May 20, 2007 - May 26, 2007


Pre-Holiday Roundup

Topics: Focus Groups , Microtargeting , Pollsters

With the holiday weekend fast approaching, I want to clear out my in-box of a number of interesting items that have been piling up over this past week:

  • On Wednesday, NBC's Chuck Todd reported on a voter focus group conducted in Baltimore County, Maryland this week sponsored by the Annenberg Center of the Univ. of Pennsylvania. The group, which was conducted by veteran Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, will be aired at some point soon on C-SPAN (according to Todd's column). Check the C-SPAN schedule for details.

    Todd's take is that these 12 voters (5 Democrats, 4 Republicans and 3 independents) were more interested in presidential candidates who "provided a vision and leadership rather than one who had real-world experience." And they were also "torn between wanting a candidate who provided hope and a candidate who made them feel safe."

    His column is worth reading in full, but when you do, I recommend starting with caveat at the end of page 2 as well as a few of my own: Remember, a focus group is not a true random sample of anything. It can tell you a lot about the 12 people in the room, but projecting those attitudes on some wider population is inherently risky. And, as Todd points out, attitudes that seem strongly held by focus group participants can be misleading. He shares an example of a similar group in 1999 that "indicated how potent of a threat Bill Bradley was to Al Gore."

    Consider another example involving a December 2003 focus group, also sponsored by Annenberg and conducted by Hart, that convinced columnist Mark Shields that Howard Dean had "established a beachhead" among blue-collar Democrats and independents in Toledo, Ohio.

  • The Peter D. Hart that conducts focus groups for Annenberg (and the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll with Republican Neil Newhouse) is NOT the same person as Peter Hart, the analyst with the media watch group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). The latter Hart has an op-ed piece out this week calling media reporting on early horse-race polls "a complete waste of time."

  • On the American Prospect Tapped blog, University of Maryland political science professor Tom Shaller has published a critique worth reading of a recent study by the group Third Way that took an odd approach to analyzing exit poll data from the 2004 and 2006 exit polls (via Stoller & Cillizza).

  • Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal described how the practitioners of political "microtargeting" are "taking their mastery of sophisticated new campaign techniques into the corporate world" (via Sullivan). The small irony is that I have often seen political microtargeting described as an application of corporate data mining to political targeting.

  • CBS News has an interview posted today with Ann Selzer, the pollster who conducts the Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register, about her methods and interpretations of recent data.

  • CBS News polling director Kathy Frankovic has a new column on the CBS.com web site. Her inaugural effort - "Trust But Verify" -- provides thoughts on the value of putting poll results into the proper context.

  • Finally, ABC News polling director Gary Langer strives to put just context around a controversial question asked on the recent Pew Center survey of American Muslims.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Washington Scandals and Baby Names

Topics: Impeachment


The appearance this week of Monica Goodling before the House Judiciary committee sparked a conversation in the Political Arithmetik household about a previous Monica related Washington scandal. It perhaps says something about our household that this provoked a search for empirical evidence concerning the effect of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal on the popularity of Monica as a name. Was it urban legend that the scandal had an effect? Was the effect large or small? Was it immediate? Let's run the numbers.

Monica was a reasonably popular name in the early 1970s, ranking between 39th and 56th in the decade of the 1970s. As it happens both Monica Lewinsky and Monica Goodling were born in the summer of 1973, two weeks apart, when the name was ranked 40th, its second highest ranking. (Monica ranked between 59 and 141 in the decade of the 1960s.) [My thanks to my colleagues at the coffee shop for suggesting I check tennis player Monica Seles, who turns out to also be a 1973 baby. Granted, she isn't connected to a DC scandal despite being born in 1973, and being born in the former Yugoslavia makes the relevance to our current investigation a tad suspect.]

If we were going to pick a name to go with a DC scandal from babies born in 1973, better bets would have been Jennifer, Amy, Michelle, Kimberly, Lisa, Melissa, Angela, Heather, Stephanie or Rebecca, the top 10 girls names that year. But Monica at 40th wasn't rare by any means.

The 1970s were the peak years for Monicas. By the 1990s the name had slowly but steadily declined to rank between 76th and 88th during 1990-1997.

And then the events of 1998 intervened. The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal broke on January 21, 1998, reached its fevered peak by the end of 1998 with the impeachment of President Clinton and was resolved by the Senate's failure to convict on February 12, 1999. Of course that didn't prevent late night comics from continuing to milk the material for months, years, perhaps forever after.

The impact on parents was immediate, but not as drastic as I had expected. There were 11 months of 1998 in which the scandal's impact could be felt. And the ranking of Monica dropped from 79 in 1997 to 105 in 1998, a substantial but not precipitous drop. Of course events were unfolding during this year, so perhaps it is reasonable to focus on 1999, by which time surely every expectant parent in America would be aware of the Clinton scandal.

And in 1999 the ranking of Monica did fall dramatically, to 151, just a bit below where it stood in 1960.

So indeed, the impact of the scandal produced an immediate and substantial response, as one would surely expect. No urban legend this.

But what I find fascinating is the continued decline since 1999. I would expect the impact to be greatest in the immediate aftermath of the infamous episode and to level off or perhaps even abate thereafter. Instead, the data suggest a much slower response and a much longer diffusion of unpopularity through the population. Having dropped 72 places between 1997 and 1999, the popularity of Monica dropped ANOTHER 99 places from 1999 through 2006, the last year for which we have data, to now stand at the 250th name on the popularity list.

One interesting speculation is to consider the effect of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal on the parents who are just now having baby girls. Many of them would have been in their teens or early 20s during the height of the scandal, compared to parents of 1999 or 2000 who would have been on average 7 or 8 years older. I wonder if the impact of the scandal was larger on teenage and college age parents to be. These are ages not noted for consumption of political news, but they are ages extremely well known for crude sexual humor, for which Kenneth Starr provided an abundant supply of raw material. So I wonder if this cohort that is now giving birth was somewhat more affected by the scandal than were even slightly older cohorts who were past the age of campus humor as well as early sexual development. That could explain the continued and steady decline in use of Monica as a girl's name. It would also predict a leveling off once cohorts start to dominate births who were too young to understand the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal at the time.

The alternative is a slow diffusion of unpopularity throughout the culture, which is having an increasing effect regardless of personal experience with the scandal. If so, there is little reason to expect a leveling off of ranking. But there is also a puzzle about why the cultural diffusion is as slow as it has been.

It seems unlikely that Monica Goodling's testimony will significantly reduce the already declining popularity of the name. But given the current standing of "Monica", it is much less likely that a DC scandal in 2035 or so will feature a Monica in the staring role.

Prospective parents may want to visit the source of these data, the Social Security Administration's Popular Baby Names site here.

A superb academic study of the sociology of naming babies is A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashion and Culture Change, by Stanley Lieberson.

Technical Appendix (added 5/26/07)

Warning: This is the really geeky part. Unless you think log2(x) is really cool, you might want to turn back now!

"Professor M" posted a comment on the cross post of this article at Pollster.com. Rather than "geek up" Pollster, I'm replying here. (This was supposed to be a "just for fun" post, after all.)

His/her comment is:

    Hmmm. Try graphing the percent of babies given the name Monica in each year instead of the popularity rank. I think your discussion might change.

The good Professor M makes an excellent point. Let's think why. The actual rate of name use is quite small, even for the most popular names. For example, in 2006 the most popular name for girls was Emily. That name was used for 1.0267% of girls born. The number 2 name was Emma, 0.9159%. This difference in percentages is actually rather large. When we get down to ranks 101 and 102 we find Mya at 0.1602% and Amanda at 0.1599%. When we get down to Monica at 250, the rate is 0.0650% and for Carly at 251 the rate is 0.0649%.

So the rate of name use gets closer together for adjacent ranks as we go from more popular to less popular ranks. In my plots above, a change of one rank is the same vertical distance in the plot whether we are going from 1 to 2 or 100 to 101 or 250 to 251. But the percentage rates would not be changing by the same amount for each of those ranks. Instead, the difference in percentage rate would be getting smaller as we go from more popular to less popular rankings. In techie terms, the relationship between rank and percentage use is non-linear. And that can produce a different look to the plot, as Professor M suggests. So let's take a look.

I've converted the percentages into rate per 10,000 girls born, just to avoid the decimal points. That makes no difference for the look. So let's look at what Professor M suggests:


And behold! As Professor M suggested, the look is a bit different. What appears as a continued sharp drop after 1999 in my plot of rankings, now looks more like a continued decline but not so sharp, and much more of the decline came between 1997 and 1999. Also, the declining popularity of Monica between 1973 and 1997 appears more substantial, dropping from 41 per 10000 to 22 per 10000.

So Professor M's point is well taken. The change in rates are significantly different from the change in ranks. The popularity of Monica has continued to decline since 1999 but not nearly so dramatically as it appears in my ranking graph.


Is the raw percentage (or per 10,000) rate the right measure either? As the rate approaches zero, it becomes impossible to decrease by a constant amount. From1973 to 1997, the rate of use of Monica fell from 41.0 to 22.1 per 10,000, a decline of 18.9. But in 1999 the rate was 10.96 per 10,000. It would be impossible for that to decline by another 18.9, lest we end up with a negative rate of name use! The point is, a constant change in the raw rate is impossible as we approach low incidence of the name. So perhaps linear change in the rate is also not a good way to model this.

An alternative is to think of the "half life" of the name use. This equates a fall of 1/2 from say 40 to 20 per 10000 with an equivalent proportionate change from 10 to 5 per 10000. This makes proportionate declines equal across the entire range of name rates. In effect, this says a fall of 1/2 in usage rate is the same wherever it occurs.

A simple way to measure this is to use the log base 2 of the rate per 10000. In base 2, each unit increase on the log2 scale is a doubling of the rate. So 1=log2(2), 2=log2(4), 3=log2(8), 4=log2(16), 5=log2(32) and 6=log2(64). Those values cover the range of Monica rates, and the critical point is that each 1 unit increase is a doubling and each 1 unit decrease is a halving of the rate of use.

Replotting the data on this log2(rate per 10000) scale produces the following:


Now we see that from 1973 to 1997 the log2 rate fell from 5.4 to 4.5, or almost a full unit, representing a halving of the rate. From 1997 to 1999 it fell from 4.5 to 3.5, another halving. And from 1999 to 2006 from 3.5 to 2.7, a bit less than half again.

On this scale of proportionate change then, the drop from 1997 to 1999 is huge, a full halving of the rate (from 22.1 per 10,000 to 10.96) in just 2 years. The subsequent decline from 10.96 to 6.50 is a 41% decrease in rate over 7 years.

Now this plot is not identical to my ranking plot, but it is pretty close. The qualitative description in my original post applies pretty well to this one as it did to the ranking plot. So I stand by my original comments.

I had not looked at these issues before Professor M's comment, so I am very grateful to him/her for pointing this out. And indeed, as we saw above, the raw rates do look somewhat different. But on reflection, prompted by that comment, I think the log2 rate is probably the most reasonable way to look at this. The ranks alone can be misleading because the equal intervals between ranks distort the changes in rate. But the raw rates are also misleading because changes cannot remain constant when there is a lower limit of zero usage which we approach. Proportionate change seems more compelling in this case, and log2 is a convenient and easy to understand approach to this.

And one last technical point. The plot of rate against rank is strongly non-linear, as Professor M implies. The plot of log2(rate) against rank is much closer to linear, though with some continued bend. This is why my final log2 plot above more closely resembles the rank plot. Since log2 rate is close to linear with rank, the two plots must look quite similar.



Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: InsiderAdvantage Georgia Senate

A new InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion statewide survey of 500 registered voters in Georgia (conducted 5/22 through 5/23) finds Sen. Saxby Chambliss edging out ex-Gov. Roy Barnes (42% to 40%) in a hypothetical senatorial match-up; Chambliss leads Vernon Jones 48% to 31%.

POLL: CBS/Times 08, Immigration

Additional results from the new CBS News/New York Times national survey (CBS story, 08 results, Immigration results; Times story, results) of 1,125 adults (conducted 5/18 through 5/23) finds:

  • Among 275 Republican primary voters asked to choose between three candidates, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain (36% to 22%) in a national primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 15%.

  • Among 441 Democratic primary voters asked to choose between three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (46% to 24%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 14%.

  • 62% of Americans (66% of Democrats, 61% of Republicans) think illegal immigrants "who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years" should be given "a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status;" 33% think they should be deported.

POLL: InsiderAdvantage South Carolina GOP Primary

A new InsiderAdvantage statewide survey of 500 registered Republicans in South Carolina (conducted 5/21 through 5/22) finds former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 18%) edging out Sen. John McCain (17%) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (17%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 13%.

POLL: Datamar Florida Primary

A new Datamar Inc. automated survey of likely voters in Florida (conducted 5/14 through 5/18) finds:

  • Among 413 Democrats, former Sen. John Edwards (at 25.7%) edges out Sen. Hillary Clinton (24%) and Sen. Barack Obama (18.9%) in a statewide primary.

  • Among 607 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edges out former Sen. Fred Thompson (27% to 22.4%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 17.6%, Sen. John McCain at 11.9%.

Bush Approval: CBS at 30%, Trend at 32.2%

Topics: George Bush


The new CBS News/New York Times poll, taken 5/18-23/07, finds approval of President Bush at 30%, disapproval at 63%. The April 20-24 CBS poll had approval at 30%.

With the addition of the new poll my approval trend falls to 32.2%. The blue trend line has taken a sharp dip over the past 6 or so polls and now stands right at the lower edge of the uncertainty around the trend of the past five months.

Since January we've seen a couple of periods in which the trend dipped below 33%, only to quickly revert back up to the 33-35% range. Inspecting the figures below casts a bit more light on the current polling.

First, the more sensitive "Ready Red" estimator pegs approval at 31.2%, still about a point below "Old Blue's" take. Still not much divergence between the two estimators.


Of the last six polls, three usually fall a little above the trend estimate (Hotline, Fox and Gallup) while three usually fall below (CBS, ARG and AP). So the current reading isn't entirely due to a string of polls all of which usually have negative "house effects".


Likewise, the residuals are pretty well behaved right now. While the Newsweek outlier sets the recent low, it is largely offset by the high (but not outlier) CNN result. The remaining 8 recent polls are rather close to the trend estimate.


Finally, the range of uncertainty around the trend line, reflecting how much the trend can jump around as different polls come or go, is rather wide for the current estimate, suggesting a range of uncertainty that includes 30% but also 35%. That will shrink as new polls come in.

The bottom line: The model is not yet unambiguously insisting on a new downturn in approval. And it would be well to remember that we've seen this kind of a dip more than once this spring, only to quickly see a return to the recent equilibrium. So before declaring that decline is a certainty, we should remember that such a prediction has been wrong recently.

There has been some analysis that the immigration bill will turn Republicans against Bush, resulting in inevitable decline as his one remaining support group fails him. I think that is certainly possible, but must point out that it is exactly what did NOT happen last May. Then Bush had been in steady and strong decline since February. That trend hit a low estimate of 33.98% on May 12. On May 15 the president gave a televised address to the nation in support of immigration reform. His approval rating immediately turned up and was followed by a quite good summer (compared to his previous lows.) One can argue that the immigration issue has changed within the Republican party since that time and is now poison. Or one can argue that Bush has shown little recent leadership on immigration, and so will get no benefit from the issue. But I think immigration is a good deal more complicated than the confident assumption that the issue must be poison to the president's approval rating.

I'd also point out that opinion on Iraq remains strongly against the president even as he and his administration have stressed the negative implications of deadlines and benchmarks for Iraq funding. Often presidents have been effective in arguing that Congress cannot be commander in chief, or that any funding constraints must undermine the troops. Clearly the White House has expected those messages to ultimately move the public in their direction. So far there is little evidence of that.

So it may just be the fundamentals that are driving approval at this point. And the single most fundamental right now is Iraq. By most measures, the public has remained unsympathetic to Bush's recent arguments.



Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: CBS/Times Bush, Iraq

A new CBS News/New York Times national survey (CBS story, results; Times story; results) of 1,125 adults (conducted 5/18 through 5/23) finds:

  • 30% approve of the way President Bush is handling his job; 63% disapprove.

  • 24% believe the country is headed in the right direction; 72% believe it is on the wrong track -- "the highest number ever recorded" by CBS/Times since they began asking it in 1983.

  • 23% say the war is going "well;" 76% say "badly." 52% of Republicans now say the war in Iraq is going "at least somewhat badly; 36% in April.

The RT Strategies - Polimetrix Test

Topics: 2008 , Internet Polls , The 2008 Race

While I was busy at the AAPOR conference last week, Thomas Riehle of RT Strategies released results from an intriguing experiment on the left-of-center blog MyDD. His test involved an Internet panel survey that used the same questionnaire as on two recent surveys conducted by his company for the Cook Political Report (analysis, crosstabulations: telephone & Internet). The comparison finds less support for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary (24%) than in a conventional telephone survey (32%). While that difference deserves some commentary, it is a bit tricky for two reasons, one personal and one substantive.

The personal issue is one we were going to have to confront sooner or later, and now is as good a time as any. The company that Riehle used to conduct the Internet panel survey is Polimetrix, the same company that also owns and sponsors Pollster.com (something we have always disclosed). Readers should know that my arrangement with Polimetrix provides complete editorial freedom. I can write whatever I want, and no one from the company has ever tried to influence, direct or even review anything I have written (including this post). Moreover, we are walled off (physically and otherwise) from the work that Polimetrix does for its clients. In this case, for example, Thom Riehle advised me that he would be conducting some sort of parallel test, but I had no idea Polimetrix was involved until he shared the data last week.

Having said all that, of course, I certainly understand if some of you choose to be skeptical about our relationship with Polimetrix. If I were in your shoes, I probably would be too.

On to the substantive issue. Not surprisingly, as soon as Chris Bowers had posted the results last Friday, some of his readers questioned the accuracy of Internet panel samples. At about the same time, coincidentally, Professor Franklin and I were presenting a paper at the AAPOR conference on the accuracy of the various survey modes (conventional telephone, automated [IVR] telephone and internet) in the 2006 campaign, including surveys conducted by Polimetrix. We will be presenting that paper here starting in the next few days.

For now, however, let me say a few things about Polimetrix. Better yet, let me share something I wrote in October 2005, long before I had any business relationship with the company. The background is that most Internet surveys depend on a non-random "panel" of individuals that volunteer to take occasional surveys, often in exchange for small cash incentives. Polimetrix adds a new twist:

At Polimetrix, [founder Doug] Rivers has been developing a new type of sampling methodology based on a non-probability Internet panel. The key difference is something he calls "sample matching." The gist of it is this: Other Internet panels recruit panel volunteers wherever they can find them, draw samples from that panel and then weight the results to try to match the demographics or attitudes of the general population. The Polimetrix approach to political polling is to draw a true random sample from the list of registered voters provided by election officials then go into their panel of volunteers and select the closest possible match for each sampled voter based on a set of demographic variables. They then interview each panel member that best "matches" the randomly selected voter.

The matching uses a complex statistical algorithm (something so complex that MP finds it difficult to decipher much less evaluate). According to an email from Rivers, the variables used for sample matching in the California polling are "age, race, gender, ethnicity, party registration, vote history, census bloc characteristics, precinct voting behavior, and some consumer variables."

Complex, yes, but it is a bit of a stretch to assert, as Riehle does in his analysis, that this process produces a "true, randomly selected sample." Yes, Polimetrix starts with a random sample (in this case, a stratified random sample of respondents from the 2005 American Community Survey, a "true" random sample survey conducted by the U.S. Census) and matches each sampled record to members of their volunteer panel. The end result of this process may approximate a random sample, but does not produce a "true" random sample. Of course, Doug Rivers would probably argue that an "approximate" random sample is what we get when we take the results from a random digit dial telephone sample with 85% coverage and a 20% or lower response rate and weight it to match populations estimates. But that is another argument for another day. The point here is that the Polimetrix sampling procedure is a bit more complicated (and controversial) than Riehle implies.

So what do we make of the results? Chris Bowers' first reaction was that the survey results, which show Hillary Clinton receiving less support online (24%) than on the phone (32%) in a Democratic primary match-up, tend to support his "Inflated Clinton Poll Theory." As he described it Friday, his theory is that "live-interviewer telephone polls might create a sort of social pressure that alters results," that voters might "tell machines different things about their political preference than they tell live humans." For a variety of reasons, Chris backed off the theory a bit in a subsequent post Friday night, concluding that the problem "probably has no clear answer."

I mostly agree with his second thought. The problem with using this particular experiment to test this theory or any theory about the survey mode is that these two polls differed in three important ways:

  • The mode -- One was conducted with interviewers by telephone, the other was a self-administered Internet survey.
  • The vote question -- While both asked the same vote preference question, the online version explicitly prompted for an "undecided" category, while the telephone did not (as explained in Riehle's summary).
  • The sampled voters -- The two surveys used very different sampling methods.

Whatever you think about the merits of conventional telephone sampling versus the Polimetrix method, it is clear that the two techniques yielded different kinds of voters. Here is a summary of the composition of the Democratic and Republican subgroups in each survey, based on the weighted subgroup sizes listed in the cross-tabulations (phone and Internet):


The biggest difference is that for both the Democratic and Republican primary voter subgroups, the Internet sample yielded fewer college graduates and more self-identified independents than the survey conducted by telephone. Among Democrats, the Internet sample was less Caucasian than the telephone sample. While some of these findings are puzzling (and the education difference is at odds with conventional wisdom about Internet samples), they indicate that- for whatever reason - the two methods identified different types of people as likely primary voters.

Which sample is more "accurate?" Who knows? I put scare around accurate because the concept of a national primary electorate is fuzzy all by itself, given the widely varying rules for participation and turnout across states. We lack any sort of a widely accepted benchmark estimates to use as a comparison. Moreover, once we start comparing the two surveys - whether overall or within subgroups - we can certainly identify differences, but we can only speculate about the explanations for those differences. They may result from the involvement of an interviewer (and the "social desirability" pressures that come with it), from reading choices rather than hearing them, from the harder "push" that comes from omitting the undecided category or because two methods sampled different kinds of voters (or some or all of the above).

One last thought: Thom Riehle deserves great credit for conducting such a test and putting the complete results (including the full cross-tabulations) into the public domain for all to see. It would be useful to compare the demographic compositions of all surveys of primary voters, not just those involving new or experimental methodologies. Unfortunately, very few pollsters release the necessary data.

So let's close with a quick (rhetorical) pop-quiz: Other than RT Strategies and SurveyUSA, which pollsters routinely release data on the demographic and partisan composition of their primary voter subgroups? Anyone?

POLL: Gallup Front-Runners, Dem Support

New analysis from recent Gallup national surveys finds:

  • Name identification of the leading presidential candidates and potential candidates "has not changed much" from January to May of this year.

  • Among 3,089 Democrats and Democratic leaners, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama among blacks (41% to 33%), women (40% to22%), hispanics (39% to 21%), and Democrats (40% to 21%); Obama runs even with Clinton among college graduates and those earning more than $75k, (conducted 3/2 through 5/13; video).

Bush Approval: Hotline at 32%, Trend at 33.0%

Topics: George Bush


A new Diageo/Hotline poll collected 5/16-20/07 of 800 registered voters finds approval at 32%, disapproval at 64%. The Hotline poll usually runs a little above the trend estimate, but in this case is a point under trend, which now stands at 33.0%.

Over the last several polls, approval has moved down a bit. It remains in the 33-35% range we've seen since January, but only just barely.

Since we've been talking about "Ready Red", the sensitive trend estimator in comparison to "Old Blue", the more conservative estimator I use here, I've also run a graph comparing the two. Red is willing to go a point lower in approval than Blue. But notice how well the two trends usually agree once all the data are in. If you can't see the red line below, that's because Blue is on top of it-- i.e. they agree. And usually they agree because Red eventually sees that Blue was right. HOWEVER, when approval or other trends DO change direction suddenly, it is Red that eventually convinces Blue to move along. At the moment, the difference is quite small and I'd say there is little additional evidence from Red at this point.

I've been impressed by the stability of approval for the past five months. I still am. I'll need to see four or five more polls all clearly below trend before I'm convinced that the current dip is real, and not just another false lead from a few polls.

The diagnostics below show no alarming indicators of anything, so nothing more to say.






Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: Diageo/Hotline National Survey

A new Diageo/Hotline national survey (release, results) of 800 registered voters (conducted 5/16 through 5/20) finds:

  • 32% approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as president, 64% disapprove.

  • Among 196 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edges out Sen. John McCain 26% to 17% in a national primary; Among 261 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama 31% to 21%.

  • General election match-ups are as follows:

    Clinton 43%, McCain 40%
    Clinton 41%, Giuliani 43%
    Obama 40%, McCain 36%
    Obama 40%, Giuliani 39%
    Edwards 42%, McCain 37%
    Edwards 40%, Giuliani 40%

POLL: Strategic Vision (R) Iowa Caucus

A new Strategic Vision (R) statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 5/18 through 5/20) finds:

  • Among 600 Democrats, former Sen. John Edwards edges out Sen. Barack Obama 29% to 24% in a statewide caucus; Sen. Hillary Clinton trails at 16%.

  • Among 600 Republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney (at 20%) edges out former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (18%) and Sen. John McCain (16%) in a statewide caucus; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 10%.


Topics: Pollster.com

We experienced some server problems which prevented our updating the site today. We are now back in business and will have several updates shortly. Apologies for the interruption and thank you for your patience.

POLL: Gallup GOP Gun Owners

New Gallup analysis of 2,013 adults (conducted 5/4 through 5/6 and 5/10 through 5/13) finds:

  • 41% of Republicans and 24% of Democrats are gun owners.

  • Among 368 Republican gun owners, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edges out Sen. John McCain (26% to 22%) in a national primary with former Sen. Fred Thompson trailing at 18%.

  • Among 468 Republicans who do not own a gun, Giuliani leads McCain by a wider margin with both Thompson and former Gov. Mitt Romney trailing at 7%.

Pres08: Short-term Giuliani-McCain Trends

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race


I usually focus on the full set of polls available for an analysis. But sometimes it pays to zoom in on only some recent trends. In the case of the Republican presidential nomination battle, zooming in clarifies things a bit.

I've written about this, and compared my more sensitive estimator ("Ready Red") with my more conservative one ("Old Blue") in several places (here, here, and here.)

While I usually prefer the more conservative estimator because it is harder to fool it with a few polls, in this case it is clear that the Giuliani trend has taken a downturn since March. The evidence for a McCain upturn is much less compelling, but the red estimator thinks it sees a little bit of one.

In the plot above, it is clear that the sensitive red estimator follows the data rather well since early November when presidential nomination polls became frequent. The Giuliani trend clearly illustrates his substantial run-up but also his subsequent decline. The trend estimator now stands a point below where Giuliani began in November.

McCain, on the other hand, was in decline from December until about April 1. Since then he appears to have gained a couple of points.

This means that a substantial gap that Giuliani opened on McCain in the first quarter of the year has now largely disappeared. Giuliani has been ahead of McCain in the vast majority of polls, including 54 of the 56 polls taken since November 1 (see here as well). But that gap is narrowing.

Now what?

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

Bush Approval: ARG at 31%, Trend at 33.4%

Topics: George Bush


A new American Research Group (ARG) poll taken 5/18-21/07 has approval of President Bush at 31% and disapproval at 64%. With this addition, the approval trend estimate is at 33.4%.

The recent downward wobble is still unconvincing as an indication of a shift in trend. We've seen exactly this kind of wobble for nearly five months now, with down wobbled converted to up wobbles and back down. So for the moment, pending a good deal more data, I continue to believe that approval remains in the 33-35% range we've seen since January.

This is now the longest period of stable approval we've seen in the entire Bush presidency. Evidently the Republican President and Democratic Congress are stuck in an equilibrium with each other-- unable to convince voters to shift their views of the president one way or the other. Events may eventually disrupt that equilibrium, but so far the Iraq debate and Department of Justice hearings have failed to do so, as has the White House critique of Democratic "surrender dates" and defense of Attorney General Gonzalez.

Curious. Very curious.




Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: Rasmussen 5/22 Round-Up

New Rasmussen Reports automated surveys find:

  • Among 1,500 adults, Bush's job approval rating 34% is "the lowest ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports."

  • Among 620 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads McCain (26% to 18%) in a national primary (conducted 5/14 through 5/17).

  • Among 788 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (35% to 25%) in a national primary (5/14 through 5/17).

  • Among 800 likely voters, Clinton edges out both former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Fred Thompson (47% to 44%) in general election match-ups (5/9 through 5/10).

  • Among 800 likely voters, former Sen. John Edwards edges out Giuliani (47% to 45%) and leads Sen. John McCain (41% to 48%) in general election match-ups (5/7 through 5/8).

  • Among 800 likely voters, 49% say it is likely "that Barack Obama will be elected president;" 46% for Clinton; 42% for Giuliani; 41% for McCain (5/2 through 5/3).

POLL: ARG Bush Approvals

A new American Research Group national survey of 1,100 adults (conducted 5/18 through 5/21) finds:

  • 31% approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as president; 64% disapprove.

  • 31% approve of Bush's handling of the economy; 62% disapprove.

  • 36% think our national economy is in a recession; 38% do not.

Pollster.com Wins AAPOR's Mitofsky Innovator Award

Topics: Pollster.com

I have the pleasure of sharing some very good news: On Saturday night, Charles Franklin and I had the very high honor of being named winners of 2007 Warren J. Mitofsky Innovator's Award by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) for our work on Pollster.com.

The award, first presented eight years ago, recognizes accomplishments in public opinion and survey research that occurred or had their impact during the last decade. This year, AAPOR renamed the award to honor late Warren J. Mitofsky, the great survey innovator who, as several speakers noted, would probably have won this award many times had it existed earlier in his career. Past winners include some of the most distinguished individuals in the field including Andrew Kohut (for the Pew Research Center) and Professor Robert Groves (for his leadership in establishing survey research as an academic discipline). The fact that AAPOR chose to grant this award to a "Weblog" says something very humbling about our efforts as well as the growing influence of the blogosphere. It is a huge honor.

This year, we were co-winners along with Arthur Lupia and Diana Mutz for their work on the project known as TESS (Time-Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences).

Professor Franklin and I want to express our gratitude to Doug Rivers (a previous winner of this award) and his company Polimetrix for their continuing financial and technical support, to the many AAPOR members who provide advice and respond to our queries about their work and to our assistant Eric Dienstfrey who does much of the real work that makes Pollster.com possible. And finally, we thank you, our readers, for your continuing support and confidence.

The full text of the award citation appears after the jump.

Continue reading "Pollster.com Wins AAPOR's Mitofsky Innovator Award"

Pres08: A Sensitive Update for National Primary

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race


No time to write about this just now. The red "sensitive" trend estimator mostly agrees with conservative and stable "old blue". But the Clinton blue line now shows a very slight downturn, reflecting the earlier decline (and current stability) of the red line. Obama continues to look flat.

On the Republican side, Giuliani's recent slide remains very apparent, while McCain's recent modest upturn also continues. Note how bimodal Giuliani's estimates have become, emphasizing the difference between short and long term estimates. This makes it more and more likely we'll see a downturn of the blue line for Giuliani.

Gotta run.




Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: Fox National Survey

A new Fox News national survey (story, results) of 900 registered voters (conducted 5/15 through 5/16 by Opinion Dynamics) finds:

  • 34% approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as president; 56% disapprove.

  • Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (35% to 20%) in a national Democratic primary; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edges out Sen. John McCain (24% to 17%).

  • 33% say the U.S. "can still be successful" in Iraq; 31% say it "is losing, but has not lost;" 26% say it "has lost the war in Iraq."

POLL: SurveyUSA Kentucky Gubernatorial Primary

A new SurveyUSA automated survey of likely voters in Kentucky (conducted 5/18 through 5/20) finds:

  • Among 635 Democrats, Steve Beshear leads Bruce Lunsford (32% to 23%) in a gubernatorial primary.

  • Among 465 Republicans, Gov. Ernie Fletcher leads former Rep. Anne Northup (44% to 34%) in a gubernatorial primary.

POLL: Gallup Abortion

A new Gallup Values and Belief national survey of 1,003 adults (conducted 5/10 through 5/13) finds:

  • 49% of Americans consider themselves "pro-choice," 45% say "pro-life."

  • 56% say abortions should be "legal under any certain circumstances," 26% say "legal under any," and 18% say "illegal in all."

  • 53% would not like to see Roe v. Wade overturned; 35% would.

POLL: Selzer & Co Iowa

A new Des Moines Register statewide survey of likely caucus-goers (conducted 5/12 through 5/16 by Selzer & Company) finds:

Among 401 Republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney (at 30%) leads Sen. John McCain (18%) and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (17%) in a statewide caucus.

Among 400 Democrats, former Sen. John Edwards (29%) edges out Sen. Barack Obama (23%) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (21%) in a statewide caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson trails at 10%.