Friday, July 30, 2010

Coming next week...

This week, we've been polling Washington and our monthly look at North Carolina. Those numbers start coming Tuesday, as usual, so keep your eyes peeled on this blog.

This is our first poll of the Evergreen State this year, and we'll bring you a report on the jungle primary for Senate, Murray matchups against both Rossi and Didier, Initiative 1098, Cantwell against two possible Republican opponents in 2012, and a look ahead to the 2012 open gubernatorial race.

Here in NC, it'll be interesting to see if Elaine Marshall's internal numbers hold up to our methodology. We're also polling on support for hosting the 2012 Democratic National Convention and an interesting test case that we won't spoil but that you should stay tuned to find out.

More on governors

Dustin here with more on Elena's post, including a table with all the approval data.

12 of the 25 governors we've polled on are leaving office, most because of term limits. It looks like legislative dictate picked the right time for 8 of them to retire--they each have net negative approval ratings, as do Jim Gibbons, who lost his primary to Brian Sandoval in Nevada, and Bill Ritter, who wisely chose to not run for another term in Colorado.

The impact on the elections is pretty clear, and the big picture looks better for Republicans than Democrats, though there are a few silver linings for Obama's party.

Of the 18 governors in the red, 11 are Democrats. 5 of them are leaving office, but 5 are up for election this year. Of those, only Massachusetts' Deval Patrick is favored to survive, though narrowly in a three-way race, with Illinois' Pat Quinn and Ohio's Ted Strickland on the precipice of defeat and Iowa's Chet Culver a sure loser. As Tom has noted, the Midwest is not looking good for Democrats this year.

While there are only two Republican governors with negative margins who are up for re-election, they both are facing close races and could lose. They are both in the Southwest, and could hurt if Hispanics continue moving toward Democrats in that region, as our polls have suggested is happening. Our April poll in Arizona had Jan Brewer down three to Terry Goddard just after the immigration bill had passed; we haven't yet gone back into that state. In June, we made a stir by showing Bill White tied with Rick Perry in Texas.

The Southwest's blue trend of the last few cycles is also seen in the fact that of the 5 Democratic governors in the negative who are leaving their seats open, three are favored to flip to the GOP (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania), all in traditionally blue but occasionally competitive Great Lakes states. The two close races that are looking good for Democrats are in Mountain swing states New Mexico and Colorado (the latter especially so after Tom Tancredo's entry and Scott McInnis' plagiarism troubles).

Of the five Republican open seats, only one is favored to switch parties--California--though our latest poll this week showed Meg Whitman and her money bags closing in on ex-governor Jerry Brown. Alabama, Nevada, and South Carolina all lean GOP. Georgia could be a tight race; though the GOP picture has changed, our February poll showed another former head of state, Roy Barnes, leading all comers by small margins.

An interesting note: Elena focused on how many massively unpopular governors there are, but of the four states where the governor is the most popular figure of the four (Obama, the two senators, and the governor), three are Democrats--Mike Beebe of Arkansas, who is the most popular; John Lynch of New Hampshire; and Steve Beshear of Kentucky, a deeply red state at the federal level but one with a history of Democratic governors and an ostensibly Democratic registration advantage.

The data is here.

Its no Party in the Governor's Mansion

While pundits have fixated on Obama’s dropping approval ratings, they have missed the headline story: governors are the truly unpopular politicians. Voters across the country are placing their frustrations, rightfully so or not, on the nation’s governors.

States are dealing with tight budgets that are getting increasingly smaller. As legislatures and governors make tough budget cuts, voters voice their frustration on the most recognizable figure: the governor. In many states, to many voters, state legislators are unknown, and governors are perceived as the most powerful state figures.

We have polled 25 states in the last six months, including job approvals for Obama, governors, and senators. In 13, or 52%, of these states, the governor has the lowest job approval margin of the four figures. In 3, or 12%, of the states, the governors were a close second-to-last. Obama was the least popular in only 3 of the states: Texas, Louisiana, and Kentucky, three traditional Republican strongholds.

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear are shining stars among a group of unpopular Governors. They are not only the most popular in their states, but they are massively popular.

But for most, the numbers are dismal.

Arnold Schwarzenegger faces the most disparaging numbers. Californians disapprove of the Governator, 71:19. His approval ratings have taken an eight-point hit in the last two months. It isn’t going well for the sitting duck who is struggling with a $20 billion deficit and is getting whacked by the gubernatorial candidates. Californians now say they prefer recalled Governor Gray Davis, who they replaced with Schwarzenegger.

It is no surprise that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm isn’t faring well in the Great Lakes State. Michigan voters disapprove of their governor, 29:61. With 13% of its population unemployed, Michigan continues to face trying times. While many say the worst has passed in Michigan, the going isn’t easy, and readjustment to new realities isn’t going to be a walk in the park. My guess is every politician who passes through Michigan for some time is going to find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.

However, like other states, Granholm and other Michigan officials may be receiving some misplaced anger from voters. Michigan lawmakers are playing a waiting game. Many of their initiatives can’t go into place until the U.S. Congress approves money. The current state of US Congress isn’t helping states smooth over troubling times. Though states have enjoyed the benefits of the stimulus, the budget will only get harder to balance as stimulus money runs dry and Congress continues bicker.

As Michigan and other states dealt with consequences of halted unemployment benefits, they waited desperately for the filibuster on unemployment benefits to break. Now Gov. Granholm is crossing her fingers that Congress will recover a Medicaid measure that would give her state $560 million to help provide health care for the poor. The state can’t extend the benefits without Congressional approval, so for now Granholm has her hands tied.

With the Tea Party pushing the Republican Party and Republican candidates further to the right, there are strong signs that Congress could become even more polarized next year. This could mean more logjams and less progress. With less money for states to fuel their budgets in already difficult times, there will be more unpopular governors.

A Bit of Good News for Obama in New Hampshire and California.

While the President’s approval numbers are dropping to record lows around the country, in California and New Hampshire Obama’s approval ratings are rising.

In New Hampshire his approval numbers are up but remain relativity steady. In April voters disapproved of Obama 48:47. This month New Hampshire voters approve of the President 49:47.

The news is even brighter in California.

In May, California voters approved of Obama 49:42. This month Californians approve of the President 54:39.

Obama is drawing increased support from minority groups, but this may be more of a rebound rather than a gain. Over the last two months Hispanic voters’ support for the President has increased by almost ten points. Representing 20% of California voters, Hispanic voters are significant actors in Golden State politics. Their shift in support could have to do with Obama’s reaction to the Arizona immigration law, initially received poorly by Latinos. The President’s reinvigorated commitment to immigration reform may be the reason he has regained support amongst the Latino community in California. We saw a drop in Hispanic voters’ support across the country in May and in spike in July—it would be no surprise if the same trend was occurring in California.

There was also a pretty large increase in Republican supporter for Obama. Last month 12% of Republicans approved of Obama, this month 20% of California Republicans approve of Obama’s job in Washington. This is undoubtedly a trend we are not seeing around the country, and I am unsure of why it is occurring in California.

Things aren’t so bad everywhere for Obama after all.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lynch improves standing

When PPP polled New Hampshire in April John Lynch was showing some signs of vulnerability, sporting only a 44% approval rating and polling under 50% against all of his Republican opponents. Our newest numbers indicate that may have been a false alarm. Lynch has rebounded to a very strong 52/36 approval spread and leads his potential foes by anywhere from 17 to 24 points.

The strongest Republican, and the front runner for the nomination as seen in yesterday's primary numbers, is John Stephen. He is still an unknown quantity to 65% of voters in the state though and the ones that do have an opinion of him aren't very charitable with 14% rating him favorably and 21% unfavorably. Lynch leads him 51-34.

The rest of the Republicans are even more obscure and trail Lynch by wider margins. 75% have no opinion of Frank Emiro and he's down 48-28. 77% are ambivalent toward Karen Testerman and her deficit is 52-28. And Jack Kimball trails 52-29 with 78% expressing no feelings about him.

Lynch's numbers are up across the board since the April poll. His approval's risen 10 points with independents from 44% to 54%, 6 points with Republicans from 20% to 26%, and 6 points with Democrats from 66% to 72%.

Lynch received 74% and 70% in his last two reelection bids. He's not likely to come close to that level again this year with Republicans voting in a much more partisan fashion. But he doesn't have anything to worry about either.

Full results here

Californians Look Back

Nearly 7 years after recalling him from office California voters would like to have Gray Davis back...or at least they'd rather have him than Arnold Schwarzenegger. 44% on our most recent poll said they'd rather have Davis as Governor to 38% who picked Schwarzenegger. Democrats (64%) are more unified around the desire for Davis than Republicans are around Schwarzenegger (59%), although independents do lean toward the current Governor by a 41-37 margin.

Davis is still pretty unpopular with voters in the state. 32% view him favorably to 44% with a negative opinion. It's interesting to note that -12 favorability spread is equal to Carly Fiorina's (28/40) and better than Meg Whitman's -20 at 30/50. The GOP ticket's chances would be a lot better if their candidates didn't have Gray Davis like polling numbers.

The Davis/Schwarzenegger breakdown is actually a pretty good proxy for this year's Governor's race. Voters in the state don't like Jerry Brown (or Davis) but they like Whitman (or Schwarzenegger) even less and that drives a Democratic lead.

California voters are much more charitable when looking back on the Republicans of the past. 41% say Ronald Reagan is their favorite out of the state's last six Governors with Jerry Brown the runner up but far behind at 22%. Californians aren't opposed to all Republicans, but none of the ones the party has put forward recently have come close to matching the Reagan magic.

Full results here

Reid's Effectiveness

One of the interesting dynamics occurring in the Nevada Senate race right now is that Harry Reid is outrunning his approval numbers- about 10% of voters who don't approve of his job performance are planning to vote for him anyway.

The automatic assumption would be that those are folks who think Sharron Angle's too conservative, but only 40% of them actually hold that opinion. When you ask them whether Reid or Angle would be more effective as a Senator though 87% of them say Reid to only 10% for Angle.

Reid's power in Washington and ability to deliver for Nevada wouldn't really make that big of a difference if this race was in the 5-10 point range in either direction. There aren't that many voters who are going to let that trump party and ideology. But in a race that is basically 50-50 right now voters who don't like Reid but are voting for him anyway because of his effectiveness are tipping the scales. It's the kind of thing that could end up making the difference in a race that's not likely to be too slanted in one direction or another.

Overall 48% of Nevada voters think Reid would be more effective to 42% who say Angle.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Romney continues to lead in NH

Mitt Romney continues to look like an overwhelming early favorite for the 2012 New Hampshire primary but the most surprising thing about our newest set of numbers there may be that Ron Paul's in third place, outpolling Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin (albeit by small margins.)

Romney leads the way with 31% to 14% for Newt Gingrich, 13% for Paul, 12% for Huckabee, 9% for Palin, 3% for Tim Pawlenty, and 1% for Mitch Daniels.

Observations from the numbers:

-Among voters who are more likely to support a candidate endorsed by Sarah Palin...Romney leads...with 29% to Palin's 21%. We've written repeatedly about how our 2012 polling shows a disconnect between people liking Palin and being willing to support her for President and this is a great example of it.

-Mike Huckabee's inability to follow up on his Iowa victory with a strong showing in New Hampshire significantly stunted his momentum from the surprising early win in 2008 and it doesn't look like he has much more appeal in the state now than he did then.

-The numbers provide some evidence that the happier GOP voters are with their party in 2012 the better off Romney's going to be. With voters who think the party's too liberal he's tied at 22 with Gingrich. With voters who think the party's too conservative he trails Paul 24-22. But he's up 42-12 on Gingrich with folks who think the party is ideologically 'about right' and that's fueling his overall lead. What happens in this fall's elections could have a big impact on Romney's prospects. If Republicans get back in control the rank and file will be happier and might be more inclined to support a mainstream candidate like Romney. If the party falls short its voters might be more inclined to shake things up and go with someone a lot less conventional than the former Massachusetts Governor.

-Ron Paul's numbers challenge the general assumptions about his support a little bit. With voters who identify themselves as Tea Partiers he's in fifth place with only 9%. With voters who don't identify themselves as such he's in second place with 15%. His son, Rand Paul, has been to some extent the poster child for the Tea Party on the national level but that's not equating to support from that quarter for his dad. Paul's numbers also suggest some appeal to the anti-Palin wing of the party. With GOP primary voters who consider a Palin endorsement to be a negative he's running almost even, getting 23% to Romney's 25%. But he polls at only 6% with people for whom Palin support is a plus.

-We get a lot of e-mail asking us to include Tim Pawlenty in all of our 2012 Presidential polling but his numbers here are a reminder of why we aren't- yet. Pawlenty was at 3% in our New Hampshire polling in April and he's still there. He's getting a lot of attention in insider circles as he positions himself for a 2012 bid but it's not translating to the general public enough yet for him to make a real dent in the polls. Pawlenty still has plenty of time to become a serious player for the Republican nomination but his name recognition isn't to the point yet where we'd get much out of including him every month on our national 2012 poll testing match ups against Obama.

Full results here

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ayotte up big in primary

In a year when one establishment Republican Senate candidate after another has fallen victim to an insurgent Tea Party challenger, New Hampshire front runner Kelly Ayotte has found the solution: become the Tea Party candidate herself. Ayotte holds an overwhelming 47-14 lead over her closest challenger, Bill Binnie, thanks in part to a 55-12 lead with the primary voters who consider themselves to be a member of the Tea Party.

Ayotte's lead over the GOP field is pretty thorough. She's been able to unite the various factions of the party around her. She's up 48-12 with people who think the party's too liberal, 38-14 with people who think it's too conservative, and 53-15 with ones who think it's the fine way it is. She's the overwhelming favorite of Tea Partiers but she's also up 46-17 with folks who don't consider themselves Tea Party members and 41-10 with those who aren't sure. And she pairs a 43-16 advantage with conservatives with a 48-14 ones with moderates.

Sarah Palin's endorsement has received a lot of attention of late but how important that really is to Ayotte's advantage is unclear. 38% of primary voters say they're more likely to vote for a Palin endorsed candidate to 28% who say that would turn them away from a candidate and 34% who say it doesn't make a difference either way. Those numbers are more narrow than we usually see with Republican voters, but only 53% of primary voters in NH identify as conservatives to 39% who are moderates so that may mitigate Palin's impact a little bit in New Hampshire. The national numbers run closer to a 70-30 split between conservatives and moderates.

Ayotte is up 53-11 with those who say they're positively influenced by a Palin endorsement. But she's also up 41-16 with those who say it's a negative and 47-16 with those who say they could care.

Ayotte's 33 point advantage on this poll represents a nine point increase from April, when we found her leading Binnie 43-19. Palin's endorsement probably didn't hand Ayotte the lead, which she already had, so much as keep her from seeing the kind of erosion in her support as primary day moved closer that other initial Republican front runners across the country like Charlie Crist, Sue Lowden, Trey Grayson, and Jane Norton have had to deal with and generally without success.

Things can change fast, especially in primaries, but Ayotte continues to look like an overwhelming favorite for her party's nomination.

Full results here

Brown continues to lead CA Gov Race

Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman can both take something positive out of our newest poll in the California Governor's race. The good news for Brown is that he continues to lead by a healthy margin, 46-40 this time around. The good news for Whitman is that she's chopped Brown's lead in half since he led 48-36 in a PPP survey conducted in May.

Brown's lead is in no way a reflection that he is particularly popular or well liked by California voters. Only 41% have a favorable opinion of him, while 43% view him in a negative light. Republicans dislike him (74%) more than Democrats like him (just 63%) and independents see him unfavorably by a 40/44 margin.

Brown's numbers certainly continue to look good compared to Whitman's though. Only 30% of voters have a favorable opinion of her and 50% see her unfavorably. Just like Brown, voters across party lines dislike her (66%) more than voters within her own party (59%) like her. What's most remarkable in Whitman's numbers though is how independents feel about her. A whooping 61% say they have an unfavorable opinion to only 21% who see her positively.

Those independents are making much of the difference in the race right now. Whitman's party is more strongly unified around her than Brown's is around him, as she's getting 76% of the Republican vote to his 69% of the Democratic vote. But Brown maintains a solid overall lead thanks to a 47-31 advantage with independents, one of the largest PPP has seen for any Democratic candidate across the country.

Casting a shadow over Whitman's campaign is Arnold Schwarzenegger's continuing status as the least popular Governor in the country. 71% of voters in the state disapprove of the job he's doing and only 19% give him good marks. Generally when you have an outgoing Governor that strongly disliked you're not going to be inclined to replace him with another person in the same party.

The trend is good for Whitman but with atrocious favorability numbers in a strongly Democratic state she still has an uphill battle to win this election.

Full results here

Gay Marriage in California

There's been very little change in public opinion on gay marriage in California since Proposition 8 passed by a 52-48 margin in 2008. Our newest poll in the state finds 46% think same sex marriage should be legal while 47% believe it should be illegal, with 8% having no opinion.

When Proposition 8 passed the black vote was seen as critical, and the continuing opposition to same sex marriage in the state is largely fueled by opinion among African Americans. 60% of blacks think it should be illegal to only 28% who think it should be allowed. Whites support same sex marriage by a 48/47 margin and Hispanics do as well 47/41 on this survey.

There's not much doubt that public opinion will move in favor of same sex marriage in California with the passage of time. Voters over 65 oppose it by a 57/34 margin, but those under 65 express favor for it 49/44 and that sentiment is particularly strong with respondents under 30 who support it 52/34.

Compared to a lot of issues opinion about gay marriage sees some spillover across party lines. 28% of Democrats think it should be illegal, but 20% of Republicans think it should be legal. We found wider party divides in our polling about things like health care and the stimulus.

It's safe to say that if gay marriage was on the ballot again in California this year the vote would probably be just as close as it was in 2008.

Full results here

California Perception and Reality: It’s all about Money in the Golden State

In a state where typical candidates are billionaires, executives and actors, is the only way to win an election to buy one?

California voters think so.

53% of California voters say a working class person could not successfully run for a statewide or federal office today.

With 17.2 million registered voters and counting, California isn’t a cheap state to run for office. Just television ads can cost up to $3 million a week. Maybe that’s why the Golden State has higher limits on campaign donations. While a donor maxes out at $2,400 in federal elections, in the California gubernatorial race donors can give up to $25,900. Knowing people in high places sure can help rack up the dollars faster. According to the Consumer Federation of California , the candidate who raises the most money wins 97% of the time and 96% of the funds came from donors who donated more than $250.

It’s not just that candidates can raise money; they’re spending their buckets of their own. Carly Fiorina gave her campaign a $5.5 million boost in the primary. Billionaire Meg Whitman has declared she is willing to spend $150 million of her own money (and has already poured over $90 million into her campaign). Schwarzenegger has donated $23.7 million of his own money to his campaign (including his unsuccessful ballot measures). Al Checchi spent $40 million in the 1998 Democratic Gubernatorial primary to be beaten by Gray Davis.

Californians want to see a stop to this practice. 52% of California voters say there should be a legal cap on the amount of money a candidate can donate to their own campaign.
Luckily, but not surprisingly, there’s a proposition up for vote that might address this issue. I’m not convinced Proposition 15 would push working class people to run for office but it might make it a little bit easier.

Tomorrow we’ll let you know how the billionaire is doing against the________________(I’m on a quest to find out Jerry Brown’s net worth, please email me if you know).

Boxer expands lead

Independent voters have turned against Carly Fiorina over the last two months and the result is Barbara Boxer expanding her lead to 49-40 in the California Senate race after holding just a 45-42 advantage in a PPP poll two months ago.

Fiorina wasn't particularly well liked before the primary when 22% of voters said they had a favorable opinion of her and 30% said they viewed her unfavorably. Now they like her even less. Just 28% of Californians have a positive opinion of her, while 40% see her negatively. That shift has been particularly sharp with independent voters. Her favorability with them has risen from 15% to 20% over the last couple months, but her unfavorability has gone up much more rapidly from 23% to 40%.

As independents have grown to hold a more unfavorable opinion of Fiorina their loyalties in the race have shifted toward Boxer. The incumbent has a 48-38 lead with them now, flipping the 10 point deficit she faced to Fiorina at 42-32 back in May. Beyond that both candidates have pretty solid holds on their party's support- Boxer is up 77-13 with Democrats and Fiorina is up 77-13 with Republicans. To win in a heavily Democratic state like California Fiorina would need to get more crossover support from Democrats than Boxer did from Republicans and also win with independents. Right now neither of those things are happening.

Boxer's probably not completely out of the woods- her numbers still leave something to be desired with more voters disapproving (46%) of her than approve (44%). Even though they're planning to vote for her independents still don't actually like her, with 48% disapproving and only 40% approving. But it appears as though the more independents get to know Fiorina the more of them consider Boxer to be the lesser of two evils.

The trend in Boxer's reelection bids has been for her to look vulnerable early in the cycle and then get safer and safer as the election nears and her Republican opponent turns out not to make that strong of a candidate. We could be seeing that play itself out again this year.

Full results here

NH looking more competitive

Kelly Ayotte's seen her appeal to moderate voters crumble in the wake of her endorsement by Sarah Palin and her lead over Paul Hodes has shrunk to its lowest level of any public polling in 2010- she has a 45-42 advantage over him, down from 47-40 in an April PPP poll.

There's not much doubt that the shift in the race is all about Ayotte. Hodes' favorability numbers have seen little change over the last three months. Where 32% of voters saw him positively and 39% negatively in April, now 35% have a favorable opinion of him to 40% with an unfavorable one. But Ayotte's seen a dramatic decline. Her favorability spread of 34/24 in April was the best we've measured for any Republican Senate candidate so far this year but her negatives have risen 15 points since that time while her positives have increased only 2 and she now stands at 36/39.

Most of the movement both in feelings about Ayotte and in the horse race has come with moderate voters. Moderates make up the largest bloc of the New Hampshire electorate at 47%, and Hodes' lead with them has expanded from just 8 points at 47-39 in April to now 21 points at 51-30. Ayotte's favorability with them has gone from +5 at 32/27 to -19 at 27/46.

The Palin endorsement may well be playing a role in this. 51% of voters in the state say they're less likely to back a Palin endorsed candidate to only 26% who say that support would make them more inclined to vote for someone. Among moderates that widens to 65% who say a Palin endorsement would turn them off to 14% who it would make more supportive.

What's most striking about the change in the Ayotte/Hodes numbers is that Hodes' standing has not improved against any of the other Republicans running. Bill Binnie is now actually the strongest Republican for the general election, leading Hodes 46-41. That's identical to the margin he led by on the previous poll. Jim Bender is now doing slightly better against Hodes, trailing just 43-42 after being down 43-40 in April. And Ovide Lamontagne's 43-38 deficit against Hodes is exactly the same as we found before.

Numbers we'll release tomorrow on the Republican primary show that the Palin endorsement has certainly helped Ayotte on that front. But although Ayotte certainly still has to be viewed as the favorite for the general election, this race is starting to look a little more interesting than it did a month ago.

Full results here

Monday, July 26, 2010

North Carolina and Washington Question Suggestions

For this week's polls, which we're going to get into the field a little earlier in the week than we usually do, we're doing our monthly North Carolina survey and also taking a first look at the Washington race.

As always we'd love suggestions on things to poll in those states beyond the obvious. In particular, what Republicans should we look at as possible 2012 Maria Cantwell opponents?

Thanks for all the tips, we almost always take some of them.

Two Fifths of Californians Have Tried Marijuana and More Want it Legalized

Marijuana smokers and non-smokers agree: legalize the sale of cannabis.

52% of California voters support Proposition 19 that would legalize, regulate and tax the purchase and sale of marijuana in the State of California. 36% of voters oppose the proposition.

38% of Californians say they’ve smoked marijuana. Still, 44% of those who claim they’ve never tried marijuana support its legalization. Prop 19 supporters aren't all smokers, suggesting that many Californian's believe the legalization of marijuana is about more than smoking pot and could be the solution to some of California's bigger problems.

Democrats are more likely to throw their support behind the prop than Republicans. 62% of Democrats, 37% of Republicans and 55% of Independents support Prop 19.

African-Americans are the strongest supporters of Prop 19; 68:32, followed by Whites, who support it 53:37. The black community’s strong support for Prop 19 may be closely related to the disproportionate number of African Americans in prison on marijuana charges. Despite representing 7% of CA’s population, African Americans represent 50% of prisoners in California on marijuana charges.

There is little discrepancy between generations. 65+ is the only age group that opposes the legalization of marijuana; 39:47.

While I am a little skeptical that everyone responded truthfully when asked if they smoked, those who were willing seem to have been truthful about their smoking behavior. 66% of those who said they’ve smoked marijuana said it was always recreational, 11% said it was for medical proposes and 23% said it was for both.

Legalizing marijuana has favor in the public eye and finding an effective way to control and tax the drug may be good news for the California budget in more than one way. With increased income from taxes the budget will get a boost. The state will save millions, from prisons to resources spent on stopping marijuana trafficking. This poll reaffirms that isn't about wanting access to marijuana its a much deeper political issue that Californians understand-- marijuana is tied to immigration, prisons, the economy and much more.

Full results here

New Hampshire Poll Preview

The New Hampshire Senate numbers we'll have coming out this week (general election Tuesday, primary Wednesday) are a great example of the double edged sword that is a Sarah Palin endorsement. In the short term Kelly Ayotte has opened a wide lead in the Republican primary. But the Palin endorsement could be hurting Ayotte's chances of winning in the general election.

51% of New Hampshire voters overall say they're less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Palin to just 26% who say a Palin endorsement would make them more inclined to be supportive. The disparity is even larger when it comes to moderate voters- 14% of them are positively swayed by a Palin nod while 65% say her support is more likely to turn them against one of her preferred candidates.

When we polled New Hampshire in April we found Ayotte's favorability numbers with moderates on positive ground at 32/27, something very unusual for a Republican candidate. Now in the wake of the Palin endorsement that is no longer the case- 27% of moderates see Ayotte favorably while 46% see her unfavorably- a 24 point drop in her favorability spread over the last three months.

Ayotte's embrace of Palin seemed to suggest she was more worried about the primary than the general election and that calculus may work out for her in the end but tomorrow's numbers will show her match up with Paul Hodes the closest of any poll so far in 2010.

Hair in California

We'll have new California Senate numbers out tomorrow but since Carly Fiorina went there we did too...and asked which of the candidates voters in the state thought had better hair.

67% of Californians offered no opinion on this ever so important issue but among those who did 19% actually said Boxer's hair was superior to 14% who picked Fiorina. Voters in the state may be telling Fiorina to go look in the mirror before going after Boxer's hair.

Voters' feelings about Boxer and Fiorina's hair is highly correlated with how they plan to vote in the election, although there is a little crossover between hair preference and voter preference. Boxer voters think she has better hair by a 31-9 margin, while Fiorina supporters think that it is her hair that is superior by a 23-6 spread. With the all important undecideds 9% prefer Boxer's hair to 6% for her Republican challenger. If anyone can figure out the overall poll results from those numbers, I will be very impressed.

We will have much more serious analysis on the state of the race out tomorrow.

2012 Florida/Nevada GOP numbes

Mitt Romney's the favorite at this early stage in a couple key Republican primary states: Florida and Nevada.

Romney won the Nevada caucuses in his 2008 bid and he would again if the vote was being held today. 34% of Nevada Republican voters say they prefer Romney to 28% for Newt Gingrich. Sarah Palin at 16%, Mike Huckabee at 11%, and Ron Paul at 7% poll much further back.

Romney came up just short in Florida last time, but for now Republicans in the state prefer him to the other leading potential 2012 candidates. Romney gets 31% with Palin and Gingrich tied for second at 23% and Huckabee and Paul further back at 15% and 6% respectively.

These numbers are good news for Romney and Gingrich and bad news for Huckabee and Palin. Romney's failure to win Florida in 2008 pretty much scuttled his chances at the nomination but it looks like he could rectify that this time around. Gingrich continues to poll well pretty much everywhere across the country.

Huckabee's inability to built on his victory in Iowa two years ago was the death of his candidacy and he's not doing very well in Florida or Nevada this time either. Poll after poll shows that even though Palin is the most popular of the Republicans with her party base, it doesn't translate into people wanting her to be their 2012 nominee and these numbers continue that trend.

Full results here

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mixed Messages in Ensign Numbers

John Ensign's poll numbers indicate a pretty high degree of vulnerability in 2012. But polls we conducted in the state both this month and in January also suggest that defeating Ensign won't just be a slam dunk for Democrats.

Ensign has poor approval numbers with only 38% of Nevadans giving him good marks while 47% rate his job performance unfavorably. There are more Republicans (24%) who disapprove of him than there are Democrats (16%) who approve, and independents split against him by a 38/46 margin as well. There hasn't been much change in feelings about Ensign over the course of 2010. In January his approval came down at 38/44.

Nevadans say they're inclined to replace Ensign with a Democrat in 2012, but only by a 45-43 margin. 76% of Republicans say they'd stick with him, 74% of Democrats say they'd get rid of him, and independents lean toward swapping Ensign out for a Democrat as well by a 46-41 margin.

What gets complicated for the Democrats though is figuring out who that candidate is. We've now tested two statewide officials and both of the party's House members against Ensign, and all of them trail him by a healthy margin. There doesn't seem to be a slam dunk candidate whose entry would automatically spell the end of Ensign's tenure. On this particular poll Ensign led Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto 48-38 and Congresswoman Dina Titus 51-41. Our January poll found him up 47-36 on Secretary of State Ross Miller and 49-40 on Congresswoman Shelley Berkley.

That's not to say none of these folks could end up being strong candidates against Ensign, but they'd start out behind. The bottom line is that Ensign is pretty vulnerable but Democrats are going to have to work for it.

Full results here

Angry White Men

Our national poll this month found that the net approval of Congressional Democrats (-24 at 33/57) was 16 points better than that of Congressional Republicans (-40 at 20/60). Yet when it came to the generic ballot there was a tie.

The reason for that disconnect is that Republicans are cleaning up with a voting bloc that accounts for 26% of the country and could end up being the most important group of people at the polls this fall: voters who hate both Congressional Democrats and Congressional Republicans. The GOP has a 57-19 generic lead with this group of voters that could perhaps be described as the angriest segment of the electorate. Their support is fueling the GOP's success right now.

Who are these folks? 44% are Republicans, 34% are independents, and 21% are Democrats. They're largely male (60%) and white (82%). I think it's very accurate to say that angry white males are the key to GOP prospects this fall.

One interesting thing about these folks is that only 35% of them identify as Tea Partiers. While that's certainly higher than the 25% of the population as a whole that does I might have expected higher.

Dem Numbers Getting Better

Back in April I wrote a blog post about how a lot of class of 2012 Democratic Senators were posting pretty bad approval ratings.

We've seen a lot of change in those numbers for three of those folks in the last month.

Sherrod Brown's approval has improved a net 11 points since March from -7 (32/39) to +4 (38/34).

Bill Nelson's has improved 9 points over a similar time period from -3 (37/40) to +6 (39/33).

And Bob Casey's since April has improved 8 points from -7 (31/38) to +1 (36/35).

None of those numbers are great and all three of these guys will probably be on Republican target lists in 2012. But the improvement is undeniable and I think reflective of Democrats generally being in better shape than they were at the height of the health care debate.

Florida 2012

Our newest survey, looking ahead to the 2012 Senate race in Florida, finds that an epic contest between Bill Nelson and Jeb Bush would be closely fought. Nelson leads Bush 46-44 in such a match up.

Nelson has pretty solid approval numbers for a Democrat in this political climate, with 39% of voters giving him good marks to 33% disapproving. He's doing well on two key measures: independents approve of him 39/34, and there are more Republicans (21%) who like the job he's doing than there are Democrats (18%) who don't.

Bush's favorability numbers are pretty solid as well, an indication that the Bush brand or at least the non-George W. Bush brand, is not completely destroyed. 45% of voters have a favorable opinion of him while 42% see him unfavorably. His numbers are extremely polarized along party lines with 78% of Republicans seeing him positively and 72% of Democrats seeing him negatively. Independents split almost evenly, 41/40 toward a favorable view of Bush.

A head to head match up between Nelson and Bush shapes up as a contest where both candidates would already have their parties pretty much completely locked up and independents would hold the balance of power in this closely divided state. Bush has an 83-10 advantage with Republicans while Nelson has an 81-10 lead with Democrats. Nelson holds the overall lead thanks to a 49-36 edge with independents.

There's a pretty good chance a Nelson-Bush bout would be the most expensive US Senate race ever, and it seems likely that it would be the most watched race in the country beyond the Presidential race.

At this point though it seems more likely that Nelson's opponent might be his current colleague, appointed Senator George LeMieux, and Nelson can only hope that's the case. LeMieux has not made much of a positive impression on Florida voters. Only 13% approve of his job performance while 25% disapprove. Even with Republicans his numbers are negative at 16% approval and 18% disapproval. He has not molded himself into a particularly formidable future candidate.

In a head to head contest Nelson leads LeMieux 49-28. Nelson gets 79% of Democrats while LeMieux earns support from only 52% of Republicans, and Nelson leads 49-25 with independents as well.

Nelson's numbers are good but not so good he's unbeatable. Republicans will need a really top notch candidate to do that though.

Full results here

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Obama and Reid

I think there's generally an assumption that Harry Reid's difficulties in running for reelection are self inflicted but one thing that really should not be underestimated as a factor is how unpopular Barack Obama is in Nevada. His stock has fallen quickly after he won the state big in 2008, and on this poll his approval was just 44% with 52% of Nevadans disapproving of him.

There is close to a 100% correlation between how people feel about Obama and how they're planning to vote in the Senate race. With voters who approve of Obama Reid leads Sharron Angle 94-3. There is basically no one who still likes Obama who isn't planning to vote for Reid this fall. With voters who disapprove of Obama Angle leads Reid 85-7. Reid is not showing much ability to get folks who don't like the President to move beyond that and still support him, although he is enough to give him a small lead.

The most serious threat to Reid's reelection prospects isn't Angle- it's Obama. Reid has to hope the President doesn't get any more unpopular in the state because if he does he might bring the Senator down with him.

Obama's unpopularity in Nevada giving Reid problems is emblematic of a broader trend through the Mountain West. In May we found Obama's approval numbers in Colorado at 45/50, a 14 point drop from his nine point victory spread in 2008. Against that backdrop it's no wonder Democrats are struggling to hold onto the Governor's office and Senate seat they hold there. Obama's also had a particularly acute drop in New Mexico. His approval there when we polled in February was 45/48, a 20 point decline on the spread from his 17 point win there. That's contributing to a Governor's race that's a lot tighter than might have been expected a year ago.

I still think the long term trend in the Mountain West will be toward the Democrats but the short term dramatic decline in Obama's popularity throughout the region is going to be the bigger factor in this year's election.

Thoughts on the Enthusiasm Gap

The enthusiasm gap is still out there and certainly a problem Democrats are going to have to contend with this fall. But it's not nearly as large as the disparity in interest that helped result in bad Democratic losses in Massachusetts and Virginia so far this cycle.

Our national poll this week found 66% of Republicans 'very excited' about voting this fall to only 51% of Democrats, for a 15 point gap.

By comparison the gap was 26 points in Massachusetts, where 89% of Republicans and 63% of Democrats were very excited about voting. It was 26 points in Virginia as well where 64% of Republicans and 38% of Democrats were very excited about voting.

The results of those races certainly don't bode well for Democratic prospects this fall but it's still important to emphasize that they were not 'normal.' Republicans were so excited about Scott Brown...and Democrats were so unexcited about Creigh Deeds that those races ended up having unusually large enthusiasm gaps. Most races are not going to see the kind of disparity in candidate quality that those did.

To be fair the national enthusiasm gap right now is larger than in New Jersey, where Democrats had another of their bad losses. It was 12 points there with 47% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats 'very excited' about voting. But the problem for Jon Corzine was not so much that Democrats didn't show up but that a lot of them were voting against him- and there aren't a lot of folks across the country running this year whose approval numbers within their own parties are as weak as Corzine's were.

Disparities in enthusiasm are likely to hand Republican candidates some close races this year...but it's not likely to be on a Virginia or Massachusetts scale.

Scott, Meek lead Florida primaries

Rick Scott is looking like the frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for Governor of Florida, although both he and Bill McCollum have been badly bruised by their primary fight. Scott leads McCollum 43-29.

Scott has certainly succeeded in destroying McCollum's popularity with GOP primary voters. Only 26% have a favorable opinion of the Attorney General while 40% see him unfavorably. He hasn't done much though to make Republicans take a charitable view of him. 35% see him positively while 32% have a negative opinion of him, not usually the kind of favorability numbers you want to see with your party's base.

Scott has tried in particular to court the party's large conservative voting bloc and his favorability with them is a positive 38/27 spread. But that's come at a cost to his standing with moderate Republicans, who see him negatively 28/43. That doesn't bode well for the general election and goes a long way toward explaining why Alex Sink fared so well in the numbers we released yesterday.

With 28% of voters still undecided McCollum is certainly not out of it but Scott has to be seen as the strong favorite at this point.

Indecision reigns in the Democratic Senate primary. Kendrick Meek leads Jeff Greene by a 28-25 margin that's pretty inconsequential given the survey's margin of error. The bigger story is that 37% of voters remain undecided, and that both candidates continue to be relatively unknown even to the party base.

Meek's small advantage is built on strong support from African Americans and liberals. The race is even with whites, but Meek is up 44-19 with black voters. Meek has a 3 point lead with moderates that's balanced out by Greene's 19 point edge with conservatives, but the tie is broken by a 39-26 margin for Meek with liberal voters.

45% of primary voters don't know enough about Greene to have formed an opinion and 47% have not yet formulated one of Meek. Democratic voters haven't been very impressed with what they've seen from Greene so far- 33% have an unfavorable opinion of him while just 22% see him positively. Charlie Crist should definitely be rooting for Greene given those numbers because it would significantly increase his odds of holding onto the Democratic support that's fueling his current lead in the race. Meek's favorability numbers are better at 33/20.

With polls right now showing both Democratic candidates under 20% in the general election you almost wonder if it even matters who the nominee is, but this race is looking a lot different than it did four months ago and it could shift a lot more yet in these final 3.5 months leading up to November.

Full results here

Vilsack, Napolitano numbers weak

Tom Vilsack clearly isn't having a very good week, and even before this his home state poll numbers left something to be desired. When we polled Iowa in late May only 37% of voters in the state said they had a favorable opinion of Vilsack while 36% rated him unfavorably, and just four years out of office 27% said they had no opinion- a good reminder of how quickly politicians can be forgotten or at least become points of ambivalence.

At that point Democrats saw Vilsack favorably by a 63/16 margin, Republicans rated him unfavorably 13/57, and independents were pretty evenly divided but slightly positive 36/34.

Vilsack's less than impressive numbers on the home front could speak to a broader problem for Obama appointees who may some day want to run for office again. Our last Arizona poll found Janet Napolitano's favorability at 41/48. You could write that off as a product of bad press for Homeland Security following the Christmas Day incident in Detroit, but even before that last September we had her at an almost equally bad 44/47.

Both those sets of numbers were quite a drop from August of 2008 when we found her approval rating with Arizona voters at 54% with only 37% disapproving of her. A deeper look at Napolitano's numbers is interesting. Her favorability with Democrats now is 78%, just as her approval was two years ago. But her association with the Obama administration has turned her numbers with independents from a positive 59/31 to a negative 39/45. And her one time 32% approval with Republicans is now just 15% favorability.

Serving in Obama's cabinet has not done much for Vilsack or Napolitano's popularity back home, and that could be a problem for either of them in a potential future Senate campaign. Of course that's just based on where Obama is now and by the time they get around to running for something again their service in his administration could be an asset rather than a liability. I'd be interested to see where other former electeds in the administration like Kathleen Sebelius, Ken Salazar, and Gary Locke are in their home states as well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Off Shore Drilling: Crist Sides Florida Voters

Yesterday in a special session of the Florida legislature, Republican lawmakers shot down Governor Crist’s proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that would ban off shore drilling. While Crist may have lost the battle, he may have come out on the right side of debate. Like the Governor, Florida voters have changed their minds about off shore drilling, they now oppose drilling 51:39%.

Crist sided with Floridians and it might help him gain votes and win the election.

It’s true Florida Republicans support drilling 54:36. But independents oppose drilling 53:39 and Democrats oppose drilling 65:23. Moderates don’t support off shore drilling either 58 to 34%. Since leaving the Republican Party, Crist has been drawing more support from Democrats and moderates. This is another sign of Crist’s truly severed ties with the Republican Party. He has set out to represent Floridians and have an ideologically diverse base of supporters. This was another good move in that direction.

Florida Congressional Republicans are successfully representing Florida Republicans but that may not be a successful campaign strategy.

Where LeBron stands in Florida

Miami Heat fans are, as you would expect, very happy about LeBron James joining their team. The rest of the state is letting out a collective yawn.

69% of Floridians on our most recent poll said they were not at all excited about James coming to the Heat. 19% said they were very excited and 12% said they were somewhat excited. 74% of respondents who described themselves as Heat fans said they were 'very excited' but among all respondents who did not identify as Heat fans only 8% expressed that sentiment.

The lack of enthusiasm about James coming to the Heat may be reflective of a general lack of interest in the NBA among Floridians. Asked whether they were fans of the Heat or of the Orlando Magic 65% said they were not fans of either team with 18% calling themselves Magic fans and 16% going with the Heat.

Folks in Florida do view James more favorably than the country as a whole does. 27% have a favorable opinion of him while 21% view him unfavorably. That's a lot better than the 19/29 split we found for him nationwide a week and a half ago. Among all Floridians who are not Heat fans James' favorability of 17/26 mirrors his national numbers closely. But Heat fans see him positively by a 76/1 ratio and that brings up his overall numbers considerably.

Poll numbers aren't of much relevance to basketball players but it's pretty clear LeBron is not going to be a big statewide figure in Florida the way he might have been in Ohio.

Full results here

Are Florida Primaries too close to the general election?

This year Florida will hold its primaries on August 24th just 11 weeks before the general election. Only a few other states hold their primaries after Florida. The Sunshine state also has one of the longest primary seasons. The deadline for filing for the primary is just under 4 months out from the election. Primaries this long and this close to the general election may not be an ingredient in the recipe for success for either party in Florida. It also may be part of the reason Republicans aren’t faring well in the Governor’s race and Democrats aren’t doing so well in the Senate race.

If the Republicans lose the governorship it will likely be in part because of the primary. The primary has been brutal and long. As soon as the primary is over the general election will take off in full swing, Rick Scott will have no time to recover and Alex Sink will be able to take advantage of the foul taste left in voters’ mouths. Republicans had the upper hand before they started swinging fists at each other, if there was more time following the primary they might be able to remind voters of their original loyalties.

The Democrats are suffering from something different in the Senate race but the cause may be the same. Neither Democrat has been able to emerge as the leader. Democrats are falling deep in the shadows of the Crist/Rubio drama and have been left without a defined leader to forge ahead. The party hasn’t united behind a candidate and they won’t be able to until the primary is over. The longer the wait the higher Crist and Rubio will climb.

Both of these races are complicated by the fact that only one party is holding a primary. So while one candidate is able to rally his or her base, save money and campaign on the offensive another candidate is on the defense, proving his or her merits to the party.

Illinois has the earliest primary on February 2nd, 9 months before the general election and Hawaii has the latest on September 18th only a month and half before the election. Candidates in Illinois have seven and a half more months to travel the state, formulate their agenda and rally their supporters. They also have seven and a half more months to spend money, be forgotten, launch negative campaign ads and have their lives unwound. Maybe we should look to the June 8th states (SC, NJ, IA, VA, MT, CA, SD, ND, ME and NV) for inspiration.

Sandoval up big

PPP's first look at the Nevada Governor's race finds the same thing all other polling has: a wide lead for Republican Brian Sandoval. He's up 52-38 on Rory Reid.

Sandoval has some of the best favorability numbers PPP has found for any candidate in the country this cycle. 42% of voters see him positively to only 31% with an unfavorable opinion. Independents, who don't like much of anyone right now, give him positive numbers by a 39/31 margin.

Reid meanwhile has some of the worst favorability numbers PPP has found for candidates across the country. 34% see him favorably, while 48% have a negative opinion. Independents give him bad marks by a remarkably lopsided 23/54 spread.

Sandoval is winning 86% of the Republican vote while Reid is currently getting just 70% of the Democratic vote. Beyond that independents are going to Sandoval by a 55-28 margin. This doesn't look like it's going to be much of a race. It's interesting that when Nevada Republicans went to the polls last month they chose one of the strongest GOP nominees in the country for Governor while also choosing one of the weakest for Senate.

You also have to wonder given how much stronger Sandoval is than Sharron Angle and how much stronger Harry Reid is than his son if the GOP would be cruising to victory in both races if they had swapped candidates and had Sandoval going for the Senate and Angle for Governor but that's water under the bridge now.

The most impressive thing about the likelihood that Sandoval will keep the office in Republican hands is that outgoing GOP Governor Jim Gibbons is one of the most unpopular in the country with 63% of voters disapproving of him and only 25% giving him good marks. Most unpopular outgoing Governors across the country are really weighing down their party's prospects for keeping the seat, but Sandoval's strength is bucking that trend.

Full results here

Republican Senate Candidates

Our polls in Florida and Nevada this week really make you wonder: how strong a position would the GOP be in for this fall if it had done a better job of candidate recruitment? Almost every Republican Senate challenger in the country has favorability numbers that leave something to be desired.

There are a few exceptions. Republicans definitely scored coups in getting John Hoeven in North Dakota and Mike Castle in Delaware to run, so much so that we haven't even bothered to poll those races in 2010. Dan Coats seems to be doing pretty well in Indiana so far also, although I think that has some potential to change as the race heats up. John Boozman is a solid candidate in Arkansas, although pretty much anyone could have beaten Blanche Lincoln this year.

Beyond that though most of the GOP Senate candidates are either unpopular or unknown.

In the unpopular category Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Marco Rubio, Mark Kirk, Roy Blunt, Carly Fiorina, and Ken Buck all had net favorability numbers of -5 or worse on our most recent surveys.

Kelly Ayotte, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Rob Portman didn't do that poorly but part of the reason is that they're mostly unknown- more than 40% of voters have no opinion about Ayotte and Toomey, more than 50% are ambivalent toward Portman, and for Johnson that figures rises over 60%.

Republicans may win all the close Senate races this year anyway just because it's such a bad political climate for Democrats, but the possibility's there for the GOP to end up losing a fair numbers of contests where they would have been successful even with an average candidate but where a below average candidate will end up causing them to lose by a point or two.

Here's the favorability numbers we have on GOP Senate candidates:





Kelly Ayotte




Pat Toomey




Ron Johnson




Rob Portman




Ken Buck




Rand Paul




Mark Kirk




Carly Fiorina




Marco Rubio




Roy Blunt




Sharron Angle




Sink moves ahead

Benefiting from her Republican candidates gashing the heck out of each other, Alex Sink has opened up an unlikely lead in the Florida Governor's race. She's up 36-30 on Rick Scott, with Bud Chiles getting 13% and 37-23 on Bill McCollum with Chiles getting 14%.

Scott and McCollum both have very poor favorability numbers. Their primary battle has completely turned off Democrats and independents, and Republicans aren't seeing them very positively either. 23% of voters have a favorable opinion of Scott while 41% view him unfavorably. While only 34% of Republicans view him positively, 40% of independents and 52% of Democrats see him unfavorably. McCollum's numbers are even worse. Only 16% have a favorable opinion of him with 51% holding a negative one. Just 27% of GOP voters see him favorably, while 59% of Democrats and 57% of independents have an unfavorable opinion of him.

Sink is pretty much a blank slate to voters in the state, with 54% of voters having no opinion of her. Most striking in her numbers is that independents see her favorably by a better than 2:1 margin, 32/15. She is likely benefiting from being able to stay above the fray while the Republican candidates go after each other.

In the head to heads Sink benefits from a more unified party than either Republican candidate and also wins independent voters. She gets 62% of Democrats to Scott's 52% of Republicans and leads him 36-28 with independents. She gets 61% of Democrats to McCollum's 45% of Republicans and leads him 40-12 with independents.

Despite his double digit performance Bud Chiles isn't having a particularly strong impact at this point because he's not pulling disproportionately from either Democratic or Republican leaning voters. Against Scott he gets 14% of McCain voters and 11% of Obama voters, and against McCollum he gets 14% of McCain voters and 13% of Obama voters.

It's been a pretty remarkable turnaround for Sink, who trailed McCollum 44-31 in a head to head contest when PPP last surveyed Florida in March. It's important to note that in the more likely instance that she faces Scott 25% of Republican voters are undecided to only 16% of Democrats so this race should tighten once the GOP has a nominee. How well the GOP can heal and get on the same page after the primary could determine this race though- there's little doubt that Scott and McCollum's supporters hate each other and that could end up handing Sink a victory that four months ago appeared very unlikely.

Full results here

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Florida Governor Poll Preview

We're going to have Florida Governor numbers tomorrow and it's safe to say that Rick Scott's entry into the race has changed it a positive way for Alex Sink.

Just how divisive has this Republican primary gotten? Among people planning to vote for Bill McCollum, Scott's favorability is 4% with 62% viewing him unfavorably. Among people planning to vote for Scott, McCollum's favorability is just 7% with 65% viewing him unfavorably. You can imagine what that level of dissension within the GOP base is having on the party's chances of winning the seat this fall.

We should have that out in the morning

Question Suggestions

We're going to poll California and New Hampshire this weekend. What should we ask in those states beyond the obvious?

Obama and Democrats

With Barack Obama's polling numbers hitting the worst levels of his Presidency recently there have been a lot of calls, mostly from conservatives, for us to poll Hillary against Obama for the 2012 nomination.

We're not going to do that but even if we did I wouldn't expect it to be very interesting. In March we asked Democratic voters across the country if they thought Obama should be the party's nominee again in 2012. 77% said yes, 16% said no, and 7% weren't sure.

Those figures pretty much track his current approval numbers with Democrats- 81% approve of him and 16% disapprove. Obama has plenty of problems. His base isn't one of them.

The Tea Party... A New Party? Or a Subset of the Republican Party?

The Tea Party movement has been catching our attention for some time now. We know that the Tea Party is creating political shifts. But are the shifts great enough to create a realignment or are they simply strong enough to readjust the focus of the Republican party?

It has been hard to tell because untill now, we haven’t been able to decipher a Tea Partier's party alignment when given the three traditional options Democrat, Republican and Independent. If they still identify as Republicans then maybe they are reshaping the Republican Party agenda. But if they are stepping out as Independents then maybe they are truly creating their own party. In this month’s national poll we gathered some of that data.

When asked “Do you identify as a member of the Tea Party?,” 25% of Americans said yes. However, when the Tea Party was added to our traditional party demographic question; “If you are a Democratic press 1, Republican press 2, Tea Partier press 3….” only 10% of Americans said they were part of the Tea Party. This suggests that a majority of those who consider themselves part of the Tea Party don't consider the Tea Party a independent political party.

Furthermore out of the 25% of Americans who identify as members of the Tea Party 62% also identify as Republicans, 25% as Independents and 12% as Democrats. Almost 47% of Republicans identity as members of the Tea Party. The Tea Party is attracting a large portion of the Republican Party, sugguesting that currently is it just a movement within the Republican Party.

Its ability to attract such a large number of Independents could be helpful for the Republican Party come election time, but it doesn’t seem likely that many Tea Partiers are leaving the Republican Party just yet.

Its large following could be rooted more in anger towards the government than actual party alignment. The Tea Party’s ability to withstand two Presidential elections will be the true test of its longevity. Is the party just mad at the current administration and Democratic Congress or do they have a charge? Withstanding Presidential elections forces parties to define themselves and their mission, not based on another candidate or party but on their own ideology and determined direction.

The other factor involved in a realignment is those Republicans who are opposed to the Tea Party movement and ideologies, those who might leave the party if the Tea Partiers were to reshape the Republican agenda. Are there enough to create a new party? Do they feel marginalized enough to leave or empowered enough to maintain a party if the Tea Partiers were to leave? We really have no data on that now. We can tell that 53% of Republicans don’t identify as Tea Partiers but we can’t differentiate between those who are apathetic and those who oppose the subset.

Today's Crazy E-Mail of the Day

From: Horace Webster
Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 6:39 AM
To: PPP Information
Subject: Your Polls have that Right-Wing Smell. You are a Republican Pollster, right?

Your Polls have that Right-Wing smell.

You are a Republican Pollster, right?

That's what we thought.

Horace Webster

Reid holds slight lead

Given the gift of an opponent who's even more unpopular than him, Harry Reid leads Sharron Angle 48-46 in the Nevada Senate race. When PPP last looked at the state in January Reid trailed Sue Lowden by ten points.

Reid continues to have upside down approval numbers, but they've improved over the last six months. 44% of voters in the state like the job he's doing while 53% disapprove. That's a good deal better than earlier in the year when his approval was only 36% and 58% gave him bad marks. Since then Democratic voters have really rallied back around Reid and independents have softened in their feelings toward him as well. Reid's approval spread within his party is 80/14, compared to 67/27 over the winter. With independents he's still pretty unpopular at 38/60 but that's much improved from the prior standing of 24/68. Certainly the Republicans nominating Angle is the biggest reason this race is competitive again, but Reid's personal resurgence shouldn't be overlooked either.

Only 36% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Angle, while 52% see her negatively. 50% consider her political views to be 'extremist' while 39% label them as 'mainstream.' Earlier this year Reid was bleeding a lot of Democratic support and getting absolutely crushed with independents but voter uneasiness about Angle's ideology has caused big shifts on both of those fronts. Where Lowden had led Reid 62-27 with independents, Angle has only a 51-41 advantage. Where Lowden had held Reid to a 75-17 lead with Democratic voters, Angle's nomination has allowed him to expand that to 85-10.

Certainly this is very much a tossup race, but given where Reid stood six months ago it's hard to believe this now makes three polls in the last week where he's held the lead. It should be a tightly contested race right on through November.

Full results here

Crist Looking Good

Thanks mostly to support from Democrats Charlie Crist is the leader in the Florida Senate race. In the most likely match up against Kendrick Meek he gets 35% to 29% for Marco Rubio and 17% for Meek. His lead expands with Jeff Greene as the Democratic nominee. In that scenario Crist gets 38% with Rubio still at 29% and Greene at only 13%.

Crist has become the de facto Democratic nominee and that's where most of his support is coming from. He's currently getting 44% of Democrats in the Meek match up, along with 40% of independents and 23% of Republicans. Crist has increased his support across the board since PPP last polled this race in early March. At that time, while still a Republican, he got just 27% to 34% for Rubio and 25% for Meek. He's now doing 12 points better with Democrats, 5 points better with independents, and somewhat surprisingly even 5 points better with Republicans.

Whether Crist can hold on to this fragile coalition through the fall remains to be seen. Right now 48% of Democrats have no opinion about Meek and 50% are ambivalent toward Greene. Will Crist continue to have such strong Democratic support after the party has a nominee who's built up their exposure during a successful primary campaign? And will he continue to hold onto more than 20% of the Republican vote as it becomes clearer and clearer that Democrats are providing the bulk of his support? What happens on those two fronts will probably determine Crist's ultimate fate.

Marco Rubio's personal favorability has taken a large hit in the four months since PPP last polled this race. In March voters were pretty evenly divided on him with 31% seeing him positively and 32% negatively. He's still at 31% with a favorable opinion of him but his negatives have swelled in the interim to 46%. Particularly troubling for Rubio is that a majority of independents now have an unfavorable opinion of him. Like Rand Paul in Kentucky, the better voters have gotten to know Rubio the less they've liked him.

The Democrats aren't doing too well on the personal favorability front either. For both Meek and Greene Republicans dislike them more than Democrats like them, and additionally independents don't like either of them. That adds up to an 18/27 favorability for Meek and a 15/26 one for Greene. The most striking thing in those numbers is that a plurality of Democrats see Greene unfavorably, 23/27. We'll have Democratic primary numbers out later this week.

A lot can happen between now and November, but there's no doubt Charlie Crist has a whole lot of momentum on his side. Whether he can sustain that on through election day we shall see.

Full results here

Monday, July 19, 2010

Nevada Senate Poll Preview

We're going to have Nevada Senate numbers tomorrow. What I found most amazing in comparing where Harry Reid is now and when we last polled in January and found him down 51-41 to Sue Lowden is the numbers among moderates:

Sharron Angle is getting 9% with liberals and 80% with conservatives, down just slightly from the 12% and 82% Lowden was getting with those groups. But where Lowden trailed Reid only 51-41 with moderate voters, Angle is facing a 64-28 deficit. The price of nominating Angle for Nevada Republicans appears to be 26 points with moderate voters.

We asked poll respondents whether they considered Angle's views to be 'mainstream' or 'extremist.' 68% of moderates put Angle in the 'extremist' category to just 22% who called her 'mainstream.' That goes a long way toward explaining the drastically changed state of this race.

Crist's Choice

We're going to have new Florida Senate numbers out tomorrow.

One thing we asked on the poll was whether people thought Charlie Crist should caucus with the Democrats or Republicans if he was elected. 43% of respondents said he should go with the Democrats and 37% with the Republicans.

Perhaps more interesting was what those planning to vote for Crist had to say. Within that group 55% said he should caucus with the Democrats to only 22% who expressed the opinion that he should join forces with the Republicans.

If Crist gets elected and wants to follow the will of those who put him in the Senate he's going to side with the Democrats.

Vitter's Situation

Is David Vitter vulnerable to a primary challenge? Here are some thoughts on the issue:

-Vitter's approval numbers within his own party on our most recent poll were a good deal better than those of Arlen Specter and Blanche Lincoln at similar junctures before their closely contested primaries. 65% of Republicans in mid-June said they approved of the job Vitter was doing while 24% said they disapproved. That compares pretty favorably to where Specter was with Democrats in early April (53/30) and to where Lincoln was with them in February (51/35). The two of them ended up in what were more or less 50/50 races so based on that metric you would expect Vitter to get around 60% in a tough primary campaign.

-At the same time just because Republicans approve of Vitter doesn't necessarily mean the door is closed to their supporting someone against him in the primary. Last July we found that Vitter stood at a 62/19 approval spread within his party. But when we asked Republicans whether they thought Vitter deserved to be reelected only 56% said yes, while 29% said they thought it was time to give someone else a chance. Those figures would suggest a higher level of vulnerability for him.

It's hard to say at this point how strong of a challenger Chet Traylor will prove to be for Vitter but based on his standing in our polls over the last year I'd expect Vitter to get 55-65% in a Republican primary- a little weak for an incumbent but not horrible.

I think Democrats should be rooting for a 51-49 Vitter victory. Vitter's under performing in the polls right now for a Republican in Louisiana, given how unpopular Barack Obama is in the state. The small chance Democrats have at winning the race would probably evaporate to zero if the GOP's candidate didn't have Vitter's baggage. But Democrats need Vitter to be more bloodied up than he is already, and if Traylor can do that without actually winning Charlie Melancon might just have a chance this fall.

The Monthly Generic

Barack Obama's approval numbers hit a record low in PPP's national survey this month, but that doesn't seem to be having too much impact on how his party does in generic Congressional polling. We find a 43/43 tie on this month's look at the generic ballot.

As has been the case throughout most of this cycle Republicans are a little bit more unified than Democrats are, and independents are leaning toward the GOP as well. 87% of Republicans are committed to voting for their party this fall, while 84% of Democrats are. Independents say they'll vote Republican by a 38-31 margin.

Among voters who are 'very excited' about voting this fall Republicans hold a 52-40 advantage. How much that matters is up for debate though. Scott Brown led the Massachusetts Senate race 59-40 with 'very excited' voters but won by only 5. Chris Christie led the New Jersey Governor's race 60-34 with 'very excited' voters but his final margin of victory was only 4 points. As I've said before unexcited voters count the same as excited ones and our polling so far this cycle has suggested the Democrats who answer our surveys vote, whether they're excited about it or not. So I'm not sure how much the wide GOP advantage with 'very excited' voters really matters.

There continues to be no doubt this fall's election will have more to do with whether Democrats can turn out Obama voters than keep them in the fold. Very few voters are shifting their allegiance from the 2008 election- 8% of Obama voters say they'll vote Republican this time but an almost equal 6% of McCain voters say they'll vote Democratic this time. When it comes to voters switching sides it's basically a wash, but Republicans are doing well across the country due to Democratic disengagement.

The extreme unpopularity of both parties in Congress is a broken record now, but only 33% of voters approve of the job Congressional Democrats are doing to 57% disapproving and for Congressional Republicans the numbers are even worse with 20% approving and 60% disapproving. If anything mitigates Democratic losses this fall it will be the inability of the Republicans to cast themselves as a viable alternative.

Full results here

Friday, July 16, 2010

Coming Next Week...

Nevada and Florida ended up being the winners of our poll on where to poll this weekend (Washington got the most votes but 386 of them were cast simultaneously so it got disqualified.)

Lots of stuff to work with in both states.

Nevada we'll have obviously horse race numbers for Senate and Governor, some stuff on what people think about Sharron Angle's views, a look at John Ensign's standing generally and against some hypothetical opponents, and polls in each of the state's 3 House districts assuming we're comfortable with the sample size numbers by district.

Florida we'll have primary and general numbers for Governor and Senate, and a look ahead to 2012 there as well which will probably be more interesting than Nevada because we're going to see how Jeb Bush and George LeMieux would do against Bill Nelson.

We get pushback almost any time we do one of these 2012 Senate polls but I really don't care. We did the same thing during the summer of 2008 and our surveys then suggested that seats in Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Missouri, and North Carolina would prove to be in play this cycle and I think reality has borne that out. Things will change a lot in the next couple years but I think it's a pretty solid bet that the folks who are having trouble now generally are going to be the folks whose races are competitive next time too. And if you think it's too early you can just ignore them. And you can complain to us too but we're not going to stop doing them.

Looking at a Tancredo Candidacy

Tom Tancredo is now getting mentioned as a possible replacement for Scott McInnis as the Republican Gubernatorial nominee in Colorado. How would he fare? A poll we did in January 2009 gives a pretty good indication.

On that survey we tested both Tancredo and McInnis against Michael Bennet for the Senate. McInnis trailed Bennet by 6, while Tancredo trailed McInnis by 9. So John Hickenlooper would probably be about 3 points better off against Tancredo than McInnis. Given that our last poll was a tie that would likely push Hickenlooper into a small advantage.

It's possible that Tancredo would not wear well as a statewide candidate, but it's hard to make the argument that you can with some of the other more extreme GOP hopefuls across the country that voters didn't know them initially and that the better they get to know them the less they'll like them, i.e. Rand Paul. That survey last year found 84% name recognition for Tancredo in Colorado, with 40% of voters seeing him favorably and 44% unfavorably.

Certainly Hickenlooper would be better off running against Tancredo than McInnis before the plagiarism allegations, but I wouldn't just assume it's over in such a scenario.

Full results from that January 2009 poll here.
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