August 19, 2007 - August 25, 2007
Are the national front-runners in the race for president -
Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani - "coasting on high name ID?" That's the
question that Gallup's Lydia Saad attempts to
answer in a must-read
analysis based on data from three Gallup
polls conducted in July and August. Saad's answer appears to be yes for
Giuliani, but no for Clinton.
That is, Giuliani's front runner status does appear to depend, at least for
now, on relatively high name recognition, while Clinton leads even among voters who can rate her
two best known rivals. Though before assuming that the Democratic race is over,
however, we need to consider what "name recognition" really means.
Saad's analysis is well worth reading in full, but here is
the gist: Slightly less than half (46%) of Republican's nationally know Rudy
Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson well enough to rate all
four. Among these voters, Giuliani trails Fred Thompson by eight points (33% to
25%). Giuliani's double digit national lead in Gallup's polling comes entirely
from the 54% of Republicans who are unfamiliar with one of the top four candidates,
as the Gallup graphic shows:
Among Democrats, the pattern is different. Less than one in
four Democrats (23%) is not yet familiar with each of the three best known
candidates, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. While Clinton holds
a very wide lead over Barack Obama (53% to 17%) among those who are unfamiliar
with one of the candidates, she still leads by a comfortable 13 point margin
(43% to 30%) with Edwards finishing a distant third (with 13%) even among those
who know all three candidates.
Even as Obama and Edwards build their name identification
among Democrats, it would appear unlikely that this increasing public
familiarity with Clinton's
rivals alone would upset her lead...
On the other hand:
Giuliani is at greater risk than Clinton of losing support as the campaign
progresses and his opponents become better known.
Results from other polls, particularly the recent up-tick in Clinton's national totals, support the conclusion that Clinton's lead depends on more
than mere name ID. Even Obama's pollsters apparently concede the point, as
reported by Ryan Lizza's in his recent
GQ cover story:
When [Obama's pollsters] compared the percentage of
Democrats who said they strongly approved of Obama with the percentage who said
they would vote for him, they found that the latter number was significantly
lower than the former. Inside the campaign, aides dubbed this "the Gap." It was
a sobering, hard number that quantified the difference between vague enthusiasm
and actual votes. For Hillary Clinton, the gap is much smaller. The majority of
voters who strongly approve of her also say they will vote for her.
In fact, Hillary was collecting about two-thirds of
Democrats who liked her, while Obama was collecting less than half. The numbers
suggested that the calculus for Hillary voters was much simpler: Democrats who
liked her knew all they needed to know about her. But for Obama voters, there
were questions. Was he tough enough? Did he have enough experience? Could he
actually win in the general election?
Of course, "strong approval" is a much tougher measure of name recognition than the
percentage who are simply able to rate a candidate. Still, this report leads me to a thought that may have some bearing on whether
the Democratic standings will change as voters continue to learn more about the
candidates: "Name recognition" alone is a grey concept. Voters may recognize a
name but still know little or nothing about the person behind it.
Most pollsters measure name recognition by counting those able to rate a public
figure favorably or unfavorably. Gallup's
question, for example, asks respondents to report "if you have a favorable or
unfavorable opinion of these people -- or if you have never heard of them." However,
minor differences in the answer categories presented can sometimes produce
different results. Consider the percentages able to rate the three Democrats on
recent surveys by Gallup,
Research Center and CBS News (here and here; I've used
the results among all adults to keep the populations comparable):
CBS News is the only pollster of the three to offer respondents the option
to say they are either "undecided" or that they "haven't heard enough yet"
about a candidate "to have an opinion." When I exclude the "undecided"
respondents, the percentage able to rate each candidates drops considerably,
with the biggest drops for Edwards and Obama. My educated guess is that much of
the uncertainty comes from a lack of information; voters know the name, but not
much about it.
How do I know that? Aside from many years of listening to voters offer what
they know about vaguely familiar politicians in focus groups, we have some
direct evidence. The same CBS News survey also includes open-ended questions asking
respondents for "the first thing that comes to mind" about each candidate.
CBS News Polling Director Kathy Frankovic describes the results for Obama in
Ten percent of registered voters said the first
thing that came to their mind when they heard the name was the foreignness of
it, and/or a perceived association with "Osama bin Laden." And those voters who
did NOT have a favorable opinion of Obama were twice as likely as those with a
favorable opinion to mention this. Those who thought his name would affect
others also were more likely to be thinking of it themselves. Nearly one in
five of those who said that they thought many voters would have a problem
voting for Obama because of his name said in the earlier poll question that the
name's non-American associations were the first thing they thought of
when they heard his name....
Obama could overcome this problem, because the
foreign connection is much more likely to be made by those who are paying less
attention to the campaign than by those paying closer attention: Fourteen
percent of those paying little or no attention to the campaign say it's the
first thing that comes to mind when they hear Obama's name, compared with just
7 percent of those paying at least some attention.
As Obama keeps campaigning, and as voters start paying more attention,
pollsters like me will continue to try and find out what voters see and whether
their focus moves beyond his name, to the candidate himself and his platform.
Of course, Frankovic's observation has less bearing on the gap the Obama pollsters
observed between "strong approval" of their candidate and vote preference,
though that too may change as voters learn more about the candidates,
particularly in the early states. Either way, Frankovic's column,
like the Saad/Gallup analysis,
is worth reading in full.
A new FOX News/Opinion Dynamics national survey (story, results) of 900 registered voters nationwide (conducted 8/21 through 8/22) finds:
- 33% approve of the job George Bush is doing as president; 56% disapprove.
- Among 335 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (35% to 23%) in a national primary; former V.P. Al Gore trails at 10%, former Sen. John Edwards at 6%. Excluding Gore, Clinton leads Obama 38% to 25% while Edwards trails at 8%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
- Among 314 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (29% to 14%) in a national primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 11%, Sen. John McCain at 7%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 5%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
View all National Primary poll data at Pollster.com:
A new Pew Research Center national survey of 3,002 adults conducted (8/1 through 8/18) finds:
- 31% approve of the job George Bush is doing as president; 59% disapprove.
- 21% approve of the job Congress is doing; 65% disapprove.
- Favorable ratings among registered Democrats (Pew recalculated each rating among those who can rate the candidate):
88% favorable, 12% unfavorable (3% can't rate)
83% favorable, 17% unfavorable (20% can't rate)
83% favorable, 17% unfavorable (20% can't rate)
- Favorable ratings among registered Republicans (Pew recalculated each rating among those who can rate the candidate):
90% favorable, 10% unfavorable (44% can't rate)
84% favorable, 16% unfavorable (10% can't rate)
76% favorable, 24% unfavorable (37% can't rate)
72% favorable, 28% unfavorable (15% can't rate)
Here's another item from last week worth a second look: Is Al
Gore really leading in Michigan?
When we linked to
the latest Michigan survey from EPIC/MRA last week, we followed the lead of the
News story and gave emphasis to
the trial heat questions that included non-candidates Al Gore among the
Democrats and Newt Gingrich and (non "announced" candidate) Fred Thompson among
Republicans. The results had some Pollster readers scratching their heads, as the
Democratic question showed that Gore "would top the Democratic slate" (with 36% to
Hillary Clinton's 32%) and showed Gingrich receiving the support of 15% of Republicans.
"These results are pretty weird," wrote Pollster commenter Chris
S., "when compared against other MI polls, and other state polls around the
country." Chris has a point. When pollsters include Gore on the list of choices
of national and statewide polls, he typically receives support in the high single
digits to mid teens. Thirty-six percent is certainly high by comparison.
It turns out that EPIC/MRA asked their trial heat questions
a bit differently, and that difference most likely explains the odd result. Virtually
all of the other pollsters that include non-candidates like Gore, Gingrich and
(technically) Fred Thompson start with a trial-heat question that includes all
possible candidates and then ask respondents for their "second choice." They
can then re-allocate the second choices of Gore supporters to calculate a "vote
EPIC/MRA, on the other hand, did things differently. For
each party, they first asked voters to choose from the "announced candidates"
for president and then presented a choice from what they described as an "expanded
list" of candidates.
That their approach showed greater support for Gore is not
surprising. Presumably, many of Gore's potential backers take him at his word when he says he has no plans to run and tend to choose other candidates. However, Gore does much better when a pollster
plays "what if" and says, in essence, "imagine that Al Gore decides to run."
That is one reason why -- despite considerable internal
debate -- we have chosen to use the first question that pollsters ask on our
charts, rather than relatively hypothetical follow-up questions based on second
choice or compressed lists of candidates. For what it's worth, we are doing
some work behind the scenes here at Pollster to allow readers more choices
(such as charts based only on votes without non-candidates like Gore and
One of our fears is that as soon as we launch such a capability,
pollsters will finally decide to stop asking about non-candidates. I generally
agree with those who ask here, again and again, "why are pollsters asking about Gore?" Regardless of the way pollsters ask the vote question, the "support"
measured for Gore will be hypothetical and artificial. So why bother at all
unless he decides to run?
This result does help demonstrate something useful, however,
which has less to do with Gore than with the current support for the frontrunner
Hillary Clinton. Just how real (or solid) is her support, at least among
Michigan Democrats? The fact that preference for Clinton drops from 45% to 32% with Gore's
name included, suggests that many of her supporters remain open to an
alternative. Less clear, of course, is whether any of the actual
candidates (Obama, Edwards or any of the others) can replicate Gore's apparent appeal among Michigan Democrats (as support for the others also
drops with Gore included). But the fact that the simple addition of Gore's name
to the list of choices shakes up current preferences to this degree tells us
that the vote preferences we are watching are still tentative, and the
Democratic race is still a long way from over.
A new Strategic Vision (R) statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 8/17 through 8/19) finds:
- Among 600 Democrats, Sen. John Edwards runs at 23%, Sen. Barack Obama at 22%, and Sen. Hillary Clinton at 21% in a statewid caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson trails at 14%, Sen. Joe Biden at 5%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
- Among 600 Republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (31% to 15%) in a statewide caucus; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 13%, Sen. John McCain and former Gov. Mike Huckabee both trail at 8%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
View all Iowa Caucus poll data at Pollster.com:
A new Quinnipaic University statewide survey of registered voters in Pennsylvania (conducted 8/14 through 8/20) finds:
- Among 524 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 42%) leads former V.P. Al Gore (13%), Sen. Barack Obama (12%), and former Sen. John Edwards (8%) in a statewide primary. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
- Among 477 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 31%) leads Sen. John McCain (13%), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (9%), former Sen. Fred Thompson (8%), and former Gov. Mitt Romney (7%) in a statewide primary. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
- General election match-ups:
Clinton 46%, Giuliani 44%
Obama 40%, Giuliani 45%
Edwards 43%, Giulaini 45%
Clinton 47%, McCain 41%
Obama 43%, McCain 40%
Edwards 46%, McCain 38%
Additional results from the recent Gallup national survey of 1,019 adults (conducted 8/13 through 8/16) finds:
- Among 468 Democrats and those who lean Democratic, Sen. Hillary Clinton maintains her "expanded lead" over Sen. Barack Obama (48% to 25%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails with 13%. Including V.P. Al Gore among the candidates, Clinton leads Obama (42% to 21%), Gore runs at 15%, and Edwards at 11%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
- 32% of Americans approve of the job George Bush is doing as president; 63% disapprove.
- 18% approve of the job Congress is doing -- "the lowest it has been since Gallup first tracked public opinion of Congress with this measure in 1974;" 76% disapprove.
View all National Primary poll data at Pollster.com:
I am still playing catch up on a bunch of interesting new
surveys that all seemed to be released during my vacation last week. Next up: The
of likely Iowa
Democratic caucus goers sponsored by the anti-poverty ONE Campaign and
conducted by a partnership of two partisan campaign pollsters: Peter Hart &
Associates (D) and McLaughlin & Associates (R). After we posted
and linked to the results, one reader emailed with a few good questions:
Is a privately commissioned poll on
a particular subject, in this case poverty, considered the same as an independent primary poll?
With the preceding questions all
leading to one most likely conclusion, given Edwards' poverty platform and his just having concluded a poverty tour, is this poll pushing?
First, the reader got the wrong impression about the order
of questions from the ONE Campaign release,
which first presented results from questions about poverty, health and the ONE
Campaign itself and then presented results from the presidential trial-heat. The
actual questionnaire was different: I checked Geoff Garin of Peter Hart &
Associates and he confirms that they asked the presidential trial-heat question
first, before any of the items about poverty or America's role in the world. They
also confirm that the introduction that respondents heard at the beginning of
the call was general and did not make any specific reference to poverty or the
ONE campaign. So there is no reason to assume that the nature of the questions
"pushed" respondents to any particular candidate.
Second, to answer a question asked by another reader,
neither Peter Hart nor any of his associates are currently working for any of the
Democratic candidates for President in 2008.
So do we consider "privately commissioned" polls as
equivalent to "independent" surveys sponsored by news media outlets? We do
include both in our averages, but make sure to note sponsorship and the
partisan affiliation of the pollster, if any, and urge readers to take
sponsorship into account. One of our main goals for Pollster is to provide a
complete aggregation of all publicly available trial heat results as well as
the tools and commentary to try to make your own decisions about the worthiness
of the various polls. We monitored
the impact of partisan polls on House district averages during the 2006 general
election, and hope to do more of the same going forward.
One question readers did not ask, however, involved the
sampling methodology used by the ONE Campaign poll. Their release described the
509 past Democratic caucus attendees or new registrants
who say they are likely to attend a Democratic presidential caucus.
Does that blurb imply the use of a list of past
caucus goers? Yes. Via email, Geoff Garin confirms that they drew their sample
from the list of registered voters maintained by the Iowa Democratic Party that
identifies past caucus participants. Virtually all of the survey's 509 respondents
had actually participated in either the Iowa Democratic caucuses in either 2004 or 200. The exceptions were 3% of the respondents who had registered since 2004 and indicated on screen questions that they planned
to participate in the 2008 caucuses.
The approach of the ONE campaign survey thus stands
in marked contrast to the recent ABC
News/Washington Post poll that used a random digit dial methodology
to first contact a sample of all adults in Iowa and then screen down to self-described
likely caucus goers. According to the Washington Post version of the questionnaire, 30% of the respondents indicated that they had not previously participated and that the 2008 caucuses would be their first.
I want to look more closely at the contrast (and the
strengths and weaknesses of each) in a subsequent post, but for now, one
conclusion seems obvious: These two surveys produced very different results
that probably result from the way each pollster sampled "likely caucus goers." John
Edwards receives 30% of the vote on the ONE survey and runs significantly ahead
of both Hillary Clinton (22%) and Barack Obama (18%). On the ABC/Post
survey, Obama (27%), Clinton (26%) and Edwards (26%) are tightly bunched,
although the results get closer to consistent when they look at a "more
restrictive likely voter definition" (showing Edwards 28%, Obama 27%,
So which approach is best? Getting to a definitive answer is probably impossible, but my hunch is that the reality of "likely caucus goers" falls somewhere in between. More on that soon...
A new American Research Group national survey of 1,100 adults (conducted 8/18 through 8/21) finds:
- 28% of Americans approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as president; 65% disapprove.
- 29% approve how Bush is handling the economy; 64% disapprove.
A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of likely primary voters in South Carolina (conducted 8/20) finds:
- Among 841 Republicans, former Sen. Fred Thompson (at 23%) edges out former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (21%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 14%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 10%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 6%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
- Among 516 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (38% to 30%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
View all South Carolina Primary poll data at Pollster.com:
A new Rocky Mountain statewide survey of 629 registered voters in Arizona (conducted 7/27 through 8/4 by the Behavior Research Center of Arizona) finds Gov. Janet Napolitano leading Sen. John McCain (47% to 36%) among in a hypothetical 2010 Senatorial match-up.
A new NewsMax/Zogby telephone survey of 487 likely Republican caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 8/17 through 8/18) finds former Gov. Mitt Romney leading former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (33% to 14%) in a statewide caucus; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 12%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 8%, Sen. John McCain at 6%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
A new NewsMax/Zogby telephone survey of 503 likely Democratic caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 8/17 through 8/19) finds:
- Sen. Hillary Clinton leads former Sen. John Edwards (30% to 23%) in a statewide caucus; Sen. Barack Obama trails at 19%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 10%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
- "Among the very liberal, Edwards is the favorite, winning 29% to Obama's 25% and Clinton's 18%. But among mainstream Democrats, Clinton is the far and away leader with 39% support, compared to 22% for Edwards and 20% for Obama."
I'm back from vacation and will be playing a bit of catch-up
on a few "remainder" items from the last two weeks.
I want to start with a presentation I gave at the YearlyKos
convention earlier this month. One big point that I tried to make is that even though
voters are paying more attention to the presidential race now than they have in
past contests, the majority have not yet focused closely on the race, and their
level of attentiveness has still not reached the level it typically does when
the results come in for Iowa and New Hampshire.
For example, according to the most recent
survey by the Pew Research Center, 23% of Americans say they are following
"News about candidates for the 2008 presidential election" very closely, a
level roughly double that at this point in previous
election cycles (see the chart below). However, the same survey also shows that
many more Americans are paying "very close" attention to "the six trapped Utah coal miners" (36%)
and "the hot weather" (33%). Another way of looking at the same result -- nearly
half of Americans say they are following campaign news either "not too closely"
(21%) or "not at all closely" (24%).
Strong partisans -- particularly strong Democrats -- may be
paying more attention than other voters, but more than half are not yet putting
"a lot of thought" into the campaign. At my request, the analysts at the Pew Research
Center provided results
to a slightly different question that they could tabulate among strong
partisans: "How much thought, if any, have you given to candidates who may be
running for president in 2008?" As the table below shows, self-described strong
Democrats have been among the most attentive to the campaign, but even among
that group, more than half the voters have been putting only "some" thought,
"not much" or "none at all" to the campaign.
Open Left's Chris Bowers neatly summarized the main
idea I tried to get across about the common pattern in two charts created by Charles Franklin, the one
above and the one below showing the rapid change in vote preference in 2003:
The key point here is how these
charts match up. Specifically, the rapid change at the end of the 2004
Democratic primary campaign occurred at the same moment when people began to
pay far more attention to the campaign. Smaller changes that occurred before Iowa also corresponded with major media moment in the
campaign, such as Clark's entry into the race
and Gore's endorsement of Dean. The point here, which should have been obvious
to me all along, is that the campaign won't really change much until the
level of coverage of the campaign changes. Only major events that receive
truly massive amounts of news coverage have any possibility to alter the shape
of the campaign in a statistically significant manner.
The point here is this: don't expect any long-term, gradual improvement for any
candidate. National changes in campaigns like this will happen only in large
chunks, and as the result of major events. Otherwise, expect the campaign to
stay pretty much as it is, and pretty much the way it has been for the past
four months, until such an event takes place. . Expect small, weekly changes
away from the status quo to reverse themselves in only a week or two.
Basically, unless something major happens, the horserace isn't going anywhere
for a while.
I'd add just one thought: While I would not expect the national vote preference numbers to
change much until the primaries get under way in January, things may move more
quickly in the early states, especially Iowa
and New Hampshire.
I like to think of the early state campaigns as a three act
play. In Act One the candidates announce, do their initial swings through the
early states, engage in a few early and largely non-confrontational debates and
devote most of their time and energy to fundraising. Movement in polls, both
nationally and in the early states, tends to be glacial as most information
reaches voters through news media coverage.
In Act Two, the candidates begin saturation television
advertising in Iowa, New Hampshire and perhaps a few other early states. This
process begins to reach those voters who are less attentive to politics and can
move numbers more dramatically for candidates who begin with less recognition. Act
Two of the 2008 race started early for Mitt Romney and Bill Richardson (thus
producing upward movement for both in Iowa and
but appears to be getting underway for most of the other candidates right about
now. So it will be interesting to watch the round of early state surveys in
September and October to whether greater exposure to all of the candidates changes
perceptions and preferences.
Act Three, if it happens, will involve negative attack ads. Historically, only a few Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns have featured exchanges of negative
advertising, partly because such attacks pose huge risks in multi-candidate
primaries. They typically sink both the attacker and the attackee to the
ultimate benefit of a third candidate. For example, John Glenn's attacks of Walter
Mondale helped set up Gary Hart's meteoric rise in New Hampshire in 1984, and
the negative exchange between Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt in Iowa in 2004 set the stage for
the late ascent of both John Kerry and John Edwards. Not for nothing did wags label
the Gephardt's ploy "murder suicide." If such an exchange happens this year,
it may create yet another radical and surprising reshuffling of voter preferences in the
final weeks of the Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns.
Either way, whatever happens in the final weeks in Iowa and New
Hampshire will occur at a moment when voters there
are paying much more attention to the campaigns than they are now.
I've been off-line the past week, recovering from vacation. But the polls haven't stopped, and I'm now back to work as well.
We saw five new polls last week on approval of President Bush. A CNN/ORC poll taken 8/6-8/07 found approval at 36%, disapproval at 61%. The Associated Press/Ipsos poll also on 8/6-8/07 has approval at 35%, disapproval at 62%. The Reuters/Zogby poll done 8/9-11/07 got approval at 32%, disapproval at 67%. The CBS News poll done 8/8-12/07 put approval at 29%, disapproval at 65% and the Quinnipiac University survey of 8/7-13/07 finds approval at 29% and disapproval at 64%.
With these new polls the trend estimate of approval now stands at 32.4%. At the moment none of the last 10 polls qualify as outliers, with some above and some below the trend estimate but none further away than we would expect given the variability in polling. It remains to be seen whether the current upturn in approval that began after June 28 is continuing up. The Quinnipiac and CBS results at 29% are more than 3 points below trend, but not abnormally so and both polls typically run a bit below trend, so they don't give much evidence of a new downturn. Let's get some more data to answer that question.
Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.
A new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D) statewide survey of 600 likely voters in Minnesota (conducted 7/26 through 7/31 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) finds:
- 37% would vote to reelect Sen. Norm Coleman if the election for U.S. Senate were held today; 49% would vote for "someone new."
- 41% rate the job performance of Coleman as either excellent or good; 58% say either fair or poor.
A new Gallup national survey of 1,019 adults (conducted 8/13 through 8/16) finds:
- Among Republicans and those who lean Republican, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 32%) leads former Sen. Fred. Thompson (19%), former Gov. Mitt Romney (14%), and Sen. John McCain (11%) in a national primary. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
- "Romney's favorable rating has jumped from 22% to 33% over the past two weeks, while his unfavorable rating has fallen from 31% to 24%."