January 14, 2007 - January 20, 2007


Cell Phone Update

Topics: Cell Phones

Yesterday, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released its latest estimates of the number of Americans living in households without landline telephones, as well as a statistic closely watched by pollsters: During the first six months of 2006, "approximately 10.5 percent of households do not have a traditional landline telephone, but do have at least one wireless telephone."

Pollsters have been watching the growth in "cell phone only" households because cell phones are largely out of reach of the traditional random digit dial sampling methods used in most conventional telephone surveys. As such, the continuing upward tend in such households illustrated by the NCHS surveys (which involve massive monthly in-person samples of Americans), should be of great interest to anyone who follows public opinion polling.


Although I have written about these issues previously (here, here, here and here), the best analysis of how this trend has affected the accuracy of public polling has been done by the Pew Research Center. Last year, in partnership with the Associated Press and America Online, they conducted parallel surveys: One using conventional telephone sampling and another that interviewed a random sample of 750 mobile phone users over their mobile phones. The study produced a report by the Pew Research Center (available in either HTML or PDF format) reached the following conclusions:

[Cell only Americans] are younger, less affluent, less likely to be married or to own their home, and more liberal on many political questions.

Yet despite these differences, the absence of this group from traditional telephone surveys has only a minimal impact on the results. Specifically, the study shows that including cell-only respondents with those interviewed from a standard landline sample, and weighting the resulting combined sample to the full U.S. public demographically, changes the overall results of the poll by no more than one percentage point on any of nine key political questions included in the study.

Of course, given the trend reported by NCHS, the cell-phone only adult population appears to be a moving target. It has more than doubled in the last two years, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. How big a problem will cell-phone only households be in 2008? Will their absence from traditional phone surveys begin to impact results? Will pollsters begin to routinely incorporate more expensive cell phone samples into their surveys? Time will tell.

New Statewide Polls from ARG

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

New statewide surveys from American Research Group test contests for the Democratic and Republican presidential nomination in Michigan, Missouri, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Mexico, California, and North Carolina.

Republican Democrat
Michigan Michigan
Missouri Missouri
Florida Florida
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania
Illinois Illinois
New Mexico New Mexico
California California
North Carolina North Carolina

New Statewide Polls from SurveyUSA

Today SurveyUSA released statewide approval ratings for 16 Governors:

From the same surveys, SurveyUSA also recently released results of head-to-head general election match-ups pitting Democrat Sen. Barack Obama against Republicans Sen. John McCain, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Gov. Mitt Romney.

McCain Giuliani Romney
Obama Alabama Alabama Alabama
Obama California California California
Obama Iowa Iowa Iowa
Obama Kansas Kansas Kansas
Obama Kentucky Kentucky Kentucky
Obama Massachusetts Massachusetts Massachusetts
Obama Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota
Obama Missouri Missouri Missouri
Obama New Mexico New Mexico New Mexico
Obama New York New York New York
Obama Ohio Ohio Ohio
Obama Oregon Oregon Oregon
Obama Texas Texas Texas
Obama Virginia Virginia Virginia
Obama Washington Washington Washington
Obama Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin

Daily Roundup 1.19.07

  • A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll finds 52% of Americans think "sending about 22,000 additional U.S. troops" will "make no difference" in "stabilizing the situation in Iraq." On a separate question, 61% consider the recent plan to send additional troops to be Bush's "last chance for victory in Iraq" (story, results).

  • A new Diageo/Hotline survey shows 35% of Americans approve of Bush's job as president, while 29% approve of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq.

  • Gallup Poll offers historical analysis of Presidential job approval yearly averages. From January 20th, 2006 to January 19th, 2007 Bush's job approval average was 37.3%, the forth-lowest average since 1945.

The Dynamics of Reaction to Bush's Surge Speech

Topics: George Bush


Shifts in opinion on Iraq immediately following President Bush's speech last week were not as uniformly negative as some reporting implied. However, the response turned more negative as time passed following the speech. The immediate aftermath of the speech found generally small shifts, yet more of these moved towards the administration's positions than against them. In contrast, by the weekend and later polls found most opinion moving against the administration. This difference reflects the role of congressional reaction and media coverage of that reaction in shaping response over time, in contrast to the immediate response to the speech itself.

There are now five polls conducted entirely after President Bush's speech on Iraq last week. (CBS News did a "call back" with previously interviewed respondents the night of the speech. I'm leaving that out because it isn't a fresh sample and not all original respondents could be reached that night.) ABC/Washington Post did a post-speech survey on January 10. CNN/Opinion Research Corporation (CNN/ORC) conducted a poll on 1/11. The Pew Research Center conducted interviews 1/10-15. USAToday/Gallup polled 1/12-14. LATimes/Bloomberg interviewed 1/13-16.

While partially overlapping, these polls are ordered in time and let us look at how reaction to the speech has developed over time. The Pew survey had the longest field period and completely overlaps the USAToday/Gallup poll. Pew has two days of interviews before Gallup began and one day after Gallup. I'm assuming this means the average Pew respondent was interviewed earlier than the average Gallup respondent. Polls often (but not always) complete most of their interviews early in the interviewing period, which would push the average Pew date earlier as well, but I don't know if that was true of this specific Pew poll. If this assumption is false, then my story below is not quite so neat so bear this caveat in mind.

There are a large number of questions that have been asked about Iraq in these polls. Each reflects support or opposition to some aspect of the administration's policies, approval or disapproval of the President's handling of Iraq, and optimism or pessimism about the prospects for success in Iraq. Usually we focus on a single question such as support or opposition for the troop increase. But we can also get a sense of how the wider range of opinion is shifting by looking at a number of questions simultaneously. Here I take the latter approach. The data I use are all questions in any of the five surveys for which there is a "before" and "after" reading of opinion. Most of the "before" readings are from January or December, though a few come from earlier. The specific questions are listed at the bottom of this post.

The figure above shows how opinion shifted from before to after the speech for all these items. The arrows begin at the "before" and point to the "after" poll result. In this figure I don't try to label the specific questions (I do that below.) Here the idea is to look at the overall direction of movement.

The horizontal axis plots negative opinions about the war or the administration, while the vertical axis plots positive views. The closer to the diagonal line a poll is the more people expressed a positive or negative opinion, while the closer to the lower left corner the more people said they didn't have an opinion or adopted a neutral position (such as the increase in troops won't affect the outcome either way.)

Arrows that point toward the upper left corner indicate movement that favors the administration's positions, moves toward a more positive view of the president (or a negative view towards the Democrats) or expresses increased optimism (or reduced pessimism) toward the war or its likely outcome. So arrows pointing "northwest" (or due west) are good for the administration. Arrows pointing the opposite direction, southeast or due south, are the opposite: bad news for the administration. The longer the arrow, the bigger the change. Arrows pointing northeast or southwest are mixed messages with both support and opposition increasing (northeast) or decreasing (southwest). Only a few of these appear in the data.

The arrows are color coded by poll and therefore by time as well. The legend gives the order of polling as well as pollster.

There is a danger here of confounding the effects of time after the speech with "house effects" that reflect persistent differences between polling organizations. I've mitigated that confound here by measuring change within polling organization, from that pollster's "before" to the same pollster's "after" reading. If one organization typically produces higher approval ratings than does another pollster that difference would show up in where the arrows start but the direction and extent of change would be measured from that pollster's baseline, subtracting out the house effect. This isn't foolproof and it is conceivable that house effects also affect change measures, but this approach should mitigate house effects by relying on “apples to apples” comparisons.

Most arrows begin and end in the lower right portion of the figure, reflecting the generally negative balance of opinion on the war. It is this fact that has received the most attention in reports on the post-speech polling. Minorities support the troop increase, approve of Bush's handling of the war, and are optimistic about the outcome of the war. As a result the headlines tended to stress the net negative evaluation while paying less attention to the direction of change following the speech. This leaves the impression that the speech failed to increase support for the administration. If we focus on the arrows, we see a more interesting pattern of change.

Over half of the arrows (20 of 37) point to the northwest or west, indicating increased support for the administration. So the change in opinion was by no means a net negative when viewed across all items and polls. But the shifts are not random. As time goes by, the shifts of opinion become more negative toward the administration's positions. We can see this more clearly by looking at each poll in turn, avoiding the clutter of overlapping arrows above.


The red arrows from ABC/Washington post reflect the most immediate reaction, prior to the influence of media coverage or the impact of congressional reactions. Four of five items in the ABC/WP poll moved in a positive direction. Trusting Bush more than Democrats (+4), approval of Bush's handling of Iraq (+6), and thinking the war has been worth the cost (+4) all moved modestly in the President's direction in this "instant" reading of reaction. To be sure these changes are not huge, but they demonstrate some positive response to the speech. The item that moved more negatively was the belief that we are winning the war (-5). And belief that Iraq is like Vietnam barely changed. To be sure only 36% said they supported the increase in troops in the ABC/WP poll, while 61% opposed. But here we don't have a prior benchmark to know if this was an improvement or not. Certainly given that prior to the speech only 28% in ABC/WP polling approved of Bush's handling of the war, one might conclude that 36% support for the surge was in fact a better than expected showing


The CNN/ORC poll taken the next day found 6 of 9 shifts pointing northwest or west. Those saying Bush has a clear plan on the war increased 10 points in the President's favor. Bush's handling of the war (+1), saying US defeat was not possible (+5), trust that the Iraq government could handle the situation (+1), and trust that the US government can handle the Iraq situation (+8) (though note that this is the US government so this could include increased optimism about a Democratic Congress rather than support for the administration.) And while belief that victory would be the outcome did not increase, those thinking defeat would be the outcome declined (-2). One item failed to change at all, support or opposition to the war overall. And two items moved slightly away from the President's positions: believing that victory is possible (-1) and Bush's overall job approval (-1).


Pew found 6 of 8 items shifting in the President's direction. Saying the US needs more troops (+8), Bush has a clear plan (+3), the US effort is going well (+3), we should keep troops in Iraq until the situation stabilizes (+2), that the Democrats LACK a clear plan for Iraq (+3) and the we should NOT immediately withdraw (+2).

Only on the question if whether the war was a mistake did opinion move away from the administration (-2). Those favoring a timetable for withdrawal moved ambiguously with both positions increasing slightly.

So the initial polling was quite consistent in finding small movements in favor of the administration's positions. Only a few of these shifts were outside the margin of error, but the clear preponderance of movement (16 of 22 items) was towards the President's views.

If you scroll back over the figures, you'll note that all of the polls agree on the low level of support for President Bush's surge proposal. The triangular point in each figure locates this amidst the changes. The support for the surge readings are 36%, 32%, 31%, 38% and 36%. These low levels of support provided the basis for headlines that stressed the negative reaction to the President's speech, but overlooked the direction of change in opinion in these initial polls.


As reaction accumulated, the direction of opinion shift turned substantially to the southeast. The blue arrows from USAT/Gallup's weekend poll tell quite a different story from the initial polls. Only 3 of 9 USAT/Gallup items point northwest. Six of the nine arrows point to the southeast, opinions shifting against the administration. Gallup found movement in the President's direction for having a clear plan (+4), Bush job on Iraq (+2) and the Democrats LACKING a clear plan (+9). But for six other items opinion shifted away from the administration: those thinking we will win in Iraq (-3), can achieve our goals (-3), should not withdraw (-1), Bush's overall job (-3), and war has been worth the cost (-2). Those thinking the war was a mistake increased by 1 point though those saying it was not a mistake held steady.


Finally, in the latest poll by the LA Times/Bloomberg only 1 of 6 shifts of opinion favors the president's position, while four move away and one moves ambiguously. The one positive movement is on trusting Bush or the Democrats more on the war. Trust of the Democrats more decreased by 2 points while trust in Bush was unchanged. In contrast the negative movements occurred on items for evaluation of Bush's overall job (-3), war worth the cost (-6), Bush's Iraq job (-2) and believing Iraq is not in a civil war (-5). Belief that we are winning the war moved ambiguously with one point more believing we are winning and one point more saying we are losing (while most people said neither side is winning.)

These changes in response direction are most likely the result of Congressional reaction, including the several Republican Senators who were quite negative towards the troop increase and the related media coverage of the issue. These reactions provided an important element of news reporting that balanced the President's speech with not only predictably negative Democratic reaction but that also stressed the negative reactions of conservative Republicans such as Chuck Hagel and Sam Brownback.

The low support for the troop increase in the polls also played a roll in the developing opinion. By focusing on the low level of support for the surge, news stories about polls emphasized a negative reaction. But they might just as well have focused on items that moved in Bush's direction. These items mostly remained in net-negative territory, so that is also part of the story, but the direction of change should count for something as well in assessing reaction to the speech and the surge proposal.

I do not mean to suggest here that the net opposition to the increase is not part of the story. Far from it. But if our purpose is to assess the impact of the speech, then incremental change is what is most important. Surely no one would imagine that a speech could completely reverse the current views of the war. But if the administration is to improve its standing with the public, it must do so in small, positive, changes. The evidence is that the speech succeeded in accomplishing that modest goal. Where the policy has so far failed is in also mobilizing support from members of Congress. The secondary reaction to the surge policy has overcome the initial movement towards the administration. For my part, the dynamic of opinion shift over the past week is a textbook example of how opinion change depends on both the event itself (the speech) and the subsequent reaction and interpretation.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

Daily Roundup 1.18.07

  • A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll shows "the public opposes Bush's decision to dispatch 21,500 additional troops by a margin of 60 percent to 36 percent." Additionally, 43% of independents are "less likely" to support Sen. John McCain for president knowing he supports Bush's decision (story, results).

  • Zogby International released telephone survey results for Democratic and Republican contests in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

  • A new Gallup Poll national survey finds Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination (29% to 18%), and former mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain for the Republican nomination (31% to 27%). The same survey also finds 60% of Republicans have no opinion of former Gov. Mitt Romney.

  • A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey finds "56% of American voters favor reducing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq--exactly the same percentage who held that view before the President's speech."

  • Additional analysis from last week's Rasmussen Reports national automated survey (of 454 Republicans) finds former Mayor Rudy Giuliani running 8 points ahead of Sen. John McCain (28% to 20%) for the Republican nomination (note the survey of 454 Republicans has a reported margin of error of +/- 5).

Sometimes Even A Blind Squirrel...

As a blogger, I sometimes get less than complimentary email. Based on one such charming message received late last week, I present, with apologies to Hotline Last Call...

A shot...

Subject: Your "poll" is a joke

Who are you polling? The bush family. If you are, you aren't asking George W because that idiot would not have a clue how to respond.

Maybe you are polling retarded people like yourself, or those in mental institutions, like your inbred family, who can't respond on their own.

-- Charming email from a "reader," January 12, 2007

And a chaser...

If you were to take it and put me in an opinion poll and said do I approve of Iraq, I'd be one of those that said, no, I don't approve of what's taking place in Iraq

-- President George W. Bush, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, January 16, 2007

PS: Having just seen a sneak peek, I can tell you that Professor Franklin has a great (and far more serious) post coming later today on the impact of the President's "surge" speech on public opinion on Iraq. Stay tuned.

The Speaker and the Votes that Elected Her

Topics: 2006 , The 2006 Race

Today I have two possibly overlooked items to report, both related to the new Democratic House and both discovered via MyDD:

  • First, the latest CNN/ORC poll released last week included a job rating of new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. As MyDD's Jonathan Singer notes, Pelosi's initial rating (51% approve, 22%) not only tops the current job rating of President George Bush, but it also exceeds the high mark for Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich (39% approve, 35% disapprove). He hit that mark on an identically worded question asked on a Gallup poll conducted in January 1995, just after the Republicans took control of the House.

On a differently worded question, Pelosi received a 44% favorable rating from the USA Today Gallup Poll earlier this month, which is 13 points higher than all-time-high for her predecessor, former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert.

  • And speaking of the House of Representatives, MyDD diarist Adam T has gathered and tabulated all of the official and final vote count totals for all of the races for the U.S. House in 2006. In the 430 districts where votes were cast, Democratic candidates received 52.8% of the vote, Republicans received 44.9% and other candidates received 2.3%. As Adam notes, the totals do not include five districts in Florida where Democratic candidates faced no opposition - Florida does not put unopposed candidates on the ballot.

The 7.9 point margin favoring the Democrats is about a point higher than the margin I estimated in a two-part series of posts I did in November that looked at the performance of national surveys in estimating the national "generic" House vote.

Daily Roundup 1.17.07

  • A new survey from The Pew Research Center shows 61% of Americans oppose "Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq," while 43% think Congress should "block Bush's plan by withhold funding for the additional forces" (analysis, results).

  • The latest Rasmussen Reports automated survey finds most Americans (66%) believe "embryonic stem cell research" is likely to cure previously incurable diseases.

  • A Rasmussen Reports automated survey (conducted last week) finds Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a "virtual tie" (22% to 21% respectively) among a national sample of 401 Democratic primary voters.

  • A new Strategic Vision (R) survey among "800 likely voters in Georgia" shows former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) leading in their respective party's Georgia primary, with both at 27%.

  • In an interview with Jim Lehrer, President Bush stated "If you were to take it and put me in an opinion poll and said do I approve of Iraq, I'd be one of those that said, no, I don't approve of what's taking place in Iraq" (via The Hotline)

A Non-Denial Denial

Last Friday, after I asked about the sponsorship of a poll described in a column by Democratic pollster Doug Schoen that appeared on Real Clear Politics, Schoen responded with a strange non-denial denial. For all the bluster, the bottom line is that all of the survey data supporting Schoen's central thesis - that Americans are poised to "become very skeptical of the idea" of allowing the government to negotiate for lower Medicare drug prices -- comes from surveys sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry.

Again, the background: Schoen's column presented results from two polls conducted by his firm, Penn Schoen and Berland, in partnership with Republican pollsters, The Tarrance Group, but did not disclose who sponsored the polls. By mid-day, a spokesman for Quorvis Communications, a public relations firm that had presented some of the findings, responded to my query with confirmation that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) had "paid for the survey"

I thought that resolved the question. Then late Friday, the RealClearPolitics blog posted the following response from Schoen's firm, Penn Schoen and Berland:

The article that Doug wrote was based on 6 months of work that included some studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry and his comprehensive review of other publicly available data from Pew, Kaiser, Harris Interactive, and Dutko and other.

The attached documents speak to those studies which found similar results and led them to reach similar conclusions.

Doug wants to make clear that this article wholly represents his point of view and that he was told by no one what to say.

Again, the issue I raised is not complicated. It's all about disclosure. Go back and look at Schoen's column. It presents data from fifteen survey questions. All of the data appear to come from two Penn Schoen Berland surveys paid for by PhRMA. I can find no data from other sources cited in that column (nor in the memo or presentation linked to from it). Nowhere in any of these materials does anyone disclose that the pharmaceutical industry paid for the surveys. And that's the issue.

Schoen's post does include specific and detailed disclosure of the methodology of the two surveys, including the survey dates, sample size, margin of error and population of interest. Had they simply included a single sentence stating that the surveys had been sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the issue of disclosure would have been be moot. I probably would have written about something else last Friday.

Instead, Schoen now wants us to know that his article was also "based on" other survey results. That's interesting, perhaps, but irrelevant. Yes, the Penn Schoen Berland presentation linked to from Friday's response (but not the original column) does include data (slides #7 & #42) from studies by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harris Interactive showing positive public reaction to the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit and overwhelming support for allowing the government to negotiate for lower drug prices. However, Schoen included none of this data in his column, and none of the data in those surveys supports Schoen's assertion that voters will "become very skeptical of the idea" of negotiating the cost of prescription drugs once they understand its "possible implications."

His argument gets some support from the survey conducted by Dutko and Associates that he cites in his response to RealClearPolitics but not his initial column. That survey initially found 75% support for allowing "the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to get lower Medicare prescription drug prices." Then they followed up with this question:

What if you knew that this proposal would mean you would only be able to choose from a limited list of government-approved prescription drugs. Knowing this, would you favor or oppose the plan?
30% Support
65% Oppose

But who paid for the Dutko survey? The Dutko release Schoen provided to RealClearPolitics is little help, but you will find the pertinent information at the end of a an op-ed piece in the Washington Times by Dutko's Gary Andres that cited the results

Gary Andres is vice chairman of Research and Policy for Dutko Worldwide. The firm's clients include pharmaceutical and managed care companies.

Thus, all of the survey evidence Schoen points to demonstrating that Americans "become very skeptical of the idea" of allowing the government to negotiate for lower Medicare drug prices comes from pollsters working for the Pharmaceutical industry.

And setting aside the disclosure issue for a moment, the substantive problem with the "if you know" questions asked by Schoen and Dutko is the completely one-sided and misleading nature of the information they present. Yes, opponents of the drug price negotiation policy are certainly arguing that the measure will restrict choice, but that is just one side of the story. A more balanced question might also include counter-arguments by those who support the bill:

  • The provision could save Medicare beneficiaries billions of dollars in premiums. The Department of Veterans Affairs already negotiates directly for lower drug prices, saving as much as 40% on the cost of prescription drugs.
  • Each private insurance company that currently provides the government funded Medicare prescription benefit already restricts access to a limited list of approved drugs, called a formulary (as noted by commenter debcoop).
  • The drug price negotiation provision passed by the House explicitly forbids the government from creating new "formularies" that would further restrict access to prescription drugs.

I have no quarrel with special interests on any side of the political spectrum conducting private research to inform their political strategy or releasing results selectively to make their case to opinion leaders. All sides do it. But, in this case, given that PhRMA's pollster is not willing to acknowledge with a simple declarative sentence that pharmaceutical interests paid him for the two polls and "six months of work" that produced his column, the rest of us have good reason to be unusually skeptical of the arguments therein.

Daily Roundup 1.16.07

  • A new USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted over the weekend finds "Americans continue to oppose, by a 59% to 38% margin, President Bush's plan to increase troops in Iraq." Additional findings include Presidential job approvals and support for the Congressional Democrats' nonbinding resolution (USA Today story, results, Gallup analysis).

  • A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey shows a plurality of Americans (19%) think Sen. John McCain is the most likely of the prospective candidates to be elected the next President. The same survey also shows 94% of Americans think it is very or somewhat likely that U.S. Troops will be in Iraq when the next President is sworn into office.

  • The latest Quinnipiac University survey finds 75% of New York City voters approve of the job Mayor Michael Bloomberg is doing, "matching his highest approval rating ever."

Bush Approval: Gallup 34%, Trend 34%

Topics: George Bush


Approval of President Bush is at 34% in the latest Gallup/USAToday poll, completed 1/12-14/07. Disapproval stands at 63%. The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll completed 1/11/07, just after the President's speech, found 35% approval and 62% disapproval. An AP/Ipsos poll completed just BEFORE the speech placed approval at 32% and disapproval at 65%. (ABC and CBS did post-speech polls. CBS' was a call back to previously interviewed respondents, not a new sample, and ABC's new sample did not include overall approval of Bush's handling of his job.) See my poll comparison plots here for the trends in each poll.

With these new polls, the approval trend stands at 34.0% (33.98% if you don't believe in rounding.) The trend remains vulnerable to a relatively small number of new polls in January. The trend has bounced from 33.5% to 34.9% to the current 34.0%. A couple more readings would be welcome, but saying approval is 34% +/-1% would be a pretty confident estimate.

The impact of the troop surge speech has appeared modest in the four post-speech polls we've seen so far. Most of these have found a point or two upturn in Iraq specific support, but flat or declines in some other measures. Certainly no large effects (either way) have been consistently found. I'll have more to say about that a bit later.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.