Monday, May 31, 2010

Early Republican Numbers

New PPP polls on the 2012 Republican field in Iowa, Michigan, and South Carolina make that much more clear what we've been saying for weeks now- there is no front runner to take on Barack Obama. A different potential contender leads in each of the three states.

In Iowa Mike Huckabee won the caucus by about 10 points in 2008 and he's the top choice of Republicans in the state now by an almost identical margin. He finishes first at 27%. The second place finisher then was Mitt Romney but he places fourth in this poll, albeit only a point or two behind Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. Palin comes in at 17%, followed by Gingrich at 16%, and Romney at 15%.

The Iowa numbers make it clear that Jim DeMint's rise as a national figure is more of an insider thing than anything else- he registers at just 2% in Iowa. South Dakota Senator John Thune gets a similar 2%. Not surprisingly Ron Paul does the best of the second tier candidates at 7%. (We didn''t include Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, or Rick Santorum on this particular poll because they all got 3% or less on a similar New Hampshire poll two months ago.)

In South Carolina Gingrich leads with 25% but Romney (24%) and Palin (22%) are not far behind. While Huckabee's continuing support in Iowa is impressive his standing in South Carolina (19%) is perhaps surprisingly weak. He finished 14 points ahead of Romney in the state in 2008 but now trails him by 5. The two biggest takeaways from the South Carolina numbers are probably that 1) Gingrich is a very legitimate candidate if he decides to get in and 2) Romney may not win the South if he runs but he won't be irrelevant there either.

We also just for fun threw in a permutation of the question with Jim DeMint included as a possible Republican candidate and he does lead the way with 21% to 16% for Gingrich and Romney and 15% for Huckabee and Palin. PPP found last week that only 15% of South Carolinians overall and 24% of Republicans want DeMint to run for President but he does at least have support from the small group of constituents who want him to gun for the White House.

In Michigan Romney won the primary with 39% in 2008 and he's still pretty much there, leading the way with 37% for 2012. Palin comes in second at with 24%, followed by Gingrich at 16%, and Huckabee at 12%.

The numbers continue to show strong support for Romney with moderates but weak support from conservatives, a formula that could cost him the nomination given the direction of the Republican Party. For instance in South Carolina he leads Gingrich by 22 points with moderates but trails him by 8 points with conservatives, dropping him into second place. In Michigan where Romney perhaps ought to have a large advantage thanks to his family ties in the state he leads Palin by 48 points with moderates but only 3 points with conservatives.

These numbers can't be seen as a particularly great sign for Palin either. Although she has a solid base of support in every state where we've looked at the 2012 contest the truth remains that she's led in few of them. And in both Iowa and South Carolina she runs behind Gingrich with conservatives, an indication he could end up as the darling of the right if he makes the race rather than Palin.

They're really not great news for Huckabee either. In 2008 he won in Iowa but failed to get the nomination because he couldn't build on that victory in other states. His polling in South Carolina and Michigan on these polls and previously in New Hampshire leaves something to be desired.

The biggest takeaway from these numbers? The GOP race is wide open and there is a lot of room for someone who isn't all that well known right now to step in and make a very serious bid at the nomination.

Full results here

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Coming tomorrow...

On Memorial Day we'll release 2012 GOP President numbers for the key early states of Iowa, Michigan, and South Carolina. Stay tuned for that.

Next weekend it's time for our monthly national poll and our North Carolina one so we're open to suggestions on the usual three fronts:

-Who should we include as the 'bonus' Republican on the 2012 Presidential poll? After scraping the bottom of the barrel for Gary Johnson earlier this month I'm open again now to including people we've done on previous polls.

-What interesting questions should we put on our national and North Carolina polls?

We'll have Iowa and Michigan numbers coming out all week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Jenny Sanford very popular

Nothing brings up a female political figure's popularity like getting cheated on by their husband.

Jenny Sanford has the best poll numbers of anyone we've looked at so far in 2010, with 61% of South Carolina voters viewing her favorably to just 16% with an unfavorable opinion of her. That positive view of Sanford holds true across the board with 61% of Democrats, 61% of Republicans, and 58% of independents all holding a positive opinion of her.

The last woman we found with these kinds of poll numbers was Elizabeth Edwards. Although her numbers have dropped since then, last May 58% of North Carolinians viewed her favorably to just 22% who had a negative opinion of her.

Hillary Clinton also saw a large increase in her personal popularity after the whole Monica Lewinsky saga.

Sanford's ex-husband is doing a little less well in the polls. Only 33% of voters in the state approve of his job performance while 56% give him bad marks. He's still at 53% with Republican voters but his popularity has completely tanked with independents (30%) and Democrats (10%).

If Jenny Sanford ever decides she wants to run for office she'll be able to get elected to whatever she wants if she can keep up these kinds of numbers.

Full results here

More evidence Dems aren't losing the center

The main reason Scott Brown was able to pull off a shocking upset in the Massachusetts Senate race earlier this year was that he beat Martha Coakley 55-41 with moderate voters. Just how rare of a feat is that for a Republican Senate candidate? There isn't a single other one in a competitive Senate race we've polled this year leading with moderates- in fact with the exception of Florida the Democratic candidate is up by at least 8 points with centrist voters in every race.

It's just another data point showing that Democratic troubles this year are not the result of them losing the center, but of conservative voters being more motivated to turn out. In places like Kentucky and Missouri, where the GOP will be slightly favored to win this fall, Robin Carnahan and Jack Conway lead their respective Republican opponents by 40 points with moderates. Democratic candidates also have 20+ point leads with moderates in places like North Carolina, Colorado, and Ohio.

I think we may have all (myself included) made too much of the impending doom the Massachusetts results portended for Democrats this year. The combination of an exceptionally strong Republican candidate in Brown and an exceptionally weak Democratic candidate in Coakley created a formula that made it possible for the GOP to win moderate voters. But the Republicans haven't shown the ability to replicate that formula in any other key Senate contest yet, and as a result Democrats are decidedly winning the center.

Here's out Senate data on moderates:

-Jack Conway leads Rand Paul 60-20
-Robin Carnahan leads Roy Blunt 61-21
-Elaine Marshall leads Richard Burr 59-24, Cal Cunningham leads Burr 54-26
-Michael Bennet leads Jane Norton 54-31
-Lee Fisher leads Rob Portman 47-27
-Joe Sestak leads Pat Toomey 45-29
-Alexi Giannoulias leads Mark Kirk 36-23
-Harry Reid leads Sue Lowden 51-41
-Blanche Lincoln leads John Boozman 49-40, Bill Halter leads Boozman 45-36
-Paul Hodes leads Kelly Ayotte 47-39
-Charlie Crist has 34% to 32% for Kendrick Meek and 19% for Marco Rubio

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Brown up big in California

The big winner from the Republican primary for Governor in California? It might be Jerry Brown. The likely Democratic nominee, benefiting from bad feelings between Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, has commanding double digit leads over both of them.

Brown is up 48-36 on Whitman and 48-32 on Poizner. There are almost no races in the country this year where Democratic voters are more unified than the Republicans- in almost every case there are more Democrats voting for GOP candidates than vice versa. That's not the case in California though where Brown takes 79% of the Democratic vote to Whitman's 72% of the Republican vote and 78% of the Democratic vote to Poizner's 67% of the Republican vote. Brown is bucking another overwhelming national trend by leading both of the GOP contenders with independents.

These results aren't particularly surprising in light of what we found in our polling on the GOP primary in the race. Whitman voters have a very negative opinion of Poizner and Poizner voters have a very negative opinion of Whitman. That's a dynamic more often seen in general election contests than primaries, and it's hampering the ability of both Republican candidates to be competitive with Brown this fall.

Brown is not particularly popular with 37% of voters having a favorable opinion of him to 39% with an unfavorable one. Amazingly after Brown's decades in the California political spotlight 24% of voters have no opinion of him but that speaks both to the length of time since he last served as Governor and also how hard it is to really make an impact on voters in such a large state. Brown looks like Mr. Popularity though when his favorability numbers are compared with those of Whitman and Poizner. Just 24% of voters see Whitman positively, with 44% having a negative opinion of her. And Poizner's even a little worse with 19% holding a favorable opinion of him to 43% unfavorable.

Republicans are going to have a lot of healing to do in the general election if this is going to be a competitive race. For now Brown is a strong favorite.

Full results here

Not much support on the homefront

Our polling is making it more and more clear: no one seems to want their home state politicians running for President in 2012:

-Last July we found only 27% of Louisiana voters thought Bobby Jindal should make a bid for the White House while 61% said he should not.

-In December we found 28% of South Dakota voters wanted John Thune to run for President while 55% did not.

-Also in December we found that in MN-6, the state's most Republican leaning Congressional district, only 32% wanted Tim Pawlenty to launch a national campaign with 50% opposed to the idea.

-And on our South Carolina poll this week there was only 15% support for a Jim DeMint 2012 campaign with 56% opposed.

It's hard to know what to make of these numbers. In the Jindal and Thune cases it may be an indication that voters want them to stay right where they are because they like them- they've posted some of the best approval ratings of any politicians in the country over the last couple years. Pawlenty and DeMint aren't all that popular though so voters in their states may just think they're not up to the task.

Voters also might be concerned that their politicians running for President could bring embarrassment upon their states. As someone who lives in the same county as John Edwards, I certainly can't blame them.

DeMint's Standing

Jim DeMint continues to post pretty underwhelming approval ratings but with his opponent for the fall largely unknown at this point he holds a 19 point lead in his bid for reelection.

43% of South Carolina voters like the job DeMint is doing for them in the Senate while 36% disapprove. His reviews are predictably very polarized. 67% of Republicans approve of him with 15% disapproving while his numbers with Democrats are nearly a mirror image with 59% disapproving and only 14% giving him good marks. Independents split right down the middle in their opinions of him with 42% each happy or unhappy with the job DeMint is doing.

There are some signs that voters in the state are becoming a little frustrated with DeMint's increasing national presence. Only 38% think DeMint is spending the right amount of time focusing on representing South Carolina in the Senate while 39% think it's not enough. DeMint's constituents are cool to a potential 2012 White House bid. Only 15% want to see him run for President while 56% explicitly say they do not want him to. Even among Republicans just 24% would like to see him attempt to make that move.

DeMint leads likely general election opponent Vic Rawl 49-30. That 19 point lead for DeMint is a little inflated by Rawl's current anonymity. 82% of voters in the state say they have no opinion of him and part of the fallout of that is 30% of Democrats are undecided in the Senate race while just 11% of Republicans are. Assuming most of those voters come home to the party in the fall this race would look a lot closer but DeMint does lead 48-27 with independents and that would need to change for him to really be threatened in a state where there are more Republicans than Democrats.

Another thing working to DeMint's definite advantage is Barack Obama's lack of popularity in the state. Just 43% of voters approve of the job he's doing while 51% disapprove and it may be difficult for Democrats this year to topple Republican incumbents in states where the President has those kinds of poll numbers.

Still given DeMint's somewhat tepid approval ratings this is a race worth keeping an eye on. And to put Rawl's standing in perspective he's actually polling closer to DeMint than Blanche Lincoln was to John Boozman the last time we polled Arkansas.

Full results here

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Depth on Colorado

Our Colorado poll last week was a perfect prism into the 2010's still a lot more about Democrats needing to find a way to get their voters motivated than it is about huge numbers of Obama voters bolting for the GOP.

In 2008 Barack Obama won Colorado by nine points and Mark Udall won the Senate race in the state by ten. Now Michael Bennet's ahead by only three points in the Senate race and John Hickenlooper's tied in the Gubernatorial race.

Here's the thing though: Bennet is actually winning over more McCain voters (11%) than Jane Norton is Obama voters (8%). And even though Scott McInnis is winning over more Obama voters (10%) than Hickenlooper is McCain voters (7%) it's not a huge difference.

So if people are generally voting for the same party they did in 2008 why is Colorado looking so much more competitive this time around? It's because Republicans continue to be comparatively much more motivated to vote this year. Even though Obama won the state by nine points, those planning to vote this fall at this point only supported Obama by two points. It's not that people's opinions have changed all that much....just that who's energized has changed.

That's something Democrats may or may not be able to find a way to fix between now and November, but two things are clear. There are not a whole lot of 2008 Obama voters going to the Republicans. And even if the GOP does pick up some big wins in the Mountain West this year it doesn't indicate a reverse of the trend toward the Democrats in that region- it just indicates that trend may be taking a nap in 2010 before continuing on in the next election cycle.

Gingrich looking serious

Newt Gingrich is increasingly looking like a very serious contender for the Republican nomination in 2012 if he decides to take the plunge. He's been posting significant support in all of our state by state polling looking ahead to the contest, but his performance on our California poll this week was particularly impressive.

Gingrich led the way in the state with 28% on our poll to 25% for Mitt Romney, 18% for Sarah Palin, 13% for Mike Huckabee, and 10% for Ron Paul. California (obviously) is a long way from Georgia and Gingrich putting up those kinds of numbers so far from home is a clear sign that he'd be more than a regional candidate.

What was particularly striking in our California numbers was that Gingrich led Palin 33-19 among conservatives. The conventional wisdom has been that Palin would be the candidate of choice for the right if she decided to run in 2012, but might it actually end up being Gingrich? Too early to say but he definitely deserves to be mentioned in the same company as Huckabee, Palin, and Romney as the GOP candidates who already have a substantive level of national support.

Boxer leads opponents despite approval numbers

Barbara Boxer has the kind of approval numbers that usually result in a politician not winning reelection. But in a Democratic state and with competition that is less than stellar she still leads all of her opponents for reelection by 3-7 points.

Just 37% of California voters like the job Boxer is doing as their Senator while 46% disapprove. Her numbers with independents are dreadful at a 24/50 approval spread, and Republicans are much more unified in their disapproval of her (89%) than Democrats are in their approval of her (67%).

Nevertheless Boxer leads Carly Fiorina 45-42, Chuck DeVore 46-40, and Tom Campbell 47-40. Boxer may not be all that popular but neither is her opposition. 22% of voters have a favorable opinion of Fiorina to 30% with an unfavorable one. Campbell and DeVore are mostly unknown. 67% of voters have no opinion about Campbell to 15% with a positive one and 18% with a negative one. DeVore is even more obscure, as 76% of voters have no opinion about him with 10% seeing favorably and 14% unfavorably.

Boxer trails by 7-10 points with independents against all 3 Republicans, and they all win a higher degree of Democratic support than Boxer does of Republican support. But there are a whole lot more Democrats than Republicans in the state and because of that Boxer still holds onto the lead.

Part of the tenuousness of Boxer's status is that Barack Obama has seen a pretty significant drop in popularity in the state. 49% of voters approve of the job he's doing to 42% disapproving. Those numbers are still pretty solid, but they are a good deal below his performance at the polls in the state in November 2008 and most people who have soured on Obama aren't going to be inclined to vote for Boxer this year.

Boxer always looks vulnerable early in the cycle but has ended up being reelected by healthy margins in both 1998 and 2004. Once again it looks like she could be in a tough fight for reelection but if her opponent (likely Carly Fiorina) doesn't hold up well to the pressures of a statewide campaign or if the President's popularity in the state goes back up she may do just fine once again.

Full results here

GOP favored in SC

Republicans are favored to keep the Governor's office in South Carolina under their party's control this fall but with most of the candidates still a blank slate to many voters in the state, Democrats at least have a shot at keeping it.

The poll, conducted before Monday's allegations of an extramarital affair, found Nikki Haley as the strongest candidate for the general election. She led Jim Rex 45-36 and Vincent Sheheen 44-34. In both matches she won independents by a healthy margin and won over more Democrats than she lost Republicans, an easy formula for victory in a GOP leaning state like South Carolina.

Doing next best against the Democrats was Henry McMaster, with a 42-36 advantage over Rex and a 43-36 one over Sheheen. Gresham Barrett also leads both the Democrats, although it's only by a 38-36 margin against Rex. Pitted against Sheheen it broadens to 43-33.

The best hope for Democrats remains if Andre Bauer could somehow come from behind to snag the GOP nomination. They both lead him with independents even as they simultaneously trail all of the other Republicans with them. While Sheheen and Rex can get only 5-11% of the Republican vote against Haley, McMaster, or Barrett they get 12-16% against Bauer. What it adds up to is a 40-38 Rex lead and a 38-38 Sheheen tie when they're matched against Bauer.

The Democratic candidates may have some room to grow. Right now neither of them is as well known as any of the Republican contenders. 67% of voters don't know enough about Sheheen to have formed an opinion and despite a term in statewide office 62% are ambivalent toward Rex as well. The eventual nominee's name recognition will obviously pick up by the fall and that could provide an opportunity to pick up more support.

Most of the Republicans candidates really aren't that well known either. 57% have no opinion about Barrett, 45% didn't have one about Haley when the poll was conducted, and 41% don't have one about McMaster. The only candidate with greater than 60% name recognition is Bauer and for him it's not a good thing as 50% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of him to only 21% with a positive one.

All things being equal a Republican is going to get elected as Governor of South Carolina, and that's what the poll numbers right now reflect with the contenders largely unknown. But candidates do matter and if the Democratic nominee ends up being far superior in the general election to the Republican one the party could pick this up. It may come down to whether the GOP nominates one of its 'safe' candidates in McMaster or Barrett or one of its 'riskier' ones in Bauer or Haley.

Full results here

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The VA-5 Tea Party Candidacy

Politico reports that in Virginia's 5th Congressional District Tea Party activist Jeffrey Clark will run as an independent if moderate Republican Robert Hurt wins his party's nomination to take on Tom Perriello.

How serious would a Clark candidacy be? When we polled the district in early February we found that a generic Tea Party candidate would pull 19%. Perriello received 44% and Hurt 27% in such a scenario.

We also polled the GOP primary on that survey and this finding puts into context just how much of an aversion there is to Hurt among the Republican voters who don't support him- among folks who had made up their mind for the primary and decided to vote for someone other than Hurt only 38% said they'd vote for him in the general election compared to 42% who said they'd rather vote for a Tea Party candidate.

Do I really think Clark would pull 19%? No. But Perriello has held up pretty well so far given the political climate and the nature of his district, and even if 48% is the best he can get to in an off year election that would still put him over the top if Clark got just 5% from Hurt's disaffected supporters. Republicans are doing a good job of getting on the same page after the primary in most races this year but this is certainly one where the failure to do so could give Democrats a victory they might not otherwise get.

Whitman up big as well

Some polls have shown the race for the Republican Gubernatorial nomination in California tightening in recent days but PPP still finds Meg Whitman with a broad advantage over Steve Poizner, 51-26. 11% say they'll vote for one of the minor candidates in the race and 12% continue to be undecided.

The primary for Governor has proven to be much more polarizing than the one for Senate, as Whitman's supporters strongly dislike Poizner and Poizner's supporters strongly dislike Whitman. The ramifications of that division will be seen in general election polling to be released later this week, which shows the GOP with a much better chance in the Senate race than in the one for Governor.

50% of primary voters have a favorable opinion of Whitman to 24% with a negative one. Among Poizner voters though 58% see Whitman unfavorably to only 20% who do positively.

Poizner is seen favorably by just 26% of primary voters to 44% with a negative opinion of him. That's because his favorability rating with Whitman voters is a remarkably bad 8/71 spread.

If the Republicans are going to have any chance of beating Jerry Brown this fall there's going to need to be some serious healing after the primary. The favorability numbers Poizner and Whitman have with each other's voters look more like what you would find in a general election than in a primary.

Full results here

Fiorina up big

Carly Fiorina's superior resources always had the potential to blow her opponents for the California Republican Senate nomination out of the water, and in the closing stretch that appears to be exactly what's happening. Fiorina has now opened up a 20 point lead with 41% to 21% for Tom Campbell and 16% for Chuck DeVore.

It's hard to build name recognition in a state as big and expensive as California, and Fiorina is the only one of the Senate candidates who's known to more than half of Republican primary voters. 46% have a favorable opinion of her to 17% with a negative one and 37% having no opinion. By comparison 54% of voters have no opinion about Campbell to 28% with a positive one and 19% with an unfavorable one, and DeVore is even less well known with 62% having no opinion about him to 24% with a favorable one and 14% with a negative one.

A look insider DeVore's numbers in particular show some promise for his campaign that will likely never be fulfilled. Among voters who know enough about him to have an opinion- whether it's a positive or a negative one- he trails Fiorina only 37-35. But with a 25 point gap in name recognition and without the money to close that gap it's going to be very hard for him to have a serious chance to win this race at the end.

Campbell actually leads the way among moderate voters, 32-30 over Fiorina. But Campbell is a distant third among conservatives with 15%, running slightly behind DeVore at 19% and way behind Fiorina's 47% standing. The attacks on Campbell's moderation are clearly proving to be effective.

There's been a large shift in the state of this race over the last few weeks so it seems plausible the electorate is fluid enough that Fiorina could still lose. But with a 20 point lead and opposition to her split among two candidates she looks like the overwhelming favorite at this point.

Full results here

Sheheen leads for Dems in SC

Vincent Sheheen has the lead in the Democratic primary for Governor of South Carolina over Jim Rex, but third candidate Robert Ford is pulling enough support at this point that Sheheen would not likely get the 50% needed to avoid a runoff if the election was being held today.

Sheheen's at 36% with Rex at 30% and Ford getting 11%. The race is highly susceptible to change in the closing stretch because the candidates just aren't well known at all, even to the small pool of voters who make up the electorate in a Democratic primary. 57% have no opinion one way or the other about Sheheen with 31% seeing him positively and 11% negatively. Even after a term in statewide office Rex is almost equally anonymous. 53% are ambivalent toward him, with 29% seeing him favorably and 19% unfavorably.

Interestingly Sheheen has large leads with both liberals and conservatives, while Rex has the upper hand with moderates. Sheheen's up two points with whites and nine points with African Americans.

This has been a very sleepy race so far- we'll see what happens when (or if) the voters ever wake up and start really paying attention.

Full results here

Haley was up big before Monday

It's hard to say at this point what the fallout of an alleged extramarital affair will be for Nikki Haley, but she'll have to see an incredible drop in her support not to get one of the two runoff spots when South Carolina voters go to the polls two weeks from today. A PPP survey conducted Saturday and Sunday, before the news broke, found Haley with a 20 point lead on the GOP field. She was at 39% with Henry McMaster at 18%, Gresham Barrett at 16%, and Andre Bauer at 13% closely matched for that second place spot.

Haley's favorables far outpaced the rest of the field at +34 (47/13). McMaster is next best at +21 (43/22), followed by Barrett at +10 (28/18), and with Bauer bringing up the rear by a wide margin at -23 (26/49).

If Haley does see a decline in her support McMaster may see his position solidify as the second candidate in the runoff. Among people who were planning to vote for Haley over the weekend 29% have a favorable opinion of him compared to 19% who see Bauer and Barrett positively.

Haley's wide lead was remarkably consistent across generic, ideological, and regional lines in the South Carolina electorate. She had a 40-19 lead over McMaster with conservatives and a similarly large 35-17 one with moderates. She was pulling 39% with men and women alike. And she led 41-19 in the Midlands over McMaster, 40-21 in the Low Country over McMaster, and 37-24 over Barrett in the Upstate. Haley clearly had broad support from every important segment of Republican voters, at least until yesterday.

It's too early to count Barrett out- he has more room to grow than any of the other candidates as 54% of voters still don't know enough about him to have formed an opinion. If he is able to significantly bring up his name recognition in the next few weeks and voters like what they see he could certainly slip into the top two. And he has recent precedent to point to where Mark Sanford as a Congressman running against several statewide office holders started back in the polls but caught up at the end.

Despite his very high negatives it's probably too early to count Bauer out either. With the candidates so closely bunched it is conceivable he could make the runoff since he does have some solid base of support. The only way he could possibly win a runoff is if it was against Haley and a bunch more bad stuff came about her. That's a long shot but Bauer came back from the dead during his reelection bid in 2006 so he's shown the ability to do it before. One thing's for sure- Democrats would love to see Bauer as the nominee as there's no doubt he provides their best chance of winning in the fall.

It's going to be interesting to see how this race develops in the final two weeks.

Full results here

Monday, May 24, 2010

Polling on the Civil Rights Act

After Rand Paul's comments last week about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 I thought it would be interesting to ask Republican primary voters in South Carolina, since we were polling there over the weekend, what their opinion on the bill was.

58% said they supported it, 15% said they opposed it, and 27% said they weren't sure.

I don't really know what to make of those numbers. The 58% in support of the Civil Rights Act is at least a lot higher than the 36% of Republicans we found nationally last year who believed Barack Obama was born in the United States or the 27% who think Obama genuinely won the 2008 election (rather than it was stolen by ACORN.)

Still 58% seems like a pretty low level of support to me for something as elementary as the Civil Rights Act. What do you think?

Immigration Bill Fallout

There's no doubt that the new Arizona immigration law is popular nationally, but that still doesn't mean the issue's going to work to the GOP's advantage this fall.

When we polled Colorado in early March Michael Bennet and Jane Norton were tied. Last week we found Bennet with a 3 point lead. One of the biggest reasons for that shift? Bennet went from leading Norton by 12 points with Hispanic voters to a 21 point advantage. That large shift in a Democratic direction among Hispanics mirrors what we saw in our Arizona Senate polling last month- Rodney Glassman went from trailing John McCain by 17 points with them in September to now holding a 17 point lead.

Hispanics in the Mountain West are leaning much more strongly toward the Democrats since the Arizona law was passed. The big question then becomes whether there are white voters who are going to go Republican this fall who wouldn't have if that bill hadn't been passed. We don't see any evidence of that happening yet- Bennet and Glassman are both doing better with white voters than they were before as well, although not to the same degree that they've improved with Hispanics.

A majority of Americans may support the bill but it could still end up working to Democrats' benefit this fall if most of the voters who care enough about it for it be a determining factor in how they vote- or whether they vote- go in their direction.

And I'll be real interested to see our next polls in New Mexico and Nevada where we found Democratic candidates under performing with Hispanics when we did surveys there during the winter.

Looking at the Haley situation

One of the frustrations you face as a pollster is sometimes you have a survey in the field and then something happens to make it obsolete. We polled South Carolina over the weekend but with the revelations about Nikki Haley this morning the Republican primary for Governor may have undergone a fundamental change since we interviewed GOP voters over the weekend. We'll still release the numbers tomorrow since they'll if nothing else tell us what the state of the race was before this new information came out.

Will this be fatal to Haley's prospects? It's hard to say. Republicans voters, including even in South Carolina, have been relatively forgiving to their sex scandal politicians. Last we looked David Vitter's approval with Republicans was 62/19. John Ensign's was 68/19. Even Mark Sanford's was still decent at 50/34. And Haley's alleged transgressions, if true, don't seem as serious as any of those.

Judging by those numbers Haley might be able to make it but there are some circumstances that make her case different. Even though she's polling well, most voters in South Carolina still know little or nothing about her. For many this will be their first impression of her and that will be a problem.

The biggest thing that will be interesting to see is whether GOP voters are as forgiving of a cheating Republican woman as they are of a cheating Republican man. We've seen GOP voters show huge indignation towards Democrats who cheat but little toward Republican men who cheat. Will the reaction to Haley be more like the one toward the Democrats or toward the Republican men? The answer to that will likely determine whether or not Haley is the next Governor of South Carolina.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Looking at our GOP polling

For most of our 2012 Republican polling up until a month ago we were just asking voters to choose between Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. At that time we decided to add Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul into the mix. The main thing that's changed since then? Mitt Romney's standing.

On our first national poll with all five candidates included Romney went from 33% to 23%, losing 30% of his support. Huckabee went from 27% to 25%, losing only 7% of his support and Palin went from 23% to 20%, just 13% of her support.

We also have before and after comparisons in North Carolina and Colorado. In NC Romney went from 27% to 15%, losing 44% of his support. Meanwhile Huckabee and Palin went from being tied at 30% to tied at 22%, each losing 27% of their support. (Newt Gingrich has 16% and Ron Paul has 8%.)

Romney also lost much more of his support than the other two in Colorado. He went from 44% to 25% when Gingrich and Paul were thrown in, losing 43% of his support. Meanwhile Palin and Huckabee actually improved their positions, with the former going from 25% to 29% and the latter from 17% to 18%.

It's WAY too early for this kind of analysis but on a slow moving Friday afternoon here's my takeaway:

Romney's support is relatively weak and it looks like a lot of his strong standing on our three way polls with him, Palin, and Huckabee may have been more of an anti-Huckabee/Palin thing than a pro-Romney thing. Once more additional choices were offered Romney's support declined at a rapid rate.

Romney's best chance for the nomination will be if the leading trio of potential GOP candidates really remains the leading trio of potential GOP candidates. If Gingrich really gets in it, or a Tim Pawlenty or John Thune or Mitch Daniels catches fire that's more likely to hurt Romney than anybody else. Huckabee and Palin have more solid bases of support.

Rethinking the Enthusiasm Gap

When we talk about the enthusiasm gap there's generally an assumption that it's a product of Democrats who went out and voted for Obama but haven't been happy with the pace of change so they're now not going to vote this year.

I don't think that's quite right though- on our last national poll among the people who said they were only 'somewhat excited' about voting or 'not very excited' about voting Obama's approval was a 58/35 spread, much better than his overall numbers. Those folks also said they supported the health care bill by a 50/38 margin, again much better than we're seeing among all voters.

The enthusiasm gap may be caused not by disappointment with the way things are going, but rather contentment. Voters tend to get more energized when they're angry about something. A lot of Democrats feel like things are going fine right now, so they don't have much of a sense of urgency about going out to vote. The biggest threat to the party this fall is not that its voters are unenthusiastic about how things are going, but that they are complacent precisely because they do like the direction the country is headed in.

Somehow the party faithful needs to get the message that things could go right back to the way they were before if they don't remain vigilant about voting and staying involved with the process, but that's easier said than done.

Looking at Gender and Elections in NC

There's a common school of thought in North Carolina politics that female candidates, particularly in Democratic primaries, have a small inherent edge in elections. But when we asked voters across the state last week if they would generally prefer to vote for female or male candidates they said males, albeit by just a 9-4 margin with 86% of voters saying it didn't make any difference to them either way.

The crosstabs on the gender numbers are what makes them interesting. Among Democrats 6% said they preferred to vote for men and 6% said they preferred to vote for woman. But among Republicans there was actually a very wide gap with 16% saying they'd rather vote for men and only 2% expressing a preference for women.

Both men (10-2) and women (8-6) said they were more inclined to vote for male candidates.

So are you more likely to get elected to office in North Carolina if you're a man? I doubt it. There may be more people who are willing to come right out and say they'd rather vote for male candidates, but the track record of female candidates in recent elections is too strong to ignore. Candidate gender is pretty much a wash.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Paul Fact of the Day

Here's a fun fact about Rand Paul: our final poll before the primary last weekend found that there were more Kentucky Republicans who thought he was too liberal (17%) than that he was too conservative (12%). He seems to be doing his best to get those numbers turned around.

When we polled the general election in Kentucky earlier this month we found Paul leading Jack Conway just 41-40. Conway was actually winning 15% of the Republican vote against Paul, which is a pretty unusual level of crossover support for a Democrat this year. The only reason Conway didn't lead Paul is that he was getting just 63% of the Democratic vote to 21% for Paul and with 16% undecided. That's not particularly unusual- many of the registered Democrats in Kentucky are conservative and tend to vote for the GOP in national elections. But this contest will be an interesting test of just how far those Democrats are willing to go in voting for a Republican.

I expect this to be a very competitive race. But I also remember how little Bob McDonnell ended up being affected by some of the crazy stuff in his thesis last year. It's hard to say how Kentucky voters will react to all this.

Knotted up in CO-Gov

The race for Governor in Colorado is now tied, just a couple months after John Hickenlooper initially posted a large lead in the contest. Hickenlooper and Scott McInnis are getting 44% each.

It's not hard to pinpoint where voter perceptions of Hickenlooper are changing. Among people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 his favorability is 75/9, virtually identical to the 76/10 he posted in March. But among McCain voters his net favorability has dropped 28 points, from a respectable 30/42 spread to now 18/58. Hickenlooper's run for statewide office as a Democrat seems to be costing him some of his crossover popularity with Republicans and conservative leaning independents.

Hickenlooper remains far more popular than anyone else running for office in Colorado this year at a 47/33 favorability spread. There's been little change in how voters view Scott McInnis. 31% see him favorably to 30% unfavorably, with the 39% plurality still having no opinion about him. His name recognition is ticking up ever so slightly- in March 44% of voters had no opinion about him.

One thing there continues to be no doubt about is that it's a very good thing for Democrats that Bill Ritter retired. His approval numbers have just gotten worse since he announced that he wouldn't run for reelection, and now just 34% of voters think he's doing a good job to 52% who say they disapprove of him. With independents his numbers are particularly bad- 30% approve to 53% who do not.

The biggest question when it comes to this race is whether all those typically non-Democratic voters who like Hickenlooper will choose him. Right now the answer is no. McInnis is winning 79% of Republicans while Hickenlooper is winning 78% of Democrats and independents are pretty closely knotted with McInnis getting 46% and 42%. That's the recipe for a very close race moving forward.

Full results here

Comparing Brown and Burns

I know most Republicans don't want to hear this but when you compare Scott Brown's fate in Massachusetts earlier this year with Tim Burns' in PA-12 this week it shows the contrast between GOP candidates who can appeal to the middle and those who can't.

Scott Brown had a 2:1 positive favorability ratio with moderates on our final Massachusetts poll, at 62/31. That allowed him to win moderate voters 55-41 in our polling.

Tim Burns had a 2:1 negative favorability ratio with moderates on our last PA-12 poll, 27/52. And Mark Critz absolutely swamped Burns with those folks, leading 67-27.

PA-12 is a lot more conservative than Massachusetts but that doesn't change the fact that the GOP can't win elections if it doesn't have more appeal to the middle. Republican voters are failing to learn from their own successes by nominating the most strident candidates possible instead of folks like Brown who have shown the ability to expand their support beyond the party base.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More Bad Poll Numbers for Burr

The Civitas Institute, a Republican think tank in North Carolina, released new polls this week in two GOP leaning state senate districts that found Richard Burr with approval numbers way under water.

In SD-45, which ranks an R+10 on the organization's Partisan Index (similar to Charlie Cook's PVI), Burr's approval is only 33% with 43% of voters disapproving of him. In SD-50, which is an R+6, Burr's numbers are similarly bad at 29% approving and 39% disapproving.

These polls were conducted by SurveyUSA. If they're finding Burr's poll numbers to be that bad in Republican friendly parts of the state I can only imagine how poor they would look statewide.

The conventional wisdom leading up to yesterday had been that Democrats wouldn't be able to win this year in places, like North Carolina, that didn't vote heavily for Barack Obama in 2008. But the Presidential vote in PA-12 two years ago was almost identical to North Carolina, and Democrats managed to win an open seat by nine points there. Burr certainly has a lot of advantages as he bids for reelection, but increasingly his poll numbers leave much to be desired.

Reflecting on PA-12

My biggest takeaway from the surprising outcome in PA-12 last night, besides the fact that Mark Critz and the DCCC did an amazing job? There's a limit to just how unpopular Republicans can be and still hope to make gains everywhere this fall.

Barack Obama's mid-30s approval rating in the district got more ink, but the number that may have ended up being even more relevant to last night's outcome was the putrid 22% approval rating for Congressional Republicans with 60% disapproving of them. Given that our final survey overestimated GOP performance in the district it's entirely possible that actual support for the Republican leadership in Washington is under 20%.

Critz successfully separated voters' feelings about him from their unfavorable feelings toward his party's standard bearer. The results suggest that Burns was not successful enough in separating himself from his unpopular national party.

One other key finding on our PA-12 poll- only 28% of voters in the district thought Republicans did a good job running the country while George W. Bush was President. 63% think they did not. That -35 spread is 15 points worse than the -20 spread we found for Obama's approval in the district.

Voters in PA-12 are not real thrilled with how Democrats are running the country right now. But they have an even dimmer view of the Republicans, and until the party can present itself as a more appealing alternative it may not be able to make gains to the extent you would expect in this political climate.

Bennet now leads general

The results of yesterday's special election in Pennsylvania were a clear indication that things are starting to turn around for Democrats, and Michael Bennet's improved standing for reelection is a reflection of that. Bennet now leads Jane Norton 44-41 in his quest for a full term in the Senate. They were tied in a March PPP poll of the race, and this is the largest lead Bennet has posted in any public polling to date.

The main movement in the race has come with independents. Norton led 44-35 with them previously, but Bennet's now pulled ahead 42-40. That makes Bennet one of few Democratic Senate candidates in the country leading with independents. Bennet's also breaking another national trend by winning over more Republicans (11%) than Norton is Democrats (9%). In almost every other key race in the country more Democratic voters are going over to the Republican than vice versa.

Bennet's approval numbers actually remain pretty poor, with 44% of voters disapproving of him to only 34% who think he's doing a good job. But Norton isn't popular either, as 32% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of her compared with 20% who see her in a positive light. This is not exactly a battle between two heavyweights.

Bennet leads Ken Buck by a wider margin, 45-39. Andrew Romanoff also polls well against each of the leading Republicans, with a 43-41 advantage over Norton and a 41-38 one against Buck.

This continues to look like it will be a very competitive race but things are trending in the right direction for Bennet.

Full results here

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One last post on Specter/Sestak

I wrote last week that I really didn't think Joe Sestak's potential victory over Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate primary today was being driven by the left and the data I've seen the last few days further confirms that.

Muhlenberg released crosstabs by ideology for one of its final polls on the race and found that Specter's biggest leads came with very liberal voters (5 points) and somewhat liberal voters (6 points). The only ideological subgroup Sestak led with was somewhat conservative voters, where he had a 14 point advantage.

It may seem counter intuitive for the former Republican to be winning with liberals and losing with conservatives, but it has a lot to do with President Obama's injection into the race. In PA-12 over the weekend we found that Specter led 45-37 with voters who approved of the President. But Sestak led 64-16 with the Democrats who disapprove of Obama's performance (34% in that particular district) fueling his overall 44/35 lead there.

When we polled Pennsylvania statewide last month an unusually high 20% of Democrats said they disapproved of Obama. I am pretty sure Specter will be the winner among the 80% of Democrats who like Obama tonight- but Sestak could win the ones who don't by a wide enough margin to give him a victory. Thus a Sestak victory may actually be more a sign of the strength of conservative Democrats than the left- although it's an over simplification to declare either of those things to be the reason.

Grayson's Supporters

The likely Rand Paul victory in the Kentucky Republican primary today should give Democrats a very good chance of winning in the fall because supporters of Trey Grayson, Paul's main opponent, really don't like him.

Some primaries play out in such a way that party loyalists view several of the candidates favorably and just choose the one they like best. That was very much the case with the recent Democratic contest in North Carolina. But in Kentucky we find that Paul's supporters hate Grayson, and that even more Grayson's supporters hate Paul.

53% of likely Grayson voters for today have an unfavorable opinion of Paul to only 23% with a positive opinion of him. More importantly though just 40% of Grayson voters say they'll support Paul in the general election if he wins the Republican nomination with 43% explicitly saying they will not.

Paul is going to have some serious work to do to unify his party around him, especially because his supporters have gone out of their way to poke Grayson (and by extension his voters) in the eye. Whether the Democratic nominee is Dan Mongiardo or Jack Conway there's going to be an opportunity to pick up the Republican voters necessary to pull an upset this fall. Democrats winning in Kentucky in a tough political climate for the party is not something you would expect- but neither is Republicans winning in Massachusetts in any political climate. 2010 is really shaping up as the year of the unexpected in politics.

Bennet expands lead

While the Republican primary for Senate is shaping up closer than expected in Colorado, the Democratic one is going in the other direction. Michael Bennet has now opened up a 15 point lead, 46-31, over Andrew Romanoff as he attempts to win nomination for a full term. That's a 9 point increase in his advantage since leading 40-34 in a March poll of the race.

The key thing for Bennet is that he's winning similar levels of support from liberals, moderates, and conservatives. He has an 18 point lead with moderates, a 15 point one with conservatives, and it stands at 11 points with liberals. Romanoff clearly isn't getting much traction from the left and Bennet's across the board advantage ideologically bodes well for his ability to unite the party around him for the fall if he does indeed win the nomination.

The one group Bennet continues to be weaker with is Hispanics, who are splitting their support evenly between Romanoff and the incumbent right now. Bennet is still making progress on that front though- he trailed by 11 with Hispanics in March.

This race is not over by any means but the momentum is clearly in Bennet's direction.

Full results here

Buck closing in on Norton

Jane Norton looks like she could be the next in what's becoming a long line of NRSC supported candidates to not even win the primary. She leads Ken Buck just 31-26 in Colorado, a 12 point drop from the 34-17 lead she held in a PPP poll of the race two months ago.

Norton may be done in by grassroots conservatives just as Charlie Crist in Florida and Trey Grayson in Kentucky have been and just as Sue Lowden in Nevada and John McCain in Arizona may yet be. Buck actually leads Norton 34-30 with the Republicans who describe themselves as conservatives, with Norton's overall advantage coming thanks to a 32-12 lead with moderate voters.

Buck has seen a large gain in his favorability over the next two months while Norton's has actually declined. 32% of primary voters see him positively, an 11 point improvement from the 21% who did in March. Norton meanwhile has dropped from 41% to 34%.

Norton's not dead but the trajectory does not bode well for her prospects, and other establishment Republicans this cycle who have seen their numbers begin to erode have not been able to stop the bleeding. This will be very interesting to watch but for now I'd put my dollar on Buck winning this one.

Scott McInnis in the Governor's race has also seen his lead start to erode, but his advantage is large enough that he shouldn't have too much cause to worry. He leads Dan Maes 50-15. That represents a 15 point reduction from the 58-8 edge he had in March. Still a 35 point deficit will be close to impossible for Maes to overcome.

Full results here

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Connecticut Situation

If Richard Blumenthal has to be replaced as the Democratic Senate nominee in Connecticut the party should still be favored to keep the seat as long as it gets a functional candidate.

In early January we polled Congressman Chris Murphy against Rob Simmons and Linda McMahon and he led each of them by seven points. Almost half of the voters in the state said they had no opinion of Murphy personally so he functioned basically as a generic Democratic candidate. If the nominee ends up being someone of comparable quality- or Murphy himself- the party will continue to be favored in the race although certainly not by the stratospheric kind of numbers that Blumenthal was.

And of course Blumenthal may be able to weather this- it's always hard to tell with these things.

Here's the numbers from our January poll

Time to vote!

Before we get to the choices for this week's vote on where we poll I'll let you know we have new numbers coming out tomorrow showing yet another NRSC recruited candidate in deep trouble of not winning their party's primary. Who is it? You can guess in the comments but I'm not saying until tomorrow. Here are this week's choices:

-California. I don't really consider this to be an under polled state but we haven't done it yet this cycle and it was the most requested one in the nominations so I'm putting it on here.

-Iowa. I'm interested in seeing if Chuck Grassley's position is as potentially vulnerable as Research 2000 showed a couple weeks ago and of course I know people will be dying to see the GOP 2012 numbers there as well.

-Michigan. The candidate field in the Governor's race is much more clear now than it has been and I'm also interested in seeing Debbie Stabenow's status and how much trouble she might be in for 2012.

-South Carolina. The primary for Governor is coming up quick here- I'm interested in seeing how that's going, if Jim DeMint is still under 50%, and of course the GOP 2012 stuff there would be interesting as well.

-Washington. Lots of disagreement on how serious the Rossi threat would be in the polling here, and I'm curious on Cantwell's standing too.

Voting will be open until Thursday morning.

The Tea Party in North Carolina

PPP's first look at the 'Tea Party' in North Carolina finds that only 15% of voters in the state actively identify as members of it, which could help explain why self proclaimed candidates of the movement didn't fare all that well in the primaries two weeks ago.

Even among Republicans in the state only 32% claim 'Tea Party' membership. Although leaders of the movement try to claim that it's something more than a subset of the Republican Party just 17% of independents and 3% of Democrats call themselves Tea Partiers.

Personal identification with the Tea Party may be low in North Carolina, but agreement with its goals is broader. 40% of voters say they support what the movement is trying to accomplish while 36% stand opposed to its goals.

The Tea Party movement has a long way to go before it's a powerful force in state politics. But it does have the potential to be a player if it can turn more of those 40% who agree with its goals (or at least what they perceive them to be) into active participants in the movement.

Critz's Strength

If Mark Critz loses the special election in Pennsylvania tomorrow you can't pin too much of the blame on him. Critz is doing a better job than any Democratic Senate candidate in the country we've polled on of winning over folks who disapprove of Barack Obama's job performance.

Critz is getting 15% from voters who disapprove of Obama and that's vital to his chances of winning in a district where the President's approval rating is a 35/55 spread.

For sake of comparison in 11 key Senate races we've looked at in 2010 no Democratic candidate has received more than 9% among voters who don't like the job Obama is doing. It is proving almost impossible for Democratic candidates to win any support from people unhappy with him and that underscores how difficult it's going to be for the party to win this year in the places where Obama is unpopular.

A Critz victory would be very impressive given the way his constituents feel about Obama.

Here's a table showing the level of support Democratic Senate candidates across the country are getting from voters who disapprove of Barack Obama:


Democratic % from Obama Disapprovers





New Hampshire










North Carolina








Sunday, May 16, 2010

Paul still up big

Fueled by a high level of unhappiness with the direction of the Republican Party, Rand Paul appears to be poised for an easy victory over Trey Grayson in Tuesday's Kentucky Senate primary. He leads PPP's final poll 52-34.

There are more Republicans planning to vote on Tuesday (41%) who are unhappy with the current direction of their party than ones who are happy with it (36%). Among those discontented folks Paul has a staggering 59-28 lead which more than offsets the 47-45 lead Grayson has with the voters who think the party's current course is fine.

A Paul victory will be a clear signal that Kentucky Republicans want the party to move further to the right. 32% of likely primary voters think that the party is too liberal and Paul has a 71-21 advantage with them that accounts for almost his entirely polling lead. With the other 68% of voters who don't think the party's too liberal Paul is ahead only 45-41.

What a Paul victory will not be is a sign that Kentucky Republicans want Mitch McConnell to go. 64% of voters think the winner of the primary should vote for McConnell as the GOP leader in the Senate to only 18% who say no. Even among Paul voters there is 58/22 support for keeping the state's senior Senator in his current leadership position.

Another thing Paul's victory will not be is a particular mandate for Libertarian Republicanism. We did a test of some of the leading 2012 GOP candidates in the state and Ron Paul registered at just 8%, well behind Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. Additionally only 19% of primary voters self identify as Libertarians.

When PPP first polled this race right before Christmas Paul had a double digit lead, and it seems he's never looked back. Other candidates might want to study what Paul did to build such an apparently insurmountable lead during the last quarter of 2009 because it's definitely one of the biggest surprises of this election cycle so far.

Full results here

Sestak up big in PA-12

It's just one Congressional district but Joe Sestak is doing very well in PA-12, which is a long distance from his home base in the Philadelphia suburbs. He leads Arlen Specter 44-35 there.

Democrats in the district give Specter pretty tepid reviews with 42% approving of his job performance in the Senate and 39% disapproving. Sestak is still relatively unknown with 37% of primary voters having no opinion about him but among the ones who do he gets good reviews with 40% seeing him favorably and 22% unfavorably.

As I wrote on Friday Sestak's potential victory on Tuesday is not an example of the left flexing its muscle. Among liberal voters in the district Sestak and Specter are actually tied at 44% each. Sestak's lead comes largely thanks to a 49-21 advantage among conservatives within the party who make up 26% of the primary vote in this district, almost equal to the 25% who identify as liberals. Sestak is also up 41-36 with moderates.

I have no idea how predictive, if at all, PA-12 is of winners in Democratic primaries but the numbers here would seem to bode well for Sestak.

Burns, Critz close

The special election to replace John Murtha looks to be headed for a photo finish, with Republican Tim Burns leading Democrat Mark Critz 48-47 in PPP's final poll of the race.

PA-12 provides a clear example of how dimly voters are viewing politicians and parties across the board right now. Hurting Critz's chances is that 55% of voters in the district disapprove of Barack Obama and 63% have an unfavorable opinion of Nancy Pelosi. But national Republicans don't do much better in the district with 60% of voters expressing a negative opinion of Congressional Republicans and 63% saying the GOP ran the country poorly while George W. Bush was President.

If Burns does pull out the victory on Tuesday night it will be more because of a continuing gap in interest between Democratic and Republican voters in the off year election than anything else. Critz is actually winning over more McCain voters (14%) than Burns is Obama voters (12%). This race is not an example of people who voted for Obama who are now unhappy with him and voting Republican. But those planning to vote on Tuesday report having voted for John McCain by 5 points in 2008, compared to his actual 1 point victory in the district. And among voters who say they're 'very excited' to vote in this election, Burns has a 60-38 lead.

There's been very little movement in the race since PPP polled it a month ago. The main difference is that negative campaigning has driven up both candidates' negatives by 10-11 points. Where Burns' favorability was a net +19 in April it's now just +8. And where Critz was previously at a net +7 it's now -6.

Critz is holding onto a 73-22 lead with Democrats which is not bad at all in a district where even voters within the party have a negative opinion of Pelosi. But Burns is up 87-10 with Republicans and has a 52-31 lead with independents.

This should be a very close race on Tuesday night.

Full results here

Friday, May 14, 2010

Taking your suggestions

We'll have final polls out in PA-12 and on the Kentucky Republican primary late Sunday night.

With Tuesday's big primaries in the rear view mirror, what should we poll next weekend? We'll take your nominations for the next few days and put it to a vote on Monday.

Have a good weekend!

Halter and Sestak's Success

If Joe Sestak and Bill Halter win their primaries on Tuesday night there's going to be a lot of media temptation to declare it a huge night for the party's left...but is that really what's going on in those races?

Unfortunately the Pennsylvania and Arkansas primary polls have been short on crosstabs by ideological identification. But there have been some signs that's not really what's driving Sestak and Halter's momentum.

Let's look at Quinnipiac's polls for example. In early April when Arlen Specter led Sestak 53-32, 35% of the voters they surveyed said they saw Specter as the more 'consistently liberal' candidate. On Quinnipiac's most recent poll the Specter lead was all the way down to 44-42. But that 35% of voters identifying Specter as more 'consistently liberal' was unchanged. There was a 19 point reduction in Specter's lead over that period of time, but no change in voter perception of his ideology.

That makes me question an interpretation of a potential Sestak victory as the Democratic left pushing Specter out of office. It seems more like an anti-incumbent/desire for a new face thing than an ideological one.

I haven't seen any polling data by ideology in the Arkansas race, but when we last polled the state in February Blanche Lincoln's numbers within her party were actually their best with liberals. They gave her a 57/28 approval spread to 50/34 with moderates and 46/44 with conservatives. Those numbers suggest that if Halter wins or sends the race to a runoff it'll probably have just as much do with him pulling conservative and moderate Democrats away from Lincoln as liberal ones.

I hope some of the final polls in these races will release results by ideology, because I'm just not sure based on the data I've seen that the closeness in these races is due to backlash from liberal voters.

Governors down

We hear all the time about the anti-Washington sentiments of the electorate this year and those certainly exist, but voters hate their Governors right now just as much as they hate their members of Congress.

We asked voters nationwide whether they approved of their Governors and the -8 approval spread (39/47) matched the reviews they gave their members of Congress (37/45.) There is remarkably little partisan division in how people view their state level chief executives- 39% of Democrats approve, 39% of Republicans do, and 37% of independents do. Voters across party lines are pretty unhappy with how their states are being run.

One thing these numbers show is that we may have to change what we view as a good approval rating for a Governor. If one is breaking even, that actually has to be seen as a pretty strong performance. And even ones with slightly negative reviews are doing pretty well.

The other takeaway? Folks serving in state office right now and running anti-Washington campaigns against Congressional incumbents may need to be careful- voters could be just as disgusted with what's happening in their state capitals right now as in the nation's capital.

Full results here

Perdue's numbers

Bev Perdue's approval numbers hit negative ground for the first time last May when the legislature came to town, and a year later they haven't shown any signs of improvement. 50% of voters in the state disapprove of the job she's doing compared to 29% who give her good marks.

Perdue's numbers with Republicans (13/72) and independents (31/51) are poor but there's really nothing unusual about that. There are very few politicians drawing any crossover support in this highly polarized political climate, and independent voters don't like much of anyone.

Perdue's biggest problem is, as it has always been, a lack of support from voters within her own party. Just 39% of Democrats approve of the job she's doing with 34% disapproving. For sake of comparison Kay Hagan's at a 55/19 spread within her party and Barack Obama's at 78/17. If she wants to get her overall numbers to a respectable level she's somehow going to have to earn the same kind of support from within her party that those other folks are receiving.

If there's something positive Perdue can take from her numbers it's that in the Triangle, where she gets the most exposure, voters are almost evenly divided on her with 38% approving and 41% disapproving. Some of that is because the Triangle is more Democratic than the state as a whole but her comparative popularity there can't all be chalked up to that. Clearly voters who are more aware of what she's up to are more charitable toward her, and the challenge just becomes bringing up that level of visibility.

The state continues to be pretty evenly divided on how it plans to vote for the legislature this year. 44% say they are leaning toward the Republicans while 42% would choose a Democrat if the election was today.

Perdue didn't come across very well to the public in her first legislative session, and she's still paying the price with her approval numbers. The arrival of the short session gives her an opportunity to make voters rethink their initial perceptions of her during a time where she may be in the spotlight to a greater extent than usual.

Full results here

Why the Dems could win PA-12

We're going to do a final PA-12 poll over the weekend.

There are a lot of reasons, from our last poll of the district, why Republicans should win this race:

1) Barack Obama's approval rating there is just 33%
2) The district has a very low minority population and nonwhite voters have been sticking with the Democratic Party to a much greater extent than white voters over the last year.
3) Only 24% of voters there have a favorable opinion of Nancy Pelosi.
4) Republican voters in the district are more excited about voting than the Democrats.

But there's also one big reason why the Democrats may just pull it out- and why Republicans may not have as big an election year as we're anticipating. And that's because only 26% of voters in the district have a favorable opinion of Congressional Republicans, with 56% seeing them unfavorably. Voters there aren't real happy with the Democrats, but the Republican Party hasn't provided much of an alternative either and that's going to make Tuesday night very interesting.

We plan to have our final PA-12 poll results out late Sunday night.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jumble for the GOP

The 2012 Republican Presidential field is about as muddled as it could be with Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin all polling within five points of each other in PPP's newest national poll on the race.

Huckabee leads the way, such as it is, with 25%. He's followed by Romney at 23%, Gingrich at 21%, and Palin at 20%. Ron Paul finishes further back with 8%.

Palin continues to be by far the most well liked of the Republican candidates, with 69% of GOP voters holding a favorable opinion of her. That's more than 10 points higher than any of the other potential contenders with 58% viewing Huckabee positively, 57% for Gingrich, and 54% for Romney. But that higher level of favorability is not translating into support for President.

Huckabee has clear leads in the South and Midwest, and is up with conservatives and women. Romney is ahead in the West, and holds the advantage with moderates and men.

The biggest takeaway from these numbers- there is no Republican front runner and there probably won't be for a long time.

Full results here

NC support for offshore drilling declines

Support for offshore drilling in North Carolina has seen a dramatic decline in the last month. In April 61% of voters said they supported it with only 26% opposed. Now in the wake of the spill in the Gulf support has declined to 47% with 38% of voters against it. This is the first time PPP has ever found less than majority support for drilling in the state.

It's unusual to see that big a change in how North Carolinians feels about a particular issue in such a short period of time, but it's clear the spill has given many voters in the state second thoughts. 50% said it made them less supportive of allowing drilling off the state's coast, compared to 28% who said it made no difference, and 22% who said the spill actually made them more supportive of drilling here.

The decline in support for drilling has come across party lines. There's been a 17 point drop with independents (from 65% support to 48% support), a 16 point one with Democrats (from 52% to 36%), and an 11 point one with Republicans (from 73% to 62%).

Interestingly voters in eastern North Carolina seem to be comparatively unaffected by the recent events. Folks in the 252 and 910 area codes remain supportive of drilling at a rate higher than the rest of the state.

North Carolina's level of support for drilling now runs a good deal behind the national numbers of 55% in support and 30% opposed. It's clear the recent spill hit close to home in our coastal state.

Full results here

What's happening in Kentucky?

I feel a little odd as a Democratic pollster sticking up for Mitch McConnell, but if Rand Paul wins next week (as it seems likely he will) it is not going to be a repudiation of the Senate Minority Leader.

64% of the Republicans planning to vote for Paul approve of the job McConnell is doing to only 24% who disapprove. Even though Jim Bunning has endorsed Paul and McConnell hasn't, 63% of Paul voters like McConnell better to only 23% who pick Bunning. McConnell's overall approval with Republicans, at 68/19 is fine.

Paul's supporters by and large like McConnell and their votes will not be a repudiation of him. What a Paul win will show is that McConnell can't just wave his magic wand and get Republicans in the state to vote for whoever he wants in primaries for other offices but honestly is there any politician in the country who has that much power in a state?

So a Paul win will not be because voters don't like McConnell. The next explanation folks are going to want to throw out there if he wins is that it's a huge victory for the Tea Party movement. I'm not so sure about that one either though. Only 28% of Republican voters in Kentucky actively identify as members of the Tea Party and while Paul has a 19 point lead with them he also has a 17 point lead with the ones who don't consider themselves part of the movement.

The two polls we're going to do this weekend on Tuesday's races are for the PA-12 special election and the Kentucky Republican Senate primary. I am interested in your poll testable theories on why Paul is beating Grayson so badly, and we will put some of those questions on the survey to try to get a better understanding of what's driving Paul's victory. It may not be something that can easily be boiled down to numbers but it's worth a shot so please give us your suggestions!

Obama and the Moderates

There's been a lot of gloating from Republicans this year that Barack Obama is losing the center, but is that true? Not so much. Obama's approval rating with moderates now is actually higher than the percentage of the vote he got from them in 2008. Right now 64% approve of him and 30% disapprove, while he received 60% of the moderate vote in the election to 39% who voted for John McCain.

Obama's standing with liberals is pretty much unchanged from November 2008 as well. They voted for him by an 89/10 margin and they now approve of him by an 87/10 margin.

The entire drop in Obama's current approval numbers relative to his ballot box performance has come with conservatives. While he actually got 20% of their votes last time, his approval rating with them is now 14%.

That's no big surprise, given that Obama has pushed hard for progressive legislation. It brings up one of those classic conundrums- Obama could have pursued a more limited agenda and had a better chance of keeping those folks happy with him or he could do it all at the risk of turning those conservative voters off. The net result is that while his standing certainly isn't as good as it was a year and a half ago, it's not bad at all for a President given the rabidly anti-politician mood much of the country is in.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Non-Viable Candidates showing strength

One of the interesting things about the Senate primaries so far is the amount of support candidates who got absolutely no attention are pulling on election day. In the Illinois Republican primary candidates other than Mark Kirk and Patrick Hughes got 24%. In the North Carolina Democratic one candidates other than Elaine Marshall, Cal Cunningham, and Kenneth Lewis got 19%. In the Indiana Republican contest candidates who weren't Dan Coats, Marlin Stutzman, and John Hostettler got 9%. And in the Illinois Democratic primary candidates below the top tier of Alexi Giannoulias, David Hoffman, and Cheryle Jackson pulled 8%.

Who cares? This trend has implications for next week's Democratic primary in Arkansas. Given the willingness of voters in past primaries to choose candidates with no chance of winning it seems more realistic that the third candidate in the race- D.C. Morrison- could pick up enough support to force a runoff in the race between Blanche Lincoln and Bill Halter. Morrison picked up 10% in one poll last month and if he can really get that at the polls next week and there's less than 10% separating the two front runners in the race it will keep either Lincoln or Halter from getting the 50% necessary to win the nomination outright.

We haven't been polling the Arkansas race so I don't know what the chances of those things happening are, but given the surprising support non serious candidates have been getting in other Senate primaries it would not be shocking to see Morrision hit double digits or close to it.

Obama leads GOP foes

For the first time since February Barack Obama leads all of the top Republicans for 2012 in hypothetical contests. He's up 46-45 on Mike Huckabee, 46-44 on Mitt Romney, 49-42 on Newt Gingrich, 50-43 on Sarah Palin, and 46-28 on Gary Johnson.

The fact that Obama still leads all of these match ups even during an election year that seems likely to be very bad for his party speaks to the weakness of the Republican field. Palin and Gingrich are easily the best known of the Republicans but it's not a good thing in either case. Palin's favorability is a negative 37/56 and Gingrich's is a negative 29/48. Voters are more evenly split in their feelings about Huckabee and Romney but each of them is also an unknown to about a third of the country.

This is the 14th time we've conducted this poll now and Huckabee has been the strongest Republican almost every time. In addition to coming the closest to Obama, he's also the only one of the GOP hopefuls with a positive favorability rating (33/30).

Obama's position against the top Republican contenders is obviously weaker than the performance he had against John McCain in 2008 when he won by 7 points. But given the current political climate he's doing alright.

Full results here

NC Runoff Knotted

Runoff elections are unpredictable and about the only thing you can expect in them is the unexpected. A week after running nine points behind Elaine Marshall in the primary, Cal Cunningham is now knotted up with her 36-36 in PPP's first poll of the runoff.

How is that possible? It's an intensity issue. Our polling before the primary found that Cunningham's supporters were more committed to him than Marshall's were to her, and that could make a big difference in what's likely to be a very low turnout runoff. More energized voters are leaning toward Cunningham. Among respondents on this poll who reported being 'very excited' about voting this fall Cunningham led 46-31. Marshall ties it overall because of a 42-31 lead with 'somewhat excited' voters and a 28-18 one with 'not very excited' voters.

Last week's results showed that Marshall has more support than Cunningham, but whether that translates into those voters caring enough about her to come back in June is something we really won't know the answer to until the results are in. The question for both Marshall and Cunningham is how many of the people who came out last week were drawn by the US Senate race and how many of them were drawn by a Sheriff/District Attorney/County Commissioner/other local race? This first poll suggests that Marshall may have drawn more of her support from that latter group, and that it won't necessarily translate to those folks being there for her again next month.

There are more clear divisions along demographic lines in the runoff than we saw in the polling for the primary. Cunningham is up 43-32 with whites, while Marshall has a 44-22 advantage with African Americans. Cunningham is up 47-37 with men, while Marshall is up 35-29 with women. Marshall's up 40-35 with liberals, Cunningham's up 38-25 with conservatives, and the candidates are tied at 37 with moderates.

With a lot of voters undecided and the unpredictable nature of determining who will vote in runoffs it's hard to say what will happen in this race. The biggest takeaway from the poll is that Cunningham is still in it.

Full results here

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Anti-Establishment Sentiment?

There's been a lot of discussion about the involvement of national Democrats in the North Carolina Senate primary and whether Elaine Marshall's first place finish last week indicated voters were sending Washington a message to mind its own business.

Anyone touting that line of thought is giving voters way too much credit. On our first poll for the runoff we asked voters which candidate they thought was the preferred choice of national Democratic leaders. 33% thought it was Cal Cunningham, 32% thought it was Elaine Marshall, and 36% didn't even offer a guess. Clearly the whole DSCC drama is not something anyone outside of the political chattering class has been paying much attention to.

That should come as no surprise. Keep in mind that our second to last primary poll found fewer than half of voters knew Marshall was the Secretary of State, and that less than a third knew Cunningham had served in Iraq. If they don't know the most basic of facts about the candidates it should come as no surprise that they don't know all the insider politics of the race.

It also turns out that the perception of national backing is far from a bad thing for the candidates. Voters who think Cunningham is the preferred choice of the national leaders are planning to vote for him 82-12 in the runoff. Ones who think Marshall is the anointed one are supporting her by a 74-11 margin.

So voters a) aren't aware that Cunningham is the DSCC preferred candidate and b) are inclined to support the candidate they do think has national backing. Cunningham's performance may have been a defeat for the DSCC, but it certainly wasn't an indication of backlash against it.

We'll have our first runoff poll out tomorrow.

Offshore Drilling

A majority of Americans still support offshore drilling, but the recent spill in the Gulf has given many of them pause about it.

55% say they support drilling to 30% opposed and 15% without an opinion. Republicans continue to overwhelmingly favor it (76/11), as do independents (61/25). Democrats are opposed by a 34/48 margin.

43% now say the spill made them less inclined to support drilling while 36% say it didn't make a difference to them one way or the other. Perhaps most surprisingly 21% of voters said the spill made them more likely to support offshore drilling. That includes an even split among GOP voters, 28% of whom said the spill made them more likely to support drilling and 28% of whom said the spill made them less likely to support drilling.

Few voters buy into Rush Limbaugh's conspiracy theory that environmentalists may have been responsible for the spill in an effort to build support for their agenda. Just 9% of voters say they think environmentalists caused the spill while 22% are unsure and 69% don't believe they had anything to do with it. Even among GOP voters only 13% are buying into the 'the environmentalists' did it frame of mind.

It's good to know that even if some Republicans think oil spills are a good thing, they at least don't think environmentalists intentionally cause them.

Full results here

Obama's numbers hit high mark

For the first time since October a majority of Americans express approval of Barack Obama's job performance on PPP's monthly national poll. 50% give him good marks to 46% who disapprove.

Obama's numbers with Democrats are basically steady and he remains very popular within his own party at an 83% approval rating. The movement since last month has come with Republicans and independents. Although he remains very unpopular with GOP voters, the 14% who approve of him this month represent an improvement from 10% in April. Independents are almost evenly divided on how he's doing with 46% giving him good marks and 47% poor ones. A month ago it was a 41/45 spread against him.

Obama's numbers saw a significant downward trend during the health care debate and with that issue in the rear view mirror he seems to be regaining at least a little bit of his support across party lines. It's not that voters have changed their minds on the bill- the 49/43 spread against it now is nearly identical to the 49/45 spread against it right before the vote was taken. But it no longer seems to be near the top of voters' minds when evaluating Obama and his numbers do finally seem to be seeing some improvement as a result.

If Obama's numbers stay in this range he probably won't give Democratic candidates a big assist this fall, but he won't be a huge liability either.

Full results here

The West Virginia Primary

If Mike Oliverio knocks off Alan Mollohan in West Virginia tonight it will reflect a trend that hasn't drawn a whole lot of attention- there are just as many Democrats unhappy with their party because they think it's too liberal as because it's too conservative.

Democratic unrest from the left draws considerably more attention but our national survey in March found that 20% of Democrats thought the party in Congress was too liberal, almost identical to the 23% who said they thought it was too conservative. And it seems pretty safe to say that in a state like West Virginia there are a lot more Democrats who think the party needs to move to the right than think it needs to move to the left.

Democratic voters who think their party's too liberal may not get a ton of press coverage, but they could play a very big role in this fall's election. On our most recent national generic ballot polling only 4% of Republican voters were planning to cross over in November, but 9% of Democrats said they were going to. With independents leaning heavily toward the GOP, there will need to be a significant party id advantage for Democrats in who votes this fall to overcome those two trends and with the low levels of excitement we've seen from the party's voters so far this year that doesn't seem too likely.

Clearly Mollohan has problems beyond his voting record that are making this a competitive race, but it's still going to be an interesting test case of whether there are places this year where a Democrat can win the primary by explicitly running to the right as Oliverio has

Marshall, Cunningham closing on Burr

Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham have both gained ground on Richard Burr after building up their exposure during the Democratic primary campaign. Burr is now in a weaker position than Elizabeth Dole was at the same point in the election cycle two years ago.

Burr leads Marshall by just a single point, 43-42, and is up 44-39 on Cunningham. Dole led Kay Hagan 48-43 immediately after the primary in 2008.

The share of the vote Burr receives is virtually unchanged from a month ago, but Marshall has gained five points of support and Cunningham has gained three. Burr's early poll leads were always a little inflated because there were a lot more Democratic leaning voters, unfamiliar with their party's candidates, saying they were undecided. Now with Marshall and Cunningham becoming better known, they're each winning a larger share of the vote with Democrats and with Democratic leaning independents.

Even after their primary ad campaigns Cunningham and Marshall are mostly unknown to voters in the state. 66% don't know enough about Cunningham to have an opinion and the same is true for 57% of voters when it comes to Marshall. Cunningham's name recognition has improved by 21 points in the last month and Marshall's has by 13, but they both still have a long way to go before they become known quantities to most voters in the state.

Ultimately the race's closeness at this point has very little to do with Cunningham or Marshall and everything to do with Burr, who continues to look like a weak incumbent. Only 37% of voters approve of the job he's doing to 40% who disapprove.

It's good for Marshall and Cunningham that they're in a comparable or better position than Hagan at this point two years ago, but there's no guarantee the rest of this story will play itself out as it did in 2008. It's still shaping up as a strong election year for Republicans in North Carolina, and the turnout numbers from last week's primary suggested a lack of interest in this year's election among Democratic voters. Still it's becoming increasingly clear that Burr will not coast to victory this fall, and that regardless of who the Democratic nominee is this should be a very competitive race.

Full results here

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Politics of Oil Spills

We have some new national polling coming out tomorrow on offshore drilling. The most astounding number from the poll? 28% of Republicans said the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made them more likely to support drilling off the coast to an equal 28% who said it made them less likely to be supportive. 44% said it made no difference to them and that's understandable, but why would an oil spill make you more supportive of drilling?

Believe it or not there's bad news for Sarah Palin within those numbers. She gets 17% of the GOP 2012 vote from the 'oil spills are good' crowd, well behind Newt Gingrich's 31%. We theorized a couple weeks ago that a Gingrich run might hurt Palin's support with the absolute most conservative folks in the Republican Party, and these numbers would seem to provide some more evidence of that.

We'll have the drilling- and Obama's latest approval- numbers tomorrow.
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