Saturday, October 31, 2009

NY-23 Polling Odyssey

So this morning around 10 AM I started up our NY-23 poll and after a few hundred interviews it appeared that Doug Hoffman was now running away with it-unweighted numbers showed him at 45% to 26% for Bill Owens and 17% for Dede Scozzafava.

Then came the news that Scozzafava was suspending her campaign. My first inclination was to just keep running the poll as is, but I stopped it and thought about it, and now for the rest of the weekend the first question will still provide Scozzafava as an option but also note that she's suspended her campaign, although her name will still be on the ballot.

I'm not going to throw away the first set of interviews, but we'll provide a crosstab for when people got surveyed. I expect Hoffman will win easily now, but if our early numbers were any indication what Scozzafava did doesn't make much difference- he was going to win easily with or without her in the race.

I should also note that the poll included two way races between all three of the candidates as well so we will have full straight up Owens-Hoffman data for whatever that's worth.

More excitement so far today than I might have been anticipating!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some hard numbers in Virginia and New Jersey

Here are some hard numbers on turnout issues for Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey.

Let's estimate 2,000,000 voters in Virginia. Our poll this week found the electorate there splitting 48-44 for McCain based on reported voting behavior for last year.

That means 960,000 McCain voters and 880,000 Obama voters.

Last year Obama won 1.96 million voters and McCain won 1.725 million.

That represents a decline of 1,080,000 Obama voters from last year to a drop of only 765,000 McCain voters.

Let's estimate 2,200,000 voters in New Jersey. We found the electorate there splitting 51-44 for Obama.

That means 1,120,000 Obama voters and 970,000 McCain voters.

Last year Obama won 2.22 million votes and McCain won 1.61 million.

That represents a decline of 1,100,000 Obama voters to only 640,000 McCain votes.

Maybe those numbers will improve some over the weekend- and Creigh Deeds and Jon Corzine certainly aren't the best candidates- but if that pattern continues on into next year Republicans will win back the House. Democratic voters need to wake up or the consequences will be serious in 2010.

Internal Party Frustration

Liberal Democratic voters often express frustration that their Congressional leaders spend all of their time pandering to the right wing of the party. Conservative Republicans feel similarly about their folks worrying too much about appealing to the center- something that's playing itself out in NY-23 right now.

(Note that I personally think the Republican leadership is plenty friendly to the far right, but the far right doesn't, so my points in this post operate on the assumption that they're correct.)

What compounds the frustration for these groups is that they are indeed more numerous within their parties than the folks who are getting pandered to. 22% of Democrats think that the party's too conservative, only 15% think it's too liberal. 35% of Republicans think that the party's too liberal, only 20% think it's too conservative.

Despite their greater numbers though the truth at the end of the day is that Democratic leaders can take their liberal wing for granted, and Republicans can do the same with their conservatives.

Democrats who think the party's too conservative still say they'll vote Democratic by an 86-2 margin next year. Democrats who think the party's too liberal only say they'll vote Democratic 48-45. Who do you think leadership is going to worry about keeping happy?

Same story with the Republicans. The folks who think they're too liberal will still support the party by a 90-2 margin. The folks who think it's too conservative only give the GOP a 52-16 margin of support for next year. Again, which group is going to make party leaders more nervous?

In a two party system liberal Democrats and far right Republicans will continue to get taken for granted unless a) third party alternatives become more viable or b) serious, well funded primary challenges to incumbents become considerably more common. We are seeing that happen in NY-23, whether it becomes true on a broader scale remains to be seen.

Corzine and the 'Grudging Vote'

Whether Jon Corzine gets reelected or not one thing is for sure: he is not a very popular dude.

Our five New Jersey polls have found 37, 36, 33, 33, and 32 as his favorability ratings for an average of 34.1%.

Let's just assume Chris Daggett ends up winning 10% of the vote. That means the winner for Governor is going to have to get 45%. For Corzine that means getting roughly 17% of the vote from people who don't like him.

That's certainly not outside the realm of possibility. Our last poll showed him getting 12% of what I would describe as the 'grudging vote'- we don't like you but we'll vote for you anyway.

There's no doubt the biggest problem for Corzine in our poll this week was his getting only 67% of the Democratic vote, and that's very much a product of a third of voters in his party having a poor opinion of him. But if enough of those folks decide in the closing days to hold their nose and vote for him because the alternative's worse- or even to just stay at home- Corzine could still pull it out.

Is NY-23 really that meaningful?

I'm as riveted as any other political junkie by the race in NY-23, and we're doing a pretty comprehensive poll there this weekend, but I'm not sure that it really has any broader implications.

The three way nature of the race is interesting, but it's only that way because the party bosses got to pick the candidates. If there had been a Dede Scozzafava-Doug Hoffman primary contest it seems Hoffman would have won easily, and it's really not a new development for someone from the conservative wing of the Republican Party to win a primary. Ask Joe Schwarz, Chris Cannon, or Wayne Gilchrest, all incumbent GOP Congressmen who lost challenges from the right in the last couple cycles.

A Hoffman victory could embolden more primary challengers to sitting Republican members of Congress- remember our finding last week that 35% of GOP voters think their party's delegation is too liberal. But the reality is that the Club for Growth can't fund everyone, and most of those efforts would have to be made at a significant fundraising disadvantage.

NY-23 is pretty interesting...but I don't think it has a lot of ramifications beyond NY-23.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The McCrory Effect

Charlotte's a Democratic city but John Lassiter is hanging in there and one person he really owes for that is Pat McCrory.

Last year George W. Bush was an anchor on Republican candidates across the country as he left office but McCrory's continuing popularity seems to be helping Lassiter secure the crossover support from Democrats and independents that he needs to be competitive. McCrory's approval rating is 60%. For the occasional grumbling from the right over the years he has the support of 85% of Republicans. His 69% approval with independents is one of the best we've measured for any politician in the country this year and even Democrats are pretty evenly divided with 37% giving him good marks to 44% disapproving.

Let's put Lassiter's Democratic support in perspective- only 14% are voting for him but that's still a lot better than the 6% of Republicans Foxx is getting. 80% of the Democrats who support Lassiter approve of the job McCrory's doing. That speaks to the fact that McCrory has shown a moderate Republican can be a reasonable Mayor, even across party lines, and there is at least some segment of the Democratic electorate that's content to keep on that way.

79% of the independents who think McCrory's doing a good job are voting for Lassiter. Only 42% of the rest are. It's safe to say Lassiter's 20 point lead with that group would be considerably more narrow if not for McCrory's popularity with them.

Let me put it simply: if Pat McCrory's approval rating was only 50%, still well above average for politicians these days and particularly in North Carolina, this race would be over. The only question would be Foxx's winning margin. But with him at 60%, this contest is a dog fight. In this tossup there's not much doubt Pat McCrory is John Lassiter's best friend.

What race are you most interested in?

This weekend we'll be polling Virginia, New Jersey, NY-23, Maine, Charlotte, and Chapel Hill. The surveys will finish their field periods Sunday night and then we'll crunch the numbers for each poll and release them one by one until we finish them all sometime in the middle of the night.

Because of that more than likely we'll have one poll that gets released around 10- and another that doesn't get released until about 3 AM. So in the spirit of democracy and because I'm interested in what races people care about the most, vote in the poll at the top of the page for which race you're most interested in, and we'll do the polls Sunday night in order of your preference.

And follow the blog and Twitter over the weekend for earlier observations on any trends in the polls that are clear before we've calculated the final numbers.

Rural Virginia

Here is perhaps the most amazing stat on the Virginia Governor's race.

This week last year we found Barack Obama trailing John McCain 63-31 with rural whites in Virginia.

We have Creigh Deeds trailing Bob McDonnell 68-29 with that group.

Obama, the black guy from Chicago, was running seven points better with rural whites than Deeds, the white guy from Bath County.

These numbers would seem to indicate the much maligned Deeds Country tour in August was very necessary- it just wasn't very effective.

That's nowhere near Deeds' worst problem- that would be his running 33 points behind Obama in suburbia- but it does sort of encapsulate his troubles getting off the ground.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


One common theme in all of our polling this week is that Republicans are running up the score with independents. Bob McDonnell has a 59-34 lead over Creigh Deeds with them, John Lassiter is up 51-31 over Anthony Foxx in Charlotte, and Chris Christie has a 44-25 advantage on Jon Corzine.

You might look at those numbers and say Republicans are winning voters in the middle, but there's a little more to it than that.

In Virginia 40% of independents are conservatives while only 4% are liberals. In New Jersey 28% are conservatives to 11% liberals. And in Charlotte 27% are conservatives and 10% are liberals.

As Republican identification levels hit record lows in a lot of polling those voters have to go somewhere and what they're doing is making the ranks of the independents more conservative and Republican leaning. They may be changing the way they label themselves but they're still around and voting the same way- just something to keep in mind when talking about the independent vote this year and moving on into 2010.

New Jersey Polls

In the time we've been polling nationally I've never seen a race where the IVR and live interviewer polls told two stories as different as the New Jersey Governor's race.

All 9 IVR polls this month have shown Chris Christie in the lead. 6 out of the 9 live interviewer polls have shown Corzine in the lead.

7 out of the 9 IVR polls have shown the lead between 2-4 points. The last four live interviewer polls released have all shown Corzine up by at least 3 points.

It'll be interesting to see if the polls reach a greater consensus as companies release their final projections, but for now this is shaping up as an opportunity for one side or the other to show its mettle. Or if the race ends up being decided by a point everyone will come out looking roughly the same (except Suffolk.)

Obama and 2009

For most of the general election campaign I've been saying that if the turnout patterns this year in Virginia were the same as last year in terms of their McCain/Obama spread the Creigh Deeds/Bob McDonnell race would be a tossup.

That was true as recently as three weeks ago but it's not anymore. McDonnell is winning 13% of the Obama vote while Deeds is only getting 5% of the McCain vote. If the electorate was weighted to last year's election results to make it 52% Obama voters and 46% McCain voters McDonnell would be leading 50-44.

That six point margin incidentally is identical to the lead we found for McDonnell in our first general election poll and my feeling is that's about what the result of this race would have been if the two candidates had run equally effective campaigns. McDonnell's has been superior and that's why it looks like his winning margin will exceed six points by a good amount. Deeds started out behind and he was bound to lose unless he ran an extremely superior campaign. Obviously he didn't.

It's a different story in New Jersey though. If you weight our most recent poll there to a 57-42 Obama electorate Jon Corzine turns a four point deficit into a two point lead with 41% to 39% for Chris Christie and 13% Chris Daggett.

We'll see if all his work on behalf of Corzine down the stretch makes that a reality. I've had several reporters ask me this week what the 2009 results mean for Obama- I don't think Virginia is his fault and if Corzine manages to lose I don't think New Jersey is his fault either. But if that electorate in NJ shifts enough over the final week to let Corzine win a narrow victory I think you can give Obama a lot of credit- and it will be a sign for Democratic candidates in 2010 that if you're running close Obama can get you over the finish line. But if you're not, then, you end up in the position where Creigh Deeds is.

Burgess leads in Charlotte

While the race for Mayor of Charlotte may be too close to call the favorites for at least three of the four at large City Council seats appear pretty clear, with two incumbents and a former Councilman leading the way:

Susan Burgess 17
Patrick Cannon 15
Edwin Peacock 13
Tariq Scott Bokhari 9
David Howard 5
Matthew Ridenhour 5
Jaye Rao 5
Darrin Rankin 3
Undecided 28

There are still a lot of people undecided, particularly about who will get their third and fourth votes. There are also a lot of folks who say they will vote for only one or two candidates but could still decide to vote for a full or fuller slate before next Tuesday.

32% of respondents named Burgess as their first choice followed by Cannon and Peacock at 17% and Bokhari at 13%. No other candidate exceeded 4% for first choice.

Cannon led the way as second choice with 15% followed by Peacock at 10%, Burgess at 8%, and Bokhari at 7%. Because of the number of undecideds and people planning to vote for only one or two candidates, no one did better than 6% for third choice or 4% for fourth choice.

It will probably be a battle between Bokhari and Howard for the fourth slot. Supporters of Burgess and Cannon may see in the final six days of the campaign that a third vote for Howard poses no threat to the likelihood of the top two Democratic candidates winning.

Burgess is the top choice of most demographic groups including liberals, moderates, men, women, Democrats, independents, whites, African Americans, and senior citizens. Peacock is the first choice for conservatives and Republicans, and Cannon leads among young voters.

The level of undecideds makes this race pretty volatile but it makes sense that in an race that hasn't caught a lot of people's attention the three most well known candidates would lead the way. That leaves the rest of the field fighting over that fourth spot.

Full results here

Yankees favorites in NJ

New Jersey voters are pulling for the Yankees in the World Series by a 50-33 margin, with virtually every demographic group in the state cheering for the American League champs.

The Yankees are the choice of women, men, liberals, moderates, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Hispanics, whites, young people, and old people. African Americans are the exception to the rule, going for the Phillies by a 37-32 margin.

Predictably there are large differences in support based on geography. 78% of people who live in the 856 area code right across the river are rooting for the Phillies as are 56% in the 609 area code that covers most of the rest of the southern part of the state. All of the area codes in the northern part of the state show between 62 and 67% support for the Yankees.

Tying the baseball preferences to the Governor's race Chris Christie leads Jon Corzine 46-36 among Yankees fans while the contest is tied at 40 with Phillies fans.

Full results here

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Obama Coalition in NJ and VA

A lot of attention's been given to the likely decline in turnout among young voters and African Americans in Virginia and New Jersey. The other, possibly more serious, problem for Democrats is that even folks in those groups who are turning out aren't supporting Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds all that strongly.

The voters under 30 in New Jersey in our latest poll reported voting for Obama 56-36 last year. But they support Corzine just 42-40 over Chris Christie this fall with 13% going to Chris Daggett.

It's a similar story with black voters in both states. The ones in Virginia on our poll said they voted for Obama 91-3 last year but now support Deeds only 72-19. In New Jersey the group went 81-14 for the President but now gives only 67% to Corzine with Christie getting 19% and Daggett 10%.

Democrats need to get those core Obama supporters back out- but they also need to make sure they're actually voting Democratic!

Charlotte's tied

With a week to go the race to be the next Mayor of Charlotte is all tied up. Anthony Foxx and John Lassiter are each at 45%.

The ultimate winner of this race is going to be determined by who can get their people out to the polls, and in particular what the breakdown of the electorate is by race and age.

There are major divisions along demographic lines in the candidates' support. Lassiter leads 63-29 among white voters, a gap even wider than in the Presidential race in North Carolina last year. Foxx has an 80-9 lead with African Americans.

Charlotte's population is 33% black and we project their share of the electorate at 32%. If excitement about the possibility of the city having its first black Mayor since the 80s results in African Americans turning out at a higher rate than whites Foxx will win. But black turnout has tended to lag in local elections and if that turns out to be the case Lassiter is the likely winner.

There are similarly large divisions along age lines. Lassiter leads 61-30 with senior citizens. Foxx is up 57-29 with voters under 30. We expect high turnout from old voters and low turnout from young voters but if the pattern is different than that give the advantage to Foxx.

While it is unclear who will win this race, one thing is certain: the contest is very unusual in the polarized world of 21st century American politics in that both candidates are quite popular. 59% of voters have a favorable opinion of Lassiter to only 19% negative. 52% have a positive opinion of Foxx to only 18% unfavorable. Most of the races we poll on right now voters are deciding based on who they hate less- this is a refreshing but rare one where they're picking who they like more.

Lassiter is hanging in there in this Democratic city because of a 51-31 lead with independents and because he's getting a bigger share of his party's vote (86%) than Foxx is getting of his (79%). We also find a likely electorate that is considerably more Republican leaning than the people who turned out last fall. While Barack Obama won the city by more than 30 points, the voters planning to come out this year supported the President by just a 52-44 margin.

That means McCain voters are planning to turn out right now at a considerably higher rate than Obama's, and it also means that Foxx probably has a lot more upside in the final week of the campaign. There are a lot more Democratic leaning voters sitting on their hands right now than Republicans and if the Foxx GOTV effort is successful in getting them out he should win. But it's not a given that Presidential only voters can be made interested in the Mayoral race, so this one's about as close as it could be.

Tomorrow we'll release City Council numbers, where there's a lot more clarity.

Full results here

McDonnell's lead grows

Bob McDonnell has again expanded his lead in the race to be Virginia's next Governor and is now up 55-40 on Creigh Deeds. A week ago the contest stood at 52-40.

There is some indication in the recent polls that Democratic voters are giving up on this race. At the beginning of September 38% of likely voters were Democrats. By the end of the month it was 37%, a week ago it was down to 33% and now it's at just 31%. That trend has major implications for the party's candidates further down the ballot.

McDonnell continues to hold a dominating lead with independents, as he has throughout the general election campaign. This week it's 59-34. His party is more united behind him as well, with 94% of Republicans planning to vote for him compared to 84% of Democrats who say they'll vote for Deeds.

59% of voters think Deeds has run a mostly negative campaign, and that's reflected in his favorability numbers. Now just 38% of voters have a positive opinion of him while 49% see him unfavorably. His negative ratings have increased in every poll PPP has done of the race, from 29% at the start of July to 32% at the beginning of August to 35% as September began to 42% as it ended to 48% a week ago and now to 49%.

Despite Deeds' difficulties only 24% of voters think his party should have nominated Terry McAuliffe or Brian Moran instead, perhaps indicating an understanding that Democrats would have had an uphill battle in this race no matter who the party's nominee was. Among Democrats 31% think one of the other primary candidates should have been nominated while 41% disagree and 28% are not sure.

In another indication that the 'thesis' issue never really caught on 52% of voters in the state say they disagree with Bob McDonnell's writings with only 15% expressing concurrence with his statements. Even among McDonnell's supporters just 24% agree to 33% disagreeing. But it never became a vote defining factor for much of the Virginia electorate.

Down ballot it continues to look like a Republican sweep. Bill Bolling leads Jody Wagner 50-38 for Lieutenant Governor and Ken Cuccinelli has a 52-36 advantage over Attorney General.

Full results here

Christie gets a little breathing room

Chris Christie now leads Jon Corzine 42-38 in the race to be New Jersey's next Governor, a slight increase from our poll two weeks that showed his advantage at 40-39.

Chris Daggett's candidacy appears to be having a major impact on this race. His support is steady at 13% from two weeks ago but whereas before he appeared to be drawing voters away from Christie he now seems to be hurting Corzine. 44% of Daggett voters say that the incumbent is their second choice to 32% for Christie. The previous poll showed those second choice votes going to Christie by a 48-34 margin. 43% of Daggett voters are Democrats to just 9% who are Republicans. They report having supported Barack Obama by a 62-31 margin last fall and that they went 62-18 for Corzine against Doug Forrester.

It's clear that Christie's negative ads against Daggett have been effective and money well spent. Where his favorability rating broke down 30/24 positively two weeks ago, it's now 31/36 in a negative direction. His drop has been particularly strong with Republicans. 47% now see him unfavorably where before it was 31%.

There are several indications within the numbers that Christie is in a better position than Corzine one week out from the election. 95% of his supporters say they will definitely vote for him, compared to 79% of Corzine's. Daggett's support continues to be pretty malleable, with only 57% of his voters saying they are strongly committed to him. 42% of Christie's voters are very excited about voting this fall to 29% of Corzine's who express that sentiment. The comparative excitement levels could have implications for which candidate is better able to get his supporters out.

It's not enthusiasm about Christie that's drawing his voters out, but intense dislike of Corzine. 71% of Corzine's supporters say they're voting more for him than against his opponents. But among Christie voters just 49% say their motivation is to support him while 47% say they're turning out to vote against someone.

Indeed it's pretty clear voters in the state don't have much love for any of the candidates. 45% of respondents, including 33% of Democrats, think that the party should have nominated someone other than Corzine. Only 37% disagree. That feeling is even stronger about Christie though- 48% of respondents, including 37% of Republicans, think that party should have nominated someone else. Just 32% disagree.

A couple notes on Daggett's support: in addition to the fact that 43% of his supporters say they might vote for someone else 59% of them say they are 'not very excited' about voting this fall compared to 28% of Christie's and 30% of Corzine's. Additionally just 46% of those who say they're voting for him think it's possible to win. None of those indicators bode particularly well for him maintaining his current level of support- folks may decide to vote for someone they do think can win or even more likely, stay at home.

All that said this continues to be a very close race and it could certainly go either way in the final days.

Full results here

Monday, October 26, 2009

Virginia Poll Preview

Our Virginia poll tomorrow is more bad news for Creigh Deeds, which is hardly news anymore.

One thing I find interesting looking back over our last four polls is that the percentage of likely voters who are Democrats has fallen every time. This is the first race we've polled regularly in the last few years where I've noticed this happening- this is also the first race we've polled regularly in the last few years that's so lopsided. Does anyone know if it's normal for supporters of a particular candidate to finally just decide they're not going to vote if they think he's going to lose? The more inevitable Deeds' loss has seemed the fewer Democrats we've found planning to vote. Here's the data:


Democratic % of Electorate









It probably doesn't make much difference to Deeds' prospects at this point whether these people show up, other than the final margin, but it certainly could have bad implications in closely contested House of Delegates races.

We'll have this out sometime tomorrow, probably early afternoon.

New Jersey Poll Preview

Some folks thought it was a little odd when Chris Christie went on the air with negative ads against independent candidate Chris Daggett a few weeks ago but it seems to have been a good idea.

Two weeks ago Daggett's fav/unfav was 30/24. Now it's 31/36. And Daggett's negative rating with Republicans has increased by 16 points, compared to 6 among Democrats.

Daggett has the same level of support he did two weeks ago, but now he seems to be hurting Jon Corzine more than Christie.

A couple other points on the overwhelmingly negative nature of this race:

-Last week in Virginia 44% of respondents said they were very excited to vote this year Only 32% in New Jersey say the same. In New Jersey 35% say they are not very excited. In Virginia just 24% expressed that sentiment. I don't think you're going to see very good turnout in NJ.

-38% of voters in New Jersey say their main reason for turning out is to vote against someone, rather than for one of the candidates.

We'll have these numbers out in the morning.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Obama's numbers

Here's an interesting little fact from our national poll this week:

Barack Obama's approval rating with people who didn't vote for him is 14%.

Barack Obama's disapproval rating with people who voted for him is 6%.

So he's won over twice as many people as he's lost since he got elected. Who in the national media is going to write that story? Not bad for someone whose support is supposedly falling apart.

Deeds' Identity Problem

Given the grumbling about Creigh Deeds' conservative leaning stances on some issues among many Virginia Democrats, you might be surprised to know that 46% of voters in the state think he's a liberal to 48% who think he's a moderate.

Here's the problem though: conservatives think he's a liberal, but liberals don't. Whenever that's the case you have an identity problem with your candidacy.

Among Virginians who describe themselves as liberals only 16% put Deeds into that category- not much more than the 10% of them who think that's he a conservative.

Now this isn't that big of a problem for Deeds with the liberal voters who are actually planning to show up- he has a 95-4 lead with them. But it is an issue with how many are showing up. Exit polls last year showed them accounting for 21% of the Virginia electorate. They only make up 16% of likely voters this year. That's almost a 25% drop in their share of the electorate.

Now let's look at the conservatives. 73% of them think that Deeds is a liberal, and only 10% of them have a favorable opinion of him. By comparison only 49% of them Mark Warner is a liberal and 24% think he's doing a good job in the Senate. 24% isn't a ton of crossover support but it's enough to have been elected Governor and Senator in a pretty competitive state.

Deeds hasn't been able to convince independent and Republican voters that he's a centrist and that's kept him from getting the sort of support that Warner and to a lesser extent Tim Kaine have received from them. At the same time he hasn't made folks on the left side of the spectrum feel he identifies with them either. When all that's true victory is a struggle.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Balloon Boy!

Our newest national survey finds that Balloon Boy is not very popular. 24% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of him. Only 5% like him.

He is particularly unpopular out west where his net favorability is -25. Maybe people there think he embarrassed their region.

This is one thing we can get pretty strong consensus across party lines about- 26% of Republicans, 24% of Democrats, and 24% of independents have an unfavorable opinion of him. Disliking Balloon Boy is something we can put our differences aside about.

Sorry buddy, I think your 15 minutes are running out.

Full results here

A challenge for the GOP

Republicans have a major identity problem. 35% of its voters think that their party in Congress is too liberal compared to only 20% who think it's too conservative, perhaps speaking to the exodus of moderates from the party in recent years. So the party base would be happier if it lurched to the right.

Democrats and independents feel quite differently about the direction Republicans have to take though with 64% and 46% of them respectively thinking that the party's too conservative.

This puts the party's candidates in a difficult position- what you have to do to get through the primary might not be too helpful for the general election.

And the Republicans who think the party's too liberal are willing to jump - we see that happening in NY-23 and 26% of them on this poll said they'd vote for a third party candidate next year.

That's what puts the GOP in a tougher position for instance than the Democrats. 22% of Dems think that their party is too conservative- but only 8% of them threaten to vote for an independent or third party candidate next year. That makes it a lot easier for Democrats to take the far left for granted than it is for Republicans to take the far right for granted. And it could make 2010 an unusually interesting midterm year.

The Generic Ballot

Voters are unhappy with both parties in Congress right now and that is opening the door for more third party candidates, like Doug Hoffman in NY-23, to perhaps have some success next year.

49% of voters disapprove of the job Democrats in Congress are doing right now, to 37% approving. That looks downright popular compared to the Republicans though- they have a 61% disapproval rating and only 21% thinking they're doing a good job. The GOP Congressional leadership isn't even well liked by its own party- 45% of Republicans disapprove to 43% approving.

The disgust with both parties has some voters looking for an alternative. On the generic Congressional ballot 40% of respondents say they'll vote Democratic next year to 29% choosing a Republican and 22% saying they would like to vote for an independent or third party candidate.

The desire for a third party candidate is stronger among Republicans (19%) than Democrats (10%), an indication that the conservative insurrection playing itself out in the New York special election could become a broader trend next year.

Asked just to choose between the two major parties voters pick Democrats by a 48-40 margin.

Full results here

Notes on Palin

When it comes to the 2012 Presidential election, Republican voters might be their own worst enemies.

That's because Sarah Palin continues to be by far the most popular candidate with the party's base. 72% have a favorable opinion of her, compared to just 56% for Mike Huckabee and 54% for Mitt Romney.

The problem is that she's also the least popular candidate with Democrats and independents. 79% of Democrats have an unfavorable opinion of her compared to 48% for Romney and 42% for Huckabee. If the GOP nominated her it would basically cut off the possibility of any crossover support, whereas there are at least still a lot of open minds when it comes to the party's other leading hopefuls.

It's a similar story with independents. 48% have a negative opinion of Palin to 28% for Romney and 27% for Huckabee.

It was also interesting to note in the poll results that while Romney and Huckabee both held Obama under 50%, and even Tim Pawlenty kept him right at 50%, his best share of the vote was 52% when matched against Palin.

It might feel good in January or February of 2012 for Republicans to nominate Palin, but it doesn't look like it would feel too good come November.

Another interesting thing to watch on the Palin front moving forward: would she run as a third party conservative alternative if someone too moderate for her tastes was nominated in 2012? It doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility after her NY-23 endorsement.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Maine Wide Open

The only thing that's clear about next year's race for Governor of Maine is that everything is unclear. The candidates aren't very well known and voters don't have a clear preference for which party they would like to see controlling the Governor's office.

Generally speaking 30% of the voters say they would prefer a Democrat to 26% for a Republican and 18% for an independent or third party candidate. It's worth remembering that the last time Democrats controlled the White House and Congress the state elected an independent, Angus King, as Governor in the next election. The political conditions right now, in which voters tend to be unhappy with both the Democrats and the Republicans, would seem to make that again a possibility.

It's easier to make a list of who's not running for Governor in Maine than who is so we just chose to poll on a couple of the leading Democratic candidates and a couple of the leading Republican candidates to get a general feel for the state of the race at this early stage.

State Senate President Libby Mitchell is the best known of the quartet we tested, and 66% of respondents didn't know enough about her to have formed an opinion one way or the other. 69% have no opinion about repeat Republican candidate Peter Mills, and 75% are ambivalent toward former Democratic Attorney General Steve Rowe and Republican businessman Les Otten.

Mills does the best in head to head contests, leading Mitchell 34-31 and Rowe 33-25. Otten trails both of the Democrats, by a 34-26 margin against Mitchell and a 28-26 one against Rowe.

What does this all tell us? Maine might have the most wide open Gubernatorial contest in the whole country for 2010. A Democrat could win, a Republican could win, an independent or third party candidate could win. And there are a lot of different people who could win within each of those categories as well. It's going to be a bit of a free for all, and that will make it an interesting contest to watch.

Full results here

Would Kaine do better?

Virginia voters think their Governors should be allowed to run for reelection. But they wouldn't necessarily return the current one if they had that option.

57% think the state's chief executive should be able to seek a second consecutive term with 35% opposed. Democrats are strongly in favor of the idea, 85-12. Independents narrowly support it, 47-44, and Republicans oppose it by a small margin, 45-44.

Asked though who they would support in a Tim Kaine-Bob McDonnell contest the Republican leads 51-43, a result not terribly dissimilar from his 52-40 advantage over Creigh Deeds.

It's not a perfect comparison because if Kaine was running he might be doing a better job of engaging the Democratic base and getting them out to the polls than Deeds is doing. Still, it shows that in a tough political climate for the party any Democratic candidate this side of Mark Warner might have difficulty defeating McDonnell.

Kaine's main improvement relative to Deeds is with independents- he trails 54-39 compared to a 60-31 deficit for this year's nominee.

Full results here

Turnout and 2010

I've been talking ad nauseam perhaps about the fact that very few Obama voters are leaving the Democratic fold but that the party's main problem right now is one of engagement and motivation.

Here's a perfect example from the national generic Congressional numbers we're releasing tomorrow:

Only 6% of Obama voters say they plan to vote Republican next year- that's even less than the 7% of McCain voters who intend to vote Democratic.

If turnout patterns next year are anything like 2006 and 2008 Democrats have a perfectly fine election year. Of course if Democratic voters don't show up Republicans will make strong gains. It's 13 months away but already I feel safe saying the 2010 election is going to be more about turnout than persuasion. Public opinion is pretty darn static right now.

Health Care and the 2010 Elections

Here's a theory I'm going to test on our Virginia and New Jersey polls this weekend: Congressional Democrats put themselves at greater risk for next year by not passing a health care bill with a public option than by doing so.

Republicans are already incredibly revved up about the simple possibility of a meaningful health care bill. Are they going to get any more revved up if it becomes a reality? I don't think so. I think the political damage there's going to be to Democrats for doing something on health care has already been done.

Our polling continues to find that the problem for Democrats right now isn't so much that people are switching sides to the Republicans, but that D voters have become sort of complacent/disengaged. There is no greater threat to the party next year than for its voters to feel like getting in power in 2006 and 2008 hasn't accomplished anything, and that their votes didn't really make a difference in policy making. That's when they stay home. So the impact on turnout next year that not doing something meaningful on health care could have is to my mind the greater risk for Democrats right now.

So here's what I'm going to do: ask the standard Congressional generic ballot question, then ask how people would vote for Congress if Democrats passed a bill with a public option, then ask how people would vote for Congress if no health care bill passed at all. We'll see how much difference there is across those measures.

Obama continues to lead 2012 contests

Almost a year after his election as President, Barack Obama continues to lead his most likely 2012 rivals in hypothetical contests for reelection.

Obama leads Mike Huckabee 47-43, Mitt Romney 48-40, Sarah Palin 52-40, and Tim Pawlenty 50-30.

This is the seventh time PPP has conducted this poll and the seventh time Huckabee has polled closest to Obama. Speaking to the weakness of the field of potential Republican candidates he's the only with a positive favorability rating and even then it's only 33/29.

Huckabee's doing well because he connects better than the other GOP hopefuls with voters in the Midwest and South. For instance while Romney, Palin, and Pawlenty trail by 9, 17, and 18 points respectively in the Midwest Huckabee is down by just 3, something that could be a good omen for his prospects of again winning the Iowa primary as he did in 2008.

Romney is actually the most popular of the Republican candidates with independents, sporting a 38/28 favorability rating with them and holding Obama to just a 41-40 lead. One thing he'll probably have to contend with to a greater extent if he gets the 2012 nomination is his religion- 34% of respondents say they have an unfavorable opinion of it to 21% who look on it positively.

Palin's numbers have been somewhat mystifying over the last four months. Immediately after her resignation they actually improved to a positive 47/45 favorability rating. Since then though they've plummeted even with her largely out of the public eye and only 36% of voters have a favorable view of her with 51% holding a negative one. She has by far the worst numbers with both Democrats and independents.

Somewhat counterintuitively the best news in this poll might be for Tim Pawlenty. Only 27% of respondents have an opinion of him and it breaks down negatively, 16/11. He trails Obama by the widest margin. But with all of the better known Republican candidates looking pretty weak the door is really open for someone like him to step in and have a big impact on this race. No one expected Barack Obama to be the Democrats' 2008 nominee at this time four years ago, and the best hope for Republicans in 2012 may be to move beyond the Huckabee/Palin/Romney trio that all has the loser stench from last year.

Full results here

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Snowe's Standing

Following her vote last week to support a health care bill in the Senate Finance Committee Olympia Snowe finds herself a lot more popular with voters in the opposite party than with her own.

70% of Democrats approve of her job performance while only 45% of Republicans do. The approval rating with Democrats is larger than for many Democratic Senators we have polled on across the country this year. At the same time the only Senators we've found with numbers worse with their own party's voters are Jim Bunning and Roland Burris.

51% of independents express support for Snowe and her overall approval rating is 56%, with 31% of voters disapproving of her. That ranks her in the top 5 for popularity out of about 35 Senators PPP has looked at across the country this year.

Despite her considerably better popularity with Democrats than Republicans, only 32% of Maine voters think that Snowe should switch parties while 49% think she should not and 20% are unsure. Interestingly there is little difference across party lines on these numbers- 33% of Democrats and 32% of Republicans think she should flip.

Snowe may end up having no choice on whether to switch parties if she wants to get reelected in 2012. Among conservative Republicans, who tend to dominate primary electorates, her approval rating is only 31% with 59% disapproving of her. And specifically on the issue of health care just 19% approve of her actions with 65% disapproving.

The wrath of the Club for Growth eventually made renomination as a Republican impossible for Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and it will be interesting to see if the same thing plays itself out in Maine.

Maine voters support a 'public option' for health care, which Snowe opposes, by a 48/28 margin. In one of those weird twists of public opinion supporters of such a measure give Snowe a 70% approval rating, while only 30% of those opposed to it think she's doing a good job.

Full results here

Last Call for Virginia, New Jersey

Our Sunday night before the election Virginia and New Jersey polls aren't going to have much content other than the horse race so this weekend's round of surveys are your last chance to suggest questions that could help us better shed a light on what's going on in those contests. If you have any interesting ideas please send them our way.

Same thing with the Charlotte race for Mayor, which we'll also be polling this weekend.

Obama approval more of the same

Barack Obama's approval rating in our national survey for October is 51%, the fifth month in a row it has fallen somewhere in the 50-52% range.

The big picture on his numbers remains this: pretty much everyone (89%) who voted for him likes the job he's doing. Pretty much everyone (85%) who voted for John McCain doesn't like the job he's doing. Almost a year since he was elected his overall political standing is pretty much unchanged. If he had to stand for reelection today his performance would be more or less what it was last November.

Also seeing very little change over the months is public opinion on Obama's health care plan. 45% of voters oppose it and 42% support it, reflecting a general trend of opposition to him on the issue in the mid 40s and support for him on it in the low 40s. For the most part voters have made up their minds and they're not changing them.

In our monthly measurement of how far Obama's political opponents will go in expressing their dislike of him we have some good news: only 5% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of his daughters compared to 54% who see them in a positive light. That is at least one line most people are not willing to cross.

Saying that Obama doesn't love America seems to be fair game though. 48% of Republicans express that sentiment while 25% are unsure and just 27% will grant that the President does love the country. Overall 59% of voters think Obama loves America while 26% think he doesn't, and 14% are unsure.

Those numbers track our 'birther' numbers from September almost exactly- 59% said Obama was born in the United States while 23% said he was not and 18% were unsure. There clearly is about a quarter of the country that is so partisan in its sentiments against Obama that it will go so far as to say he doesn't love the country, isn't a legitimate US citizen, etc. There are surely more things that could be added to the list.

Full results here

Thoughts on the Gingrich/ABC Poll

Kind of an amusing little spat yesterday between Newt Gingrich and ABC Polling Director Gary Langer.

The crux of it is this: ABC says only 20% of voters identify as Republicans, Gingrich says that's bunk and that most other pollsters tell a different story.

The problem is that they're really talking about two different things. ABC was polling all adults, and the party identification chart shows that among all adults the average Republican identification is 20.7%. But when you look at party id among registered and likely voters you find 34.3% of voters in the country are Republicans. Those are more the polls Gingrich was referring to. The national poll we're releasing today of registered voters falls close to that number- 33%.

So really they're kind of both right.

The 20% Republican number among all adults is interesting but has no relevance to any future elections because it includes a large number of respondents who don't even vote in Presidential contests, much less midterm elections The 51-39 lead on the generic ballot in that poll is likewise meaningless because you will usually find that less than 40% of the voting age population turns out next year. There's nothing wrong with the poll, but what they chose to measure just doesn't really have any real world implications for the 2010 election. So I guess you can count me as one Democrat who wasn't particularly heartened by that particular survey.

My sense on the generic Congressional ballot right now is that with registered voters you have a single digit Democratic lead (what our poll coming out Friday shows) and that with likely voters you're at about a tie. Just about no one except Rasmussen is polling likely voters yet though so it's hard to say- we're not going to narrow our sample to likely voters more than a year away from a particular election.

McDonnell pulling away

Bob McDonnell has opened up a double digit lead over Creigh Deeds in his quest to be Virginia's next Governor. He now leads 52-40, up from 48-43 three weeks ago.

McDonnell's standing is largely the result of two things: considerable support from independents and a disengaged Democratic electorate. With independents, who tend to split pretty evenly, the Republican leads 60-31. And while Barack Obama won Virginia by six points last year, the voters planning to turn out this fall supported John McCain by six points, a clear indication that many Democratic voters are just planning to stay at home.

That lack of Democratic enthusiasm has been the story for much of the general election campaign. 56% of McDonnell supporters say they're 'very excited' about voting this fall while only 34% of Deeds' backers share that sentiment.

During September Deeds had seemed to get some momentum with the 'thesis' issue but now 54% of voters say they think his campaign has put too much focus on that. 69% of Republicans predictably feel that way but so do 62% of independents and even 30% of Democrats.

While they've gotten a lot less attention it actually seems that McDonnell's attacks on Deeds have been more effective. When we first polled the general election in early July 29% of voters in the state had an unfavorable opinion of Deeds. Now 48% do. McDonnell's negatives have increased only from 32% to 35% during that time. At the start of the campaign they both had a net favorability rating of +19. Now McDonnell's is +21 and Deeds' is -7.

Deeds' difficulties are having implications down the ballot. Ken Cuccinelli leads Steve Shannon 52-37 for Attorney General and Bill Bolling has a 49-39 advantage over Jody Wagner for Lieutenant Governor. Beyond that Republicans lead 46-36 on the generic ballot for the House of Delegates.

We still don't find evidence of a lot of Obama/McDonnell voters- they account for less than 5% of the electorate. Deeds' problems are almost exclusively due to his inability to engage the Democratic base. The three groups of voters most critical to Obama's success in the state last year were women, African Americans, and young folks. Deeds trails 51-42 with women, only leads 68-20 with blacks when Democrats usually receive at least 80% of their votes, and is tied at 44 with voters under 30.

Deeds should receive some benefit in getting Democrats more interested from Bill Clinton's visit yesterday and the one from Barack Obama coming next week- but based on where he stands right now he needs to turn out 200,000-300,000 more Democrats than are currently planning to vote, and that is quite a tall order with just 13 days to go.

Full results here

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tomorrow's Virginia Poll

For months our discussion of the Virginia Gubernatorial race has focused on the issue of enthusiasm- and the lack of it among Democratic voters.

Here are some very telling numbers from the poll we'll be releasing tomorrow:

-56% of Bob McDonnell voters are 'very excited' about casting their ballot for Governor this fall. Only 34% of Creigh Deeds supporters are.

-29% of Deeds voters are 'not very excited' about voting this fall. Only 16% of McDonnell's express that sentiment.

And keep in mind this lack of enthusiasm among Deeds voters is among those who are planning to vote anyway. But you can see with those numbers why many Democrats/Obama voters just aren't coming out at all.

We're looking at a McCain +6 electorate this year in a state that was Obama +6 last year. There's no path to victory if that stays true through election day. We'll see how much good the visits from Obama, Bill Clinton, and other leading national Democrats do in the last few weeks but there is a lot of ground to make up.

Poll out in the morning.

Voters just don't get it

Olympia Snowe's approval rating on health care with Democrats who support a public option: 70/15

Olympia Snowe's approval rating on health care with Democrats who oppose a public option: 37/53

Just more confirmation of my feeling that most voters have no clue when it comes to the health care debate, and the politicians should just ignore all the polls and do whatever they think is right.

Full poll on Snowe out tomorrow.

Broader Implications of NY-23

Could the Doug Hoffman candidacy in NY-23 become a broader movement next year?

We asked two forms of the generic Congressional ballot question on our national poll this week- one was the standard Democrat/Republican choice and the other was a Democrat/Republican/Independent or Third Party choice.

Reflecting the disgust many voters are feeling with both parties right now, 22% of respondents said they would choose an independent or third party candidate. Predictably 45% of independent identifying voters said they would but so did 19% of Republicans and 10% of Democrats.

The fact that twice as many GOP voters as Democrats would prefer to vote for a third way instead of their own party next year could seriously confound Republican hopes of making large gains in the House and Senate.

72% of the Republicans expressing a wish to vote for a third party candidate are conservatives and 47% of them think that Congressional Republicans are too liberal. That is the exact sentiment Hoffman is tapping into.

Just as the Republicans helped Ralph Nader get on the ballot in 2004, Democrats might do themselves a favor in some key races next year by getting someone to the right of the GOP nominee into the field. It certainly seems like it could give them a gift in NY-23.

Tied in Maine

Public opinion on Question 1 in Maine, which would reject the state's law allowing same sex couples to marry, is knotted up two weeks before election day. 48% of voters in the state support it and 48% oppose it.

With most voters' minds made up the election is not really about persuasion at this point but turnout. Even a small difference in the ability of supporters and opponents of the referendum to get their folks out to the polls could tip the scales with the issue this close.

One determining factor could be the age distribution of the electorate. Senior citizens often dominate in low turnout elections and they're strongest in their support of rejecting the law with 54% planning to vote for Question 1 to 40% opposing it. Voters under 65 oppose the referendum by a 50-46 margin but they'll have to come out if they're going to combat the influence of the more conservative leaning older voters.

Opinion on the issue is predictably polarized along party lines but perhaps not as much as you would expect. 25% of Democrats support rejecting the law while 23% of Republicans oppose doing so. There's a higher level of party crossover on this question than there is for instance on President Obama's approval rating in the state where only 16% of Republicans give him good marks and just 13% of Democrats think he's doing a poor job.

Interestingly white voters in the state oppose the referendum by a 49-47 margin, but nonwhite voters support it 55-35. That's a small swath of the electorate in Maine but it's enough to create an overall tie in these numbers.

It's going to be a close one!

Full results here

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Rest of the Stuff

Besides Maine we also have our Virginia and national polls coming out this week starting Wednesday. Here's the tentative schedule:


-We'll have our newest Virginia Governor numbers. Do voters think Deeds is overplaying McDonnell's thesis? Is the electorate trending more Democratic or Republican? Those are some of the key issues we're going to delve into.

-On the national survey we'll have our monthly look at Obama's approval and where health care is. We also took your suggestion to look at how his daughters are perceived- do Republicans dislike even them?- and whether voters think he 'loves' America.


-The monthly 2012 poll. We swapped Tim Pawlenty in for Newt Gingrich/Jeb Bush so we'll have match ups with him, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee. We asked voters this month what they think of the Mormon religion to try to get a better idea of the impact that could have on Romney's prospects.

-Virginia approvals poll- the most noteworthy thing we looked at was a Tim Kaine/Bob McDonnell contest. How much of the problem for Democrats in Virginia is the national climate and how much of it is just Creigh Deeds? Of course the question is imperfect since Kaine isn't running a campaign and the likely voters are being determined by who Deeds can get out but it should still be interesting.


-Looking at Congress. What do voters think of the Democrats and Republicans and how is the generic ballot stacking up? We also looked at whether voters think Congressional Democrats and Republicans are too liberal or too conservative, and tried to gauge how much support there is for third parties right now.

We also asked some extremely silly questions about Balloon Boy that I want to see the results for before deciding what release to include them with or whether to do a separate one.

Stay tuned for all that over the course of this week, and next week we'll have New Jersey, Virginia, and Charlotte Mayoral polls.

Looking at Gay Marriage Polling

Our Maine poll tomorrow is going to show a much rosier picture for opponents of same sex marriage than two other polls released recently by Pan Atlantic SMS and Democracy Corps, which showed the referendum failing by an average of 51/42.

It is of course always possible that we're wrong. But I think it's more likely that this is one issue where automated polls might have an advantage over live interviewers. There is probably some segment of the population that knows opposing same sex marriage is wrong and not intellectually defensible but still does. Those are the kinds of folks who might tell an interviewer what they believe they should think rather than what they do think.

Perhaps someone with more time can do a more thorough look at how polling on gay marriage and affirmative action bans reflected the actual results, but on Proposition 8 in California last year three IVR polls from SurveyUSA showed it passing by an average of 47/46 while the Field Poll and Public Policy Institute of California, both using live interviewers, showed it failing by an average of 51/44. It's a limited sample size but there was an eight point difference on the margin between live interview and automated polls. And of course the ultimate result, passage by a margin of 52-48, was not something any pollster showed in the last couple weeks of the campaign.

Because the referendum is so close we're probably going to sneak in another poll of it between now and November 3rd.

Maine Poll Preview


We'll release the numbers on the gay marriage ban. It pretty much literally could not be any closer and will all come down to who turns out. Judging by the approval rating we found for Obama in the state it looks like it will be a more conservative leaning electorate than what the state saw last fall. It could be determined by the age distribution of the voters- do young people come out or do senior citizens dominate the electorate?


Fascinating numbers for Olympia Snowe. Her approval rating with Democrats is 25 points higher than with Republicans- in fact her approval numbers with Democrats are better than they are for many of the Democratic Senators we've polled on across the country this year. There doesn't seem to be a huge amount of support for switching her parties though. We'll also look at Obama and the health care issue.


The contest to be the state's next Governor is wide open with none of the candidates very well known. One thing that may be contributing to Republicans having an opportunity here are extremely weak approval numbers for John Baldacci. With a huge number of candidates we just had to pick a couple Democrats and Republicans to test to get a general idea of the lay of the land and none of the match ups we looked at showed anyone getting better than 34%.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 16, 2009

An X-Factor for Corzine?

One interesting thing I noticed about the New Jersey polls this week was that all of the ones that released crosstabs by race showed Jon Corzine under performing standard Democratic performance with African Americans. Democracy Corps had him at 71%, we had him at 70%, and Survey USA found him at 66%.

For sake of comparison exit polls showed Robert Menendez winning 82% of the black vote in 2006 and Frank Lautenberg getting 87% of it last year.

It's certainly possible that the black voters coming out in New Jersey this year are more conservative leaning than black voters in general, or that the three way nature of the race is driving down Corzine's numbers. But it's also not at all unusual for Democratic candidates to under poll among black voters further out from election day before they 'come home' at the end.

We polled five Senate/Governor elections in North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, and Missouri in mid-October last year. On average the Democratic candidate was winning 75% of the black vote in those polls. Looking at the exit polls for those same contests, the Democrat ended up winning 90% of the black vote. So there was a 15 point discrepancy between where they were in mid-October and where they ended up on election day.

If Corzine's actual black support ends up being 15 points better than is showing in the polls today and white voters stay constant he gets reelected by a couple points. We'll see if that happens.

Edwards even less popular in NC than nationally

When it comes to John Edwards' popularity apparently familiarity breeds contempt.

A new Gallup survey today finds that 59% of Americans nationally have an unfavorable opinion of him to just 21% that see him in a positive light.

Those numbers are pretty bad, but they compare favorably to the reviews he got the last time we polled about him in North Carolina. 69% of voters in the state said they didn't like him. So much for a home field advantage.

That would seem to indicate Edwards is one politician where the better you know him the less you like him.

Will Daggett hold his support?

There still seems to be an assumption that Chris Daggett's polling numbers right now are a lot better than his share of the vote on election day in New Jersey will be.

I'm not too sure though. For one thing he still seems to be gaining in the polls. And even though a lot of his supporters are weakly committed Jon Corzine and Chris Christie are so unpopular that they may truly end up deciding to cast a protest vote rather than grudgingly picking one of them.

Polls released this week, three weeks before the election, have shown Daggett at an average of 14%. I decided to look at all the independent or third party candidates who have received at least 5% of the vote in a Gubernatorial contest since 2006 and see where they were polling roughly three weeks prior to election day and how that compared to their final share of the vote. (I couldn't find any information on where Andrew Halcro, who got 10% of the vote in Alaska, was polling at this stage. Also I have noted the number of polls I could find from a comparable time period to calculate these averages.)



Mid-Oct. Poll Avg.

Final Vote Share

Illinois (3 polls)

Rich Whitney



Maine (1 poll)

Barbara Merrill



Maine (1 poll)

Pat Lamarche



Mass. (2 polls)

Christy Mihos



Minnesota (1 poll)

Peter Hutchinson



Texas (3 polls)

Carole Keeton Strayhorn



Texas (3 polls)

Kinky Friedman



Vermont (2 polls)

Anthony Pollina



Louisiana (2 polls)

John Georges



With the exception of Kinky Friedman none of the candidates did more than a point worse than they were doing in the polls three weeks before the election. On average they even did a little more than a point better.

It certainly is common for a third party candidate polling well over the summer to end up being a nonfactor. But if you're still in the game at this point you're usually going to end up staying in it. I bet Daggett will truly end up getting double digits at the polls on election day.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Looking deeper at Daggett's support

Our New Jersey poll this week found that Chris Christie led Jon Corzine 48-34 as the second choice for Chris Daggett voters. It also found that only 44% of Daggett's supporters were firmly committed to him with 56% saying they could change their minds between now and the election.

It would seem then that something we really need to be paying attention to are the second choices of Daggett voters who say they could change their minds.

Christie leads Corzine 45-35 on the second choice question with persuadable Daggett voters. That's a more narrow margin than among Daggett supporters who say they will definitely vote for him- Christie leads 52-32 on the second choice question with them.

Let's go ahead and say that all of the weakly committed Daggett voters are going to abandon him and vote for their top choice of the major party candidates. That would make the race Christie 43 Corzine 41 Daggett 6.

There's a lot of talk right now that if Daggett voters jump ship Christie will see a great benefit. The truth seems to be more that it would be a good thing for him, but only worth about a point. Of course with the race this close that point could up making the difference. But I continue to think the biggest potential game changer for the closing stretch is if Corzine can somehow convince a lot more Democratic voters to turn out than are currently planning to.

Few voters changing sides from 2008

I've gotten some right wing tirades because I told The Hill for a story yesterday that there were very few people who voted Democratic last year changing sides and that the problem for the party this year was largely one of complacency and comparative motivation.

In New Jersey 71% of people who voted for John McCain are planning to vote for Chris Christie and 70% who voted for Barack Obama are supporting Jon Corzine. There is no meaningful difference in the percentage of their party's voters from last year that the two major party candidates are holding onto.

It's a similar story in Virginia. Bob McDonnell is winning 8% of Obama's voters while Creigh Deeds is taking 7% of John McCain's voters.

Republicans are winning these races not because they're winning anyone over, but because they're planning to vote at a much higher rate than Democrats this year. The truth is if the same set of voters who showed up in 2008 showed up next month Creigh Deeds and Jon Corzine would both win. But of course that's not going to happen.

This fact doesn't make the potential GOP victories any less valid, and I think they may well be a harbinger of next year's elections. But they say very little about 2012 because if Barack Obama was at the top of the ballot Democrats wouldn't be having these turnout issues.

It also means that if Corzine and/or Deeds can somehow close the enthusiasm gap in the final three weeks of the campaign Democrats might not lose both of these races.

Looking back at New Jersey Governors

New Jersey's two most popular elected Governors of the last 25 years are both moderate Republicans.

Finishing first by a wide margin in our survey was Tom Kean at 43%. Christie Whitman is second at 19%, followed by Jon Corzine at 18%.

Kean is the first choice of Republicans (59%) and independents (47%). Among Democrats he finishes runner up with 28% to Jon Corzine's 36%.

It's a sad commentary on the popularity of New Jersey's recent Democratic Governors that Corzine is tops despite his poor approval ratings. 69% of independents picked one of the two Republicans as their favorite, and 39% of Democrats picked one of them while only 14% of Republicans chose a Democrat.

You might think that New Jersey voters looking back most favorably on a pair of moderate Republicans would bode well for Chris Christie. The problem is that a majority of voters in the state don't think he's a moderate. 51% believe he's a conservative to 43% thinking he's a moderate.

That's posing a problem for Christie in the campaign. Among moderates who think he's a moderate he leads Corzine 61-16. But among moderates who think he's a conservative, Corzine has the 57-22 lead. The fact that a majority of voters don't think Christie is a centrist has to be hurting his campaign in a decidedly centrist state.

When it comes to the state's least popular Governor of the last 25 years, Jim McGreevey takes the dubious top spot with 35%. He's followed by Whitman at 26% and Corzine at 20%.

McGreevey is the least popular with Republicans (43%) and independents (31%). Among Democrats he finishes second with 33% to Whitman's 44%.

Jim Florio is fourth for most popular but also fourth for least popular.

Full results here

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Looking at the undecideds in New Jersey

The 8% of voters who remain undecided in New Jersey are a Democratic leaning lot. But is that a good sign for Jon Corzine or not?

Of the remaining voters who haven't made their minds up at all, 37% are Democrats to 22% Republicans. They report having voted for Barack Obama by a 50-40 margin last fall and say they voted for Corzine by a 58-25 margin four years ago.

Usually you'd look at those numbers and say they're stubborn base voters who will eventually come home, advantage Corzine.

The thing is they don't like him- just 17% have a favorable opinion of him. But they don't like Chris Christie either- just 20% view him positively.

Will they begrudgingly vote for their party, even if they don't like the candidate, cast a protest vote for Daggett, or stay at home? In a race that's looking incredibly close the answer to that question could be decisive, if also decidedly unclear at the moment.

Cable News and Presidential Approval

We often talk about conservative Democrats, moderate Republicans, etc. when discussing North Carolina politics. But our poll last week suggested that we might be able to just skip all those labels and understand voters better by what cable news channel they like to watch.

Consider this: Barack Obama's approval rating with Republicans who watch Fox News is 5%. But with CNN watching GOP voters it's 33%. We'd tell you what it is with MSNBC watching Republicans but, well, there really aren't any.

It's a similar story with Democrats. CNN Democrats give the President an 87% approval rating and 83% of MSNBC ones think he's doing a good job. But with Fox News Democrats only 56% approve of his job performance. That's more or less the group of voters he's seen the greatest decline in support from since the spring, which has resulted in his approval numbers declining.

And while independents are generally thought of as some sort of monolithic group, there's a very distinct difference between CNN independents and Fox News independents. CNN watching ones give Obama a 64% approval rating...but those who prefer Fox News only support him at a 12% clip.

Overall North Carolina is a Fox News watching state, with 49% of voters saying that's the main cable news network they watch. 31% prefer CNN and MSNBC is in a distant third at 13%. Even among liberals CNN outpaces MSNBC 55-26.

These numbers serve to pretty much confirm all stereotypes about what people like what cable networks!

Obama in New Jersey

Barack Obama's approval rating with likely voters for the fast approaching New Jersey Gubernatorial election comes down at 46% this month.

That might make it sound like Obama's popularity has crashed in a state where he won 57% of the vote last year. But it's more a reflection of the fact that many of his supporters are not planning to come out and vote for Governor right now. The likely electorate in New Jersey reports having voted for Obama by a margin of only 49-45, in contrast to his actual 57-42 victory in the state.

That speaks to a potential secret weapon for Jon Corzine in the closing days of the campaign- there are thousands upon thousands more Democrats out there sitting on their hands right now than there are Republicans. If Corzine can do anything to get more of those folks motivated and out to the polls and shift the 2009 electorate from one where 49% of people voted for Obama last year to one where more like 53-55% supported Obama he's going to end up pulling this one out.

There are slightly more McCain supporters (8%) who now approve of Obama's performance than there are people who voted for the President last fall (7%) but now disapprove of the job he's doing.

56% of New Jersey voters think Obama did not deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize, while only 30% think he earned the honor. Public opinion on that predictably breaks heavily along party lines, with 57% of Democrats but only 21% of independents and 4% of Republicans believing he should have won.

46% of respondents think that Obama's winning decreases the prestige of the award while 12% now think it's more prestigious and 42% don't think his victory makes a difference.

New Jersey's Senators continue to sport pretty mediocre approval ratings, with Frank Lautenberg at 36/45 and Robert Menendez at 34/45.

Full results here

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The long view in New Jersey

Chris Christie's lead in our New Jersey polling peaked at the end of July, when he held a 50-36 lead. Now he's at just 40%. Where'd he lose all that support?

The answer is pretty much everywhere. Christie's seen double digit decreases in his share of the vote among conservative Democrats, moderate Republicans, conservative Republicans, and independents. The only meaningful voting blocs he hasn't lost much ground with are liberal and moderate Democrats, and that's largely a function of his never having had much support with those groups to begin with.

We didn't include Chris Daggett in that July poll where Christie had a 14 point lead, and if you look now at Christie's decline in those groups Daggett's share of the vote is almost equal to the difference between where Christie was in July and where Christie is now.

There's not much doubt Daggett's been bleeding Christie's support, putting Jon Corzine in position to win a surprise victory. The question now is how many of those marginal Daggett voters Christie can win back in the final three weeks.

Here's the full July to October comparison data on Christie's drop:


Christie % June

Christie % October

Daggett %

Lib. Dems




Mod. Dems




Cons. Dems




Mod. Reps




Cons. Reps








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