flow into the Gulf, General Petraeus prepares to go before the Senate to be confirmed to redirect a messy war, immigration laws are being written in state capitals and the economy, well… So it’s no surprise that Americans are unusually uninterested in Elena Kagan’s nomination. According to a Gallup poll Americans are not tuning into this nomination at the same rate they did for the past four Supreme Court nominations. 24% of Americans have no opinion of Obama’s nomination for the highest court.

Even with rumors of her personal life looming, Elena Kagan still isn’t getting the same attention her predecessors did. There just may be too many things on the President’s desk and on the public’s mind to care this time around. With slipping approval ratings, this could be good for Obama— this could be one thing he could accomplish without public scrutiny.

But we shouldn’t be too fast to brush this nomination to the insides of newspapers and the backs of minds. The Supreme Court continues to hand down impactful and relevant judgments, shaping our laws and state of our union. Just yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that local communities can’t ban guns. That decision will undoubtedly affect many Americans’ everyday life, maybe more directly than the war in Afghanistan.

Feingold leads by 2

It's looking more and more likely that Wisconsin will be in the top tier of competitive Senate races this fall. Russ Feingold leads challenger Ron Johnson by only two points, 45-43. Johnson is polling closer to Feingold than Tommy Thompson was as he contemplated a potential campaign.

Wisconsin voters are evenly divided in their feelings about Feingold with 42% giving him good marks and 42% think he's doing a poor job. Feingold's reviews are nearly completely polarized along party lines, with 71% of Democrats approving of him and 72% of Republicans disapproving. Independents are also against him by a 39/46 margin, reflecting their unhappiness with most all incumbents across the country right now.

Johnson is largely unknown to voters in the state. 62% have no opinion of him. Among those who do feelings are pretty divided with 20% seeing him favorably and 18% unfavorably. Johnson's anonymity, in contrast to Thompson, may actually help GOP prospects for winning the seat. Thompson's popularity has been on the decline since he was elected to his 4th term as Governor, and our last poll before he decided not to run had found him with a negative 40/44 favorability spread. A fresher face may be helpful for Republicans as they try to pull off the upset in this race.

Matched head to head Feingold gets 83% of the Democratic vote while Johnson gets 78% of the Republicans. Johnson wins over independents 46-39. Feingold leads the other Republican candidate, Dave Westlake, by a wider45-38 margin. Numbers on the primary to be released later this week show that the race for the Republican nomination is not very competitive.

The potential competitiveness of this race may have more to do with Barack Obama's declining popularity in the state than anything Feingold himself has done. Obama won Wisconsin easily in 2008 but now has just a 45% approval rating with 50% of voters unhappy with his performance. 51% of voters are opposed to the health care bill to just 38% in support. In the places where Obama's fortunes are falling he's bringing the electoral prospects of Democratic candidates down with him.

Feingold is certainly still favored in the race, but it's likely to be a tougher road to reelection than he faced in 2004 and this could be one of the most closely watched races in the country if things develop such that this seat could determine whether Democrats remain in control of the Senate.

Full results here

Monday, June 28, 2010

Wisconsin Senate a Real Race

We're going to have Wisconsin Senate numbers out tomorrow and they confirm that this is a real race, even after Tommy Thompson decided not to run.

I actually think Ron Johnson is a more formidable opponent for Russ Feingold than Thompson would have been. Obviously Thompson was a proven vote getter after winning four terms as Governor but our polling on him earlier this year also showed really high negatives. Our March poll of the state showed his favorability at 40/44 and in November it was 38/45.

Johnson begins as an unknown to a majority of voters in the state, but that gives him a lot more room to define himself positively than Thompson would have had as someone everyone in the state already had an opinion about.

It'll be an interesting race- those numbers should be out tomorrow morning.

Little Support for Perry Pres Bid

Rick Perry's been mentioned in some circles as a possible future GOP Presidential candidate, but the party's voters in his own state aren't too keen on the idea. Only 14% of Texas Republicans think Perry should run for President in 2012 while 63% think he should not and 23% are unsure. That level of interest compares unfavorably to the desire of Louisiana Republicans (48%) for Bobby Jindal to make a White House bid and South Carolina Republicans (24%) for Jim DeMint to do the same.

Tested as an actual candidate Perry finishes tied for 5th at 8% with fellow Texan Ron Paul. Newt Gingrich leads the way with 23%, followed by Mike Huckabee at 18%, Sarah Palin at 17%, and Mitt Romney at 14%.

A similar poll conducted in Pennsylvania (not including Perry) finds Palin leading with 24% to 23% for Gingrich, 20% for Huckabee, 16% for Romney, and 11% for Paul.

Takeaways from these numbers:

-Newt Gingrich increasingly looks like a very legitimate candidate should he decide to run for President in 2012. He's showing strong support across the country- he's led in California, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas and finished just behind in Illinois and Pennsylvania in recent polls. Gingrich may benefit from having less of a 'loser' stench to him than the other contenders- Huckabee, Palin, Romney, and Paul were all involved in losing campaigns in 2008 and Gingrich is a reminder of the time when Republicans were in charge.

-Mitt Romney is really slipping in these polls. He had the lead in both Pennsylvania and Texas the last time we polled those states but has fallen now to 4th in both. It's a sign of how fleeting 'frontrunner' status can be this early in the game- it's really not worth much because voters aren't tuned in enough for it to be particularly meaningful or sustainable.

-I say this every single time but it always bears repeating- these top four candidates are so jumbled that it's very important not to over interpret the numbers on a poll to poll basis.

Full results here

Thoughts on West Virginia

RIP Senator Byrd.

We last polled West Virginia in May of 2009. Usually I would not write anything about data that old but as far as I know we were the last national polling company to do a survey in the state. At that time President Obama's approval rating in the state was only 39%. His national approval numbers were still consistent with his 2008 vote share at that time but he was already running behind the 43% he got in West Virginia at that time and I'd imagine his approval in the state is now more around the 35% range.

It's going to be very hard for Democrats to win an open seat somewhere where President Obama has a 35% approval rating. But if those words sound familiar it's because that's the exact same thing we were saying last month about the special election to replace John Murtha and Democrats not only won that race, but won it by a solid eight points.

West Virginia, like PA-12, was one of the few places in the country that did not trend Democratic in 2008. A key difference between the two that needs to be noted though is that while Obama only lost PA-12 by a point he lost West Virginia by 13. So while there are some similarities between the two situations West Virginia has shown a willingness to lean more Republican at the Presidential level.

The fact that Republicans won in Massachusetts where Obama won by 26 and lost in PA-12 where McCain won by 1 was a pretty strong reminder that candidates matter. The best case scenario for WV Democrats would be for Governor Joe Manchin to run. We found last year that he was one of the most popular Governors or Senators in the country with a 53/34 approval rating in a time when the list of politicians over 50% is very, very short. If Manchin runs it's hard to see Democrats losing the seat. Republicans in the state have a pretty short bench. Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito would probably be the GOP's first choice.

If Manchin runs Democrats will hold the seat, if he doesn't it's probably a toss up. Republicans shouldn't assume they'll win just because Obama's unpopular there and Democrats shouldn't assume they'll win just because they always win Senate races in the state. Our special elections so far this year taught those lessons pretty clearly.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Taking Suggestions/Voting Time

We're polling Ohio and Wisconsin this weekend. Those will come out over the course of next week.

We're going to have to go into the field Monday for next 'weekend's' polls since we don't want to be polling 4th of July weekend. One of the surveys will be our monthly North Carolina poll- question suggestions always much appreciated.

The other we're going to give you a choice of Florida, Kentucky, and Washington:

Florida. The races for both Senate and Governor have changed drastically since we last polled the state in early March. Definitely worth seeing how much the landscape has changed from our point of view.

Kentucky. There was a little burst of Rand Paul-Jack Conway polling after the primary but we haven't done one since and I'm interested in seeing where it stands. I'd also like to see where Kentucky voters stand on some of Rand Paul's more interesting beliefs- what questions should we ask if this one wins?

Washington. Polling's really all over the place, just not all that clear whether this race is top tier competitive or something less.

Voting's open until Monday morning- something went haywire on the last vote so I hope that won't happen again and apologize to anyone who wasn't able to vote- have a great weekend!

Looking at Moderate Republicans

The Republican Party has been lurching to the right so far this election cycle, nominating the most conservative candidate possible in a number of key races. In some ways this is working to the party's considerable advantage, as it's getting voters on the right wing of the party fired up about this fall's election in a time when many Democratic voters have gotten complacent. But our polling data also indicates that it's turning off moderate Republicans, a problem for the party that could become particularly acute in 2012.

Our national poll in March found that 44% of moderate GOPers think their party has become too conservative. We saw the ramifications of that in our polls of Pennsylvania and Texas this week. In both cases the party nominated the more conservative contender, with Rick Perry beating Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Texas Gubernatorial primary and Pat Toomey more or less pushing Arlen Specter out of the GOP and clearing the field for himself in the Pennsylvania Senate contest.

In the Texas race moderate Republicans actually like Bill White better than Rick Perry. White has a +17 net favorability with them at 29/12, while a majority of them disapprove of Perry by a 53/35 margin. Perry still leads with moderate Republicans but it's only 50/39 and that's a big part of why that race is so close right now.

It's not quite as dramatic in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Pat Toomey's favorability with the moderates in his party is a tepid 30/25, but he leads Joe Sestak 58-21 with moderates. Still that 21% of undecideds has to be a concern for Toomey if those Republican voters aren't committed to him yet in a year when GOP voters are supposed to be pretty universally fired up and on the same page.

Turning off the moderate Republicans may not prove to be that big of a problem for the GOP this year because the enthusiasm gap has the potential to override any negative effect. But it's a pretty sure bet that Democratic voters, who are still pretty fond of President Obama, will come back out in 2012 to support his reelection and if a solid chunk of moderate Republicans are added to the Democratic base in 2012 there's a good chance we'll see an election with a pretty similar outcome to what happened in 2008. This Tea Party stuff may serve the GOP fine in an off year election, but whether it can do the same in a Presidential year is likely to be a whole different story.

Looking at Specter

One thing was abundantly clear from our Pennsylvania poll this week- Democrats are very, very lucky that Arlen Specter lost their party's nomination for the Senate.

Specter had pretty bad approval ratings in late March when we last polled the race, with 34% of voters approving of the job he was doing then to 52% disapproving. But now those numbers are even worse, with Specter's approval dropping all the way down to 30% and his disapproval creeping up to 55%. It's not impossible for any politician to win a race with approval numbers that bad- I still think Pat Quinn could get reelected in Illinois- but I do think it's impossible for a politician in a state as evenly divided as Pennsylvania to win with those kinds of numbers.

Part of Specter's decline predictably can be tied to falling fortunes with Democratic voters in the wake of his primary loss. He's gone from a 53/30 approval spread to a 46/33 one with them. But he's seen an even more dramatic drop with independents. He was at 32/52 with them three months ago and that's now tanked all the way to 19/67.

If Specter had pulled out the primary it's a pretty safe bet we'd be six months away from Senator Toomey. With Sestak as the nominee Democrats are at least even money to hold the seat, and if I had to put money down on it today I'd guess Sestak ends up winning in November when Democrats get a little more tuned into the race.

Hutchison's Fall

Kay Bailey Hutchison has shown increased interest in running for reelection to the Senate in 2012 over the last few months. Whether Texas voters are interested in giving her another term is a different issue. Hutchison's approval numbers have plummeted since her failed Gubernatorial run, and she could be susceptible to a primary challenge from the right if she runs in 2012.

In February of 2009 PPP found Hutchison with a 58% approval rating, putting her among the most popular Senators and Governors in the country. Now Hutchison's approval is only 37% and she has negative overall numbers with 43% of voters disapproving of her. Only 35% of voters think she should seek another term in 2012 while 48% think it's time for her to hang it up. And if she does decide to run again only 32% of voters say they'll support her with 47% saying they'd support someone else.

Texas doesn't seem a likely candidate to elect a Democratic Senator any time soon so the greatest challenge for Hutchison in 2012 could be if she draws a serious primary challenger from the right flank of her party. Even among Republicans only 42% say they'd vote for Hutchison again to 41% who say they would rather vote for someone else, and it's clear that ideology is a big factor in that sentiment. 39% of GOP voters think Hutchison's too liberal to 46% who are comfortable with her ideologically. Hutchison may not be a moderate by normal standards, but she is by Texas Republican standards and that makes her vulnerable to a challenge from the right in 2012.

It's possible that the Tea Party fervor and anger on the right will have subsided some by the time 2012 rolls around. But if it hasn't Hutchison could be the next big target of the Tea Party activists' efforts to purge the GOP of those they perceive as moderates.

Full results here

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Looking at Obama's fall

Barack Obama's approval numbers have been hitting new lows in some surveys of late. Here are some observations on where he stands today as compared to a year ago in our polling:

-He still has not seen any erosion in his support from the Democratic base. He was at 82% approval with his party a year ago and he's at 83% now.

-He's lost a good portion of the low amount of favor he had with Republicans to begin with. Where he stood at 18% approval with them a year ago he's now at only 11%.

-Obama's biggest decline has been with independents, from 46% approval to 38% approval. In a number of key states for this fall that approval number with them is even worse. In Texas Obama stands at 33/62 with independents and in Pennsylvania it's 32/61. We showed tied races in both of those states this week but Obama's lack of popularity could prove a hindrance in Bill White and Joe Sestak's ultimate abilities to win those races.

-Obama's approval numbers with African Americans (93%) and Hispanics (59-60%) are almost identical to what they were a year ago. But he's fallen from 44% to 40% for whites, and that's responsible for most of his overall decline in popularity.

Today's Crazy E-Mail of the Day

This is a good way to not get your candidate included in a poll:
hey include Alex Snitker in the next poll you paid political hacks!! I did not send this to start a discussion it is a demand. Do not reply Just comply!! He is a senate Candidate for Florida!!!!!!!!! I will be watching you!!
Vince Smith

Impact of Challenging an Incumbent in a Primary

In 1912, former President Teddy Roosevelt challenged incumbent President William Howard Taft in some of the earliest Republican primaries. While the electorate showed their support for Roosevelt, he was unable to win over the Republican establishment. Roosevelt went on to create a new party and Taft went on to sorely lose the general election. In the end they both lost the presidency, and in November 1912 Woodrow Wilson was elected the 28th President of the United States.

It seems that primaries with incumbents haven’t changed much over the last century. The illustration above depicts the cat fight that unfolded before the American electorate in 1911, but it also could easily be confused for several primaries today. The outcome of the Roosevelt-Taft battle could likely be the fate of many of today’s incumbents facing primary challengers.

This year we’ve seen voters in Texas, Pennsylvania and Arkansas make the choice between old faithful and new blood. Soon we’ll see voters in Arizona do the same.

Now that we are on to the general elections in TX, PA and AR, we begin to wonder how such a nasty in-party battle will impact popularity, images and agendas. Does it hurt more than normal primary elections?

In Texas, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison challenged sitting Governor Rick Perry. Three months later, our polls show that neither Perry nor Hutchison have fared well as a result of the election. Even though Perry has a campaign to run and an election to win, Texas Republicans are still choosing sides.

Republicans aren’t excited about Hutchison and they don’t want her to run again. 47% of Republicans approve of Hutchison. If she was to run for reelection 41% of voters in her own party said they would vote against her. These numbers wouldn’t be so dismal if they crossed party lines, but Hutchison can’t rally even her own base. Republicans aren’t happy she instilled doubt in Rick Perry in the minds of Texan voters.

Though Perry is more popular amongst Republicans, Republicans are still hesitant to give him high marks, suggesting that Hutchison was successful in questioning his ability to lead the state. 58% of Republicans support the Governor, only a 7 point gain from the primary. He’ll need much more than that to win the general election.

With only 36% approval rating, he is in a dead heat against his opponent Bill White. White carries 15% of the Republican vote, while only 10% of Democrats throw their support in favor of Perry. We can only wonder how high these numbers could have been had he not faced off against someone in his own party.

This particular primary was an unfortunate event for Texas Republicans—two of the leading state Republicans went head to head tearing at each other’s records and integrity. Republicans will have a difficult time winning the gubernatorial election and maybe even Hutchison’s future election without a united base.

Primaries when incumbents come out on top, but are forced to defend their honor, incite doubt and anger in the voter. Voters from within in the party grow angry with the mud slinging that leads to a disjointed front. Voters across party lines question the quality of incumbent that its own party felt the need to challenge.

Challengers argue that approval ratings are already low and incumbents are already likely to lose in the general election. But there is no doubt that they certainly remind voters of the incumbents’ faults. Even if challengers win the primary, they face an uphill battle.

Joe Sestak lacks the name recognition of his former opponent Arlen Specter. 43% of Democrats are unsure about their opinion of the candidate, while 46% of Democrats approve of Senator Specter’s job performance. Just like Governor Perry, Sestak is in a dead heat with his opponent Pat Toomey. Similarly to Perry 14% of Sestak’s own party support his opponent.

An incumbent’s primary challenger may face the same group of disgruntled voters and uncertainty in the polls if chosen as the winner. Some voters are angry that the challenger created cleavages in the party. Others don’t know who the new candidate is and may tie him to the party line. Challengers, if they can win, may have a better chance because being unknown is easier to overcome then being known and disliked.

But they both still face dismal chances. That leaves us asking is it worth the battle? It depends on the motivation of the candidate: is it to win, or to promote a new agenda?

Mack Brown and Roy Williams

There's no denying Mack Brown's been phenomenally successful since leaving North Carolina for Texas 12 years ago, but he can't match the love North Carolinians of all stripes and UNC fans in particular feel for Roy Williams.

Our Texas poll this week found that 29% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Brown while 14% have an unfavorable one. The 57% with no opinion speaks to the fact that in a state as large as Texas it's hard for anyone, even a high profile football coach, to grab the attention of a majority of people in the state.

When we looked at Roy Williams statewide in North Carolina, even during the middle of his team's difficult season, 39% of voters said they had a favorable opinion of him to 10% with a negative one. In terms of sheer numbers there may be more Texas football fans than there are North Carolina basketball fans, but when it comes to the percentage of people in the state who care Tar Heel basketball wins out.

Williams is also better loved within his own fan base than Brown. 53% of Longhorn fans on the poll said they have a favorable opinion of Brown to 6% who see him negatively for a net positive of +47. In Februrary 72% of UNC fans had a favorable opinion of Williams to 3% who saw him negatively for a positive of +69.

In some sense it's hard to question Mack Brown's decision to leave UNC- he's won a national championship, been in the picture for it almost every year, and made a whole heck of a lot of money. But he'll never be as big in Texas as he would have been if he'd accomplished those same things at North Carolina. And that can be seen when you compare his poll numbers with Williams.

Texas poll results here, North Carolina poll results here

Public Opinion on Conference Realignment

Most Texans are glad that their state's major college athletic programs stayed in the Big 12 Conference. And they'd like to see a couple other home state schools added to fill the void left by the departure of Colorado to the PAC 10 and Nebraska to the Big 10.

44% of Texas voters are glad that Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech remained in the Big 12. Those who would have supported a move to another conference would have been much more in favor of heading to the SEC than the PAC 10. 15% would like those colleges to align with the schools in the Southeast while just 7% support going with the western schools. 32% of voters in the state don't have an opinion on what conference the schools should be in.

Support for remaining in the Big 12 is particularly strong among the partisans of the Longhorns, Aggies, and Red Raiders. 56% of Texas fans, 55% of Texas Tech fans, and 52% of Texas A&M fans favor the decision for their schools to stay right where they are.

Voters with an opinion on the matter strongly favor taking TCU as a new member of the Big 12 and support adding Houston as well, although by a lesser margin. 47% of voters in the state think TCU should join the conference with 15% opposed and 37% having no opinion. It's interesting to note that Baylor fans support letting TCU in by a 44/8 margin, even though reports have suggested the school's administration would like the Horned Frogs kept out. Fans of TCU itself support going to the Big 12 by a 58-2 margin, and partisans of the schools in the state currently in the Big 12 all support TCU's admission. Only Houston fans, perhaps worried a TCU bid would keep them out of the conference, oppose their moving up.

43% of voters think Houston should be added to the Big 12 with 22% opposed and 35% holding no opinion.

Public opinion doesn't play a huge role in conference realignments but whether it was part of their equation or not the administrations at Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech made the popular move by keeping their schools in the Big 12. And they'd curry more favor, at least within the state of Texas, by adding Houston and TCU and bringing the Big 12 more toward something resembling the old Southwestern Conference.

Full results here

Casey leads Santorum in rematch

If Republicans want to beat Bob Casey for reelection in 2012 they're going to have to look somewhere other than Rick Santorum for a candidate. Casey leads Santorum 51-39 in a hypothetical rematch of their 2006 contest, an impressive performance given the very tough political climate for Democrats.

There are two particular signs of strength that bode well for Casey regardless of who his opponent in two years is. He wins 18% of the Republican vote, much more crossover support than just about any Democrat in the country right now is showing. And he leads Santorum 41-32 with independents, a strong contrast from the 41-21 deficit fellow Democrat Joe Sestak faces against Pat Toomey with unaffiliated voters right now.

Casey's approval numbers are now on positive ground with 36% of voters giving him good marks to 35% unhappy with his performance. That's an improvement from PPP's late March poll of the state that showed Casey with a negative 31/38 approval rating. Not much has happened since March other than the health care issue that hurt Democrats going into the rear view mirror- that passage of time is working to Casey's advantage.

More voters in Pennsylvania (39%) have a negative opinion of Santorum than a positive one (36%).

A lot could happen between now and 2012 but if Casey is polling this strongly in what seems likely to be a brutal year for Democrats it bodes well for where he'll be standing a couple years from now.

Full results here

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Independents and the Economy

One finding on our last national poll may summarize more than anything else why 2010 is likely to be a very tough year for Democrats: only 24% of independents think the economy's better than it was a year ago. 49% think it's worse and 27% think it's about the same, and about the same isn't too good given where it was a year ago. They don't have much optimism for the future either. 24% think the economy will be better by November, 37% think it will be worse, and 39% think it will be in about the same poor position they perceive it to be in right now.

The way independents feel about the economy has serious implications for how they're planning to vote this year. The ones who think the economy's gotten worse in the least year are planning to vote for the GOP by a 53-6 margin. The ones who think it's about the same say they'll vote Republican 34-24. The ones who think it's gotten better say they'll vote Democratic 51-5 but of course that's the smallest group in the pot.

Democrats are losing with independents in pretty much every race in the country right now. That may abate in some races where Democrats have superior candidates by the fall, but the overall national trend is not likely to change until those independents start feeling more positive about the economy. Right now that doesn't seem very likely to happen.

Full results from this poll here

Corbett favored in Pennsylvania

While Democratic prospects in the Pennsylvania Senate race are now looking a lot brighter than they were three months ago, the contest for Governor continues to look like an uphill battle. Tom Corbett leads Dan Onorato 45-35, indicating Onorato has only picked up a little bit of support after trailing 45-32 on PPP's previous poll of the race in early April.

Corbett has two big things going for him: a 44-20 advantage with independents and the fact that he's winning 74% of the Republican vote while Onorato has just 57% of his party's voters lined up behind him.

Both of the candidates are still relatively unknown at this point. 50% of voters have no opinion about Corbett one way or the other. He has good numbers among those who do with 31% seeing him favorably to 19% with a negative opinion. 53% have no opinion about Onoraro and the reviews he gets are somewhat less positive- 22% have a favorable view of him while 25% rate him unfavorably.

One thing that can't be doing Onorato's prospects any favors is the high level of unpopularity of outgoing Governor Ed Rendell. He has just a 35% approval rating with 53% of voters disapproving of him. It's no surprise that voters are reluctant to elect another Democratic Governor when they feel so negatively toward the one already in office.

There's a lot of room for the race to shift with the candidates so little known, but for now it looks like the GOP is strongly favored to take back this office.

Full results here

Texans Down on Barton

Texans think that Barack Obama's right and Joe Barton's wrong when it comes to BP's responsibility for cleaning up the oil spill, and a plurality of voters in the state think Barton should lose his leadership post on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Only 18% of voters think that BP deserved the apology Barton sent its way last week to 65% who think it did not. Barton doesn't even get much support from Republican voters on that front- only 23% of them say it was right to apologize to BP. With Democrats and independents the numbers are even lower at 17% and 12% respectively.

64% of Texans think the President was right to ask BP to compensate victims of the oil spill with only 27% opposed to that move. Support for Obama's action comes from 88% of Democrats, 59% of independents, and even a 45% plurality of Republicans.

This episode is having a negative impact on how voters in Texas perceive Barton overall. Only 21% have a favorable opinion of him while 28% see him negatively. 42% of voters in the state think he should resign from his leadership position to 31% who think he should remain in it.

None of this should have much impact on Barton's personal prospects for reelection, as his district tilts strongly to the GOP side. But Republicans are well advised to stay clear of Barton's comments, because the poll numbers indicate this is an issue where Democrats could find some resonance with independent voters. They see Barton negatively by a 35/14 margin, think he should lose his leadership post by a 45/29 spread, think Obama was right on this issue 59/29, and oppose an apology to BP 75/12. Given those numbers GOP leaders would probably like to see this issue disappear as soon as possible.

I doubt this whole episode is going to be very important four months from now- it's too long away from the election and doesn't have that much direct impact on voters across the country- but Barton would do his party by a favor by shutting his mouth for a couple weeks and letting the story die.

Breaking Down the 8th District Race

By nominating Harold Johnson last night Republicans in the 8th Congressional District ensured Larry Kissell would have a competitive race for reelection this fall. Just how competitive that race ends up being will be determined by the willingness of Democratic base voters unhappy with Kissell to hold their noses and vote for him anyway this fall.

Our polling on the race last week found Kissell leading Johnson 41-35, but perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the numbers was the high level of undecideds at 24%. A deeper look at who those undecided voters are shows that they are overwhelmingly Democratic base voters who have been disappointed in Kissell's voting record so far:

-60% of them approve of Barack Obama to 31% who disapprove, compared to a 51/46 approval spread for Obama with all voters in the district.

-55% of them support the health care bill with 36% opposed, compared to 45% supporting and 47% opposing the bill with all voters in the district.

-53% are Democrats and 23% are Republicans compared to 50% who are Democrats and 33% who are Republicans among all voters in the district.

These Democratic voters unhappy with Kissell basically have three choices about what to do with their Congressional votes this fall:

-They can forgive Kissell and support him despite their unhappiness with some of his votes in Congress.

-They can not vote at all this fall, or come out to vote and skip the House race.

-They might have the option of voting for a union backed third party candidate.

It doesn't seem likely many of these folks will go in the Johnson column. My guess is at the end of the day most of the unhappy Democrats will go with option 1, and that Kissell will end up being reelected by a healthy if not overwhelming margin. But the 8th District race has already seen plenty of strange twists and turns and it's only June so any outcome is possible.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Marshall has a strong chance

Democrats got their more electable candidate for the fall by nominating Elaine Marshall to run against Richard Burr tonight. Qualitative arguments were made over the last six months that Cal Cunningham would be the stronger nominee but polling data has repeatedly shown that Marshall is the stronger candidate:

-PPP has tested both Marshall and Cunningham against Burr every month since August, and Marshall has polled closer to Burr in every single one of those polls. While that discrepancy could have been explained by Marshall's higher name recognition for a while, she continued to poll 4 points better against Burr even after Cunningham's television advertising campaign during the primary. On our May poll Burr led Marshall by 1 and Cunningham by 5 while on our June poll Burr led Marshall by 7 and Cunningham by 11.

-Marshall's favorability numbers are well above average for non-incumbents running for the Senate or Governor across the country. PPP has polled on 37 politicians seeking to win one of those offices over the last three months. Marshall's net favorability rating of +5 (21/16) ranks her in a tie for 6th most popular among those 37 challengers with Iowa Republican Gubernatorial hopeful Terry Branstad. The full chart showing how Marshall stacks up with the favorability numbers of other candidates across the country is available here.

Marshall is looking considerably more competitive against Richard Burr at this point in the election cycle than Kay Hagan did against Elizabeth Dole two years ago. Our most recent poll found Marshall down 46-39 to Burr. In late June of 2008 Dole led Hagan 51-37 in our polling. Certainly the 2010 election cycle is not shaping up as positively for Democrats as the 2008 one did. But Burr's approval numbers are weaker than Dole's were, his lead in the race at this point is smaller than Dole's was, and the fact that he is easily the most endangered Republican incumbent in the country should ensure this race gets a lot of national money poured into it. Burr is favored to win but it will be close, and Democratic voters ensured that today with their votes for Marshall.

Immigration Bill Fallout in Texas

Our poll of the Texas Governor's race this week is another data point indicating possible backlash for Republican candidates this fall in the wake of the Arizona immigration law.

When we polled the race in Februrary Rick Perry led Bill White by 6 points. The race is tied now, and the movement since the previous poll has come completely with Hispanic voters. With white voters Perry led 54-35 then and leads 55-35 now. With black voters White led 81-12 then and leads 70-7 now. But with Hispanics Perry has gone from leading 53-41 in February to now trailing 55-21. And it's not that the sample of Hispanic voters we interviewed for this poll was somehow fundamentally different from the previous one- Barack Obama's approval with them on this poll was 49% compared to 47% on the previous Texas poll.

Hispanics moving toward Democratic candidates since the Arizona immigration bill was signed is becoming a trend in our polling of western states. Previous races where we polled before and after the signing of the immigration bill showed Rodney Glassman going from a 17 point deficit against John McCain with Hispanics to a 17 point lead, Michael Bennet going from a 12 point lead to a 21 point lead against Jane Norton with them, and Terry Goddard going from a 20 point lead to a 46 point lead with them.

There's no doubt the immigration bill is popular nationally. But if it causes Hispanics to change their voting behavior without a parallel shift among whites then it's going to end up playing to Democratic advantage this fall. It's much more important to look at how Hispanic voters in states with large Hispanic populations are reacting than it is to look at the national numbers, at least as it pertains to this fall's election.

Looking at the Challengers

Bill White's surprisingly strong showing in the Texas numbers we released this morning got me to wondering how his favorability numbers stack up with other non-incumbents running for the Senate and Governor across the country this cycle. The answer wasn't too surprising- he's tied with Terry Goddard for the second best figures in our polling.

We've looked at favorability for 37 different candidates in the last three months. Here are some observations on the numbers:

-It's not just incumbents voters don't like this year. 20 of the 37 non-incumbents we've looked at have negative favorability numbers with 3 breaking even and 14 on positive ground. The sentiment out there right now is pretty anti-politician across the board.

-The 5 candidates with the best favorability spreads are all Mayors (John Hickenlooper of Denver, Bill White of Houston, Tom Barrett of Milwaukee) or Attorneys General (Terry Goddard of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.) Those three account for all the Mayors on the list- that might be a good position to be running from this year. There are some Attorneys General- Jerry Brown and Jack Conway- who don't do as well.

-4 of the top 5 best numbers are for Democratic Gubernatorial candidate- Hickenlooper, White, Barrett, and Goddard- and despite their personal popularity they might all lose. Hickenlooper and White were tied in our most recent polling, Goddard was up a little, Barrett was down a little. These folks need to keep their races from being nationalized and make them as much about the candidates as possible because they're all better liked than their opponents but they're also all in states where Barack Obama isn't real popular.

-The 18 Democratic candidates actually have slightly better favorability numbers (a +.1 spread on average) than the 19 Republican ones (a -3.3 spread on average.) Yet the GOP is still likely to win most of the races these candidates are involved in. That suggests Republicans have not done a superior job of recruiting good candidates, but again the national climate's going to let them win some places even where their nominee is actually inferior to the Democrat. Timing is everything in politics- a lot of good Democratic candidates who would win in most any other election cycle are going to lose this year.

-The bottom 3 on the list are all Republicans in Jane Norton, Roy Blunt, and Meg Whitman. I really have a hard time seeing Whitman winning in the fall but Blunt's the perfect example of a Republican who's not popular and may well win anyway because Democrats are disinterested and the folks who show up to the polls are going to be ones who really don't like Barack Obama.

A lot of data to think through here, here are our numbers:



Net Favorability

John Hickenlooper

Colorado Governor

+14 (47/33)

Bill White

Texas Governor

+12 (37/25)

Terry Goddard

Arizona Governor

+12 (39/27)

Kelly Ayotte

New Hampshire Senator

+10 (34/24)

Tom Barrett

Wisconsin Governor

+7 (29/22)

Elaine Marshall

North Carolina Senate

+5 (21/16)

Terry Branstad

Iowa Governor

+5 (42/37)

Scott Walker

Wisconsin Governor

+4 (31/27)

Nikki Haley

South Carolina Governor

+3 (29/26)

Pat Toomey

Pennsylvania Senate

+2 (30/28)

Joe Sestak

Pennsylvania Senate

+1 (29/28)

Vincent Sheheen

South Carolina Governor

+1 (17/16)

John Kasich

Ohio Governor

+1 (25/24)

Scott McInnis

Colorado Governor

+1 (31/30)

Bill Brady

Illinois Governor

E (22/22)

Bradley Byrne

Alabama Governor

E (18/18)

Ron Sparks

Alabama Governor

E (20/20)

Cal Cunningham

North Carolina Senate

-1 (12/13)

Jerry Brown

California Governor

-2 (37/39)

Jack Conway

Kentucky Senate

-2 (20/22)

Lee Fisher

Ohio Senate

-2 (22/24)

Rob Portman

Ohio Senate

-3 (16/19)

Mark Neumann

Wisconsin Governor

-3 (24/27)

Charlie Melancon

Louisiana Senate

-5 (29/34)

Ken Buck

Colorado Senate

-5 (19/24)

Robin Carnahan

Missouri Senate

-5 (38/43)

Paul Hodes

New Hampshire Senate

-7 (32/39)

Rand Paul

Kentucky Senate

-7 (28/35)

Rodney Glassman

Arizona Senate

-8 (7/15)

Carly Fiorina

California Senate

-8 (22/30)

John Stephen

New Hampshire Governor

-8 (12/20)

Alexi Giannoulias

Illinois Senate

-8 (23/31)

Mark Kirk

Illinois Senate

-8 (23/31)

Roxanne Conlin

Iowa Senate

-10 (19/29)

Jane Norton

Colorado Senate

-12 (20/32)

Roy Blunt

Missouri Senate

-16 (25/41)

Meg Whitman

California Governor

-20 (24/44)

Sestak, Toomey tied

Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey are tied in the Pennsylvania Senate race, representing a six point improvement for Sestak from when PPP last polled the race in late March and found Toomey ahead 42-36.

Sestak's progress has come largely by consolidating the Democratic vote in the wake of his surprising primary win. He's now getting 70% from within his own party, up from 59% on the previous poll. That's similar to the 73% share of the Republican vote Toomey is getting, suggesting that Sestak has been successful in getting the party unified around him in the last five weeks.

This race is a vintage example of where the enthusiasm gap is giving Democrats problems. Sestak is winning 74% of the vote from people who supported Barack Obama in 2008. That's actually a tad higher than the 73% Toomey is getting from McCain voters. This is not a race where the Democratic candidate is struggling because folks who voted for Obama last election are supporting the GOP in droves. But the poll's respondents went for John McCain by a point in 2008 when Barack Obama actually took the state by 10. The only reason Sestak's not ahead in this race is that Republican voters are much more motivated to go out and vote in the fall than Democrats are. If Democrats can close that gap, even a little bit, Sestak will have the advantage in the race.

Both Sestak and Toomey are relatively unknown at this point. 44% of voters don't know enough about Sestak to have formed an opinion of him one way or the other and the same is true for 42% when it comes to Toomey. Their favorability numbers are almost identical with the voters who do know them- 30% have a positive opinion of Toomey to 28% negative and 29% have a positive opinion of Sestak to 28% negative.

These results seem to make it clear that the controversy about Sestak and the White House is not hurting him and that the race is now a pure tossup. Democratic prospects are much brighter than they were when it still looked like Arlen Specter would be the nominee and this contest is likely to be one of the closest in the country right on through the fall.

Full results here
Web Statistics