March 18, 2007 - March 24, 2007


Pew Report: Core Values and Attittudes

Topics: 2008 , Party Weighing , The 2008 Race

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released another one of their massive must-read reports. This one summarizes 20 years on "Political Values and Core Attitudes" (summary, full report), as updated with a survey conducted in late December and early January. While the report covers a lot of territory, the authors see in their various measures an improved "political landscape for Democrats" stemming from "increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies."


Regular readers of this blog will appreciate their summary of recent trends in party identification:

Even more striking than the changes in some core political and social values is the dramatic shift in party identification that has occurred during the past five years. In 2002, the country was equally divided along partisan lines: 43% identified with the Republican Party or leaned to the GOP, while an identical proportion said they were Democrats. Today, half of the public (50%) either identifies as a Democrat or says they lean to the Democratic Party, compared with 35% who align with the GOP.

The report also rolls together more than two years worth of Pew surveys to provide a helpful state-by-state analysis of the ideology of Democrats and Republicans in the various primary states. Their summary provides a hint of the differences found (full profiles are found on pp. 10-11):

[P]olitically conservative, white evangelical Christians make up 10% of all Republicans and Republican leaners in New Hampshire - currently the first state to hold its presidential primaries in 2008 - but 39% of all GOP partisans in South Carolina where primary voters go to the polls several days later. On the Democratic side, the proportion of Democrats who say they are politically liberal ranges from 38% in California to 25% in South Carolina.

The full report has much, much more, and is well worth the click.

POLL: ARG Four Primary Surveys

Four new American Research Group statewide surveys of likely caucus/primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, Arkansas, and Texas (conducted 3/19 through 3/22) finds:

  • Among 600 likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa, Sen. Hillary Clinton receives 34%, former Sen. John Edwards 33%, and Sen. Barack Obama 16%.
  • Among 600 likely Republican caucus-goes in Iowa, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani ties Sen. John McCain at 29%. Former Sen. Fred Thompson and former Gov. Mitt Romney trail at 12% and 10% respectively.
  • Among 600 likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, McCain runs at 23%, Giuliani at 19%, Romney at 17%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 11%, and Thompson at 10%.

POLL: Rasmussen F. Thompson vs.

A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of 800 likely voters nationwide (conducted 3/21 through 3/22) finds former Sen. Fred Thompson (at 44%) edges out Sen. Hillary Clinton (43%) by one point in a general election match-up. A second match-up shows Sen. Barack Obama leading Thompson 49% to 37%.

ANALYSIS: Gallup Democratic Primary

Additional analysis from recent Gallup national surveys of 1,495 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (conducted between January and March) finds:

  • Among women Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (39% to 19%); former V.P. Al Gore and former Sen. John Edwards both trail at 13%
  • Clinton performs best among woman 18 to 49, where she runs at 43% with a 22-point margin over Obama (21%).
  • Obama performs best among men 18 to 49, where he runs at 24%, which is within the margin of sampling error of Clinton (27%).

SEIU's Early Primary Health Care Survey

Thanks to MyDD, we know that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) released poll results yesterday based on samples of likely primary or caucus voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina (summary, state by state results, results by party). The MyDD post was, unfortunately, a bit confused about the meaning of some of the state-by-state results. Since MyDD (and political junkies everywhere) are appropriately focused on polling in the early primary states, let's try to help clear up the confusion.

The survey was conducted by the Democratic firm Lake Research Partners** and had a somewhat unique design: They interviewed 1,607 likely primary and caucus goers in each state, with roughly 400 per state, 200 likely voters from each party in each state. Also, the sampling procedure was different for most other public polls:

Telephone numbers for the sample were drawn randomly from a statewide voter file, with primary/caucus voters selected on their vote history.

Pollsters disagree on the merits of sampling from voter files , but for better or worse, samples of past primary voters make for a very different population of respondents than other public polls on the 2008 presidential primaries. As noted in my two recent posts on the subject, national polls on the party primaries tend to include all adults (or sometimes registered voters) that identify or lean to a given party. In this case, the pollsters interviewed only those with some past history of participation in primaries or caucuses, and then (see the questionnaire) screened all but those certain or probable to attend either the Democratic or Republican caucus or primary in their state.

Now all of this would make for an interesting test of methodologies, except that this survey did not include traditional vote preference questions. And that's where things apparently got confusing. MyDD diarist robiliberal initially reported what looked like horserace results for the Democrats in each state. On promoting the post to the front MyDD page, Chris Bowers updated with this comment:

OK, I just realized that this poll only included people who view health care as one of their top issues. That explains why Obama does so bad everywhere--young voters are one of his bases, and young people just don't usually include the cost or availability of health care as one of their top issues (I actually learned that at a union organizer training session with SEIU). This isn't about all Democrats, and so is thus less useful. But still interesting, and the kind of poll we could do of netroots types--Chris

Not exactly. The samples of Democrats included all those who qualified as likely primary or caucus attendees as per my description above. What was different is the text of the question:

Who do you think would be the BEST president on the issue of health care?

So all Democratic primary/caucus goers got the question, but it was a question about health care. Needless to say, that's not exactly, "for whom would you vote if the election were held today." Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton - who led the task force on Health Care reform during her husband's presidency - has a special advantage on that issue that results in a bigger "lead" over Obama than on pure vote preference measures.

**Interest disclosed: I worked for Celinda Lake for two years in the early 1990s.

Typo corrected

POLL: Harris Interactive Iraq/Iran

A new Harris Interactive online survey of 2,223 adults (conducted 3/6 through 3/14) finds:

  • 26% of Americans think sending more troops to Iraq will "improve security and reduce killings;" 54% think it will not.
  • 59% believe Iran is providing weapons to the Shiites in Iraq; 10% do not believe so.
  • 32% favor bombing Iran "if it is proven that Iran is helping the Shiites in Iraq;" 50% oppose.

Bush Approval: ARG at 32%, Trend at 33.4%

Topics: George Bush


Approval of President Bush has slipped to an estimated 33.4%. The new estimate adds a new poll from American Research Group (ARG) taken 3/18-21/07 with approval at 32%, disapproval at 63%.

(For a full discussion of the plots and how to interpret them, see this post.)

The approval trend has fluctuated between 33.0% and 35.5% over the past 20 polls. Some of this variation is sensitive to whether the latest poll is above or below the current trend estimate. At the moment, the most recent polls have run below the trend, and that has pulled the estimate down. None of the recent polls qualifies as an outlier, so the current estimate is unlikely to be driven by a single exceptional case. However, the fluctuations in the estimate mean that we are safest saying that approval is currently in the 33%-35% range. The trend estimate's variation is considerably less than the range of polls, as the last plot below makes vividly clear. This is an example of what we can gain in precision by using estimators that combine data from many polls, rather than relying on any single poll.





Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: ARG Bush Approvals

A new American Research Group national survey of 1,100 adults (conducted 3/18 to 3/21) finds 32% of Americans approving the way Bush is handling his job; 63% disapprove.

POLL: Quinnipiac Ohio Survey

A new Quinnipiac University statewide survey (Issues analysis, 2008 analysis) of 1,122 registered voters in Ohio (conducted 3/13 through 3/19) finds:

  • Among 431 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 32%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (22%), former V.P. Al Gore (14%), and Sen. John Edwards (11%) in a statewide primary.
  • Among 385 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 31%) leads Sen. John McCain (20%) in a statewide primary.
  • In general election match-ups, Obama and Edwards both lead McCain 45% to 37%; other match-ups pitting Clinton against McCain and Giuliani against either Clinton, Obama, or Edwards are all within the margin of sampling error.

POLL: Gallup Global Warming

Additional results from a recent Gallup national survey (analysis, video) of 1,009 adults (conducted 3/11 through 3/14) finds:

  • 41% of Americans worry about global warming "a great deal." 26% did in March of 2004.
  • 76% of Americans think they understand global warming very well or fairly well, 68% did in 2004.
  • 59% say the effects of global warming have already begun, 30% say they have not, and 8% say the effects will never happen.


POLL: Rasmussen McCain vs. Clinton

Additional results from a recent Rasmussen Reports automated survey of 800 likely voters nationwide (conducted 3/14 through 3/15) finds Sen. John McCain leading Sen. Hillary Clinton (48% to 41%) in a national general election match-up.

POLL: Rasmussen 2008 Surveys

Additional results from two recent Rasmussen Reports automated surveys find:

  • Among 599 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 33%) leads Sen. John McCain (15%), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (13%), and former Gov. Mitt Romney (10%) in a national primary (conducted 3/12 through 15).
  • Among 800 likely voters, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama both run at 44% in a national general election match-up (conducted 3/14 through 3/15). In February, both candidates were also tied at 44%.

ANALYSIS: Gallup Republican Preference

New analysis from recent Gallup national surveys (analysis, video) separates Republican presidential candidate preference among conservative Republicans and moderate/liberal Republicans.


POLL: EPIC-MRA Michigan Survey

A new EPIC-MRA statewide survey (story, results) of 600 registered voters in Michigan, including oversamples of likely Democratic and Republican primary voters (conducted 3/12 through 3/18) finds:

  • 29% of Michigan voters give Bush a positive rating on his job as president; 57% give him a negative rating.
  • Among 454 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 45%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (29%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John Edwards trails with 16%. In a two-way match-up, Clinton leads Obama 59% to 37%.
  • Among 392 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain's four-point advantage over former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (30% to 26%) falls within the margin of sampling error; former Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trail with 21% and 16% respectively. In a two-way match-up, Giuliani runs at 49%, McCain at 46%.

Novak Calls It a Push Poll

Topics: Push "Polls"

Before I leave the topic of "push polls" and the indiscriminate way reporters and pundits use that label, I want to mention a prominent example that appeared earlier this month. Conservative commentator Robert Novak led off his March 1 column with this reference to a survey of Republicans in Iowa:

New York-based political consultant Kieran Mahoney's statewide survey of probable Republican participants in the 2008 Iowa presidential caucuses shows this support for the "big three" GOP candidates: John McCain, 20.5 percent; Rudy Giuliani, 16.3 percent; Mitt Romney, 3.5 percent. Astonishingly, they all trail James Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia, with 31 percent.

How could that be? Because it was not a legitimate survey, but a "push poll." That normally is a clandestine effort to rig a poll by telling respondents negative things about various candidates. Mahoney makes no secret that his voter sample was told of liberal deviations by McCain, Giuliani and Romney, and of true-blue conservatism by Gilmore (Mahoney's client)

"Illegitimate" would be a clearly appropriate term had the sponsors presented their results as a fair reading of current caucus preferences in Iowa. However, Novak tells us that Gilmore's consultant "made no secret" that the survey question relayed information about the "liberal deviations" of the other Republicans and "true blue conservatism" of Gilmore. So while questions may remain about the poll's fairness, the release itself is not quite as deceptive as Novak seems to imply.

Either way, the results as described do not add to a "push poll." That more nefarious dirty trick is a truly "clandestine effort" to communicate to a mass electorate with telephone calls made under the guise of a public opinion poll (columnist Stu Rothernberg prefers the term "advocacy call"). Rather, in this case, Gilmore's consultant apparently conducted a legitimate poll that tested how a random sample of likely Iowa caucus goers would react to a set of messages that were (apparently) highly favorable to Jim Gilmore.

Again, even if his terminology was sloppy, Novak was right to distinguish this result from an attempt to measure current vote preference. In this case, the Gilmore survey used what some call a "push question" (others an "informed vote") to see how specific messages would move the Iowa Republican electorate. Such exercises are common, legitimate tools used by campaign pollsters to gauge the way voters will react to new information received during the campaign. You can see many examples in the surveys regularly released by the Democracy Corps project of Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg.

Now, describing a poll as "message testing" does not let the pollster off the hook. In some cases, pollsters work to make these questions as fair and even-handed as possible. In others, their efforts may be fairly characterized as "rigged" to produce results that work in one candidate's favor. And sometimes - in a circumstance that brings joy to every campaign pollster - they can do both at the same time.

So was the Gilmore question fair? It is hard to tell in this case,** because neither Kieran Mahoney nor the Gilmore campaign are willing to share the full text of the question with anyone other than Robert Novak. I spoke with Kieran Mohoney today, and he explained that he let Novak see the results and the verbatim text because he believed the columnist would see his characterizations of the candidates as fair. Mohoney believes that Novak's review "constitutes as much public validation as I'm interested in at this time," and politely declined to release the text.

All of which brings me to three pieces of advice:

1) Be highly skeptical of results from an "informed vote" (or any other form of "message testing") that does not include the full, verbatim text of the questions. We have no way to judge the fairness of the questions without reading their text. If you are a reporter, do not even think about reporting such results unless you can see the full text, and (ideally) point your readers to it as well.

2) A skeptical and critical read remains in order even when you do have access to the full text. Ask yourself, are the candidate descriptions balanced? Do they provide only positive information about one candidate and negative facts about the others? Do the descriptions leave out important points that candidates will emphasize? Do they give some issues an unlikely prominence? Remember, even a perfectly fair "push question" attempts to predict the information flow of a real campaign, and that is not an easy thing to do.

3) If you write about an unfair or biased result from a message testing poll, please, please refrain from calling it a "push poll." The English language leaves you many fine terms - negative, unfair, untrue, distorted, biased, slanted and, yes, even "rigged" - that will describe an offensive poll with far more accuracy.

**We can evaluate one aspect of this result, by reading between the lines a bit. Novak's description implies a skew against other conservative alternatives to Giuliani, McCain and Romney, such as Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee, because their credentials were apparently not described.

Bush Approval: Two New Polls, Trend at 33.9%

Topics: George Bush


New polls by Time and Newsweek released over the weekend bring the estimated approval of President Bush to 33.9%. Both polls came in well below the previous trend estimate of 34.9% resulting in a substantial shift in the estimate. Time's poll, taken 3/9-12/07 found approval at 32%, disapproval at 61%. Newsweek's was conducted 3/14-16/07 has approval at 30%, disapproval at 60%.

A fuller explanation of these graphs is available here.


The residuals for recent trend estimates remain well behaved, and the two latest polls are well within the 95% confidence region.


Estimated approval has bounced around about as much as usual, ranging between 33% and 35% for a while now.



Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.


A new ABC News/USA Today/BBC/ARD German TV survey (release; ABC story, results; USA Today story, results; BBC story, results; ARD story) of 2,212 adults in Iraq (conducted 2/25 through 3/5) finds:

  • 78% of Iraqi adults oppose the presence of coalition forces in Iraq; 22% support it.
  • 65% believe coalition forces should stay in Iraq until its government and security forces are stronger and operating independently; 35% believe they should leave now.
  • 56% do not think Iraq is in a civil war, 42% think it is.
  • In a sidebar article, ABC Polling Director Gary Langer describes in detail the "extensive planning, coordinated effort -- and some luck" involved in fielding this survey, including "harrowing tales" of interviewers who "witnessed some of the bombings, shootings and beatings that, as the survey shows, are widespread in Iraq."

ANALYSIS: CBS Iraq War Surveys

CBS News released new analysis from their recent national surveys on American public opinion of the situation in Iraq.

POLL: Newsweek National Survey

A new Newsweek national survey (story, results) of 1,001 adults (conducted 3/14 through 3/16) finds:

  • 30% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president; 60% disapprove.
  • 59% favor legislation that would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops by fall of 2008; 34% oppose.
  • 58% think the firings of eight federal prosecutors were "most likely politically-motivated;" 15% think they were not.

POLL: CNN 4 Years of Iraq

Additional results from a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national survey (story, results) of 1,027 adults (conducted 3/9 through 3/11) finds 32% of Americans favor the war with Iraq; 63% oppose it.

POLL: Rasmussen 2008 Surveys

Two new Rasmussen Reports automated surveys find:

  • Among 800 likely voters nationwide, 50% would "definitely not vote for" former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 38% would "definitely not vote for" Sen. Joe Biden (conducted 3/14 through 3/15).
  • Among 790 likely Democratic primary voters nationwide, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s five point advantage over Sen. Barack Obama (35% to 30%) falls within the margin of sampling error, while Sen. John Edwards trails with 11% (conducted 3/12 through 3/15).