July 1, 2007 - July 7, 2007


ARG and others on Impeachment

Topics: Impeachment


American Research Group (ARG) asked 1100 respondents 7/3-5/07:

    Do you favor or oppose the US House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush?

The results found 45% in favor and 46% opposed, with 9% undecided.

Those are striking numbers, but deserve a bit of context.

First, as anyone would expect, there are sharp partisan divisions on this question, with 69% of Democrats, 50% of independents and 13% of Republicans support impeachment proceedings. One might wonder if 13% of Republicans supporting the impeachment of their president is really a credible estimate here. It seems large, given continued Republican support for President Bush in job approval in comparison to that of Democrats and independents.

Likewise, we might wonder if support for impeachment has risen in the immediate aftermath of the Libby sentence commutation.

ARG asked an impeachment question in a poll taken 3/13-15/06. Those results are shown in the top right panel of the plot. There the findings were 42% in favor and 49% opposed. (There was a slight difference in question wording as well.) In that March poll, 61% of Democrats, 47% of independents and 18% of Republicans favored impeachment. So this comparison suggests a small increase in support overall, and among Dems and independents, and a small DECREASE in support for impeachment among Republicans since the March survey. But these are modest changes, not large increases in impeachment sentiment.

One might also ask if the ARG survey results are typical of responses in other polls. There the answer is no, the ARG results show more support for impeachment than other polls do.

At the same time as the ARG March survey, Newsweek's poll taken 3/16-17/06, used a slightly different wording but found 26% in favor of impeachment, 69% opposed, well below the 42% ARG found at that time. Newsweek also found very low levels of support for impeachment among Republicans (5%) which seems more reasonable to me. Like ARG, the Newsweek survey found large partisan variation, though with less impeachment support in each partisan category than in the ARG survey (49% Dem, 23% Ind, 5% Rep.)

As for trend over time, the latest poll prior to the new ARG that asked about impeachment was a Time/SRBI poll taken 11/1-3/06, just before the election. That appears in the bottom right of the plot. Their results were 25% in favor, 70% opposed and 5% undecided, VERY similar to the March Newsweek results. Finally, the breakdowns by party in the Time/SRBI poll are also similar to the earlier Newsweek: 48% Dem, 22% Ind, and 4% Rep in favor of impeachment.

The conclusion is that there is little evidence for a substantial increase in support for impeachment, over the past 16 months, and the ARG results appear to be at the high end of support in comparison to other polling. It would be nice to have another new poll to compare with the current ARG results to see if this pattern has continued.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.


Topics: 2008 , George Bush , The 2008 Race

  • ABC's Gary Langer highlights methodological deficiencies in two widely reported studies on death rates in New Orleans and the availability of unused embryos for medical research.
  • Both Gallup Guru Frank Newport and CBS pollster Kathy Frankovic speculate about the next turn in the Bush job rating. Newport teases that "new USA Today/Gallup poll data on Bush out at the beginning of next week."
  • One we missed: Republican pollsters Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates released a survey of 2,000 self described Republican voters conducted about a month ago "via telephone and online." Their report divides Republicans into seven segments and updates a similar survey conducted by the firm in 1997 (link via Edsall by way of Kilgore, first reported by Ambinder).

Pollster Powerball

Topics: 2008 , Pollsters , The 2008 Race

We have been watching with interest coverage of the lawsuit and countersuit involving Clinton pollster Mark Penn, his ex-partner and a former employee. The Nation’s Ari Berman reports:

A lawsuit filed in New York by a former employee of Penn's polling firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland, alleges that when the employee left the firm and started a rival consulting business, workers at PSB hacked into his BlackBerry and illegally monitored his email. The lawsuit, filed in mid-June and reported by the AP on Wednesday, claims that Penn approved of the surveillance.

The backstory is a complicated one. Penn originally sued his former partner Mike Berland and Mitchell Markel in Manhattan court for allegedly violating a non-compete clause with PSB. In response, Markel filed a countersuit detailing the supposed improper email monitoring.

Berman has more, but Politico’s Ben Smith noticed this mind-boggling number in the court filings (here and here) posted by the New York Observer:

In the original suit, PSB asserts that Berland received $15,519,492 in connection with the firm's sale to the WPP Group.

PSB's price has always been a closely-guarded secret; two of the partners, Schoen and Berland, departed at the beginning of this year, the date at which their contracts allowed them to "earn out" the full sale price. And given that Berland was the third-named partner, his payout offers a glimpse at how lucrative the polling business has been for the two founders, Penn and Doug Schoen.

As someone who earned a living in the political polling business, let me just say, that’s incredibly lucrative.

POLL: Newsweek National Survey

A new Newsweek national survey (story, results) of 1,002 adults (conducted 7/2 through 7/3 by Princeton Survey Research Associates) finds:

  • 26% approve of the way George Bush is handling his job as president; 65% disapprove.

  • 57% have a favorable opinion of Sen. Hillary Clinton; 36% have an unfavorable opinion. 54% have a favorable opinion of Sen. Barack Obama, 19% have an unfavorable opinion.

  • Among registered voters who identify or lean Democratic asked to choose between two candidates, Clinton leads Obama 56% to 33% in a national primary match-up.

re: Cell Phones and Political Surveys: Part I

Topics: Cell Phones

An intriguing footnote to the first part of my post on the cell-phone-only problem (alas, a shortened yet crowded week has pushed Part II until next week). The bottom line is that even at 12% of adults, the cell-phone-only population appears neither large nor distinctive enough to throw off most political survey results by more than a point or two. And while that conclusion may not change drastically should the cell-phone only population double over the next year or two, all bets if "cell phone only" comes to describe the majority of U.S. households (a point reader Chris G made in the comments).

Could that happen? An article yesterday by The New York Times' technology writer, David Pogue, suggests a potential pathway. Last week, the cell-phone carrier T-Mobile announced a new service called T-Mobile HotSpot @Home, something Pogue described as an "absolutely ingenious" and as potentially "game changing" to the technology world as Apple's iPhone. "It could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars a year," he wrote, "and yet enrich T-Mobile at the same time." How?

Here's the basic idea. If you're willing to pay $10 a month on top of a regular T-Mobile voice plan, you get a special cellphone. When you're out and about, it works like any other phone; calls eat up your monthly minutes as usual.

But when it's in a Wi-Fi wireless Internet hot spot, this phone offers a huge bargain: all your calls are free. You use it and dial it the same as always - you still get call hold, caller ID, three-way calling and all the other features - but now your voice is carried by the Internet rather than the cellular airwaves.

These phones hand off your calls from Wi-Fi network to cell network seamlessly and automatically, without a single crackle or pop to punctuate the switch.

And what does this have to do with the cell-phone only problem? Read on...

O.K., but how often are you in a Wi-Fi hot spot? With this plan, about 14 hours a day. T-Mobile gives you a wireless router (transmitter) for your house - also free, after a $50 rebate. Connect it to your high-speed Internet modem, and in about a minute, you've got a wireless home network. Your computer can use it to surf the Web wirelessly - and now all of your home phone calls are free.

You know how people never seem to have good phone reception in their homes? How they have to huddle next to a window to make calls? That's all over now. The free router is like a little T-Mobile cell tower right in your house.

Pogue goes on to explain that HotSpot @Home will work with essentially any existing Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) router. What could this mean for the cell-phone-only problem? In outlining four ways this product can save consumers money, Pogue does everything but connect the dots:

SAVING NO. 4 T-Mobile's hope is that you'll cancel your home phone line altogether. You'll be all cellphone, all the time. And why not, since you'll now get great cell reception at home and have only one phone number and voicemail? Ka-ching: there's an additional $500 a year saved.

While the new Apple iPhone, which went on sale last week, does not aim to replace home phone service, it does provide a very similar hand-off from the AT&T wireless network to home or office Wi-Fi hotspots for its built in Internet connection. If these features prove popular with consumers, if HotSpot@Home "enriches" T-Mobile as Pogue speculates, then other cell-phone carriers (with the possible exception of Verizon) are sure to offer similar services.

And if that happens, pollsters may look back with great nostalgia on the days when the cell-phone-only population was just 12%.

UPDATE: A very alert survey researcher emails and notes that the Pogue column is "the #1 most e-mailed story on the New York Times web site today!"

ARG Poll on Libby Sentence Commuration


American Research Group (ARG) has completed a poll taken 7/3-5/07 on President Bush's decision to commute the jail sentence of Scooter Libby. The results are similar to those of the "instant" poll by SurveyUSA taken the night the decision was announced.

ARG asked

    Do you approve or disapprove of President George W. Bush commuting the 30-month prison sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby while leaving intact Mr. Libby's conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case?

The results are strongly structured by party identification, which is certainly no surprise. Only 13% of Democrats and 19% of Independents approved of the commutation, while 50% of Republicans approved. However, as with the SurveyUSA poll, a substantial fraction of Republicans disapproved-- 47% in the ARG poll. Unfortunately, we can't tell for sure how many of these disapproved because the wanted a full pardon compared to how many disapproved because they wanted Libby to serve out his sentence. The survey did ask if respondents favored a pardon, but the news release (so far at least) has not given the cross tab between these two questions which would let us know how these two different reasons for disapproval break out. Perhaps that will be released later.

The high levels of disapproval among Democrats and Independents is not surprising, but the high disapproval among Republicans is surprisingly high.

When asked if they favored a full pardon for Libby, 23% of Republicans said they did. If we make the extreme assumption that ALL of these said they disapproved of Bush's commutation, then 47%-23%=24% of Republicans disapproved the commutation AND did not want a pardon, implying they thought Libby should serve his jail sentence. This is certainly an underestimate since it is doubtful that the pro-pardon group were entirely in the disapprove of commutation category, but it at least sets a lower limit on support for jail among Republicans. As with the SurveyUSA poll, this suggests a significant fraction of Republicans thought Libby should serve time in jail.

The distribution of opinion on the pardon question (text: "Do you favor or oppose a complete presidential pardon for Mr. Libby?") is shown below:


Only 7% of Democrats and 2% of independents favored a pardon, compared to 23% of Republicans. A still large 70% of Republicans opposed a pardon, while 7% said they don't know. The independents in this sample are surprising for how overwhelmingly hey opposed a pardon, even more so than Democrats (82% Dem, 97% Ind.) That is puzzling enough that I'm not sure I believe the 97% number. It is NOT due to small sample size, because independents make up 33% of the ARG sample. The SurveyUSA poll didn't find Independents so much more extreme than Democrats on a pardon. Almost always we find independents between Dems and Reps on partisan questions like this, so I can't explain why independent opinion on this question would be so unanimous, when even Democrats are at least a bit more willing to see Libby pardoned. I'll hold out a possibility of a typo in the web page on this one. If correct, it is awfully huge opposition to a pardon among independents.

Compare these plots with those for the SurveyUSA poll here.

There will surely be some new polling data taken or reported over the weekend on this, so we should learn more on how opinion is shaping up on this issue by Tuesday.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: ARG Pardon/Impeachment

A new American Research Group national survey of 1,100 adults (conducted 7/3 through 7/5) finds:

  • 31% of approve of "President George W. Bush commuting the 30-month prison sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby while leaving intact Mr. Libby's conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case;" 64% disapprove.

  • 11% favor a complete presidential pardon for Libby; 84% oppose.

  • 45% favor "the US House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush;" 46% oppose.

  • 54% favor "US House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney;" 40% oppose.

POLL: Gallup's Giuliani Conservative Support

Additional analysis from recent Gallup national surveys of 359 Republicans who support former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and 903 Republicans who do not support him (conducted May and June of 2007) finds:

  • 59% of Republicans who support Giuliani view themselves as either conservative or very conservative; 73% of those who do not support Giuliani say they are conservative or very conservative.

  • 44% of Republicans who support Giuliani are pro-choice; 51% are pro-life. 29% of those who do not support Giuliani are pro-choice; 65% are pro-life.

Alex Gage & Microtargetting: "Putting A Very Fine Point on the Obvious"

Topics: 2008 , Microtargeting , The 2008 Race

An article today by Chris Cillizza continues The Washington Post's "occasional series" on the campaign "gurus" of 2008 profiles Romney pollster Alex Gage. The article actually says less about the Romney's current campaign than about Gage's pioneering efforts "microtargeting" for Romney's election in 2002 and the Bush reelection campaign in 2004:

Describing what he does, Gage, 57, sounds part marketer, part political strategist -- and more than a little Big Brother. "Microtargeting is trying to unravel your political DNA," he said. "The more information I have about you, the better."

The more information he has, the better he can group people into "target clusters" with names such as "Flag and Family Republicans" or "Tax and Terrorism Moderates." Once a person is defined, finding the right message from the campaign becomes fairly simple.

"'Flag and Family Republicans' might receive literature on a flag-burning amendment from its sponsor, while 'Tax and Terrorism Moderates' get an automated call from [former New York mayor] Rudy Giuliani talking about the war on terror, even if they lived right next door to one another," Alex Lundry, the senior research director of TargetPoint -- the firm Gage founded in 2003 -- wrote recently in Winning Campaigns magazine. [link added]

Cillizza's profile -- which is well worth reading in full -- goes on to provide some explanation of how microtargeting works:

[Michael] Wszolek, the Michigan-based direct-mail consultant, has known Gage since 1984 and worked closely with him to fine-tune a theory of political microtargeting. Wszolek acknowledged that "what you're doing is putting a very fine point on the obvious."

But, he added, the key insight of political microtargeting is that, rather than simply determining whether married men are more likely than unmarried women to support a candidate, a campaign can identify segments within larger demographic groups and tailor messages down to the household level -- an extraordinary amount of precision that helps turn a guessing game into a series of targeted strikes. If television advertising is painting with broad brush strokes, microtargeting is political pointillism.

For all the hype, microtargeting applies the same concepts that pollsters use on surveys of hundreds of respondents to surveys of thousands. Why is this a new idea?

Over the last 20 or 30 years, most internal campaign polls have been designed primarily to guide strategic decisions regarding broadcast television advertising. The great power of broadcast television is its ability to reach a mass audience through a uniquely powerful and vivid medium. However, the ability to target television advertising is limited to choosing specific media markets and skewing the advertising buy to emphasize certain demographic groups (based on the ratings of individual programs). Internal campaign poll samples have traditionally been designed to provide a minimum of 100-200 interviews per media market (in states or districts that reach multiple markets).

Even though television advertising reaches a mass audience, political strategists are always most concerned with reaching the 20% or so that appear open to persuasion. Campaign pollsters use their surveys to identify a "target" subgroup and profile its demographics, but since their ability to target television is relatively blunt, they only analyze a handful of demographic subgroups.

The key distinction of political microtargeting is a shift in the survey design to facilitate targeting of direct voter contact (i.e. direct mail, phone calls and door-to-door canvassing). With these media, campaigns can obtain and use individual level data about each voter gleaned from public and commercial databases: gender, age and past voting history (typically available on registered voter lists) as well as "thousands of data points" (from consumer databases as described in the Cillizza article). So the potential number of target subgroups is essentially unlimited. Microtargeting surveys involve thousands of interviews rather than hundreds so that even tiny slivers of the electorate yield the minimum 100-200 interviews necessary to make statistically meaningful distinctions among subgroups.

Microtargeting pollsters like Gage combine the same techniques they have been using for years to identify persuadable voters on surveys with data mining software that facilitates the analysis of those "thousands" of commercial data points. More specifically, they use survey questions and traditional methods to create some sort of numeric index of an ideal target voter. Think of it as a "persuadability index" -- the higher the score, the more persuadable the voter (although the index could be for any sort of target, such as support for a particular candidate or likelihood to vote). Broadly speaking, they use data mining software to guide campaign communication efforts in two ways:

  • Identify a set of very small target subgroups that score high in the survey on that target index and replicate the subgroups (using the same data variables) on the full registered voter file. Once identified, the pollsters can look at how each subgroup responds to messages tested on the survey, so that each subgroup can receive a specifically tailored message.

  • Create a statistical model that predicts the target index, using only the non-survey data available for all voters as "independent" variables. Then take that model and run it on the full registered voter list, giving each voter a "persuadability" score. These scores can be used to determine which individual voters are worth the expense of contacting.

That is the general idea behind a technique that, as Cillizza's article makes clear, is now all the rage in both parties.

POLL: PPP (D) NC Presidential Primary

A new Public Policy Polling (D) automated survey of likely primary voters in North Carolina (conducted 7/2) finds:

  • Among 583 Republicans, former Sen. Fred Thompson (at 34%) leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (15%), and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (13%) in a statewide primary.

  • Among 629 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (both at 27%) edge out former Sen. John Edwards (26%) in a statewide primary.

POLL: Quinnipiac NJ Primary

A new Quinnipiac University statewide survey of registered voters in New Jersey (conducted 6/26 through 7/2) finds:

  • Among 575 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 37%) leads former V.P. Al Gore (18%) and Sen. Barack Obama (15%) in a statewide primary.

  • Among 505 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 46%) leads Sen. John McCain (11%) and former Sen. Fred Thompson (9%) in a statewide primary.

  • General election match-ups:

    Giuliani 47%, Clinton 44%
    Giuliani 36%, Clinton 36%, Bloomberg 18%
    Giuliani 48%, Obama 40%
    McCain 41%, Clinton 47%
    McCain 40%, Obama 44%

Cell Phones and Political Surveys: Part I

Topics: Cell Phones

Since the AAPOR conference back in May, I have promised several times to take a closer look at the challenge that the growth of "cell phone only" households are presenting to political polling. Today, finally, I am posting the first of a two-part review of some of the latest research.

As this item is a bit long even by Pollster.com standards, it continues in full after the jump.

Continue reading "Cell Phones and Political Surveys: Part I"

POLL: Rasmussen New Hampshire

A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 6/28) finds:

  • Among 428 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (38% to 21%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 10%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 9%.

  • Among 466 Republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney (at 26%) leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Sen. Fred Thompson (both at 17%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 15%.

POLL: SurveyUSA California Primary

A new SurveyUSA automated survey of likely primary voters in California (conducted 6/29 through 7/1) finds:

  • Among 499 Republicans asked to choose between five candidates, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 32%) leads Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson (both at 19%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 9%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 6%.

  • Among 763 Democrats asked to choose between three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (49% to 24%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 14%.

See all California Primary poll data at Pollster.com:

Democrats Republicans

Opinion on Libby Sentence Commutation


SurveyUSA has a poll of immediate reaction to President Bush's decision to commute the prison sentence of Scooter Libby. SurveyUSA uses Interactive Voice Response (IVR) "automated" polling rather than human interviewers. But for a quick reaction poll of a breaking news story, this poll shows the advantages of speed that are possible with IVR technology.

SurveyUSA interviewed 1500 adults nationally within three hours or so of the news that President Bush had commuted the sentence. Of the full sample 55% (825) said yes to the question: "Are you familiar with the legal case involving former White House employee Scooter Libby?"

Those 825 were then asked

    President Bush has commuted the portion of Scooter Libby's sentence that would have required Libby to serve 30 months in prison. Libby remains a convicted felon - he still must pay a 250 thousand dollar fine and serve 2 years of probation - but he will not go to prison. Based on what you now know, should the President have pardoned Scooter Libby completely? Should the president have taken no action, and left the prison sentence in place? ... Or, do you agree with the president's decision to commute the prison portion of the Libby sentence?

As SurveyUSA points out, an advantage of the instant poll is that it can measure opinion before the inevitable political spin begins to affect opinion.

One problematic issue is that SurveyUSA filtered respondents for awareness of the Libby case. I suspect a number of polls to be taken over the next few days will vary in whether the filter for awareness or not, making direct comparison among all the polls to come somewhat difficult. By applying this filter, SurveyUSA should be expected to include people with greater awareness of the issues in the Libby case and presumably more settled opinions on this case than if they had included all 1500 respondents, including the 45% who said they were not familiar with the case. Given the discussion the Libby case has received on talk radio, blogs and MSM it is interesting that 45% didn't feel they were familiar with the case. This opens considerable opportunity for opinion to be swayed either direction in the next couple of days.

But what of those who were familiar?

Not surprisingly, 79% of liberals wanted to see Libby serve his sentence, with only 9% approving Bush's decision and 11% wanting a full pardon. Moderates were only a little less bent on punishment: 69% wanted prison time, while 19% approved the commutation and 11% wanted a full pardon. But what surprises me is the Conservatives. They broke into rough thirds: 31% wanted a complete pardon and 31% approved the decision, but a surprising 35% thought Libby should have served his prison sentence. For all the talk of the President needing to respond to a conservative base fired up for a full pardon, this evidence suggests the President has failed to satisfy two-thirds of that base. (And one should always remember that what we hear on conservative talk radio is a substantial exaggeration of the homogeneity of opinion within that base. Grass roots conservatives (as with grass roots liberals) are considerably more variable in their opinions than radio shows would suggest.)

If we shift to partisanship we see a similar but not identical distribution. Democrats favored prison by 77%, approved the commutation by 14% and 8% thought a full pardon was called for. Fifty-six percent of Independents wanted jail, with 20% approving the President and 21% wanting a pardon. But again when we come to the Republican base, we find a really surprising 40% saying the Libby should have served time in prison. Thirty-two percent supported Bush's decision while 26% wanted a pardon.

Now we might expect to see lowering of support for prison among conservatives and Republicans over the next few days as Republican opinion leaders send the message that they support the commutation (assuming they send that message). And it will be interesting to see if subsequent polling agrees with this instant snapshot from SurveyUSA. But the commentary going into this action by Bush stressed the dilemma he faced between satisfying the base and further offending independents and moderates. So far, the evidence is that the action he took has failed even to please a majority of the Republican and conservative base.

This should be interesting to watch.


Revision: This version of the graphics scale the column widths in proportion to the size of each group (Lib,Mod,Con) or (Dem,Ind,Rep). The first plots failed to do that. My bad. Thanks to Peter Flom for bringing the mistake to my attention.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: American Research Group IA/NH/SC Surveys

Three new American Research Group statewide surveys of likely voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina (conducted 6/26 through 6/30) find:

  • Among 600 Iowa Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton edges out former Sen. John Edwards (32% to 29%) in a statewide caucus; among 600 republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani 25% to 18%.

  • Among 600 New Hampshire Democrats, Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama 34% to 25%; among 600 Republicans, Romney leads Sen. John McCain 27% to 21%.

  • Among 600 Democrats in South Carolina, Clinton leads Edwards 37% to 22%; among 600 Republicans, McCain edges out Giuliani 23% to 22%.

The Top Candidates in the First Five States

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race


(This graph will be more clear full size: click once or twice for full resolution.)

This post gives an alternative view of the top candidates in both parties in the first five primary and caucus states. The data are the same as in my state-by-state view of the primaries (see the links in the column to the right), but here you can see each candidate across all five states. This allows easy comparison of one candidate across all states (reading across each row), as well as across candidates within states (reading down each column).

The dates of each state's primary or caucus are what is currently expected, but are subject to change.


Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

Bush Approval: CBS 27%, Trend at 28.9%

Topics: George Bush


A new CBS News Poll taken 6/26-28/07 finds approval of President Bush at 27% and disapproval at 65%. With this poll, my approval trend estimate stands at 28.9%.

CBS and Fox polls completed at the end of last week neatly bracket the approval trend, with Fox 2.1 points over trend at 31% and CBS at 1.9 points below trend. Recent polling has followed the downward trend with equal numbers of polls above and below trend (5 above and 5 below of the last 10). There have been no outliers for some while, either high or low.

Likewise, three of the last 6 polls have generally positive house effects, while three tend to run below trend. Clearly it is not an imbalance of recent polls that have continued the downturn in approval.

The question remains one of how long the current slide can continue. Historically, presidential approval has rarely fallen into the 20s. While some polls are still giving readings in the 30s, the trend remains sharply downward. However, we are now approaching historic lows. An approval trend of about 29% implies we should see a range of polls between 24% and 34% if the trend stabilizes at its current level. Further decline would predict at least some individual polls that threaten to reach the all time low of President Truman at 22%. Given President Bush's remaining substantial support among Republicans (CBS puts Republican approval in the current poll at 66%, but with Independent support slipping to 18%.) , a loss of that loyal support would seem necessary for a fall to such historic low levels. (Truman had much less support from Democrats than Bush has enjoyed from Republicans.)

Such a bottoming out would seem to require an open breach with Congressional Republicans, as a signal to rank and file that support of the President is no longer expected. With the immigration bill off the table, pressure for a break on that score is actually less now than last week. Iraq looms as the greater challenge, though that requires a shift of position from Congressional Republicans who have staunchly supported the war and criticized Democrats for supporting withdrawal. The double trick will be for Republican Congressional leaders to offer a face saving rationale for a change in Iraq policy while at the same time criticizing their party's president for a failed policy. We've seen some efforts along this line last week. But will the floodgates open or can the President retain the support of his party on the most important issue of his presidency? If he loses that support, we will probably have to rescale the y-axis of our plots.






Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

POLL: Post/Kaiser/Harvard on Independents

The front page of Sunday's Washington Post featured their major new survey of self-identified political independents conducted with Harvard University and the Kaiser Family Foundation (story, full report). The survey consisted of a base random sample of 2,140 all adults, plus an unspecified number of "additional interviews with randomly selected self-identified independents for a total of 1,014 political independents."

The findings among independents confirm many of the findings reported elsewhere. Two excerpts from the Post article (percentages among all independents added in brackets):

Fueled by dissatisfaction with the president and opposition to the Iraq war, independents continue to lean heavily toward the Democrats. Two-thirds [67%] said the war is not worth fighting, three in five [62%] said they think the United States cannot stabilize Iraq, and three in five [62%] believed that the campaign against terrorism can succeed without a clear victory in Iraq...

Seventy-seven percent of independents said they would seriously consider an independent presidential candidate, and a majority [56%] said they would consider supporting Bloomberg, whose recent shift in party registration from Republican to unaffiliated stoked speculation about a possible run in 2008.

The most unique aspect of the study was their ability to disaggregate independents, confirming something political scientists and campaign strategists have long believed: the "independent" label encompasses a variety of different political orientations and philosophies. Again, from the Post story (with percentages among all independents added):

Five categories of independents emerged from the analysis of the survey results:

"Deliberators" [18%], who are classic swing voters.

"Disillusioned" [18%], who are acutely upset with politics today.

"Dislocated" [16%], who are both social liberals and fiscal conservatives.

"Disguised" [24%], who are partisans on the left and right who behave almost identically to Democrats or Republicans.

"Disengaged" [24%], who generally sit on the political sidelines.

This brief block quote does the study little justice. Both full story and the graphic summaries of each of the above cluster groupings are worth reading in full.