Friday, November 28, 2008

Changing my mind on primaries

Eight or nine months ago I would have told you that contentious primaries were a bad thing. In mid-March we did a set of general election match up polls in Florida and Ohio. Hillary Clinton was getting only 47% of the black vote in Ohio and just 51% in Florida. Obama was doing poorly with white Democrats, leading him overall to be earning only 59% of the Democratic vote in Ohio and 53% in Florida. There was most definitely a PUMA effect at that early point in the race, and I was eager for the nomination fight to be wrapped up as quick as possible because I thought we were killing our chances in the fall.

Well I was wrong. No way does Barack Obama win his improbable victories in North Carolina and Indiana during the general election if he doesn't compete there and start building up an infrastructure in the primary. He may not have won Pennsylvania in quite the blowout he did, and the state was one of Obama's key firewalls. In this case at least, the extended primary was crucial to the extent of the electoral college victory.

Now it was not necessarily inevitable that this party unification occurred. Obama and Clinton both did exactly what they needed to do to bring her supporters on board. We wrote a report in mid-October about the declining PUMA's and looked at some of the other factors that helped to get folks on the same page.

I think the competitive primary in North Carolina's Senate race ended up being a good thing for Kay Hagan's ultimate prospects as well. It forced her to go on the air during the primary, which built up her name recognition. The polls tightened up enough that the Elizabeth Dole campaign felt the need to blow a bunch of money going on the air in June and getting their numbers back to where they wanted. It worked, but then they seemed hesitant to strike back immediately when they started getting whacked by the DSCC in August and the rest is history. Hagan having to compete with Jim Neal helped set that process in motion.

Brutal primaries certainly can be very damaging to a nominee's ultimate prospects. But as we saw this year, if folks get on the same page quickly enough it can be a good thing too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Georgia-Georgia Tech

Georgia 48
Georgia Tech 25
No Preference 27

Almost two thirds of Georgians who have a preference will be rooting for the Bulldogs on the gridiron Saturday, the newest survey from Public Policy Polling finds. There are more folks who don't care than there are planning to root for Georgia Tech.

The survey also finds that younger fans are most supportive of Georgia while the Yellow Jackets get their highest level of support from those over 65, an indication that fanhood in the state will be even more fixated on the Bulldogs moving forward. Those under 30 root for Georgia by a 58-16 margin. The closest spread between the two schools is a 46-32 margin with senior citizens.

Although Democrats and Republicans each support Georgia by a wide margin, Republicans are more likely to care about the outcome of the football game. 32% of self identified Democrats say they don't care what happens in the game while only 22% of Republicans do.

This important research concludes Georgia week at PPP. The full results are here. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Georgia Governor 2010

Casey Cagle 44
Roy Barnes 43

John Oxendine 43
Roy Barnes 42

Casey Cagle 44
Jim Marshall 39

John Oxendine 44
Jim Marshall 38

Folks who follow Georgia politics already knew that the 2010 race for Governor was wide open, and this poll just provides more evidence of that.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine would each lead former Governor Roy Barnes by a point in a hypothetical 2010 match up. Oxendine would lead Congressman Jim Marshall by six points and Cagle would lead him by five points.

It's hard to decide whether this data provides good news for Barnes or not. On the one hand any time a Democrat is polling close in this Republican state it's a good thing for that individual. At the same time numbers at this stage are a function of name recognition more than anything else, and you might expect Barnes to have the lead in these hypothetical match ups by virtue of his higher profile from his previous tenure in the Governor's office.

The other preliminary conclusion you can make from this data is that there is no difference in general election viability between Cagle and Oxendine on the Republican side.

And of course we don't know who of these folks will really end up running and what other viable candidates might end up entering the fray over the course of 2009.

Full results here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Credit Where It's Due

Congratulations to Gary Bartlett and the North Carolina Board of Elections on another superbly run election.

Not only does the North Carolina SBOE do a good job of making sure things run smoothly at the polls, they're also a model for transparency in terms of how accessible and quickly updated things like voter registration statistics are.

If every state's elections were run as smoothly as they are in NC I think we'd have a lot more faith in the system nationwide.

Georgia Senate 2010

Johnny Isakson Approval

Approve 30
Disapprove 25
Not Sure 44

Isakson 45
Thurbert Baker 39

Isakson 47
Jim Marshall 38

New polling from PPP finds a high level of ambivalence toward first term Senator Johnny Isakson from Georgia voters. Only 30% of voters approve of his job performance but there isn't a large mass that disapproves either- a plurality have no opinion of him one way or the other.

Isakson has not done much to appeal across party lines during his first term. His approval among Democrats is just 8%. The problems with the economy may be hurting his appeal as well. Among voters who name it as their top issue just 27% approve of him with 29% disapproving.

In purely hypothetical match ups with Attorney General Thurbert Baker and Congressman Jim Marshall Isakson leads by six and nine points respectively. In each case there are at least twice as many undecided Democratic voters as there are Republican voters, an indication that the Democrats have more room to gain against Isakson once they line up behind a candidate.

Those leads for Isakson may seem solid but it is worth keeping in mind that early polling showed Jim Martin much further behind Saxby Chambliss than this poll shows Baker and Marshall behind Isakson. A June Strategic Vision poll showed Chambliss leading Martin 57-28 in what was then a hypothetical match up, and even as recently as September after Martin had been chosen as the nominee a SurveyUSA poll showed Chambliss leading him 53-36. It looks like at this very preliminary stage Isakson may be more vulnerable than Chambliss was.

The question of course is whether Democrats will strongly contest the seat. They don't have the deepest bench in Georgia, but Jim Martin's success has shown that even a relative obscure candidate can compete in the state under the right circumstances.

This data was derived from the same poll that showed Chambliss ahead of Martin 52-46 in the runoff yesterday.

Full results here.

The Republican 'bench' in North Carolina

Thinking about the 2012 race for Governor in North Carolina and the 2014 race for Senate, it's really hard at this point to see who the Republicans are going to put up in those races.

Starting with the Senate race, think about the North Carolina GOP delegation in Congress. For one thing it's dwindling- they're down to five. And for the most part they're pretty darn old. The only one you can really see having any sort of political future is Patrick McHenry, but it's debatable how well he would hold up to the scrutiny of a statewide campaign. I think they're pretty much out.

In the Governor's race Pat McCrory would seem like the Republicans' best bet again. Of course Dino Rossi ran again as the Republican nominee for Governor of Washington this year after losing narrowly in 2004 and he got beat much worse the second time than he did the first time.

Another question: would the Republican field clear for McCrory if he wanted to give it another shot? It's worth remembering that he didn't get to 50% in the primary, and if a single conservative challenged him and actually ran a normal media driven campaign it seems like there's some chance McCrory wouldn't even make it to the general.

Republicans had a chance with open seats for Lieutenant Governor and Treasurer this year to get some folks into a good launching point for a Gubernatorial campaign but they fell short and I don't think a Labor or Agriculture Commissioner in the state has ascended to higher office any time recently or maybe ever.

So it doesn't look good for the GOP moving forward- but at the same time no one probably would have imagined two or three years ago that Kay Hagan would be headed to the US Senate. So there's certainly a precedent for successfully moving from relative political obscurity to the limelight.

Who do you think will be the emerging statewide stars for the Republicans over the next few election cycles?

Monday, November 24, 2008

More from Georgia

We released our Senate numbers for Georgia today but we have plenty more coming from the poll over the course of the week:

-Tomorrow we'll take a look ahead to the 2010 Senate race, gauging Johnny Isakson's approval rating and testing him against a couple potential challengers. A plurality of Georgians say Johnny Who?

-Wednesday we take a quick peek at the Governor's race there in 2010, looking at how four potential match ups might shake out.

-Thanksgiving is for football, and on Thursday we'll take a look at who folks across the state will be pulling for in Saturday's showdown between Georgia and Georgia Tech.

It's a slow time for polling so we milked this runoff poll for whatever it was worth! Stay tuned throughout the week.

Georgia: Chambliss expands lead

Saxby Chambliss 52
Jim Martin 46

Benefiting from increased support with independent voters since the general election, Saxby Chambliss has expanded his lead to six points in Georgia's runoff election for US Senate, an improvement from the three point advantage he had on election day.

In PPP's final pre election poll Chambliss led Martin 44-41 with independents, as Libertarian Allen Buckley earned 12% of their votes. Now Martin is still at 41%, but Chambliss' share of the indy vote has gone from 44% to 53%. Each candidate is earning over 90% support from voters within his own party. That's an increase from the last poll we did before the November 4th election, and an indication that those planning to turn out for the runoff may be mostly the strongest of party stalwarts.

Chambliss leads 69-29 with white voters. Even with a higher than expected black turnout for the runoff that share of the white vote would not be good enough for Martin to win- he needs to move closer to a third of it.

Martin leads with voters under 45, but Chambliss has a staggering 69-31 lead with senior citizens, and with the balance of the electorate between older and younger voters tipping in an old direction for the runoff, that makes Martin's climb that much harder.

Full results here

Turnout in Georgia

Some assorted notes on our first Georgia runoff poll:

-The level of response to this poll was 17% less than that for our final pre-election Presidential poll in the state. It's not totally an apples to apples comparison since the two polls were not conducted in exactly the same way in terms of when the calls were made and things like that but nevertheless it is a clear indicator that fewer people are planning to vote this time around than did for the general election.

-We did not detect any drop in black turnout relative to the Presidential election. We expect that will again be in the 28-30% range.

-We did, however, find a significant drop in those under the age of 30 planning to vote in this race and a related increase in the percentage of voters over 65. That could have a pretty significant impact on the election since we found Saxby Chambliss up by 38 points with senior citizens but down by 8 with young voters. Some of the younger voters who Barack Obama brought into the political process this year and voted for Jim Martin as long as they were at it may not come out to vote in a contest with Martin as the main attraction.

On the whole we don't sense there will be a huge difference in the demographic composition of the electorate compared to November 4th, but the changes we did detect at least for this first runoff poll work to the incumbent's advantage.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Civitas Post-Election Survey

Civitas came out with a post-election survey earlier this week. Here's what I found interesting:

-Slightly more people said that North Carolina was headed in the right direction than off on the wrong track. Whenever we ask that question about the national picture markedly more people say that things are off on the wrong track. That's why the Democrats are going to be running Washington now while also continuing to hold control in Raleigh.

-When people who didn't vote for Barack Obama were asked why, only 2% said that it was because of his 'associations.' John McCain's ad campaign in the state was way too focused on random abstractions like Ayers that the voters didn't care about, and he didn't do a good job of showing folks why they should vote for him.

-Only 2% of respondents who didn't vote for Kay Hagan said it was because she was too liberal. I think the Republican strategy of using liberal as an expletive and thinking that's going to be good enough to win them elections in this state is over. I'm going to have more on that sometime soon.

-16% of folks who voted against Elizabeth Dole said they did it because they didn't like her campaign ads, second only to the number of people who said they didn't support her because she was a Republican. We didn't need much more evidence that Godless Americans was a disaster, but there is some.

-By comparison only 1% of people who didn't vote for Bev Perdue said it was because of her ads. Pat McCrory deserves a gold medal for whining with all of the post-election excuse making he and his supporters have done, but the truth of the matter is that if he really didn't believe in negative campaigning he should have asked the RGA to pull its ads. The reality is that he was happy to let other people do his dirty work for him, and as far as I'm concerned he has zero credibility on that issue.

-Our polling has repeatedly shown the Palin pick was a disaster for John McCain in North Carolina, and Civitas shows it once again. Just 23% of voters said her selection made them more likely to vote for McCain with 40% saying that it made them less likely to do so. Media coverage of Palin's visits to the state focused too much on her adoring crowds and not enough on the fact that while she was very popular with Republican base voters she was a turn off to independents and an overall drag on the ticket here.

Jim Martin

Last night I was contemplating the oddity of the fact that Jim Martin lost a bid for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia by 12 points just two years ago but had now forced a runoff in his quest for a much more important office.

When I thought about it though I guess it's not that unusual. Sarah Palin, of course, lost in the Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor in Alaska six years ago and has now risen to much greater heights. And I know of at least one Senate colleague Martin will have if he's elected who also got elected to the body not too long after a losing contest for Lieutenant Governor- does anyone know who it is?

You can figure the answer pretty easily if you figure out why I would know this bit of arcana about this particular person.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ruminating on Burr

Last month I told a luncheon crowd I was speaking to that if I was Richard Burr, and my first priority was really getting reelected in 2010, that I would vote for Barack Obama in the privacy of the ballot box.

Why? Can you imagine how endangered vulnerable Republicans like Burr, Mel Martinez, and George Voinovich would be two years from now if the country stayed on its current course and there was still a Republican in the White House? Any hopes of reelection would have gone kaput.

Now if things continue to go bad they can blame it on the Democrats, which should give at least some boost to Burr's hopes for reelection.

The question is whether 2010 will be more like 1994 or 2002. Obviously Democrats got hammered after Bill Clinton's first two years in the White House, and that's the overwhelming historic trend. But the Republicans broke that trend, at least for one cycle, in 2002.

The fact that Barack Obama's transition seems to continue the remarkable discipline his campaign showed bodes well for his ability to govern. And the reality is that what happens in North Carolina in 2010 will probably have a lot more to do with Obama than it does with either Burr or whoever ends up challenging him.

What's a spoiler?

At Under the Dome Ryan points out that Bob Barr received more votes than Barack Obama's margin of victory over John McCain in North Carolina and declares him to have been a spoiler.

I guess it depends on how you define spoiler. Merriam Webster says 'one (as a political candidate) having little or no chance of winning but capable of depriving a rival of success.'

Did Bob Barr cost John McCain North Carolina? I don't think so. Barr got about 26,000 votes. Obama won by about 14,000 votes. McCain would have had to win the Barr voters about 77-23 to make up his margin relative to Obama.

An analysis we did in early October found that Barr supporters were voting for Democrats and Republicans almost evenly in races for offices like Governor and Senate. And as a commenter on that thread pointed out, a lot of Libertarian voters may just not have come out at all if their only choices had been the major party candidates.

On the list of reasons why Barack Obama won North Carolina I think you can put Bob Barr's presence on the ballot at about #468.

Georgia Runoff

By popular demand we'll have polls on the Georgia Senate runoff out each of the next two Mondays.

There are some tough choices to make in terms of sampling and weighting with a weird election like this, and the fact that we're going to have to conduct the final poll over Thanksgiving weekend just makes it that more challenging.

We're going to use the same sampling criteria we did for November 4th: folks who voted in the 2004 general, 2006 general, 2008 Presidential primary, or 2008 state primary. We gave some thought to narrowing the sampling criteria, and think it's highly unlikely turnout will match or even come that close to matching what it was for the general election. But one of the nice things about IVR is that people who aren't going to vote or don't care about the election can weed themselves out by just hanging up on us, instead of possibly feeling a compulsion to tell a live interviewer that they do intend to vote. So we're going to go with the broader sample and assume that anyone willing to take the time to answer the poll is also going to be willing to take the time to go out and vote.

As far as weighting, we went into our set of 16 final state polls with a pretty clear idea of how we were going to set up the polls by race and age regardless of what the composition of those who responded to the polls was. I think we did a very good job of projecting demographics, but this election is a whole different bird so we're going to take the composition of who is actually responding to the polls into account a lot more than we usually would over the next two weeks. I've had several questions about what we project black turnout for the runoff to be and the answer at this point is we really just don't know. We'll look at how our polls come out and decide based on that.

In addition to looking at Jim Martin and Saxby Chambliss our first Georgia poll will peak forward to 2010...and the Georgia/Georgia Tech football game. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More of Southern Democrats exceeding expectations

I pointed out yesterday that although I thought it was a stretch a year ago, Barack Obama beat John McCain overall in the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

I also said at the time that I didn't think overall voter dissatisfaction with Congress would extend to that many Congressional seats actually changing hands in the region.

Well I'm happy to say I was wrong about that too. Six seats in the region (three in Virginia, two in Florida, and one in North Carolina) went Democratic with one in Florida going Republican. That's a disproportionate number of the House seats going Democratic coming from ACC territory.

Although I didn't expect Democrats to do this well in the region, I did think that writing it off would be a terrible mistake. Somehow I don't think there's going to be nearly as much debate about whether Democrats should make an effort here during future election cycles.

Michigan voters spread blame around on Auto Crisis

A new PPP poll finds that Michigan voters think there's plenty of blame to go around when it comes to the current crisis with the auto industry.

92% of respondents think that the management of the companies have at least some responsbility for the situation, 81% think that the UAW does, and 72% think the same of the government.

When asked which group they think is singularly most responsible, 43% said management with the UAW in second at 25%.

The UAW is not in particularly good standing with the state's voters. Just 42% have an overall positive view of the organization, and only 18% say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by the UAW with 39% saying they would be less likely to do so. Although it remains in pretty good standing with Democratic voters it is very unpopular with Republicans and also gets poor marks from independent voters, who have a 35/50 unfavorable view of it.

Full results here

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Looking Back

Like most bloggers who focus on elections I'm struggling right now with a fair amount of 'what the heck am I supposed to write about now?' in an effort to keep the blog interesting.

One thing I did today was look back at the stuff I wrote about this time last year and saw that I marveled at a multi state poll including Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida that showed the Democrat winning on a generic Presidential ballot. That seemed shocking and almost implausible at the time given that all five had been red states in both 2000 and 2004.

I just tallied up the votes from those five states and lo and behold Barack Obama did carry them by about 65k votes, or the equivalent of about a quarter of a point.

But you know, Democrats should write off the south.

The Buckley Effect

The reason there's a runoff for the US Senate in Georgia is that Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley pulled around 3.5% of the vote, holding Saxby Chambliss below 50%.

The winner of the runoff will have a lot more to do with grassroots mobilization and who can get his voters out to the polls than it will with where Buckley's voters go. But it's still worth looking at where those who supported Buckley's loyalties may lie.

On our final pre election poll in Georgia we found that:

-36% of Buckley's supporters were for John McCain, 32% were for Barack Obama, and 30% were supporting the Libertarian 'ticket' and also supporting Bob Barr.

-32% were Republicans, 20% were Democrats, and 48% didn't identify with either party.

-They were a very young group of voters. 30% were under 30, compared to 17% in the overall population. Only 40% were over the age of 45, compared to 54% in the population at large.

What does that all add up to? Chambliss might have the slightest of advantages with those who supported Buckley but it's basically a wash.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Issues Changed: Introduction

PPP's newest report looks at how the issues changed over the course of 2008 in the key swing states of Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio and how that contributed to Barack Obama's landslide victory. This is the section on Ohio. You can read the full report here.

Certainly there were a lot of mechanical reasons for Barack Obama’s election as President. He ran one of the most well organized, well funded, and well disciplined campaigns in modern political history. But there can also be no doubt that the biggest factor in his overwhelming victory is that the issues changed between the beginning of 2008 and election day.

PPP asked the same standard issues question in January when it first polled a potential John McCain/Barack Obama match up in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio then again in late October. In each state Obama trailed early in the year but ended up winning in November. This report takes a look at how immigration basically ceased to be an issue as concern over the economy grew, and how that contributed to Obama’s victory.

The Issues Changed: Florida

PPP's newest report looks at how the issues changed over the course of 2008 in the key swing states of Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio and how that contributed to Barack Obama's landslide victory. This is the section on Florida. You can read the full report here.

When PPP first polled a McCain/Obama contest in Florida, McCain held a 46-40 lead. The three top issues in the state were the War in Iraq, polling at 33%, the economy, polling at 26%, and immigration, polling at 11%.

By late October the economy was 61%, the war was at 12%, and immigration was the biggest concern for only 2% of Floridians.

John McCain’s prospects in the state were definitely hurt by decreased voter concern over immigration:


% listing immigration as top issue

McCain lead with those voters

Overall McCain advantage based on immigration voters









Even though only 11% of voters were describing immigration as their main concern in early 2008, they were supporting John McCain at such an overwhelming rate that he was picking up the equivalent of almost an eight point lead overall based on those voters. In other words almost his entire January lead over Obama in Florida could be traced back to folks voting on immigration.

But then the economy went bad and folks started voting on pocketbook issues instead of things like immigration. Needless to say that was to Barack Obama’s considerable benefit:


% listing economy as top issue

Obama lead with those voters

Overall Obama lead based on economy voters









Obama’s lead among voters whose top concern was the economy barely changed at all between January and November. But the proportion of voters sure did, to the point where Obama picked up nearly eight and a half points between the winter and fall just among those voters. Given that he was down six in January and won the state by three in November it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to say that increased voter worry over the economy was probably the single biggest factor driving the Democratic victory in the Sunshine State.

Independents and conservative Democrats who might have decided who to vote for President based on a set of issues that is favorable to Republicans at the top of the ticket in a normal election year instead voted on the economy, and that was crucial to Obama’s prospects.

The Issues Changed: North Carolina

PPP's newest report looks at how the issues changed over the course of 2008 in the key swing states of Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio and how that contributed to Barack Obama's landslide victory. This is the section on North Carolina. You can read the full report here.

If you want some perspective on just how remarkable Barack Obama’s victory in North Carolina was, consider this: in mid-January PPP surveyed 12 potential match ups for President between Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Obama on the Democratic side and Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Mitt Romney on the Republican side. The most lopsided result in the entire dozen was the one between McCain and Obama. McCain led 52-38 at that time.

Early in 2008 39% of North Carolinians said the economy was their top issue, 22% said the War in Iraq was, and 9% said it was immigration.

By the end of the election it was 59% for the economy, 11% for the war, and 2% for immigration.

The decreased voter concern over immigration hurt John McCain in North Carolina just as it did in Florida:


% listing immigration as top issue

McCain lead with those voters

Overall McCain lead based on immigration voters









Immigration voters weren’t quite as vital to McCain’s support in North Carolina as they were in Florida, but they still accounted for nearly half of his lead in the state in January and by the time the general election rolled around those folks had almost all shifted to their greatest concern being the economy.

McCain’s early position in North Carolina was so strong that contrary to most other states, he even had the lead among voters who listed the economy as their top issue in January. By the fall that was a completely different story:


% listing economy as top issue

Race with those voters

Overall lead based on economy voters



48-42 McCain

2.3% McCain



62-36 Obama

15.3% Obama

North Carolina saw an almost 18 point shift in Obama’s direction over the course of 2008 among voters holding the economy as their top issue. What’s important to note here, in contrast to Florida, is that not only did voter concern over it increase, but Obama’s support within that group saw a major increase as well. That’s a testament to voters in the state getting to know him a lot more as he heavily contested the state, visited frequently, and invested in television ads and grassroots infrastructure. The changing national financial climate made it possible for Obama to win North Carolina, but campaigns do matter and if his operation hadn’t been as strong as it was he would not have been able to take advantage of the opportunity that was created.

The Issues Changed: Ohio

PPP's newest report looks at how the issues changed over the course of 2008 in the key swing states of Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio and how that contributed to Barack Obama's landslide victory. This is the section on Ohio. You can read the full report here.
Ohio did not see quite as dramatic a swing in Barack Obama’s direction between January polling and the final results as Florida and North Carolina did, mostly because he was running pretty close to John McCain in the state even from the get go. When PPP first polled the race, McCain had a 45-42 advantage.

In January 39% of Ohioans listed the economy as their top issue, with 28% saying it was the War in Iraq, and 9% picking immigration.

In late October the portion of voters in the state calling the economy their top concern had gone up to 60%, with the war down to 12%, and immigration, like in Florida and North Carolina, down to only 2%.

McCain was getting a big boost in the state earlier in the year from those immigration voters:


% listing immigration as top issue

McCain lead with those voters

Overall McCain lead based on immigration voters









With McCain holding just a slight early lead over Obama at the start of the year those voters most concerned about immigration were pretty vital to his ability to take the state, but by the end of the election that constituency, like in Florida and North Carolina, had gravitated toward greater worry over the economy and that again was to Obama’s advantage:


% listing economy as top issue

Obama lead with those voters

Overall Obama lead based on economy voters









Obama benefited from the increase in concern over the economy, but he also did a much better job of convincing voters over the course of the year that he was the better candidate on that issue.

The Issues Changed: Conclusion

PPP's newest report looks at how the issues changed over the course of 2008 in the key swing states of Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio and how that contributed to Barack Obama's landslide victory. This is the conclusion. You can read the full report here.
What’s particularly interesting about immigration declining as an issue so strongly across the board is that other issues that might be perceived as ‘conservative’ ones did not see a similar drop. Across these three states an average of 11% of voters said moral and family values was their biggest concern in deciding who to vote for in January. It was no different at the end of the election, still 11%. It’s the same story with taxes. 5% of voters in these swing states said that was their biggest worry at the start of the year and at the end of the election cycle it was 6%, showing essentially no change. It was only immigration that showed such a strong decline, perhaps an indication that taxes and morality will be big issues for at least some American voters regardless of the political climate in perpetuity, but immigration may be ‘passing through’ as a top concern for American voters.

Would Barack Obama have won the election if the economy hadn’t been so overwhelmingly the top issue? Probably so. He never trailed in a PPP poll of Virginia or Colorado from June on, even at the height of the McCain bump after the Republican convention and before the financial crisis really started to peak. Obama would more than likely have been able to win the election with those two states in his column. But as this analysis shows, high levels of voter concern about the economy and high levels of support for Barack Obama among those voters certainly made the lopsidedness of his victory possible and may have been the driving factor in pushing these swing states over to the Democratic column.

Spring Interns pt. 2

Update: Just to clarify in response to some questions, this is a 200 hour internship (roughly 15 hrs/week) over the course of the spring semester and we're pretty flexible on scheduling.

PPP will be hiring one paid intern for the spring. This is not a coffee pouring experience- our interns work on our day to day polling as well as writing and analyzing several of their own polls.

I expect this to be a competitive process. If you'd like to apply please e-mail (tomj at publicpolicypolling dot com) me a copy of your resume and a 250 word examination (a blog post, essentially) of something about the numbers that you thought was interesting about the election in North Carolina.

We'll be taking applications through next Friday, November 21st. We'll pick several folks to interview the first couple days of the next week and hopefully have an offer made by Thanksgiving.

We'll start the process for summer intern selection in February.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Heath Shuler

In an interview with the Hendersonville Times-News, Heath Shuler doesn't rule out a run for the Senate in 2010.

I think Shuler is the second strongest possible candidate for the Democrats behind Roy Cooper.

The immediate concern is whether a Shuler run would cost the Democrats a Congressional seat that they reclaimed for the first time in 16 years just one election ago, but I think there is a strong bench in that district.

John Snow represents a very Republican eight county state Senate district contained completely within the 11th District and won every single one of the counties in his reelection bid this year even as Barack Obama won just one of them.

Joe Sam Queen is the Senator for a similarly Republican district in the Mountains. He won four out of six counties this year in his reelection bid: the two counties he lost are in the 10th District while the ones he won are all within the 11th.

If Shuler ran the Democrats' recruitment should start with those guys since it's imperative the Democrats nominate someone who's shown an ability to win outside Buncombe County.

As for the Republicans, well, the best they could dredge up this year was a guy who could pull only 36% of the vote. I like the Democrats' chances for keeping this seat Shuler or no Shuler barring a major shift in the national political climate.

Palin in 2012?

A lot of buzz about Sarah Palin running for President next time around this week. I got interviewed about it for this story and it got me to thinking about it more.

For the Republicans to win next time I don't think inspiring the base is going to be enough. They're going to have to win over the independent voters, particularly in suburbia, who voted for George W. Bush in 2004 but then supported Barack Obama this time.

The problem is that she may well have been part of the problem John McCain had with those voters. Here's her favorability in some key swing states with suburban independents:


Palin Favorability





North Carolina






Her consistent unpopularity within that demographic across this quintet of relatively different states is striking. I'm sure the Republican base was very excited about Barry Goldwater too, and nominating Sarah Palin could generate a 1964-esque electoral map.

Hispanic Voters in North Carolina

I've had several people ask me about the impact of the Hispanic vote in North Carolina this election. My answer is that it is still not a huge factor but becoming more and more so by the year.

The North Carolina exit poll showed Hispanics as making up 3% of the electorate this year. That is up from just 1% in 2004. There were not enough Hispanic respondents to break down who their support went to, but Virginia might be a good place to look to get an idea and they supported Barack Obama 65-34 there. In that state their share of the vote increased from 3% in 2004 to 5% this year.

The emerging influence of Hispanic voters in the state could have a major impact on keeping the state 'purple' moving forward. Let's say that in 2016 the Democrats nominate a white candidate and black turnout goes back to a more normal 20% rather than the 22-23% it was this year. But the Hispanic share of the electorate increases another 2% in both 2012 and 2016 to the point where they make up 7% of the vote. Using the breakdown of how each racial group voted this year, with an electorate that is 70% white, 20% black, 7% Hispanic, and 3% other races Obama would still win by about half a point. That's an indication that the emerging Hispanic vote in the state will make it possible for Democrats to win here at the Presidential level even without historic black turnout.

This will be an important trend to track in North Carolina politics moving forward.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

PPP under attack

Mel Martinez and the Florida Republican Party are attacking PPP for pointing out that his approval rating is beyond poor.

If it seems like we've been here before it's because we have. When we showed Elizabeth Dole's approval in the low 40s around this time two years ago her people attacked us for our methodology, our clients, anything they could think of to try to deflect attention from her lacking popularity.

In case you missed it, Elizabeth Dole's not going to be a Senator anymore next year. We were right on the mark in pointing out her extreme vulnerability very early in the 2007-2008 election cycle, and her approval rating was much better than Mel Martinez's is right now. For instance, when we first tested Kay Hagan against Elizabeth Dole 16 months ago, Dole led 43-27. But Martinez is trailing almost every potential competitor we looked at him against.

Republicans in Florida better hope for a major turnaround in the national political climate- or a stronger GOP candidate to take Martinez out in the primary- if they want to have any hopes of keeping this seat in two years.

Exit Polls and North Carolina

In September I put forth a theory that people identify their party affiliation differently to exit pollsters than they do in pre election polls, which is just one more reason that weighting for party id is not a good idea.

Here's my basic point: there are a lot of registered Democrats in North Carolina who vote Democratic for local offices, a fair number of state offices, but then vote Republican for President and sometimes Governor or Senate. When we poll them on a bunch of statewide offices and they're mostly choosing Democrats, they identify as Democrats on our polls. But when they're filling out an exit poll just about the top of the ticket stuff where they may have voted Republican, they're more likely to identify as independents or Republicans then, regardless of their registration status.

The North Carolina exit poll this year I think backs up my point. On our final poll, which was dead on, we found 49% of respondents identifying as Democrats, 38% as Republicans, and 13% as independents. The exit pollsters found 42% identifying as Democrats, 31% as Republicans, and almost twice as many, 27%, describing themselves as independents.

Here are some key differences between how groups within our poll stacked up and how groups within the exit poll did:

-We found Obama getting 81% of the Democratic vote, while the exit poll found him getting 90%.

-We found McCain getting 90% of the Republican vote, while the exit poll gave him 95%.

-We found Obama up 50-46 with independents. The exit poll found McCain winning them 60-39.

So to review, in the exit poll we have fewer Democrats and fewer Republicans both showing a higher degree of party unity than our pre election polls indicated and independents looking much more Republican.

What happened? I think a lot of the registered Democrats supporting McCain identified as independents on the exit poll. And probably some of the Republicans supporting Obama did too. But there are a lot more registered D's voting Republican for President than vice versa, hence the strong advantage for McCain among indies there even as our polls told a different story.

The bottom line? The folks identifying as independents on our polls were a completely different universe than the folks identifying as independents on the exit poll. And that's why using exit poll numbers as a baseline for weighting standard pre election polls isn't a good idea because the way people respond to each of those types of surveys is not necessarily the same.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Michigan Governor 2010

PPP conducted several polls pertaining to the 2010 race for Governor of Michigan over the summer. The numbers at this very early stage are more a function of name recognition than anything else but Dick DeVos did fare the strongest of any candidate, Democrat or Republican, in that polling. He led former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer 44-42 and Lieutenant Governor John Cherry 45-36.

With DeVos now out of the race today, how does the rest of the potential field stack up?

1) Dennis Archer. Archer led all three possible match ups except the one with DeVos, leading Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land 41-38, Attorney General Mike Cox 40-33, and Congresswoman Candice Miller 41-29.

2) Terri Lynn Land. She led John Cherry 40-34 and came the closest to Archer of the other Republican candidates. She's had two successful runs for statewide office and proven to be relatively non-controversial.

3) Mike Cox. Cox also led Cherry in a possible match up. His lead was 35-30. His deficit against Archer was slightly larger than Land's. Like the Secretary of State he's been elected statewide twice, although his margin of victory each time was narrower than hers and he has found himself in the middle of more controversy.

4) Candice Miller. She's been out of statewide office for almost seven years now and it seems that she may have lost a good bit of her former name recognition. She trailed Archer by the greatest margin of the potential GOP field and also had the smallest lead over Cherry (34-30).

5) John Cherry. Cherry is the only one of the potential candidates we tested who has never been elected to statewide office in his own right and as such probably is not as well known to your average Michigan voter at this point. He trailed in every match up we tested, but it's a long way until 2010.

The June poll, which tested Archer and Cherry against Cox and Miller, is here. The July poll, which tested the same pair of Democrats against Land and DeVos, is here.
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