June 3, 2007 - June 9, 2007
The debate over the Iraq War funding bill-- the original one with withdrawal dates-- and the presidential veto of the bill posed a key political question: who wins when Congress confronts President, and in this particular case did President Bush or the Congress win the battle for public opinion?
Democrats in Congress were particularly wary about the charge of "undermining the troops", a charge the White House used repeatedly and one to which past Congresses have fallen victim. But the White House had to defend continuing a policy that most of the public sees as a failure. The Democrats bet that full funding but with a deadline would deflect the charge of undermining troops while moving towards their supporters goal of ending the war. The president bet that a public unhappy with the war would nevertheless reject a "surrender date" and could be persuaded that the surge of troops and Gen. Petraeus' "new strategy" should be given time to work.
The key period was Friday, April 20 through Tuesday, May 1. On April 20, President Bush gave a full defense of his new policy in a speech at East Grand Rapids MI, outlining what was new, what the hopes were and where some success could be seen, while admitting a long road ahead including increased casualties. On Monday, April 23, the President met with General Petraeus, and the same day House and Senate negotiators approved a common bill. The next day, April 24, President Bush gave a final warning to Congress in a South Lawn appearance that again outlined the arguments against a deadline and promised a veto. The House passed the bill on April 25th and the Senate on April 25th. The following Tuesday, May 1, President Bush delivered his promised veto.
So what happened to public opinion? The period from December through mid-April showed surprising stability in approval of President Bush. Despite the change in control of Congress, the new "surge" initiative in Iraq and the subsequent debates about the war, approval of the President remained quite stable, with only momentary wiggles that quickly returned to a stable support of around 34%.
That changed on April 24th. The trend estimate of presidential approval marks a sudden and sharp change on that date. Approval on the 24th was a shade over 34%, as it had been since December. But after that, approval started to decline steadily to the current estimate of 31.9%. That 2.1 point decline may sound small, but it is a significant shift in the trend estimate. Individual polls vary widely around this trend, far more than 2 points, but the mean moves much less, and as the graph above makes clear, hardly moved at all in the December-March period. The sharpness of the change point, and the stability of the subsequent decline, argues that this was a "real" point of change and not just random noise. I'm using the conservative "old blue" estimator here, which is hard to fool about changes in trend. It has taken a while to make up its mind (and mine) that this is a real shift in support, but it and I are now convinced.
That the change occurs in the midst of the war deadline/veto debate could be accidental. But it certainly is a believable moment for opinions to shift. A fundamental problem of inference with change point estimates such as this is that anything that happened around April 24th could also possibly be the cause of this shift in approval. Attorney General Gonzalez testified the previous week, for example, and the President supported him during this week as well. And John McCain announced his presidential campaign. And other stuff happened. All can claim the same coincidental relationship with approval's sudden downward turn. But I'd argue that the debate over the war that week tapped into the most salient divide in American politics this spring and is the more plausible explanation.
And I KNOW someone will say it was gas prices. It wasn't. Gas prices started rising the week of January 22, from $2.107/gal and rose each week but one until May 21 when the price hit $3.211/gal. As of June 4 the price was $3.132. So if it was the price of gas, rather than a trivial little war or a boring Washington political fight that drives approval, the President should have started sinking rapidly around the end of January. Excuse the rant, but the "gas prices" matter more than the war or anything else argument is just wrong. At most gas prices enter into approval along with other economic performance variables, but they do not deserve the primacy some attribute to them.
And so the President pressed his case for continuing the new war strategy and retaining both full funding and an open ended commitment in Iraq. He ultimately won that legislative fight, at least until new funding is required in September. But his approval rating has again started to sink, sapping further his already seriously depleted stock of public support.
And so the story might end here. Bush cast his veto and prevailed on funding, but has lost the public battle, at least temporarily. But what about approval of Congress? Did their approval ratings change about this same time? If so, how?
Estimating approval change requires data. Since April 24, there have been 19 polls of presidential approval, providing my trend estimator with enough evidence to reach a reasonably strong conclusion. For Congressional approval, there have been only 10 polls since April 24, so any conclusion rests on half the evidence. Normally I say that the "old blue" estimator likes to have about 12 polls to detect a durable change of trend, rather than just a random bump. But 10 is "around 12" enough that I'll take the risk this time in order to compare Congressional approval. So there is no cheating, I mark the same change date in the Congressional chart, April 24th, so we can see if the shifts match.
Congress experienced a downturn in approval at almost the same time as did Bush. The high point for Congress is actually April 15. Since then the Congressional approval rating has fallen from 34.5% to 33.0%.
So how do we read this result? Neither Congress nor President won new or increased support from the public following the April debate over the war. As a single actor, it is easier to understand the President's situation. But with Congress, interpretation is confounded. Did the deadline cause supporters of the war to turn more negative to Congress, while opponents of the war either didn't increase support or were unhappy with a measure they thought too weak? Or were Republican voters happy with Congressional Republican support of the President, while Democrats were happy with Democratic opposition while independents turned a bit down?
It is surely the case that whatever Congress does it is easy to find something not to like. Partisans can be upset with the behavior of the other party in Congress, or even with members from their own party who fail to satisfy them. And arguably Congress suffers from simple controversy which gives the impression of a chaotic institution. All this means that a direct interpretation of WHY congressional approval has slipped is much more ambiguous than it is for the President. But we can say that the net effect, however it was divided by partisanship or anything else, was a decline in approval of Congress, reversing a small upward slope prior to the period around April 24.
However, consider the counter-factual. If approval of Congress had risen following April 24th, we'd have pretty strong evidence that Congress had benefited from the war funding debate. That did not happen. So at the least we have evidence that Bush certainly suffered and that most likely so did Congress. Why Congress suffered, and among which groups of the population, we can't say.
It would be nice to see if the parties in Congress gained or suffered differently. Alas, there are only 2 polls on Democratic performance, and only one for Republicans. The data are below, but no conclusion is possible based on this thin gruel.
So who lost the Iraq funding/veto fight? Both President and Congress. The President continues to support a war that a majority of the public is unhappy with, even if they are somewhat divided on the solution. The Democrats in Congress benefit from professed public support for reduced forces and a pullout deadline, but have failed to produce legislation that garners them increases in public support. And Republicans in Congress have started to talk about September as the turning point beyond which their support for an unpopular war must find a new direction that will not imperil their electoral chances in the 2008 congressional elections.
So far neither side has found a route to increased public support.
Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.
A new Franklin Pierce College/WBZ statewide survey of 409 likely Republican primary voters (conducted 6/6 by RKM Research and Communications) finds former Gov. Mitt Romney leading former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (27% to 18%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 17%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 9%.
Three new polls in the last 24 hours. Pew, taken 5/30-6/3/07 has approval at 29%, disapproval at 61%. AP/Ipsos taken 6/4-6/07 puts approval at 32% and disapproval at 66%. Fox, done 6/5-6/07 pegs approval at 34% and disapproval at 57%.
With these, the trend estimate now stands at 31.9% approval.
None of the polls is unusual, let alone an outlier, so no commentary there. Do note the last graph which plots the last 20 estimates. Interesting pattern there. I'll have more to say about that tomorrow. Tonight I have a birthday party to attend.
Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.
A new FOX News/Opinion Dynamics national survey (story, results) of 900 registered voters (conducted 6/5 through 6/6) finds:
- 34% approve of the job George Bush is doing as president; 57% disapprove. 29% approve of the job Congress is doing, 55% disapprove.
- Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama 36% to 23% in a national primary. Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain 22% to 15%; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 13%.
- General election match-ups:
Giuliani 41%, Clinton 39%, Bloomberg 7%
Giuliani 45%, Clinton 42%
Giuliani 46%, Obama 41%
McCain 43%, Clinton 43%
A new AP-Ipsos national survey (story, results) of 1,000 adults (conducted 6/4 through 6/6/) finds:
- 32% approve of the job George Bush is doing as president; 66% disapprove.
- 21% think the country is heading in the right direction; 75% say it is on the wrong track.
Via Marc Ambinder's new blog, a new poll conducted for the Romney campaign of 402 likely Republican caucus goers in Iowa (5/29 through 5/31 by Voter/Consumer Research (R) ) finds Romney leading former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (29% to 12%) in a statewide caucus; former Sen. Fred Thompson and former Speaker Newt Gingrich both trail at 10%, Sen. John McCain at 9%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 7%.
Gallup's Frank Newport has posted an update
that responds to questions raised here
and elsewhere about the composition of those asked the Democratic primary vote
question in this week's USA
Today/Gallup poll. The key
There has thus been no change in
this methodology which would account for Obama's gain against Clinton in this latest poll. More
importantly, a careful analysis of the data shows that there has also been no
significant change this year across 9 polls in the percent of the overall
Democratic sample who are Independents leaning Democrat compared to the percent
who are "pure" Democrats...
In other words, there were just as
many independents in the previous samples showing Hillary Clinton with a
healthy lead over Obama as they are in the latest sample showing Clinton and Obama tied. So
an argument that some change in the sample composition (as defined by these
political measures) accounted for the shift in voter preference is not
supported by the data.
also provided me with the data he references above. As Pollster readers might
be interested, I have reproduced it here (omitting results for candidates other
than Clinton and Obama):
data supports his contention. Independents that lean Democratic were 35% of the
subgroup that answered the Democratic primary horse-race question. That is
exactly the same percentage as the Democratic leaner composition I get when I
average all the nine surveys.
Of course a bigger question is whether a national survey on
the Democratic primary contest should include that many independent
identifiers. On this score, Gallup
is not alone. Most of the other national surveys do the same (though some,
include only registered voters).
This is a tough issue to resolve since the notion of a
national "likely Democratic primary voter" is so abstract to begin with. We do
not have a national primary, of course, and the rules for participation and
turnout levels vary so wildly across states that it is next to impossible to
try to use a national survey of this sort to model the entire nation.
However, we might suggest that all national pollsters begin
regularly reporting both their sample composition (% of independent leaners) as
well as the results among pure Democratic identifiers. The more we know, the
more we know.
An item posted earlier this week by Mickey Kaus noted findings among
Hispanic Republicans in California
from a SurveyUSA
automated poll on the 2008 Republican presidential primary. Kaus pointed out
that California Hispanic Republicans "[make] up 17% of ‘likely Republican
Primary voters' in Survey USA's
model" [it was 15% in a previous survey]. That post may have been what prompted
Pollster reader Jerry Skurnick to comment:
"This poll says that 17% of Republican Primary voters are Hispanic. Isn't that
I asked two California
pollsters for their reactions (and a little data) and both agreed that a 15-17%
Hispanic composition was highly unlikely for a Republican primary in that state
Susan Pinkus, polling director for the Los Angeles Times,
checked the racial composition in LA Times California exit polls for Republican
primaries. She found that in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004 the Latino
share of the Republican vote was always somewhere between 3% and 6%.
Of course, California's
Hispanic population has been growing
rapidly. Last month, I saw a presentation at the AAPOR conference by the
Field Poll's Mark DeCamillo that noted the rapid growth and influence of California's Latino vote.
I emailed him for a reaction and received the following response:
Most Latinos who are registered to
vote in California
are registered as Democrats. Regarding Latino voting in the upcoming CA primary
elections, we estimate that only about 1 in 10 likely GOP primary voters (10%)
would be Latinos, whereas as many as one in four (25%) of likely voters in the
Democratic primary would be Latino.
So, in answer to your question, no I don't think it is likely that Latino
voters will comprise 15% + of the GOP primary vote in CA.
Another bit of data that may be instructive: The NEP network
exit poll consortium has not polled in a California Republican primary since
the 1990s. However, they have done exit polls in general elections and these
show the Latino contribution for all voters (Republicans, Democrats
and independents) to be 19% in 2006
and 21% in 2004.
I asked SurveyUSA's Jay Leve for a reaction and received this
SurveyUSA polled CA statewide GOP primaries in 2004 and 2002, using
almost identical methodology. Comparing SurveyUSA to SurveyUSA may offer
context. In the 2004 CA GOP Primary, SurveyUSA showed 19% of GOP primary voters
to be Hispanic (Hispanic on the ballot for U.S. Senate). In 2002, SurveyUSA
showed 11% of CA GOP Primary voters to be Hispanic (no Hispanic on the ballot).
Last month, SurveyUSA showed 15% of CA GOP Primary voters to be Hispanic.
Today, 17%. I welcome this careful inspection of our data. No state is better
served by its local pollsters - Field, LA Times, PPIC, San
Jose State, Datamar
and others - than is California.
We have much to learn from them.
Leve also sent along the following table showing how his
final survey performed in the 2004 Republican primary featuring a Hispanic
candidate (Rosario Marin). His implicit point is that his poll provided an accurate
forecast of the outcome of that race - and a closer projection of Marin's
support than other polls - despite having a percentage of Hispanic voters (19%)
that was apparently far out of line with what the LA Times exit poll showed.
So the bottom line: The current SurveyUSA estimate of Latino
voters does seem to be on the high side, although these sorts of comparisons
can be difficult because the "right" number is impossible to determine with any
certainty. Keep in mind that all of the above comparisons are based on surveys of
one kind or another. Exit polls are arguably our best gauge of who votes, but
as we have all learned the hard way, exit polls are also subject
to sampling variation and non-sampling errors of their own.
I should also point out that we are able to "inspect" the
demographic composition of SurveyUSA data because they choose to release it for
every survey they conduct along with the substantive results. I wish I could
say the same for most other public pollsters, including those at Field and the LA
Times (who, of course, kindly responded as they always do to my requests for additional
data). Our comment boards have been alive lately with perfectly valid questions
about the reliability of new surveys in states like Iowa,
New Hampshire and South Carolina. If poll consumers could make
these sorts of demographic comparisons for every survey, we would all be better
A new Public Policy Polling (D) automated survey of likely primary voters in North Carolina (conducted 6/4) finds:
- Among 593 Democrats asked to choose between three candidates, former Sen. John Edwards edges out Sen. Hillary Clinton (30% to 26%) in a statewide primary; Sen. Barack Obama trails at 22%.
- Among 603 Republicans asked to choose between four candidates, former Sen. Fred Thompson leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (37% to 25%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen John McCain both trail at 14%.
A new WTAE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Keystone Poll (story, results) of 567 adults in Pennsylvania (conducted 5/29 through 6/4 by the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin and Marshall College) finds:
- Among 204 registered Republicans asked to choose between three candidates, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain are tied at 29% in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 12%.
- Among 200 registered Democrats asked to choose between three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads former Sen. John Edwards (40% to 21%) in a statewide primary; Sen. Barack Obama trails with 18%.
- Among all voters, Clinton (at 46%) has the highest unfavorable rating of all six candidates; Giuliani has a 30% unfavorable rating, Edwards 29%, McCain 28%.
A new Quinnipiac University statewide survey (08 results, issues results) of 1,174 registered voters in Florida (conducted 5/24 through 6/4) finds:
- Among 472 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 34%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (16%), former V.P. Al Gore (13%), and former Sen. John Edwards (11%) in a statewide primary.
- Among 467 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 31%) leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (14%), Sen. John McCain (10%), former Gov. Mitt Romney (8%), and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (7%) in a statewide primary.
- General election match-ups:
Giuliani 47%, Clinton 42%
Giuliani 44%, Obama 40%
Giuliani 47%, Gore 41%
McCain 42%, Clinton 45%
McCain 41%, Obama 40%
McCain 42%, Gore 43%
Thompson 40%, Clinton 43%
Thompson 36%, Obama 41%
Thompson 37%, Gore 47%
A new Rocky Mountain News/Behavior Research Center statewide survey of registered voters in Arizona (conducted 5/24 through 5/29) finds:
- Among 338 Republicans, Sen. John McCain leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (35% to 20%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Fred Thompson both trail at 7%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 6%.
- Among 290 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton edges out Sen. Barack Obama (26% to 22%) in a statewide primary; former V.P. Al Gore trails at 13%, former Sen. John Edwards and Gov. Bill Richards both at 7%.
Tha Gallup/USAToday poll, taken 6/1-3/07, produced a surprising lede:
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are essentially tied for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, the first time that the New York senator hasn't clearly led the field. (Link to full story.)
To the credit of reporter Susan Page and the editors at USA Today, the story also notes that other polls do not show such a sharp tightening of the race:
No other major national poll has shown the Democratic race so close. An ABC News/Washington Post poll taken last Tuesday through Friday gave Clinton a 12-point lead.
(A strong pet peeve of mine is stories that refuse to note comparisons with other polling, especially when results are surprising. I wish other news outlets would emulate the openness we see here.)
This result has produced a lot of excitement and over-interpretation on both sides of the Clinton-Obama camps. Clinton's advisers found reason to dispute and discredit the poll while Obama supporters preferred to embrace the result as proof of Clinton's vulnerability.
Let's take a closer look.
The chart above shows the Gallup poll results since November 2006 in bold red and blue for Clinton and Obama respectively. The 95% confidence intervals (more commonly called the "margin of error") are shown by the vertical lines around each Gallup poll data point. All other polls over this time are shown in light red or light blue so you can see how Gallup compares with everyone else. And the trend estimates I calculate based on all polls (including Gallup) are shown as the red and blue trend lines. (These are my standard, more conservative, trends, also known as "old blue". This trend doesn't respond as much to individual poll bumps and wiggles, but is a little slow to respond to real changes of trend. The results here don't depend on which estimator I use, but I've included the chart for the "ready red" sensitive estimator in the plot at the bottom for the interest of skeptics. I've written at length on differences between the two trend estimators. See those posts if you wish here.)
The most important result is that the new Gallup poll does look quite a bit different from most, but not all, of their previous polls since November. For 17 of the 22 Gallup readings (11 polls x 2 candidates) the confidence interval overlaps my trend estimate. The new poll is unique in that both Clinton's and Obama's confidence intervals do not include the current trend estimate. That means either the trend has changed and my estimator hasn't detected it, or that the new Gallup result is further away from the trend than we would expect 95% of the time. (My sensitive estimator, shown at the bottom, thinks that Clinton's trend is a bit more down, and Obama's a little more up, but the confidence intervals don't overlap the trend in that plot either.)
So based on this, the new Gallup result does not fit what we would expect based on sampling theory and the overall trend estimates. In that sense, the poll is a statistical outlier, and the critics are right to discount the result and any claim of a "statistical tie".
We've see some earlier Gallup results in which the confidence interval fails to overlap the trend for one, but not both, candidates. Twice Clinton has fallen below trend and outside the CI (one of those was just barely outside the CI). And once Obama was below trend and outside the CI.
But here is the important point: For those polls that were farther from trend than expected, both the previous AND the subsequent polls bounced back to within the margin of error of the trend, and in fact happened to fall above the trend in all three cases.
And that is the really important thing: If these large deviations from trend were telling us something "real" about the trend, we'd expect to see the subsequent poll ALSO reflect that. Instead, these polls act very much like random variables are supposed to do: they may deviate in a single reading, but they bounce back to near their mean ("expected value" is the technical term here) as soon as we take a new sample. NOTE that the trend changes over time, so I'm NOT saying this is all random noise. When we look over all the polls we can detect real shifts in Clinton and Obama support, shown by the red and blue trend lines that are our best estimate of true changes in the candidate's fortunes. The mistake, which is very common, is to think that each single poll's movements are meaningful and MUST be explained by some political event or "short term" trend.
Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief, has a discussion of the new poll in his Gallup Guru blog at USAToday here. He stresses that the change from May to June for each candidate is within sampling error and so can the interpreted as "not statistically significant". Obama gained four points, from 26% in May to 30%. The confidence interval for that change is 5.7%, so not statistically significant. Clinton dropped from 35% to 29%, a 6 point drop. The confidence interval for that is 5.9%. We could quibble whether to round the CI to 6% or not, but certainly that change is at most just at the margin of statistical significance, and not "strong evidence" of a change in fortune for either candidate.
The one quibble I have with Newport's comments is that even as he (correctly) cautions about sampling error and non-significance of the changes, he can't quite resist the possibility of real change:
So we don’t know exactly what to make out of the change in the current poll. The relative stability of the structure of the Democratic race certainly suggests that this latest bump up by Obama could be temporary, as was the last such change in April.
It is the "latest bump up by Obama could be temporary" that jerks my chain. If the best explanation is random noise, which the non-significance of changes suggests, then we shouldn't turn around and consider that the "bump" is in any way meaningful. The "last such change in April", for example was a non-significant point above the trend at 26 which followed the low outlier for Obama at 19 earlier in the month. That "7 point gain" was mostly random noise from a lower than expected reading to a higher than expected one, but neither signaled a meaningful shift in trend, which was relatively flat during that time.
The worst implication of taking the current poll at face value is that when the next one comes out and shows Clinton back at around 34% and Obama back around 23% (my current trend estimates) there will be a powerful urge to write that Clinton has rebounded and Obama has fallen off. Neither is likely to be true. Rather, random variation has worked its invisible hand and brought the polls closer to the actual trend in support. A substantive reading of that future poll will be quite as misleading as reading the current one as showing a sharp change in fortune.
(Interests Disclosed: I was interviewed by reporter Susan Page for the USAToday article and briefly quoted, though not on this specific point.)
The plot below shows the trend estimate based on "ready red", the more sensitive measure of trend, but one that is also more likely to mistake noise for changes in trend. While the trend estimate here is a little different, the polls that fall outside the confidence interval are the same as in the chart above using my more stable estimate of trend.
Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.
Last week, I noted (here
the conflict between two types of poll questions on the immigration bill now
before Congress. Questions that tested reactions to descriptions of the various
"provisions" in the bill have typically find majority support. Questions asking
Americans whether they simply favor or oppose the bill find two-to-one opposition.
Frank Newport released some new results and analysis
(from a survey of 1,007 adults conducted June 1-3) that help confirm the underlying
reasons for this apparent discrepancy.
I'll let Newport
Previous surveys conducted by Gallup and other organizations have provided
respondents with descriptions of the types of provisions included in the
immigration bill now being debated in the Senate, and have asked for reaction .
The current research approached public opinion on
the immigration bill in a different way. Rather than explaining or listing the
contents of the bill, the research simply asked respondents how closely they
were following news about the bill and then asked if they favored the bill,
opposed the bill, or if they "didn't know enough to say."
Based on what you have heard or read about it,
do you favor or oppose this proposed bill, or don't you know enough to say?
58% Don't know
enough to say
also finds even stronger opposition (61% to 17%) among the 18% who say they
have been following the immigration debate "very closely."
Thus, as Newport puts it, these results illustrate a crucial "political reality:"
[T]he current debate on the bill
agreed to in principle by Senate leaders and President Bush (and which is now
being argued about in the Senate) is taking place in an environment in which
the average American simply is not tuned in.
Moreover, "Those Americans who are following the debate closely are highly likely to be opponents of the bill."If you have been following polling on immigration, go read it all.
So what to make of all those previous results based on
questions that describe the various provisions of the bill? We should keep in
mind that these provide a measure of the way respondents react to new information
and that their reactions may vary greatly along with the text of the
descriptions provided. The lesson here is the same as for many other poll questions.
If we are trying to understand "public opinion" on an issue, we need to distinguish
between what public opinion is now
and what it might be. Predicting future
opinion is always a risky proposition.
on the immigration results in his Gallup Guru blog.
A new McLaughlin & Associates (R) National Omnibus Poll of 1,000 likely general election voters, including 350 likely Republican voters (conducted 5/28 through 6/1) finds former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edging out former Sen. Fred Thompson (24% to 18%) in a national primary. Sen. John McCain trails at 17%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 7%, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 5% (via tpmcafe.com).
Note: McLaughlin & Associates are "now-confirmed pollsters for the Thompson campaign -- though this poll was not done for the campaign."
In response to my post
yesterday on the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, I received this comment
via email from USA Today Polling Editor Jim Norman:
your question about whether our weekend poll had a higher percentage of
independents than the previous Gallup
one, the answer is "not really". Democrat-leaning independents
comprised 34% of the sample in our most recent question about the Democratic
race, 35% of the sample when the question was asked May 10-13.
look at other subgroups where Obama has been running well showed that there
were virtually no differences from the May poll to the one last weekend in the
percentages of (a) those with annual household incomes $75,000 and above; (b)
college grads; and (c) men. There was a change in the percentage of those
younger than 50, another good group for Obama, but they represented a smaller
proportion (35%) of our current poll than of the one in May (41%)
new numbers may be a function of the small sample, as Frank points out, but
it's not because of substantive changes in the proportions of the key subgroups.
Gallup's Frank Newport also emailed to say
that he would post more on this topic soon on his USA Today "Gallup Guru"
A new Pew Research Center national survey (analysis, results) of 1,503 adults (conducted 5/30 through 6/3 by Princeton Survey Research Associates International) finds:
- 29% of Americans (65% of Republicans) approve of the way President Bush is handling his job; 61% disapprove. "For the first time in Pew Research Center polling, disapproval of President Bush's job performance outnumbers approval by more than two-to-one."
- Of the 58% of Republicans who have heard of former Sen. Fred Thompson, 37% say there is a "good chance" they will vote for him in the Republican primary. Of the 95% who have heard of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 37% also say there is a good chance they will vote for him.
- Of the 99% of Democrats who have heard of Sen. Hillary Clinton, 44% say there is a good chance they would vote for her in the Democratic primary. Of the 85% who have heard of Sen. Barack Obama, 40% say there is a good chance they will vote for him.
A new Franklin Pierce/WBZ-TV statewide survey of 424 likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 6/4) finds:
- Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 38%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (16%), former Sen. John Edwards (13%), and former V.P. Al Gore and Gov. Bill Richardson (both at 8%) in a statewide primary.
- 52% of Democratic primary voters said they watched Sunday night's debate.
- Of those who watched, 60% thought Clinton "outperformed her rivals" during the debate; 7% thought Obama did, 3% thought Edwards did.
The poll story of the day is the latest from USA Today and Gallup that we linked to
a few hours ago which, to quote the USA
shows Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama "essentially tied for the Democratic
presidential nomination...the first time that the New York senator hasn't clearly
led the field." Why does the Gallup poll show
this seemingly dramatic change while other recent surveys
maintaining a wider lead?
Let's start with this important hedge from Gallup:
In a technical sense, neither Clinton's drop of 6 percentage points nor
Obama's gain of 4 points are statistically significant, given the relatively
small sample size of less than 500 Democrats and Democratic-leaning
independents interviewed in each poll.
Because the changes are within the poll's margin of
sampling error, it is unclear if Clinton
has ceded her front-running status for co-front-runner status -- future polling
will help confirm that.
Given the smaller sample sizes, we should expect to see the sort of poll-to-poll
movement evident on the recent Gallup survyes, as pointed out in a blog post today by Gallup's Frank Newport. As such, I find it a
little surprising that Newport
also chooses to "characterize the Democratic race as one of stability marked by
the occasional burst of change." The "occasional burst" seems more a function
of sampling variability than the race.
Second, another question we might want to ask is whether this narrower
margin was the result of a change in the demographic composition of the Democrats
and Democratic leaning independents surveyed. For example, most polls have
running better among women, older voters, the less well-educated and Democratic
identifiers (as opposed to "leaners"). Demographic composition can also show random variation. So did this poll include smaller
percentages of Clinton best groups than previous
Gallup polls? Unfortunately,
the Gallup and USA Today reports, like those of most other media outlets,
provide little or no information about the demographic profile of those who
answer primary vote questions.
Susan Page's USA Today story
does tell us that most recent sample consists of "of 310 Democrats and 160
independents who 'lean' Democratic" and then goes on to quote Clinton pollster
Mark Penn disparaging the poll for its inclusion of independents:
Mark Penn, Clinton's
chief strategist, calls the USA
TODAY poll "an outlier" that is "completely out of sync"
with other surveys. He says it is "seriously flawed" for including so
many independents unlikely to vote in Democratic primaries.
However, the methodology of the USA Today/Gallup poll has not changed since
May, when Clinton
led and Penn apparently had no such complaints, at least none that made it into write-up.
The issue is whether this survey includes more independents than previous polls by USA
Today and Gallup. Unfortunately,
if either organization has released the percentage of independent leaners included
in previous Democratic primary results, I have not seen it. Page does go on to report
by Andrew Sullivan):
Among Democrats alone, Clinton leads Obama by 5
points, 34%-29%. That's a significant narrowing from the USA TODAY Poll
taken in mid-May, when she led by 17 points. Among independents, Obama leads by
9 points, 31%-22%.
Rather than obsessing over this one survey of 470 respondents, readers might
want to take a longer view. First, we see a less dramatic but statistically
significant narrowing of the race if we average the results from the last four
Gallup surveys (conducted since late April) and compare them to the four Gallup
surveys before that (conducted between February and early April). In the
February-to-April polls, Clinton
led Obama by 16 points (37% to 21%). On the last four Gallup polls, she leads Obama by just seven
(33% to 26%).
A chart of the results shows that while Clinton's share of the vote has been
fluctuating (again, not surprising given the sample sizes), Obama's support has
been higher on all four of the most recent polls than on the four before that.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, consider our own chart that
summarizes the trend on all of the national horserace results conducted to
date. While we see little or no change in Obama's number since the upward
movement following his announcement, Clinton's
number has shown a very slight decrease (roughly 2-3 points) since February. The
chart displayed here does not yet include today's Gallup numbers, but I will leave it to
Professor Franklin to interpret this recent twitch in the National Democratic
UPDATE: USA Today Polling Editor Jim Norman emails with more information on how this survey compares to the most recent Gallup polls in terms of demographics and the proportions of independents.
New Rasmussen Reports automated surveys among likely voters nationwide find:
- Among 738 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 34%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (26%) and former Sen. John Edwards (15%) in a national primary (conducted 5/29 through 5/31).
- Among 637 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 23%) leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (17%), former Gov. Mitt Romney (15%), and Sen. John McCain (14%) in a national primary (conducted 5/29 through 5/31).
- Among 800 likely voters, the Democratic candidate leads the Republican candidate 45% to 38% on a generic congressional ballot (conducted 5/30 through 5/31).
Additional results from the recent ABC News/Washington Post national survey (ABC story, results; Post story, results) of 1,205 adults (conducted 5/29 through 6/1) finds:
- 35% approve of the way President Bush is handling his job; 62% disapprove.
- 39% approve of the way Congress is doing its job; 53% disapprove.
- Approval of the Democrats in Congress has dropped from 54% to 44% since April -- "with the decline occurring almost exclusively among strong opponents of the Iraq War."
A new USA Today/Gallup national survey (USAT story, analysis; Gallup analysis, video) of 1,007 adults (conducted 6/1 through 6/3) finds:
- Among 470 Democrats, Sen. Barack Obama edges out Sen. Hillary Clinton (30% to 29%) in a national primary; former V.P. Al Gore trails at 17%, former Sen. John Edwards at 11%. In a two-way race, Clinton edges out Obama 49% to 46%.
- Among 439 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 32%) leads Sen. John McCain (19%), former Gov. Mitt Romney (12%), former Sen. Fred Thompson (11%), and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (8%) in a national primary. In a two-way race, Giuliani leads McCain 56% to 38%.
- Among registered voters, Giuliani leads Clinton (52% to 45%) in a general election match-up.
A new SurveyUSA automated survey of likely primary voters in California (conducted 6/1 through 6/3) finds:
- Among 543 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 28%) leads Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson (both at 21%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 11%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 8%.
- Among 720 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 46%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (28%) and former Sen. John Edwards (14%) in a statewide primary.
A new InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion national survey of 1,000 likely Republican primary voters (conducted 5/30 through 5/31) finds former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leading Sen. Fred Thompson (28% to 19%) in a national primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 17%, Sen. John McCain at 16%.
Two new Public Policy Polling (D) automated surveys of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 5/30; press release 6/4) and likely primary voters in South Carolina (conducted 5/31; press release 6/4) find:
- Among 1,238 Democrats in Iowa, former Sen. John Edwards (at 31%) leads both Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (both at 17%) in a statewide caucus.
- Among 774 Republicans in Iowa, former Gov. Mitt Romney (at 31%) leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (15%), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (10%), Sen. John McCain (9%), and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (8%) in a statewide caucus.
- Among 531 Democrats in South Carolina, Obama edges out Clinton (34% to 31%) in a statewide primary; Edwards trails at 15%.
- Among 630 Republicans in South Carolina, Thompson (at 27%) leads Romney (16%), McCain (15%), Giuliani (14%), and Gingrich (11%) in a statewide primary.
UPDATED: Cross-tabs Uploaded
Additional results from the recent ABC News/Washington Post national survey (ABC story, results; Post story, results) of 1,205 adults (conducted 5/29 through 6/1) finds:
- 29% (45% of Republicans) approve of the way President Bush is handling the immigration issue; 64% disapprove.
- 52% support "a program giving illegal immigrants now living in the United States the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements;" 44% oppose.
A new ABC News/Washington post national survey (ABC story, results; Post story, results) of 1,205 adults (conducted 5/29 through 6/1) finds:
- Among leaned Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 35%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (23%), former V.P. Al Gore (17%), and former Sen. John Edwards (8%) in a national primary. When Gore is excluded, Clinton leads Obama 42% to 27%.
- Among leaned Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain (32% to 19%) in a national primary; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 11%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Gov. Mitt Romney both trail at 9%.
- 50% of leaned Republicans are "less likely" to vote for Giuliani after being told he "has been a supporter of legal abortion and gay civil unions."