April 8, 2007 - April 14, 2007


Tax Season Round-Up

Three new national surveys about the April tax season find:

  • 51% of Americans use a professional tax preparer, 25% use a software program, 15% fill out the form manually, and 8% have a friend or family member do it, according to a new AP-Ipsos national survey (story, results) of 1,000 adults (conducted 4/2 through 4/4).
  • 53% of Americans say the amount they pay in taxes is "too high," 2% say "too low," and 41% say "just right," according to a new Gallup national survey of 1,008 adults (conducted 4/2 through 4/5).
  • 50% of Americans believe "person who earns twice as much as you" pays less than twice as much in taxes, 7% believe more than twice as much, 19% believe exactly twice as much, according to a new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of 1,000 adults (conducted 4/6 through 4/7).

POLL: Zogby Nevada

A new Zogby telephone survey of likely caucus goers in Nevada (conducted 4/11 through 4/12) finds:

  • Among 500 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 35%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (21%) and former Sen. John Edwards (15%) in a Democratic caucus.
  • Among 502 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 37%) leads Sen. John McCain (15%), former Gov. Mitt Romney (15%), and former Sen. Fred Thompson (7%) in a Republican caucus.

Do National Polls Inflate Clinton's Standing?

Two thoughtful but contradictory blog posts commenting on recent national presidential polling caught my eye this week. First, on Monday, "Gallup Guru" Frank Newport took issue with pundits "speculating that the race for the presidential nomination is becoming unsettled," arguing that Gallup's national data show "Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani remain significantly in the lead among their respective party faithful." Then yesterday, MyDD's Chris Bowers argued that such national polls from and others assume "absurdly high" level of turnout that "inflate Clinton's perceived national advantage." Bowers sees the race between Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards becoming "even more competitive than we had previously surmised." Which analysis makes more sense?

First, some interests disclosed: MyDD is a popular left-leaning blog, of course, but its authors and readers tend to be more hostile to the Clinton candidacy than those who identify as Democrats on national polls. About a year ago when I was still working as a Democratic campaign pollster, I consulted with Bowers on a "Netroots" survey of members of MoveOn.org that, among other things, found that Hillary Clinton's favorable ratings were lowest among those who read blogs most often.

Moving on to the substance, I agree with the first part of Bower's argument, that national surveys typically administer their presidential primary horserace questions to a much wider slice of the electorate than will actually participate in next year's primaries and caucuses. I argued essentially the same thing in the first two installments of my "primer" on presidential primary polling.

I am not ready, however, to agree that this practice inflates Clinton's lead in national polling. What evidence I see is sketchy and contradictory. For example, Tom Riehle of RT Strategies recently shared some tabulations combining data from two recent surveys conducted by his company (in February and late March) for the Cook Political Report. Clinton wins 41% of the vote against Obama, Edwards and the other candidates on these two surveys. However, she wins more support from pure Democratic identifiers (44%) than among the independents that lean Democratic (33%). That difference is statistically significant despite the small sample sizes (n=558 Democrats, n=164 Democratic leaners). So if sampling too many voters means too many independents, it will tend to depress Clinton's vote rather than exaggerate it.

On the other hand, we did a quick comparison of national surveys fielded this year that asked the primary question of all adult Democrats (and leaners) versus those that asked the question of only registered voters that identify or lean Democratic. We looked only vote questions testing the whole field, but excluding Al Gore. Clinton received an average of 44% on four surveys conducted by Gallup and ABC/Washington Post that included all adult Democrats, and 38% on eleven surveys** that included only Democrats registered to vote (or "likely" to vote in the general election). So we have sketchy support for the notion that surveys with slightly tighter screens show Clinton with slightly less support.

Admittedly, there are many potential pitfalls with such comparisons (commenters, have at it), and none of the available data allows for a direct test of Bowers' contention. In other words, we have no survey that allows us to compare the vote among all Democratic identifiers to a theoretically "true" likely primary electorate. So I think the jury is still out.

Chris cites some data from recent LA Times/Bloomberg and Pew Research Center surveys showing Obama running much closer among well educated Democrats. And better educated adults tend to vote at higher rates than less well educated voters. That much is true, although education is just one predictor of turnout. Another is age, and the Pew survey shows Clinton with more support among older voters who also tend to turn out at higher rates.

Chris puts a lot of emphasis on recent polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire showing a much more competitive race, with John Edwards polling better and Hillary not as well as in the national surveys. That is certainly true, although keep in mind that the closer race in those states has a lot to do with John Edwards strong finish in Iowa in 2004 and his non-stop campaigning in both states ever since.

But put methodology aside for a moment: We should be looking much more closely at the early state primaries to determine how the campaigns are doing. On this last point, I tend to part company with Frank Newport. He is absolutely right that Clinton holds a formidable lead in national surveys, but the national "party faithful" will not begin to cast their ballots until after we have heard from Iowa and New Hampshire (and Nevada and South Carolina). If history is a guide, those early contests may have a big impact on the national preferences. So if we want to track the standings that matter, we should focusing on the early states.***

**The eleven surveys were conducted by CNN, NBC/Wall Street Journal, Cook/RT Strategies, Diageo/Hotline, ARG, Zogby and Democracy Corps.

***Physician, health thyself: Yes, Pollster is currently displaying charts of the national polls, but nothing on the early primaries. We hope to rectify that shortcoming very soon.

UPDATE: The just released CBS News poll confirms the pattern among independent Democrats cited above. According to the CBS pdf summary, Clinton "fares...better among Democratic identifiers than with those Independent voters who say they would vote in the Democratic primary."

POLL: ARG Primary, Iraq

A new American Research Group national survey of likely primary voters (conducted 4/9 through 4/12) finds:

  • Among 600 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (36% to 24%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails with 19%.
  • Among 600 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs at 27%, Sen. John McCain at 23%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 12%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 10%, and former Sen. Fred Thompson at 9% in a national primary.
  • 70% of Democrats favor setting a deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq; 77% of Republicans oppose.

POLL: Rasmussen Obama/Generic

A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of 800 likely voters (conducted 4/9 through 4/10) finds:

  • In two nationwide general election match-ups, Sen. Barack Obama leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (52% to 37%) while running at a six-point advantage over Sen. John McCain (48% to 42%).
  • On a generic congressional ballot, 45% say they would vote for the Democratic candidate; 35% say Republican.

POLL: Public Policy Polling (D) NC Senate

A new Public Policy Polling (D) automated survey (story, results) of 556 likely voters in North Carolina (conducted 4/11) finds:

  • 40% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president; 55% disapprove.
  • 43% approve of the way Sen. Elizabeth Dole is handling her job as Senator; 40% disapprove.
  • In a 2008 senatorial match-up, Sen. Dole leads hypothetical challenger Rep. Brad Miller 44% to 33%.

Gallup's 2008 Generic Vote

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

Some analysis released this morning by the Gallup Poll's Jeff Jones includes new results of a "generic" 2008 presidential election question that essentially confirms the results of the Diageo/Hotline survey we discussed earlier this week. Gallup found that a sample of adults preferred the Democrats by a 50% to 35% margin when asked, "If the 2008 election were being held today, which party's presidential candidate would you like to see win?" This result largely resolves my concern that a question order effect may have explained the 47% to 29% Democratic lead on the Hotline-Diageo poll.

Jones also digs deep into data Gallup collected during the first quarter of 2007 and confirms that Democrats currently enjoy a "favorable political environment." He finds, for example, a 51.9% to 39.6% Democratic advantage in "leaned" party identification, very similar to the recent results reported by the Pew Research Center.

Echoing much of the discussion of the last week, Jones also notes the "ray of hope" for Republicans - "their leading presidential contenders [Giuliani and McCain] are currently viewed more positively by Americans than the leading Democratic presidential contenders." But concludes with this caveat:

As for the candidates, as Giuliani, McCain, and Obama campaign for the presidency, they will come to be viewed more as partisan figures, and their unfavorable ratings will likely increase as supporters of the opposing party will find it difficult to give them a positive review. Also, the candidates may look better or worse to Americans than they do now when they are evaluated against the backdrop of the key election issues of 2008, whether those are the Iraq war, terrorism, the economy, or another issue that emerges, such as healthcare or moral values.

Read it all.

PS: Democracy Corps -- the organization led by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Democratic consultants James Carville and Bob Shrum -- released a report today that points out "generic" 2008 presidential question asked of 1,002 likely voters back in January. That result also confirms the findings from Gallup and Hotline:

I know it is a long way off, but thinking about the election in 2008, if the election for president were held today, for whom would you vote -- the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate?

53% Democratic candidate
37% Republican candidate
1% Other (volunteered)
9% Undecided/refused

POLL: TIME/SRBI National Survey

A new Time/SRBI national survey (Time story; SRBI analysis, results) of 1281 adults (conducted 4/5 through 4/9) finds:

  • 33% approve with the way Bush is handling his job as president; 59% disapprove.
  • Among 437 registered Republicans and Republican-leaners asked to choose between five candidates, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 35%) leads Sen. John McCain (20%), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (11%), former Gov. Mitt Romney (10%), and former Sen. Fred Thompson (10%) in a national primary.
  • Among 493 registered Democrats and Democratic leaners asked to choose between three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 33%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (26%) and former Sen. John Edwards (25%) in a national primary.

(full President Bush Approval Ratings here)

POLL: LA Times/Bloomberg 2008 Primary

Additional results from the recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg national survey (story , results) of 1,246 registered voters (conducted 4/5 through 9) finds:

  • Among 557 probable Democratic voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama 33% to 23% in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards and former V.P. Al Gore trail at 14% and 13% respectively.
  • Among 437 probable Republican voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 29%) leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (15%), Sen. John McCain (12%), former Gov. Mitt Romney (8%) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (7%) in a national primary.
  • In general election match-ups, Obama leads McCain (48% to 40%) and Giuliani leads Clinton (48% to 42%), while all other match-ups between Giuliani, McCain, Obama, Edwards, and Clinton are within the margin of sampling error.

(all National Primary charts here.)

Editor's note: At least one Pollster reader is asking about the debut of Fred Thompson at 15% in the national Republican trial heat, three percentage points higher than John McCain, is sure to be of interest. With only 437 interviews, Thompson's 15% is not significantly different than McCain's 12% (that's statistically significant, assuming a 95% confidence level).

However, on five other conventional national surveys that included Fred Thompson on a Republican trial heat question in the last 20 days, McCain averaged 18% and Thompson's 10%. The difference between the LA Times results and previous surveys for these two candidates looks to be statistically meaningful (although remember the usual cautions about apple-to-orange comparisons between different methodologies and random sampling error being just one potential source of survey error).

Professor Franklin sends words he will have more to say in the near future about a hint of a change in the trends.

Update: A new Time/SRBI national survey has McCain at 20% and Thompson at 10%.

Numbers Guy on Zogby/Judicial Watch

One last thought on the Zogby/Judicial Watch polling controversy: The Wall Street Journal's Carl Bialik posts a nice summary to his new Numbers Guy blog that asks a good question:

Zogby also wrote in its response, "Zogby International believes that survey questions need not be neutered, and that there is more than one way to ask a question while maintaining fairness and even-handedness in search of an unbiased response." I wondered why the questions would need to be neutered in the first place, and asked Mr. Wenzel if Zogby or Judicial Watch wrote the Clinton questions. He replied, "Judicial Watch submitted conceptual questions. Zogby finalized them. Zogby retains final editorial control over survey questions." Chris Farrell, director of research at Judicial Watch, told me, "Zogby has their own process as to how they compose the questions."

Sound familiar? Yep.

POLL: CBS McCain & Iraq

A new CBS News national survey of 480 adults (conducted 4/9 through 4/10) finds:

  • 39% believe when McCain talks about Iraq he makes things "sound better," 9% say "sound worse," 29% say he's describing things accurately.
  • Among 427 registered voters, 26% have a favorable opinion of McCain; 31% have an unfavorable one.

POLL: InsiderAdvantage TN Primary

A new InsiderAdvantage statewide survey of 600 Democrats and 600 Republicans in Tennessee (conducted 3/31 through 4/1 for the Southern Political Report) finds:

  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 35%) leads Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards (both at 20%) in a statewide Democratic primary.
  • Among Republicans, former TN Sen. Fred Thompson (at 45%) leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (15%), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (11%), and Sen. John McCain (10%) in a statewide Republican primary.

POLL: LA Times/Bloomberg National Survey

A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg national survey (story, results) of 1,373 adults (conducted 4/5 through 4/9) finds:

  • 36% of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president; 62% disapprove.
  • 53% think Attorny General Alberto Gonzales should resign; 29% think he should stay.
  • 50% think a timetable for withdrawal hurts U.S. troops in Iraq; 27% say it helps; 15% say no effect.


POLL: Strategic Vision (R) GA Primary/Sen

A new Strategic Vision (R) statewide survey of 800 likely voters in Georgia (conducted 4/5 through 4/7) finds:

  • Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs at 23%, Sen. John McCain at 17%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 12%, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 10% in a statewide primary.
  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 25%, Sen. Barack Obama at 22%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 20% in a statewide primary.
  • In a senatorial match-up between incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Dekalb County C.E.O. Vernon Jones, Chamblis leads Jones 57% to 29%.

More on the Generic WH Vote

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza provides his own take on that "generic" White House trial heat we have been talking about the last few days. He amplifies a point I tried to make, likely bolstered by his own sources:

Although Bush is not named in the question, survey experts believe that voters have a difficult time envisioning anyone other than the current president when asked to think of a "generic" Republican candidate for president. Thus, it follows that in a poll where Bush's favorable rating was 38 percent and his unfavorable mark was 59 percent, and where just 32 percent approved of his handling of the war in Iraq compared with 65 percent who disapproved (including 54 percent "strongly"), the "Bush effect" would hurt a generic Republican presidential candidate's ability to compete with a generic Democrat.

It also follows that when actual candidates are put into the mix, the Bush cloud seems to disappear.

That's about right.

Congressional Approval Rises Only a Bit, Not a Lot


(Click the graphs once or twice for a full size view.)

A large number of media outlets and blogs ran this AP story on congressional approval. USAToday carried it this way:

AP Poll: Congress' approval hits high point

Public approval for Congress is at its highest level in a year as Democrats mark 100 days in power and step up their confrontation with President Bush over his handling of the Iraq War, the issue that overshadows all others.


The findings from an AP-Ipsos nationwide poll provide a snapshot of public sentiment in the days after the House and Senate triggered a series of veto threats from the president by passing separate bills that provide funds for the war, yet also call for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops.

Overall approval for Congress is 40%. The survey shows Bush's approval ratings remain in the mid-30 percent range


Which is all well and good except the AP poll is quite high compared to other recent polls of congressional approval, including AP's previous polls.

Of the last six polls the three most recent have come in above the previous trend estimate of 30.8%: Gallup has it at 33% (up from their previous 28%), AP at 40% and the Hotline at 37%. (Gallup has done two of the last six, so appears twice in the figure below.) The effect of these new polls is to revise my estimate of congressional approval up to 33.1%. But that is still a good deal shy of the AP result at 40% and a bit south of Hotline at 37%.


With the addition of the three new polls, what had looked like a pretty steady downturn in congressional approval since January now looks pretty flat. For the Democrats, that's a definite improvement, but it certainly isn't the large upturn that the AP story (and its reverberations in the blogosphere) have taken it to be.

Notice in the figure above for the AP, that AP polling has generally tracked quite well with my trend estimate of congressional approval. Only this most recent poll is well above the trend, with all other AP polls hugging the blue line pretty tightly. So AP doesn't routinely produce high congressional approval numbers, just this time.

As always, one poll should not dominate our interpretation of political dynamics. In this case, it is possible that something dramatic has suddenly boosted congressional approval, and AP (with the Hotline a couple of days earlier) was just lucky enough to be in the field right after it happened. We can offer reasons why this may or may not be the case, though I prefer to just wait for more data to settle the case one way or another.

But what we can do is look at how the trend estimator varies, and how the polling varies around that trend. The plot below shows the blue trend line with a gray region representing the variation in that estimate from 30,000 "bootstrap" estimates. A bootstrap is a good way of estimating the variability of an estimator, especially as in this case when we don't wish to make strong assumptions about the statistical distribution of the variation. The gray region represents the range of estimates of congressional approval we might reasonably expect to see, given the randomness of the polls and of events that drive congressional approval. I've overlaid the actual poll results on top of this, in red, so it is clear how the estimator varies (the gray area) and how the polls vary (the red points) all around the estimated trend (the blue line).


So what do we see? Quite a bit of variation. Congressional approval is asked a good deal less often than is presidential approval, so with less data, the gray area is relatively wider than it is for presidential approval, especially early in the series when very few polls were available for the early 1990s. That's somewhat better now, and the range of the gray area is smaller now than at the beginning.

The other variation is the polls. They are distributed roughly equally above and below the trend line, and spread a little bit more than does the estimator's gray area.

And right at the end, you can see that the AP data point at 40% is at the extreme upper end of the range of plausible estimates.

This doesn't mean it is necessarily wrong, and it certainly doesn't mean the poll was flawed. ALL poll vary, and individual questions vary as well. It is perfectly normal to see this kind of range of variation, as looking at the spread of the other red data points clearly illustrates.

But before we write a headline about support for congress being at a new high point, it would be worth considering the evidence a bit more carefully. Judging from all the data we have in hand today, it would be rash to suggest that congressional approval is at 40%. A much more plausible estimate is where the trend estimator stands: 33.1%.

And that changes the interpretation of the story which plays on Congress at 40% vs Bush "in the mid-thirties". In fact, the best evidence as of tonight is that Bush is at 34.4% and Congress at 33.1%. Politically, that means neither has a clear edge in support over the other at the moment. (Caution: We should really look at approval of "the Democrats in Congress" if we want to directly address the question of which end of Pennsylvania Avenue enjoys more support in the coming struggle over the Iraq funding bill. And other questions too!)

One final caution is that the trend estimator is sensitive to the most recent polls. So these three new polls pulled the estimate up enough that what had previously looked like some modest decline since January now looks to be pretty flat. Is it? The graph below shows how sensitive the estimator is to each of the last 20 polls.


The results show that for much of the last 20 estimates, the trend has been moving down. That has only been arrested as the last three polls have been added. So any conclusion about whether congressional approval is declining, steady, or increasing, rests on the thin reed of just three polls. Before we reach bold conclusions about the trajectory of public support for Congress, we should take some strong caution pills, and look at each new poll with some healthy skepticism until it gives us reason to trust it.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: InsiderAdvantage SC Primary

A new InsiderAdvantage statewide survey of 500 registered Democrats in South Carolina (conducted 4/6 through 4/8) finds Sen. Barack Obama (at 34%) leading Sen. Hillary Clinton (20%) and former Sen. John Edwards (17%) in a statewide Democratic primary.

Pres08: National Support For McCain Still Slips

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race


The trend estimate of support for Senator John McCain for the Republican nomination continues to slip downward. This trend has been apparent for a while, but shows signs of accelerating rather than stabilizing. The new Gallup Poll taken 4/2-5/07 has McCain at 16%, and the Gallup release notes this is a decline from previous Gallup data. But the decline is more widespread than just a single poll by a single organization. Since January 1, Sen. McCain's support has been on a downward trajectory. This loss of popular support in national polls has come as Giuliani has moved steadily upward and other potential challengers (Gingrich and Romney) have seen modest, if steady, increases.

The finance performance of the McCain campaign raised questions about his support among significant Republican donors, but the continuing negative trend in popular support may prove more deadly. McCain is set to "re-launch" his campaign with a new round of speeches and appearances. The question is whether he can sell his support for the war (something Republicans should be receptive to) and his conservative record (generally strong) to an audience that despises his campaign finance reform bill and sees him as too much of a loose canon.

Were it not for campaign finance, which many conservatives hold bitterly against McCain, and perhaps his support for restrictions on interrogations, McCain should be able to appeal to Republicans, certainly more so than Giuliani. But so far little if anything seems to be working for McCain. If the relaunch fails, McCain's fall threatens to move Gingrinch into second place among Republicans nationally. (Or perhaps that should be Fred Thompson, at 10% in the new Gallup poll, but with too little polling yet for a trend estimate.)

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

Judicial Watch Poll: Zogby Responds

Zogby International has posted a response to the criticism last Friday from various sources, including yours truly, of a poll they conducted for Judicial Watch. The argument should sound familiar:

Zogby International stands by its recent telephone poll conducted for Judicial Watch, a conservative interest group based in Washington. The survey probed the thinking of likely voting Americans about New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, and while some have charged that Zogby's questions were biased to solicit responses that would put Senator Clinton in a bad light, the results of the survey belie that charge. The responses to the Zogby survey were quite similar to the responses given to similar questions asked in an ABC News/Washington Post survey of May, 2006, and a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of August, 2005.

Zogby International maintains that its wording of these questions was not biased, largely because the topic - the trustworthiness of Ms. Clinton - has been at the center of exhaustive public discourse over the past 15 years and is one about which most American voters had drawn conclusions long before the Zogby survey. The similar results of the other two surveys, cited above, emphasize this fact.

Having made a similar argument using precisely the same survey results, I have to agree that most Americans have drawn conclusions with respect to Senator Clinton and her trustworthiness. But if Mr. Zogby believed so strongly that Americans had already made up their minds about Senator Clinton, why did he begin his question by reminding respondents that "some people believe that the Bill Clinton administration was corrupt?" Why not just ask, without the preamble, "how concerned are you that there will be high levels of corruption in the White House if Hillary Clinton is elected President in 2008?"

That preamble is the main reason critics like me concluded that Zogby's questions were "biased to solicit a response." Zogby's odd defense makes that intent even more obvious.

Why? Consider that pollsters frequently provide this sort of factual preamble when asking about an issue about which many respondents may be unfamiliar. One such example, noted by a commenter who disagreed with my criticism of the Zogby survey, is a question asked on a recent Newsweek survey about the recent controversy involving the Walter Reed Army Medical Center:

Since news reports last month about neglect and poor health care for military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, do you think the Bush Administration has done a good job or a bad job of dealing with this situation?

Although the author of that question probably assumed that respondents would distinguish between the problems at Walter Reed and the way the Bush administration dealt with those problems, the commenter is right to see this question as a bit leading. Doesn't the existence of "neglect and poor health care" imply that a "bad job" has been done?

It is not hard to find similar examples. Media pollsters often use such preambles when asking about issues of great interest to political insiders that are nonetheless unfamiliar to most Americans, and accusations of bias often follow. Consider the recent controversies over questions on Terry Schaivo, the NSA's monitoring of domestic phone records or the Senate filibuster.

Whatever you conclude about the presence existence of bias (subconscious or otherwise) in those examples, all had one thing in common: Most Americans were unfamiliar with the facts involved. The pollsters included an introductory preamble in the hope of providing respondents with just enough background information to help answer the question.

But in defending his questions, Zogby provides a totally different explanation. The "trustworthiness" of Senator Clinton, he tells us, "has been at the center of exhaustive public discourse," something about which "most American voters had drawn conclusions long before the Zogby survey." Well if that is so, why did respondents need to be reminded that "some people believe that the Bill Clinton administration was corrupt?" What possible purpose does that preamble serve, except the hope that it would lead respondents to a desired answer?

POLL: NY1 Ny Primary/GE

A new NY1 statewide survey of 1,013 registered voters in New York State (conducted 4/4 through 4/7) finds:

  • Among 274 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 56%) leads Sen. John McCain (15%) and former Gov. Mitt Romney (5%) in a statewide primary.
  • Among 496 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 49) leads Sen. Barack Obama (17%) and Sen. John Edwards (11%) in a statewide primary.
  • In a general election match-up, Clinton leads Giuliani 53% to 39%. In a three-way race with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg running as an independent, Clinton leads Giuliani 46% to 32% with Bloomberg trailing at 14%.

POLL: InsiderAdvantage GA Primary

A new InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Research statewide survey of registered voters in Georgia (conducted 3/23 through 3/25) finds:

  • Among 500 Republicans, former Speaker Newt Gingrich runs at 25%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 24%, Sen. John McCain at 13%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 9%, and former Gov. Mitt Romney at 6% in a statewide primary.
  • Among 500 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 32%, former Sen. John Edwards at 28%, and Sen. Barack Obama at 18% in a statewide primary.

POLL: USA Today/Gallup '08 Primary

Additional results from the recent USA Today/Gallup national survey (GOP results, Dem results, video) of 1,008 adults (conducted 4/2 through 4/5) finds:

  • Among 430 Republicans and Republican-leaners, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 38%) leads Sen. John McCain (16%), former Sen. Fred Thompson and former House Speaker Newt Gingirch (both at 10%), and former Gov. Mitt Romney (6%) in a national Republican primary.
  • Among 491 Democrats and Democratic-leaners, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 38%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (19%), former Sen. John Edwards (15%), and former V.P. Al Gore (14%) in a national Democratic primary.

POLL: AP-Ipsos National Survey

A new AP-Ipsos national survey (story, results) of 819 registered voters (conducted 4/2 through 4/4) finds:

  • 35% approve of the job Bush is doing as president; 62% disapprove.
  • 40% approve of the job Congress is doing; 57% disapprove.
  • 26% are confident that Bush and Democrats in Congress "can work together to solve the country's problems;" 73% are not.


Additional results from the recent CNN/WMUR Granite State Poll of 515 adults in New Hampshire (conducted 3/27 through 4/1 by the University of New Hampshire) finds:

  • 29% of New Hampshire adults approve of the job Bush is doing as president, 68% disapprove.
  • 35% believe the U.S. can win the war in Iraq; 55% believe it can not.
  • 57% want the U.S. to withdraw immediately or by August of 2008; 40% think the U.S. should stay as long as is needed.

POLL: Rasmussen Primary/Edwards

A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of likely Democratic and Republican primary voters (conducted 4/2 through 4/5) finds:

  • Among 774 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 34%, Sen. Barack Obama at 29%, and former Sen. John Edwards (15%) in a national Democratic primary.
  • Among 512 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 27%) leads Sen. John McCain (16%), former Sen. Fred Thompson (14%), and former Gov. Mitt Romney (12%) in a national Republican primary.
  • In a separate automated survey of 800 likely voters nationwide, Edwards leads Thompson (50% to 36%) and runs at a six point advantage over Giuliani (49% to 43%) in national general election match-ups (conducted 4/4 through 4/5).

About That Generic Presidential Vote

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

That "generic" presidential vote question included on last week's Diageo/Hotline poll inspired quite a bit of discussion and speculation over the last few days. The result showed the unnamed "Democratic candidate" defeating the unnamed "Republican candidate" by a 47% to 29% margin. Meanwhile, most national general election head-to-head questions pitting Rudy Giuliani or John McCain against Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards typically show either a very close race or the Republican a few points ahead.

The discussion started, appropriately enough, when the Hotline's On Call blog posted this excerpt of an email from an unnamed Democratic consultant:

Senators clinton and obama are more than 20 points less desirable to voters than an imaginary Democrat. our "top tier" candidates may be the only Democrats in existence who can't win in 08."

Then Politico's Ben Smith argued that the numbers really indicated something different, namely that Giuliani and McCain are "very strong general election candidates, in part for the same reasons that they're flawed primary candidates." He noted that Edwards fares a little better than Clinton or Obama: "Edwards does show an edge on Clinton and Obama, but nowhere near enough to explain that 18-point gap." Yesterday, MyDD's Chris Bowers speculated that the result showed that Republican leaning voters "have to be prompted before they support Republicans, while voters are ready to support Democrats whether or not they are even being asked." And when Tim Russert chimed in on Meet the Press that he found the results "quite striking," NBC's new political director Chuck Todd (formerly Hotline Editor in Chief) said the result "does show a weakness in the Republican Party."

Two reactions:

First, we are putting quite a bit of emphasis on one result from one survey, especially given that the question came near the end of a long interview and followed immediately after another question that "reminded" respondents about a recent controversy not exactly helpful to the Republican brand:

Congress is currently conducting an investigation into Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's handling of the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors. In your opinion...

Early in the same survey, Gonzales received a rating of 17% favorable, 35% unfavorable. The seven questions asked before the Gonzales item concerned the job performance of President Bush, the new Democratic Congress and the issues facing both. So altogether, the generic presidential vote followed a set of questions that "primed" a particular focus on issues personalities and issues that may have limited enthusiasm about a Republican vote in 2008.

Second, as Ben Smith suggests, the big difference between this particular generic result and other recent polls that tested actual candidates is the support registered for the Republicans. The table below shows the regression estimates of each candidates support (from Professor Franklin's charts, which are essentially averages of recent polls). The three best known Democrats each get about 43% of the vote (give or take a point or two), a result slightly lower than the 47% for the generic Democrat on the Hotline poll. However, things are much different for the Republicans. The Hotline poll's "generic" Republican wins only 29% of the vote compared to anywhere from 41% to 47% for McCain or Giuliani.


Now consider how head-to-head results compare when tabulated by party. The two charts below show how the Hotline's generic results by party identification compare to the results on six head-to-head questions asked by a recent Newsweek poll. First, consider the support for Democrats. While clicking on the image below will display a larger version, you need not bother. The six thin lines generally bunch together, as each named Democratic candidate gets roughly the same support from Republicans, independents and Democrats against each named Republican. The generic Democrat on the Hotline poll (the bold blue line) does slightly worse with independents, slightly better with partisans, but that may be due to differences in the way each poll asks about party identification.


Now look at the Republicans. Here the chart tells a very different story. The bold red line representing the generic Republican is much lower in each category than the lines for Giuliani and McCain.


Obviously, pundits will interpret these results differently, but for me they largely highlight the weakness of "generic" questions. Typically, such questions tell us what respondents think of the political parties, and those images are shaped mostly by perceptions of the incumbent president. We know the Republican "brand" is at a low ebb, with a recent Pew Research Center report showing "leaned" Republican identification at a 17-year low of 35% compared to 50% for the Democrats. In this case, the order of questions may have also primed issues or controversies, further reducing the appeal of a Republican vote.

Either way, McCain and Giuliani are not perceived as "generic" Republicans, at least not as of today. Moreover, when confronted with a difference between a "generic" measure and one using the real names of reasonably well known candidates, this pollster will trust real over generic every time.

PS: Just to be clear, I do not mean to jump on the Diageo-Hotline poll. They asked a provocative question that obviously has us all talking. I just wish it had been a little earlier in the survey.

Bush Approval: Gallup at 38%, Trend at 34.4%

Topics: George Bush


A new USAToday/Gallup poll taken (4/2-5/07) finds approval at 38%, disapproval at 58%. With the addition of this datapoint the trend estimator stands at 34.4%.

The new Gallup poll is a good bit above the previous trend estimate of 33.8% and is exerting a noticeable pull on the trend, but the new poll is within the +/- 5 point confidence interval for polling around the trend estimate, so it does not qualify for outlier status. As any reader of these pages should know, there is considerable variability in polling, and Gallup's latest is clearly high but within that range.

Looking only at Gallup polls since the 2006 election, approval has averaged 35.2% in Gallup's readings. This has fluctuated between 32% and 38% with little discernible trend. The current reading then, is also consistent with the variability in Gallup's polling over the past five months.

While the trend estimate takes a twitch up with this new poll, the shift is well within the range of noise around the estimator. My estimate has suggested that approval has held relatively steady between 33% and 35% since 1/1/2007. Until several more polls join Gallup in the high 30s, the best bet remains between 33% and 35%.





Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: Fox South Carolina GOP Primary

A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics statewide survey (story, results) of 600 likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina (conducted 4/1 through 4/3) finds:

  • In a statewide Republican primary, Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs at 26%, Sen. John McCain at 25%, and former Gov. Mitt Romney at 14%.
  • 70% of likely Republican primary voters approve of the job Bush is doing as president, 23% disapprove.
  • 59% consider themselves pro-life; 32% say pro-choice.

POLL: USA TODAY/Gallup Presidential Approval

A new USA Today/Gallup national survey (USA Today story, Gallup analysis) of 1,008 adults nationwide (conducted 4/2 through 4/5) finds:

  • 38% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as president; 58% disapprove
  • 33% approve of the job Congress is doing; 60% disapprove
  • 33% are satisfied with the state of the nation; 65% are dissatisfied.