April 22, 2007 - April 28, 2007


California Polls, Turnout and the Democratic Vote

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

Today, in our ongoing conversation about whether national surveys may be overstating Hillary Clinton's lead, let's look at some recent statewide surveys from California. In that state at least, the data suggest that if anything, the opposite may be true.

First, consider past turnout in California. On March 2, 2004, 3.1 million Californians voted in the Democratic presidential primary. Turnout amounted to roughly 14.8% of eligible adults [and 11.7% of all voting age adults -- see update below].

Now consider four recent surveys, each with a unique methodology. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) conducted a survey of 2,000 California adults, March 13-20, using a traditional random-digit-dial (RDD) methodology. They used screen questions to select, first registered voters, then 498 likely Democratic primary voters (those who consider themselves "strong Democrats" or say they plan to vote in the primary on February 5, 2008). The Democratic sample amounts to 25% of the adults interviewed.

The firm SurveyUSA polled Californians, March 3-5, using an automated "Interactive Voice Response" methodology that requires respondents to answer using the keys on their touch-tone phone, but also uses the traditional RDD methodology to reach a random sample of all households with a working landline telephone in the state. They interviewered 2,400 adults and selected 562 likely Democratic primary voters; the Democrats were 23% of the adult sample.

The Field Poll, the granddaddy of all California polls, has recently shifted to so-called "registration-based-sampling" (RBS). Their March 20-31 survey was based on a sample drawn from a list of registered voters in California. They interviewed 1,093 registered voters then used screen questions to select 417 562 likely Democratic primary voters. With a back-of-the-envelope calculation (that California's 15.8 million registered voters last fall were 74% of the voter eligible population), the Democrats in the Field poll amount to roughly 28% of California eligible adults [and 23% of voting age California adults - see Update II below].

Finally, Working Californians (a labor friendly non-profit) yesterday released a survey of 400 likely Democratic primary voters in California conducted April 9-12 by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman (who polled for John Kerry in 2004 but is not currently affiliated with any of the 2008 presidential candidates). Via email, Mellman confirms that he, like most campaign pollsters, not only sampled from a voter list but takes the method one step further than Field. Rather than simply screening for likely primary voters, Mellman also selected from the registered voter lists only individuals with some past history of primary voting.

Here are the results:


A few things stand out. First, despite their wide variation in methodology, all of these surveys use "tighter" screens than most of the national polls, and yet Hillary Clinton leads by a healthy margin in all four. She runs as strongly here as in the national surveys, despite the arguably tighter screens used by PPIC, Field and SurveyUSA.

Second, the one automated poll from SurveyUSA has Clinton leading by roughly the same margin (13 points) as the two interviewer surveys conducted at about the same time by PPIC (+11) and Field (+13). SurveyUSA produced a slightly smaller undecided (6%) than the other polls (9% to 14%), as they typically do. No evidence of a "don't tell mama" effect here.

Third, and perhaps more important, the survey with the arguably tightest screen - the one with the least potential to include non-primary voters - gives Clinton her largest lead (+19) and Obama his smallest share of the vote (19%).

UPDATE:Over at MyDD, reflecting in part on my last post on this subject, Chris Bowers has concluded that "the existing evidence no longer provides any clear support to the Inflated Clinton Poll Theory." He adds:

Simply put, there are conflicting indications as to whether Clinton or Obama would benefit more from a tighter poll sample that focused only on Democrats who are likely to make up the caucus and primary electorate, rather than all Democratic self-identifiers and leaners who are registered to vote. Given all of this, I think it is time that I move on and start blogging about other subjects again.

Agreed -- and we will do the same. See you Monday.

UPDATE II: Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, left the following comment below:

[W]hen making your "back of the envelope" calculations to compare The Field Poll's RBS sample to the other polls' RDD samples, I would take issue with your decision to calculate registered voters as a percentage of California's citizen-eligible population (74%) rather than its adult population (66%). When RDD samples are implemented, the survey universe includes all adults, not just citizen-eligibles. So, if you had calculated registered voters using its 66% share of all adults, this would have reduced the proportion of eligible Democrats sampled by The Field Poll's to 25% of California adults, rather than 28% of citizen-eligible cited in your post.

He is right, and I apologize for the oversight. The voting age population (VAP) in California is a more appropriate statistic because the voter eligible population (VEP) statistic that I used excludes non-citizens that will be contacted by an RDD survey. As DiCamillo points out, the adults contacted by an RDD survey will include non-citizens, especially in California, a state with the largest percentage of voting age non-citizens in the nation (18.9% in August 2006).

As for his estimate that registered voters are 66% of the adult population, DiCamillo may have been using older data. GMU Prof. Michael McDonald's invaluable archive of turnout statistics reports tells us that the voting age population for California was 26.6 million in the August 2006, which would make registered voters 59.5% of that population. As such, the Democrats on the Field poll represent roughly 23% of California adults.

Of course, the same point applies to my turnout calculation. The California Democratic primary turnout of 2004 amounted to 11.7% of that state's adult population at the time.

This difference does not affect my larger point: Turnout was greater for California's Democratic primary in 2004, then for Democrats nationally, yet California's pollsters are using tighter turnout screens than the national pollsters. And Clinton's lead still looks roughly the same as in the national polls.

POLL: Harris Approvals

A new Harris Interactive online survey of 1,001 adults (conducted 4/20 through 4/23) finds:

  • 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as president, the "lowest ever" since he took office; 70% disapprove.

  • 25% approve of the job Cheney is doing; 68% disapprove.

  • 22% approve of the job Majority Leader Harry Reid is doing; 52% disapprove.

See also Charles Franklin's analysis of how this poll compares to other recent job approval ratings.

Bush Approval: Harris at 28%, Trend at 34.1%

Topics: George Bush


After a flurry of new polls in the last 24 hours, a new Harris poll taken 4/20-23/07 finds approval at 28%, disapproval at 70%. With this addition, the estimated approval trend stands at 34.1%.

The Harris result is a good deal below the estimated trend, and below other recent polls. In part this reflects a typical Harris "house effect". With it's atypical four point question format ("Excellent, good, fair or poor" rather than "approve or disapprove"), Harris' approval results are often a bit below that of other pollsters. The plot below, however, shows that this low result is not only due to house effects. The current poll is noticeably further below the trend estimate than are other recent Harris results.


How far the new poll is from the trend is apparent in the next figure below, in which Harris clearly falls outside the 95% confidence interval for "normal" variability. While it is possible the new poll at 28% represents a sudden negative shift, this is quite a distance away from other contemporaneous results from CBS News, NBC/WSJ and Pew.


In light of the outlier analysis, it seems likely that the new Harris poll does not represent a sudden shift in support for President Bush. It is more reasonable that our prior estimate of 34.7% is closer to the national mood, rather than the 34.1% resulting from inclusion of this poll. In either case, the overall picture of relatively little trend in the last 5 months holds. We have been in a period of approval moving up or down a point, but never establishing strong evidence for a trend. While it could change at any point, the post-2006 election period has so far held in rough equilibrium.



Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

Tag Clouds for the Democratic Debate

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

Janet Harris, a friend and Pollster reader, sends an interesting bit of analysis she did on last night's MSNBC Democratic debate. Using the free site TagCrowd, she created a set of "tag clouds" that provides a visual depiction of the words used most often last night by each of the candidates.

For those not familiar with the term, you have probably seen tag clouds appearing on many web sites (and hopefully, very soon here on Pollster). They were apparently first implemented on the photo sharing site Flickr, and typically provide a visual representation of the most popular "tags" assigned to web pages. The type size of each word varies according to its frequency of usage. The larger the type size, the more often each candidate used that word.

Here are the clouds Janet created:









She also created a PDF version suitable for printing.

Now of course, this is a quick blog post, which probably raises as many questions for me as it answers. Each of the clouds consists of the 50 words used most often, omitting common words like "and," "of," "the," etc. I am not sure if the scale of the words is comparable across clouds -I suspect that Professor Franklin will feel strongly that they should be. Finally, for what it's worth, Janet also sends along this total word count for each candidate:

  • 1,872 - Senator Obama
  • 1,766 - Senator Clinton
  • 1,518 - Senator Edwards
  • 1,281 - Governor Richardson
  • 1,180 - Representative Kucinich
  • 961 - Senator Biden
  • 912 - Senator Dodd
  • 753 - Senator Gravel

A few quick observations, with an assist from Janet (who is the president of the media analysis firm, Upstream Analysis):

  • Notice the more frequent use of wonkier language by Chris Dodd, particularly the use of "administration," "multinational," "stateless," etc.
  • Now contrast that to John Edwards, whose answers tend to use everyday language and deliver a message loud and clear message: "America," "believe," "united."
  • The one-issue emphasis of Kucinich and Gravel - "war" -- is obvious.

Obviously, this feature is a bit off-topic for a site devoted to polling methodology, but it does deal with the graphic analysis of political data. I can certainly see potential applications of this sort of graphic for those that conduct and transcribe focus groups and other "qualitative" analysis.

But enough wonkiness. Readers, what do you see in these clouds? Our comment section is wide open...

POLL: CBS/NYT Congress, Global Warming

A new CBS News/New York Times national survey (CBS Congress story, results; Global Warming story, results; NYT story, results) of 1,052 adults (conducted 4/20 through 4/24) finds:

  • 32% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president; 61% disapprove.

  • 64% think the U.S. should "set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq sometime in 2008," but if Bush vetoes Congress's timetable proposal, 56% think Congress should "allow funding for the war, even if there is no timetable."

  • 44% think Alberto Gonzales should resign; 28% think he should not.

  • 78% think "it is necessary to take steps to counter the effects of global warming right away;" 19% say "not necessary yet"

POLL: SurveyUSA South Carolina Debate

A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 1,250 adults in South Carolina (conducted immediately following the Democratic Presidential Debate on 4/26) finds:

  • Among 403 adults who listened to the debate, 31% felt Sen. Barack Obama won, 24% felt Sen. Hillary Clinton won, and 14% felt former Sen. John Edwards won.

  • Among only those who said they would vote in the Democratic primary (52%), 39% felt Clinton won, 35% felt Obama won, and 10% felt Edwards won.

Do Attentive Voters Prefer Different Candidates?

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

Earlier today, the Pew Research Center released results from their latest national survey, which provides must read analysis on the state of perceptions of the 2008 race for president. However, an "outtake" cross-tabulation from that report sheds some new light on whether the loose screens used by national polls to report national presidential primary preferences may be distorting the results. Consider, for example, the turnout in next year's Democratic primaries and caucuses is unlikely to amount to more than 10% of the adult population, yet most national surveys report on the preferences of the 35% to 55% of adults (or of registered voters) that identify or lean to the Democrats. The key question we have been asking is whether that discrepancy makes a difference in the results?

The Pew survey has two helpful characteristics in this regard. First, they have asked the same vote and demographic questions on their last two surveys, allowing larger than usual sub-samples of Democratic (n=1,188) and Republican (n=1,059) identifiers or "leaners" that are registered to vote. Second, both surveys include a question generally considered predictive of voter turnout:

How much thought, if any, have you given to candidates who may be running for president in 2008, a lot, some, not much or none at all?

I emailed the analysts at the Pew Research Center and they shared the following table, something apparently prepared for their report but cut from the final draft:


Two findings stand out: Among Democrats, Barack Obama gets a higher percent of the vote (27%) among those paying a lot of attention or paying some attention (28%) than among those paying little or no attention (19%). Similarly, Rudy Giuliani gets a higher percentage of the vote (36%) among Republicans paying a lot of attention or some attention (34%) than among those paying little or no attention (28%). Conversely but not surprisingly, in both cases, those paying the least attention are also the most likely to tell pollsters they are undecided.

So what do these results say about Chris Bowers' theory that national polls are overstating Hillary Clinton's lead? The evidence here is mixed, at best. Obama certainly does better among more attentive voters, although that finding is not particularly surprising given his rapidly growing name recognition in recent months. However, Clinton also does better among the most attentive Democrats. Thus, her margin over Obama among those who pay "a lot" of attention (11 points in the combined March/April data) is actually a few statistically insignificant points higher than her margin among all Democrats (9 points in March, 10 points in April).

Now, some cautions about the above. First, those who say they pay a lot of attention to the candidates are more likely to vote than those who do not, but this measure is far from a perfect turnout predictor. Pollsters that use attentiveness to select likely voters usually do so in combination with other measures, such as reports of past voting or future likelihood to vote. Second, an interesting twist: Among Democrats, Al Gore does better among the least attentive (17%) than among the most attentive (10%). Reallocating Gore's vote using Pew's second choice question might change these numbers slightly, but probably not dramatically.

Meanwhile, over at MyDD, Chris Bowers looks at the Pew results showing Clinton running better among Democratic identifiers than among independents who lean that way, and he sees an "an important structural flaw" in his theory:

I still believe that Obama probably does much better relative to Clinton among voters who are paying very close, or somewhat close, attention to the campaign than among voters who are not paying much attention at all. However, closed primaries in several large February 5th states might cancel out that advantage, since Obama performs relatively better among Democratic-leaning independents who won't be able to vote in closed primaries than he does among self-identified Democrats (in this case, I am assuming self-identified Democrats are more likely to be registered Democrats than are Democratic-leaning independents).

Note that several other surveys have confirmed that Clinton's margin is narrower among independent leaning Democrats.

POLL: Pew Approvals, Iraq, 08

A new Pew Research Center national survey (analysis, results) of 1,508 adults (conducted 4/18 through 4/22) finds:

  • 35% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president; 57% disapprove.

  • 59% would like to see their Congressional representative vote for "a bill that calls for withdrawal of troops from Iraq to be completed by August of 2008;" 33% say vote against.

  • Among 530 registered voters who identify or lean Republican, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain 32% to 23% in a national primary. Among 574 registered voters who identify or lean Democratic, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama 34% to 24% in a national primary.

POLL: Rasmussen Round-Up

Three new Rasmussen Reports automated surveys released this week find:

  • Among 1,000 adults, 59% favor Sen. Hillary Clinton's plan to raise taxes on the wealthy if she is elected; 31% oppose (conducted 4/22 through 4/23).

  • Among 800 likely voters, 49% have a favorable opinion of Sen. John McCain, "a dramatic decline from earlier polling" (conducted 4/23 through 4/24).

  • Among 800 likely voters, 57% favor either a firm deadline for withdrawal or an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq; 35% oppose both (conducted 4/23 through 4/24).

POLL: Quinnipiac Florida/Ohio/Pennsylvania Survey

New Quinnipiac University statewide surveys of 987 registered voters in Florida, 1,083 registered voters in Ohio, and 988 registered voters in Pennsylvania (conducted 4/17 through 4/24) finds:

  • In Florida, Giuliani leads Clinton and Obama but barely edges out Gore; McCain ties Clinton and Obama but runs within the margin of sampling error of Gore.
  • In Ohio, both Giuliani and McCain lead Gore and Obama but barely edge out Clinton.
  • In Pennsylvania, match-ups pitting Giuliani and McCain against Clinton, Obama, and Gore are all within the margin of sampling error.

The three surveys also test presidential primary races and favorable ratings of the candidates.

POLL: Baselice & Associates Texas GOP Primary

A new Baselice & Associates (R) statewide survey of 831 likely Republican primary voters in Texas (conducted 4/16 through 4/19) finds former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 24%) leading Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson (both at 19%) in a statewide primary.

Approval of Vice-President Cheney

Topics: Blogosphere


Today's little quote on Vice-President Cheney from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in the New York Times, "I’m not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating", was the second time in two weeks that a prominent Democratic Senator asserted that public support for the Vice-President is exceptionally low. On April 15, on Fox News Sunday, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) said "Vice President Cheney has zero credibility. I don't think anybody more than 5 percent or 10 percent of the hardcore solid Republican base believes much that Vice President Cheney says. He has no credibility."

My colleague at Pollster.com, Mark Blumenthal, promptly set the current record straight with this post. Cheney's approval is running between 29% and 34% in the four most recent polls.

Normally I'd write either of these quotes off to hyperbole in a world rarely disciplined by details like data, but the two quotes in short order raises a more interesting question: do Democrats, even political professionals, systematically misperceive Cheney's standing in public opinion? It isn't that Cheney has a particularly positive public standing, but as the figure above shows, he in fact is only a few points lower in approval rating than is President Bush.

In the "paired-data" (meaning only polls that ask about both Bush and Cheney job approval) above, Bush approval is about 34% and Cheney approval is 32%-33%. Over the course of the entire administration, Cheney has consistently been a bit below the President in approval, more-so in the first term and less-so in the second term. This is partly an artifact of more people saying they "don't know" if they approve or disapprove of Cheney.


The 2004 reelection campaign represented a change, with the gap in "don't know" rates narrowing from double to single digits. This reduced the extent to which approval of Cheney was affected by lack of knowledge or opinion crystallization. Still, there remains a persistent gap in those unable to give an opinion on Bush and Cheney's job performance, and this contributes somewhat to the Bush-Cheney approval gap, keeping Cheney's approval below that of Bush.

On the disapproval side, the story is a bit more interesting. Cheney suffered greater disapproval than Bush in the first term, despite the difference in "don't know" rates. The 2004 election and the early 2005 period represents the turning point, with Bush moving modestly ahead in disapproval, a lead he has consistently held since mid-2005.


This disapproval difference is clearly not due to Cheney's greater obscurity-- he was more disapproved of when he was more unknown.

A couple of conclusions are clear. Cheney has consistently had a lower approval rate than Bush, but the margin since 2004 has not been large. A significant portion of this approval difference is attributable to the difference in "don't know" rates. As the latter shrunk, so the approval gap shrunk. Cheney was significantly more unpopular than Bush in the first term but that has reversed. Taken together, there is certainly no evidence that Cheney is significantly less popular than the President.

So why are Democrats so convinced that Cheney is substantially more unpopular than Bush, given the small actual differences? One possibility is the overwhelmingly negative views of Bush among Democrats (his approval rating among Democrats has been below 10% for months) means that Democrats move in a virtually completely homogeneous environment which gives them no chance to encounter other Democrats with a more positive view of Bush (and by extrapolation, Cheney-- I have no data on Cheney approval by party, but it is surely also below 10% among Democrats.) So when Sen. Reid says Cheney has a "9 percent approval rating" he might be reflecting the views of Democrats pretty accurately, even though he is wildly understating approval among the public as a whole.

And I don't discount the possibility that these comments were deliberate rhetorical exaggerations, and that both Sen. Levin and Sen. Reid are perfectly well aware of the data. Despite that caveat, the perception of Cheney in the Democratic blogosphere amply supports the notion that this perception that he is far less popular than Bush is in fact widespread and not just confined to these two Senators.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: NBC/WSJ 08 Primary, Iraq

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal national survey (NBC story, results; WSJ story, results) of 1,004 adults (conducted 4/20 through 4/23) finds:

  • Among Democrats and Democratic-leaners, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 36%, Sen. Barack Obama at 31%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 20% in a national primary.
  • Among Republicans and Republican-leaners, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain 33% to 22% in a national primary; former Senator Fred Thompson trails at 17%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 12%.
  • 36% think victory in Iraq is still possible; 55% think it is not.

NYT: New Limits on Automated Calls?

Topics: IVR , IVR Polls

Today's New York Times gives prominent play to a story on bills working their way through various state legislatures across the country to crack down on prerecorded campaign calls:

Nearly two-thirds of registered voters nationwide received the recorded telephone messages, which as political calls are exempt from federal do-not-call rules, leading up to the November elections, according to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, an independent research group. The calls, often known as robocalls, were the second most popular form of political communication, trailing only direct mail, the group said.

The article did not address the potential impact, if any, on automated surveys conducted using a pre-recorded script that ask respondents to answer by typing keys of their touch tone telephones. As of January, according to the newsletter of the Council of American Survey Organizations (CASRO), there were already "sixteen bills in seven different states addressing automated calls." However, as I read the CASRO report, most of these new bills -- like the federal "do-not-call" regulations -- do not appear to restrict calls made for the purpose of survey research.

I thought it might be useful to ask the opinion of survey researchers who conduct automated "interactive voice response" (IVR) surveys for their reaction to today's Times story.

Jay Leve is the editor of SurveyUSA, a firm that conducts public polls exclusively with IVR. His comment:

The people who try to deceive voters, using whatever technology, should be put in prison. Nothing is more repugnant than individuals or firms who use technology to disenfranchise voters, which is what the calls being debated do. Many such calls are designed to suppress turnout. They are the 21st Century Bull Connor, with a fire-hose replaced by Ethernet. SurveyUSA welcomes carefully drawn legislation that makes it a crime to mislead voters, by whatever means. SurveyUSA opposes sloppily drawn legislation, in any jurisdiction, that fails to recognize the vital community interest served by legitimate, hyper-local public opinion research.

Thomas Riehle is a partner in RT Strategies, a firm that usually conducts telephone surveys using live interviewers (including the polls conducted for the Cook Political Report). One exception was last year's Majority Watch project, which fielded pre-election polls via IVR in contested U.S. House races. Riehle's comment:

The research industry, under the leadership of CMOR [the Council for Marketing and Opinion Research], has done a good job in helping legislators and regulators distinguish between a telemarketing program contacting hundreds of thousands of households with sales or advertising mass-marketing messages, which 'do not call' lists regulate, and live telephone interviews with a few hundred or a thousand households who complete a survey research project. I would hope that regulators or legislators intending to limit any negative impact they might find caused by hundreds of thousands of political telemarketing recorded calls will not unintentionally limit the ability to complete a few hundred survey research calls using recorded-voice interviews.

As they say in radio land, our comment line is open. What do you think?

POLL: ASU Statewide Survey

A new Arizona State University Cronkite/Eight Poll of 827 registered voters in Arizona (conducted 4/19 through 4/22) finds:

  • 36% approve of the job Bush is doing as president; 60% disapprove.
  • Among Republicans (39%), Sen. John McCain runs at 32%, while former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs at 27% in a statewide primary.
  • Among Democrats (35%), Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 25%, Sen. Barack Obama at 20%, former Sen. John Edwards at 18%, and former V.P. Al Gore at 17% in a statewide primary.

POLL: Hamilton Beattie (D)/Ayers McHenry (R) South Carolina Survey

A new Ayers McHenry & Associates (R)/Hamilton Beattie & Staff (D) statewide survey (story, results) of likely primary voters in South Carolina (conducted 4/14 through 4/19 for the League of Conservation Voters of South Carolina and the Coastal Conservation League) finds:

  • Among 400 Democrats and Democratic-leaners, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 31%, Sen. Barack Obama at 27%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 16% in a Democratic primary.
  • Among 400 Republicans and Republican-leaners, Sen. John McCain (at 24%) leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (15%), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (12%), former Sen. Fred Thompson (11%), and former Gov. Mitt Romney (10%) in a Republican primary.
  • 69% of Democrats and 21% of Republicans say global warming is a "very important" issue for the next President to address.

POLL: Garin-Hart-Yang South Carolina Democratic Primary

A new Garin-Hart-Yang (D) statewide survey (story, results) of 801 likely Democratic primary voters in South Carolina (conducted 4/9 through 4/12 for WIS-TV and Communities for Quality Education) finds:

  • Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 24%, Sen. Barack Obama at 23%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 17% in a Democratic primary.
  • In two-way primary match-ups, Obama edges out both Clinton (40% to 39%) and Edwards (42% to 41%), while Clinton leads Edwards 48% to 40%.

Cheney 9% Approval: Not Exactly

In the widely covered exchange with Vice President Dick Cheney, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reportedly said:

"I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating."

Perhaps that was a bit of rhetorical excess, because while Cheney's ratings are low, they are a long way from 9%. Here, via the Polling Report, are the four most recent measurements of the Vice President's job rating:


Note: the job approval questions posed by Time, Gallup and CNN ask whether respondents approve or disapprove. The choices on the Harris poll are excellent, pretty good, only fair and poor - the results here are for excellent/good and only fair/poor. Harris did report a 6% "excellent" rating for Cheney, but we don't think that's what Reid had in mind.

Typos corrected

UPDATE: Charles Franklin's analysis of Cheney's approval ratings added 4/26.

POLL: Northern Arizona University General Election Match-ups

A new Northern Arizona University Grand Canyon State Poll of 493 registered voters in Arizona (conducted 4/13 through 4/19) finds:

  • Both Sen. John McCain and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani lead either Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, or former Sen. John Edwards in general election match-ups.
  • Match-ups pitting former Gov. Mitt Romney against Clinton, Edwards, or Obama are all within the margin of sampling error.

POLL: Zogby South Carolina Primary

A new Zogby telephone survey (story, Dem results, GOP results) of likely primary voters in South Carolina (conducted 4/16 through 4/17) finds:

  • Among 503 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama 33% to 26% in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails with 21%.
  • Among 512 Republicans, Sen. John McCain runs at 22%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 19%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 11%, and former Gov. Mitt Romney at 10% in a statewide primary.

POLL: CBS/NYT Gun Control, VA Tech

A new CBS News/New York Times national survey (story, results) of 644 adults (conducted 4/20 through 4/22) finds:

  • 66% believe laws covering the sale of handguns should be more strict; 28% say less strict.
  • 45% think allowing adults to carry concealed handguns would have had no effect on the voilence at Virginia Tech; 25% say the violence would have been worse; 23% say the violence would have been reduced.

POLL: Pew Gun Control, VA Tech

A new Pew Research Center national survey (analysis, results) of 1,508 adults (conducted 4/18 through 4/22) finds "last week's shootings at Virginia Tech have had little immediate impact on public opinion about gun control."

  • 60% think it is more important to control gun ownership than to protect the right of Americans to own guns; 32% think the opposite. PRC reports: "Opinion has changed little since 2004, when 58% said it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect the rights of gun owners."
  • 55% oppose a law that banned the sale of handguns; 37% favor it.

Gallup on "Where the Election Stands"

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

I got busy yesterday and neglected to link to it, but the Gallup organization posted a remarkable summary of essentially everything their many surveys have had to say in recent months about the upcoming 2008 elections. The report has nothing new for those of you who share my daily obsession with such things, but for those looking for a quick overall take it is free and well worth the click.

One important warning from Gallup that is also worthy of repetition:

Poll results at this phase -- nine months before the first primaries and caucuses -- do not necessarily bear a strong relationship to the reality that unfolds in the election year itself. This has historically been true for the Democratic nomination in particular. Bill Clinton, Michael Dukakis, Jimmy Carter, and George McGovern were all virtual unknowns who rose from obscurity to take their party's nomination. Republicans have, on the other hand, been more likely to settle on a nominee early, and stick with him.

We could also throw in John Kerry, who while not a "virtual unknown" still registered at just 9%, 15 points behind "frontrunner" Howard Dean, on Gallup poll conducted in January 2004, just weeks before victories in both the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary propelled Kerry to the nomination.  

On a different note, one serious suggestion for the powers-that-be at Gallup: This report would have much greater value if the many, many references to in-depth Gallup reports included hyperlinks, especially since Gallup seems to be opening up access to its recent analyses to non-subscribers. Just a thought.

POLL: Hamilton Beattie & Staff (D) Texas Senate

A new Hammilton Beattie & Staff (D) statewide survey of 800 registered voters in Texas (conducted 4/11 through 4/15 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) finds incumbent Sen. John Cornyn leading an unnamed Democratic opponent (47% to 38%) in a senatorial election match-up.

POLL: Rasmussen Primary, Partial Birth Abortion

Two new Rasmussen Reports automated surveys find:

  • Among 1,000 adults, 40% correctly knew what the Supreme Court's recent decision on partial-birth abortion was; of the 40%, 56% agreed with it while 32% opposed it conducted 4/20 through 4/21).
  • Among 579 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain (28% to 15%) in a national primary; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 12%) and former Gov. Mitt Romney at 10% (conducted 4/16 through 4/19).
  • Among 782 likely Democratic primary voters, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are tied at 32% in a national primary (Mark Blumenthal's analysis); Edwards trails at 17% (conducted 4/16 through 4/19).

POLL: ABC News Gun Control

A new ABC News national survey (story, results) of 788 adults (conducted last night, 4/22) finds:

  • 61% of Americans favor stricter gun control laws in this country; 36% oppose.
  • 67% favor a ban on assault weapons, while 38% favor a ban on the sale of handguns except to law officers

More on the Rasmussen Democrats

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

More today on the debate over why the Rasmussen automated survey is showing a closer Democratic race than other pollsters. Today Rasmussen released new results showing dead heat between Hillary Clinton (32%) and Barack Obama (32%). Although the current results are not significantly different (in a statistical sense) than last week, Rasmussen tell us:

Obama has been steadily gaining ground during April. Last week, Clinton had a two-point lead. Two weeks ago, it was Clinton by five. The week before that, the former First Lady was up by seven. Our last release in March found Clinton enjoying a double digit lead.

Over at MyDD (a liberal site whose contributors are not particularly fond of Sen. Clinton), Chris Bowers sees this new result as further evidence that the other national polls are inflating Clinton's lead. He does the math and concludes that the Democrats sampled for this most recent Rasmussen survey represents 19.5% of the voting age population, compared to between 38% and 50% represented by the Democratic subsamples of other recent national surveys.

Bowers concludes by asking a very good question:

Is the difference between Rasmussen's national Democratic primary preference numbers, and the numbers of other polls, the result of the different universes the polls are sampling? To put it another way, does Clinton perform better in non-Rasmussen polls because those polls include a far greater percentage of "unlikely" primary voters?

The answer is elusive. I looked at some other potential explanations for the difference in the Rasmussen numbers last week. The problem with all of these comparisons and theories is that we are all speculating. What we really need to test the Bowers theory is a very large national sample that could allow a comparison between hard core likely Democratic primary votesr and the larger universe sampled by the other national pollsters, typically registered voters that identify as Democrats.

Back in November and December 2005 the inaugural Cook/RT Strategies polls did just that. Each survey started with a sample of roughly 1,000 adults. RT Strategies provided cross-tabulations for each survey (November & December) that included results for two subgroups of Democrats and Republicans: All voters that identify or lean to a given party and the "hard core" primary voters for each.

They defined "hard core" primary voters using two questions:

How often do you personally have the time to vote in the primary elections or participate in political caucuses when parties select their candidates for office-all the time, most of the time, some of the time, or never?

(BASED ON THOSE VOTING IN PRIMARIES AT LEAST SOME OF THE TIME) And do you generally participate in primary elections or party caucuses with the (ROTATE: Republican Party / Democratic Party?)

Respondents qualified as a "hard core" Democrats if they said they voted in primary elections or caucuses "most of the time" on the first question and said they generally participate in Democratic Party primaries or caucuses on the second. The November 2005 survey yielded 476 registered voters that identified or leaned Democratic, the December 2005 survey yielded 460 -- roughly 46-47% of all adults. Appropriately, hard core Democratic primary voter universe was much smaller, just 169 respondents in November and 181 in December -- or about 17-18% of all adults.

Neither survey yielded much in the way of big differences between hard core Democratic primary voters and all other Democrats. The November survey asked a complex question about Hillary Clinton (that took different forms for different randomly selected respondents). When they rolled the difference versions together, the percentage agreeing that Clinton "would be a good candidate" was five points lower among hard core Democrats (60%) than among all Democrats and leaners (65%). While that difference is in the direction that the Bowers' theory would predict, it was not quite statistically significant given the small sample sizes.

Only the December survey asked about Democratic vote preference directly, and it showed virtually no difference. Clinton led among both groups, receiving 32% from hard core Democratic primary voters and 33% from all Democrats and Democratic leaners. Kerry and Edwards trailed with roughly 15-17% in both universes. Of course, the survey did not include Obama among the potential candidates, and a lot has happened in the nearly 16 months since.

Demographic differences, on the other hand, are still valid: The hard core Democratic primary electorate was both older (53% over 50) and better educated (46% college degree) than all Democratic identifiers and leaners (43% over 50 and 39% with a college degree).

But the main point here is that the only way to really test the Bowers thesis is to do a similar test involving a very large national sample of adults, or successive surveys rolled together to produce a large sample. Given the heavy attention being paid now to the 2008 nominating contests and the easily documented mismatch between past primary turnout and the universe of respondent asked primary vote questions (see also Bowers), it is the least the national pollsters can do.

POLL: Nebraska Senate GOP Primary

A new Dresner, Wickers & Associates (R) statewide survey of 404 Republicans in Nebraska (conducted 4/10 through 4/16 for Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning) finds Bruning leading incumbent Sen. Chuck Hagel (47% to 38%) in a hypothetical statewide Republican senatorial primary.