April 15, 2007 - April 21, 2007


POLL: ABC/Post/Stanford Global Warming

A new ABC News/Washington Post/Stanford University national survey (ABC story, results; Post story, results) of 1,002 adults (conducted 4/5 through 4/10) finds:

  • 33% of Americans think "global warming/greenhouse effect/climate change" to be the single biggest environmental problem the world faces at this time; 16% thought that in March of 2006.
  • 70% think "the federal government should do more than it's doing now to try to deal with global warming;" 7% say less; 21% say it's doing the right amount.

More on Those Romney Numbers

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

I want to follow-up briefly on that ABC News/Washington Post poll question on Mitt Romney that I wrote about yesterday, the one showing 54% of adults (and "a third" of Republicans) saying they would "definitely not support" Romney. Alert reader Brent emailed to point out that the most recent Time/SRBI survey included a similar batter of "would-would not consider" questions that produced a very different response for Romney. Let's take a look.

First, revisit the ABC News/Washington Post question and the results for both Romney and other candidates:

ABC News/Washington Post (n=1,141 adults, 4/12-15): If (NAME) wins the (Democratic/Republican) nomination for president would you definitely vote for (him/her) in the general election for president in 2008, would you consider voting for (him/her) or would you definitely not vote for (him/her)?


Now consider the Time/SRBI question and results:

Time/SRBI (n=1,102 registered voters, 4/5-9/07): If the following candidate were to run for president and the election was being held today how much would you support him/her...definitely support, probably support, probably not support, definitely not support?


Notice a fairly consistent pattern for the candidates included on both surveys: On the one hand, the "definitely support" results differ by no more than four percentage points for any candidate - falling well within the range of random sampling error. On the other, the "definitely not" category gets a consistently bigger response on the ABC/Post survey, ranging from 9 points higher for Hillary Clinton to the whopping 38 point difference for Mitt Romney. Interestingly, the "not support" results are much closer (within single digits) if you compare the "definitely not" response on the ABC/Post survey to the total of "definitely not" and "probably not" on the Time poll.

While these questions are obviously very similar, there are two big differences that explain the general pattern.** First, the ABC question identifies the political party of each candidate. This information presumably makes it easier for partisans to offer an opinion about unfamiliar candidates. Second, the ABC/Post question offers three answer categories (definitely for, consider and definitely not for), while the Time question offers four (definitely support, probably support, probably not, definitely not).

That difference may seem subtle, but consider that attitude that many political partisans will hold toward a candidate of the opposite party they know in name only. Consider a Democrat asked to evaluate Mitt Romney, for example. It easy to imagine such a person saying they would "probably not" support Romney, but having a hard time choosing between "someone I'd actively consider" and "someone I could never, ever support," since they know so little about him. Yet the ABC/Post question forces them to choose between "definitely not support" and "would consider voting for." I'd guess most of those people end up in the "definitely not support" category, which comes closer to their opinion.

Of course, that theory is not an obvious explanation for why "a third" of Republicans would say they would "definitely not support" Romney. Although, again, if their first impression of Romney is poor - based either on the hunting story or (as some commenters suggested yesterday) negative views of the Mormon religion - the same phenomenon may occur. Many Republicans may have opted for "definitely not" when their true attitudes were closer to "probably not."

For what it's worth, the "definitely not" response for Romney has increased only 2 points since February on the Time/SRBI survey (from 14% to 16%), but the total of "definitely not" and "probably not" has increased by 12 points (from 33% to 45%).

So which question is more valid? Neither is "bad," in my view, but I think the Time/SRBI question provides a more interpretable snapshot of current opinions of most of these candidates. Few are well known enough at this stage to inspire truly strong support or opposition. When asked about individual candidates, the overwhelming majority of voters are either unfamiliar with candidates or are only willing to say which way they will "probably" vote (Hillary Clinton being the notable exception). Opposition to Mitt Romney is probably increasing, but not the dramatically high levels suggested by the ABC/Post poll.

**And yes, a third difference is that the ABC/Post poll asked these questions of adults and the Time/SRBI asked them only of registered voters. If anything, however, the difference in populations should have produced more intensity of feeling on the Time survey, since registered voters tend to be better informed and more opinionated about political candidates than non-registrants. Obviously, the numbers above show the opposite pattern.

UPDATE: While I was obsessing about Romney's numbers, Greg Sargent at TPMCafe and, in turn, Ana Marie Cox at Time were noticing the apparent similarity in the Clinton and McCain results on the ABC/Post poll: McCain's "definitely not support" number (47%) is two points higher than Clinton's (45%). So, asks Sargent appropriately, why not more "unelectable" stories about McCain?

Well, here too, the Time/SRBI version above shows a different result: Clinton's "definitely not" number is 36% to McCain's 17%, while the total "not support" numbers are 50% and 46% respectively. Again, the same pattern: The softer "probably not" answers on the Time poll seem to become "definitely not" on the ABC/Post survey.

On the subject of Clinton's electability, "Gallup Guru" Frank Newport has posted some thoughts worth reading about whether Clinton can win with a 45% favorable rating. Maybe, he concludes, after looking at past Gallup numbers. Keep in mind that favorable rating questions, like the "would you consider" item discussed here, are not created equal.

POLL: Strategic Vision (R) MI & PA Primaries

Two new Strategic Vision (R) statewide surveys of 1200 likely voters in both Michigan and Pennsylvania (conducted 4/13 through 4/15) find:

  • Among Republicans in Michigan, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs at 26%, while Sen. John McCain runs at 22% in a statewide primary. Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 29%, Sen. Barack Obama at 24%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 22%.
  • Among Republicans in Pennsylvania, Giuliani leads McCain 44% to 17%; Among Democrats, Clinton leads Obama 33% to 23%.

POLL: Rasmussen Richardson, Gun Control

Two new Rasmussen Reports automated surveys find:

  • Among 1,000 adults nationwide, 45% think the U.S. needs stricter gun laws while 37% think it does not (conducted 4/18 through 4/19).
  • Among 800 likely voters, Gov. Bill Richardson leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (42% to 34%) but trails former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (51% to 34%) in nationwide presidential match-ups (conducted 4/11 through 4/12).

POLL: Fox National Survey

A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics national survey (story, results) of 900 registered voters (conducted 4/17 through 4/18) finds:

  • 38% approve of the job Bush is doing as president; 54% disapprove.
  • Among Democrats asked to choose between three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 31%, Sen. Barack Obama at 27%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 23% in a national primary. In a trial heat of all Democratic candidates, Clinton leads Obama 41% to 20%, while former V.P. Al Gore and Edwards trail with 16% and 12% respectively.
  • Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 35%) leads Sen. John McCain (16%), former Gov. Mitt Romney (10%), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (9%), and former Sen. Fred Thompson (8%) in a national primary.

Romney's Suprising Post/ABC Numbers

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

I am little surprised that this finding reported in today's Washington Post, from the latest Post/ABC News poll, is not getting more attention:

Although [Mitt] Romney is not as well known nationally as many of the other leading candidates, he has made a poor first impression on the public. Fifty-four percent said they would definitely not vote for him; 7 percent said they definitely would back him.

The ABC News write-up includes this additional detail. The 54 percent that would definitely not support Romney includes "a third of Republicans - a particularly broad level of rejection within his own party."

A third of Republicans? Yes, the presidential campaign is off to its earliest start ever, and yes, according to the same ABC/Post poll, the 66% following the presidential campaign "very closely" or "somewhat closely" is higher now than it was in September 2003 (56%) or October 1999 (61%), but that sort of reaction still seems surprisingly high. Especially since, a bit later in the survey, only 14% say they know a "great deal" or a "good amount" about Romney's positions on specific issues, 15% say they know some and more than half (51%) say they know "little or nothing."

As both articles point out, opposition to Romney is greater than much better known figures, such as Hillary Clinton (45%) and John McCain (47%).

Two other polls out in the last week showed Romney with negative ratings that were slightly (though not significantly) higher than his positives: Gallup (23% favorable, 24% unfavorable - via Polling Report) and CBS News (10% favorable, 16% unfavorable). Still, the negative percentages on those surveys clearly fall far short of the 54% definitely not support number on the ABC/Post poll.

Romney was the subject of much negative coverage recently focusing the his claims to be a "lifelong hunter," including a recent attack by Republican candidate Mike Huckabee. But I am still puzzled by the huge "definitely not support" result in the Post/ABC survey. Anyone have a better theory?

UPDATE: The recent Time/SRBI survey asked a similar question that produced some very different results. Details here.

POLL: SurveyUSA VA Tech/Gun Laws

A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 500 adults in the cities of Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia (conducted 4/18 for WDBJ-TV) finds:

  • 31% feel more people would have died at Virginia Tech if guns were allowed on campus; 17% feel fewer people would have died; 44% feel it would not have made a difference.
  • 52% think gun laws in Virginia should be more restrictive than they are now; 8% say less restrictive; 38% say the current laws are about right.

POLL: Quinnipiac NJ Survey

A new Quinnipiac University statewide survey (Issues results; 2008 results) of 1,424 registered voters in New Jersey (conducted 4/10 through 4/16) finds:

  • Among 504 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 38%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (16%), former V.P. Al Gore (12%), and former Sen. John Edwards (9%) in a statewide primary.
  • Among 460 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain (49% to 18%) in a statewide primary.
  • Giuliani leads Clinton (49% to 40%), Obama (48% to 38%), and Edwards (48% to 41%) in statewide general election match-ups, while all three Democratic candidates edge out McCain by a few statistically insignificant points.

Rasmussen's Democrats -- Don't Tell Mama?

Topics: 2008 , IVR , IVR Polls , The 2008 Race

Both Mickey Kaus and Chris Bowers at MyDD noticed that Rasmussen Reports has been showing a much closer race on their automated national tracking of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary contest. Both floated different theories for that difference that imply that the Rasmussen's numbers are a more accurate read. This post takes a closer look at those arguments, although the bottom line is that hard answers are elusive.

The chart below shows how the recent Rasmussen surveys compare to the trend for all other conventional polls as tracked by Professor Franklin here at Pollster. The bolder line represents the average trend across all conventional surveys, while the shorter narrow lines connect the recent Rasmussen surveys. Click the image to enlarge it, and you will see that all but one of the Rasmussen surveys shows Barack Obama running better than the overall trend. The Rasmussen results for Clinton show far more variability, especially during the first four weeks of Rasmussen's tracking program. They show Clinton running worse than other polls over the last three weeks. Note that a new survey released overnight by Gallup (that shows Clinton's lead "tightening") has not altered the overall trend.


Of course the graphic above includes survey questions that continue to include Al Gore on the list of candidates. In order to reduce the random variability and make the numbers as comparable as possible, I created the following table. It shows that Clinton leading by an average of roughly 15 points (38.6% to 23.8%) on the three most recent conventional telephone surveys, but by just 5 points (33.0% to 28.3%) on the three most recent Rasmussen automated surveys (surveys that use a recorded voice and ask respondents to answer by pressing buttons on their touch tone phones). Given the number of interviews involved, we can assume that these differences are not about random sampling error. Something is systematically different about the Rasmussen surveys that has been showing a tighter Democratic race over the last three weeks.


But what is that difference? That's a tougher question to answer. Here are some theories, including those suggested by Bowers and Kaus:

1) The automated methodology yields more honest answers about vote choice (and thus, a more accurate result). The theory is that some people will hesitate to reveal certain opinions to another human being, particularly those that might create some "social discomfort" for the respondent. Thus, Kaus provides his "Don't Tell Mama" theory: "men don't like Hillary but are reluctant to say so in public" or to "tell a human interviewer -- especially, maybe, a female interviewer."

2) The people sampled by Rasmussen's surveys are more representative of likely Democratic primary voters because it uses a tighter screen. Chris Bowers makes that point by arguing that the Rasmussen screen looks slightly tighter than those used by other pollsters - "38-39% of the likely voter population" rather than the "40-50% of all registered voters [sampled by] the vast majority of national Democratic primary polls."

3) The people sampled by automated surveys are more representative of likely primary voters because they give more honest answers about whether they will vote. We know from at least 40 years of validation studies that many respondents will say they voted when they did not, due to the same sort of "social discomfort" mentioned above. Voting is something we are supposed to do, and a small portion of adults is reluctant to admit to non-voting to a stranger on the telephone. In theory, an automated survey would reduce such false reports.

4) The people sampled by automated surveys are less representative of likely primary voters because they capture exceptionally well informed respondent. This theory is one I hear often from conventional pollsters. They argue that only the most politically interested are willing to stay on the phone with a computer, and so automated surveys tend to sample individuals who are much more opinionated and better informed than the full pool of genuinely likely voters.

Lets take a closer look at the arguments from Kaus and Bowers.

Kaus makes much of the fact that the Rasmussen poll shows a big gender gap, with Clinton showing a "solid lead" (according to Rasmussen) among men, but trailing 11 points behind Obama among men. He wonders if other polls show the same gender gap. While precise comparisons are impossible, all the other polls I found that reported demographics results also show Clinton doing significantly better among women then men (Cook/RT Strategies, CBS News, Time and the Pew Research Center). Rasmussen certainly shows Obama doing better among men than the other surveys, but then, Rasmussen shows Obama doing better generally than the other surveys.

Kaus also offers a "backup" theory:

Of course (if it turns out the gender gap in the two polls is roughly comparable) it could be that many men and many women don't like Hillary but are reluctant to say so in public. (if it turns out the gender gap in the two polls is roughly comparable) it could be that many men and many women don't like Hillary but are reluctant to say so in public.

His backup may be plausible, especially when interviews are conducted by women, although we obviously have no hard evidence either way.

Bowers' theory feels like a better fit to me, especially if we also consider the possibility that the absence of an interviewer may reduce the "measurement error" in the selection of likely voters. The bottom line, however, is that we really have no way to know for sure. It is certainly possible, of course, that the Rasmussen's sampling is less accurate. All of these theories are plausible, and without some objective reality to use as a benchmark, we can only speculate about which set of polls is the most valid.

What strikes me most, as I go through this exercise, is how little we know about some important methodological details. What are the response rates? Are Rasmussen's higher or lower than conventional polls? How many respondents answered the primary vote questions on recent surveys conducted by ABC News/Washington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal and Fox News and the most recent CNN survey? Many pollsters provide results for subgroups of primary voters, yet virtually none tell us about the number of interviews behind such findings. We also know nothing of the demographic composition of their primary voter subgroups, including gender, age or the percentage that initially identify as independent.

And how exactly do those pollsters that currently report on "likely voters" select primary voters? How tight are their screens? Very little of information is in the public domain (and given that these numbers involve primary results, my likely voter guide from 2004 is of little help).

I emailed Scott Rasmussen to ask about their likely voter procedure for primary voters. His response:

We start with the tightest segment from our pool of Likely Voters... Dems are asked about how likely they are to vote in Primary... Unaffiliateds are asked if they had the chance, would they vote in a primary... if so, which one...

I am not completely sure what the "tightest segment" is, but I my guess is that they take those who say they will definitely or certainly vote in the Democratic primary. He also confirmed that the 774 likely Democratic primary voters came from a pool of 2,000 likely voters. So last night I asked what portion of adults qualified as likelyvoters so we might do an apples-to-apples comparison of the relative "tightness" of survey screens. As of this writing, I have not received an answer. UPDATE: Via email, Scott Rasmussen tells me that while he did not have numbers for that specific survey readily available, the percentage of adults that qualify as likely general election is typically "65% to 70%...for that series." He promised to check and report back if the number for this latest survey are any different.

But with respect to all pollsters again, and not just Mr. Rasmussen, why is so little of this sort of information in the public domain? Most media pollsters pledge to abide by professional codes of conduct that require disclosure of basic methodological details on request. Maybe it's time we start asking for that information for every survey, and not just those that produce quirky results.

POLL: Chicago Council on Global Affairs Worldwide Survey

A new Chicago Council on Global Affairs worldwide survey (summary, analysis, results) of 18 countries and the Palestinian Territories (conducted online, over telephone, and in face-to-face interviews between March of 2006 to December of 2006) finds:

  • 76% of Americans agree that the U.S. is playing the role of world policeman more than it should be, a higher percentage than those living in Israel (48%) and the Palestinian Territories (74%)
  • More than 50% of those surveyed in India and China believe relations between the U.S. and their respective country are improving.
  • 16% of Israel and 13% of the Philippines do not trust the U.S. to act responsibly in the world.

POLL: Harris/Harvard 18-24 National Survey

A new Harvard Institute of Politics online survey (release, analysis, results) of 2,923 adults ages 18-24 (conducted 3/8 through 3/26 by Harris Interactive) finds:

  • 31% approve of the job Bush is doing as president; 69% disapprove
  • Among 1,380 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Barack Obama leads Sen. Hillary Clinton (35% to 29%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 9%.
  • Among 839 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain (31% to 18%) in a national primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails with 8%.

POLL: Monmouth/Gannett NJ Primary

A new Monmouth University/Gannet statewide survey of 401 likely primary voters in New Jersey (conducted 4/11 through 4/16) finds:

  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (41% to 22%); former Sen. John Edwards trails with 13%.
  • Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain (49% to 19%).

POLL: USAToday/Gallup Dem Primary, Ratings

A new USA Today/Gallup national survey of 1,007 adults (conducted 4/13 through 4/15) finds:

  • Among 504 Democrats and Democratic-leaners, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 31%, Sen. Barack Obama at 26%, former Sen. John Edwards at 16%, and former V.P. Al Gore at 15% in a national primary.
  • Clinton's favorable ratings have declined among all Americans since Novemeber 2006 (55% to 46%), as well as among "groups that have generally very positive views of Clinton, such as Democrats, liberals, blacks, women, young adults, unmarried adults, and those living in low-income households."

POLL: Gallup Bush Approval Analysis

New analysis of Gallup Poll's recent surveys finds that during Bush's most recent quarter in office (1/20 through 4/19) his average approval rating was 35%, "the lowest quarterly average of his presidency to date."

POLL: Rasmussen National Primary

A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of likely voters nationwide (conducted 4/9 through 4/12) finds:

  • 33% of likely voters would definitely vote for Sen. Barack Obama for president; 30% say Sen. Hillary Clinton; 29% say former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
  • Among 774 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 32%) and Sen. Barack Obama (30%) are running within the margin of sampling error of one another in a national Democratic primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails with 16%.
  • Among 824 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 33%) leads Sen. John McCain (19%), former Sen. Fred Thompson (13%), and former Gov. Mitt Romney (12%) in a national Republican primary.

Public Opinion and Guns

Not surprisingly, yesterday's tragic shootings at Virginia Tech University have already led to heated debates about the role of gun laws and gun control. As of now, here are some resources worth considering on public opinion and gun control (we will update this post today if we find more):

  • Gallup Guru Frank Newport has posted comments on Gallup's recent findings on gun control, including a link to Gallup's more comprehensive review.
  • The Polling Report as a page devoted to findings on "guns," although all are from 2004 or prior.
  • An opinion piece by Politico columnist Roger Simon mines past exit polls to review the impact of gun control on presidential politics.

A moment of silence for Virginia Tech students and families


POLL: ABC/Post Approvals, Iraq, Gonzales

A new ABC News/Washington Post national survey (Post story, results; ABC Iraq story, results; Gonzales story; Imus story, results; 2008 story, results) of 1,141 adults (conducted 4/12 through 4/15) finds:

  • 35% approve of the way Bush is handling his job; 62% disapprove.
  • 51% think the U.S. should set a deadline for withdrawing forces from Iraq; 48% say it should not.
  • 67% think the eight U.S. attorneys were fired mainly for political reasons; 19% say for performance.

Disbursements to the Campaign Pollsters

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

This morning, my able assistant and I tried to acquaint ourselves with the online filings available at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in an effort to see what the campaign pollsters for the presidential campaigns have been up to. Unfortunately, the learning curve was a bit steep. The good news is that Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post checked the relevant numbers and posted them to his blog, The Fix:

At first glance it appeared as though Sen. Clinton had departed from the poll-crazy political approach of her husband -- spending no money on survey research in the first three months of the year. But look at the debt Clinton piled up -- $1.58 million -- and you'll find $277,000 owed to Penn, Schoen & Berland. One of the founders of that firm, Mark Penn, is Clinton's lead pollster.

Clinton's debt to Penn's firm suggests she spent the most on survey research of any candidate in the '08 field. As we noted yesterday, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) spent $200,000 on his polling in the first quarter. Giuliani dropped $121,000 on polling with the Tarrance Group; Romney paid Voter/Consumer Research $99,000, while McCain disbursed $95,500 to Public Opinion Strategies. Obama spent $94,000 on one of his pollsters (Harstad Strategic Research) and $12,500 on another (Brilliant Corners). Of the top six, only Edwards spent no money on polling in the period.

So what kind of polling are the campaigns doing at this stage that costs so much money? The FEC reports include only the amounts paid to pollsters, not the specific purpose of each payment, but it is a pretty safe bet that each of the candidates above has done some sort of polling or focus group work in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and perhaps Nevada and South Carolina as well. Their costs will vary, of course, but a poll in a single primary state can cost $20,000-30,000 or more, depending on the length of the questionnaire and the number of interviews conducted. A night of focus groups probably runs close to $10,000. And those candidates spending $200,000 or more are likely taking soundings of some of the states holding primaries on February 5, 2008.  

Most of the surveys are long "benchmarks" that go far beyond the questions we typically see on media surveys. They present information about the candidates to get a sense for how preferences may change as the race unfolds and voters get to know the candidates better. The surveys also typically include extensive "message testing" to help guide what the campaigns try to communicate through campaign appearances and paid advertising. This is a topic I hope to explore much more in the year ahead.  

POLL: SurveyUSA Virginia Senate

A new SurveyUSA statewide survey of 500 adults in Virginia (conducted 4/13) finds:

  • 51% of Virginians think Sen. John Warner should run for re-election in 2008; 40% say he should not.
  • 49% think former Gov. Mark Warner should run for U.S. Senate in 2008; 43% say he should not.

POLL: CNN 08 Primary

A new CNN/ORC national survey of registered voters (conducted 4/10 through 4/12) finds:

  • Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs at 27%, Sen. John McCain at 24%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 11%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 10%, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 8% in a national Republican primary (margin of sampling error +/-5%).
  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 30%, Sen. Barack Obama at 26%, former V.P. Al Gore at 15%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 12% (margin of sampling error +/-4%). With Gore excluded, Clinton leads Obama (36% to 28%).
  • Clinton leads Obama among African Americans 53% to 36% with Gore excluded; 46% to 35% with Gore included.

POLL: CBS News Iraq, 08, Taxes

A new CBS News national survey (Iraq/08 story, Iraq results, 08 results; Taxes results; Middle Class story, results) of 994 adults (conducted 4/9 through 4/12) finds:

  • 31% approve of the way Bush is handling his job; 61% disapprove.
  • 49% say the congress should have the "final say" about troops in Iraq; 44% say Bush should.
  • Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain (52% to 29%) in a national two-way Republican primary; Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 39%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (24%) and Sen. John Edwards (21%) in a national three-way Democratic primary.