April 15, 2007 - April 21, 2007
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.
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
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
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
Keep in mind that favorable rating questions, like the "would you consider" item
discussed here, are not created equal.
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%.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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,
voter guide from 2004 is of little help).
I emailed Scott Rasmussen to ask about their likely voter
procedure for primary voters. His response:
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.
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.
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%.
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%).
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."
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."
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.
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):
Guru Frank Newport has posted comments
on Gallup's recent findings on gun control,
including a link to Gallup's
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.