Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Obama still looks ok in NC

Barack Obama has improved his standing in North Carolina compared to a month ago and continues to appear to have at least an even money chance of taking the state again in 2012.

46% of voters in the state approve of the job Obama's doing to 49% who disapprove. This is the first time since June PPP has found fewer than half of North Carolinians unhappy with the President's performance. Over the last month he's seen slight increases in his support from conservative Democrats and independent voters, perhaps the two most important groups to his reelection prospects in the state. With Democrats overall his approval is up 3 points from 73% last month to now 76% and with independents he's risen from 40% to now 43%.

Obama is also doing better in hypothetical contests against the leading potential GOP candidates for President than he was a month ago. Mike Huckabee continues to be the one Republican he trails but the 1 point deficit at 46-45 is down from 4 points a month ago. Obama leads the rest of the top Republicans- it's 46-43 over Mitt Romney, compared to a tie a month ago, 48-42 over Newt Gingrich, compared to a 1 point lead a month ago, and 52-38 over Sarah Palin, compared to a 5 point lead a month ago.

Only Huckabee elicits a particularly positive response from Tar Heel voters. 43% have a favorable opinion of him to 34% with a negative one. The remaining Republicans are viewed pretty dimly- Romney's favorability spread is 34/39, Gingrich's is 35/47, and Palin's is 36/57.

One thing that may be contributing to Obama's improved standing in the state is the tax deal he cut with Republicans in Congress earlier this month. It's broadly popular with North Carolina voters- 51% support it to only 35% who are opposed. What may be more important for Obama though is who supports it. His party's liberal base is not real happy with it, but not so displeased that they're turning away from Obama. Meanwhile it's popular with the conservative Democrats who can go either way in Presidential elections and it also seems to have given a boost to Obama with independents who tend to want to see their elected officials work across party lines.

It's certainly no guarantee that Obama will take North Carolina again in 2012 but he has a pretty good chance at it, and those prospects are looking a little brighter than they did a month ago.

Full results here


Unknown said...

There's a high correlation between Republican likability with independents and their performance against Obama. Obama has to hope people don't get excited about a GOP candidate.

NRH said...

First the Republicans would have to find a candidate who can appeal to moderates and independents. Given the heavy dominance of the Republican primaries by the most right-wing elements of the party, that's looking difficult to manage.

Anonymous said...

PPP has gone overboard on the Democrat spin since the election. Yeesh.

Dustin Ingalls said...

How would you spin numbers showing Obama at worst down one point and at best up 14 (!) points in a state he won by half a point in 2008? "Looks OK" sounds about right, if not a little conservative, to me.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Anonymous is talking about how Palin dropped from a 5-point deficit to a 14-point deficit in one month. Care to offer one reasonable explanation for how that happened?

A Virginia poll was released yesterday from Roanoke College showing Obama at 36% approval. You had him at 50% approval. That's quite a disparity between two pollsters.

Jonny V said...

More evidence that Huckabee needs to lose the GOP primary.

I'm personally doing my best to let every single flat earther conservative GOP primary voter know that Huckabee believes in man made Climate Change!

Go with Palin guys. She's the only TRUE CONSERVATIVE!

Anonymous said...

I think some of the polling data that is showing Obama's numbers improving since the election are based on a different sample/polling method.

The polls leading up to the November elections were putrid for Obama. His approval, re-elect, head-to-head numbers were all terrible. But now, suddenly Obama is looking stronger in the head-to-head, re-elect and approval numbers. Perhaps the polling method switched back from the Likely Voter model to an All Voter model? That will inflate Obama's standing, but ALL voters don't vote, so most polling data coming out right now is inaccurate.

Dustin Ingalls said...

"That's quite a disparity between two pollsters."

1.) Academic pollsters often find quite different results than political pollsters, and their results usually aren't as good at predicting elections. They're used more for researching social and political attitudes, and Roanoke certainly doesn't have PPP's track record of accuracy on political matters.

2.) Their breakdown is 83.8% white and 11.5% black, while ours, weighted to reflect census data, is 78% white and 18% black. That's a big difference when it comes to how well Obama does in the state, since blacks almost unanimously approve of him (91/3 in our poll) and whites fairly strongly disapprove (41/55). The white-black breakdown was 70-20 in 2008 (or 75-20 if you include Hispanics in "white," as we do), according to exit polls, so we're far more in line with what a presidential year will look like than they are. Even if the black vote regresses, as it might, it won't go all the way down to less than 12%.

3.) Their proportion of people over age 65 is 28%, versus 18% in ours, also reflecting census data. They were only 11% of the state's vote in 2008. Older people vote more heavily Republican.

4.) Their liberal-moderate-conservative breakdown is 17/35/45 while ours is 19/44/37. Big difference in the moderate/conservative self-identifiers there. It was 21/46/33 in 2008.

5.) Their Dem-GOP-indie breakdown is roughly 31-34-36, while ours is 36-35-30. In 2008, it was 39-33-27. Clearly a too Republican-heavy sample.

6.) Their '08 McCain-Obama breakdown is 44-41, while ours is 44-49. He won the state by 7, we have him having won it by a similar 5, but they have an electorate that voted for McCain by 3, something you would have more likely seen as a reflection of the enthusiasm gap before the 2010 election, not now with a wider electorate.

Dustin Ingalls said...

"Care to offer one reasonable explanation for how that happened?"

She's got the exact same deficit in Florida. She's down by at least high single digits to him in every state we've done except Montana, where all the Republicans lead. She's the most unpopular in just about every state except a few where Gingrich is slightly less favored. Is it really a shock to you that she's down that much?

Anonymous said...

RE: Roanoke poll

The electorate in the Roanoke poll is clearly the outlier. NVA is only 21% of the state and McCain leads by 3 among 08' voters.

Dustin Ingalls said...

"Perhaps the polling method switched back from the Likely Voter model to an All Voter model?"

Yeah, we've been clear that we're now polling registered voters, not likely voters. Obviously you don't use a likely voter model when you're almost two years from an election. That's something you don't do until you're at least a few months from an election, as people know whether or not they'll vote. But registered voter models for presidential years are closer than for midterms, and you'll see our internals are actually a little more Republican and conservative and white than 2008, so it's not as optimistic as you'd think.

Anonymous said...


You didn't answer the question. How did she go from a 5-point deficit to a 14-point deficit?

You certainly cannot used the same argument against SurveyUSA that you just used against Roanoke in terms of past performance and they would likely show something closer to the Roanoke numbers than your Virginia numbers when you consider what they are showing for Obama in other states.

Anonymous said...

You have her down nine nationally. She won't be down 14 in either North Carolina or florida if you believe your own national polling.

Anonymous said...

Thes polls are whacked. NO WAY does ANY republican, including Palin, get less votes than McCain did vs Obama in 2008. So, the floor is 46-47%. And, given O's poor performance these past 2 years, I would bet $$ the 2012 race will be a whole lot closer than 2008.

Unknown said...

Yeah, Republicans were too extreme right wing to appeal to independents this year.

NRH said...

Pretty much, yes. Republicans picked up very few actual new voters or independents in 2010; their strength was in getting the voters who already were Republican supporters to show up at the polls, while Democrats in most states were unable to get Democratic-leaning unaffiliated voters, and a large chunk of registered Democrats, into the voting booth.

Senators O'Donnell, Miller, and Angle certainly showed how right-wing extremism draws independent votes.

Dewey said...

I'm not Dustin, but I'll take a crack at it. How did Palin drop from a -5 to a -14 in a month? Why don't you ask the voters? Unless PPP's internals between this month and last month are drastically different and skewing the results, this could simply be the electorate moving towards Obama (which would jive with his rising approval rating).

And I don't know if I would say that 46% is the "floor" for a Republican candidate. While there hasn't been a huge blow-out election since 1984, the conditions were never right for another president to win like that. Clinton comes the closest with a 9 point victory over Dole, and that was with a third party candidate.

If the GOP nominates Palin in a head-to-head with Obama, no Bloomberg or Feingold or Ventura or anyone, that may very well set up another landslide.

Andrew said...

"NO WAY does ANY republican, including Palin, get less votes than McCain did vs Obama in 2008."

Maybe you guys should nominate her and test that theory for yourselves.

Ranjit said...


If the unemployment is anywhere close to 7 or 8%, obama will loose big time to any republican candidate. Right now, that looks more the scenario than obama winning North Carolina.

NRH said...

Except for unemployment being over 9% and Obama being ahead in North Carolina, that is. Which puts a slight damper on Ranjit's theory.

Dustin Ingalls said...

Why has Palin regressed? She went from winning independents 46-42 when she was down 5 to losing them 33-51. Obama also gained a little with Democrats, and Palin lost a little of the GOP base. The movement with partisans is slight, but since they each make up over 40% of the electorate, any movement accounts for a lot.

Also, our last national poll was conducted at the same time as our November NC poll. She was down 9 nationally when she was down only 5 in NC, but she's down 14 in NC now, so I imagine she'd be down more nationally if we did a national poll now. I believe it was NBC/WSJ that had her down 22 nationwide.

Unknown said...

NRH [sigh]. Even you can't believe that the reason Democrats went from a 51%-43% advantage with independents to a 56%-37% deficit is because Democratic leaning independents stayed home.

The 2010 total with Democrats indicate that they got 60% of the Democrats in 2008 to vote for them again, but only got 49% of the independents who voted for them in 2008. The idea that some people didn't switch to the GOP is far-fetched. Most independents are independent because they don't have a loyalty to one party.

You may be able to recover the 17 million Democrats who stayed home, but the 9 million independents who didn't vote Democratic this year are up for grabs.

Jonny V said...

7 or 8% would be a big improvement from where it is now.

most people know that the current poor economic conditions are because of right wing policies.

sure the average voter isn't that informed and there's a chance they could be fooled by the right Republican nominee into going down that path once more (maybe Romney) but I'm pretty Sarah Palin wouldn't be able to pull it off.

NRH said...

It's hardly a difficult proposition to defend, frankly. There was certainly some movement among true independents, particularly in the midwest, where economic pressures led to a strong backlash. But even you can't believe that that accounted for all the movement either.

There are two other significant factors in play. One of these appears in every off-year election. Older voters show up more reliably, are more Republican, and so the 'independent' bloc tends to be more favorable to Republicans in an off-year election. Democrats also draw significant strength from some voting groups that at a demographic level do not vote consistently, such as poor and minority voters; their lack of participation makes the universe of independent voters gyrate between presidential and off-year elections. The demographic groups that vote most consistently are also the ones that vote most Republican, whether or not they claim the label. Anyone who was going to vote for Republicans voted this year; the ones who didn't vote made the choice between vote for Democrats or sit out entirely, and chose to sit out. The drop in black voting rates, for example, does not mean that black non-voters are by and large remotely winnable votes for Republicans.

The second factor is the recognized shift of the 'independent' universe. Just between 2008 and 2009, independents went from a 9-point 'conservative' lean to a 17-point lean, notably as large numbers of Republicans began identifying as 'independent' after the McCain debacle and as the Tea Party began its pretense of being anything other than the most extreme elements of the Republican party.

So there's the three factors significantly in play. Some independents did decide their votes were in play (and are likely to be in play again in 2012, particularly if Republicans overreach by shutting down the government or trying to impeach Obama), but a very large part of the discrepancy in independents between 2008 and 2010 can in fact be attributed to Democratic-leaning independents not showing up, and to the independent-voter universe tilting right with Republicans declining to claim their party's name.

Even without independents, getting just a quarter of the named-Democratic no-shows to vote would have led to swings in the results for Ohio and Florida governors and Illinois and Pennsylvania senators, despite the near-total Republican turnout that already showed up.

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