Thursday, April 28, 2011

Manchin still looks solid

Joe Manchin's popularity is holding up well almost six months after his election to the Senate and if he had to stand for reelection today he'd be in pretty solid shape, even against his toughest potential opponent in popular Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito.

55% of West Virginia voters approve of the job Manchin is doing to 31% who disapprove, putting him in the 80th percentile for popularity out of Senators PPP has polled on in the last couple years. Manchin's numbers have improved a little from our January poll of the state when his approval spread was 52/32.

Manchin's numbers continue to show some unusual but unsurprising patterns. With Democrats he is less popular than most Senators are within their own parties, at a 61/24 approval spread. He actually has his lowest approval rating of any ideological group with voters describing themselves as 'very liberal' at 43%. He's at 60% with moderate and 'somewhat liberal' voters, 54% with 'somewhat conservative' voters and 47% with 'very conservative' voters. He's definitely the only Democratic Senator in the country whose lowest level of popular is with 'very liberal' voters.

He more than makes up for that lack of enthusiasm for him from the base with his appeal to Republicans though. 45% of them approve of him to 41% who disapprove. There was a lot of question about whether Manchin could maintain his crossover support as he shifted from an executive position to a legislative one but so far, so good for him on that front.

Manchin would lead Capito 48-40 in a hypothetical match up, a margin pretty similar to what he won over John Raese in November. Democrats have a huge registration advantage in West Virginia so for a Republican to win takes holding pretty much all the GOP vote while winning over a lot of Democrats. Manchin though is winning almost as many Republicans (20%) as Capito is Democrats (21%). Capito really would need to take about 20% more Democrats than Manchin gets Republicans to beat him and that's why she trails by 8 despite a very impressive 57-22 advantage with independents.

Capito looks to be the only name Republican who could give Manchin a remotely competitive contest at this point. In a rematch with John Raese, Manchin now leads by 32 points at 61/29. Raese's proven to be a weak candidate during several statewide losses and voters don't appear to want him running again. Against 1st term Congressman David McKinley, who could be a redistricting target, Manchin leads by 38 points at 63-25. No matter what happens to McKinley's district he'd be better off trying to keep his House seat than trying to move up to the Senate.

If Capito, or any other Republican, wants to run for the Senate going against Jay Rockefeller in 2014 might prove to be a more enticing prospect than challenging Manchin. Rockefeller's approval numbers are considerably weaker at a 45/42 spread.

It's still a long way until November 2012 but Joe Manchin continues to be a very formidable political force in West Virginia.

Full results here

No future for Angle

Sharron Angle's days as anything other than a side show in Nevada politics are probably over.

Just for the heck of it we tested to see how Angle, less than a year removed from winning the Nevada Republican primary for Senate, would do if she changed her mind and decided to challenge Dean Heller next year. In one of the most lopsided head to head match ups in the history of PPP Heller leads Angle by 76 points at 84-8. Angle trails Heller 81-12 even with the Tea Party members who fueled her success last year.

Keep in mind Angle ran against Heller in a House primary in 2006 and lost just 36-35. Combine this poll finding with the one in January where 68% of Republicans in the state said they regretted her winning the nomination last year and it doesn't look like Angle's future political prospects are good even in a Republican primary.

Nevada Republicans generally seem to have learned their lesson after Angle's nomination quite possibly cost them a Senate seat last year. Only 17% of primary voters prefer a generic 'more conservative' alternative to Heller, compared to 69% who are content for Heller to be the nominee. It does not appear likely that Tea Party problems are in his future.

Another person who doesn't have much to worry about in terms of a primary contest is Shelley Berkley. She leads Byron Georgiou 65-8 in their possible match up. You can chalk part of that up to Berkley simply being better known and popular with a 59/13 favorability rating. But it's also a function of the fact that the Democratic voters who do know Georgiou just flat out don't like him- only 4% have a positive opinion to 23% who view him in a negative light. If Georgiou goes through with his run he's likely to be humiliated in the primary.

Full results here

Romney leads by smaller margin in Nevada

Mitt Romney continues to be the early favorite to win the Republican race in Nevada next year, as he did in 2008. But his support in the state is on the decline, suggesting he may not be able to take a repeat victory for granted.

Romney's at 24% to 16% for Donald Trump, 11% for Newt Gingrich, 10% for Mike Huckabee, 8% for Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty, 7% for Michele Bachmann, and 5% for Ron Paul.

This is the fourth look we've taken at the GOP contest in Nevada and Romney's support there has been on a steady decline. Last July he was at 34% in the state and he maintained that 34% standing in an October poll of Republican voters. But in January he dropped to 31% and now he's at this 24% level. It's no coincidence that Romney's loss of support coincides with Pawlenty vaulting from 1% in January to now 8% in the Nevada polling. The two appeal to a similar type of voter and generally any time we've seen Pawlenty gain we've seen a corresponding Romney fall.

The emergence of Trump as a serious GOP contender seems to be having a very adverse effect on Palin and Gingrich's support levels in the state. Palin has dropped 11 points from her 19% January standing to her current 8% level of support. And Gingrich has dropped 7 points from his 18% January standing to his current 11% level of support.

Romney may not be quite as strong as he has been in some of our previous polling of the state but he's benefiting from support across the ideological spectrum of the GOP. He's up 10 points on Trump with moderates, 9 with 'somewhat conservative' voters, and even 9% with 'very conservative' voters, a bloc that Romney has struggled with in many states.

Romney's even holding off Trump with the birther base that has been so important to Trump's support in a lot of our other polling. 43% of Nevada Republicans think Barack Obama was not born in the United States and with those folks Romney gets 25% to Trump's 19%. To give you an idea of how important this movement is/was to Trump's bid he's at only 6% with GOP voters who think Obama was born in the country, putting him in last place of the Republicans we tested.

Romney's lead grows in various permutations of the Nevada race where Palin and/or Trump and/or Huckabee don't end up running. In a Trump free field Romney's up by 12 with 29% to 17% for Gingrich and 12% for Palin. In a Huckabee and Trump free field Romney's up by 15 with 33% to 18% for Gingrich, 14% for Palin, and 11% for Bachmann. In a Palin and Trump free field Romney is also up 15 with 31% to 16% for Gingrich, 15% for Huckabee, 11% for Bachmann, and 10% for Pawlenty. And in a field without Huckabee, Palin, or Trump Romney's advantage is 17 points at 38% to 21% for Gingrich, 14% for Bachmann, and 10% for Paul.

Romney continues to lead in Nevada but as we've found in our other early state polling there's still a giant elephant in the room that has the potential to derail him: only 7% of Republican voters in the state say they'd be willing to support a candidate who had backed a state level health insurance mandate compared to 69% who say they would be unwilling to vote for someone with that in their past. Voters don't necessarily make their choices based on a single issue like this but it has the potential to hurt Romney a lot as the race heats up.

Full results here

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

State fans ambivalent toward Gottfried

Most North Carolina State fans are having the same reaction to the Mark Gottfried hire: yawn.

63% of self identified Wolfpack partisans have no opinion about their new basketball coach. Gottfried is at least resonating well with those who are ready to take a side- 27% think he was a good hire to just 10% who think bringing him in was a bad decision. If you grade it on a curve State fans are excited about Gottfried- a poll we did of Georgia Tech fans late last month found only 14% of fans happy about the Brian Gregory hire to 7% who were unhappy and 79% with no opinion. Still 63% with no opinion at State makes it hard to classify as a buzz inducing hire.

Athletic Director Debbie Yow took a fair amount of heat for how she handled the coaching search but she remains in extremely good standing with the Pack fan base. 53% of them approve of the job she's doing to only 6% who disapprove, numbers that any of North Carolina's politicians would die to have.

State fans may like Yow but there's still a fair amount of division about whether firing Lowe was the right decision or not. 33% say they agree in retrospect with the decision to let him go, while 26% think he should have been retained. In February only 27% of Wolfpack partisans wanted Lowe to be fired, compared to 29% who wanted him to stay so there has at least been a 9 point net movement in favor of the decision to fire him over the last couple months.

There's not a lot of excitement about the Gottfried hire but these numbers show State fans are at least willing to give him a chance.

Full results here

Dems favored for WV Gov

It doesn't matter who wins any of the primaries for Governor in West Virginia next month: Democrats will start out favored to win the general election in the fall.

While the Democratic nominee will start out with the lead regardless of who it is, some candidates would start out with bigger advantages than others. Earl Ray Tomblin is the most formidable nominee. He leads Betty Ireland by 22 points at 51-29 and Bill Maloney by 33 points at 56-23. He's proven to be a popular Governor. His approval rating is 49% and only 24% of voters in the state disapprove of him. Voters like him across the party spectrum- he's strongest with Democrats at 54/20 but he's also at 46/23 with independents and even gets plurality approval from Republicans at 39/33.

The race looks a lot more competitive if any of the other Democrats were to come back and win the nomination. Natalie Tennant is the next strongest, leading Ireland by 6 points at 39-33 and Maloney by 13 at 42-29. Although Tennant still has the advantage on the Republicans her numbers have been heading in the wrong direction since January by several measures. Her net favorability is now just +7 at 36/29. That's a 17 point decline from the previous poll when it was +24 at 43/19. And that 6 point advantage over Ireland is down from 11 in the January poll.

John Perdue posts relatively similar numbers to Tennant, leading Ireland by 5 points at 37-32 and Maloney by 12 points at 38-26. Perdue was tied with Ireland on our January poll so in that respect he's looking like a stronger candidate. But his favorability numbers, like those of Tennant, have taken a downward turn. He was on positive ground at 29/19 previously but now voters are evenly divided in their assessments of him at 27%.

Rick Thompson fares the weakest of the Democrats in head to head matches with the Republicans, leading Ireland 38-35 and Maloney 38-28. He actually trailed Ireland 37-31 on our January poll though so he's seen a good deal of improvement on that front and his favorability numbers have improved a shade since then as well from 17/17 to now 25/24.

Ireland's seen a 7 point net downward shift in her favorability numbers from +14 at 33/19 in January to now +7 at 30/23. That's mostly because Democrats have turned against her. They actually rated her positively by a 31/23 margin previously but she's now at 22/26, suggesting the Gubernatorial campaign is cutting into her crossover support. She's in a lot better shape than Maloney though- he's at 12/19 because there are more Republicans (12%) who dislike him than there are Democrats (6%) who like him.

This race is pretty simple to break down- Democrats nominate Tomblin and he's close to impossible to beat, Democrats nominate someone else and they still start out ahead but with much more potential for a close race.

Full results here

Obama slumping in Nevada

Barack Obama's standing in Nevada has taken a significant turn in the wrong direction since early January and it appears he could have a much tougher time in the state next year than he did in 2008, particularly if the Republicans nominate Mitt Romney.

Obama's approval rating in Nevada is only 45% with 52% of voters disapproving of him. That represents an 11 point negative shift in his net approval since he posted a 50/46 spread on PPP's first 2011 poll of the state. There are two problems contributing to Obama's poor numbers. The first is that he is very unpopular with independents, only 33% of whom express favor for the job he's doing to 65% who disapprove. The second is that Republicans (89%) are more united in their unhappiness with Obama than Democrats (79%) are in their approval. When independents don't like you and the opposite party dislikes you more than your own likes you, that's pretty much always going to be a formula for bad poll numbers.

Despite his unpopularity Obama does lead 4 of the 5 Republicans we tested against him in the state, albeit by smaller margins than what he won over John McCain in 2008. That's because even though Nevadans may not like him very much they still have a much higher opinion of him than they do of most of the GOP field. Mike Huckabee's favorability is 36/45 and Obama leads him 45-43. Newt Gingrich's favorability is 33/53 and Obama leads him 46-42. Donald Trump's favorability is 32/59 and Obama leads him 47-41. And Sarah Palin's favorability is 34/61 and Obama leads her 50-39.

Mitt Romney is the exception to the Republican unpopularity rule. Voters in the state may not love him- he breaks even on his favorability at 43%- but compared to Obama and the rest of his GOP peers that has him looking pretty good. He leads Obama 46-43, buoyed by a 58-27 advantage with independent voters. He also picks up 13% of Democratic voters while allowing Obama to win just 6% of Republicans. It appears Romney would make a considerably more formidable opponent for Obama in Nevada than McCain did.

The Nevada poll also provides more evidence of another emerging truth- Trump's greatest possible impact on the Presidential race next year would be if he really follows through on his threat to run as an independent if he doesn't get the Republican nomination. With Trump in a three way race involving Romney, Obama gets 42% to 34% for Romney and 20% for Trump. With Trump in a three way race involving Huckabee, Obama gets 44% to 30% for Huckabee, and 21% for Trump. In both cases Trump gets 34% of the Republican vote but only 9-12% of the Democratic vote. Even if Trump ran as an independent and only got a third of the poll support he's showing now it would probably be enough to ensure Obama won the state again in spite of his own poor numbers. A Trump independent bid would almost certainly hand Obama reelection.

Full results here

Pennsylvania Miscellaneous

-Pennsylvania Republicans might need to do a really good job with their redistricting next year in order to hold onto the seats they won last fall. Voters in the state say if there was an election for Congress today they'd go for Democratic candidates by a 42-36 margin on the generic ballot, suggesting the party could very well win back some of the stuff it lost last year.

It's interesting to see Democrats with a 6 point generic House ballot lead, given that this same poll found Barack Obama with dreadful approval numbers at 42/52 and struggling in match ups with Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. Obama polling poorly while things are looking up for House Democrats has actually been a theme throughout our April polling though. We've found Democrats leading on all three national generic Congressional ballot surveys we've done this month, even as we've also found Obama's approval numbers hitting record lows.

Usually you would expect the fortunes of both the President and House Democrats to be headed in the same direction but at least for this month that has not been the case. Voters are just responding negatively to everyone who's in charge and the unhappiness is cutting across party lines to affect both Obama and House Republicans.

-Pennsylvania voters may warm back up to Arlen Specter and Ed Rendell some day but apparently three months out of office has not been enough time to win them any forgiveness. Only 33% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Rendell to 55% with a negative one. Republicans (81%) are a whole lot more unified in their dislike of him than Democrats (50%) are in their favor and independents split against him 26/58. Specter's numbers tell a pretty similar story. 32% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 53% with a negative one. He has the same problem as Rendell of Republicans (77%) disliking him a lot more than Democrats (46%) like him and independents go against him by a 24/57 spread.

-There's been a fair amount of speculation that another run for statewide office might be in Joe Sestak's future and if there is he'll have a lot of reintroducing himself to do to the voters. A plurality of voters, at 37%, now say they don't know enough to have an opinion about Sestak either positive or negative. Those who do have one are divided almost evenly with 32% rating him favorably and 31% unfavorably.

-63% of Pennsylvania voters support some form of legal recognition for same sex couples to 35% who think there should be none. The 63% breaks down 30% who support full marriage rights and 33% who favor civil unions. Even Republican voters by a 51/47 margin support either marriage or civil unions for gay couples.

Full results here

Trump highly unpopular in swing states

I guess Donald Trump can claim 'victory' with the release of Barack Obama's birth certificate this morning but his shenanigans over the last month haven't done much to endear him with swing state voters. During April we've polled Trump in the battleground states of Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Nevada and in all four of those states we've found that at least 59% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of him.

In Nevada Trump's favorability is a -27 spread (32/59), in North Carolina it's a -35 spread (27/62), in Iowa it's a -34 spread (27/61), and in New Hampshire it's a -33 spread (27/60).

There are two primary variables driving Trump's bad numbers:

-Republicans don't really like him that much. In New Hampshire his favorability with them is 46/40, in Iowa it's 41/40, in North Carolina it's 45/42, and in Nevada it's 51/37. He's doing well in primary polls because the GOP voters who do like him are pretty inclined to name him as their top Presidential choice. That's different from say a Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney who are mostly well liked even by Republicans for whom they are not the first choice for the nomination. With Trump there is not as much of that middle ground- you either want him as the nominee or you dislike him. Those kinds of numbers will maybe give you a long shot chance at the nomination but they don't make you a viable contender in November.

-Trump is completely toxic to independent voters. His favorability with them in Nevada is 35/57, in Iowa it's 29/58, in New Hampshire it's 23/63, and in North Carolina it's 28/61. His recent antics have ingratiated him to a meaningful chunk of the far right Republican base, but he's completely turned off the folks in the center whose votes often determine who comes out on top in Presidential contests.

To put Trump's numbers into some context he is less popular than Sarah Palin in all four of these states- her favorability in North Carolina is 33% to his 27%, in Nevada it's 34% to his 32%, in New Hampshire it's 28% to his 27%, and in Iowa it's 29% to his 27%.

If Trump's goal was to get a lot of attention this month he's certainly succeeded. If his goal is really to get elected President it was an utter failure.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Arizona and Missouri Question Suggestions

The winners of our vote on where to poll this week were Missouri and Arizona. Arizona tied with South Carolina and we're going to do Arizona since two other South Carolina GOP primary polls came out this week already.

In Missouri we could practically do the exact same poll we did in March, which was Todd Akin, Sarah Steelman, Ed Martin, and Ann Wagner v. Claire McCaskill and Peter Kinder v. Jay Nixon. With today's announcement we'll drop Ann Wagner but beyond that it would seem we're pretty much set. If you have suggestions of other candidates, or other questions in general, that we should look at in Missouri please let us know.

Arizona is more of an open field. We're definitely going to test Gabrielle Giffords on the Democratic side and Jeff Flake on the Republican side. What folks would you like us to look at beyond that, and what other questions should we ask there? As always your suggestions are much appreciated.

Obama holding up in North Carolina

Barack Obama's poll numbers nationwide aren't looking very good right now but one place where he's holding up pretty well is North Carolina. His approval rating there this month is 49%, with 48% of voters disapproving. Those numbers basically mirror the results of the 2008 election in the state, pretty good given that in our national polling right now his approval spread is running 13 points behind his margin of victory against John McCain.

There are two data points key to Obama's continued decent standing in North Carolina. In most places Obama has maintained his popularity with minorities but seen a significant decline in his popularity with white voters. Here though his 37% approval rating with whites matches the percentage of the vote we found him winning in 2008 and that combined with his 87% standing with black voters puts him on slightly positive ground overall. The other key thing for Obama is that he's at 50/44 with independents here, basically matching his 2008 victory margin over McCain in the state with those voters and running counter to his 37/54 approval breakdown with them nationally.

Obama leads all five Republicans we tested against him in the state. Against Mike Huckabee (48-47), Mitt Romney (47-44), and Newt Gingrich (49-45) the margins are pretty close. Against Sarah Palin (52-40) and Donald Trump (51-39), who Obama can probably only dream about running against, the numbers are not so close.

Obama's doing well in those match ups against the Republicans not just because his own numbers are holding up well but because North Carolinians for the most part have a very dim view of the GOP field. Only Huckabee is viewed more favorably than unfavorably by voters in the state and that's by a narrow margin at 42/37. After him Romney is the most 'popular' at 31/44, followed by Gingrich at 31/50, Palin at 33/60, and Trump at 27/62. If the Republicans had a really appealing candidate Obama would probably be having more trouble in North Carolina, but as of now they don't.

Obama is highly unlikely to get to the point where he wins North Carolina easily next year but he's definitely still in the game and the state should be hotly contested for a second election cycle in a row.

Full results here

Iowa Miscellany

-You can add Iowa to the list of states where voters are not happy with their new Republican Governor and where if they had a chance to do their Gubernatorial election over again things might come out a little bit different. Terry Branstad's approval rating is only 41%, with 45% of voters disapproving of him. The exit poll last fall showed him winning independents by 10 points but now only 35% approve of him to 45% who disapprove, reflecting the trend of indys away from the GOP that we're seeing in our polling all over the country. Also holding down his numbers is that Democrats (77%) are more unified in their unhappiness with him than Republicans (76%) are in their favor.

Branstad trails 48-46 in a hypothetical rematch with Chet Culver. Iowa joins Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Georgia as states where we've found last fall's Democratic nominees now ahead of the Republicans who were actually elected in November. That's partially a function of voters not being happy with what they've seen so far from their new Governors and it's partially a function of the fact that Democratic voters allowed their losses last year to happen by their low voter turnout.

-Iowa's most popular Congressman, in terms of statewide favorability, is Tom Latham. He has a +9 spread at 31/22. Second is Dave Loebsack at +5 (25/20), followed by Bruce Braley at +2 (22/20), and Leonard Boswell at -2 (28/30). Bringing up the rear among the Congressional delegation is Steve King at -7 (27/34). Latham 2014 against Tom Harkin?

-Christie Vilsack is running against King next year and at least statewide she's a lot more popular than he is. Her favorability is a +15 spread at 38/23. That makes her more popular than her husband. Tom Vilsack breaks down at a +12 spread (46/34).

-Charles Grassley remains one of the most popular Senators in the country, with 57% of voters approving of him to 30% who disapprove. That ties him for 12th in net approval out of 85 Senators PPP has polled on in the last two years. Republicans are almost universal in their approval of him but the two things that make his numbers stand out are coming close to break even with Democrats (38/50), and a greater than 2:1 approve/disapprove ratio with independents (55/26).

-Tom Harkin's numbers are slightly above average with 47% of voters approving of him and 38% disapproving. That puts him in a tie for 38th out of the 85 Senators we've polled on. Harkin's standing with Democrats is similar to Grassley's with Republicans but he can't manage to match his senior colleague's crossover support. Only 17% of GOP voters approve of his performance and independents are only narrowly positive towards him, 43/38.

Full results here

Berkley pulling closer to Heller

Dean Heller continues to hold the early lead in the Nevada Senate race, but Shelley Berkley's gained on him over the four months since PPP last polled the match up. Heller is now up only 47-43 on Berkley. That represents a 9 point swing in her direction since Heller led 51-38 in early January.

The main thing fueling Berkley's gain is that Democratic voters have soured on Heller since he launched his Senate campaign, significantly cutting into his crossover support. In January Heller posted a pretty decent 22/31 favorability spread with Democrats, allowing him a 46/23 breakdown overall. Now just 16% of Democrats express a positive view of him and 48% have a negative one. That's caused his net favorability to drop 9 points from +23 to now +14 at 43/29.

Given that Democratic voters don't like him as much anymore it's no surprise that they're also not as inclined to vote for Heller as they were earlier this year. In January Berkley had only a 44 point lead over Heller with Democratic voters at 64-20. Now it's a 63 point lead at 76-13 and that 19 point shift in her direction within her own party is the main reason she now has the race within the margin of error.

One thing that may end up actually hurting Heller in the long run is being appointed to the Senate vacancy created by the early resignation of John Ensign. 53% of voters think that Ensign's seat should be filled by a special election, compared to only 44% who think Brian Sandoval should appoint Ensign's replacement. Democrats will certainly try to make a Heller appointment smell bad and these numbers suggest that they have the public behind them in their opposition to Sandoval giving Heller a head start.

Heller continues to lead Berkley for two main reasons. The biggest is his overwhelming support with independent voters. He's extremely popular with them, at a 51/21 favorability breakdown, and his advantage over Berkley with them is 56-29. The other key for Heller is that even though Berkley has gained ground with Democrats, he still has his party more unified around him than her. 86% of Republicans right now say they will vote for Heller, compared to 76% of Democrats who are already committed to Berkley.

The Heller/Berkley race is starting to look like something close to a toss up. One contest that would not be a toss up is if Byron Georgiou somehow snagged the Democratic nomination. Heller would lead him by 24 points at 52/28, winning independents by a whooping 42 points.

Full results here

Trump, Huckabee tie in West Virginia

West Virginia marks the first state where we've found Donald Trump leading the GOP Presidential field- he gets 24% there, tying him at the top with Mike Huckabee. Sarah Palin is third with 13%, followed by Mitt Romney at 11%, Newt Gingrich at 9%, Tim Pawlenty at 4%, and Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at 3%.

We polled the Republican race in West Virginia in January too. With Trump now in the picture Huckabee is down 4 points from his standing on that previous poll, Palin has dropped 10 points, and Gingrich has fallen 8 points. Romney is actually up a point- you have to wonder if a Trump candidacy could actually end up being a blessing in disguise for Romney.

The folks who Trump appeals to by and large just aren't going to be particularly open to voting for Romney- so if Trump's in the race and helping to fracture the far right vote among a number of different candidates that gives Romney more of an opening to win in places even where he doesn't do that well with conservative voters. West Virginia's not somewhere Romney's likely to win regardless of the field but when you see him staying steady while everyone else goes down because of Trump you see where it could be a plus for him in the long run.

Trump is riding the birther train to his lead in West Virginia. Only 22% of Republican voters there think Barack Obama was born in the country to 53% who think he was not and 26% who are unsure. With the voters who think Obama was born in the US Trump gets just 15%, putting him in third place behind Huckabee and Romney. But with the folks who think Obama was not Trump gets 30% putting him 8 points ahead of Huckabee and allowing him the overall tie.

Full results here

Tomblin, Ireland lead in WV

Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has broken open the Democratic primary race in West Virginia and now leads by 15 points. Tomblin is at 32% to 17% for state Treasurer John Perdue, 16% for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, and 15% for House Speaker Rick Thompson. Jeff Kessler at 5% and Arne Moltis at 1% round out the field.

When PPP polled this race in January Tomblin led Tennant by just a single point. Since then Tomblin has gained 7 points while Tennant has headed in the wrong direction, losing 8 points. The only candidate besides Tomblin who has gained any momentum over the last three months is Thompson, who's gone up 9 points from 6% to 15%. Perdue has basically stayed in place. He was at 16% and is now up just a single point to 17%. It seems entirely possible given the current trajectory of each candidate's support that you could see a final result with Tomblin in first, Thompson in second, Perdue in third, and Tennant all the way back in fourth despite her initial co-front runner status.

Tomblin is winning across the entire ideological spectrum of the Democratic electorate, important in a state that has arguably the most ideologically diverse group of primary voters anywhere in the country. As expected Tomblin is particularly strong with more conservative leaning voters, holding a 20 point lead with 'very conservative' voters over Thompson at 36-16 and an 18 point lead with 'somewhat conservative' voters over Perdue at 42-24. But he leads with liberal leaning voters too, albeit by narrower margins. With folks describing themselves as 'very liberal' he has a 3 point advantage over Tennant at 25-22. And with ones describing themselves as 'somewhat liberal' his lead is 4 points over Tennant at 25-21.

The Republican side of the equation in West Virginia is actually slightly closer, with Betty Ireland at 31% and Bill Maloney at 17%. None of the other candidates are hitting double digits- Clark Barnes and Mitch Carmichael have 8%, Mark Sorsaia's at 4%, Ralph William Clark and Larry Faircloth each have 2%, and Cliff Ellis is at 1%.

This race seems more prone to an upset over the final two and a half weeks than the Democratic one does. There are still a lot of undecided voters- 28% haven't made their mind up yet. And Ireland's lead is still very much a function of name recognition. 62% of primary voters know who she is, compared to only 38% who know Maloney enough to have formed an opinion of him. With the voters who do have a take on Maloney- whether it's a positive or a negative one- he actually leads Ireland 40-26. So he's winning with the folks who do know him, it's just a question of whether there will be enough folks who know him by the time May 14th rolls around.

For now it looks like it will be Tomblin and Ireland and we'll release numbers tomorrow looking at where that match up would start for the general election.

Full results here

Monday, April 25, 2011

Don't laugh at Paul

Ron Paul's not as big of a joke as people think.

Do I think he has a serious chance at the Republican nomination? Not really. But I think he could play a much bigger role in the race than people might expect. Consider some of these recent poll numbers:

-In Iowa Paul's net favorability with GOP voters is +38 at 55/17. The only Republican more popular with the base than that in the state is Mike Huckabee. Paul's numbers trump Tim Pawlenty (+32), Mitt Romney (+30), Sarah Palin (+29), and Newt Gingrich (+21) as well as a cadre of other less well known candidates. Paul has part of the same problem Palin showed in her polling earlier in the year- a disconnect between the extent to which people like him and their willingness to spend their vote on him- but those are still some pretty good numbers.

-On our 'main' ballot test in Iowa Paul gets 6%, tying Pawlenty and slightly edging Michele Bachmann's 5%. In a field without Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin- something entirely plausible- Paul gets 16%, putting him in third place in the state.

-It's a similar story for Paul in New Hampshire. His favorability there is +32 at 53/21, putting him behind only Romney. He does better than Pawlenty's +20, Huckabee's +12, Palin's +12, and Gingrich's +9,

-Paul gets 9% on our 'main' ballot test in New Hampshire, besting Palin's 7%, Pawlenty's 4%, and Bachmann's 3%. Paul gets all the way up to 18% in a Huckabee/Palin/Trumpless field there, finishing second only to Romney.

There's been endless jabber today about the impact of Haley Barbour not running but I honestly think in the long haul Paul will pick up more support than Barbour ever would have and that he will pick up a lot more support than many of the other folks sucking up the media air as well. He probably won't win the nomination but with a weak field that the Republican base is unenthused about I bet he'll be a much bigger player this time around than he was in 2008.

Voting time!

We'll have our Nevada and West Virginia polls out starting tomorrow. Your choices for next week are:

-Arizona. Still haven't polled it since it became an open seat and with Gabrielle Giffords in the news a lot this week it might be a good time to see what folks think about the possibility of a Senate bid from her.

-Missouri. It's only been a couple months since we polled the state but all of Claire McCaskill's bad news has come since then- is that really affecting her or is it just as much of a toss up as it was before?

-Montana. Competitive Senate race, open seats for House and Governor- there's no doubt there's plenty of material if this one wins, the real challenge will be keeping it to a reasonable number of match ups!

-New Mexico. Another one that we haven't polled since it became an open seat although we have already polled what's looking like the most plausible match up of Martin Heinrich and Heather Wilson- still worth seeing if the landscape changes at all with the seat open.

-South Carolina. Over the last month we've polled all of the other important early Republican contest states- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Florida- so it seems worth adding this one to the list. And let's be honest, there's always a lot of fun stuff to poll in South Carolina.

Voting's open until 5 PM Tuesday, don't game the poll or we'll disqualify the state you were gaming it for.

Many still fighting the Civil War...

The Civil War may have come to a close almost 150 years ago but Republicans in three Southern states still aren't sure its outcome was a good thing. Less than half of GOP voters in Georgia, North Carolina, and Mississippi are glad that the North won the Civil War:

-In Georgia 47% of Republicans are content with the Union victory, while 31% wish the South had won. Democrats (58/17) and independents (54/19) are both strongly supportive of the North, making the overall numbers 53/23.

-In North Carolina GOP voters are almost evenly divided on the outcome of the war with 35% glad for the North's victory, 33% ruing the South's loss, and 32% taking neither side. Democrats (55/15) and independents (57/14) have similar numbers to Georgia but due to the greater ambivalence of Republicans about the northern victory, overall less than half of Tar Heel voters (48%) are glad the Union won to 21% who wish the Confederacy had.

-In Mississippi no group of the electorate seems all that enthused about the North having won. Republicans, by a 38/21 margin, outright wish the South had won. Democrats (39/22) and independents (49/15) side with the North but compared to those voter groups in North Carolina and Georgia they're pretty ambivalent. Overall just 34% of voters in the state are glad the Union prevailed to 27% who wish the rebels had been victorious.

A few weeks ago we released numbers showing that a plurality of Republicans in Mississippi think interracial marriage should be illegal. Democrats there think it should be legal by a 68/18 margin and independents do so 56/21, making the overall numbers in the state 54% who think it should be legal to 28% who believe it should be illegal.

GOP voters in North Carolina and Georgia don't have the same hang up about interracial marriage that their peers in Mississippi do. In Georgia Republicans think it should be legal by a 52/29 spread. Democrats do so 67/20 and independents do 74/13, making the overall numbers 62/22. And in North Carolina Republicans think it should be legal by a 55/30 spread. Democrats do so 74/15 and independents do 80/11, making the the overall numbers 68/20.

Full results here

Libya hurting Obama...even though many don't know where it is

Barack Obama's approval numbers have been hitting record lows in our polls and others of late and one of the things that's really hurting him right now is Libya- even though barely half of voters in the country actually know where it is.

Our most recent national poll found that only 27% of Americans supported the military intervention in Libya to 40% who were opposed and 33% who had no opinion. Democrats only narrowly stand behind the President in supporting the action in Libya, 31/28. Meanwhile Republicans (21/51) and independents (29/42) are considerably more unified in their opposition.

Libya doesn't seem likely to be a big vote shifter next year- 52% of voters say it won't make a difference in their decision on whether to support Obama for reelection or not. But for the voters who do say it could be a game change it's a negative- 31% say what's going on in Libya right now make them less likely to vote for Obama compared to only 17% who say it makes them more likely to vote for him.

Obama's not picking up any Republicans on Libya- just 4% say his actions there make them more likely to vote for him. He's losing more Democrats on the issue- 14% say it makes them less inclined to support him again. And it's also hurting him with independents, who split 13% more likely to vote for him because of Libya to 29% less likely.

Libya is definitely proving to be a political loser for Obama which is interesting because only a little more than half of Americans, 58%, can actually correctly identify that it's in northern Africa. 27% think that it's in the Middle East, 4% think it's in South Asia, 2% think it's in South America, and 9% don't offer an opinion. Voters may not be terribly informed when it comes to Libya but they know they don't like what they're seeing.

There's a wide array of things causing Obama's popularity issue and it would be a mistake to try to pin it all on Libya- but it's certainly not helping.

Full results here

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trump third party bid could hand Obama reelection

If Donald Trump runs as an independent next year for President it could have a major impact on the race, handing Barack Obama an easy reelection. PPP's newest poll in the battleground state of Iowa finds that Obama leads Mitt Romney only 45-41 in a head to head match up. But with Trump thrown into the mix Obama's 4 point lead over Romney becomes a 16 point advantage with the President at 43%, Romney at 27%, and Donald Trump pulling 21% as the wild card in the mix.

Trump gets 31% of the Republican vote running as an independent candidate, holding Romney to just 56% within the party. He also outpaces Romney with independents, finishing second at 25% to Obama's 41% with the former Massachusetts Governor coming in at 22%.

It's highly unlikely that Trump would really end up doing this well as an independent, but even if he just pulled 5-10% it would probably be enough to ensure Obama's reelection. And these numbers show that if Romney's the GOP nominee there may be enough consternation on the far right that another third party candidate and not necessarily just Trump could earn enough support from those voters to have a spoiler effect much as Ralph Nader did for Al Gore in 2000.

On our Nevada poll this weekend we'll look at both an Obama/Romney/Trump scenario and an Obama/Huckabee/Trump scenario to see if a Romney nomination makes Republicans particularly inclined to gravitate toward a Trump third party bid or if that's something that would be true regardless of the GOP candidate.

Obama could sure use Trump running as a third party candidate because he's in a lot of trouble in Iowa. His approval numbers there have dropped into negative territory with only 46% of voters approving of him to 48% who disapprove. Fortunately for him voters in the state aren't responding real positively to any of the Republican candidates either- Huckabee has the best favorability but is still in negative territory at 41/43. He's followed by Romney at 36/44, Gingrich at 24/56, Trump at 27/61, and Palin at 29/63.

Huckabee fights Obama to a tie in the state at 45%, quite a different story from Obama's 10 point Iowa victory in 2008. As mentioned above Romney also makes it quite competitive, trailing only 45-41. But the GOP can completely scuttle its chances at winning in Iowa- or probably anywhere else for that matter- by going with anyone in the Gingrich/Palin/Trump triumvirate. Despite his unpopularity Obama still leads Gingrich by 11 points at 50/39, Trump by 16 at 51/35, and Palin by 17 at 53/36.

Iowa is an odd state for Obama- even though he won it by 10 last time around its virtually all white population poses problems for him in the bigger picture because when you look across the country minority voters are still with him in pretty similar numbers to 2008 but he's dropped off quite a bit with white voters. That's why we now see him with better approval numbers in states like North Carolina and Virginia that were closer in 2008 than we do in Iowa.

We see a similar phenomenon in New Hampshire and frankly Obama can survive next year without the New Hampshires and Iowas of the world if he hangs on in the Virginias and North Carolinas. Still Iowa has to have a lot of sentimental value for Obama as the state that launched him to the nomination- how hard he has to fight to keep it is just going to come down to who the GOP puts forward.

Full results here

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Question Suggestions

The winners of our vote on where to poll this week were Nevada and West Virginia. As always we appreciate your question suggestions.

There are three things in particular I'd like some feedback on:

-In Nevada should we test anyone besides Shelley Berkley and Byron Georgiou on the Democratic side and Dean Heller on the Republican side for Senate?

-We obviously can't test every possible permutation for the general election for Governor in West Virginia. We're definitely going to do Earl Ray Tomblin, Natalie Tennant, and John Perdue on the Democratic side vs. Betty Ireland on the Republican side. Anyone else we need to throw in that general election mix?

-We'll definitely test Shelley Moore Capito against Joe Manchin for Senate- any other Republicans we should look at?

Thoughts on those questions as well as any question ideas you might have much appreciated as always.

Perdue's numbers up this month

The Democratic base is responding well to the new, feistier Bev Perdue who's shown a willingness to fight Republicans and veto their bills over the last few months. As a result her approval number this month matches a 2 year high. 35% of North Carolinians say they like the job she's doing, matching her numbers from December of 2010 and September of 2010 and representing her highest level of support since posting a 41% approval rating in April of 2009. 49% of voters disapprove of Perdue's performance.

The main reason Perdue's numbers are up is that she's had a 10 point net improvement with Democrats over the last month. In March she was at a +20 spread with them (50/30) and now she's at a +30 spread (56/26). Her numbers are still poor overall because of her limited support from independents (25/57) and from Republicans (13/73). Still the only way she's likely to get her numbers back where she wants them is slow, methodical progress and it has to start somewhere.

Perdue is also in a slightly better position for reelection against Pat McCrory this month, although she still trails by double digits. Last month McCrory led her by 14 points at 50-36 and now that advantage is down to 11 at 49-38. McCrory continues to do well not just because of Perdue's unpopularity but also because he's generally viewed positively by voters in the state, with 33% holding a favorable opinion of him to 27% with an unfavorable one.

Perdue still has a long and arduous journey ahead but over the last month at least she's taken a step forward. Her problem over the last two years is that pretty much every time she's taken a step forward she's soon taken another step back- we'll see if she can reverse that trend in the weeks ahead.

Full results here

Obama doesn't need to worry about a primary

It shouldn't come as any particular surprise but Barack Obama doesn't need to worry about a primary challenge next year- in Iowa or anywhere else for that matter.

Our Iowa poll this week found that Obama's approval rating with Democrats in the state is 79% to only 16% who disapprove of him. 66% of Democrats say they'd like him to be the nominee again. What makes the likelihood of a primary challenge even lower beyond that is that the folks who would support an alternative to Obama are split between wanting someone further to the left of the President and wanting someone further to the right.

Although there is considerably more speculation about opposition to Obama coming from liberals unhappy with him there are actually almost three times as many Democratic voters in Iowa- 20%- who would like a nominee more conservative than Obama as there are- 7%- who would prefer someone more liberal than him.

Obama's immunity to a primary challenge comes across in his national polling too. Our poll for Daily Kos this week found his approval numbers with Democrats nationwide almost identical to the ones in Iowa- a 79/15 spread. 72% of Democrats consider him ideologically to be 'about right' and the ones who do have a problem with him are split almost evenly between thinking he's too conservative (13%) and thinking he's too liberal (11%). This divide is what makes a potential primary challenge to Obama even more unlikely- since the Democrats who don't like him have very different reasons for that unhappiness it would be difficult for any single primary challenger to Obama to unite all the dissidents behind them.

So Obama has nothing to worry about for next year but we did ask Democrats in Iowa who they'd like to see the next party nominee be after Obama has moved along. Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite at 44%, followed by Joe Biden at 13%. None of the other folks we threw in there managed to hit double digits- Andrew Cuomo at 7%, Russ Feingold at 5%, Oprah Winfrey at 4%, Cory Booker at 3%, and Brian Schweitzer and Mark Warner at 1%. Maybe if Hillary decides to run again she'll be able to exorcise her Iowa demons...but that's a long way off.

Full results here

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Voting Time

We'll take the top two vote getters in this week's vote on where to poll. The choices are:

-Arizona. We haven't polled here since it became an open seat- interested to see how voters there feel about the possibility of a Gabrielle Giffords candidacy and whether Democrats would have a chance to pick up this seat with any other potential nominee.

-Montana. Competitive Senate seat, open House seat, open Governor's race...a lot of stuff to look at in a state we haven't polled in over five months.

-Nevada. Looks like the Senate field here may be pretty much set so interested in looking at those match ups as well as the Presidential race in the state.

-New Mexico. Another Senate race we haven't polled since it became an open seat- my sense is that this race is not as much of a toss up as some folks have made it out to be but that's why you do the polls.

-West Virginia. There's been as far as I know no independent polling on the fast approaching primaries for Governor so those are worth a look, in addition to seeing how folks feel after four months of Senator Manchin.

Voting will be open until about 4 PM Wednesday afternoon...and as always don't game the poll or we'll throw out the state you gamed it for.

NC Republicans falling out of favor

North Carolinians are strongly opposed to the cuts in education that legislative Republicans have proposed and as a result the new GOP majority is now less popular with the voters than the Democrats they replaced just a few months ago.

40% of voters have a favorable opinion of the Democrats in the General Assembly now compared to only 34% who view the Republicans positively. 43% have an unfavorable opinion of both the Democrats and the Republicans. The GOP's favorability is down a net 8 points from March when it broke down 38% positive and 39% negative. Since then the party's grown more unpopular with independents, going from a 37% unfavorable rating to 47% while holding steady at a 26% positive rating. And even some Republican voters are starting to have their doubts- the favorable number with the GOP base has declined from 73% to 66%.

There are any number of reasons that could be responsible for the declining popularity of the new majority but one thing that's definitely contributing is strong public opposition to the proposed GOP education cuts. Only 22% of voters support an 8.8% cut to the K12 system with 64% opposed. Just 29% support a 10% cut to the community colleges, with 58% opposed. And only an equal 29% support a 15.5% cut to the UNC system with 44% opposed.

Opposition to those cuts in education extends well beyond the Democratic base. Although a plurality of Republican voters does support the proposed UNC cuts, they oppose the K12 cuts by a 47/37 margin and they oppose the community college cuts by a 42/40 margin. With the independents whose strong support for Republican candidates last fall fueled the new GOP majority there is considerably stronger opposition- 68/18 against the K12 cuts, 65/28 against the community college cuts, and 42/35 against the UNC cuts.

The end result of this disintegrating popularity for the Republican majority is that if we had a legislative election today it would be an extremely close fought battle for control. The generic ballot is a tie with 45% of voters saying they'd choose a Democrat right now and 45% saying they'd go with a Republican. That represents an 11 point shift toward the Democrats since last fall's election- PPP's final generic ballot measure last fall came out at 51% of voters planning to go Republican to only 40% who supported Democrats. If things continue on this path GOP control of the legislature may be a short lived experiment.

Full results here

Huckabee up in Iowa, Romney otherwise

Mike Huckabee remains the clear GOP frontrunner in Iowa if he decides to run for President again in 2012. If he doesn't run Mitt Romney rises to the top of the polls in the state. And Iowa is one place where Republicans voters are not yet buying into the Donald Trump hype.

27% of Republicans name Huckabee as their first choice compared to 16% for Romney, 14% for Trump, 9% for Newt Gingrich, 8% for Sarah Palin, 6% for Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, and 5% for Tim Pawlenty.

Huckabee's doing pretty well with every segment of the GOP electorate in the state. He edges out Trump 23-20 with voters describing themselves as Tea Partiers and has a wider 28-19 advantage over Romney with Republicans who don't consider themselves part of that movement. He also does pretty well going across the ideological spectrum- he trails Romney 23-21 with those describing themselves as moderates, but has a 27-17 advantage over Romney with voters describing themselves as 'somewhat conservative' that expands to 29-14 with those labeling themselves as 'very conservative.'

Trump doesn't seem to have a lot of appeal to Republicans in the state. He has only a narrowly positive favorability rating with 41% of voters saying they like him to 40% who don't. That 40% unfavorable number is 11 points higher than the next most unpopular of the GOP contenders, Sarah Palin. There is a significant birther presence in Iowa- 48% of Republican voters say they don't think Barack Obama was born in the United States- but Trump isn't even doing all that well with those folks, getting 19% to 25% for Huckabee.

If you take Trump out of the picture Huckabee leads with 30% to 18% for Romney, 12% for Palin and Gingrich, 7% for Pawlenty, and 6% for Bachmann and Paul. That 30/18 spread for Huckabee over Romney is identical to what we found in the state in January, indicating that nothing that's happened over the last three months has had much impact on the state of the race in Iowa beyond the possible Trump candidacy. Four other candidates were included in both the January and April polls- Ron Paul's support is steady at 6% and Newt Gingrich is down a single point from 13% to 12%. If there's a 'winner' in this poll it's Tim Pawlenty who's up to 7% from 4%, suggesting that he's slowly gaining steam and if there's a 'loser' it's Sarah Palin, who's down to 12% from 15%.

If Huckabee ends up sitting this one out Romney will become the favorite in Iowa. In a Huckabee and Trump free field Romney leads with 25% to 15% each for Paul, Palin, and Gingrich, 10% for Bachmann and 9% for Pawlenty. If you take Palin out of the field too Romney stands at 28% to 19% for Gingrich, 16% for Paul, 15% for Bachmann, and 9% for Pawlenty.

There are still signs within the poll of a tough road ahead for Romney even if some of his most prominent potential rivals do bow out though- only 11% of Iowa Republicans say they'd be willing to vote for someone who supported a bill at the state level mandating that people have health insurance compared to 63% who say that would be a disqualifier. It will be interesting to see if Romney's support can hold up once voters in the state get bombarded with communication about his health care record.

Full results here

Friday, April 15, 2011

Georgia Sports Poll

On Fridays at PPP we like to clean out the fridge so here are the numbers about sports in Georgia from the poll we did there a couple weeks ago that we just haven't gotten around to releasing yet:

-Georgia Tech fans aren't really on board with the school's decision to fire Paul Hewitt...and they show pretty much no enthusiasm about new hire Brian Gregory. Only 29% of self described Yellow Jacket fans that we surveyed said they agreed with the decision to let Hewitt go compared to 31% who said they think he should have been retained and 40% who had no opinion. Of course the 40% with no opinion may be evidence it was a good decision to fire Hewitt because it reflects the ambivalence much of the fan base was feeling toward basketball by the end of Hewitt's tenure, as reflected by pretty paltry home crowds this year.

One thing's for sure- there's no buzz about bringing Brian Gregory on board. Only 14% of fans think he was a good hire to 7% who think he was a bad hire and a whooping 79% who are reserving judgment. He has a lot of proving himself to do to get in good with the fan base.

-When Braves fans look back on the work Bobby Cox did during his time with the franchise 86% express approval to only 5% who disapprove. Those are the best poll numbers we've ever found for a sports figure. To put into perspective how good they are, last summer we did approval polls on 18 baseball managers and the one who did best with his fan base was Mike Scioscia of the Angels at 65% approval. Bobby exceeds that number by more than 20%.

Fellow future Hall of Famers Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre were at 60% and 53% respectively with Cardinals and Dodgers fans last summer. Cox also stacks up well to some heroes in other sports- Mike Krzyzewski's approval rating with Duke fans is 77% and Roy Williams' with North Carolina fans is 64%.

-Braves fans are mixed between optimism and reserving judgment when it comes to the hire of Fredi Gonzalez as Cox's replacement. 45% of fans think Gonzalez was a good hire, 7% think he was a bad hire, and 48% haven't formed an opinion yet. This poll was taken the first weekend of the season so it's possible Gonzalez would have worse numbers now after the team's poor start but only your most hardcore of message board/talk radio type fans seem like they would have turned against him already based on two mediocre weeks to start the season.

-Georgia and Georgia Tech fans are both pretty content with their football coaches. Mark Richt has a 59/15 approval rating with fans of the Bulldogs and Paul Johnson is at 53/9 with Yellow Jackets fans. The Richt numbers are particularly interesting- even though the program has been down a little bit the last couple of years his fan base still seems to be pretty content with him.

-And finally Mark Fox, Georgia's basketball coach, is also in good standing with his school's fans at a 48/10 approval spread.

Full results here

Casey has weak approvals but large leads

Is Bob Casey vulnerable for reelection? Our newest Pennsylvania poll provides data you can use to argue it either way. On one hand he has weak approval numbers- only 39% of voters approve of the job he's doing to 35% who disapprove- you can certainly get defeated with those kinds of numbers. On the other hand he leads seven potential opponents for next year that we tested against him by anywhere from 12 to 23 points- you'll pretty much never get defeated with those kinds of numbers.

My sense is that Casey is not terribly vulnerable. Here's the thing about his low approval numbers- Democrats aren't in love with him. Just 55% approve of him and 22% disapprove. Generally you'll see a Senator closer to the 70% or 80% mark within his own party so his lack of approval from the party base is what's keeping Casey's approval number under 40%. But even though they don't necessarily like Casey, Democrats are still perfectly willing to vote for him- he gets 78-80% of the Democratic vote in head to head match ups against the seven Republicans we tested. And his 19% approval number with Republicans, although it may not sound like much, is actually a pretty decent amount of crossover support in this highly polarized political climate.

Casey and Florida's Bill Nelson may be the biggest teases for Republicans this cycle- when you look at the approval numbers it seems like they should be beatable but their topline approvals make them look a lot more vulnerable than they actually are. In each of their cases their disapproval number might be what's most instructive- only 35% of voters disapprove of Casey and only 34% of voters disapprove of Nelson- for an incumbent to be defeated you usually have to have ticked off more people than that.

The Republican who polls best against Casey is Rick Santorum, who trails 49-37. The Santorum/Casey match is probably the most instructive of the ones we tested. Those numbers show that Casey is at least a little bit weaker than he was in 2006, because he beat Santorum by 18 points that time. The political climate is a lot less friendly for Democrats now and Casey probably can't expect to win by that kind of grandiose margin again this time around. But they also show that Casey is a good 10 points stronger than Obama since this same poll found the President leading Santorum by only 2. It's an oversimplification but if Casey is roughly 10 points stronger than Obama Democrats would need to have an utter disaster in the state next year for Casey to lose.

None of the rest of the Republicans we tested has anything higher than 25% name recognition. Because of that lack of familiarity with their potential candidates all of these matches have a lot more undecided GOP voters than Democrats, which means if any of these folks actually became the Republican nominee the race would likely get tighter. Casey is up 16 on state senator Jake Corman at 51-35, 18 on Congressman Jim Gerlach at 50-32, 19 on Tea Party activist Laureen Cummings at 51-32, 20 on Congressman Charlie Dent at 51-31, 21 on state senate Kim Ward at 50-29, and 23 on announced candidate Marc Scaringi at 51-28.

Casey could be vulnerable. But he's nowhere near the top of the list for Democratic Senators the GOP could take out next year, and credible Republicans certainly don't seem to be lining up to run against him.

Full results here

Trump takes the lead

Only 38% of Republican primary voters say they're willing to support a candidate for President next year who firmly rejects the birther theory and those folks want Mitt Romney to be their nominee for President next year. With the other 62% of Republicans- 23% of whom say they are only willing to vote for a birther and 39% of whom are not sure- Donald Trump is cleaning up. And as a result Trump's ridden the controversy about Barack Obama's place of birth to the highest level of support we've found for anyone in our national GOP polling so far in 2011.

Trump's broken the perpetual gridlock we've found at the top of the Republican field, getting 26% to 17% for Mike Huckabee, 15% for Romney, 11% for Newt Gingrich, 8% for Sarah Palin, 5% for Ron Paul, and 4% for Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.

Among that 23% only willing to vote for a birther Trump is cleaning up even more, getting 37% to 13% for Huckabee and Palin, and 10% for Romney and Gingrich. He's a lot weaker with the 38% who say they're perfectly happy to vote for someone who's dismissed the birther theory- with them Romney leads at 23%, with Huckabee at 18%, Trump at 17%, Gingrich at 10%, and Palin at only 7%.

I'm still pretty skeptical that Trump's going to run but if he doesn't someone who taps into the same sort of hard, hard right sentiment he's appealing to right now will get their votes- it's hard to imagine these folks voting for a more centrist candidate like Romney or Pawlenty. And that means there's a very serious contingent within the Republican Party that's less concerned with beating Barack Obama than having a nominee who gets them fired up. That suggests many GOP voters have not learned the lessons of Nevada and Delaware and that Obama may survive despite his weak approval numbers because the Republicans end up defeating themselves.

If you take Trump out of the mix Huckabee leads with 22% to 16% for Romney, 15% for Gingrich, 12% for Palin, 8% for Paul, 6% for Pawlenty and Bachmann, and 3% for Haley Barbour.

If you look at the field with Huckabee, Palin, and Trump all out of the mix you end up with a showdown between Romney and Gingrich. Romney gets 25% to 23% for Gingrich, 13% for Paul, 10% for Pawlenty, 8% for Bachmann, and 4% for Barbour.

Full results here

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Iowa Suggestions

Iowa's the winner of our vote on where to poll this weekend- besides all the Presidential stuff and checking in on approval ratings for the state's major politicians anything else we should be looking at? Good question ideas much appreciated as always.

Voters think members of Congress hould make less

When we put our national poll in the field last week a government shutdown still looked pretty likely so we asked a question about whether people thought members of Congress should continue to receive their salaries in such an event- 90% said they should not to only 5% who thought they should keep getting paid.

It got us thinking though about the broader issue of Congressional compensation, especially with first term GOPers Sean Duffy and Renee Ellmers getting themselves in some hot water with comments to the effect that it's hard to live on a $174,000 salary.

So how much do Americans think members of Congress should be paid? A lot less than they're getting paid now was our finding:

-Only 8% of voters think members of Congress should make more than $150,000 a year.

-By comparison 25% of voters think members of Congress should make less than $50,000 a year, including 4% who think they should be paid nothing.

-A 41% plurality of voters think they should make in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 a year.

-Overall 66% of voters think they should make under $100,000 a year.

-There is not a huge partisan divide. Only 9% of Democrats, 9% of independents, and 8% of Republicans believe they should make more than $150,000 a year while 68% of independents, 67% of Republicans, and 63% of Democrats think it should be below the $100,000 threshold.

Seeing those numbers, if I'm running against Ellmers or Duffy next year I'm sure as heck going to be running ads on their salary comments. And if I'm a challenger trying to make some waves I might make an issue out of seriously reducing Congressional compensation- it's one thing voters of all stripes agree on.

Full results here

Corbett numbers down in the dumps

To the list of states already regretting their new Republican Governor you can add Pennsylvania: Tom Corbett has only a 34% approval rating to 44% of voters disapproving of him and voters say that if they could do it all over again now they'd vote for Democrat Dan Onorato instead, by a 49-44 margin over Corbett.

Pennsylvania joins Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and Georgia as states where PPP has recently found that if voters had a second chance they would now vote against their new GOP chief executive. Part of that is a reminder of just how much of the Republican gains last year were driven by low Democratic turnout- the party's voters were fat and happy after big wins in 2006 and 2008 and just didn't have the sense of urgency they would have needed to keep that momentum going last year. But the other thing it's reflective of is that there has been somewhat of a shift in the political landscape over the last five months, particularly with independent voters.

Exit polls last year showed Corbett defeating Onorato by 18 points with independent voters. Now Corbett has only a 31% approval rating with them to 38% who disapprove and those folks say they'd vote for Onorato by a 45-41 margin in a redo. In addition to independents turning against all of these newly elected Republican Governors, we also found in polling earlier this week that they've turned against the new Republican Congress.

Independents are unhappy, impatient, and expecting immediate results from the folks they voted into office in November and because they don't feel like they're getting that they're quickly getting negative toward the new GOP officials. It seems safe to say that if last year had been a Democratic year they'd probably already be turning against the Democrats too but for Republicans this is proving to be part of the price of success.

In addition to the upside down numbers for Corbett with independents he's suffering because only 60% of Republicans approve of the job he's doing. There are actually more GOP voters- 22%- who disapprove of his work so far than there are Democrats- 16%- who think he's doing a good job.

Voters in the state are pretty ambivalent toward Pat Toomey, which given Corbett and Barack Obama's unpopularity isn't necessarily a bad place to be. Toomey has a 32% approval rating with 31% of voters disapproving and 37% expressing no opinion. He's on narrowly positive ground with independents at 29/25, and benefits because Republicans (51%) are stronger in their approval of him than Democrats (44%) are in their disapproval.

Full results here

Obama leads...but also shows weakness

Barack Obama continues to lead all of his top potential 2012 opponents for reelection...but his advantage over all of those Republicans might not really be quite as big as it looks.

Obama's up 5 points on Mike Huckabee at 48-43, 6 on Mitt Romney at 47-41, 9 on Chris Christie at 48-39, 10 on Rand Paul at 48-38, 14 on Newt Gingrich at 52-38, and 18 on Sarah Palin at 54-36.

Here's the catch though: in every one of those match ups the vast majority of undecided voters disapprove of Obama...they just either don't yet know or not yet completely sold on the potential Republican candidates so they go into the undecided column. Chances are when push comes to shove those folks are going to vote against Obama if they don't think he's doing a good job. So we also calculated the numbers allocating the undecideds based on their approval or disapproval of Obama- when you do that Obama only leads Romney and Huckabee 51-49, is just up 52-48 on Paul and Christie, has a 54-46 advantage over Gingrich, and still wallops Palin if only by a 56-44 margin.

This is just one poll but my guess is that with the vast majority of 2012 horse race polls you're seeing right now this phenomenon of most of the undecideds being Obama disapprovers is in place and that means the leads he's posting in these surveys are perhaps not quite as comfortable as they might appear at first glance.

Obama has narrowly negative approval ratings with 47% of voters giving him good marks to 48% who think he's doing a bad job. His saving grace continues to be the Republican candidate field, the universal unpopularity of which allows Obama to lead in head to heads despite his own weak numbers. Interestingly Christie has the best net favorability of the folks we tested this month at -2 (28/30). He's followed by Huckabee at -6 (36/42), Romney at -11 (32/43), Paul at -19 (26/45), Gingrich at -27 (28/55), and Palin at -30 (31/61). Right now Republicans aren't fully capitalizing on Obama's unpopularity because all of their own candidates are so unappealing but if that changes things will be looking even dicier for Obama.

Obama is definitely weaker right now than he was in 2008- his leads over Huckabee and Romney here are smaller than this margin of victory over John McCain even before you allocate the undecideds. The big question just continues to be whether the GOP will nominate someone who can take advantage of Obama's vulnerability or if they'll nominate someone so extreme that voters with reservations about Obama end up voting for him anyway as the lesser of two evils.

Full results here

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Time for voting again...

North Carolina's on deck for one of our polls this coming weekend and the other is your choice between:

-Arizona. I still feel a little iffy about including Gabrielle Giffords in a poll but there's not much point in doing one on the Arizona Senate race without her so if that's what folks vote for then that's what we'll do.

-Iowa. It's been over three months now since we polled Republican voters in Iowa so we're about due to do another comprehensive poll there akin to the one we did in New Hampshire last week.

-New Mexico. Haven't polled it since it became an open seat, my sense is that this race is much less of a toss up than people are giving it credit for (we found Martin Heinrich up 50-39 on Heather Wilson the first weekend of February) but maybe it's tightened since Jeff Bingaman's retirement.

-Nevada. Another one that we haven't polled since the incumbent announced his retirement, and of course it's also likely to be an important state once again in the Presidential race.

Voting's open until about 4 PM Wednesday and then we'll open up a thread for suggestions on what to poll in the winning state, as well as what to ask about in North Carolina. And if you have North Carolina ideas already feel free to go ahead and post them here.

Gingrich weak in Georgia GOP poll

We've had a lot of bad poll news for Newt Gingrich over the last couple months but this might be the worst: he's not even the top choice of Republicans in Georgia to be their nominee for President next year.

23% of GOP primary voters in the state say Mike Huckabee is their preference to be the party standard bearer next year to 22% for Gingrich, 16% for Herman Cain, 10% for Sarah Palin, 8% for Mitt Romney, 4% for Michele Bachmann, and 3% for Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty.

If Gingrich isn't even the first choice of GOP voters in his own home state you have to wonder where exactly his support in this campaign will come from. Georgia Republicans simply don't like Gingrich nearly as much as they like Huckabee. The former Arkansas Governor's favorability is a +61 spread at 75/14, putting him 22 points ahead of the +39 spread Gingrich enjoys at 62/23. They're followed by Palin at +27 (58/31), Cain at +21 (44/23), and Romney at +18 (50/32).

Cain's 16% standing is pretty impressive for several reasons. His third place finish comes despite having 15% less name recognition than the rest of the quartet. And even though he's competing with a second home state candidate he still does better in Georgia than Sarah Palin does in Alaska (15%), Gary Johnson does in New Mexico (13%), or Rick Santorum does in Pennsylvania (11%). The fact that Cain is the first choice of so many of the people who are familiar with him bodes well for his prospects if he can muster the resources to run a serious campaign.

If you take Cain out of the mix in Georgia Gingrich does lead the way with 31% to 24% for Huckabee, 10% for Palin, 8% for Romney, 5% for Bachmann, 4% for Paul and Pawlenty, and 3% for Haley Barbour.

Full results here

Obama in dicey shape in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's looking like it could be a very tough state for Barack Obama in 2012. His approval rating there is only 42% with 52% of voters disapproving of him, and he's within the margin of error in the state against 3 potential Republican opponents, a far cry from his double digit victory there in 2008.

Obama has two major problems in the state: independents and white Democrats. A majority of independents disapprove of him- 54% give him bad marks to 39% who think he's doing a good job. More concerning is that his approval rating with Democrats is only 68%, well below the 81% we find for him nationally. He's doing fine with black Democrats- an 86% approval rating- but with white Democrats he's at only a 64/27 spread.

Those numbers suggest that a lot of the voters who fueled Hillary Clinton's primary victory in the state and then sucked it up and voted for Obama in the general election the last time around haven't been real thrilled with what they've seen from him so far and could split their tickets next year- if the Republicans put up someone who's seen as a reasonable alternative.

Obama is basically tied in the state with Mitt Romney, who he trails 43-42, Mike Huckabee, who he leads 45-44, and Rick Santorum, who he leads 45-43. What has to be concerning for Obama beyond those topline numbers is that the Republicans poll competitively with him despite the fact that they themselves are not well liked. Huckabee's net favorability is a -6 spread at 37/43, and Romney and Santorum are both at -10 spreads at 31/41 and 37/47 respectively. The fact that they tie Obama without being all that appealing makes you wonder how much trouble the President will be in here if the party's nomination process actually does result in a strong candidate.

Of course the Republicans could bail Obama out- if either Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin ended up as their party nominee. If their GOP peers are slightly unpopular Gingrich and Palin are positively reviled by voters in the state- Gingrich's favorability is 25/54 and he trails Obama 47-39 while Palin's favorability is 33/61 and she trails Obama 50-39. Obama's looking at a landslide in Pennsylvania and everywhere else for that matter if one of those folks were to somehow snag the nomination.

Obama's position in Pennsylvania is undeniably precarious- whether the GOP will be able to take advantage or not remains to be seen.

Full results here

Bad news for Congressional Republicans

PPP's newest national poll finds that after a little more than 3 months in charge House Republicans have fallen so far out of favor with the American public that it's entirely possible Democrats could take control of the House back next year.

43% of voters think that House Republicans are doing a worse job now than the Democrats did, compared to only 36% who think the GOP has brought an improvement. 19% think things are about the same. 62% of voters thinking that the Republicans have either made things worse or brought no improvement to an already unpopular Congress does not bode particularly well for the party.

46% of voters say that if there was an election for Congress today they would vote Democratic, compared to only 41% who would vote Republican. That five point advantage for Democrats is only a hair below the margin Republicans won by in the national popular vote last year. A victory of that magnitude for the Democrats next year would at the very least result in the party taking back a large number of the seats it lost last year, and it could be enough to take back the outright majority- hard to say at this point without knowing how good a number the GOP can do in redistricting.

The key to this strong movement back toward the Democrats right now is the same as the key to the strong movement away from the Democrats last year- fickle independents quickly growing unhappy with the party in power. Exit polls showed independents supporting the GOP by a 19 point margin last year at 56-37. Now only 30% of those voters think that the Republican controlled House is moving things in the right direction, compared to 44% who think things were better with the Democrats. Given those numbers it's not much of a surprise that independents now say they'd vote Democratic for the House by a 42-33 margin if these was an election today, representing a 28 point reversal in a span of just five months.

These poll numbers also point to the reality that Republicans taking control of the House may have been one of the best things that could possibly have happened for Obama's reelection prospects. Although we found the President with slightly negative approval numbers on this poll, when asked whether they had more faith in Obama or Congressional Republicans to lead the country in the right direction 48% of voters picked Obama to only 42% who went with Congressional Republicans. Voters may not love Obama as once they did but they're finding him to be more reasonable than the alternative and that means it will be hard for the GOP to knock him off next year without a top notch nominee.

One thing is very much for certain- it's not 2010 anymore.

Full results here

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mississippi Miscellaneous

-He's been out of office for several years now but Trent Lott might still be the most beloved political figure in Mississippi. 54% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of him, compared to just 26% with an unfavorable one. His popularity cuts across party lines. Republicans overwhelmingly see him in a positive light (a 74/16 favorability spread) and he's also on positive ground with independents (44/35) and even Democrats (38/32).

The most interesting thing in Lott's numbers might be that 32% of African Americans rate him favorably to only 30% who express dislike for him. That suggests that Mississippi blacks have either forgiven Lott for his comments on Strom Thurmond in 2002 that ended up casting him out of Senate leadership, or that they just weren't all that concerned about the comments in the first place.

-Mississippi Democrats start out with the advantage to keep the one major statewide office they still hold. Attorney General Jim Hood leads Republican challenger Steve Simpson 49-32. Hood is doing a good job of keeping the Democratic base in line, leading 74-12 within his own party, and is picking up an impressive 27% of Republicans while also leading 43-34 with independents. Still, given the recent political winds in Mississippi it seems unlikely this race will do anything but tighten and we'll see if Hood can hold on or not.

-Thad Cochran is one of the more popular Senators in the country with a 52/25 approval rating. Republican support for him is pretty universal at a 67/16 spread and he does well with Democrats (41/28) and independents (46/37). With Cochran, Roger Wicker, and Haley Barbour all over 50% approval Mississippi is more content with its politicians than just about any state in the country.

Full results here

New Hampshire Hodge Podge

-There's been very little polling so far this cycle on individual members of Congress but what we found in New Hampshire hints at the shakiness of the new Republican majority in the US House. Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta have both fallen quickly out of favor with their constituents- Guinta's favorability is 34/41 and Bass' is 31/49 in their respective districts.

Guinta and Bass won less on their own merits than because a) voters were unhappy with Democrats and b) because Democratic leaning voters stayed home in large numbers. Voters are now finding that they don't like the Republicans in the House any better than they liked the Democrats- a 30/56 approval spread for Congressional Republicans on our last national poll. And Democrats are waking up and likely to be back at the polls next year after taking last year off because they're seeing that there are real consequences to their slumber last year.

The New Hampshire House seats could both very well go back in the Democratic direction next year and you wonder how many other first term members of Congress are facing similar numbers right now as the independents who fueled their election turn quickly against them.

-Kelly Ayotte is off to a better start than her freshman counterparts in the House. 46% of voters approve of the job she's doing to 34% who disapprove. That also makes her the most popular out of the six new GOP Senators we've polled on- she does better than colleagues Roy Blunt, Marco Rubio, Rob Portman, Pat Toomey, and Ron Johnson. She has the third best approval numbers out of all first term Senators we've polled on- Democrats Joe Manchin and Richard Blumenthal lead the way. Ayotte's doing well because independents like her (41/29) and Republicans are more unified in liking her (75%) than Democrats are in disliking her (57%).

-Ayotte's not quite as popular as her senior colleague Jeanne Shaheen though. Shaheen has a 50% approval rating with 36% of voters disapproving of her. Those numbers are much better than what we found for Shaheen at any stage last year- that's likely more a reflection of it simply not being 2010 anymore than anything Shaheen might be doing differently right now.

-Democrats may quickly overturn a lot of their 2010 losses in the state legislature next year. On a generic ballot question 49% of voters say they'd vote Democratic today to 41% who say they'd go for the Republicans. This is another place where independents turning back away from the GOP tells the story- they're leaning Democratic for the legislature by a 46/34 margin.

Full results here

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The argument against interracial marriage

When we asked about the interracial marriage issue in Mississippi we got an e-mail from a poll respondent explaining her answer that it should be 'illegal:'
I believe God made us a different color for a reason and should be honored by not marrying outside of the race that God picked for me, however the color of one's skin does not make him/her better than another color.
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