Friday, May 30, 2008

Mini Tracking Poll Preview

We're going to have a mini tracking poll on Monday for the two potential Presidential match ups, and the Senate and Governor races.

Here are some of the interesting things to watch:

-We included Bob Barr for the first time, and he's having a definite impact in North Carolina. It's not necessarily what you would intuitively expect though.

-Elizabeth Dole's television ads are having a definite impact as well.

-Mike Munger might be helping Bev Perdue.

Tune in Monday. Now I'm off to 54 innings of baseball in 54 hours for the Cary Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Go Heels!

Another Take on Money and the Senate Race

Yesterday I wrote that Kay Hagan would have trouble knocking off Elizabeth Dole if she couldn't match her dollar for dollar.

The Senate Guru, who maintains an outstanding blog here about the Senate races across the country wrote in to remind me that isn't necessarily the case.

He reported that in 2006 George Allen spent more than three times as much as Jim Webb, Jim Talent spent more than twice as much as Claire McCaskill, and Rick Santorum and Conrad Burns spent nearly twice as much as Bob Casey and Jon Tester respectively. In all four of those cases the Democratic challenger knocked off the Republican incumbent in spite of the money deficit.

I don't think the political climate is quite as toxic for Republicans this year as it was in 2006, mostly because GOP voters who were so unhappy with their party then that they didn't come out to vote seem more likely to come cast a ballot for President. Nevertheless, the Senate Guru has a good point- although it sure would be nice if Hagan could match Dole dollar for dollar!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

It all comes down to money

I've said repeatedly the last few weeks that Kay Hagan can compete with Elizabeth Dole this fall- but that's predicated on her being able to compete with Dole dollar for dollar.

That's looking pretty tough right now. Dole clearly is concerned about the latest poll numbers, and is already on the air now in May.

We'll be releasing new numbers on the Senate race Monday. We're already in the field, and from what I've seen Dole's ads are having an impact.

Two years ago the Democrats up in DC blew a big chance in North Carolina by not financially supporting Larry Kissell against Robin Hayes. There's no doubt that even a small amount of DCCC money would have put him over the top.

Hagan is definitely on the DSCC's radar. Whether they really go to bat for her and get her the resources she needs is likely to be a determining factor in whether she can pull the upset this fall.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kos on Automated Polling

Kos has a good, broad look at automated polling and its detractors.

I don't claim that IVR is an ideal method for conducting 80 question campaign benchmark polls, or academic surveys of similar length and complexity.

But for calling an election? I think it would be virtually impossible to take a dispassionate look at polling in the primaries, particularly among companies who have polled ten or more contests, and say that live interviewers have done better than automated pollsters.

North Carolinians and Collective Bargaining

As readers of this site doubtless well know, you can get polls showing that the public has diametrically opposed positions on the same issue depending on how questions are worded.

The most recent example of this has been the issue of collective bargaining. Civitas says North Carolinians are against it. Andy Perrin, a professor at UNC, says they support it.

Since we ran the poll for Dr. Perrin (he wrote the questions and processed the data) we obviously would tend to think that the results from his version are more accurate. Nonetheless the discussion at both sites is worth reading.

Update: Rob Schofield also discussed this issue at the Progressive Pulse.

Dole on Polls

This story in The Hill about the bad shape Republicans are in when it comes to the Senate picture had some interesting stuff relating to our race here in North Carolina.

Referring to the recent rash of polls showing Elizabeth Dole in trouble:
Dole’s campaign attacked the automated polls earlier this month and noted that one of them was from a Democratic-leaning firm.
I never saw them playing the PPP is Democratic card with the North Carolina media in the last month so that must be one they're reserving for the DC crowd. Folks in the press here know that we nailed every single statewide primary earlier in the month, and trying to attack our credibility to people who know us probably isn't going to be a winning proposition for the Dole campaign.

The most recent poll, Civitas, is from a live interviewing outfit with a conservative bent. Their numbers were better news for Kay Hagan than ours, so I'm not sure how the Dole camp is going to play that one.

This is actually a good example of why when it comes to the horse race it's silly for Democrats to attack Civitas, and it's silly for Republicans to attack PPP. Getting it right is critical to the credibility of both polls, and we're going to put out the numbers we get whether they're good for the candidates we like or not. Of course we might tell you a different story about what it all means.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Savvy Hagan

Kay Hagan is really running a better campaign than I ever expected. I'm glad to see that she is having a round table with several sheriffs across the state to discuss immigration. Our last poll showed that Hagan is actually leading among voters whose biggest concerns are the bread and butter issues of the economy (51-39) or the war (57-36). But Dole is winning overall because she's really clobbering Hagan with voters most concerned about immigration (89-8) and moral and family values (82-10).

If Hagan can neutralize Dole even a little bit on those issues without getting too demagogic on them, she is really going to be in good shape.

I wish those issues weren't the most important thing to 17% of voters in the state. But they are, and we can't just write those voters off right from the start and expect to get 50% of the vote. That's the kind of thinking that makes Democrats lose elections.

Self Identification of Republican Voters

I think we're going to have a lot of folks voting Republican but not calling themselves Republicans in North Carolina this year.

In our most recent survey, voters identifying themselves as Independents overwhelmingly went for the Republican candidates- 48-31 for John McCain over Hillary Clinton, 48-33 for McCain over Barack Obama, 54-34 for Elizabeth Dole over Kay Hagan, 50-36 for Pat McCrory over Bev Perdue, and the Republican candidate leads among independents in every other race as well with the exception of Roy Cooper, Elaine Marshall, and Beth Wood.

What's the explanation? I think there are a lot of Republican voters who are pretty disgusted with their party right now. They're going to keep on voting Republican because they certainly don't think the alternative is any better, but they're not calling themselves Republicans.

This is one of the issues with weighting for party. We might have an idea of what the party distribution of voters in the state should be, but how does that account for folks who would have called themselves Republicans four years ago and are continuing to vote that way but not to identify themselves that way?

Pew found earlier this year that there was a 13 point Democratic edge in party id in North Carolina. We've been roughly weighting our NC polls to that party distribution. SurveyUSA, which doesn't weight for party, found an even more Democratic electorate in the state in their last poll- 49 to 33 to 15. If we had not weighted for party in our tracking poll two weeks ago, we would have shown a 17% advantage for Democrats in party identification.

I still haven't made a final decision but because of the uncertainty with party self identification in this most unusual election cycle I am leaning more toward not weighting our general election polls for party the rest of the year.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Civitas Polls

Our friends at Civitas have released their latest numbers for Governor, Senate, and President.

The Presidential numbers are pretty darn good for Barack Obama. He's trailing 44-39, but that's the best he's done of the three times Civitas has polled his match up with McCain- he trailed by nine and ten points in the previous two polls.

Beyond that, 20% of Democrats are undecided compared to just 12% of Republicans. I'm guessing that's a product of a lot of Hillary supporters who will eventually support Obama but aren't there yet. Assume that 80% of the undecided Dems go for Obama and 80% of the undecided Reps go for McCain, and you end up with McCain up about one point.

As I've said repeatedly, I don't know that Obama will win North Carolina, but I think it's going to be the most competitive it's been here at least since 1996 and possibly since 1992.

The Senate poll shows Elizabeth Dole with 45% and Kay Hagan with 43%, just another piece of confirmation that this race is tighter than anyone expected at this point. Hagan's actually leading by twelve points with unaffiliated voters for her, but 23% of Democratic votes are leeching to Dole. If Hagan can get those folks back in the fold it's going to be very interesting.

For Governor they have Bev Perdue up 43-42 on Pat McCrory. Seems about right to me.

Running against Pelosi

Two years ago when the Republican party was falling apart in the Congressional races, one of their most common tactics in swing districts was to try to run against Nancy Pelosi instead of the Democratic nominee.

Our own Heath Shuler was one of the folks they tried that tactic against, running an ad that stated 'The Pelosi game plan: Elect Heath Shuler and others like him, and take over Congress with the votes of illegal immigrants.'

It seemed like a pretty moronic idea even at the time. Nancy Pelosi just is not that well known to average voters, particularly ones who aren't ardent partisans and might be more open minded about who to vote for on an election by election basis.

The results spoke for themselves. The Republicans got completely destroyed, even losing districts that virtually no one would have considered losable.

So you would have thought after that royal drubbing they would have stopped trying to play the Pelosi card. But that would be giving them too much credit.

This issue has gotten a lot of attention this week due to this ridiculous ad Missouri Congressman Sam Graves is running against challenger Kay Barnes. But the same thing is going on here in North Carolina.

The votes had barely even been counted on primary night when Patrick McHenry, who based on the demographics of his district should be at no risk whatsoever, started trying to tie his Democratic opponent to Nancy Pelosi.

That McHenry would even bother is an indication that he's worried about losing this fall, which says something about the job he's done and the current political climate.

Here's some news for you Congressman. The voters don't care about Nancy Pelosi. They made that clear in 2006. If you all want to play by the same book that caused your enormous losses in 2006, then you can expect enormous losses again in 2008.

If Congressional Republicans keep on talking about Nancy Pelosi while their Democratic challengers talk about the issues that voters actually care about, 2006 will be looked back at wistfully by the GOP when it suffers even worse losses this time.

Fat Mary for President

G105 afternoon host Randi West probably is not someone you would expect to inspire a post on a polling blog, but she had a funny story about getting polled that she told on the air last night.

Pollsters use two main ways of producing the phone numbers they call for their polls. We use an RBS, or registration based sample, where we only call registered voters. Other companies use RDD, or random digit dialing, which essentially calls every possible phone number in existence, be it office, home, etc. Each method has its pluses and minuses, which you can read more about here.

A pollster yesterday that was obviously using RDD called the G105 request line yesterday for a survey about the Presidential race, and Randi answered the phone and was evidently quite uncooperative! When given the choices for President, she said other. The interviewer dutifully wrote that down, and then asked specifically who 'other' was. Randi said she supported 'Fat Mary' for President. The interviewer, somewhat taken aback, confirmed that Randi had said 'Fat Mary.' I wonder how they coded that!

It was pretty funny. Sometimes polling pops up in the most unusual places.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Edwards the best running mate?

That's certainly the conclusion you would draw from some interesting polling our friends at Survey USA have done this week. They've done surveys in several states testing how various tickets would do if matched against each other- their McCain veep possibilities are Joe Lieberman, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee and their Obama prospects are Chuck Hagel, Kathleen Sebelius, Ed Rendell, and John Edwards.

In the states where they've released this data so far- California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico- the tickets with Edwards are easily outshining the rest of the field.

For instance in Virginia an Obama/Edwards ticket leads all comers by anywhere from 9 to 18 points. Other Democratic possibility range from winning by two points to losing by six points- so Edwards clearly is beating the pack there. And there are similar trends in the other states.

For now SUSA is not including the most interesting possible ticket of Obama/Clinton.

Of course all of this is very premature (and I don't think VP selection has nearly as much impact as the differences in the potential tickets would seem to imply) but it's good to see that folks like our fellow North Carolinian- go check out the polls at the links above.

Revisiting Old Polls

We have an outstanding new intern, John Willingham, who started this week. He's a graduate student in Political Science at NC State, which this Tar Heel will have to forgive him for.

I've been teaching John how to turn raw data into poll results, and it's actually been a great opportunity to take some of our older polls, weight them to the exit polls, and see what we find.

Here are the highlights:

-PPP infamously showed Bev Perdue with a 27 point lead over Richard Moore in early March, then had it down to 10 just two weeks later. As I've said before, I didn't feel good about that poll. We weighted the data from that survey again this week, using the final demographics from the exit poll of the primary two weeks ago, and found Perdue with a 22 point lead at that point. I think that's pretty believable given that Perdue was on the air at the time and Moore was not. So if you want a baseline of what rock bottom was for Moore before coming back over the month of March, it was probably a 22 point deficit.

-PPP came the closest to getting the margin of Barack Obama's victory (28 points) correct in South Carolina, but we were still way off given that we showed his lead at only 20 points. We went back and reweighted our final SC poll today with the exit poll demographics and got Obama 50, Clinton 23, Edwards 15. That's a lot closer to the final result of 55-27-18 than our final poll was (44-24-19).

What does that mean? It means our raw data was pretty darn good, but we didn't do enough weighting. If we had weighted our sample to more correctly match the age distribution of the SC electorate (we had it too old) then we would have been right on the mark.

Just goes to show you how much nuance goes into what makes for an on point poll and one that misses the mark. We've been able to learn from our mistakes over the primary calendar and make some improvements.

Best in Oregon

Survey USA has its report card out for pollsters who did Oregon, and we were first by every measure.

We've polled in seven Democratic primaries since Super Tuesday, which is sort of the point where we figured out how the heck to poll in this most unusual contest. While we're doubtless best known for the Pennsylvania disaster, in addition to finishing first in the SUSA report card for Oregon, we also did in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Indiana. And we had the lowest combined error of any company that did both Ohio and Texas on the key March 4th election day.

Not bad for a company polling the Presidential race for the first time- now we just have to figure out how to do our general election polling, particularly in terms of weighting or not weighting for party identification in what will doubtless continue to be a unique election cycle.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Survey USA: NC President

Survey USA has very interesting new numbers out on the Presidential race, showing Hillary Clinton leading John McCain 49-43, but McCain leading Barack Obama 51-43.

Why the disparity? Here are some of the key reasons:

-Women. That's the main difference. Clinton leads 56-37 with them, while Obama trails 47-46 with them in possible matches against McCain.

-28% of Democrats support McCain against Obama, while just 17% support McCain against Clinton. You have to wonder if that's a product of residual bad feelings from the primary, and whether a lot of those Democrats will end up moving back toward Obama once he is officially the party's standard bearer.

-Perhaps a little more troublesome for Obama is that he trails McCain 50-41 with independents, while Clinton leads with them 46-41.

-Senior citizens. Clinton has a 12 point lead, Obama has a 12 point deficit.

Although I am surprised that there is quite this large a disparity between Obama's standing and Clinton's, there is nothing in Survey USA's weightings that particularly jumps out at me as off. Obviously general election polling will be much more meaningful once the match up is really set.

One thing for sure though- even an 8 point deficit for Obama is much better than John Kerry and Al Gore did in the state- it should be a good year for Democrats in North Carolina.

Erroneous Exit Poll

Our friends at Survey USA have been getting some flack in the comments of this post on MyDD for the percentage of black voters they are showing in the North Carolina polls they put out yesterday. I've already broken down their Senate and Governor surveys, and I'll get to their interesting Presidential numbers later this morning.

The reason they're getting flack is that they showed the percentage of the black electorate at 20%, when the 2004 North Carolina exit poll showed it at 26%. Obviously the difference between 20% and 26% is going to make Clinton look better relative to Obama.

I've been using the 26% figure for our NC general election polling but the more I thought about it last night the more the 26% figure just didn't make sense. North Carolina's population is only about 19% black, and it would be pretty unusual for them to be represented at 26% in a general election.

So I e-mailed Gary Bartlett, the director of the extremely well run North Carolina Board of Elections, this morning and asked him for the demographic data on the 2004 electorate in North Carolina. It turns out the actual black electorate in the state that year was a little under 19%.

So the exit poll was incredibly wrong. This is a good example of the caveats with weighting polls to prior exit polls. We will certainly be changing the way we weight for race in North Carolina based on this information, and we are not going to be blindly accepting any past exit polls as fact when figuring out how to weight things in other states either.

I think the figure Survey USA used is pretty reasonable, and hope they don't get any more gruff for that particular aspect of the poll.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

SurveyUSA does NC: Governor and Senate

Our good friends at SurveyUSA have their first North Carolina general election poll out. Here's what they found:

-Bev Perdue with a 52-45 lead over Pat McCrory for Governor. So now you have a choice of polls to push whatever story line you want in that race- SUSA has Perdue with the strong advantage, we have it dead even, Rasmussen has McCrory with the strong advantage.

Some of the key things in the crosstabs? McCrory needs moderate votes to win and right now he's not getting them. Perdue leads 57-39 with voters who describe themselves as such. Perdue pulls 23% of voters who describe themselves as conservatives, while McCrory is at 20% with self described liberals.

Perdue also has a 49-41 lead with independents, a result at odds with our survey from a few weeks ago. I really have no idea who's right on that front. Full results here.

-Elizabeth Dole leads Kay Hagan 50-46, an indication that a) this race really has tightened and b) even two weeks after Hagan's primary ads went off the air, she's still keeping it competitive.

The big issue for Hagan may be keeping her voters in the party. While only 9% of Republicans cross over to support her, 23% of Democrats say they're voting for Dole. Dole has a 56-38 advantage with independent voters.

What I want to know is why 27% of self described liberals support Dole. Come on people! This is one of the races that Democrats need to win to get to 60 votes in the Senate, and if you want a progressive agenda enacted that sure would be helpful.

One piece of good news for Hagan though- she's actually got a 49-48 lead with the voters whose minds are made up. Dole has the resounding 63-32 edge with the 18% who could change their mind. I'm guessing those are voters who know Dole but don't know Hagan. If Hagan can convince those voters to like her- or not to like Dole- she has a decent chance. Full results here.

Curious Dole Maneuvering

When Marty Ryall was hired as Bill Graham's campaign manager in December, Graham was polling at 14% in our survey, tied with Pat McCrory. That was with 47% still undecided.

Graham ended up getting 9% in the election.

Now Ryall is Elizabeth Dole's campaign manager. That's the equivalent of being the coach at a school like Liberty, failing miserably, and then getting hired to coach at Duke.

It's an odd move by the Dole camp.

Some folks have dismissed the two polls showing the race tightening last week because they came right after a primary campaign where Kay Hagan got a lot of positive air exposure and Dole didn't. There's some truth to that- but at the same time Dole didn't get attacked over the air any about her inattentiveness to North Carolina during the primary either- and a well done negative campaign causes a lot more damage than a positive campaign ever can.

If the Hagan campaign does a good job it will be interesting to see how this race unfolds.

My take on Poblano

Recently there has been some interesting coverage from Mark Blumenthal and criticism from Dick Bennett of ARG about a blogger named Poblano, who posts at the excellent

Here's the crux of the story: Poblano has a non polling statistical model he uses to forecast what's going to happen in primaries, and it's been remarkably accurate in predicting the margins by which Clinton or Obama have won recent primaries. He also projects turnout, where his predictions have not been as accurate. But no one else is putting out accurate data based turnout estimates that I've seen so I don't see that as a particular strike against him.

Poblano's accuracy seems to be making some pollsters insecure, but I don't see it that way. When polling companies release numbers on the horse race in various states, there's not much point to it other than to call the election right. If Poblano's models continue to be more accurate than a lot of the polling out there, then good for him! It's us pollsters' problem if someone else spending a heck of a lot less money finds a better way to do it than us.

Check out Poblano's projection for Oregon. I hope he's wrong since we have Obama winning the state by a lot more :) Nonetheless, he's doing very interesting and quality work and I encourage anyone who wants to read a good site to know what's going on in the Presidential race to check out

Monday, May 19, 2008

Notes on our Oregon poll

-As several folks have noted, our Presidential numbers showed Hillary Clinton leading 50-32 among black voters. Of course that's goofy, but it wasn't a miscalculation. Keep in mind that there were a grand total of 26 black voters in our sample. That means a margin of error of +/- 19.2% for that particular crosstab. So I wouldn't make too much of it.

-Other folks have suggested that all weekend polling is likely to have been thrown off by the remarkably well attended Obama rally in Portland yesterday. While weekend polling always has its pitfalls, we called through our entire sample at 11 AM, 3 PM, and 7 PM Saturday and then again at 2 PM, 4 PM, and 7 PM Sunday. I imagine that most anyone who was willing to answer the survey was home at one of those times.

-Our data is almost always better than my intuition, but even though we show Obama up by a lot more than any other polling that came out today, I think it's actually more likely that Obama's winning margin will exceed what we're showing than be less than it. PPP has only underestimated Obama twice the whole cycle- in Ohio where we had him doing one point too well, and of course the Pennsylvania disaster.

We'll see tomorrow!

Oregon Poll: Other Stuff

John Kroger leads Greg MacPherson 42-31 in his quest for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General. Kroger leads 48-35 with those who have already voted, leads across all age groups, and with both men and women.

Kate Brown has a significant lead for Secretary of State, with 42% of the vote. She is followed by Rick Metsger and Vicki Walker with 19% and 17% of the vote respectively. Paul Damian Wells is lagging at 1%.

Brown leads across every age, gender, and racial group.

Full results here.

Oregon Poll: Senate

Steve Novick 38
Jeff Merkley 33
Candy Neville 6
David Loera 1
Pavel Goberman 1
Roger Obrist 1

The heated Oregon senate primary is going right down to the wire, with Steve Novick and Jeff Merkley still in a statistical dead heat with 19% undecided on election eve.

The better Barack Obama does, the better Novick's chances, our poll found. Novick leads 45-34 with Obama supporters, while Merkley has a 34-30 advantage with those who are supporting Clinton.

Merkley leads with senior citizens and the two are tied with young voters, but Novick currently has a strong advantage with middle aged voters in the state.

Novick also has a strong advantage with men, while Merkley has the small edge with women.

This race could go either way in tomorrow's tally.

Full results here.

Oregon Poll: President

Barack Obama 58
Hillary Clinton 39

Barack Obama is likely to win a dominant victory tomorrow in Oregon. PPP has repeatedly found similarities between Wisconsin and Oregon in its polling of the two states. Both times polling more than two weeks out tended to show Obama with a lead in the single digits. A week out his lead moved into the lower double digits. And now it's in the upper double digits. Oregon is also the only state besides Wisconsin where we've found the war as an issue on par with the economy, and that works to Obama's advantage as well.

Given how many people have already voted and how strongly they're going for Obama, there's a decent chance he's already won the primary based on the ballots already filled out. 74% of respondents said they had already voted, and among them Obama has a 60-39 advantage.

Obama leads 50-43 with women, pretty much cutting off any hope for Clinton, while leading 63-32 with men. Clinton leads senior citizens, while Obama has the advantage across the rest of the age groups.

Full results here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fun with crosstabs: state stuff

-Another indication that Pat McCrory is doing a better job with crossover support than Bev Perdue right now: while 77% of Perdue's supporters are Democrats, just 61% of McCrory's supporters are Republicans.

-Perdue also continues to be heavily reliant on the black vote, as she was for much of the primary before taking over with white voters down the stretch run. 54% of her supporters are white, while 42% are black. For McCrory the figures are 88% and 9%. Obama on the ticket will definitely help Perdue.

-For the sake of comparison, Roy Cooper's supporters are are 67% white and 31% black.

-The greatest level of convergence of support between two candidates? Supporters of Wayne Goodwin support Elaine Marshall by a margin of 87-8. The lowest level of convergence of support between two candidates of the same party? Supporters of Pat McCrory support Bob Crumley by a margin of only 54-30 against Cooper.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fun with crosstabs: President, Senate

Some interesting observations, delving deeper into the crosstabs from our North Carolina poll this week:

-Among voters undecided in a possible Clinton/McCain matchup, 64% support Barack Obama and 11% support John McCain in a possible Obama/McCain matchup. Among voters undecided in a possible Obama/McCain matchup, 42% support Hillary Clinton and 10% support John McCain in a possible Clinton/McCain matchup.

What does that all mean? It means that while folks who supported Clinton or Obama in the primary might not be committing to vote for the other Democrat in the general election, they're not for the most part saying they intend to vote for McCain either. My money says most of those folks will end up voting for the Democratic nominee, which means that our poll this week probably undersold the standing of both Clinton and Obama.

Such is the pitfall of general election polling at this point in the game, and it means that Obama probably matches up better against McCain state by state better than a lot of the most recent surveys show.

-More evidence of that: 42% of the undecideds in a possible McCain/Obama matchup are Democrats, while just 22% are Republicans. The numbers are more dramatic in a Clinton/McCain matchup- 64% of undecideds are Democrats, while just 14% are Republicans.

-Kay Hagan has more room to move up in her match with Elizabeth Dole than Dole does. 55% of undecided voters in that race are Democrats, while just 24% are Republicans. If Hagan can shore up her standing with her own party, that's an even closer race than our poll showed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Key Demographic in the Governor's Race

If the race for Governor remains close over the next six months, who emerges victorious could come down to who earns the votes of white Democrats in the greater Charlotte area.

Pat McCrory's standing in the region is remarkably strong. He has an amazing 96-2 lead over Bev Perdue among Republican voters in his home base, compared to 78-14 statewide. And while the race is 50-36 with independent voters across North Carolina, McCrory leads 68-23 around Charlotte.

The biggest potential problem our poll this week showed for Perdue came with white Democrats in the region- she leads McCrory just 54-42 with them. That's a pretty remarkable amount of crossover support. If Perdue can bring most of those voters home, she should be in better shape. But if she can't, she's going to have to really rack up margins in the eastern counties to make up for McCrory's Charlotte strength across party lines.

The Easley/Perdue Administration?

I'm a little late on this but I was amused last week to see that Pat McCrory is going to try to tag Bev Perdue to Mike Easley with references to the 'Easley/Perdue administration.'

If I was the Perdue campaign, I'd say thanks.

For the most part Democrats are going to vote for the Democratic candidate for Governor and Republicans are going to vote for the Republican candidate for Governor. But one of the things that made Easley such an electoral success was receiving a good deal of crossover support from folks voting Republican on most of the rest of their ballot, particularly in eastern North Carolina. About the most conservative person I've ever known voted for Easley in 2004.

There's no doubt that Easley has had some missteps lately, with issues related to mental health and state emails getting him a lot of flack in the press. But I don't think those are issues that the folks who have crossed over to support Easley are losing a lot of sleep over. They still like Easley. And although they probably don't agree with Easley on the illegal immigration issue it's irrelevant a) because Easley has no direct control over it and isn't getting his way and b) Perdue has a different position on the issue.

Last week Jack Hawke said the McCrory campaign needed to shore up its support in eastern North Carolina. Tying Bev Perdue to Mike Easley probably isn't the best way to do it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

General Election: Council of State


Beth Wood 41
Les Merritt 32

To me this was by far the most interesting result of our polling in the down ballot races. The Democratic challenger starts with a large lead over the Republican incumbent.

How to explain it? Well many folks speculated in 2004 that Merritt knocked off Ralph Campbell because his name was on the ballot as Leslie Merritt, and voters have a propensity for female candidates. I didn't lend that theory much credence, but we called him Les Merritt in the poll, and he's getting clobbered. Next time we'll switch it to Leslie Merritt and see what difference it makes. One thing's for sure- Wood cleaned up on the female vote with a 47-25 advantage.

Lieutenant Governor:

Walter Dalton 43
Robert Pittenger 40

Both candidates have a lot of resources, which should make it a close race.


Bill Daughtridge 38
Janet Cowell 37

The 252 area code tends to be Democratic territory but it's also Daughtridge's home ground and for now he's carrying it 42-39 even as every other statewide Democrat has a double digit lead there. That's helping to balance out Cowell's female advantage.

Attorney General:

Roy Cooper 47
Bob Crumley 34

Secretary of State:

Elaine Marshall 48
Jack Sawyer 32

If there are two members of the Council of State who are pretty sure to be reelected it's Cooper and Marshall, who have both been in office a long time and are quite popular.


June Atkinson 42
Richard Morgan 36

Agriculture Commissioner:

Steve Troxler 42
Ronnie Ansley 34

Troxler is getting more crossover support than any Republican besides McCrory. He's done things to ingratiate himself to Democrats over the course of his term, such as being one of the first major Republicans in the state to come out against the OLF.

Insurance Commissioner:

Wayne Goodwin 40
John Odom 33

The Democrat starts with the lead in this open seat contest.

Full results here.

General Election: Governor

Pat McCrory 45
Bev Perdue 45

The general election race for Governor starts as a dead heat, just as it was when PPP last polled Perdue against McCrory in February.

One key reason is that McCrory is getting more crossover support than Perdue at this time. While Perdue earns just 14% of Republican votes, McCrory is getting support from 20% of Democrats.

That disparity could well be a result of the kind of primary each just went through- McCrory pretty much got a free pass from his Republican rivals, while Perdue got hammered by Richard Moore.

I think it's a good bet that some of Moore's supporters are saying they're for McCrory, or that they're undecided.

While the Republican candidates held a joint press conference last Wednesday, there has been no sign of unity between Moore and Perdue. It is incumbent upon the Perdue campaign to reach out to Moore, work to smooth over the hard feelings, and get on the same page. Moore should record a call endorsing Perdue that can be sent out to Democratic voters across the state.

The candidates are evenly matched throughout the state except in McCrory's Charlotte region, where he leads 58-35, and in Perdue's northeastern part of the state, where she leads 62-28.

Full results here.

Oregon Results

Barack Obama 53
Hillary Clinton 39

Our poll showed the war- at 41%- out polling the economy- at 34%- as the biggest issue for Democrats in Oregon. The last state where we saw the war poll remotely that high was in Wisconsin, and that was another state with a small minority population that Barack Obama nonetheless won big. It looks like we're headed for a repeat performance in Oregon.

Obama is winning pretty much across the board. He dominates among male voters (60-31) while also maintaining a small edge with female voters (48-45). He is leading with every racial group, and also leads across three of four age groups. The only demographic Clinton has the advantage with is senior citizens, among whom she leads 50-41, a margin too small for her to have much of a chance of knocking off Obama.

PPP will have a final Oregon poll next Monday.

Full results here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rasmussen Governor Poll

I figured that after the Rasmussen/WRAL poll showed Kay Hagan with a seemingly too good to be true one point lead over Elizabeth Dole and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton within a seemingly too good to be true three points of John McCain that the poll would continue to show a Democratic lean and have Bev Perdue with a solid lead.

But it actually has Pat McCrory with a 45-39 lead!

Rasmussen is a really good polling company- good people and a good tracking record- but if you really think Kay Hagan, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton are all out polling Bev Perdue in North Carolina I have some real estate on Mars to sell you.

We'll be out with our somewhat different numbers tomorrow morning.

More Rasmussen/WRAL

Yesterday Rasmussen showed Kay Hagan in the lead over Elizabeth Dole, now it shows John McCain leading Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton just 48-45 and 43-40 respectively.

The much higher level of undecideds in the Clinton/McCain matchup is an indication to me that they are seeing the same thing we did with many black voters saying they are undecided if Hillary ends up with the nomination.

WRAL has the crosstabs on its website, but does not have them by race.

WRAL also says they will have Gubernatorial numbers tonight. My guess based on what I've seen in these Senate and Presidential numbers is that they're going to show Bev Perdue leading Pat McCrory by 4-6 points. Although I would like to believe the numbers Rasmussen has put out over the last few days I think they are a little too favorable for Democrats.

General Election Poll: President

John McCain 49
Barack Obama 42

John McCain 46
Hillary Clinton 38

When PPP last polled North Carolina general election matches in February, Obama and Clinton were both just five points behind McCain. Now, despite the two candidates having spent an enormous amount of resources in the state over the last few months, they're doing worse. The culprit? Democratic disunity.

While John McCain pulls 83-84% of the Republican vote against both Clinton and Obama, neither of the Democrats are polling over 70% with members of their own party. Obama leads 68-25 with Democrats, Clinton leads 61-17.

There is particularly strong evidence in the poll that supporters of Obama are not sure right now whether they would vote for Clinton if she somehow became the party's nominee. She leads just 42-17 among black voters, with a remarkable 42% undecided. Obama, on the other hand, has an 80-13 lead with them.

Whether the Democratic nominee ends up having any chance in North Carolina this fall will have a lot to do with how well they are able to bring in Democrats who supported the ultimately unsuccessful candidate for President.

Full results here.

General Election Poll: Senate

Elizabeth Dole 48
Kay Hagan 43

Having a contested- but not too contested- primary worked out perfectly for Kay Hagan. Her opposition was strong enough that she had to run tv ads. But it wasn't strong enough to have the resources to run attack ads against her. The result was about a month of an opportunity for Hagan to present her message largely unfiltered over the airwaves, and that's allowed Hagan to pull the closest to Dole she's been since entering the race. She had trailed by 17 points in PPP's most recent poll, taken in February.

Hagan is winning big among voters whose top issues are the economy (51-39) and the war (57-36.) Those are the biggest issues for voters in the state, but Dole leads by even larger margins on wedge issues like immigration (89-8) and moral and family values (82-10).

Hagan is running competitively in every region of the state except the mountains, where she did little or no advertising during the primary, and the southeastern part of the state.

Full results here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rasmussen: Hagan leads Dole!

In a somewhat remarkable turn of events, Kay Hagan leads Elizabeth Dole 48-47 in the newest Rasmussen poll.

We will have our newest numbers on that race tomorrow. They are not quite as favorable, but still show Hagan's strongest performance since we started polling this in October.

Hagan's net favorability (53/30) is better than Dole's (56/38).

The key reason Hagan is doing so well is an 80-15 advantage among Democrats. Many, many more voters than that crossed over in 2002 and that helped contribute to Dole's resounding victory.

She also leads 59-35 among moderate voters, obviously a group she will need to do well with to have a chance in the fall.

This poll comes after a period where Hagan was on the air a lot with positive ads about herself with no response but nonetheless it is an indication that if she can keep Democratic voters in the fold and win over moderates, and that if there is astronomical turnout this fall of folks voting for Obama, she might just be able to pull off a shocking upset.

Friday, May 9, 2008

No doubt TV is the winner

This not exactly a revelation but for all the buzz the strong grassroots campaigns of folks like Jim Neal and Fred Smith generated over the last four months there is no doubt that tv advertising is the key to winning a statewide office in North Carolina, from the top of the ticket on down. Let's review:

-Bev Perdue led our poll at the start of February by 14 points. Soon after that Richard Moore went off the air for a couple weeks, while Perdue stayed on. Perdue's lead expanded to 27 points (probably wasn't really that high) at the beginning of March. Moore came back on, with better ads than he'd run the first time around, and got the race back into single digits.

-At the end of March Fred Smith moved into a tie with Pat McCrory on the Republican side after trailing ever since McCrory entered the race. McCrory went on the air later that week, built his lead back up to double digits, and never looked back (unless you think the WRAL poll last week was correct, but I don't.)

-For poll after poll after poll Kay Hagan led Neal in the area of 20-10. The first poll after she went on tv was 28-7. The next one after that was 35-8. And she just moved on from there.

Even in the down ballot races the effects were similarly clear:

-The race for Treasurer was basically deadlocked in all of our polling until April. David Young went on the air in the middle of the month and took the lead for the first time, at three points in our second to last poll. But Janet Cowell had held back on her money to pour it all into advertising the last week. She swept by Young and won a pretty dominant victory.

-The race for Lieutenant Governor was a perpetual four way tie until Walter Dalton and Hampton Dellinger started running ads. The race went to 25-15 and then 33-23 in the two weeks after they started really advertising.

-Likewise on the Republican side in that race, Robert Pittenger was basically tied with Greg Dority and Jim Snyder, then vaulted all the way up to 60% after his ad campaign hit full bore.

The volume of polling we did in these races makes it more clear than ever before the impact of tv advertising. It may be unfortunate, but no candidate who does not have the money to run tv is going to be able to compete in a race where other candidates do any time in the near future.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Governor General Election Preview

Jack Hawke, Pat McCrory's campaign manager, told the Charlotte Observer this morning that their general election strategy is to win enough votes in the east to neutralize the Democratic advantage there and build on Republican strength in the west.

Good luck with that.

He's right that a Republican isn't going to get elected Governor without doing well in the east. And I don't think Pat McCrory is going to be the one to do it.

Look at Tuesday night. Bev Perdue won a bevy of eastern counties by margins of more than 2:1 against Richard Moore. She's from there, and they love her.

McCrory on the other hand lost most of the eastern counties to Fred Smith by margins of 2:1 all the way on up to 8:1!

Perdue is going to clobber him out there.

The picture isn't much better for McCrory in the western part of the state either. He performed poorly in pretty much every county from Asheville on west.

That leaves the central Piedmont as McCrory's key area of performance, just as it was Tuesday. And with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, the turnout from black voters in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Durham figures to be through the roof.

I do not see Pat McCrory getting elected Governor this fall barring Democratic self destruction. Which of course we've been known to do.

All that said, data is better than intuition, and we'll have our first general election poll of all the North Carolina races early next week.

Kudos to the Board of Elections

Most people probably haven't given much thought to the North Carolina Board of Elections since Tuesday. That's because nothing really went wrong. And that's pretty remarkable given the turnout and historic nature of the primary. The BOE really deserves some credit for a job well done.

Beyond running an incredibly smooth election, the new election results reporting interface they unveiled was outstanding. Results came in quickly, and it was easy to see which counties had come in and which ones hadn't. I've never felt like I had such a strong handle on the results of a statewide election before

Congratulations to Gary Bartlett and his folks on a job very well done.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Breaking down the races: Dem Senate

We got some flack from supporters of Jim Neal in March and April when we were consistently showing Hagan with a double digit lead and Neal in the single digits. Given that 60% were undecided at that point and Neal only ended up with 18% I'm pretty sure we were right the whole time.

Hagan ended up winning 94 out of 100 counties. Neal won McDowell and Yancey counties, and Marcus Williams won Robeson, Bertie, and Hertford. Gates County ended up dead even between Hagan and Williams.

Hagan beat Neal more than 2:1 in every county except Buncombe, Camden, Cherokee, Clay, Currituck, Gates, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Mitchell, Orange, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Polk, Rutherford, Scotland, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, and the counties mentioned above.

What almost all of those counties have in common is that they are in tv markets that are not cost effective to advertise in. Most of the Asheville market is in Upstate South Carolina. The northeastern counties on this list are in the Norfolk tv market. I'm guessing Hagan did little or no advertising on the stations in those markets.

Breaking down the races: Rep Governor

Well Pat McCrory sure ended up doing better down the stretch than us pollsters expected. I wonder if WRAL is embarrassed about the Mason Dixon poll they commissioned that showed Fred Smith with a one point lead. At least Survey USA and PPP never showed it get closer than four.

Not much doubt about where he won it. Look at this map of the Charlotte media market, and look at this map of which counties he won and didn't. The only counties he won that weren't either in his home market or along I-85 were Wilkes, Forsyth, Lee, Montgomery, Chatham, Moore, Person, and Halifax. And those are all pretty darn proximate to I-85 or Charlotte tv market counties.

McCrory's victory is a pretty strong argument for Brad Crone's premise that I-85 is the state's political lifeline.

McCrory's margins in a lot of those counties was remarkable. In the outer core of the Charlotte media market he consistently beat Fred Smith more than 2:1 in counties including Alexander, Anson, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Montgomery, and Richmond. In the inner core of the Charlotte market the margins were even stronger- more than 3:1 in Lincloln and Rowan counties, more than 4:1 in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Stanly, and Union counties and more than 5:1 in Mecklenburg.

It's a good thing because he really got trounced in a lot of areas in eastern and western North Carolina, which admittedly were not exactly voter rich. Counties in the east where he lost more than 2:1 include Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Duplin, Greene, Hertford, Johnston, Lenoir, Martin, Onslow, Sampson, and Wayne. Counties in the east where he lost more than 3:1 include Jones, Pamlico, Gates, Currituck, and Bertie. He lost Beaufort and Hyde Counties 4:1, Chowan and Dare 5:1, Pasquotank and Perquimans 6:1, Camden 7:1, and Tyrrell 8:1.

In the west he lost 2:1 in Buncombe, Jackson, Henderson, Madison, Mitchell, Transylvania, and Yancey, 3:1 in Swain, Macon, Cherokee, Polk, and Clay, and 4:1 in Graham.

But he dominated in the center, and that was enough to push to victory- in the primary anyway.

PPP: #1 in Survey USA Report Cards for IN, NC

Survey USA does report cards after each primary using a variety of measures to determine which pollster did the best job in calling the races.

Their report cards rank PPP as the most accurate pollster for both North Carolina and Indiana.

We're proud to have bounced back strongly from our poor performance in Pennsylvania.

I also want to say something about Jay Leve, the President of Survey USA. He knew that yesterday was a big day for us because we had been so thoroughly polling all the races in North Carolina, and he took the time to email us Monday night and tell us he hoped we had a good day. That was a remarkably classy move on his part, and not the first time he's done something like that. He is one of the really quality people in this business, and he runs a great company.

Breaking down the races: Dem Lieutenant Governor

The first thing I have to say about this race is that it is sad folks like Dan Besse and Pat Smathers can't raise the money necessary to be competitive in a race like this. They are two of the finest people in public service I have ever known but they never really had a chance to be successful in this race because they couldn't raise a million bucks. That's life, but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

It looks like Smathers spent about 62 cents per vote, based on the most recent campaign finance filings. Besse spent $1.52 per vote, Walter Dalton spent $2.13 per vote, and Hampton Dellinger spent $2.22. Looking at those figures it's hard not to think Pat Smathers would have had a real decent chance at winning this race if he'd had the same resources as Dalton and Dellinger. I hope the next Governor finds a place for Pat in their administration- he has a whole lot to offer this state. Same with Dan.

Dalton won this race in the small towns and rural areas of North Carolina. Dellinger couldn't get much traction outside of the urban areas in the state. Hampton won large victories in Durham and Orange counties, where he lives and grew up respectively. He also eaked out victories in Wake, Chatham, and Mecklenburg counties and won four counties in eastern North Carolina.

Dalton won the rest of the state, except for Haywood County where Smathers was victorious. In many of the smaller and rural counties Dalton led Dellinger by more than a 2 to 1 margin, including Alexander, Ashe, Anson, Bladen, Burke, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Columbus, Currituck, Dare, Edgecombe, Graham, Granville, Halifax, Hoke, Jones, Lenoir, Macon, McDowell, Nash, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Polk, Robeson, Rutherford, Sampson, Scotland, Stanly, Vance, Warren, and Yancey Counties. That's an impressive combination of western and eastern counties, and an indication that Dalton had pretty strong statewide appeal.

One other note on this race: our final preelection poll showed Dalton leading Dellinger 33-23, but Dalton's advantage with black voters in it was 41-24. Dellinger won the endorsement of almost every black political group in the state, but the influence of those groups has been declining and if the crosstabs from our final poll were accurate it looks like they didn't do a great job of building support for him in their communities.

Breaking down the races: Dem Governor

Bev Perdue won 92 out of 100 counties in the race for Governor. Moore won Granville, Warren, and Vance counties which are his home base. He also won a few western counties- Caldwell, Transylvania, and Swain. Finally he won Anson- and amusingly enough- Moore County.

One thing I was surprised about in this race was that Dennis Nielsen really did pull 4%. We showed him around there in all of our polling but I never thought he would actually end up doing that well.

Perdue's biggest margins came in urban counties with large black populations- Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, and Mecklenburg were all places where she earned over 60% of the vote. There's no doubt that her support from the black community carried her throughout this campaign, although she did better with white voters toward the end.

She also racked up huge margins in eastern North Carolina, as might be expected. She won with margins in the area of 2:1 or more in Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Jones, Northampton, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, and Washington counties.

So she won her most important victories in the big counties, while winning her most dominant victories in the region of the state she calls home.

I'll have a post later looking at the Perdue/McCrory dynamic.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

NC races: we nailed them

Over the last 16 months PPP released 23 North Carolina tracking polls looking at all of the partisan races for statewide office. It was the most comprehensive data ever made publicly available for the North Carolina races, and we have endured a lot of praise and grief for it during the time.

Now it's over. How did we do?

We said Barack Obama would win the Presidential primary by double digits. He did.

We said Bev Perdue would win a blow out victory for Governor. She did.

We said, much earlier than any other polling company, that Kay Hagan would win the nomination for Senate by an enormous margin. She did.

We showed that Janet Cowell would win the Democratic primary for Treasurer without a runoff. She did.

We showed that Beth Wood would win a dominant victory for Auditor. She did.

We showed Mary Fant Donnan leading for Labor Commissioner with Robin Anderson and John Brooks duking it out for the second runoff spot. It happened.

We showed Wayne Goodwin would win a solid victory for Insurance Commissioner. He did.

Our private polling showed that Walter Dalton would win the nomination for Lieutenant Governor without a runoff. He did.

On the Democratic side the one race where I'm not thrilled with our performance is Superintendent. Eddie Davis came much closer to knocking off June Atkinson than our polling had indicated.

We showed that Pat McCrory would win the Republican nomination for Governor and there wouldn't be a runoff. He did.

We showed that Robert Pittenger would dominate the race for Lieutenant Governor. He did.

We showed that Richard Morgan would win the nomination for Superintendent without a runoff. He did.

And of course we picked the Elizabeth Dole race right :)

For all the slings and arrows, I'd say we ended up just about perfect.

Unaffiliateds and the Republican race

Dome reports that Pat McCrory is concerned about unaffiliated voters choosing the Democratic ballot. He should be, and it's been reflected in our polls.

There is a stereotype that unaffiliated voters in North Carolina are moderates with views in between the two parties. Certainly there are unaffiliated voters who fit that description but it's not necessarily a majority. In Orange County most unaffiliated voters are stubborn liberals who don't think the Democratic party is sufficiently progressive. I'm sure that in many conservative areas conservatives disenchanted with Republican leadership don't register with the party as well.

When it looked like the North Carolina Presidential primary wouldn't matter, Pat McCrory was sitting pretty with the unaffiliateds. He led the first four polls we broke out that way 27-12, 23-17, 27-16, and 32-12 with that group.

In our final two primary polls though Smith actually leads among the unaffiliated voters- 35-29 this week and 46-34 this week.

Why the difference? I think in February and March plenty of those centrist unaffiliateds were planning to vote in the GOP primary, and inclined to support McCrory. Now most of them are voting in the Democratic primary, and the ones who are left voting on the Republican side are those stubborn conservatives- and they're more likely to go for Smith.

The good news for McCrory? Our polls have picked up this trend the last couple weeks and he's still in the lead. It shouldn't be a deal breaker for him.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Survey USA Republican Poll

Some interesting trends in this week's Survey USA Republican gubernatorial poll compared to their one last week that make a runoff seem like more of a possbility:

-Last week Pat McCrory and Fred Smith combined for 68% in their poll. Bill Graham and Bob Orr combined for 12%.

-This week McCrory and Smith went up two points, to a combined 70%. But Graham and Orr went up five points for a combined 17%.

So, improbably, the two lesser funded and well known candidates gained more in their poll in the last week than the two frontrunners.

I don't know if that's a real trend or a statistical anomaly- we didn't show the same thing- but it would certainly make a runoff more likely. Graham and Orr would need to pick up another 5% from the 13% undecided in their poll, or 39% of the undecideds (and have Smith and McCrory dead even). That's still asking them to pull a lot more than the 20% of decided voters they're currently getting but it makes another seven weeks seem more plausible than either our poll today or last week's incarnation of the Survey USA poll. We shall see.

Survey USA NC Poll

Survey USA's final poll in North Carolina is out.

In the race for Governor their numbers pretty much mirror ours. They have Bev Perdue up 52-33 where we had it 51-33. Either way it's over.

In the Republican race they have Pat McCrory up 38-32. We had it at 39-35. Pretty similar results. It really is just going to depend on who shows up tomorrow and I'm not sure anyone has a real strong grasp of that on the GOP side.

They continue to show the Presidential race pretty close- Obama 50 Clinton 45. We'll know soon enough!

Runoffs Revisited

Ryan posts on the Dome blog about 'rampant speculation' on possible runoffs in the Republican race for Governor and the Democratic race for Lieutenant Governor.

I addressed this issue the other day but I'll do it again.

Republican race for Governor first:

Pat McCrory and Fred Smith combined for 74% in our poll today. The other three candidates combined for 12%.

For there to be a runoff McCrory and Smith would have to combine for 78% with a dead even 39-39 tie and the other three candidates would have to combine for 22%.

That means the also rans would need 10% of the remaining 14% undecided, or 71% of the undecideds and they would need for McCrory and Smith to run dead even.

Why would the also rans get 71% of the undecideds when they only have the support of 14% of those who have decided? The simple answer is they wouldn't. There will not be a Republican runoff for Governor. I have enough confidence in our polling and that of Survey USA to make that statement with relative certainty.

I can't really address the Democratic race for Lieutenant Governor because our data is private but on runoffs:

-There will be one for Democratic Labor Commissioner
-It's 50/50 for Republican Superintendent
-It's about 33/67 against for Democratic Treasurer.

If I had to put my money on it I would say there will be one statewide runoff for each party and a good chance at record low turnout June 24th.

Indiana Poll Results

Hillary Clinton 51
Barack Obama 46

There has been some minor movement in Barack Obama's direction since PPP's Indiana poll last week, mostly because Obama is shoring up his support with black voters.

The state's open primary is working to Obama's benefit. While he trails Clinton by ten points among Democrats, he has a small lead with Republicans and a 52-39 edge with voters who don't identify with either party.

Clinton's victory in Indiana will come almost exclusively from voters over 65. She leads with them 63-31 while trailing in the under 45 vote.

The bottom line on Tuesday's primaries is that Obama is likely to win North Carolina by more than Clinton's winning margin in Indiana. The delegate count will be largely a wash and Obama will just be one more day closer to the nomination, barring some massive new scandal that would send the super delegates in Clinton's direction.

Full results here.


Someone came to the blog earlier today googling 'is Fred Smith a conservative?'

If Pat McCrory wins the nomination tomorrow the fact that Smith didn't run a strong enough media campaign for that voter's question to be answered without having to google it will be the reason.

Republican Tracking Poll: the Other Stuff

Robert Pittenger, with 40%, followed by Greg Dority, Jim Snyder, and Timothy Cook at 9%, 8%, and 6% respectively is going to be the GOP nominee for Lieutenant Governor.

Elizabeth Dole leads Pete DiLauro 84-11 in her quest for renomination.

The Republican race for Superintendent could see two outcomes tomorrow: an outright win by Richard Morgan, or a runoff between him and either of his opponents. Morgan is at 19%, followed by Eric Smith with 13% and Joe Johnson with 12%.

Full results here

Republican Tracking Poll: Governor

Pat McCrory 39
Fred Smith 35
Bill Graham 6
Bob Orr 5
Elbie Powers 1

The Republican contest for Governor is close, and likely to come down to who can turn out their supporters.

The conventional wisdom is that Smith's supporters are more passionate and committed than McCrory's. There is some evidence of that in our poll- Smith leads 48-38 among those voters who said they voted early.

McCrory doesn't really have a grassroots operation compared to Smith and has stayed ahead in the polls through a strong media campaign. Those voters' support is more casual and McCrory's success or failure will depend on whether those people get out and vote or not.

My guess is that the lower turnout is, the more likely Smith is to pull off the upset. Smith continues to lead every part of the state except for the metro Charlotte area. Pat McCrory will certainly be praying for a sunny day in the central Piedmont.

This poll is further confirmation that there is pretty much no chance of a runoff on the Republican side.

Full results here.

Democratic Tracking Poll: Everything Else


Kay Hagan 41
Jim Neal 11
Marcus Williams 6
Duskin Lassiter 4
Howard Staley 2

Although he earned a lot of respect from Democratic activists, Jim Neal never really caught on with the masses. Hagan will win a resounding victory tomorrow.


Janet Cowell 26
David Young 18
Michael Weisel 14

Cowell made a decision to hold back on tv and run a ton the final week of the campaign even while David Young went on the air in mid-April. It looks like that may have been a prudent choice- she has stormed ahead after trailing by three points in our poll last week. A runoff in this race is still a possibility but it doesn't look like Michael Weisel's final performance will end up being strong enough to send the race in that direction.


June Atkinson 37
Eddie Davis 19

Atkinson will win the nomination to run for another term.


Beth Wood 36
Fred Aikens 22

Wood will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee for Auditor.

Insurance Commissioner:

Wayne Goodwin 27
David Smith 21

Possibly more telling that Goodwin's overall lead is that he is up 43-25 with folks who voted early. That would seem to be an indication that when voters research the candidates and make their decision, they're choosing Goodwin.

Labor Commissioner:

Mary Fant Donnan 16
John Brooks 15
Robin Anderson 15
Ty Richardson 10

This race is headed for a runoff and any of the top three candidates have a decent chance of making it.

Full results here

Democratic Tracking Poll: Governor

Bev Perdue 51
Richard Moore 33
Dennis Nielsen 5

Bev Perdue is going to be the Democratic nominee for Governor. Over the last two weeks she has doubled her lead in the race, along the way taking the lead with every demographic category we run numbers for.

She has a commanding 59-25 lead with black voters, an indication that her response to Richard Moore's ads tying her to the KKK and Confederate memorabilia was more effective than the original ads themselves. She also now leads 47-39 with white voters, a better performance than she has shown in most recent polling of the race and a possible indication that Moore's ads turned those voters off as well.

Among those who say they voted early Perdue has a particularly strong 58-35 lead. She has a double digit lead in every region of the state.

Full results here.

Democratic Tracking Poll: President

Barack Obama 53
Hillary Clinton 43

At the end of the day North Carolina's demographics make it nearly impossible for Hillary Clinton to do much better than a ten point loss here. We estimate that 35% of the primary electorate will be black, and with Obama winning those voters at a rate of 84-11, Clinton's 60-34 advantage with white voters is only enough to pull his lead down to ten.

The projected percentage of the black electorate is an important factor in explaining different results from different polls. I explain how we arrived at our projection here.

Obama did extremely well during early voting in the state, where black turnout pushed up on 40%. His lead in the polls is 63-34 among those who say they have already voted. The race is a virtual tie among those who plan to vote on election day- Obama leads just 47-45 with those folks.

Obama leads with every age demographic except senior citizens and has the advantage in every region of the state except the Mountains.

Full results here.

Weighting our final NC Poll

Our final North Carolina poll will be released within the next few hours. A big decision for pollsters on this one is how to weight for race. 28% of the Democratic primary electorate in 2000 was black, and in 2004 it was 32%. But over 40% of early voters were.

Obviously how you choose to nail down that figure can have a pretty significant effect on your Presidential numbers when the electorate is so polarized along racial lines.

We settled on 35%. We asked folks who were polled if they had voted early. Taking all of the respondents in our poll, if 40% of those who voted early were black then 35% of the population as a whole was.

I don't know if that's the best or most perfect way to do it but it is at least a rational decision based on the data we have.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Startling Poll

I'm a few days late on this but Daily Kos recently commissioned a poll from Research 2000 on the North Carolina Senate race that showed some pretty startling results.

Kay Hagan's favorable/unfavorable is 44/25. Elizabeth Dole's is 44/41. That is remarkable!

The horse race shows Dole leading Hagan 48-41 and Jim Neal 49-39.

Looking at the demographic breakdown of the poll nothing really stands out as a red flag so if Kay Hagan runs a strong campaign and her race becomes a money priority nationally maybe we'll have a more competitive race this fall than might have been expected.

In the crosstabs it's interesting to note that Hagan's net favorability- 21/43- is better among Republicans than Dole's is among Democrats- 26/64. I'm guessing a lot fewer Democrats will cross over and vote for Dole because she's a 'nice lady' than did in 2002.

The poll shows less good news for Democrats on the Presidential front- John McCain leads Barack Obama 50-41 and Hillary Clinton 51-39.

Undecided voters

Our polling, even this weekend, is still showing anywhere from 30 to 50 percent undecided in the down ballot races. There are certainly more folks picking a candidate in those contests than there have been in any of our previous polling but plenty still are not.

I'll be interested in looking at the data after the election if those voters ever made a choice in those races, or just voted for President and maybe Governor and just left the rest blank.

I think our polling in races for things like Auditor and Labor Commissioner is reliable- to the extent that polling of any race showing such a high level of undecideds is reliable- I guess we'll see soon enough.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

No bomb from Moore?

When I woke up yesterday I was sure that Richard Moore would drop his final bomb on Bev Perdue. Nothing.

When I woke up today I was even more sure that Richard Moore would drop his final bomb on Bev Perdue. Still nothing.

It could be that his campaign is waiting to do something until it's really too late for Perdue to respond effectively. But it's probably also too late for something at this point to cause enough damage in 48 hours to make up a double digit deficit.

The lack of a final bomb combined with the lack of a real victory party would seem to indicate that the Moore campaign knows it's over. I haven't seen anything in the numbers yet this weekend to the contrary.

But maybe they'll surprise me.

Misconceptions about runoffs

Folks still seem to think there are going to be runoffs in the Republican races for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. They're not looking at the numbers carefully enough- it's not going to happen.

For there to be a runoff in the race for Governor, Bill Graham, Bob Orr, and Elbie Powers would have to combine for at least 22% of the vote and Fred Smith and Pat McCrory would have to tie at 39% each.

Let's look at the polls:

-SurveyUSA earlier this week showed McCrory and Smith combining for 68%, Orr and Graham combining for 12%, and 20% undecided. For Graham and Orr to combine for 22% they would have to get the votes of 50% of the undecideds. Why would they they get 50% of the undecideds when they currently are receiving the votes of only 15% of those who have made up their minds, and when they don't have the resources for final efforts to turn out their voters?

I would be absolutely shocked if there is a runoff, and the reporters and pundits who keep discussing it not just as a possibility, but as a probability aren't paying close enough attention.

Of course I will eat my words if I turn out to be wrong.

Discussing the WRAL Republican Lieutenant Governor poll, a local professor said earlier this week, 'you're probably looking at a runoff on both sides.'

In that poll Robert Pittenger had 25% with the other candidates at 9, 8, and 8 percent respectively. Going from there Pittenger, the only person running with any money, would need just 30% of the undecideds to avoid a runoff when he currently has the votes of 50% of those who have made up their minds. No logical analysis of that poll would lead you to conclude a runoff is likely.

I'll go ahead and tease on Monday's tracking poll- even with 45% or so still undecided in the Republican LG race Pittenger is polling at about 35% so far this weekend. In other words he is getting almost twice as much support as his three opponents combined. No way is a runoff in the future in that race.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The things that drive pollsters crazy

Apparently Walter Dalton has hit the airwaves with an ad attacking Hampton Dellinger. I haven't seen it and can't speak to its veracity but it makes sense- yesterday's WRAL poll made it clear that Dalton has a decent chance to win the primary without a runoff and going after Dellinger now could conceivably be the knockout punch. That's why you fire the first (well funded) bomb when you're in the lead.

As a pollster it makes me nuts! If Hillary Clinton or Richard Moore starts running a new ad on Friday night four days before the election who cares. The voters pretty much know who the candidates in those races are and have their opinions about them made up. That's not going to have a great impact on our weekend polling. But this is a whole new stage for the LG race and it makes it hard to poll the race because when we talk to folks tomorrow they probably won't have seen it yet but it's quite possible that by Monday they will have- and it could put them in the Dalton camp because they believe it, in the Dellinger camp because they think he's being targeted unfairly, or into the Besse or Smathers camp because they're seen as above that fray.

It doesn't matter externally as much in this particular race because we're not polling it publicly but if these sorts of race altering things happen with any of the other down ballot contests we're going to have to consider doing an extra poll Monday to try to nail down the races that are close and had potentially number moving events during the weekend.

Wrapping up the WRAL poll

WRAL finally put up the full results from its poll.

The thing that most caught my attention was the crosstabs by race in the Democratic race for Governor. They had Bev Perdue leading 46-35 with white voters and 44-32 with black voters. Our polls and those of SurveyUSA have shown the race much closer with white voters, but Perdue with a significantly larger margin with black voters. Are Moore's ads of late starting to resonate with blacks, but turn off whites? I think it's more likely that their small sample size- 400- means that the individual crosstabs have a large margin of error. But it's certainly something I'll be following this weekend.

The favorable/unfavorable ratings in that race are interesting as well. Perdue's is 46/13, Moore's is 28/18. That's quite a different story from a January WRAL poll that showed Perdue's negatives higher than Moore's. Partially it's because that was a general election poll rather than a primary one- but I wouldn't be surprised if the way each candidate has chosen to wage their campaign in the last three weeks has something to do with it as well. Particularly since respondents had a 57/18 favorable view of Perdue's media campaign, whereas it was 34/32 for Moore.

In the Senate race they have Kay Hagan leading Jim Neal 42-17. I really don't know why our polls have so consistently shown Neal lower than everyone else's. Maybe he'll do better this weekend. Either way it doesn't particularly matter - Hagan's got it on lock.

In the Lieutenant Governor's race Walter Dalton is ahead at 23% followed by Hampton Dellinger with 17%, Pat Smathers with 9% and Dan Besse with 5%. One thing I found interesting there was Dellinger trailing by more- 11 points- with black voters than with the population at large even though he cleaned up on the endorsements of black political organizations across the state. It will be interesting to see if those groups turn their members out on his behalf or not- a lot of that may not show yet in polling more than a few days before the election.

I don't see their Republican poll up yet but if they post it I will have some analysis.

New NC Presidential polls

I feel like I've been blogging less as the election approaches, which I regret, but we do need to make some money at PPP and the weeks before the election in the state where you are located is the biggest time to do that. So I've been spending most of my time on client work.

Lots of new NC Presidential polls, enough to make your head spin:

-Rasmussen says Obama +9. One interesting thing in their poll is they've upped the black percentage to 36%, I assume based on the early voting trends. That's something we'll be thinking about between now and our final poll(s) as well.

-ARG has Obama up 52-41, pretty similar to their previous poll in the state.

-Zogby has Obama up 50-34. That's an interestingly high level of folks who haven't chosen either Clinton or Obama yet. They have Obama within ten points among white voters, which would certainly be a strong performance for him.

-Late yesterday a McClatchy/Research 2000 poll showed Obama up 51-44. This is totally insider pollster stuff but it's interesting McClatchy teamed up with Research 2000 because they had been doing polls with Mason Dixon the rest of the cycle. Interesting that it changed. I'm pretty sure this decision was made on high at McClatchy rather than Raleigh, given what happened the list time R2K did a poll for the News&Observer.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Obama and North Carolina's neighbors

Barack Obama won three of the primaries in our surrounding states here in North Carolina- South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. And in all three of those states the polling vastly underestimated him:


Final Real Clear Politics Average

Actual tally

Closest Poll

South Carolina

Obama +12

Obama +28

Obama + 20 (PPP)


Obama +18

Obama +29

Obama +22 (Survey USA)


Obama +18

Obama +36

Obama +22 (Strategic Vision)

In all three cases Obama won by double digits more than the average preelection poll suggested, and no one got within seven points of the correct margin in any of the states.

Things are going much worse for Obama right now than they were when any of those three states voted but North Carolina is relatively similar demographically to them- a large black population, plenty of college educated liberals, etc. It will be interesting to see if Obama manages to outperform the polls in our corner of the South once again.

Lieutentant Governor's Race

We are getting a lot of queries as to why we have not released numbers in the Democratic contest for Lieutenant Governor recently. The reason is that we have a paying client in the race. There is good news though- WRAL apparently had Mason Dixon poll in the race as part of its survey and I believe they are announcing the LG numbers on the news this evening.


If you'd told me two or three weeks ago that I would be more worried about picking the Republican candidate for Governor wrong than the Democratic candidate I don't think I would have believed it. But yesterday's WRAL polls are further confirmation that's where we are.

They show Fred Smith leading Pat McCrory 32-31. Survey USA and PPP still show McCrory leading by four and five points respectively but the WRAL data is fresher and the trend has been in Smith's direction so they may be right. We might have to consider even doing an extra Monday poll after our standard weekend poll if this races remains too close to call.

On the Democratic side WRAL pretty much confirms that Bev Perdue has somewhere around a low double digit lead. The three polls this week have shown it at 9, 11, and 14.

In the Presidential race they show Obama's lead in the state slipping to seven. I find that entirely plausible considering the kind of week Obama is having. It would not be surprising if we find similar slippage in our polling this weekend.

WRAL doesn't seem to have the full data from these polls anywhere on its website or if they do I'm missing it. I really appreciate the fact that WTVD partners with Survey USA and puts everything out there- if you're going to invest in polling you should make as much of the information available to your viewers as possible.
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