Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chiles' Impact

What impact does Bud Chiles dropping out have in Florida? You can argue it either way.

Those planning to vote for Chiles on our poll last week:

-Voted for John McCain by a 62/33 margin in 2008
-Disapprove of Barack Obama by a 69/31 margin
-Were 47% Republican, 30% Democratic, and 23% independent

Contrary to conventional wisdom the Chiles voters were Republican and conservative leaning folks quite unhappy with the Democrats. So you might expect his dropping out to actually benefit Rick Scott.

The only problem with that- 60% of them have an unfavorable opinion of Scott while only 15% see him favorably. Chiles was a landing spot for folks who didn't like Scott or the Democrats. With him out those folks are going to have to make a lesser of two evils choice- does it bother us more to vote for a guy we dislike or to vote for a Democrat? My guess is it ends up being a wash and having no real effect on the race.

Previewing Ohio

We'll start rolling out our Ohio poll results tomorrow but there's one finding on the poll that pretty much sums it up: by a 50-42 margin voters there say they'd rather have George W. Bush in the White House right now than Barack Obama.

Independents hold that view by a 44-37 margin and there are more Democrats who would take Bush back (11%) than there are Republicans who think Obama's preferable (3%.)

A couple months ago I thought the Pennsylvanias and Missouris and Ohios of the world were the biggest battlegrounds for 2010 but when you see numbers like this it makes you think it's probably actually the Californias and the Wisconsins and the Washingtons.

There's not much doubt things are getting worse for Democrats...and they were already pretty bad. Somehow the party base needs to get reinvigorated over the next two months or there's going to be a very, very steep price to pay.

What drove Miller's victory

A PPP survey of Republican primary voters in Alaska seeking to get at what drove Joe Miller's surprise victory last week finds that while the Tea Party was definitely a major factor, Sarah Palin may not have been. Here's what we found:

Tea Party

-Only 18% of Alaska Republicans identify themselves as Tea Party members but Miller won them by an 80-20 margin, enough to make up for Murkowski's 63-37 lead with ones who don't actively identify with the movement.

-While only 18% of GOP voters identified themselves as Tea Party members, 53% said they supported the goals of the Tea Party. With those folks Miller won 74-26, while Murkowski had the 88-12 edge with those who said they did not support Tea Party goals


-47% of primary voters thought Murkowski was too liberal to 38% who said 'about right' and 14% who said either too conservative or no opinion. Not surprisingly Murkowski lost the voters who said she was too liberal 85-15.

-Additionally 34% of primary voters said they thought the Republican Party in general was too liberal and with those folks Miller won 76-24.


-Only 15% of those who voted for Miller said Palin's endorsement was 'very important' in who they decided to vote for while 26% said 'somewhat important' and 59% said it didn't matter at all.

-Overall 35% of primary voters said a Palin endorsement would make them less likely to support a candidate while 26% said more likely and 39% said it didn't make a difference either way. Among Miller voters though 41% did say a Palin endorsement was a plus to only 13% who said it was a negative.

Wrapping it up

Joe Miller's victory was driven by conservatives who think their party and more specifically Lisa Murkowski have gotten too liberal. Tea Party identification in Alaska is actually not that high, but Miller's advantage with that group was so overwhelming it gave him the win. Palin's endorsement certainly helped Miller and it's unlikely he could have won without it, but it doesn't appear to have been the driving force in his upset.

Full results here

Burr lead up to 5

PPP's first look at the North Carolina Senate race since switching over to a likely voter model finds Democratic interest in this fall's election on a severe decline compared to 2008, and as a result Richard Burr has expanded his lead to 5 points. He's up on Elaine Marshall 43-38, with Libertarian Michael Beitler pulling 6% and 13% of voters undecided.

Marshall's winning 77% of Obama voters and Burr's winning 76% of McCain voters so if the turnout patterns this year were the same as in 2008 we'd have a tie race. But those planning to vote at this point two months before the election report having voted for John McCain by 9 points in 2008, in contrast to Barack Obama's actual narrow victory in the state. That Republican shift in this year's electorate is consistent with what we're seeing across the country, and it's the biggest thing Marshall's going to have to overcome if she's going to win this fall.

The basic contours of the race remain unchanged. Burr is unpopular, while Marshall is unknown. For the seventh month in a row PPP finds more North Carolinians disapproving of Burr's work than giving him good marks- this month's spread is 38/42. Marshall's anonymity is limiting her ability to take full advantage of Burr's unpopularity though. She actually leads him 50-42 with voters who have an opinion about her, be it positive or negative. But only 46% of voters do have an opinion about her with 54% saying they don't know enough about her to have formed one.

North Carolina is ultimately going to be a resources issue for Democrats. Marshall can win the race but not without a lot of outside spending on her behalf. This is is the first time in the entire 2009-10 election cycle we've found Burr in a better position than Elizabeth Dole at a comparable time in 2007-2008 and that's because ads were being run in heavy rotation bashing Dole throughout the month of August last time. That didn't happen this year and Burr's in a stronger place because of it.

Burr has a 20 point lead with independents at 41-21, consistent with the sort of advantage PPP's been seeing for the GOP in North Carolina for most of the year. Burr has 75% of his party's vote locked up while Marshall is at 69% of Democrats.

North Carolina continues to clearly be Democrats' best chance to knock off a Republican incumbent. The question is just whether they'll have the money to do it.

Full results here

Monday, August 30, 2010

Voting Time

Here are the finalists for where we poll this week and we'll do the top two:

-California. This state's races aren't exactly under polled but they are some of the most interesting in the country and we haven't done them in over a month.

-Connecticut. There's no denying it. Things are getting worse for Democrats nationally right now. Is that enough to even give them trouble in the two races in this state that they're expected to win? Worth a look. Also interested in seeing if Lieberman's poll numbers are as dreadful as they were when we looked back in January.

-Georgia. Seems like the state should have one of the more competitive races for Governor in the country and the Senate race has polled closer than expected so far.

-Kentucky. We haven't polled it in a couple months and the numbers are all over the map. It's looking more and more like this may be the top Democratic pick up opportunity, as unexpected as that might be.

-Maine. As far as I know only Rasmussen has polled here in the general so it'd be good to get another pollster on the scene. We'd also look at how people are feeling about Olympia Snowe- any name Republicans we should test against her in a hypothetical 2012 primary?

-Texas. We found this race tied in June and it gets incredibly little polling for the size of the state.

-West Virginia. I said from the start I thought this had the potential to be much closer than expected so I wouldn't dismiss today's Rasmussen numbers unless other polling companies do show the race much safer for Joe Manchin.

-Wisconsin. This race, like Washington, is one I don't feel like polling all that much because I think it's very close and don't feel like that's going to change much until closer to the election if it does indeed ever change at all. But it's been a couple months. And we can also provide some rare GOP primary numbers.

Voting's open until Thursday morning and we'll do the top two. And we'll disqualify any state that someone cheats on behalf of. One person voting 3 or 4 times on different computers is ok, a robot voting 100 times for one state in 5 minutes is not.

Crazy E-Mail of the Day

From: Richard Alexander [mailto:diamondvision@inbox.com]

Sent: Monday, August 30, 2010 7:18 AM

To: PPP Information

Subject: More overt right-wing fraud from PPP:

Wow, we've seen it all!!!

Clearly, you sold your soul with your Latest FIT of right-wing fraud (Bush/Obama- Louisiana) and when it comes time to die, God will call your marker!!!

Obama and everyone else have your number but they let you pretend!


Rich Alexander

Could Castle be next?

The Tea Party Express, a key part of Sharron Angle and Joe Miller's surprise Senate primary victories, is now setting its sights on the candidacy of Christine O'Donnell. She's the challenger to the right of Mike Castle in Delaware. Here are some reasons why- and why not- she might be able to pull off a similar upset.

The arguments for:

-Lisa Murkowski's poll numbers with Republicans back in January are far superior to where Mike Castle's have ever been in our surveys. When we looked at Alaska in January Murkowski's approval within her party was 77/13. By contrast our Delaware poll this month found Castle's favorability with Republicans at only 60/25. It was 61/23 last December so it appears there's a pretty solid quarter of the electorate ready to vote against him from day 1 that didn't exist with Murkowski.

-The ideological composition of the Delaware and Alaska Republican electorates is actually almost identical. Intuitively you would expect Alaska's to be far more conservative but our last Delaware poll found 58% of Republicans identifying as conservatives and 37% as moderates. Our Alaska 'exit poll,' which we'll release tomorrow, found theirs at 59% conservatives and 37% moderates.

The arguments against:

-Mike Castle has been elected statewide in Delaware 13 times. Lisa Murkowski had been once. It's a lot easier to destroy someone's image with 50%+1 of the primary electorate in a very short period of time when they're relatively new to the scene than it is when they've been in statewide office for 30 years like Castle has.

-Time and money. We haven't seen any public polling out of Delaware on the primary but it seems pretty safe to say Castle's still up by a good amount and with only two weeks to go there's not a lot of time to make that up. And it will probably take a much bigger investment to put a huge dent into Castle when that involves buying up Philadelphia tv time than it did in Alaska where a little money goes a long way.

-The lack of a Sarah Palin endorsement for O'Donnell. Our Alaska 'exit poll' actually found that Palin wasn't as big a factor in Miller's win as she seems to be getting credit for but there's no doubt that would be a big help with at least some portion of the Republican electorate.

I would be surprised to see Castle have much trouble in a couple weeks but we're going to think about polling both Delaware and New Hampshire the weekend before their respective primaries because if there's any lesson we're learning in this odd election year it's not to assume anything.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Alaska Senate Race

Joe Miller's surprise victory in the Alaska Republican Senate primary has given Democrats at least a marginal opportunity for a pick up this fall, although that will fade if Lisa Murkowski stays in the race for the general as the Libertarian candidate.

Miller leads Scott McAdams 47-39. McAdams is counteracting several of the trends causing Democrats trouble across the country this year. He's running even with independents at 42% and he's benefiting from a more unified party, getting 81% of the Democratic vote while just 73% of Republicans are committed to Miller. In most states that equation would be enough for the lead but in Alaska, where there's an 18 point Republican party identification advantage, it leaves McAdams running behind.

The reason for the closeness of the race is Miller's unpopularity. 52% of voters in the state have an unfavorable opinion of while only 36% see him positively. Democrats (84%) are almost universal in their dislike of him and independents array strongly against him as well by a 54/32 margin. His poll numbers within his own party are positive but somewhat tepid at 57/32. Miller is the latest in a long line of candidates unpopular with the general electorate that Republican primary voters have nominated this year joining Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, and Ken Buck. But this political climate may just be GOP friendly enough that all those folks get through in the fall anyway.

In a three way contest with Murkowski running as the Libertarian candidate Miller leads but with only 38% to 34% for Murkowski and 22% for McAdams. Democrats have been hopeful that Murkowski will run on the assumption she would split the Republican vote but her supporters actually go 47-23 for McAdams in a two way contest with Miller.

Murkowski's support is pretty evenly distributed across the board- she gets 38% of independents, 32% of Republicans, and 28% of Democrats. Miller gets 59% of the Republican vote and McAdams gets 57% of the Democratic vote.

Despite her shocking loss on Tuesday Murkowski remains one of the most popular Senators in the country in PPP's polling with her 50% approval rating placing her in the 90th percentile of the 52 Senators we've looked at this year. But her 52% approval rating with Democrats and her 51% with independents exceeds her 47% standing with Republicans and that speaks to the trouble she had with the primary electorate this week.

Only 60% of the voters who approve of Murkowski's job performance say they'd vote for her in a three way general election contest and the key to her chances would be getting more of the Democrats and Republicans who like her to vote for person over party and abandon their nominees.

If by some chance Murkowski did come back and win the Senate nomination it would be no contest in the general- she leads McAdams 60-28 in a hypothetical contest.

There's plenty more content from our Alaska poll that we'll release over the next few days including an 'exit poll' looking at the factors that drove Miller's surprise victory, how Alaskans feel about Sarah Palin and a potential White House bid, and numbers on the state's races for Governor and House.

Full results here

Friday, August 27, 2010

Taking nominations

We haven't done a vote on where we poll in quite a long time. That's more of an early cycle thing where we're trying to figure out which races are competitive and which aren't, and now that we pretty much know the answer to that we're tightening the rotation of states we poll and focusing heavily on places where there is a tight race for both Governor and the Senate.

But we'll do one next week: give us your nominations on where to poll next week and we'll pick finalists and put it to a vote starting Monday. We're not going to do any House races- just states that have a Governor's and/or Senate race in 2010. Fire away!

Crist's Biggest Issue

There's been all sorts of analysis this week about whether there is or is not a path to victory for Charlie Crist in the Florida Senate race but the biggest problem for his candidacy is really quite simple: voters in the state just don't like him that much anymore.

Crist's approval rating on our poll this week was just 42% with 44% of voters disapproving of him. Republicans don't like him much at all anymore, giving him a 29/59 approval rating. Independents like him more than they like most politicians but his approval with them is still under 50% at 47/37. Democrats give him the best numbers at 54/29 approval but that doesn't come close to matching Marco Rubio's popularity with Republicans at 67/20/

The days of 60%ish approval ratings for Crist are long gone and that loss of popularity is the biggest thing he's going to have to find a way to overcome in the final two months of the campaign.

Highlight of My Week

I sometimes post a crazy e-mail of the week, today I'm going to relate a crazy voice mail of the week. As you can imagine when your company makes hundreds of thousands of phone calls every week some people are going to call you and leave you an irate message for calling them.

One lady this week began with: "I am on the Do Not Call list (pollsters are exempt) and I can't believe you are calling me up asking for sex."

After a 2 second pause she proceeded to say 'and age and party and race.' Her complaint was that she thought it was inappropriate for us to ask her demographic questions. But that two second pause after the 'asking for sex' made it one of the funnier voice mails we've ever received. I don't think she was trying to be funny, she was definitely mad, and I wonder if the pause was because she realized how bad what she just said sounded. Should have stuck with saying gender ma'am! But you made us laugh...and we took you off our lists.

Polling on the Spill

The oil spill in the Gulf may be mostly out of the headlines now but Louisiana voters aren't getting any less mad at Barack Obama about his handling of it. Only 32% give Obama good marks for his actions in the aftermath of the spill, while 61% disapprove.

Louisianans are feeling more and more that George W. Bush's leadership on Katrina was better than Obama's on the spill. 54% think Bush did the superior job of helping the state through a crisis to 33% who pick Obama. That 21 point margin represents a widening since PPP asked the same question in June and found Bush ahead by a 15 point margin. Bush beats Obama 87-2 on that score with Republicans and 42-30 with independents, while Obama has just a 65-24 advantage with Democrats.

Louisianans are generally softening with time in their feelings about how Bush handled Katrina. Almost as many, 44%, now approve of his actions on it as the 47% who disapprove. Of course it should be noted that many of the people most negatively impacted by the federal government's handling of Katrina aren't in Louisiana to answer polls about it now.

If there is a political 'winner' in the aftermath of the oil spill it's Bobby Jindal. 70% of Louisiana voters are happy with how he handled the spill to only 20% giving him bad marks and his overall approval rating of 58% puts him at the top of the heap for Governors and Senators PPP's polled on this year. Specifically on the issue of the spill 89% of Republicans, 76% of independents, and even a 47% plurality of Democrats think he did a good job.

One thing very clear is that the spill hasn't done much to change Louisianans' opinions on offshore drilling. 82% of voters in the state support it with only 9% opposed and only 21% say the spill made them less supportive of drilling while 32% say it actually made them more so.

Full results here

Republican Disconnect

One of the most interesting things about this fall's election is that the Republicans in Congress may take control even though less than half of the people planning to vote for them think they're doing a good job.

Our last national generic ballot poll found the Republicans ahead 45-42 despite the fact that Congressional Republicans had a 24/61 approval rating. Even among respondents who said they were going to vote Republican the Congressional GOP could muster only a 44/35 approval.

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are going to claim a mandate when their party does well at the polls this fall but they don't even have much of one with the people who are going to vote Republican this fall, much less with the population at large. If they keep on doing what they're doing the GOP may well take control of the House this fall and then lose it right back in 2012.

I'm really interested in whether Republican voters would like to see their party's leadership in Congress replaced. It's not likely to happen- you don't tend to lose your spot after a good election cycle- but it speaks to a major disconnect between the folks voting Republican and the Republican leaders themselves. We're delving into some of these questions as it relates to Ohio GOP voters and John Boehner this weekend, and we'll probably do some of that on our next national poll as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Charlie Crist's Big Dilemma

Charlie Crist led most polls from the time he left the Republican race for Senate until now because he was winning the Democratic vote. Now that Democrats in the state have gotten to know and like Kendrick Meek better some of Crist's support there has evaporated and as a result Marco Rubio is back in the lead. So what does Crist do now?

One thing Crist could do is flat out say he's going to caucus with the Democrats. Our poll last weekend found 66% of Kendrick Meek's voters said they would support Crist instead if he committed to siding with the Dems. 9% of Meek's voters said they wouldn't vote for Crist if he did that and 25% weren't sure.

There are perils for Crist in doing that too though. Only 63% of those currently supporting him say they would still do so if he said he would go with the Democrats while 20% say they explicitly would not vote for him if he did that and 17% aren't sure. Most of his remaining Republican support would dry up and he'd lose a fair number of independents as well.

Crist polled at 32% on this survey. 37% say they'd vote for him if he caucuses with the Democrats while 47% explicitly say they would not. Out of that 47% about 44% are Rubio people (Rubio's current supporters plus Republicans for Crist who say they wouldn't be if he went with the Dems) and 3% are Meek people. So you'd basically have a 44-37-3 race at that point with Crist needing to win somewhere in the neighborhood of 75% of the undecideds. It is a Democratic leaning group of voters, mostly folks currently supporting Meek or already supporting Crist but unsure if they would continue to do so if he committed to being a Democratic vote.

It is not impossible that Crist would get 75% of those people but it is unlikely. Nevertheless with his path to victory looking tougher and tougher promising to caucus with the Democrats is probably something he at least has to consider doing to reignite his campaign. It might not work- but it also might be his only chance.

Obama in the Swing States

Barack Obama expanded the map in 2008 but for the most part you're still going to find Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania as the most important states at the Presidential level because of their size and competitiveness and Obama's numbers in those places right now are brutal.

The trend is the same in all three states: independents are very unhappy with Obama and Republicans dislike him more than Democrats like him. And although part of the reason his numbers are so bad in these states is that they model a 2010 electorate, the polls also show him losing far more of his 2008 voters than picking up support from folks who went for John McCain.

-In Florida Obama's approval is 39% with 55% of voters disapproving of him. 88% of Republicans disapprove while just 73% of Democrats approve and independents go against him by a 52/36 margin. Only 78% of people who voted for him in 2008 like the job he's doing while 93% who voted against him disapprove.

-In Pennsylvania Obama's approval is 40% with 55% of voters disapproving of him. 85% of Republicans disapprove while just 68% of Democrats approve and independents go against him by a 63/32 margin. Only 78% of people who voted for him in 2008 like the job he's doing while 93% who voted against him disapprove, identical numbers to Florida on that count.

-In Ohio Obama's approval is 42% with 54% of voters disapproving of him. 94% of Republicans disapprove while only 79% of Democrats approve and independents go against him by a 58/33 margin. Only 76% of people who voted for him in 2008 approve while 91% who voted against him disapprove.

Obviously it's a long way from 2012 but these swing state numbers for Obama are pretty brutal and underscore why Democrats could lose a whole lot of House seats this year in those states.

Vitter headed for a romp

There have been a lot of bad campaigns across the country in 2010 but Chet Traylor may win the gold medal for having the singularly most unimpressive one. With the Louisiana Republican Senate primary coming Saturday Traylor trails Vitter by a remarkable 81-5 margin, barely even exceeding also ran Nick Accardo's 4% despite the fact that Accardo's campaign has received virtually no attention.

Even if Traylor was a good candidate he'd face quite an uphill battle because Vitter's approval rating with Republican primary voters is a strong 78/17 spread. But Traylor has made quite a poor impression with the electorate. Only 10% of likely primary voters have a favorable opinion of him to 30% who seem him unfavorably. The 60% of Republicans with no opinion of him is a pretty good indicator of how his campaign never had the resources to get off the ground but the fact that his negatives out weigh his favorables 3:1 with those who do have an opinion of him wouldn't have boded very well anyway. This race will get called about 15 seconds after the returns after start coming in.

Looking ahead to the 2012 Republican Presidential race voters are pretty evenly divided with Newt Gingrich ahead at 25%, followed by Mike Huckabee at 24%, Sarah Palin at 20%, and Mitt Romney at 16%.

Full results here

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vitter remains ahead

There continues to be very little change in the state of the Louisiana Senate race. PPP finds David Vitter leading Charlie Melancon by a 51-41 margin, similar to the 9 and 12 point spreads he showed in our previous two polls.

Vitter has a 53% approval rating with 41% of voters disapproving of him. That actually makes him, along with Barbara Mikulski and Dick Durbin, one of only three Senators PPP has found with approval ratings over 50% in all of 2010. He is significantly ahead of the curve in terms of his job reviews.

What makes that all the more interesting is that Louisiana voters do have a pretty dim view of Vitter as a human being. 44% think Vitter has been a poor model of Christian living to only 21% who think he's been a good model and by a 32-22 margin they say Melancon has been a better exemplar of Christian values. But there's a disconnect between how voters feel about the candidates personally and how they're planning to vote. For instance Vitter's getting 30% from people who think he's been a poor model- party is trumping values.

Vitter's getting 86% of the Republican vote while Melancon's getting 77% of the Democratic vote, and he also has a 48-38 lead with independents. His lead certainly isn't insurmountable, but Melancon needs to start making some progress soon.

The biggest question for Democrats when it comes to Louisiana is whether they can defeat an incumbent in a state where Barack Obama's approval rating is 35%. 61% of Louisianans disapprove of Obama and that includes 65% of independents and even 24% of Democrats. Even if Melancon proves to be a strong candidate statewide that's a tough backdrop to be running against.

Melancon does lead Vitter primary challenger Chet Traylor 40-39 but primary numbers we'll release in Louisiana tomorrow show that's about as irrelevant as it could possibly be.

Full results here

Sink starts out ahead

Rick Scott's an unpopular candidate with a divided party and because of that Alex Sink begins the general election for Governor in Florida with a 7 point lead. Sink has 41% to 34% for Scott and 8% for Bud Chiles.

Sink is doing well because she has a higher degree of party unity than Scott does and because she's the favorite with independents. 72% of Democrats say they'll vote for Sink while only 57% of Republicans are committed to voting for Scott. Sink also has a 37-28 advantage with independents.

Scott has dreadful personal favorability numbers with 49% of voters holding an unfavorable opinion of him while only 28% see him favorably. His numbers are even worse with independents than they are with the population at large- a 54% majority of them see him in a negative light.

Sink is still largely unknown but she has good numbers with the people who do know her. 35% have a favorable opinion to 23% with a negative one. Scott's chances in the general election may rest on his ability to define her with the 42% of folks who have no opinion right now before she gets the chance to define herself.

Republicans hope that Bud Chiles will play a spoiler role for Sink's chances this fall but at this point he's actually getting 8% of GOP votes and only 6% of Democratic votes, suggesting that for now his presence in the race is hurting Scott.

This race is almost definitely going to tighten up. 22% of Republicans are undecided and only 11% of Democrats are so Scott has a lot of room to grow. Still Sink goes into the general election as the favorite and given that our March Florida poll found her trailing Bill McCollum 44-31, that's quite an amazing turn around.

One other note in closing the book on McCollum's candidacy- this poll found Sink would have started out with an 8 point lead against him so there's not a real strong argument that he would have been more electable. Republicans were going to have an uphill climb in this race regardless of who won the nomination.

Full results here

Some thoughts on the Florida Polling

I'm getting a bunch of questions today about why our last poll in Florida correctly showed Rick Scott winning while most others had Bill McCollum ahead. I don't know that there is a silver bullet answer to that question, particularly since I don't know much about the demographic compositions of the Mason Dixon and Quinnipiac polls, but here are a couple thoughts just on our end:

-We used a loose screen in determining who to call that may have picked up more non-typical primary voters who went for Scott. Instead of calling a list of people who had a history of voting in past primary elections, as we usually do, we just called folks who had a history of voting in general elections and then screened on voting intent for the primary from there. If the folks who voted yesterday had been exactly the same as the folks who voted in the 2006 primary I imagine McCollum would have won. That's because he was the Republican establishment choice and the kinds of folks who vote in every primary likely went to him. But there were hundreds of thousands more people voting yesterday than in 2006 and my sense is the newbies went strongly for Scott.

-We picked up a Republican electorate that was exceedingly conservative. In 2008 exit polls showed 61% of Presidential primary voters were conservatives. Our poll over the weekend suggested 72% of primary voters this year identified as conservatives. Given that Scott was winning conservatives and McCollum was winning everyone else, identifying that conservative shift in the Republican electorate probably helped contribute to our poll's accuracy.

Those are just a couple thoughts and other folks may have different theories but those are the things that leap to mind for me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts on Scott's win

There's a lot of roads you can go down to explain why Rick Scott beat Bill McCollum tonight- 50 million dollars is a good start- but there ultimately may be a single simple one. Scott's attacks made McCollum unpalatable to conservative voters, and you can't win a Republican primary if conservatives don't like you.

Our final poll of the race found that 48% of conservative primary voters had an unfavorable opinion of McCollum to just 37% who saw him in a positive light. Not surprisingly given those numbers our poll gave Scott a 50-39 lead over McCollum with those voters.

Moderates did like McCollum and our numbers suggest he won today with those voters but 72% of primary voters were conservatives to only 25% moderates.

As for electability the general election numbers we'll release tomorrow show Scott polling 1 point better against Alex Sink than McCollum. So at this stage it's pretty much a wash although we'll just have to see how Scott wears with the general electorate.

The Chiles Effect?

When Bud Chiles first got into the race for Florida Governor it seemed like just another piece of bad news for an Alex Sink campaign that didn't seem to be going anywhere. She was already trailing Bill McCollum in the polls and it seemed like Chiles, as the son of a popular former Democratic Governor, would just pull even more votes from Sink.

It hasn't exactly worked out that way though. Instead general election numbers we'll release tomorrow show that most of Chiles' support is coming from Republicans. If Rick Scott is the GOP nominee 47% of Chiles voters are Republicans and 30% are Democrats. If Bill McCollum is the nominee 46% of Chiles voters are Republicans and 42% are Democrats. It seems what his candidacy is actually doing is providing a landing spot for Republican voters who dislike one of their primary choices so much they won't support them in the general if they get the nomination. Of course whether that holds after there's been some time to heal remains to be seen.

We'll have those general election numbers out for Governor tomorrow.

North Carolina and Ohio Question Suggestions

North Carolina and Ohio are on deck for our polling this weekend. Obviously we'll be looking at the Senate races in both states and the Gubernatorial race in Ohio but what else should we poll in those places? Always appreciative of creative and interesting question ideas.

Louisiana Poll Preview

We're going to have Louisiana Senate numbers out tomorrow and here's some interesting food for thought:

-44% of voters say that David Vitter is not a good model of Christian living to only 21% who say he is.

-32% of voters say Charlie Melancon is a better representative of Christian values to just 22% who say Vitter is.

How much do voters actually care about that stuff? Our numbers tomorrow may give a clue.

Here's a couple other interesting things:

-More Republicans (32%) think Vitter is a good model of Christian living than think he is not (30%.)

-And because not all polling has to be serious we asked voters which of these guys they'd rather their daughter was married to- 24% said Melancon, 17% said Vitter, and 55% chose the option we gave of 'I wouldn't want my daughter married to any politician.'

We'll have the Senate numbers out tomorrow.

Support for drilling back on the rise

It's becoming increasingly clear in our polling in a few key states that much of the shift in public opinion about offshore drilling because of the oil spill was temporary. Polls we did in Florida and Louisiana over the weekend and North Carolina earlier this month all show support for drilling increasing by pretty good amounts compared to the beginning of the summer.

In Louisiana, despite being at the heart of the spill, voters never showed much ambivalence about drilling. When we polled there in June 77% of voters supported it with 12% opposed for a net +65. Still that margin has widened even further now to +73 with 82% of voters favoring it and 9% against.

In Florida and North Carolina though voters had turned against offshore drilling by the middle of July. Last month we found 51% in Florida opposed to 39% in support and in North Carolina we found 46% opposed and 42% in support. Now we find voters in both states back in support of drilling- 48% for to 44% against in Florida and 50% for to 39% against in North Carolina.

Support for drilling in North Carolina is still down a good bit from what it was pre-spill and although we don't have historical data in Florida and Louisiana I imagine the same is true in both of those places as well. But it doesn't look like the spill has caused a major, lasting shift in public opinion about drilling at least in those states.

Rubio back on top

Democrats will get their stronger candidate if Kendrick Meek wins the Florida Senate primary tonight as expected- but the biggest winner coming out of the primary may be Marco Rubio. PPP finds he would begin the general election in the lead at 40%, followed by Charlie Crist at 32%, and Meek at 17%. If Jeff Greene were somehow able to pull off the upset tonight it would be much closer with Rubio at 37%, Crist at 36%, and Greene at only 13%.

PPP's last poll of the race in mid-July found Crist in the lead at 35% to 29% for Rubio and 17% for Meek. Two major developments have shifted the race in Rubio's direction though. The first is that Democrats are now going for Meek 39-38 where before they were going for Crist 44-35. As Democrats have gotten to know Meek over the course of the primary campaign they've generally decided they like him and that's cut into Crist's support for the general election.

The other big difference is that many Republican voters have moved off the fence and they've almost universally moved into the Rubio column. Where Rubio had a 54-23 lead with GOP voters in July, it's now increased to 69-20. Many Republicans were up in the air between Crist and Rubio previously but whatever they've seen over the last month has moved them more firmly into the Rubio column.

Crist's support continues to show an awkward balance that may ultimately make victory for him impossible. 57% of those planning to vote for him if Meek is the nominee think he should caucus with the Democrats in the Senate if elected while 28% think he should side with the Republicans. He's more likely to find the additional support he needs to get elected from Democrats than Republicans, but can he do that without losing the 20% of Republicans who are still with him? Whether he finds a way to thread that needle or not will probably determine his fate.

For now Rubio's in his strongest position since Crist quit the Republican race and decided to run as an independent.

Full results here

Monday, August 23, 2010

Florida Senate Preview

Kendrick Meek is headed for a big win in tomorrow's Democratic primary in Florida but the real winner from the night's results might be Marco Rubio.

In the general election Senate numbers we'll release tomorrow Charlie Crist has a 24 point lead over Jeff Greene with Democrats. But he trails Kendrick Meek by a point with them. It's hard to see a path to victory for Crist without winning the Democratic vote.

The last time we polled the race Crist had a 9 point lead over Meek with Democrats, but Meek's primary campaign has had the impact of increasing his support for the general election within his own party.

Stay tuned for those numbers tomorrow.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Close Republican race in Florida

The Republican race for Governor in Florida is looking like a tight one as it heads into its final day. Our final poll of the race finds Rick Scott leading Bill McCollum 47-40. That advantage is within the poll's margin of error.

If Scott does indeed come out the winner it will be because he destroyed McCollum's reputation with conservative voters. McCollum is ahead 44-39 with moderates, but Scott has the overall lead thanks to a 50-39 advantage with conservatives. 48% of them have an unfavorable opinion of McCollum to only 37% who see him positively after weeks of Scott's attack ads.

The older and more racially diverse the electorate is on Tuesday the better McCollum's prospects will be. He leads by 13 points with senior citizens, but trails by 16 with voters under 65. He's ahead by 12 points with non white voters, but trails by 12 points with white voters.

Regardless of who emerges as the winner Tuesday night Republicans' chances of holding the Florida Governor's office will have been considerably damaged by this primary campaign. Only 46% of primary voters have a favorable opinion of Scott and just 38% see McCollum in a positive light. They've left GOP voters with mixed feelings about them and Democratic and independent voters with pretty negative ones. Five months ago we would have said Alex Sink looked like a dead duck. Now with the way this contest has unfolded she looks like the favorite.

It should be a close one Tuesday night.

Full results here

Meek headed for a big win

Kendrick Meek is headed for a blowout victory in Tuesday's Florida Democratic Senate primary. He's now at 51% to 27% for Jeff Greene with the other candidates splitting 9% and 13% still undecided.

Jeff Greene made a bad first impression on Florida Democrats and the more they got to know him the less they liked him. His favorability numbers on a mid-July PPP poll with the primary electorate were 22/33. Now millions more dollars later they're 28/47. It's not often someone manages a -19 favorability spread within their own party but Greene's candidacy has been one of a kind.

Certainly Meek's 70-9 lead over Greene with African Americans, who should make up about a quarter of the primary electorate, is important to his strong advantage. But he's also up 47-37 with white voters, a big improvement from PPP's previous poll of the race and an indication that Bill Clinton's efforts on his behalf may have paid off in a big way.

Meek is polling particularly well with liberals, where he has a 64-20 lead. But he's also up 49-32 with moderate Democrats and 34-30 with conservative ones.

While it appears Meek is headed for an impressive victory on Tuesday night these poll numbers also exemplify the trouble ahead for his candidacy. Meek's favorability with Democratic voters is 50%. Charlie Crist's job approval rating with them is 57%. Given that his road in the general election is a very tough one.

Full results here

Friday, August 20, 2010

Popularity Contest!

We added a question to our Pennsylvania and Illinois polls this week that we'll probably get around to asking on most of our state polls for the rest of the cycle- between your state's Governor and two Senators who's your favorite politician in the state?

It's no contest in either of these states with Bob Casey the winner by a large margin in Pennsylvania and Dick Durbin coming out well ahead in Illinois.

Casey's the choice of 31% followed by Ed Rendell at 14% and Arlen Specter at 11%. 44% don't state a preference, likely a reflection of their being no Republican politicians to choose from. Casey is easily the top choice of Democrats, 36-20 over Rendell, and Republicans, 29-7 over both Specter and Rendell.

Specter polling at only 7% with Republicans even though Rendell and Casey have been major figures in Democratic politics in the state forever while Specter was a Republican until a year ago certainly shows how much animosity remains about his decision to switch parties. And on the topic of Specter even if Joe Sestak's not doing great against Pat Toomey right now there's no doubt Democrats got their stronger candidate- we found Specter's approval rating this week to be 27% with 57% of voters disapproving of him. If he had won the nomination with those numbers this seat might be approaching write off stage already analogous to the situations in North Dakota and Arkansas.

In Illinois Durbin is the favorite politician of 41% of voters in the state, followed by Pat Quinn at 10%, and Roland Burris at 6%. Like Pennsylvania the lack of Republicans in major offices in Illinois leaves 42% of voters saying no opinion. Durbin's tops among Democrats, 60-11 over Quinn, independents, 40-8 over Quinn, and Republicans, 17-12 over Quinn.

Full numbers from this exercise here

Florida and Louisiana on tap

Early next week, we'll have reports on the GOP gubernatorial and Democratic Senate primaries in Florida and the GOP Senate primary in Louisiana.

Then we're coming at you with general election numbers for those races, as well as another look at opinion on oil drilling in both states, and a comparison in Louisiana between Bush's handling of Katrina and Obama's of the BP oil spill. Also stay tuned for a potentially controversial set of questions in Louisiana relevant to the Senate race.

Looking at a Santorum Bid

Rick Santorum's looking more and more like a Presidential candidate in 2012 but he's got a problem- even voters in his home state aren't real supportive of a potential bid. Tested against Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul in Pennsylvania Santorum can muster only a 4th place finish at 15%.

Now it should be noted that most of the big name Republicans test within the margin of error of each other in Pennsylvania. Huckabee and Palin lead the way with 17%, followed by Romney at 16%, Santorum at 15%, Gingrich at 14%, and Paul at 6%. But you would expect a serious Presidential contender to poll far better than that in a state he represented for 12 years in the US Senate.

Santorum actually ties Huckabee for the lead with conservatives in Pennsylvania at 19%. But he gets pushed back to 4th place because he can muster only 6% with moderate voters.

We also tested the Republican field in Pennsylvania without Santorum and those numbers truly confirm how up for grabs the 2012 GOP nomination is- Romney gets 20% followed by Gingrich, Huckabee, and Palin all at 19%. At least in his home state it doesn't appear Santorum's entrance would hurt any candidate in particular- when he's not included 24% of his support goes to Romney, 21% to Gingrich, 17% to Palin, 12% to Paul, and 10% to Huckabee.

We looked at the GOP field in Illinois as well. There Gingrich leads the way with 23% to 21% for Huckabee, 18% for Palin, 16% for Romney, and 7% for Paul. Tight race there just like it is everywhere, but it does confirm that Gingrich has pretty strong support nationwide and would be much more than a regional candidate if he decided to get in.

Full results here

Generic Ballot and the Tea Party

It's a given that there's a strong relationship between how people feel about President Obama and how they're planning to vote this fall but it's a little remarkable just how strong that correlation is on our last national poll. Voters who approve of the job Obama's doing are planning to vote Democratic by an 82-7 margin. Voters who disapprove of the job he's doing are planning to vote Republican 82-4.

When people's voting preferences are that tied up in how they feel about Obama it's a reminder that 90% of the stuff campaigns do is pretty irrelevant because their fates are tied up in stuff beyond their control. Of course that other 10% can definitely make the difference in a very close campaign.

And not all Republicans are winning the Obama disapprovers by an 82-4 margin, a reminder that the party has weakened itself with some of its choices on who to nominate. For instance our last Kentucky poll found Rand Paul ahead only 67-16 with folks who don't like the President. Ken Buck's only up 78-10 with them. The Tea Party candidates are also helping to generate levels of Democratic unity that run above the national averages. Harry Reid leads Sharron Angle 94-3 with voters who like Obama. And Michael Bennet leads Buck 87-4.

There's been an increasing volume of stuff written lately saying the Republicans nominating Tea Party candidates is not a big deal. It's true that the GOP may still end up winning all of these races. But the reality is that a year ago Harry Reid was dead in the water and Charlie Crist was a slam dunk as a new Republican Senator and that Michael Bennet has a 32/48 approval rating and that Barack Obama stands at 37/58 in Kentucky. None of these races had to be competitive but the choices the GOP has made have afforded them that status.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Generic Ballot in Pennsylvania and Illinois

Pennsylvania has more competitive House races this year than just about anywhere in the country and generic ballot polling in the state bodes pretty well for the GOP's chances to make some gains. 48% of voters say they plan to support Republican candidates for Congress to 39% who say they will vote Democratic.

There are two main reasons for their strong advantage. The first is a 42-19 lead with independents. The second is that Republicans are more unified, with 84% of them committed to supporting their party's candidates this year while only 72% of Democrats say the same about theirs.

The division within the Republican Party, as seen through hotly contested primary contests, has received a lot of attention this year. But once a nominee is settled we're finding that in almost every race we poll GOP voters are more unified around their candidates than the Democrats are and that combined with a persistent advantage with independents is why Republican candidates across the country are tending to poll so well.

In Illinois Democrats lead the generic Congressional ballot by a 46-40 margin. That may not be terribly reassuring though given how much the party runs up the score in a small number of districts. Six of Illinois' districts voted for President Obama at a 70% rate or higher in 2008.

The Pennsylvania generic ballot spread is equal to what we found for the Senate race in the state this week, while the 6 point generic ballot lead for Democrats in Illinois exceeds the 2 point lead we found for Alexi Giannoulias. That may give you a better idea of the shape Democrats would be in that race if they'd chosen a nominee with less baggage.

Full results here

Obama on the Trail

Illinois voters say they would be negatively influenced if a candidate was endorsed by Barack Obama. And if his support isn't an asset in his home state it's hard to imagine where it is.

40% of voters in the state say they'd be less likely to support an Obama endorsed candidate to only 26% who say it would be an asset. The reality at this point is that Obama turns Republican voters off to a much greater extent than he excites Democrats. That's reflected in the fact that 83% of Republicans say an Obama endorsement would be a negative with them while only 49% of Democrats say it would be a positive. Independents also respond negatively by a 38/19 margin.

The numbers on an Obama endorsement are perhaps more relevant with undecided voters. Among those who have not yet made up their minds in the Senate race 21% say an Obama endorsement would resonate positively with them while 33% say it would be a turnoff.

An Obama endorsement does at least go across better with Illinois voters than a Sarah Palin one does. That's not the case in Pennsylvania. There 28% of voters say they'd be more inclined to vote for someone supported by Palin while only 20% say the same about Obama. Likewise 49% say an Obama endorsement would hurt a candidate's cause with them to 46% who say the same about Palin.

Obviously these numbers are skewed somewhat by the fact that many 2008 Obama voters are not in the likely voter pool and the argument in favor of having him come campaign for you is that you might be able to draw more of those folks out. But his visits didn't seem to have that impact in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Virginia. It's becoming increasingly clear that Obama is not much of an asset for Democratic candidates on the campaign trail and that for most of them it would be better if he just stayed away.

Full results here

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Looking at Washington

If there's one race where Democrats should make turnout their absolute top priority and see if the work of the Obama machine can be replicated when Obama's not on the ticket it's Washington.

Almost every major Senate race in the country this year has at least one candidate and sometimes both of them who are pretty unknown at this point. It makes sense in those races for the focus of the campaigns to be defining themselves and their opponents to the voters- the Rob Portmans and Lee Fishers and Pat Toomeys and Joe Sestaks of the world aren't real known and the perceptions that can be shaped of those candidates will go a long way toward determining who wins.

Washington's different though. Patty Murray and Dino Rossi both already have near 100% name recognition and it's going to be hard to change the feelings voters have about them after they've each already been through several major statewide campaigns. They're evenly divided in their feelings about Murray and feel slightly negatively toward Rossi. But the electorate is likely to skew more Republican this year than it did in either of Rossi's two losing campaigns for Governor, so that allows him to make up for his slight popularity gap.

Since voters in Washington already have their minds made up it really is, more than most races, just going to come down to who can turn out a bigger number of their voters. Murray has a much larger pool of potential voters to draw from but whether she can actually do it with the enthusiasm gap what it is is a different question. But I'd try to get some of the strongest Obama field people in Washington because it could be more critical there than just about anywhere else.

Democrats don't like Dino Rossi. He's getting virtually no support from people who voted for Barack Obama. He can't win without a major enthusiasm gap so if Murray closes that up she wins, end of story.

One other thing that needs to be noted on Washington: our preelection survey found supporters of Clint Didier and Paul Akers would go for Rossi 82-11 if he made it to the general election. That's overwhelming but it's also not 100-0 so don't expect that just because there were more Republican votes last night that there also will be in November. There won't be a ton of Didier and Akers supporters who defect but there could be enough to make a difference in what's looking like a 2-3 point race right now.

The 2010 Senate Crop

I think you can make a pretty strong argument that 2010 presents one of the weakest sets of Senate candidates across the country that we've seen in a very long time. Looking at favorability numbers in 15 key races we've polled in the last couple months:

-Only one candidate has a net favorability number of better than +5. That's Mike Castle in Delaware at +19 (51/32).

-20 of the 31 major candidates in those 15 races have negative favorability numbers.

-Obscurity may be a plus. 4 of the 9 candidates with positive numbers are still unknown to 40% or more of the voters in their states. For the most part this year the better known a candidate has become the less well liked they've been.

-In 6 of those 15 races both candidates are viewed negatively by most of the voters who have an opinion about them (Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, Missouri, California)

-The races where voters like their candidates the least are Colorado (average fav of -18), Nevada (-12.5), Illinois (-12), and California (-7). The ones where they like their candidates the most (or perhaps dislike the least is a more appropriate way of describing it) are Delaware (+9.5) and Wisconsin (+1).

Here's the full data. What other interesting observations are there?

Candidate (State-Party)

Favorability (Spread) (No Opinion)

Mike Castle (DE-R)

51/32 (+19) (17)

Elaine Marshall (NC-D)

23/19 (+4) (58)

Pat Toomey (PA-R)

36/33 (+3) (31)

Charlie Crist (FL-I)

44/41 (+3) (15)

David Vitter (LA-R)

45/43 (+2) (12)

Ron Johnson (WI-R)

20/18 (+2) (62)

Jack Conway (KY-D)

31/29 (+2) (40)

Patty Murray (WA-D)

46/45 (+1) (9)

Lee Fisher (OH-D)

28/27 (+1) (45)

Russ Feingold (WI-D)

42/42 (E) (16)

Chris Coons (DE-D)

31/31 (E) (38)

Roy Blunt (MO-R)

41/42 (-1) (17)

Barbara Boxer (CA-D)

44/46 (-2) (10)

Kelly Ayotte (NH-R)

36/39 (-3) (25)

Rob Portman (OH-R)

22/25 (-3) (53)

Charlie Melancon (LA-D)

29/34 (-5) (37)

Paul Hodes (NH-D)

35/40 (-5) (25)

Dino Rossi (WA-R)

43/48 (-5) (9)

Rand Paul (KY-R)

34/42 (-8) (24)

Mark Kirk (IL-R)

26/34 (-8) (40)

Kendrick Meek (FL-D)

18/27 (-9) (55)

Robin Carnahan (MO-D)

41/50 (-9) (9)

Harry Reid (NV-D)

44/53 (-9) (3)

Joe Sestak (PA-D)

28/38 (-10) (34)

Carly Fiorina (CA-R)

28/40 (-12) (32)

Richard Burr (NC-R)

32/44 (-12) (24)

Marco Rubio (FL-R)

31/46 (-15) (23)

Sharron Angle (NV-R)

36/52 (-16) (12)

Alexi Giannoulias (IL-D)

26/42 (-16) (32)

Michael Bennet (CO-D)

32/48 (-16) (20)

Ken Buck (CO-R)

26/46 (-20) (28)

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