Monday, February 28, 2011

Suggestion Time

We'll have our Wisconsin and Virginia polls starting tomorrow, and we still have some leftovers from North Carolina and Rhode Island that we'll get out over the course of the week. Where to next? Taking suggestions for the next 24 hours, will pick finalists and put them to a vote tomorrow night, we'll have 24 hours of voting, and then take suggestions on questions/names to include in the states that win. Thanks!

Do over?

We'll have our full poll on the Wisconsin conflict out tomorrow but here's the most interesting finding: if voters in the state could do it over today they'd support defeated Democratic nominee Tom Barrett over Scott Walker by a a 52-45 margin.

The difference between how folks would vote now and how they voted in November can almost all be attributed to shifts within union households. Voters who are not part of union households have barely shifted at all- they report having voted for Walker by 7 points last fall and they still say they would vote for Walker by a 4 point margin. But in households where there is a union member voters now say they'd go for Barrett by a 31 point margin, up quite a bit from the 14 point advantage they report having given him in November.

It's actually Republicans, more so than Democrats or independents, whose shifting away from Walker would allow Barrett to win a rematch if there was one today. Only 3% of the Republicans we surveyed said they voted for Barrett last fall but now 10% say they would if they could do it over again. That's an instance of Republican union voters who might have voted for the GOP based on social issues or something else last fall trending back toward Democrats because they're putting pocketbook concerns back at the forefront and see their party as at odds with them on those because of what's happened in the last month.

A big part of Scott Walker's victory in November- and Ron Johnson's as well- was Democratic voters sitting at home. Our final pre election poll in Wisconsin found that likely voters had supported Barack Obama by only 3 points in 2008, in contrast to his actual 14 point victory in the state. Those sleeping dogs aren't lying any more though and when you combine the reinvigoration of the base with GOP union households trending back toward the Democrats, Walker seems to have severely hurt his party's chances of building on their gains from 2010 next year.

Full results here

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rhode Island Politician Report Card

-Rhode Island voters aren't real big on their new Governor. Lincoln Chafee has a 38% approval rating, with 44% of voters disapproving of him. Chafee's upside down numbers probably shouldn't come as any big surprise- he only won 36% of the vote in his three way race in November and his support now is pretty consistent with that. Only Democrats like the job he's doing, with 53% approving to 24% disapproving. Independents are negative on him by a 51/34 spread and what might be most striking is his standing with Republicans. Just 10% of them approve of him to 84% who disapprove. It's hard to believe he survived a GOP primary only five years ago.

-We've polled on all but three Democratic Senators in the country (Daniel Inouye, Kent Conrad, and Patrick Leahy) over the course of the last eight months and Jack Reed is at the top of the heap for popularity. 60% of Rhode Island voters approve of the job he's doing to 27% who disapprove, which allows him to narrowly displace Amy Klobuchar (59/29). Chuck Schumer has the bronze medal for Democrats at 57/35. The main thing that sets Reed apart from his colleagues is his high degree of support from independents, who are the most numerous voter group in Rhode Island. 56% of them approve of him to just 35% who disapprove. He also benefits from a mostly unified party base at 78/9 with Democrats.

-Frank Caprio, the losing Democratic candidate for Governor last fall, doesn't look to have much of a political future. It's bad for him that only 29% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 46% with a negative one. But even worse is where he stands with Democrats- only 33% have a positive view of him while 42% profess an unfavorable one. He'd have a hard time even winning a primary election for some office in the future.

-Looking for Rhode Island's next Senator? If it's going to be someone who's come up through the House ranks Jim Langevin appears to be the best bet. 50% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of him to 29% with a negative one. That puts him a good deal ahead of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy whose favorability is 43/47 and even further ahead of Kennedy's successor David Cicilline who breaks down quite poorly at 34/47. Kennedy is actually slightly more popular than Langevin with Democrats- 67% rating him positively compared to 62% for his former colleague. But where Langevin is popular with independents (47/34), Kennedy is most decidedly not (32/58.)

Full results here

The Perdue Disconnect

Several of Bev Perdue's major proposals for this year's state budget are very popular with North Carolina voters, with support for them cutting across party lines. But it's still not translating into more popularity for the Governor herself.

One of the key points Perdue made in her State of the State address was that she would oppose any teacher or teacher assistant jobs from being cut- 67% of voters in the state stand with her on that promise with only 20% thinking that eliminating teaching positions should be part of the solution for this year's budget gap. That includes very strong majorities of Democrats (77%), independents (59%), and Republicans (58%) alike.

It's a similar story when it comes to Perdue's proposal to lower the corporate tax rate in the state by 2%. 48% of voters stand with her on that to 30% who are opposed. This is an issue where Democrats are actually the least supportive of their Governor's position, splitting evenly at 36%. But she earns strong support on this proposal from Republicans (59/24) and independents (53/28).

Perdue's policy positions are getting high marks from voters in the state...but her own approval numbers have taken a slight turn in the wrong direction. Only 30% say they like the job she's doing to 48% who disapprove. That marks a five point decline in her approval rating from when she hit 35% in December, which had been her best number in a PPP poll since very early in her term. The last time her approval rating was as low as 30% was August. The reason for her numbers going back down the first couple months of this year may be something bigger than Perdue herself- Governors just don't tend to be popular at budget time. Her numbers initially tanked during the 2009 budget cycle and that hardly put her alone among her counterparts across the country.

For now legislative Republicans are defeating Perdue in the court of public opinion. 44% of voters say they have more faith in the ability of the new GOP majority to run the state, compared to 37% who say Perdue. The main reason for that is Republican voters are much more sold on their legislators (82%) than Democratic voters are on their Governor (64%). Independents also lean slightly toward the GOP on that question, by a 41/35 margin. There is some good news for Perdue when she's compared to the Republican legislature though- by a 34/31 spread voters think she's doing more to bring jobs to North Carolina.

Perdue continues to lag a good bit when tested in a hypothetical rematch with 2008 foe Pat McCrory. The former Charlotte mayor's lead is back up to 49-37 this month. The biggest problem for Perdue here is once again her party base- while McCrory has 84% of Republicans locked up, only 64% of Democrats are committing to Perdue right now. She probably needs that number to be up closer to 80% to win reelection. Independents continue to lean toward McCrory as well by a 44-29 margin.

Perdue's shown the ability to get voters to respond positively to her ideas. Now the question is just whether she can get them to respond positively to her.

Full results here

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Virginia and Wisconsin Question Suggestions

Virginia and Wisconsin were the winners on our vote for where to poll this week.

In Virginia definitely going to do Tim Kaine and Tom Perriello vs. George Allen and Jamie Radtke. Thoughts on any other people to include? Also question ideas beyond the Senate race that you're interested in would be appreciated as well.

In Wisconsin obviously the main focus of the poll will be the current dispute in the state: what neutrally worded non leading questions would you like to know the answers of Wisconsinites to? And we may as well throw some names against Herb Kohl again as long as we're polling the state- ideas on that front?

Any question ideas you have for either state would be much appreciated. And btw, Haley Barbour will be getting John Thune's dedicated spot in our Republican primary polls.

Palin's Standing

If you want to know how much Sarah Palin's prospects for ever being President were hurt by what happened in Tucson and the way she responded to it consider this:

-In 15 states where we polled the 2012 Presidential race between November and the incident in Tucson Palin trailed by an average of 14 points. Barack Obama had won those states by an average of 8 points, so Palin was running 6 points behind John McCain's performance in 2008.

-In 12 states where we've polled the 2012 Presidential since the Tucson incident Palin has trailed by an average of 10 points in states that John McCain actually won on average by 3. So she's now running an average of 13 points behind McCain's 2008 showing.

Certainly before Tucson it appeared Palin would suffer a crushing defeat if she somehow snagged the 2012 Presidential nomination. But now it looks more like that would be a loss of historical proportions.

NC split on Obama

Barack Obama's position in North Carolina has weakened a little bit over the last month, although he continues to be in better shape in the state than he was throughout most of 2010. 47% of voters approve of the job he's doing to 48% who disapprove and he leads 3 out of 4 of his top potential Republican opponents in head to head match ups. A month ago he had slightly positive approval numbers at a 49/47 breakdown and led all 4 of the Republicans.

The one Republican who holds the slightest of advantages over Obama in North Carolina is Mike Huckabee, who leads the President 47-46. Huckabee is also the only one of the leading potential GOP contenders that voters in the state have on balance a positive opinion of. 43% rate him favorably to 34% with an unfavorable view. The rest are in net negative territory with Mitt Romney at 37/39, Newt Gingrich at 30/48, and Sarah Palin at 37/57.

Given their unpopularity it's no surprise that Obama continues to lead the rest of the Republican hopefuls in North Carolina. He's up 47-44 on Romney, 48-44 on Gingrich, and 51-41 on Palin.

Compared to a month ago Obama's dropped 5 points against Huckabee, who he led 49-45 last time and 2 points against Gingrich who he led 50-44 last time. His numbers against Romney remain unchanged and he's actually gained a point on Palin.

The main reason for his diminished standing when matched against Huckabee is that Obama now trails him by 5 points with independents, where a month ago the President actually held an 11 point advantage. That's consistent with a bit of downward turn in Obama's numbers with independents nationally, which had seen a spike in January in the wake of the Tucson shooting and the Republicans assuming control of Congress.

The big picture on Obama's numbers in North Carolina remains the same- he's certainly not going to run away with the state next year but he'll have about an even chance of taking it again and it should be very close once more.

Full results here

Whitehouse looks pretty solid

Republicans have a long list of pick up opportunities for Senate seats next year but it doesn't look like Rhode Island will be one of them. Sheldon Whitehouse has solid approval numbers and a double digit lead over a bevy of potential GOP opponents.

49% of voters approve of the job Whitehouse is doing to 38% who disapprove. He's in very solid standing with the Democratic base at 72% approval to 11% unhappy with his job performance. He doesn't have much crossover support from Republicans at 12% approval to 77% disapproval, but that's not too big of a problem for him because there basically are no GOP voters in the state- only 14% of the respondents on this poll. Perhaps a little more worrisome for Whitehouse is his upside down numbers with independents, which are the largest voting bloc in the state and give him only a 40% approval to 50% who disapprove. But his good numbers within his own party still outweigh that.

The strongest potential candidate against Whitehouse is Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian. A plurality of voters- 47%- don't know enough about Avedisian to have formed an opinion but with those who have he is quite popular. 36% have a favorable opinion of him to only 17% with a negative one and he shows roughly equal levels of popularity across party lines. He's at 38/15 with Republicans, 37/17 with independents, and 35/17 with Democrats. Nevertheless he trails Whitehouse 47-37 in a head to head. Avedisian actually leads Whitehouse by 15 points with independents and largely locks up the GOP vote at 76/10. But despite his relative popularity with Democrats only 13% of them are actually willing to vote for Avedisian over Whitehouse and if you want to win as a Republican in Rhode Island you're either a) going to have to win the independents on a magnitude of something closer to 30 points or b) win something along the lines of 20-25% of the Democratic vote. Avedisian does neither and that's why Whitehouse has the early 10 point edge.

Former Governor Don Carcieri actually proved to be the weakest candidate tested against Whitehouse on this poll. By the time he left office Carcieri was not terribly popular with only 41% of voters in the state holding a favorable opinion of him to 49% with an unfavorable one. That drop is largely because he saw a significant decline in his popularity with independents over the course of his second term. Exit polls showed him getting 62% of their votes in 2006, but now only 48% of them express a favorable opinion of him. In a head to head with Whitehouse Carcieri trails 54-37, as Whitehouse actually picks up a larger share of the Democratic vote (82%) than Carcieri does of the Republican vote (80%) and holds Carcieri to only a two point lead with independents.

After Avedisian, 2010 GOP Gubernatorial nominee John Robitaille would be the second strongest candidate against Whitehouse, trailing by a 49-38 margin. Robitaille made a generally positive impression on the state's voters last year, and 40% have a favorable opinion of him now compared to 25% with an unfavorable one. But he runs into some of the same problems as Avedisian in a potential Senate bid, winning independents by a not nearly enough 6 points and picking up only 17% of the Democratic vote. His personal favorability numbers are such that he could be a formidable candidate for something further down the line, but probably not the Senate next year.

We also tested John Loughlin, who ran for the House last year, and found him trailing Whitehouse 51-34.

Whitehouse's leads aren't completely insurmountable but he's in a solid enough position that this looks like a second tier pick up opportunity for the GOP at best.

Full results here

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And your finalists for this week...

The finalists for this week are listed below. We're going to have a short vote this week with voting ending Wednesday night and then we'll put up another thread for question suggestions for the winners. The choices are:

-Connecticut. We still haven't done a thorough poll looking at all the match up possibilities for Senate there.

-Delaware. This is one of the few states that has both a Senate and Gubernatorial race next year- neither of them seems likely to be real competitive but can't hurt to take a look and I know the world is dying to see those Tom Carper/Christine O'Donnell numbers.

-Mississippi. Open Gubernatorial race in 2011 and then a Senate race in 2012...another one where it's hard to imagine either of those races being terribly competitive but no harm in taking a first look. Also interested to see how supportive the state is of Barbour for President.

-Missouri. It's been almost three months since we polled there now and the Senate field is starting to take shape a little more now so it might be worthy of being the first race we test a second time. And of course there's a competitive Gubernatorial race and one of the few Obama pick up opportunities on the table as well.

-Vermont. Republican Auditor Tom Salmon really seems interested in running against Bernie Sanders...should he be?

-Virginia. Another state we haven't polled since November where the landscape has changed drastically. Obviously interested in testing Kaine and Perriello against Allen again but also in looking a little deeper at how much risk of getting Tea Partied Allen is.

-Wisconsin. I heard there might be some stuff going on there that would be interesting to poll about.

Voting is open until around 6 PM Wednesday. As always if I see the same IP address voting for something a zillion times I'm going to throw those votes out. Silly to cheat on something like this...

Bill Nelson: vulnerability overrated

It seems like just about every cycle there's a Senator who a lot of noise is made about the vulnerability of who turns out to be just fine. For the 2012 cycle I think that's Bill Nelson.

Yes Nelson's approval numbers are under 50%. But that's because Democrats aren't in love with him. Earlier this month Quinnipiac found his overall approval at 45%. That's because only 55% of Democrats gave him good marks. At the same time though he had 37% approval from Republicans- well above average- and also 44% approval with independents, twice the number that disapproved of him.

Those trends are very similar to what we found for Nelson the last time we polled on him in mid-December. We had him at only 36% approval, with 33% disapproving. That low topline approval number was largely due to his being at only 45% with Democrats, but there too we found him at an unusually strong for our polling 23% with Republicans and above ground with independents at 42/36.

Here's the thing about Nelson's low numbers within his own party- the overwhelming majority of Democrats who don't approve of him are going to vote for him next fall. Nelson doesn't have terribly high disapproval numbers with Democrats, just low approval. Confused? It's because a very significant portion of Democrats are ambivalent toward him- they just don't know enough to have an opinion about him either way. But they're sure going to go vote for him while they're out to cast their ballots for Barack Obama next fall. And when he combines the support of his base with his unusually high crossover support from Republicans and solid standing with independents he's likely to get reelected unless next year turns out to be an exceptionally bad one for Democrats.

One other note- the magic 50% rule ain't that magic and that's especially so in a big state like Florida. It's a lot harder for politicians in large states to hit 50% approval or reelect number because voters just don't tend to know their officials as well as in smaller states where there are fewer tv markets to show up on and cities to appear in. There's no reason to think voters ambivalent toward Nelson will end up breaking away from him because he's an incumbent. They're much more likely to end splitting their votes pretty evenly.

I'm going to do a list of the Senate seats most likely to flip once we're done with our polling tour of the 2012 US Senate races and Bill Nelson will not be terribly high up on it- I think the Sherrod Browns and even Debbie Stabenows of the world may end up with more trouble than him.

The bounce is gone

Based on the last few weeks of our polling I'd say Barack Obama's New Years/post-Tucson poll bounce is over. Here are some of the reasons I've reached that conclusion:

-Our last two weekly national surveys for Daily Kos have found Obama back with slightly negative approval numbers. This week he's at 46/49 and last week he was at 47/48. The main reason he's down from his high water mark of 50/45 in late January? Independents have turned back against him. At that point he had a 53/41 approval with them. Now it's back to being almost the inverse of that at 43/51.

Other pollsters have shown a similar drop from where Obama was a month ago. A month ago Gallup had Obama at 51/41, now it's 46/45. Rasmussen had Obama at 50/49, now it's 44/55. CBS had it at 49/39, now at 48/41. It's not necessarily a huge decline for Obama, but across the board polls are finding that he has weakened a little bit.

-On our national 2012 Presidential poll last week Obama led Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney by an average of 7.3 points each. That's a solid performance and would certainly be enough to get him reelected, but it's down from the average lead of 9.8 points we found for Obama against that quartet last month.

We've seen a similar downward trend in Obama's advantage in North Carolina, the only individual state where we've done a 2012 poll each of the last two months. In the numbers we'll release tomorrow Obama has an average advantage of 4 points over the Republicans tested. Again that's solid, but it does represent a downward movement from last month when he led them by an average of 5.5 points.

Obama's current position is not bad- but it's a lot more similar to where he was during the last half of 2010 than it is to his great polling month of January.

RI supports gay marriage

As the Rhode Island state legislature considers legalizing gay marriage, a majority of voters in the state support such a move. 50% are in favor of 'allow(ing) gay and lesbian couples to marry legally' compared to 41% in opposition and 9% who don't have an opinion.

Rhode Island is another state where this breaks down very much as a generational issue. Only senior citizens, by a 48/39 margin, are opposed to legalizing same sex marriage. Young voters (under 30) support it 62/31, and middle aged voters (31 to 65) favor it by a 51/42 spread. It's not going to be too long before the simple aging of the US population produces a lasting pro-gay marriage majority. The people who are opposed to it are gradually dying out and being replaced in the electorate by voters who are perfectly comfortable with it.

Unsurprisingly Democrats are strongly in favor of legalization, by a 65/27 margin, while Republicans oppose it by a 73/12 spread. Independents are by far the largest voter bloc in Rhode Island and they favor it by a 47/45 margin.

If Rhode Island legislators want to stay on the right side of public opinion they'll pass the bill.

Full results here

Monday, February 21, 2011

Where should we poll this coming weekend?

We're going to have our Rhode Island and North Carolina polls out starting Wednesday of this week.

We're now taking suggestions on where we should poll next weekend. We've been saying that we don't want to poll any states we've already polled a second time until we've done a survey in every state that has a potentially competitive 2012 Senate/President race but we're kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel now, so willing to start repolling things we haven't looked at in the last couple months. We'll still put states we haven't polled yet in the mix and if that's what people vote for we're happy to do them.

Taking suggestions for the next 24 hours and we'll pick finalists and start voting tomorrow.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Only Romney seen as presidential material

Part of the reason all of the GOP's leading contenders to face Barack Obama next year currently trail him is that voters see them more as running mates than as presidents.

Yesterday's release showed that Obama is vulnerable to an empty-vessel generic Republican and even trails a specifically moderate Republican by two points while only leading a Tea Partier by four. Yet in that same poll, the closest any of the flesh-and-blood, well-known Republicans tested against the president could get was Mike Huckabee's three-point deficit, narrowly ahead of Mitt Romney's five-point gulf. Newt Gingrich and Tea Party hero Sarah Palin were way behind (by nine and 14 points, respectively).

A clue to this discrepancy is not only that all but Huckabee have negative favorability ratings.

Another is that when asked whether they view these candidates as more suited to be Commander in Chief or Numero Dos, voters see only Romney as more presidential than vice-presidential material (30-20). And even then, half of voters aren't sure.

For Huckabee, that is 22-27, with 51% unsure. For Gingrich, 16-27 (57% unsure). And for Palin, last election's GOP VP nominee, the divide is 16-32 (52% unsure).

Tuesday's release showed that among even Republicans, only Romney and Huckabee are viewed as more fit for the Oval Office than for a warm bucket of spit. If you can't convince your own base that you're ready for the task, you'll be hard-pressed to not only get the nomination but convince swing voters that you are.

Since Palin turns off Democrats more than anyone else except maybe George W. Bush, you'd think they were the ones driving sentiment against her. But interestingly, while Palin does unsurprisingly worst overall, Democrats actually give her better marks (7-16) than they do for Huckabee (8-21) or Gingrich (4-18). Romney nearly breaks even across the aisle, 13-16.

Rather, it's independents who most strongly slot Palin at the bottom of the ticket, 13-34. Palin also turns off independents far more than the others do. By contrast, unaffiliated voters break almost 2:1 (37-19) for Romney's White House ambitions and respective 21-32 and 15-28 against Huckabee's and Gingrich's.

And lest anyone suggest sexism, women are even more fine than men with keeping the glass ceiling in place for Palin, saying by a 12-30 margin that she's better off for the job McCain picked her for; that compares to men's 20-33. Those are the worst marks of anyone with the female gender. They say Romney is fit for president by four points, and they give Huckabee only a -3 and Gingrich a -13. Romney is also the only one with positive marks from men (35-18), versus 24-30 for Huckabee and 19-29 for Gingrich.

It's pretty safe to say that whoever wins the nomination, even Romney, is going to have to do a better job when taking on an incumbent president of more definitively staking out an image that suggests to voters that he or she belongs at the Resolute Desk in front of those yellow curtains. The hard thing for these frontrunners is that they're all already so well-known that it'll be harder for them to change their image than it will be for a newcomer to arrive on the scene and claim the "presidential" mantle.

Full results here.

Obama ties Palin but trails everyone else in Tennessee

Tennessee was a rare state where Barack Obama performed worse in 2008 than John Kerry did in 2004, albeit by less than one point on the margin. But the state now joins red-turned-blue neighbors North Carolina and Virginia as states where Obama has actually improved since the last election. While he lost to John McCain by 15 points last time, he now trails next year's crop of Republican frontrunners by no more than 12.

Neighboring Arkansas' Mike Huckabee typically does best against the president in Southern states, and he comes closest to matching McCain's margin of victory here, 53-41. The other candidate who usually runs closest to Obama, Mitt Romney, beats him here, 48-41. But neighboring Georgia's Newt Gingrich can manage only a 46-43 lead, and Sarah Palin actually ties the president at 45%.

President Obama's 42-52 approval rating puts his standing here near the bottom third of the 42 states in which PPP has measured him in the last year. But except Huckabee, none of the Republicans is seen a whole lot better. The former Arkansas governor has a pretty outstanding 50-29 favorability margin because he's liked the best by Democrats (-28), independents (+27), and Republicans (+65) alike. All the others are seen negatively by independents. Indeed, among all voters, Romney stands at 33-41, Palin at 39-51, and for once, Gingrich bringing up the rear instead of Palin, 30-49.

Not surprisingly then, Huckabee is the only candidate who soundly beats the president with independents, 51-40, similar to the president's 41-50 disapproval mark with them. Romney manages an inconsequential 43-42 lead, but against Gingrich, Obama wins unaffiliated voters' support, 43-35, and he prevails 49-38 against Palin.

The secret to these candidates maintaining at least a tie against the president is that all four of them capitalize on the 43-37 Republican turnout advantage by pulling more Democratic voters from Obama than he does Republicans from them. Palin and Gingrich only barely do so, hence their razor-thin horserace results. But Huckabee takes 13% and Romney 12% of Obama's partisans while each losing only 4% the other way. This is not an unusual trend for Southern states, where many Democrats are still registered as such but vote Republican for president and, increasingly, other races as well.

Also, while a good chunk of Republicans are on the fence about whether to support Palin, Romney, or Gingrich, Huckabee locks up 90% of the GOP versus the others' 80-84%. Obama himself maintains 83-88% of Democrats' votes, and few Democrats are undecided.

Tennessee adds another state to the list that could turn interesting if Sarah Palin wins the nomination, but otherwise, or even if she is crowned next summer, the state ought to remain red.

Full results here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No more Bushes

There's been a lot of talk in the last few weeks pushing Jeb Bush as a candidate in 2012 but there's just one problem: a plurality of Americans say they would definitely not vote for another Bush for President in the future.

44% of voters in the country say there's no way they'd support another Bush Presidency. Only 14% say they'd definitely favor one, and 39% say they'd consider it. The Republican base is decently open to the idea of another Bush- only 10% distinctly rule out the possibility. But a majority of Democrats at 73% and most notably a majority of independents at 50% shut the door to another President Bush. Perhaps those feelings will change in the coming years but it's unlikely they'd shift enough by next November to allow Jeb to win an election that soon.

Interestingly though asked who they'd vote for if George W. Bush was allowed to run against Barack Obama for a third term next year, voters only go for Obama by a 48-44 margin. One thing that number shows is a softening of feelings toward the former President. His favorability is now a 41/49 spread, and he's back up to 81% of Republicans with a favorable opinion of him. His approval numbers with them were much lower than that in the closing years of his term but these figures suggest that all is forgiven, at least with the base.

The other thing they show though is the remarkable weakness at this point of the 2012 Republican field. Only Mike Huckabee, who trails by 3, does better in a match up against Obama than George W. Bush. Mitt Romney who trails by 5, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul who trail by 9, Sarah Palin who trails by 12, and Donald Trump who trails by 14 all do worse than that. Not a good sign when most of your leading lights fare worse than a former President who left office with atrocious poll numbers.

Full results here

Corker could have Tea Party trouble

If Tea Partiers decide to make Bob Corker a target next year he's vulnerable to it. 43% of Republican primary voters in the state say they'd prefer to nominate a more conservative alternative to Corker next year, compared to just 38% who say they'd rather put Corker forth again.

It's not that Republican voters are particularly negative toward Corker. He has a a 60/19 approval spread with them and 55% think he's ideologically 'about right' compared to just 23% who think he's 'too liberal.' But a plurality of them would like to replace him with someone further to the right anyway.

Taking down Corker is not something just anyone is going to be able to do though. Country singer Hank Williams Jr. has made noises about challenging him, but trails Corker 66-13 in a hypothetical match up. A more traditional name we tested- Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn- does a lot better but still trails Corker 50-30.

Those leads against a pair of hypothetical opponents shouldn't leave Corker feeling too reassured though. That 60% approval rating with the Republican base is less than the 77% approval Lisa Murkowski had with them in January 2010 and the 69% Mike Castle had with them in March of 2010. Those better numbers didn't keep the two of them from being primaried and Corker could be too- but only if a strong candidate decides to do it and has meaningful financial and institutional support. If folks like the Club for Growth or Tea Party Express decided to sit this one out Corker might be ok.

When it comes to the Republican Presidential field in the state, Mike Huckabee holds a wide lead with 31% to 17% for Sarah Palin, 11% for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, 10% for Ron Paul, 3% for Mitch Daniels, and 1% for Tim Pawlenty. We wondered when we started doing these 2012 GOP Presidential polls if Gingrich's potential presence in the race would really hurt Huckabee's strength in the South but that does not seem to be the case. Polls we've conducted over the last three months have now found Huckabee at the top in North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Missouri, Virginia, and now Tennessee.

These numbers are also another data point showing that Romney's strategy for winning the nomination night have to hinge on racking up delegates in the West and Northeast. His favorability rating in Tennessee is only 47%, putting him way behind Huckabee's 74%, Palin's 67%, and even Gingrich's 52%. He has hovered right around the 10% mark in a lot of our Southern state polls and just does not seem likely to fare very well in the region next year.

Full results here

Obama vulnerable...

Despite his recent popularity spike there should be no mistaking it- Barack Obama is vulnerable for reelection. The problem for the GOP is that he's a lot more vulnerable against generic Republicans than the actual Republicans looking at the race. Nevertheless there's plenty of time for a lesser known GOP contender to rise from the back of the field and prove to be a strong contender, or maybe even for one of the current front runners to have an image makeover that makes them more viable in a general election.

Republican chances of taking down Obama are going to depend a lot on the type of candidate the party puts forward. Tested against a generic Republican we find Obama tied at 47%. When you ask about a couple more specific types of GOP candidates though the numbers move in different directions. Against a generic moderate Republican candidate Obama actually trails by 2 points at 46-44. But when you ask voters whether they'd go for Obama or a Tea Party conservative Republican he leads by 4 points at 49-45.

There's a particularly large difference in how independents lean depending on the type of nominee the GOP ends up going with- they prefer a moderate Republican over Obama by 7 points, but they prefer Obama over a Tea Party style GOPer by 5 points. There's no doubt Republican chances of defeating Obama will be best with a centrist. Whether the party base is really going to be willing to sacrifice some ideological purity to get that candidate is another question.

He may be tied with a generic Republican but Obama leads against all of the named candidates in this poll. He has a 3 point advantage over Mike Huckabee at 47-44, a 5 point one over Mitt Romney at 46-41, a 9 point one over Newt Gingrich at 49-40, a 9 point one also over Ron Paul at 48-39, a 12 point one over Sarah Palin at 52-40, a 14 point one over Jeb Bush at 50-36, and a 14 point one over Donald Trump at 48-34.

Obama does better against the real Republicans than the generic ones for a very simple reason: with the exception of Huckabee voters just don't like any of those folks. Huckabee does have a positive favorability rating, at 36/30. The rest are all in negative territory: Jeb Bush's net favorability is -8 (29/37), Mitt Romney's is -9 (33/42), Ron Paul's is -21 (24/45), Sarah Palin's is -22 (34/56), Newt Gingrich's is -25 (27/52), and Donald Trump's is -29 (27/56).

Trump is pretty strongly disliked across the political spectrum. 61% of Democrats, 53% of Republicans, and 52% of independents have a negative opinion of him. At least you can say he's a unifier.

The big takeaway from this poll: Obama is certainly still vulnerable but whether the GOP's going to be able to take advantage of that vulnerability is an open question. And the Republican base might be its own worst enemy when it comes to whether it's willing to nominate the kind of candidate who can win in November.

Full results here

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Colorado Republican Numbers

Mitt Romney's shown strength among Republican primary voters in the West in most of our recent polling throughout the region and Colorado's no exception. He leads the GOP field there with 19% to 16% for Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, 12% for Newt Gingrich, 9% for Ron Paul, 7% for Tim Pawlenty, 4% for John Thune, and 3% for Mitch Daniels. Romney's lead in Colorado adds to first place finishes we've found for him in Arizona, California, and Nevada since the beginning of the year. Only in New Mexico have we found Romney out of first place in a western state.

Romney manages leads, albeit narrow ones, with both conservative and moderate voters in Colorado. Among conservatives he gets 18% with Palin right behind at 17%, Huckabee at 15%, Gingrich at 13%, and Paul with a rare performance hitting double digits at 10%. With moderates Romney has 22% to Huckabee's 20%, and 10% for Palin and Gingrich.

In some states where Romney leads he doesn't have the highest favorability of the Republican candidates but is first anyway because he's seen as more Presidential than some of the other folks who are better liked. But that's not the case in Colorado- he's first for the nomination choice and first in popularity. 60% of primary voters have a favorable opinion of him with Palin and Huckabee at 59% and Gingrich at 54% coming in further behind.

Full results here

Corker looks good, except against Bredesen

Democrats could pick up a Senate seat in Tennessee next year...but it would require the biggest recruiting coup of the cycle. Recently retired Governor Phil Bredesen leads Bob Corker 46-41 in a hypothetical contest. If Bredesen isn't in the mix Corker is in pretty good shape, leading the other five Democrats tested against him by margins ranging anywhere from 15 to 23 points.

Corker's popularity is pretty average for a US Senator, with 42% of voters approving of the job he's doing to 36% who disapprove. His numbers break down much as you would expect- 62% of Republicans give him good marks and an almost equal number of Democrats at 57% think he's doing poorly. Independents are split nearly even with 43% rating Corker positively to 41% with a negative opinion. In a state that's trended increasingly red over the last few years average popularity is probably going to get you reelected as a Republican incumbent.

That is, unless you have to run against a politician with transcendent popularity- and that description applies to Bredesen. His overall favorability is certainly impressive, with 63% of voters holding a positive opinion of him to only 19% with a negative one. But what's more impressive is how the numbers break down along party lines- 71% of Democrats, 61% of independents, and 57% of Republicans like Bredesen. Politicians with that kind of universal appeal across the aisle are few and far between these days. As a result Bredesen gets 83% of the Democratic vote while Corker can only keep 73% of Republicans in line, and Bredesen leads by nine points with independents. That gives him his overall five point lead.

When you get beyond Bredesen Democratic hopes don't look as good. The next closest to Corker is admittedly pie in the sky as a potential candidate Al Gore, who trails by a 53-38 margin. It's safe to say feelings toward Gore on the home front haven't thawed since he lost the state in the 2000 Presidential race- only 40% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 51% with a negative one.

Another Democrat who has fallen far out of favor with Tennessee voters is Harold Ford Jr. He came quite close to winning this seat in 2006 but has firmly established himself as a New Yorker now and would trail Corker by 23 points in a rematch at 55-32. Ford's favorability is now down all the way to 26%, while 42% of voters say they see him in a negative light.

The other folks we tested are Congressman Jim Cooper who trails 50-32, country singer Tim McGraw who trails 50-28, and former Congressman Bart Gordon who trails 52-29. McGraw is a Democrat and has said he might be interested in running for office in the future. He is quite popular in the state with 38% of voters expressing positive feelings toward him to only 16% who rate him negatively. Democrats, Republicans, and independents all give him good marks. But he would have some work to do to establish himself as a credible political figure. Cooper (53% of voters with no opinion) and Gordon (58% with no opinion) are both largely unknown at this point.

Corker's not in huge peril by any means but this one at least has the potential to be interesting, and it would certainly be if Bredesen got into the field.

Full results here

Rhode Island and North Carolina Question Suggestions

Rhode Island received the most votes from distinct individuals in our 'vote on where to poll' this week so that's where we'll go this time around along with North Carolina.

For Rhode Island: who should we test against Sheldon Whitehouse besides Don Carcieri and what questions should we ask besides the races for President and Senate?

And we're appreciative of good North Carolina question suggestions as well. We're going to finalize these polls tomorrow afternoon so any ideas you can give us in the next 24 hours will be in the mix and much appreciated.

Romney and the Birthers

Birtherism is alive and well within the GOP ranks, and their 2012 nominee preferences tell a story about the difficulty Mitt Romney faces in trying to appeal to an electorate that's a whole lot further out there than he is.

Birthers make a majority among those voters who say they're likely to participate in a Republican primary next year. 51% say they don't think Barack Obama was born in the United States to just 28% who firmly believe that he was and 21% who are unsure. The GOP birther majority is a new development. The last time PPP tested this question nationally, in August of 2009, only 44% of Republicans said they thought Obama was born outside the country while 36% said that he definitely was born in the United States. If anything birtherism is on the rise.

How does this impact Romney? Well among the 49% of GOP primary voters who either think Obama was born in the United States or aren't sure, Romney's the first choice to be the 2012 nominee by a good amount, getting 23% to 16% for Mike Huckabee, 11% for Sarah Palin, and 10% for Newt Gingrich. But with the birther majority he's in a distant fourth place at 11%, with Mike Huckabee at 24%, Sarah Palin at 19%, and Newt Gingrich at 14% all ahead of him. That pushes him into a second place finish overall at 17% with Mike Huckabee again leading the way this month at 20%. Palin's third with 15%, followed by Gingrich at 12%, Ron Paul at 8%, Mitch Daniels and Tim Pawlenty at 4%, and John Thune at 1%.

There is really a remarkable divide in how the birther and non-birther wings of the GOP view Sarah Palin. With the birthers she is a beloved figure, scoring an 83/12 favorability rating. Non-birthers are almost evenly divided on her with 47% rating her positively and 40% unfavorably.

This is yet another poll where we find Palin with the highest favorability among Republican primary voters but still lagging in the horse race. 65% have a positive opinion of her compared to 58% for Huckabee and 55% for Romney and Gingrich. Her problem is that even though they like her, few GOP voters think Palin's qualified to be President. Asked whether she's more qualified to be President or Vice President, only 29% of voters place her in the top spot compared to 46% who say she'd be a more appropriate number 2.

On the President/Vice President qualification question only Romney reaches a majority on the qualified to be President card with 50% saying he's most equipped for that position to 24% who think he'd make a better Vice President. Huckabee has 44% who think he's suited to be President to 28% who think he'd fit more in the VP slot, and Gingrich has 27% who consider him more Presidential to 37% that think he's more Vice Presidential.

It's a clear sign of weakness for the GOP field that only one of its leading potential candidates is considered to be Presidential material even by a majority of the party base.

Full results here

Monday, February 14, 2011

Johnson weak with NM Republicans

You can add Gary Johnson to the list of Republicans looking at the Presidential race who would have a pretty difficult time even winning a primary in their home state. Just 13% of New Mexico Republicans say Johnson would be their first choice, putting him behind Sarah Palin at 20%, Mike Huckabee at 17%, and Mitt Romney at 16%. Tying Johnson with 13% is Newt Gingrich and after that it's 6% for Tim Pawlenty, 4% for Ron Paul, and 3% for Mitch Daniels.

We found on this poll that Johnson was unusually popular for a Republican with Democrats...but the other edge of that sword is that he's lacking in popularity for a Republican with Republicans, and that's why he does poorly here. Only 46% of GOP primary voters have a favorable opinion of him, placing him well behind Palin's 69%, Huckabee's 67%, Romney's 56%, and Gingrich's 53%.

If you take Johnson out of the mix Palin holds her small lead in the state with 22%, followed by Huckabee at 18%, Romney at 16%, and Gingrich at 15%. A CNN poll last week found Republican voters say they're more concerned with electability than ideological purity but when you see Palin leading the GOP field in a state like New Mexico, where she trails by 29 points in the general election, you wonder if that's actually true or not.

Johnson's not the choice of Republican voters when it comes to who they want to take on Jeff Bingaman in next year's Senate race either. 35% say their first pick would be Heather Wilson, followed by 27% for Johnson, 17% for Steve Pearce, 6% for Matt Chandler and Dianna Duran, and 4% for John Sanchez.

It's interesting to see Wilson with twice the support of Pearce on this front after he defeated her in the 2008 Senate primary but I guess it's a recognition that his candidacy was a disaster and Republicans don't really want to give him another chance statewide. And the numbers confirm that even if Johnson would be the strongest general election Republican candidate for the Senate next year, he wouldn't be able to make it through a primary anyway.

Full results here

Republican Poll Preview

We're going to have our newest national Republican President poll out in full tomorrow but here are some of the highlights:

-Want to know just how unrepresentative of the GOP base CPAC straw poll voters are? Among actual Republican primary voters only 30% have a favorable opinion of Ron Paul to 37% who view him in a negative light. Outside of his passionate but small following most Republicans actually dislike Paul (and I imagine wish he would go away.)

-Donald Trump for President? Well he'll have to overcome the fact that a majority of Republicans dislike him. Only 29% rate Trump favorably to 56% who have a negative opinion. Trump certainly has name recognition- 85% with an opinion of him is greater than the 81% for Newt Gingrich, 80% for Mitt Romney, and 73% for Mike Huckabee and trails behind only Palin's 90%. But his name recognition is a curse- it's not as if Trump's poll numbers could rise as voters get to know him better- they already know him and dislike him.

-We've written a lot about how Republicans love Sarah Palin but she does poorly in Presidential preference polls because even if folks like her they don't exactly think she's White House material. We asked GOP primary voters on this poll whether they thought Palin was more qualified to be President or Vice President- only 29% said she was most qualified for the Chief Executive job while 46% said she was more suited to be #2. I doubt she's going to run but if she does that sort of mentality within her own party base is going to be difficult to overcome.

We'll have a little more from the poll later this afternoon, and the full thing will be out tomorrow.

Friday, February 11, 2011

This week's finalists...

We have our monthly national poll in the field this weekend as well as one for Tennessee that we'll have out next week. Time to vote for where we'll go next weekend and your choices are:

-Connecticut. I think this one is about to set a record for consecutive times being included as one of the choices without ever winning but certainly with the open seat situation we'll be interested in taking a look there eventually.

-Hawaii. As I said last week I don't think Linda Lingle left office all that popular so I don't think she'd be a particularly great threat to Daniel Akaka but we're more than happy to take a look at it if you want us to.

-Maine. I've been holding off on giving this as an option while waiting to see if even a 'medium' name would challenge Olympia Snowe from the right- I don't know that there's really the possibility of a 'big name-' but with today's announcement I think we probably have whoever we're going to have at this point so we can at least get a measure of where it starts out. My guess is that Snowe's ahead of named challengers at this point because they're so obscure but that hardly means she's out of the water.

-New Hampshire. One of the closer Presidential states we haven't taken a look at yet and I guess we can tell you for the forty millionth time that Mitt Romney's in the 30s and no one else is out of the 10s for the Republican primary, although I guess if we finally found a story different than that it would be noteworthy.

-Rhode Island. There's really only one thing interesting here and that's to see if Don Carcieri would be competitive with Sheldon Whitehouse. I'm guessing nyet.

-Washington. As we've said before, if we poll this one, we're only going to do President and Senate. I think Maria Cantwell is probably the most potentially vulnerable of the Democratic Senators we haven't polled on yet but that's mostly just because we have polled on almost all of them already. Hard to imagine that if Patty Murray survived 2010 that Maria Cantwell wouldn't survive 2012.

Voting is open until Monday night. As always, don't stuff the ballot box. If the candidate field really starts to become clear in Virginia and/or Arizona over the next couple weeks we'll consider going ahead and polling one of those places but otherwise I think we're going to wait until March before polling any state for the second time.

Obama in the swing states

In 2008 Barack Obama won nine states and one electoral vote giving Congressional district that had gone to George W. Bush in 2004. We've now polled every single one of those over the last three months except for Indiana, where we can't do one because of restrictions on automated polling in the state. Across 36 horse race match ups against Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, Iowa, Nevada, and Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District Obama is 36 for 36. If he stood for reelection today against one of the current Republican front runners Obama would almost certainly win the same number of electoral votes he did in 2008, if not more.

Here's how our polls in those eight states and a Congressional district have broken down:

Obama v.

2008 Vote



































New Mexico






North Carolina


















And some observations:

-Obama won these nine places by an average of seven points in 2008. Only Romney improves on that, trailing by an average of six points in them. Huckabee is down by an average of eight, Gingrich by 12, and Palin by 16. Gingrich does worse than McCain did in 8 of 9 places, improving only in Nevada. Huckabee does worse than McCain did in 4 of the states, better than McCain did in 4 of the states, and the same as McCain did in one of them. Palin does worse than McCain did in every single one of them. Romney does better than McCain did in 6 and worse in 3- North Carolina, Nebraska's 2nd District, and New Mexico.

-The states where Obama's average lead is the lowest- and thus perhaps the ones Republicans will win back first- are Ohio where he leads by an average of 4, North Carolina where he leads by an average of 6, and Florida where he leads by an average of 7. There are four where he has an average double digit lead and thus seem like they would be the hardest for the GOP to get back. Those are Iowa where he leads by an average of 10, Colorado where he's up an average of 12, NE-2 where he's up an average of 16 (although Republicans may get that electoral vote back in another way), and New Mexico where he's up an average of 21. Virginia where he leads by an average of 8 and Nevada where the average advantage is 9 fall in the middle.

Republicans need two things to happen over the next 20 months if they're going to beat Obama and time is one thing they have on their side- they need a much stronger candidate to emerge, whether it's someone outside this top 4 or someone inside this top 4 successfully remaking their image, and they need Obama's numbers to get back in negative territory and probably by a good amount- somewhere south of 45%.

New Mexico Politician Report Card

-Bill Richardson's career in electoral politics is probably over. Looking back on his eight years as Governor only 34% of voters think he did a good job while 55% express disapproval. Perhaps most striking is that not even half of Democrats- 48%- feel that he was a success as Governor. That at least compares well to the share of independents (30%) and Republicans (9%) who give the Richardson administration good marks.

Voters in the state at this point don't seem particularly inclined to give Richardson a second chance in some future for run for office- maybe the Senate- either. 50% say there's no way they'd vote for him for anything ever again. Only 13% say they'd definitely vote for him and another 35% say just that they'd consider it, hardly a vote of confidence. His best hope for seeking office in the future is that time heals all wounds.

-Susana Martinez, on the other hand, begins her time as Governor with outstanding poll numbers. 53% approve of the job she's done so far to only 29% who disapprove. The most impressive thing for her is that she breaks nearly even among Democrats, with 38% of them approving and 40% disapproving of her so far. It's normal for new Governors to have a honeymoon in the court of public opinion but we're not seeing a lot of other folks who've taken office in the last month doing quite that well across party lines.

Beyond her relatively strong standing with Democrats Martinez has 83% approval from Republicans and although many independents are taking a wait and see approach and don't express an opinion about Martinez either way yet, those who do rate her favorably by a 46/19 margin. She's off to a great start.

-Our numbers earlier this week showed that Jeff Bingaman was popular and would likely win another term easily if he wanted it, and his junior colleague Tom Udall is quite popular as well with 56% of voters approving of his job performance to 31% who disapprove. New Mexico definitely has one of the most popular Senate delegations in the country. Udall doesn't have much appeal to Republicans but he's very strong with the Democratic base and has great numbers with independents at a 53/24 approval.

New Mexico really likes its Governor and both of its Senators right now. There are few states where that's the case.

Full results here

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Colorado Politician Report Card

-Michael Bennet appears to have have received a post reelection approval bounce. For the first time in more than two years PPP finds him with positive numbers at 42% of voters happy with the job he's doing to 40% who dissent. The weekend before he was reelected we found Bennet at a 39/47 approval spread so he's seen a good deal of improvement since then. The main reason for Bennet's enhanced standing is how independents feel about him, giving him a 44/34 approval.

-You might wonder though if Bennet was so unpopular in late October how he managed to get reelected. One question we asked on this poll gives a clue to the answer of that question- 45% of Colorado voters think Buck was too conservative, compared to just 38% who characterize his ideology as 'about right.' At the end of the day Buck's perceived extremism ended up outweighing Bennet's lack of popularity with the folks who turned out to vote last fall.

-John Hickenlooper's off to a good start as Governor with 52% of voters approving of him to only 23% who disapprove, with 24% unsurprisingly expressing no opinion given how new he is to office. Most striking in Hickenlooper's numbers is his 52% approval with independents compared to just 14% of them who disapprove of him. He's not terribly popular with Republicans but his 22% approval with them at least exceeds what Bennet or Mark Udall can claim.

-Speaking of Udall, despite Bennet's recent bump the state's senior Senator still remains its most popular Senator. 45% of voters approve of Udall's job performance to 35% who disapprove. As is usually the case these days Democrats pretty universally like him and Republicans pretty universally don't. Tipping the balance in his favor is a 41/29 spread with independents.

-Perhaps the most mentioned person on the Republican side as a future challenger to Udall or Hickenlooper is Attorney General John Suthers. For now he is not terribly well known to the state's voters. 54% say they have no opinion about him and those who do are split pretty evenly with 22% rating him favorably and 24% saying they have an unfavorable opinion of him. He may prove to be formidable candidate for higher office some day but for most voters in the state the time when he makes that bid will be their first real exposure to him.

-Ken Salazar is avoiding the Obama cabinet curse that has Janet Napolitano's numbers in the tank in neighboring Arizona. He remains popular on the home front with 47% of voters expressing a favorable opinion of him to 37% with a negative one.

Full results here
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