Monday, March 31, 2008

Where has the Perdue lead gone?

Bev Perdue led Richard Moore by 27 points four weeks ago. Now she leads by just one. Why?

1) The biggest single reason is that her support was not that solid to begin with. But neither is Moore's. Our poll last week showed that 51% of her supporters and 46% of his supporters could change their minds between now and the election. Neither candidate has a particularly strong base of passionate supporters like you might see in the Presidential race, and that means just about anything could happen between now and May 6th depending on who runs the stronger campaign, which leads to #2...

2) Over the last month the Moore campaign has done a better job than the Perdue campaign (just as the Perdue camp did a much better job in January and February.) Moore relaunched his efforts with positive ads focused on populist issues, then effectively attacked Perdue on that same set of things. The Perdue campaign has responded, but the message has not been as strong or as well presented as Moore's.

The bottom line? This is reminding me of the UNC basketball game Saturday night. In the first half UNC built up a solid lead. In the first ten minutes of the second half Louisville came out and played phenomenally, UNC couldn't match it, and the entire lead it had taken the Heels 20 minutes to build up was erased in 10 minutes.

The Governor's race, like the basketball game, is back at square one with the last quarter to go and the campaign that works the smartest and has the most heart is going to pull it out. And since neither outfit has Tyler Hansbrough to step it up, it is wide open.

Republican Universe Change

I heard from several Republican operatives over the last week that they didn't think 2006 general election voters were the right extension of our universe on their side but that adding in 2000 and 2002 primary voters in addition to those from 2004 and 2006 would be a good change.

So that's who we called for tomorrow's Republican poll.

Democratic Tracking Poll: Everything Else

US Senate:

Kay Hagan 19
Jim Neal 11
Marcus Williams 6
Duskin Lassiter 4
Howard Staley 2

Our polling in this race has been remarkably consistent. There is not likely to be much movement until the candidates start really spending their money.


Janet Cowell 15
David Young 13
Michael Weisel 7

This is another one that has shown the same basic picture since we started polling it last fall. Cowell does well in the Triangle, Young does well in the Mountains, everything else is pretty much a wash.


June Atkinson 30
Eddie Davis 17

This race is actually getting a little closer. Davis has run a pretty active campaign and is now leading among black voters.


Beth Wood 24
Fred Aikens 17

Insurance Commissioner:

Wayne Goodwin 18
David Smith 16

Labor Commissioner:

John Brooks 11
Mary Fant Donnan 11
Ty Richardson 10
Robin Anderson 9

Full results here.

Democratic Tracking Poll: Governor

Bev Perdue 38 Richard Moore 37 Dennis Nielsen 6

Richard Moore's tv ads of late have been much more effective than Bev Perdue's, and that's fueled a rise that has now pretty much wiped out her once significant lead.

67% of those surveyed said they had seen ads for both Moore and Perdue in the last week, and within that group Moore has a 45-39 advantage. Perdue is hanging on to the lead by leading 28-16 with respondents who hadn't seen any ads. She is also doing better (65-13) than Moore (48-26) among those polled who had only seen ads for one of the candidates.

Interestingly Dennis Nielsen's 6% standing is his best of the election cycle so far and possibly an indication that some voters disappointed in the negative ads that have cropped up over the last few weeks are saying no to both Moore and Perdue.

Perdue's support among black voters has dropped to 39-34 after being in double digits for most of the campaign, and Moore has taken a 41-36 lead with white voters.

This should be quite a contest for the final five weeks.

Full results here

Democratic Tracking Poll: President

Barack Obama 54
Hillary Clinton 36

Obama has retained a large lead in the state after a week in which both candidates made several appearances.

His greatest strength is coming from voters who have a history of voting in general elections but not in primaries. With that group he has a 60-32 advantage. Bringing more folks into the political process has been one of the central successes of the Obama campaign, and it appears he's doing that in North Carolina.

Among voters who have a history of voting in primaries the race is much closer, with Obama sporting a 49-40 lead.

Obama now leads in every part of the state except the Mountains, which has very few black voters. He has an advantage across every age group, and is up by double digits with both men and women. He is also doing respectable with the white vote, where he has 36%, and has his customary large lead with black voters (81-11).

Full results here.

New North Carolina Poll

The American Research Group says Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton 51-38 in North Carolina.

That's the third poll showing Obama with a double digit lead in the state in the last week.

We'll be out with our newest numbers in a few hours.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Perdue and the Black Vote

As Richard Moore has moved closer to Bev Perdue in the polls over the last month one of the key areas where he has cut down on her support is with black voters. In our first March poll, Perdue had a 58-16 lead with that group. Now it's just 46-25.

Perhaps more troublesome for Perdue, Moore's black supporters are more committed to him than Perdue's are. 64% say they will definitely vote for him in the primary. For Perdue the figure is just 58%.

We've seen more movement among black voters to Moore's column in our polling so far this weekend. That may help explain it.

Tracking Poll this week

For this coming week's tracking poll we are doing our monthly survey of all the statewide races in North Carolina. I know you've all been waiting to see how many undecideds there are in that four candidate race for the Democratic Labor Commissioner nomination.

We are going to try to work toward a pretty regular schedule of releasing the Democratic numbers every week on Monday and the Republican numbers every week on Tuesday, although there will probably be some times now and then that it's different.

We like doing weekend polling. It gives us a chance to call everyone on our list several times to try to get as representative a sample as possible. And more people are at home too.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Obama and white men pt. 2

As I wrote about a couple weeks ago, white men could be the demographic that determines whether Barack Obama can deliver a crushing blow to Hillary Clinton in North Carolina. With black voters almost universally supporting Obama and white women nearly always going for Clinton, white men are the swing voters. Our poll earlier this week gave him some pretty good news on that front.

Obama currently leads Clinton 47-43 among white men in the state. He's going to earn a double digit victory in just about any state where he keeps it close with that group, and he's going to win big time when he's leading it.

It'll be interesting to see if he can hold onto that edge after an aggressive week of campaigning by the Clintons in the state.


I don't personally care whether Bev Perdue agrees to do debates or not. For any race other than President they don't do much good for anyone but the chattering classes, and it's unlikely that any meaningful number of people would watch them and use them as a barometer for deciding who to vote for in the primary.

But I think it's time for her to just agree to do one traditional network television debate with two or three moderators and let it be run in every market in the state.

If the debate issue was going to go away I would understand the refusal to debate. But this is getting brought up over and over and over again in media coverage of the campaign. And it's not making her look good.

I think where it's going to be the biggest problem is when newspapers across the state start doing their endorsements. Those editorial boards aren't going to like a candidate who won't debate. Now I don't think newspaper endorsements count for much these days. But candidates still want to get them, and I imagine Perdue will be sorely punished for her reluctance to engage when those start coming out. Some of the statements made by papers in endorsements about this issue will doubtless appear in future Richard Moore campaign ads.

The damage being done by not debating is worse than anything that could be caused by a debate. Just agree to do one, sooner than later, and get this issue off the table.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New NC Poll

Our friends at Insider Advantage put out a new poll today showing Barack Obama leading Hillary Clinton 49-34 in North Carolina.

No time to analyze it right now but it's a sign that our poll showing major movement in his direction earlier this week wasn't totally crazy.

Check it out here.

Perdue's new ad

Bev Perdue has a new ad out, and I don't think it's very good.

It starts out with a clip of Richard Moore saying 'I want to be held accountable,' then lists some ostensibly bad things he has done, then wraps back up with the 'I want to be held accountable' clip. I'm not really sure what the point of using that clip in the ad is. Is it saying that the voters should hold Moore accountable by not giving him their votes for Governor? I'm not sure and if I'm not, I wonder what folks outside the bubble who aren't really following the race make of it. Running that clip twice takes up over a quarter of the precious time in a 30 second ad and doesn't accomplish much.

The main issue though is that the ad takes too long to really get to the point. It runs the clip, lists three bad things, runs the clip again, and then says at the very end 'Moore is for Wall Street, not for us.' That's the point of this ad but it doesn't get there until the very end. It would be more effective to start the ad with something along the lines of 'Richard Moore wants you to think he's a man of the people. But the only people he's been helping as state Treasurer are rich guys on Wall Street. And he's been doing it at the expense of normal North Carolinians.' I'm not an ad guy and that's too wordy but that's the gist of how the ad should start, then list the examples, then finish with the same punch line. They need to do a better job of drawing people in with the core message from the very beginning of the ad.

Just my two cents. Moore's last couple ads have been very good, and I think the Wall Street issue is a good one for Perdue to counter with but it isn't packaged effectively here.

Thank you crazy Hillary supporters

Thanks to an influx of visits from Hillary supporters who might be on the edge psychologically, the PPP blog shattered its single day record with 4,702 unique visitors on Tuesday.

You can see the nice gifts they left here.

I'm sure most Hillary supporters aren't like that. And I've heard from some pretty nutty Obama folks from time to time too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A great primer on North Carolina

Many folks from around the country have been coming to the blog for the first time with the increased interest in our Presidential primary here in North Carolina.

Matt Compton has written an outstanding and very thorough primer for the Democratic Strategist on everything you need to know about the primary in our state.

It's well worth a read.

Interesting Crosstab

I've written recently about how Richard Moore is running a campaign more focused on populist issues now, almost like John Edwards.

That got me to wondering how Moore performed in this week's poll among folks who said their Presidential vote would be positively influenced by an Edwards endorsement.

The answer is pretty darn well. Moore leads Bev Perdue 47-32 among respondents who said an Edwards endorsement of Hillary Clinton would make them more likely to vote for her. Perdue led 41-33 among folks who said they would be turned off by an Edwards endorsement and 44-23 with folks who said they didn't care.

That's a demographic Perdue might need to do some work with these last six weeks of the campaign.

Apology Accepted

At PPP we're used to candidates saying things we don't like about our polls. We're a little less used to them calling to say they're sorry.

That's why I so appreciated Bev Perdue calling on my cell phone this morning to apologize for the comment she made to News14 yesterday about one of our polls earlier this month.

I thought that was pretty classy. And if Richard Moore and Bob Orr want to call to apologize for the crappy stuff they said about us earlier this year too, I'll be happy to answer. But I'm not holding my breath.

Republican Tracking Poll: the Other Stuff

Greg Dority 13
Robert Pittenger 11
Jim Snyder 9
Timothy Cook 5

Most voters remain undecided. They're all doing well in their home base.

Elizabeth Dole maintains an 80-13 lead over Pete DiLauro.

Full results here.

Republican Tracking Poll: Governor

Pat McCrory 27
Fred Smith 24
Bill Graham 8
Bob Orr 7
Elbie Powers 1

Pat McCrory has regained the lead after falling into a tie last week. He has actually moved into first place in the Triangle on the heels of intense television advertising in the market over the last two weeks. This is the first time in the race McCrory has had the lead in a region outside of the reach of Charlotte tv stations.

Unaffiliated voters continue to be important to McCrory's success. While he leads Smith just 27-26 with registered Republicans, he has a 32-12 advantage with independents.

The poll also showed that 56% of likely voters said they could change their minds between now and the primary. Bob Orr has the weakest support of any candidate, with 82% of his supporters saying they could jump ship. Bill Graham has a similar problem with 67% of folks currently intending to vote for him saying they could choose someone else. Orr and Graham's weak support is likely a reflection of the fact that this has become a two person race between McCrory and Smith and folks whose first choice is Orr or Graham might defect if they want to have more of an impact on the outcome. Smaller numbers of people for Fred Smith (50%) and Pat McCrory (52%) also said they could change their minds.

Full results here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Taking the heat

We've gotten attacked all over the place today, which I think is just something any polling company has to deal with when candidates have supporters who are so passionate. Here are some of my favorites.

From the Politico blog comments:
PPP is Clintonite. If you go back and see their polling throughout the campaign, you will find them poling states in favor of the Clintons by a larg margine, which Obama ended up winning. PPP uses the trick that the undecided are more likely to go with whomever polls project as a sure winner.
Uh, I guess that's why we showed Obama up by more than any other polling company in the country in Wisconsin and South Carolina. I don't think the Clinton folks thought we were very 'Clintonite' then. (We were right on the races in those states, by the way.)

A poster named Libelian at Talking Points Memo who claims to be from Chapel Hill writes:
PPP is teh suck...For Ohio, SurveyUSA nailed it, and PPP was way off...PPP still has no traction this season. They haven't made a good call yet.
We said Clinton was going to win by nine in Ohio and she won by ten. I don't think it's PPP that's way off, I think it's this ignorant commenter. Do a second of research before you cast aspersions. And read this, this, this, and this.

We try to be a model of transparency for a pollster in explaining exactly who we're calling and how we're weighting for each poll. But the Clinton folks are coming and writing on our own blog that they think we changed our universe intentionally to help Barack Obama:
Well, could just keep changing your method untill he get 100% of the yes vote...
Maybe next time, you could poll only those people who say they will vote for Obama.
My favorite of the day though came from Democratic frontrunner Bev Perdue, who told News 14's Tim Boyum that after our poll came out earlier this month showing her up 27 she thought 'somebody must be smoking something.' I'm not sure whether she thinks I was smoking something or the voters who answered the poll were smoking something but either way I imagine that her making this kind of statement when she's off script is the reason for her limited press availability and reluctance to debate.

For the record though Bev, I don't drink or smoke, apparently unlike your children when they were teenagers :)

A note on today's poll

Just a reminder of what I posted last Friday:
One other note on our next poll- we are changing our universe from folks who voted in the 2004 or 2006 primaries to folks who voted in the 2004 primary, 2006 primary, or 2006 general. That's who we called for our very accurate Democratic polls in Wisconsin, Texas, and Ohio. Given that it's clear now we will have a high intensity primary in North Carolina as well it seems like the time is right to make that change here.
Some of Obama's rise from last week can probably be attributed to us calling more folks who do not have a history of voting in primaries- that seems to be a group he has done quite well with so far in this primary season.

Democratic Tracking Poll: the Other Stuff


Kay Hagan 19
Jim Neal 9
Marcus Williams 6
Duskin Lassiter 4
Howard Staley 2

Lieutenant Governor:

Walter Dalton 10
Pat Smathers 7
Dan Besse 7
Hampton Dellinger 6

Lots of undecideds in both of these races- there will be some movement when these folks start spending money.

Full results here.

Democratic Tracking Poll: Governor

Bev Perdue 41
Richard Moore 34
Dennis Nielsen 2

Three weeks ago PPP showed Perdue leading by 27 points. Last week it was down to 10. Now it's down to 7. How has he done it? You can read my analysis of that here.

Talking specifically about the poll, one interesting finding is that even among people who support Moore or Perdue, only 50% say they are sure they will vote for that candidate in the primary. The other half says they could change their mind. That means there are a lot of votes out there to be gotten in the next six weeks.

Moore's supporters are slightly more solid than Perdue's. 54% of his are sure they'll vote for him while 46% could change their mind, compared to 49% and 51% on the same measures for Perdue.

Perdue's lead among white voters is down to two points but she continues to do very well with black voters, among whom she has a 46-25 lead.

Full results here.

Democratic Tracking Poll: President

Barack Obama 55
Hillary Clinton 34

Barack Obama gave North Carolina its first taste of campaign fever last week with appearances in Charlotte and Fayetteville, and our newest poll shows that the voters appreciated it. This 21 point lead is the largest he has shown in any NC polling to date, and an indication that the Wright controversy isn't causing him any long term harm at least in this state.

Obama's largest gain came in the Triangle, where he now leads 65-26. He got lots of free media coverage in that tv market last week because of his major address on the war in Fayetteville.

The poll also showed that a possible John Edwards endorsement wouldn't do much for Hillary Clinton's prospects in the state. 31% of voters who are either undecided or support Obama said an Edwards endorsement would make them less likely to vote for Clinton, compared to just 12% who said it would make them more likely to support her. A majority of voters, 57%, said an Edwards endorsement would have no impact on them one way or the other.

It appears that while the possibility of an Edwards endorsements gives pundits a lot of fodder for discussion, it would be unlikely to make much of an impact on the race even in his home state.

Obama has made significant gains across every demographic category since PPP's last poll, leading in every age group, with both genders, and pulling within seven points of Clinton even with white voters.

Full results here

Monday, March 24, 2008

Richard Moore's one two punch

We're not done running this week's tracking poll yet but based on what I've seen so far it's pretty clear that after pulling within ten points of Bev Perdue last week, Richard Moore has drawn even closer this week. We'll release those numbers Tuesday or Wednesday.

How has Moore's campaign come back from the brink of death in just three weeks? He's remade himself into a populist and judging by the way the numbers are moving he's done a darn good job of it.

His first punch came when he hit the air with an ad touting his support for affordable college tuition, increases in the minimum wage, and keeping down property taxes. He made himself out as a fighter who would stand up for regular people on issues that affect their daily lives.

His second punch came a week later with the first negative ad of the campaign. Instead of focusing on the sort of ticky tack junk that defined the Moore attacks of 2007 he stayed on message with the populist theme, whacking Perdue for repeated votes in the legislature to raise tuition.

The result is poll numbers that are the best they've looked for Moore in months.

The Perdue campaign's main line of attack has been that Moore is the 'candidate from Wall Street.' That's a good one to counter balance Moore's attempts to make himself out as a man of the people. And it's one the Perdue campaign should probably get off of youtube and its attack blog and onto WRAL as soon as possible. There's plenty of time left before the primary but the recent trend in this race is likely to be making her supporters a little antsy.

North Carolina much more Democratic?

When weighting statewide general election polls PPP has usually been giving folks who identify themselves as Democrats about a nine point advantage over folks who identify themselves as Republicans.

According to the Pew Research Center though, we might be under weighting Democrats. Their research shows 39% of North Carolinians now describing themselves as Democrats compared to just 26% as Republicans.

In 2004 Democrats had just a four point advantage in their research, 39-35.

It may shock everyone who thinks that we are horribly biased toward the Democratic Party to know that most of our surveys come out with worse results for Democrats after we weight them than they have on the raw counts. That's because there's usually more than a 10% gap between Democrats and Republicans who answer the polls, and we've been randomly deleting Democratic responses to get down to that 9% difference.

Given this independent verification that a 13% divide is more in line with how North Carolinians are identifying themselves now though, I guess we don't need to do as much of that anymore.

Rasmussen General Election Polls

Rasmussen has new general election polls out for President and Governor in North Carolina:

In the Governor's race, Bev Perdue and Richard Moore both lead possible match ups with Pat McCrory and Fred Smith. Against McCrory Perdue has a 45-42 advantage and Moore has a 42-40 edge. Against Smith, Perdue leads 51-33 and Moore leads 45-34.

Just more confirmation that Pat McCrory is the only Republican who could possibly be elected Governor this year.

I was interested to see that in its press release Rasmussen made comparisons to its January poll but not to its February poll. As you may recall, Chris Hayes from Civitas and I both thought their February poll was bunk. Maybe they're subtly admitting it was too.

In the Presidential race they show John McCain leading Hillary Clinton 50-34 and Barack Obama 51-42. SurveyUSA and PPP have both shown the race in the state considerably closer than that.

This is the first poll I've seen that lends credibility to the argument that Clinton would do so badly in North Carolina that it would damage prospects for the rest of the ticket. The press release for the Presidential stuff is here.

Tracking poll: what I'll be watching

We should be conducting our weekly tracking poll today with a release either Tuesday and Wednesday or Wednesday and Thursday. Here's what I'll be watching:

-When we polled the Presidential race last week it was during the heart of the Jeremiah Wright controversy. It will be interesting to see if Barack Obama's speech on race and the passage of a week have allowed him to return to the larger lead he had before things started going wrong for him.

-Richard Moore has been running negative ads against Bev Perdue for five days now. That's probably not a long enough time for them to really make an impact but we'll see if he can reduce her lead to single digits for the first time in a PPP poll since December.

-Fred Smith had tied up Pat McCrory in last week's poll but McCrory's ads seem to be running in a much heavier rotation and there were signs in the survey last week that they were doing him some good even though Smith was rising faster. My guess is McCrory will be back in the lead by himself, although by an amount within the margin of error.

-Our polling of the Democratic Senate race has been remarkably consistent, with Kay Hagan always within a couple points of 20% and Jim Neal always within a couple points of 10%. I don't see any reason this week why that would have changed.

When the undecideds will decide`

People are always asking me when there's going to be some movement in the Treasurer's race, and the Lieutenant Governor's race, and everything else further on down the ballot. Right now most people are undecided in those races.

The answer is when the candidates start spending their money. And in a story in the Asheville Citizen-Times this weekend David Young probably answered the question for when all the down ballot candidates who have money to spend will likely start spending it: April 17th, around the time early voting starts.

Voters' attention spans are so limited that it's a prudent strategy to hold back and spend it all in the last two to three weeks.

What down ballot candidates have the funds to spend a lot of money on tv and mail? You need at least half a million dollars to run an effective campaign to the masses and I think the folks who fit the bill are Walter Dalton and Hampton Dellinger in the Democratic race for Lieutenant Governor, Janet Cowell, Michael Weisel, and Young in the Democratic race for Treasurer, and Robert Pittenger in the Republican race for Lieutenant Governor.

That's not to say the candidates who are not as well funded have no chance. But it does mean they need to work that much harder to get their message out there in free or inexpensive ways, and they need to be creative with the money they have.

We're including the Lieutenant Governor races in our poll tonight but I'm pretty sure they will both continue to show over 50% undecided until that money starts getting spent.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dueling McHenry polls

Apparently Patrick McHenry put out a poll earlier this week showing himself with a 62% approval rating and a 50-20 lead in a possible general election match up with Daniel Johnson.

That's funny because when we polled the race in December he had a 44% approval rating and just a 39-32 lead over Johnson.

I somewhat doubt McHenry did anything in the last few months to make himself so much more popular.

A key difference between our poll and his poll? Well we released the full questionnaire with wordings and weights. I'm guessing his camp was a little more selective in what they put out in public, and unless a candidate releases their entire poll I have trouble putting too much stock in the results when they differ considerably from ours.

Taking your suggestions

With the tracking poll moving to a weekly format we're going to be adding an extra question or two onto the basic horse race stuff every time to keep it interesting. Our most recent survey showed some interesting stuff about who is seeing Bev Perdue and Richard Moore's tv ads. Next week we're going to ask about the impact an Edwards endorsement would have on voters in the North Carolina Presidential primary.

Media folks, campaign folks, interested readers, whoever should feel free to make suggestions to me about things you'd like to see data on and I'll see what I can do about adding your question to our poll one of these weeks.

One other note on our next poll- we are changing our universe from folks who voted in the 2004 or 2006 primaries to folks who voted in the 2004 primary, 2006 primary, or 2006 general. That's who we called for our very accurate Democratic polls in Wisconsin, Texas, and Ohio. Given that it's clear now we will have a high intensity primary in North Carolina as well it seems like the time is right to make that change here.

I have no idea what impact it will have on all the races but I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Republicans headed to a runoff?

After yesterday's poll showing Pat McCrory and Fred Smith knotted for the lead in the Republican race for Governor, you might assume that means the race is headed to a runoff.

What's interesting though is that McCrory and Smith have separated themselves so much from the rest of the field that if you average out the undecideds in this latest poll they both come awfully close to breaking 40%.

If the undecided folks from this poll voted in the same distribution as those who have made up their mind it would be:

-McCrory 39.7
-Smith 39.7
-Bill Graham 11
-Bob Orr 10

So it wouldn't take much of a movement in either McCrory or Smith's direction to wrap this thing up in May, provided that Graham and Orr don't make a rebound.

Last night I was on with Tara Servatius at WBT in Charlotte and she asked me why I thought Smith was rising. I think it's because conservative voters/voters wary of McCrory for whatever reason have realized that Smith is their only chance of stopping him and that supporting Orr or Graham is relatively futile at this point.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The power of television

There was a period of about a couple weeks around the end of Feburary and the start of March where Bev Perdue was running tv ads and Richard Moore wasn't. Perdue's lead ballooned to 27 points in the poll we took during that period.

Then Moore went back on the air with a much better message than he had shown in his earlier tv and cut the lead all the way down to 10 points.

My guess is that Perdue wasn't really up by 27- with the 4 point MOE on the poll it was likely closer to 23. Nevertheless the large shifts in the race based on who's been on the air and what they've been saying has been dramatic.

Our latest poll showed that in the last week 63% of likely voters remembered seeing ads for Perdue and 57% remembered seeing ads for Moore. That's exposure you just can't get going and speaking to one voter at a time.

That got me back to thinking about this post I wrote last week about the race between Kay Hagan and Jim Neal being a battle between traditional campaigning and the grassroots. Jim Neal is running a really neat, hyper personal campaign. But looking at the movement tv ads are creating in the Governor's race and the level of visibility they're bringing the candidates I think it's pretty safe to say that if Hagan ends up having the money to run at least two or three weeks of intensive tv advertising and Neal doesn't, this primary isn't going to end up as close as it's looking in the polls right now.

Following up on our NC Presidential Poll

One thing that caught my eye about our poll yesterday showing Hillary Clinton reducing Barack Obama's lead in the state from four points to one is that Clinton is actually in the exact same place that she was two weeks ago. Obama dropped three points from 47% to 44%, while Clinton remained steady at 43%.

What that says to me is the Jeremiah Wright controversy is causing a small percentage of Obama's supporters to have doubts about him. But it's pushing them into the undecided column rather than the Clinton column while they wait to see how he handles this whole issue. For instance, if folks were happy with his speech on Tuesday they might be right back to planning to vote for Obama when we poll the race again next week.

At this point it would be more accurate to say that Obama is falling back in the state than to say Clinton is closing in. It'll be interesting to see where this stands next week!

Impact of Endorsements

Bob Orr got endorsed by the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg this week. But Pat McCrory received the support of 100% of black likely Republican primary voters in the Charlotte metro area in our last poll.

Of course there were only two of them in our sample of 553 likely voters :)

That said, congratulations to Orr on his endorsement.

Republican Tracking Poll: Governor

Pat McCrory 29
Fred Smith 29
Bill Graham 8
Bob Orr 7
Elbie Powers 1

Never doubt the power of television. Pat McCrory and Fred Smith have separated themselves even more from the rest of the GOP field and it is no coincidence that they're the only two candidates who have run tv ads recently.

Smith is actually leading among Republican voters, 30-29. It appears unaffiliateds could make or break the election for McCrory- he leads 27-16 among them in this poll, which makes the race tied overall.

Even as McCrory lost his out right lead there are some clear signs in the poll that his ads are making an impact. For instance he trails Smith only 33-30 in the Triangle, which is by far the best performance he has shown in any area outside of the Charlotte tv market since he entered the race.

The key to Smith tying the race is voters in eastern North Carolina. His margins there aren't quite as large as the one McCrory has in Charlotte, but a 47-10 lead in the northeastern part of the state and a 43-11 advantage in the southeastern part are the key areas keeping him tied.

His large margins there are an indication that grassroots politics is playing some role in this campaign. He has worked small counties in eastern North Carolina hard in the last few weeks as he wraps up his 100 county BBQ tour, winning new friends in parts of the state Pat McCrory is not likely to make it to before the primary and generating positive local media coverage.

In the Senate race, Elizabeth Dole leads Pete DiLauro 83-11.

Full results here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Democratic Tracking Poll: Senate

Kay Hagan 22
Jim Neal 11
Duskin Lassiter 5
Howard Staley 3
Marcus Williams 3

I am pretty sure that our polls on the Senate primary are correct because they have been so markedly consistent. Four surveys in a row now have yielded basically the same results, although this is the first time in 2008 that Neal has pushed into double digits.

A significant percentage of Hagan's lead is coming from the Triad, where she has a 45-7 advantage. This race will definitely be won or lost by who runs the stronger campaign in these final seven weeks.

Full results here.

Democratic Tracking Poll: Governor

Bev Perdue 44
Richard Moore 34

Richard Moore's new ad campaign appears to have reinvigorated his campaign, as he's within ten points of Bev Perdue after trailing by 27 in a poll two weeks ago.

Moore's first set of television ads focused on issues like government efficiency that seem better suited for the general election than a Democratic primary. He also made no mention of his party affiliation. In his new ads he comes across more as a populist, hitting on issues like the minimum wage and college tuition. The ad also prominently states that he is a Democrat.

49% of those surveyed reported seeing ads for both Moore and Perdue in the last week and among that group the gap between the two candidates is even smaller- Perdue leads just 46-43.

Never underestimate the power of tv in a statewide campaign.

Perdue is still clearly the favorite but Moore's prospects have improved considerably since he went back on the air last week with his new message.

Full results here.

Democratic Tracking Poll: President

Barack Obama 44
Hillary Clinton 43

The Jeremiah Wright controversy has hurt Barack Obama in recent PPP polls in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and North Carolina is no different. Clinton is the closest she's been to Obama in the state since John Edwards dropped out of the race.

Clinton actually leads among Democrats in the poll, 44-43. But Obama has the overall lead based on a very strong performance with unaffiliated voters, with whom he has a 53-35 advantage.

The rules for voting in the North Carolina primary probably work to Clinton's advantage. Obama has done very well in states with open primaries because of his strong support from Republican and independent voters. But North Carolina has a closed primary with the exception of unaffiliated voters, who may choose which party's ballot they want to cast. Right now they're only making up 12% of the Democratic primary electorate.

The biggest movement in Clinton's direction since PPP's poll two weeks ago is among female voters. Obama led them by 4 in the last survey, Clinton now has a 2 point advantage.

Some folks in the national media seem to have written off North Carolina for Obama but it looks like the state could be up for grabs, particularly if Obama can't put his recent bad press behind him quickly.

Full results here.

Ohio General Election Poll

Hillary Clinton 45
John McCain 44

John McCain 49
Barack Obama 41

PPP polls released over the last two days in Ohio and Florida show the possible negative effects the bad blood between supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could have for Democratic prospects to regain the White House this fall.

Clinton is showing major problems with African American voters. She leads McCain just 47-27 with that demographic in Ohio and gets just 51% of the black vote in Florida. It is going to be very hard for Democrats to win this year without getting at least 75% of African American votes, but for now it seems that black Obama supporters are having doubts about voting Democratic this fall if she is the nominee.

Obama similarly is having trouble with white Democrats. He leads McCain just 59-29 in Ohio and 53-31 in Florida with that group. It appears there that Clinton supporters may be undecided or even intending to vote for McCain if their preferred candidate doesn't win the nomination.

Republicans are showing no such problems with party unity. McCain gets 86% against Obama and 88% against Clinton among Republicans in Ohio.

These numbers show how the protracted fight for the Democratic nomination could have a serious negative impact on the eventual nominee's ability to defeat McCain. The party seems particularly likely to have problems if folks don't feel like the eventual standard bearer was chosen through a legitimate process.

The full Ohio poll here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Florida General Election Poll

John McCain 47
Hillary Clinton 43

John McCain 50
Barack Obama 39

Bad feelings between the Democratic Presidential candidates have allowed John McCain to take the lead in potential Florida general election match ups.

The key findings here:

-Hillary Clinton is only getting 51% of the black vote against McCain, a clear indication that Obama supporters unhappy with her are not sure at this point that they will even vote for her if she is the Democratic nominee. 36% of African American respondents said they were undecided.

-A similar problem exists for Obama among self identified Democratic voters. He leads only 60-25 with that group over McCain. It's going to be hard for a candidate to win most any state where he only pulls 60% of the vote from his own party.

-For all the talk from conservative Republicans about how they don't like John McCain, he has unified folks in his own party around his candidacy. He gets over 80% of the Republican vote against both Clinton and Obama.

The bottom line:

-Clinton and Obama's numbers are artificially low at this point since resentment between supporters of the two candidates seems to be getting normally Democratic voters to say that they are undecided or even that they will vote for McCain if their preferred nominee doesn't get the nod.

Those folks will probably return to the fold once a Democratic candidate is chosen- if they feel that person is chosen through a legitimate process. But if there is significant resentment about how the eventual nominee gets to that point, there is a very good chance it could throw the election to McCain this fall.

Full results here.

Pennsylvania Poll

Hillary Clinton 56
Barack Obama 30

Last week's controversy over comments by Barack Obama's pastor has given him quite a hit in the polls in Pennsylvania. Clinton's 26 point lead is the largest she has shown in the state so far in 2008.

Some of the lead is attributable to Clinton racking up large leads in her key demographics, such as a 66-20 advantage with female voters. But she's holding Obama down with his key groups. He is only at 63% with black voters in the poll, a percentage much smaller than what he has been getting in most states.

Clinton even leads among all four age groups, even with the young people who have tended to gravitate toward Obama. She has a small advantage with folks 18-45 and a much larger one with older voters.

The 24 hour news cycle has hurt Obama a lot in the last week. Clinton will inevitably have her own bad stories between now and Pennsylvania that could tighten things a little bit, but 26 points is an awful lot for Obama to make up.

Full results here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Debate Invitation Etiquette

Here is my first rule of debate invitation etiquette: if you really want someone to debate you, don't insult them in the course of asking for it.

Jim Neal violated that axiom last week by putting out a press release that not only called on Kay Hagan to debate but also said that 'Chairwoman Hagan thinks this campaign is about calling in favors from high-dollar Capitol insiders to pay for carpet bombing the state with poll-tested political ads.'

If someone sent me an 'invitation' like that, it would go right in the recycling bin.

It is going to be hard enough to beat Elizabeth Dole if Hagan or Neal emerges from the primary unscathed. It'll be that much harder if they bloody each other up with nasty rhetoric.

Neal should take a lesson from Richard Moore, who has been perfectly cordial in his calls on Bev Perdue to debate so far.

Of course that still hasn't gotten Perdue to say yes very often, which leads to an interesting question. Do voters really care whether a candidate agrees to debates or not? That might be something we delve into on one of our now weekly tracking polls.

Elon Transportation Poll

Elon has an interesting new poll out on transportation issues today that has some interesting implications for the Governors race and beyond:

-This environmentalist is quite heartened to see that more people stated public transportation as their top issue than road construction, congestion, and traffic combined. Hopefully the General Assembly will take that to heart as it addresses the state's transportation issues this session. There should be significant money alloted for public transportation in any bond taken to the public for approval.

-Folks also saw improving public transportation as the most effective way of dealing with traffic congestion, more so than building new roads.

-There is 72% support for commuter rail in urban areas. Light rail definitely seems like a good issue for Pat McCrory if he makes it to the fall. Still not sure if he should make it a big thing in the primary though.

-Gas prices are by far and away the biggest overall transportation concern. The main place the state has any control over that is the gas tax so maybe it's time for Bill Graham to start hammering on the issue that brought him into the political spotlight in the first place.

-People are satisfied with DOT 61-35. On the specific issue of road construction people are satisfied with it 55-40 and on the issue of road maintenance folks are satisfied 53-45.

I really just don't think normal people think about DOT on a day to day basis. I don't think either Richard Moore in the primary or Pat McCrory potentially in the general is going to get much traction against Bev Perdue with this issue.

Anyway, there is a lot to interesting stuff to digest in this poll. Check it out here.

Ranking the Undecideds

This chart shows all the contested statewide primaries by the percentage of folks who were undecided in our latest poll:


Percent Undecided

Republican Senate


Democratic President


Democratic Governor


Republican Governor


Democratic Superintendent


Democratic Senate


Republican Lieutenant Governor


Democratic Labor Commissioner


Democratic Auditor


Democratic Treasurer


Democratic Lieutenant Governor


Republican Superintendent


Democratic Insurance Commissioner


Not surprisingly Elizabeth Dole, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bev Perdue, and Richard Moore appear to be better known than other folks who will be on the statewide ballot in May.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Previewing the tracking poll

Sound a little premature? We're going to be doing the primary tracking poll pretty much every week from here on out. I'm not going to ask about all the down ballot races every week, but we will have fresh numbers on the Democratic races for President, Senate, and Governor and on the Republican race for Governor each time.

Here's what I'll be watching for in this week's poll, scheduled to be released Tuesday and Wednesday:

-Richard Moore will have been back on tv for about a week once we conduct this poll. Will that allow him to gain some ground on Bev Perdue? I would imagine he will make at least some in roads on the 27 point lead she showed two weeks ago.

-Pat McCrory has now been on the air for a week. Will he increase his lead over Fred Smith? And were the Survey USA numbers last week showing Bob Orr and Bill Graham moving closer in the contest an outlier or a trend?

-Finally, will Jim Neal start showing some of the progress on Kay Hagan in our poll that he's shown in other polls?

We'll have the answers around the middle of the week.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bottom Line on the Democratic Senate Race

There's been a little discussion this week about the difference between us and Survey USA in polling the Democratic Senate race. They have Jim Neal winning, we have Kay Hagan winning. Some Neal supporters thought this was cause for declaring us a worthless company, which is kind of amusing. Judging a polling company's accuracy by whether your candidate is winning or not in the last poll shows a pretty infantile understanding of polling and politics. But that's beside the point.

What Survey USA and PPP agree on, which is more relevant than the standing of the candidates at this point, is that more than half of the electorate is still undecided.

That means that by and large the race will be decided in the last few weeks of the campaign when the candidates start really spending their money. The conventional wisdom is that Hagan should start pulling away then because she has the ability to purchase a lot more tv time due to her significant fundraising advantage.

This has been a weird campaign though. Jim Neal is running a 21st century courthouse campaign. He might not be going from county seat to county seat giving a speech the way candidates in the state used to, but his combination of house parties and small gatherings at coffee shops, libraries, and college campuses is certainly the modern equivalent of it. There's no doubt his campaign has generated a lot more buzz than Hagan's.

Can a strong grassroots campaign outweigh a stronger media campaign in a statewide race? The Hagan-Neal primary will provide an interesting glimpse into the answer of that question.

One last note on Unaffiliateds and the Dem Primary for Governor

Following up on this post:

Chris Hayes from Civitas kindly sent along their crosstabs on unaffiliated voters. In February Bev Perdue led Richard Moore 23-22. In January Perdue had a 29-20 advantage.

Chris points out that the unaffiliateds might help Moore lose by a smaller margin, since his deficit with them is less than with Democrats. But Perdue still leads with them.

Unaffiliateds and the Dem race for Governor

I've seen several media folks this week repeat the statement that Richard Moore does better with unaffiliated voters than Bev Perdue does. It's just not true.

There have been eight public polls so far in 2008 that have broken out the Democratic race by unaffiliateds:

-This week's Survey USA poll showed a 30-27 Perdue advantage with them.
-Our March poll showed Perdue leading them 40-24
-The February Civitas poll showed Perdue leading 23-22.
-The February Survey USA poll had Perdue leading 44-33 with them.
-Our February poll gave Moore a 40-37 edge.
-In January Civitas showed a 29-20 Perdue lead.
-The January Survey USA poll showed Moore leading 42-37 with them.
-Perdue had a 37-20 lead in our January poll.

Does Moore do better with unaffiliated voters than he does with Democrats? Yes. Does he do better with unaffiliated voters than Perdue? No. Taking this data overall you would have to say she has a slight advantage, although it is variable from poll to poll due to the overall small number of unaffiliated folks planning to vote in the Democratic primary.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A difference between Perdue and Clinton

There will be inevitable comparisons between Bev Perdue and Hillary Clinton if they are the nominees for Governor and President, since each will be trying to become the first woman to hold the respective positions they are running for.

Their bases of support are quite different though. Clinton has antagonized African American voters, making it necessary for her to get huge majorities from female voters in the primaries to stay afloat against Barack Obama.

Perdue on the other hand does better against Richard Moore with black voters than she does with woman voters. This chart shows her margins over Moore among both female and black voters in our polls so far this year:


Female Voters

Black Voters










For Perdue, African American voters are more important to her prospects than women, although she does quite well with both groups.

A good sign for Democrats

I realized today that I know something about a Democrat challenging a Republican incumbent in every GOP held Congressional district in North Carolina.

As I sit here right now I couldn't tell you who the nominee was against Sue Myrick, Howard Coble, or Patrick McHenry two years ago. Although I know who ran against Walter Jones and Virginia Foxx now, I certainly didn't know who they were at this point in the cycle two years ago. The only candidates I knew challenging Republican seat holders were Tim Dunn, Larry Kissell, and Heath Shuler. Dunn dropped out a couple weeks later.

I don't know if folks like Daniel Johnson, Roy Carter, Marshall Adame, Harry Taylor, Jay Ovittore and other folks running against them in Democratic primaries are going to win this fall. But I do know it's a sign of significantly improved candidate recruitment that I can name all the players on the team more than seven months out from the general election.

Republican SurveyUSA Crosstabs

Looking at the crosstabs on the Republican Survey USA poll, here's what jumps out:

-Pat McCrory has his largest lead, 29-19 over Fred Smith, with voters who describe their ideology as conservative. Smith has been hammering on the McCrory is a liberal thing in joint appearances but the reality is that very few people are watching or paying attention to those. He needs to start spending money to get that message across either through tv or direct mail.

-Bill Graham actually has a small (26-21) lead over McCrory with unaffiliated voters. This contrasts with the conventional wisdom and what our recent polls have shown. It's worth noting that Survey USA is projecting a much smaller number of unaffiliated voters in the GOP primary than we are which makes the margin of error on this particular crosstab pretty high.

-As usual McCrory is coasting off an enormous advantage in the greater Charlotte area. He is actually polling at single digits in the rest of the state. He is running last, even behind Bob Orr, in the Triangle, Triad, and eastern North Carolina. It will be interesting to see whether those numbers improve now that he has gone on the air this week.

Good Politics

Earlier this week I spoke to a group of North Carolina environmental leaders about the 'political landscape' in the state.

One of the folks there asked me whether I thought Richard Moore had any chance at all of making up the large gap in the polls.

I said I thought it would be very hard because every time he does something to try to differentiate himself substantively from Bev Perdue, she just does the same thing a little while later and makes it a wash.

I was particularly referring to Perdue coming out against the proposed Cliffside coal fired power plant a mere matter of hours after Moore did. He thought taking a stand would help him score points with the environmental community but she neutralized it just hours later.

The latest example is Moore endorsing Barack Obama a few weeks ago. Now Perdue has done it too.

It's great front runner politics. If you have a big lead, why give your opponent any space to make it up?

Two final points:

-Our poll last week showed Perdue leading 55-21 with supporters of Obama.
-This is why Richard Moore's only chance at the nomination is effective negative advertising, sooner than later. She's not giving him any ground on the positive stuff.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ickes' comments

I don't have a dog in the fight when it comes to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama but I was appalled today to see Harold Ickes, a top Clinton adviser, declare that 'the Carolinas are not going to be in the Democratic column in November.'

It's not just an emotional reaction because I'm mad that the Clintons would ignore our state, although that certainly does make me mad.

What makes me really mad is that the data that is out there simply doesn't support his presumption that North Carolina is off the table.

When we polled Obama and Clinton against John McCain last month, our survey showed both of them trailing by just five points and gaining against the Republican nominee compared to a similar poll we did in January.

So it's not even just that North Carolina is in the picture for Democrats if Obama is the nominee. Even Clinton appears to have the best shot at this state since her husband came close in 1992.

Is North Carolina likely to go Democratic for President this fall? No. But is it on the table? Absolutely, much more than in recent cycles, and this is a tremendous opportunity for Democrats to beat back the emerging trend of a one party South in federal elections.

I hope Ickes didn't really mean what he said.

Elbie Powers speaking his truth

Yesterday Republican gubernatorial contender Elbie Powers finally got the chance to make a joint appearance with his fellow candidates. He had been excluded from several earlier debates.

The occasion was an NC Bankers Association meeting in Greensboro. And it sure sounds like Powers didn't tell them what they wanted to hear:
You people sitting here represent one of the most powerful organizations in NC and in the USA- the banking industry. Why don't you all get together and help turn this around, instead of foreclosing on 100,000 homes, or a million homes, who knows where it will end. You all get together, reduce the home owner payments 75%, after three months increase the payment by 10% each month until things are up and going again. You people here will single handily turn it around, and what NC does here the rest of the country will follow.
I admire a man who goes and speaks to a special interest group and doesn't just pander to whatever they want to hear. Powers is a refreshing voice in the Republican race, bringing new ideas to the table. It doesn't mean they're all good ideas or feasible ones but we should always appreciate politicians who are willing to alter the conversation.

He deserves more opportunities like this to join his fellow candidates and have his perspective heard.

Survey USA Democratic crosstabs

Two things really struck me in the crosstabs from Survey USA's poll of the Democratic gubernatorial primary yesterday:

-The first is that Richard Moore leads Bev Perdue 45-31 among the respondents who described themselves as conservative. I've never thought of Moore and Perdue as being particularly ideologically distinct, but several people have suggested to me in the last few weeks as Perdue's lead has rocketed up that his poor performance is because he comes across as too conservative for a Democratic primary. These numbers indicate there could be some truth to that since his lead among conservatives is more than offset by his 34 point (54-20) gap with voters who described their ideology as 'liberal.' His new ads focused on progressive issues like the minimum wage and affordable higher education could help alleviate that.

-Perdue leads 52-31 in the Triangle and Triad and 53-16 in eastern North Carolina. But she trails 30-27 in the area encompassing Charlotte and the Mountains. The key difference? It's probably that the candidates have been on tv in the areas where Perdue is leading but not in the area where Moore is leading. The candidates are on the air in Charlotte now so it will be interesting to see in the next poll whether Perdue continues to do much better in places where ads are running, or whether Moore's reinvigorated ad campaign flips that.

Check out the tabs here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Survey USA North Carolina Numbers

Survey USA has its newest North Carolina numbers out and for the first time Jim Neal leads in a poll. The survey shows him with a 21-18 lead over Kay Hagan.

Although I hold Survey USA in the highest regard of any of our competitors, I think the trend in their polling of this particular primary has been bizarre. When they first surveyed it in November, 70% of respondents said they supported either Hagan or Neal. Now that figure is down to 39%, four months further along into the primary season:











That just is not a normal trend, although they are moving closer to what we're showing (the two combined for 32%.)

I think it's possible Neal is doing better than our polls are showing, although I doubt he's really winning. I hope Civitas will poll it later this month to give a third opinion.

They show the Democratic race for Governor with Bev Perdue at 44 and Richard Moore at 28. I would guess the margin in that race is somewhere between the 16 they're showing and the 27 we're showing, but either way it's a lot.

They have the Presidential race at Barack Obama with 49% and Hillary Clinton with 41%. I think his lead is likely somewhere in that 6-10 point range given the certainty now that the North Carolina primary will matter and probably bring with it higher black turnout.

Finally they show the Republican primary for Governor tightening with Pat McCrory at 26%, Fred Smith at 18%, Bill Graham at 16%, and Bob Orr at 12%. Last month they had McCrory leading by 17 points. I think this race is still closer than they're showing it. The poll is good news for Graham and Orr. It's the closest Graham has been to Smith in a while, and according to my archive it's the first poll anyone has conducted showing Orr in double figures since the November Civitas Poll.

Here are the results. I haven't seen the crosstabs yet but will break them down when I do.

Moore's new ad

Richard Moore is back on the air with a new and improved message. People care about the minimum wage, property taxes, community colleges, and job creation. They don't care about blotting out studies and commissions. So he's moving in the right direction.

One subtle but very interesting new twist in this ad is that not only does it flash on the screen that Moore is a Democrat for Governor, but the announcer even says it. There was no mention whatsoever of his party affiliation in earlier ads, and clearly the campaign has decided that was a mistake, which it probably was. Playing down your party affiliation is fine in the general election but not a good call in the primary. (The ads for Bev Perdue have all shown her party affiliation on the screen, although they have not mentioned it.)

That said a positive ad at this point isn't going to do much to cut down on Perdue's 27 point lead in the polls. Moore's effectiveness at going negative on her will determine whether he has any shot at making the comeback, and he shouldn't wait much longer to start if he wants to have a chance.

Dueling Polls

Last month Joe McLaughlin released an internal poll that showed him trailing Walter Jones just 43-41.

Yesterday Jones released an internal poll showing him leading McLaughlin 54-16.

These dueling polls are a familiar sight. Challengers Joe Cimperman and Chris Peden rolled out polls showing them close to Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul in the weeks leading up to their primaries while the incumbents (and PPP) showed numbers that had the races much more lopsided.

My highly scientific truth gathering technique in these cases without any independent polling to settle the score? Average 'em! My guess is that Jones leads McLaughlin about 49-29.

Glad we got that settled.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Rasmussen Poll

A new Rasmussen Poll in North Carolina shows Barack Obama leading Hillary Clinton 47-40. We had it at 47-43 last week.

Rasmussen doesn't release its topline demographics but they do say that Obama leads by 53 points among African Americans, while Clinton leads by 20 among white voters. We actually had Obama up 63 points with black voters, but down by 23 with white voters.

What that adds up to is Rasmussen projecting higher black turnout than we are- probably somewhere around 35% rather than the 30% we had it at. We will probably move toward a 35% black turnout model next month but we took our poll before Hillary Clinton's strong performances in Ohio and Texas extended the race and ensured a competitive North Carolina primary.

What impact would 35% black turnout have on the primaries for President and Governor in North Carolina? If we had weighted last week's poll at 35%, Obama would have been leading 50-40. That's a pretty strong indicator of how much polls can vary based on their demographic composition- a 5% increase in black turnout turns a 4 point lead into a 10 point lead for Obama.

35% black turnout would not have a huge impact on the Democratic gubernatorial primary. It would give Bev Perdue a 52-24 lead over Richard Moore, just a one point gain from the 27 point lead she showed with it projected at 30%.

Some advice for Richard Moore and Bev Perdue

Sometimes it seems like Richard Moore and Bev Perdue are so consumed with blasting each other that they're not focused on the big picture- actually taking the Governor's office by defeating a Republican in the fall.

If the GOP nominates Fred Smith that's fine. Dennis Kucinich could be at the top of the Democratic ticket and I still think Moore or Perdue would beat him by double digits.

But if they nominate Pat McCrory it's a whole other story. His message is actually pretty strong: the Democrats in Raleigh have been aware of issues like gangs, DOT spending that's not fair to the city's urban areas, etc. for years and haven't done anything about it. Someone needs to come in from outside of the state government culture and fix things up.

Doubtless Moore or Perdue will roll out plans to address the issues McCrory is trying to make hay with. But his response will be to ask why they haven't accomplished what they say they want to during the many years each of them has already been in Raleigh.

I think the Democratic contenders need to nip that in the bud. It's completely over shadowed by the campaign season, but the legislature will be in session in a couple months. It's a great opportunity for Moore and Perdue to work with their allies in the legislature to get bills passed addressing some of the things McCrory is accusing the Democratic power structure of failing to get done over the last few years. Don't just roll out a proposal as part of your campaign- work to see some of these things enacted before the fall.

That way when McCrory starts railing about things Raleigh hasn't accomplished in debates this fall, Moore or Perdue can point to what they have done on the issues and not just what they will do. If McCrory doesn't have that card to play, he doesn't have much left since the slate is pretty blank when it comes to his statewide accomplishments.

Moore and Perdue should use the relationships they've built in statewide office and the bully pulpit they have to nip a big part of McCrory's campaign in the bud sooner than later.

Independents and the Republican contest for Governor

Several North Carolina media folks commented this weekend that Pat McCrory could be hurt by the Democratic primary for President mattering in the state. The theory is that more unaffiliated voters who might be inclined toward the moderate McCrory will vote insead in the Democratic primary.

Our numbers back that up to some extent. When we did the February Republican tracking poll before it looked like the Democratic contest might come to the state 15% of respondents said they were unaffiliated. In the March poll, after a month of speculation and attention brought to the fact that our primary could count, the percentage of folks identifying themselves as unaffiliated in the GOP poll went down to 12%.

It is also true that McCrory does better among unaffiliated voters than he does with registered Republicans. In our March poll he led Fred Smith 27-24 with Republicans but had a lead twice as large, 23-17, with unaffiliateds.

Our February poll showed an even bigger difference. McCrory led by just two points, 24-22, among voters who identified themselves as Republicans. But his 27-12 advantage with unaffiliated voters doubled his overall lead in the poll to four points.

McCrory is still consistently leading Smith, Bill Graham, and Bob Orr with Republicans- but those unaffiliated voters give him a little extra cushion.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Congressional races

Last night Democrat Bill Foster won a special election to replace former House Speaker Dennis Hastert in Congress. It's a district that would never really have been thought winnable for Democrats.

I think it's pretty much a given that Larry Kissell has an even chance of knocking off Robin Hayes. But when Democrats take victories like this it's also an indication that in this political climate Daniel Johnson really could knock off Patrick McHenry if things swung the right way, and whoever emerges from the Democratic primary in the 5th District could have a shot at Virginia Foxx as well.

PPP showed back in December that McHenry was surprisingly vulnerable.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Obama and white men

When we did our first Texas poll, we showed Barack Obama leading the white male vote by 21 points and the state tied. When we did our last one we showed Hillary Clinton leading with that group and with a six point lead overall. The contest ended with a four point Clinton victory and a split white male vote.

White women tend to support Hillary Clinton. Blacks voters support Barack Obama. That's made white men the swing demographic in this election. And it's a group Obama needs to do better with in North Carolina.

Our poll this week showed Clinton leading 54-38 with white men in the state. Last month she had a similar 48-31 advantage. For the most part Obama is not winning primaries where he has that big a deficit.

If black voters turn out in record numbers Obama might be able to win North Carolina without faring better with white men. But his top goal as he opens up a campaign in the state should be improving his status with that demopgraphic.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Survey USA: North Carolina General Election

John McCain 49
Hillary Clinton 41

John McCain 47
Barack Obama 45

SurveyUSA, somewhat remarkably, did Presidential general election polls for every state in the country last night.

Barack Obama does better than Hillary Clinton in North Carolina. The key areas where he does better than her mirror trends we've seen in our general election polling:

-He trails by 61 points among Republican voters, but she trails by 72 points. There's more room for cross over support.
-He leads by seven points with independents, she trails by 23. He does much better getting those all important votes in the middle.

But the poll also shows the main thing holding him back in the state:

-She leads by 61 points among Democrats, he leads by only 50. Some Democrats are holding back on him. I believe this is the same phenomenon that caused Ralph Campbell some trouble in his runs for state Auditor.

Still, a Democrat trailing by only two points for President in North Carolina is quite remarkable, and it would be one heck of a Democratic year right on down the ballot were that the case.

Presidential Impact on North Carolina

For now when PPP does its tracking poll, it only talks to folks who have a record of voting in primary elections.

We're likely to change that now since it appears our Presidential primary will have an impact on the Democratic contest for President.

That will bring out a lot of new voters, and the conventional wisdom is that the new folks are tending to support Barack Obama. What impact would that have on the Democratic races for Governor and Senate?

In the Governor's race it looks like it would benefit Bev Perdue over Richard Moore. She leads 55-21 among Obama supporters and by a smaller 51-29 margin with Clinton supporters. New voters coming out for Obama could help her.

In the Senate race Kay Hagan is doing better with Clinton supporters than she is with Obama supporters. She leads Jim Neal 27-9 with Clinton folks and 22-10 with people inclined to support Obama.

Duke-UNC poll

PPP recently polled North Carolinians to find out who they pull for in the Duke-UNC basketball game.

The results:

UNC 40
Duke 24
Don't care 36

What was particularly fascinating about the results was their uniformity along racial, gender, and political party lines.

Almost every time PPP does a poll there are major differences in how people respond depending on whether they're male or female, white or black, Democrat or Republican.

That wasn't the case he though. Men prefer UNC by 16 points, women prefer the Tar Heels by 15. Democrats go for Carolina by 16 points, Republicans like them by 14. White folks and black folks want them to win by similar double digit margins as well.

In North Carolina basketball may be the one thing that truly allows us to transcend all of our differences.

Full results here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Democratic Tracking Poll: the Other Stuff

US Senate:

Kay Hagan 23
Jim Neal 9
Marcus Williams 6
Duskin Lassiter 4
Howard Staley 3

This race has looked pretty much the same three months in a row now when we've polled it. The undecideds are static. As long as Hagan doesn't gain Neal is in pretty good shape because he's running a more active campaign which may start to see its fruits closer to the election. Hagan leads in every region of the state but is particularly buoyed by a 39% performance in her home base of the Triad.

Lieutenant Governor:

Pat Smathers 13
Walter Dalton 11
Hampton Dellinger 8
Dan Besse 7

This is the 14th time we've polled this race now and the percentage of undecideds still hasn't gone below 60%. Dellinger and Dalton are well funded but have been mostly sitting on their money so far. When they start spending it is when people will start to pay more attention and the race will start to see substantive movement. This is the second month in a row Smathers has held a slim lead.


Janet Cowell 16
David Young 15
Michael Weisel 8

This race has seen the same story all three times we've polled it in 2008. Cowell up a point on Young with Weisel lagging behind. Young always does best in the Mountains where he's from and Cowell always does best in the Triangle where she lives. Same story as the Lieutenant Governor's race- all three candidates have money and when they start spending someone might break 20% in the poll.


June Atkinson 37
Eddie Davis 14


Beth Wood 24
Fred Aikens 16

Insurance Commissioner:

Wayne Goodwin 19
David Smith 13

Labor Commissioner:

John Brooks 14
Mary Fant Donnan 11
Robin Anderson 9
Ty Richardson 7

Some folks wondered if the entry of Brooks, who previously served four terms in the office, would make him the presumptive front runner. His small lead is an indication though that he has little residual name recognition and that any of the candidates has a decent chance at winning the nomination.

Full results here

Democratic Tracking Poll: Governor

Bev Perdue 52
Richard Moore 25

It may not quite be time to write the obituary on Moore's campaign but it will be soon if he doesn't get it turned around quick. 27 points is awfully hard to make up in two months.

There is no one factor to point to in explaining Perdue's meteoric gain- she has made strong gains in pretty much every demographic group. Her lead among registered Democrats has improved from 15 to 29. With independents she's gone from being down 3 to up 16. With women a 17 point lead is now 33 points. With men a 9 point advantage is now 20. With white votes a 7 point lead is up to 22. Her gain with black voters is small- a five point gain from a 37 point lead to a 42 point lead.

Moore probably got more bad news last night when Hillary Clinton pulled out a couple huge victories because if North Carolina sees the same increases in black and female turnout that its neighboring states did in their primaries that's likely to benefit Perdue as well.

Moore has very good people working for him who doubtless have some tricks up their sleeves, but the climb is starting to look more like getting up Mt. Everest than Mt. Mitchell.

Full results here

Democratic Tracking Poll: President

Barack Obama 47
Hillary Clinton 43

Most recent polls in North Carolina had shown Obama with a double digit lead. But his standing in the national polls has declined over the last week and it looks like the same trend is occurring in North Carolina.

One interesting thing about North Carolina relative to other states is that Obama is doing almost equally well among men and women- he leads by five points with men and by four points with women.

The standard racial gap does apply though. Obama leads by 63 points with black voters while Clinton has a 23 point edge with white voters.

One thing's for absolute sure. The specter of a contested primary will bring out folks in record numbers to the polls in May. 75% of those surveyed said they were more likely to vote if North Carolina's primary played a role in who receives the Democratic nomination.

Full results here.
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