March 25, 2007 - March 31, 2007


POLL: Fox National Survey

A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics national survey (story, results) of 900 registered voters (conducted 3/27 through 3/28) finds:

  • 33% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as president: 61% disapprove, "the highest disapproval rating of his presidency."
  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 36%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (18%), former V.P. Al Gore (14%), and former Sen. John Edwards (13%) in a national primary. In a two-way match-up, Clinton leads Obama 52% to 32%.
  • Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 36%) leads Sen. John McCain (20%), former Sen. Fred Thompson (9%), former Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Gov. Mitt Romney (both at 6%). In a two-way match-up, Giuliani leads McCain 50% to 37%.

POLL: SurveyUSA Senate Approvals

New SurveyUSA statewide surveys of 600 adults each in Alabama, California, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York State, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin (conducted 3/9 through 3/11) test job approval ratings for 32 Senators.

POLL: Time National Survey

A new Time/SRBI national survey (Time story; SRBI 2008 analysis, Gonzales analysis, results) of 1,264 adults (conducted 3/23 through 3/26) finds:

  • 33% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president; 60% disapprove.
  • Among 407 Republicans asked to choose between four candidates, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs at 35%, Sen. John McCain at 28%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 14%, and former Gov. Mitt Romney at 12% in a national primary.
  • Among 511 Democrats asked to choose between three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 38%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (30%) and former Sen. John Edwards (26%) in national primary.
  • 46% of Americans would probably or definitely support Clinton in a presidential election; 51% would not. 50% would support Giuliani; 41% would not.

POLL: Pew 2008, Veterans

Additional results from a recent Pew Research Center national survey (analysis, results) of 1,503 adults (conducted 3/21 through 3/25) finds:

  • Pew asked 1,246 registered voters -- both Democrats and Republicans -- to choose from a list of eight Democratic candidates. Of these, 39% would like to see Sen. Hillary Clinton receive the Democratic nomination; 38% say Barack Obama. From a list of nine Republican candidates, 43% of all registered voters would like to see former Mayor Rudy Giuliani receive the Republican nomination; 40% say Sen. John McCain.
  • 72% of Americans do not think the government gives enough support to soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan; 21% think it does.
  • 57% think "the incidents at Walter Reed Army Hospital" represent a common problem with the quality of care given to returning soldiers; 18% think the incidents were unusual.

POLL: Zogby Iowa & National Primary

Two new Zogby telephone surveys (conducted 3/26 in Iowa and 3/22 through 3/26 nationwide) find:

  • Among 404 likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs at 25%, Sen. John McCain at 19%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 11%, and former Sen. Fred Thompson at 7%. Among 376 Republicans nationwide, Giuliani (at 27%) leads McCain (13%), Thompson (9%) and Romney (9%).
  • Among 506 likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa, former Sen. John Edwards runs at 27%, Sen. Hillary Clinton at 25%, and Sen. Barack Obama at 23%. Among 432 Democrats nationwide, Clinton (at 32%) leads Obama (22%) and Edwards (13%).

POLL: Kaiser Family Foundation Health Care Tracking Poll

A new Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, "the first in a new series on the public's views of health reform and the presidential candidates' positions on health care," of 1,233 adults nationwide (conducted 3/8 through 3/13) finds:

  • Of both Republican and Democratic candidates, 14% of respondents say Sen. Hillary Clinton best represents their own views on health care; 5% say Sen. Barack Obama; 3% say former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 60% were unsure or could not name a candidate.
  • 52% want a new health care plan with a "major effort to provide health insureance" for nearly all uninsured with a substantial increase in spending; 24% want one that is "more limited and would cover only some groups of the uninsured" with less spending.

POLL: Quinnipiac Pennsylvania Survey

A new Quinnipiac University statewide survey (2008 results, Issues results) of 1,187 registered voters in Pennsylvania (conducted 3/19 through 3/25) finds:

  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (36%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (17%), former V.P. Al Gore (13%), and former Sen. John Edwards (9%) in a Democratic primary. If Gore does not run, Clinton runs at 38%, Obama at 24%, and Edwards at 16%.
  • Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 33%) leads both Sen. John McCain (18%) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (7%) in a Republican primary.
  • In general election match-ups, Giuliani leads Obama (46% to 39%), but edges out Clinton (46% to 42%) by a difference within the margin of sampling error.

POLL: ARG New Hampshire Senate

A new American Research Group statewide survey of 551 registered voters in New Hampshire (conducted 3/25 through 3/28) finds.

  • 17% of voters in New Hampshire approve of the job Bush is doing as president; 62% disapprove.
  • Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen leads Sen. John Sununu (44% to 34%) in a hypothetical senatorial match-up.

Harris Interactive's Poll on Clinton

Topics: 2008 , General , Hillary Clinton , The 2008 Race

Harris Interactive released a new survey yesterday, based on over 2,000 interviews conducted online that focuses on the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and suggests she faces a big challenge should she win the Democratic nomination:

[H]alf of U.S. adults say they would not vote for Senator Clinton if she was the Democratic candidate, while only 36 percent say they would, with 11 percent unsure.

Some will question the Harris survey results, as they are based on a non-probability sample drawn from its online panel of volunteer survey respondents. I must admit that my first thought was to wonder whether their online panel might include a disproportionate number of "net roots" Democrats who - as we know from some research I helped conduct last year - tend to be more hostile to the Clinton candidacy. However, on closer examination, the Harris result appears to be at least not wildly inconsistent with similar measures on other recent national polls.

Here are the text and complete results of the question that produced the lead of the Harris release:

If Hillary Clinton was the Democratic nominee for President, which is closest to the way you think?
15% - I definitely would vote for, her
22% - I probably would vote for her
11% - I probably would not vote for her
39% - I definitely would not vote for her
11% - I wouldn't vote at all

Now consider the results of similar questions asked on two recent national polls:

Pew Research Center (1,509 adults, February 7-11, 2007) - Have you heard of Hillary Clinton, or not? (IF HAVE HEARD, ASK:) How much of a chance is there that you would vote for Hillary Clinton if she is a candidate for president in 2008 - is there a good chance, some chance, or no chance?
98% (1,408 adults) had heard of Hillary Clinton
Among those respondents:
32% good chance
24% some chance
40% no chance
4% (volunteered: don't know/refused)

Fox News/Opinion Dynamics (900 registered voters, February 13-14, 2007) - Now I am going to read a list of possible candidates for the next presidential race. For each one, please tell me whether you would definitely vote for that candidate for president, if you might vote for that candidate, or if under no conditions would you vote for that candidate.
18% definitely vote for
34% might vote for
44% under no conditions vote for
3% (volunteered: don't know)

While each of these questions asks about the degree to which respondents are considering supporting Clinton, they are very different, both in terms of the wording and the categories. Probably the most important difference is that the Pew and Fox questions present three categories, while the Harris survey presented four (plus "would not vote"). The Pew and Fox items also used a soft positive choice ("might vote for" or "some chance") as their middle category. Neither presented the soft negative choice ("probably would not vote for") included on the Harris survey.

Also, the Fox survey sampled registered voters, while the Pew and Harris survey aimed to project the attitudes of all U.S. adults.

But for all their incomparable elements, these questions produce some consistent findings: 39% to 44% say they have ruled out supporting Clinton. Also, the 15% of adults who say they would "definitely" vote for Clinton in the Harris survey is reasonably close to the 18% of registered voters who say they will "definitely" support Clinton on the Fox survey.

Putting aside the various sampling issues, the idea that some voters could say they "might vote for someone" on one question but "probably not" on another is not surprising, particularly when only "might vote for" or "some chance" is the only middle option. After all, the Republican nominee is unknown, most expect to scrutinize the candidates more closely before voting and the election is still 18 months away.

Also, before making too much of this result, we really need to see the Harris results in a larger context. Specifically, how do the other Democrats (and Republicans) compare on the same measure. For example, on the Fox News poll, Clinton's 18% "definitely vote for" score was greater than those of the other candidates. Her "under no conditions" score (44%) was about the same as that received by of John Edwards (45%) and within range of John McCain (40%).

What would help resolve the sampling question - at least with regard to this result - would be a side-by-side comparison that asks the Harris question on both an online and traditional telephone poll conducted at the same time. It is possible Harris Interactive has already done so, as they frequently conduct parallel surveys (online and on the phone) as part of their "propensity weighting" technique. I sent an email to Harris to check, and will report back if and when I hear more.

POLL: CBS Iraq/Iran, Gonzales

Additional results from the recent CBS News national survey (story, Iraq/Iran results, Gonzales results) of 831 adults (conducted 3/26 through 3/27) finds:

  • 59% say the U.S. should set a timetable that would have "most troops out by September 2008;" 37% say it should not.
  • 54% of Americans think Iran is a threat that can be contained with diplomacy; 18% think Iran's threat requires military action; 18% think it is not a threat.
  • 40% of Americans think Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should resign; 25% think he should stay; 35% don't know.

ANALYSIS: Gallup Surge and Fred Thompson

Additional analysis on attitudes toward the Iraq troop surge and on the Republican primary race with former Sen. Fred Thompson from the recent USA Today/Gallup national survey (Surge analysis; 08 analysis, video) is now available.

POLL: CBS Edwards Campaign

A new CBS News national survey of 831 adults (conducted 3/26 through 3/27) finds 57% of Americans saying former Sen. John Edwards is doing the right thing by continuing his campaign; 24% say he should have suspended or withdrawn.

UPDATE: Full results now available.

POLL: Marist New York State Survey

A new WNBC/Marist College statewide survey of 641 registered voters in New York State, including 275 Democrats and 188 Republicans (conducted 3/20 through 3/22) finds:

  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 44%) leads former V.P. Al Gore (16%), Sen. Barack Obama (14%) and former Sen. John Edwards (9%) in a Democratic primary.
  • Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 48%) leads Sen. John McCain (21%), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (7%) and former Sen. Fred Thompson (5%) in a Republican primary.
  • In a general election match-up, Clinton runs at 50%, Giuliani at 43%, a difference within the margin of sampling error.

Primary Polling Primer: Timing

Topics: 2008 , The 2004 Race , The 2008 Race

Onward with my Primary Polling Primer. In the first two installments, we talked about turnout, or rather, how national polls tend to sample a broader population than actually participates in the presidential primaries and caucuses. Today, I want to turn to something even more important to the "accuracy" of those national vote preference polls: Timing.

The presidential primaries and caucuses are a dynamic process. Unlike virtually every other election that pollsters ask about, the selection of presidential nominees does not occur on a single election day. Rather, the nominating process consists of a series of statewide primaries and caucuses that plays out over the first few months of every presidential election year.

Here is the critical point: A few early primaries, especially the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, play a huge role in influencing voter preferences in the states whose primaries and caucuses follow.

Go back and read that last sentence again, because the basic idea is hard to overstate, especially in years (like 2008) without an incumbent president seeking reelection. Moreover, since the outcome of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary tend to reshuffle voter preferences, they can render the "standings" of earlier horse race polling more or less moot.

Over the next few posts of this series, I will try to provide some data to demonstrate the influence of those events and how they often cause a significant reshuffling of voter preferences.

For today, consider the last Democratic nomination battle in 2004, which produced one of the most dramatic shifts. Fortunately, for those of us who obsess about such things, we have an incredible resource in the National Annenberg Election Study (NAES), which conducted a rolling tracking survey from October 2003 through November 2004. Kate Kenski, now an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, complied over 7,000 interviews conducted among respondents who were planning to vote in the Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses in 2004 and prepared the following graphic:


As the chart makes clear, the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary turned the 2004 Democratic contest upside-down. Just before Iowa, according to the ANES data, only 9% of those planning to vote in the Democratic primaries or caucuses nationally supported Kerry. Kerry shot up after his Iowa caucus victory, approaching 50% in the week before New Hampshire and hitting 68% by the end of February. At the same time, Howard Dean's support collapsed, falling from 31% in early January to near zero by March, while John Edwards, who finished a surprisingly strong second in Iowa, saw his national support grow from 5% to 25%.

Kenski's analysis (which she presented at the 2004 meeting of the American Political Science Association) indicates that the impact of Iowa and New Hampshire that year had less to do with increased name recognition and more with changing voter evaluations of the candidates. Nationally, Kerry experienced a name recognition gain of roughly ten percentage points nationally after Iowa, but he was already known to more than 80% of Democratic primary voters beforehand. Kenski's analysis showed more dramatic shifts in voter ratings of Kerry and Dean. In other words, voters who already knew the candidates changed their minds about them after Iowa and New Hampshire. The NAES surveys also showed a dramatic shift in perceptions of Kerry and Dean's chances, respectively, of winning the Democratic nomination that neatly paralleled shifts in voter preference.

The 2004 Democratic race - as illustrated by the NAES data - is arguably one of the most dramatic examples of a phenomenon typical in the presidential primary season. Those who win early contests get a boost that helps them in subsequent contests. Those who study primary elections may disagree about the reasons for that "momentum" (see this review just last Sunday by the Boston Globe's Drake Bennett), but my sense is that it is more than just a blind "bandwagon" effect. Here are two reasons the early primaries shake up the race:

First, they effectively winnow the field. While news accounts may emphasize the large field of candidates before the early primaries (with an emphasis on front-runners), the coverage afterwards focuses far more intensely on the early winners. The result is that also-ran candidates either drop out entirely, or effectively drop out of site, a process that simplifies voter choices. If a voter had been torn between two candidates, and one of those candidates wins an early primary while the other finishes far back in the pack, that voter's decision gets much easier.

Second, and probably far more important, the horse race nature of the coverage leads voters to more positive evaluations of the winners and more negative evaluations of the losers. Media accounts portray the winners and their campaigns as competent and able, while the losers look hapless and faltering. Which set of characteristics would you want in a president? Not surprisingly, voters readily make the connection between winning and competence.

Either way, the implication is that the current horse-race preference numbers are not particularly meaningful as predictors of the outcome. An early loss is not necessarily fatal. Many early front runners (Reagan, Mondale, Clinton, both Bushes) have lost early primaries and bounced back to win their nominations, but the early primaries almost always change voter preferences.

So what effect will the especially "front-loaded" primary calendar have in 2008? I'll take that up in the next installment.

POLL: Rasmussen National Primary

A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of 608 likely Republican primary voters and 757 likely Democratic primary voters nationwide (conducted 3/19 through 3/22) finds:

  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 37%) leads both Sen. Barack Obama (25%) and former Sen. John Edwards (17%) in a national Democratic primary.
  • Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 35%) leads Sen. John McCain (15%), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (11%), and former Gov. Mitt Romney (8%) in a national Republican primary.

Analysis: USA TODAY/GALLUP National Survey

Additional analysis from the recent USA Today/Gallup national survey (USA Today results; Gallup Edwards analysis, Gonzales analysis, video) of 1,007 adults (conducted 3/23 through 3/25) finds:

  • 34% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president; 62% disapprove.
  • 38% think Attorney General Alberto Gonzalas should resign; 38% think he should not; 24% have no opinion.
  • 68% think Congress should issue subpoenas to force White House officials to testify under oath about the U.S. attorney dismissals; 24% think it should not.


POLL: Grove Insight (D) Oregon Senate

A new Grove Insight (D) statewide survey of 600 likely voters in Oregon (conducted in February for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) finds Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio running at 42% when pitted against Republican incumbent Sen. Gordon Smith (38%) in a statewide Senatorial election.

POLL: USA TODAY Gallup Edwards' Decision, National Primaries

A new USA Today/Gallup national survey of 1,007 adults (conducted 3/23 through 3/25) finds:

  • By 2-1 (58% to 29%), Americans "support the decision of former North Carolina senator John Edwards to stay in the Democratic presidential race even though his wife, Elizabeth, has been diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer."
  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 35%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (22%), former V.P. Al Gore (17%) and Edwards (14%) in a national Democratic primary.
  • Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 31%) leads Sen. John McCain (22%), former Sen. Fred Thompson (12%), and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (8%) in a national Republican primary.

UPDATE: Full results now available.

POLL: Pew Iraq Survey

A new Pew Research Center national survey (analysis, results) of 1,503 adults (conducted 3/21 through 3/25) finds:

  • 59% of Americans would like their congressional representative to support a bill calling for "a withdrawal of troops from Iraq to be completed by August of 2008;" 33% would not.
  • 40% now believe the U.S. military effort is going well (up from 30% in February), 56% now believe it is not going well (down from 67%).
  • Only 22% rate Congress's job in dealing with Iraq as either excellent or good; 73% rate it as fair or poor.

Fred Thompson in '08?

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race


(UPDATED 3/27/07: The new USAToday/Gallup poll is now out and it finds support for Thompson at 12%. I've updated the graph above accordingly. I've not changed the text below. The Gallup result just strengthens that argument.)

The unsettled nature of the Republican presidential nomination race can be seen by the impact of talk that former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson is considering entering the contest. There has been little polling on Thompson-- only three questions in two years-- but the latest Zogby telephone poll (3/22-26/07)l finds Thompson at 9% support, tied with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. That a non-candidate can leap to a tie for fourth place based on only a suggestion that he might run, says more about the state of Republican preferences than does former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's continuing lead in the polls. While voters are willing to pick from a list of candidates, that so many will jump to Thompson shows preferences are far from settled.

Is 9% support a lot? Not in absolute terms, but compare that to the 9% Romney receives when fully committed to his campaign and after being an active candidate for many months. (I'm talking about how he has behaved, not the date of his various declarations.)

Or compare Thompson at 9% with Arizona Senator John McCain who held the support of just 13% of the Republicans in this Zogby poll. McCain held 17% in a January Zogby poll and 20% in Zogby's February poll. His support has been declining somewhat since January.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was not included in the poll. Based on other polling, Gingrich has been holding a small two percentage point lead over Romney, so Thompson would appear to slightly trail Gingrich as well. In Zogby's January poll Gingrich was at 8% and at 7% in February. It is both unfortunate and puzzling that Gingrich was dropped from the latest poll, opening a window of doubt as to where his supports went when not offered the chance to support him in the survey question. Gingrich's supporters might have been more likely to jump to Thompson with Gingrich not on the list, inflating Thompson's support.

While the change in the candidate list makes a direct assessment of Thompson's support problematic, the instability of opinion among Republicans is clear in any case. While Giuliani's support has been rising recently, and he has led McCain in the vast majority of polls since 2004, there is substantial evidence that the party is open to an alternative "challenger" to emerge from the pack.

I should also note that Zogby finds 28% of Republicans unsure of their preference for the nomination, substantially more than most polls. The amount of undecided varies quite a bit across polls, making comparison of the absolute levels of support more uncertain than usual. For example, in the candidate trend plots below, Giuliani's support is estimated at around 36% and McCain's at about 22%, compared to Zogby's estimates of 27% and 13% respectively. If pushed, the undecided might be expected to pick familiar names, possibly boosting these two.

Thompson might, or might not, prove to be a formidable candidate if he officially got into the race, rather than simply encouraging speculation. But the amount of support he has picked up on such slim efforts shows that there is a great deal of room for change in the Republican contest.

The top four Republican candidates seem to generally continue recent trends-- Giuliani rising, McCain slipping and Gingrich and Romney continuing slow but steady rises. If we add Thompson to the plot below, he would overlap that latest Romney reading, with both at 9%.


It undoubtedly bears saying clearly that this is the first poll with Thompson included since his suggestion that he might run. We should never put too much confidence in a single poll, as the spread of points around the trend lines above demonstrates. The next poll may show less support or more support. Let's hope we get some new data soon so we can better assess Thompson's potential.

To see all the polling on all the presidential contenders, updated with the new Zogby data, click here. That page is updated with each new poll, and provides a handy reference point for all the latest national primary polling.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: Siena 2008 New York State Primary/General Elections

A new Siena College statewide survey (analysis, results) of 622 registered voters in New York State (conducted 3/19 through 3/22) finds:

  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 43%) leads former V.P. Al Gore (14%), Sen. Barack Obama (11%), and former Sen. John Edwards (7%) in a Democratic primary.
  • Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 48%) leads Sen. John McCain (16%) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (8%) in a Republican primary.
  • Clinton leads both Giuliani and McCain by more than ten points each in statewide general election match-ups; Obama leads McCain by eight points, but falls within the margin of sampling error of Giuliani.