Pollster.com

September 9, 2007 - September 15, 2007

 

Ezra Klein Reviews Microtrends

Topics: Pollsters

Ezra Klein really hates the new book by Clinton pollster Mark Penn:

[Penn's] new book Microtrends is so bad that the question--in a fair world--isn't whether it will destroy his own reputation, but whether it is so epically awful as to take the entire polling industry down with it.

That certainly grabbed my attention. Klein expands on that idea in his last few paragraphs:

Pollsters occupy a uniquely powerful space in American political discourse: They bring science to elections. Armed with heaps of raw data, they elevate their opinions into something altogether weightier: Conclusions. When an organization sends out a press release saying the organization is right, it's ignored. When a pollster sends out a poll showing the electorate agrees, ears in Washington perk up.

The enterprise has always been dodgy. Populist pollsters reliably discover that the electorate thirsts for more populism. Conservative pollsters routinely discover a small government consensus pulsing at the heart of the body politic. When the libertarian Cato Institute commissioned a poll of the electorate, they found--shockingly--that the essential swing vote was made of libertarians. Remarkably, whenever a politician or self-interested institution releases a poll, the results show a symmetry between the attitudes of the pollster's employer and those of the voters. But Penn's book shines light on this phenomenon: If he is the pinnacle of his profession, then the profession uses numbers as a ruse--a superficial empiricism that obscures garden-variety hackery. And that's a trend worth worrying about.

I have not yet read Penn's book, and like Klein, have never met him. But my own sense is that Penn is an unusual case as political pollsters go, both in terms of his paycheck and methods (for example, as Klein notes, "unlike most pollsters, Penn never releases his raw numbers, only his analysis").

But set Penn aside for a moment. Klein raises a fair point about the many publicly released surveys sponsored by partisans and interest groups. Consumers should always approach such data with skepticism because -- surprise, surprise -- interest groups and their pollsters tend to cherry pick results that make the most compelling case for their side. Educated consumers confronted with such releases should always wonder, "what results am I not seeing?"

Still, I think Klein goes a bit too far here. His conditional rhetoric -- "If [Penn] is the pinnacle of his profession, then the profession uses numbers as a ruse" -- strikes me as the same sort of speculative leap (based on a sample size of n=1) that Klein finds so troubling in Penn's book.

I am a pollster, of course, so some bias on this issue is inevitable. Readers, what do you think? Is Klein's criticism (of Penn and pollsters generally) fair? Is Penn "the pinnacle" of the polling profession?

Update - Mark Penn emails:

Given all the reviews of Microtrends I am rather surprised the only one you mention is Ezra Klein.

Would appreciate your mentioning or linking to some of the reviews in USA Today, Business Week, Economist, Bloomberg, Politco, Newsweek among others that had a very different and very high opinion of the book.

It is unfortunate but not surprising that an American Prospect writer put out a review like this given their past articles. Of course that would be a correlation, not necessarily causation. Or is it?

It is not at all a political book and I hope you will read it and enjoy it.

Fair enough. I added the links above. For what it's worth, I did link to the Politico review a week ago.


POLL: AP-Ipsos National Survey


A new AP/Ipsos national survey (approval, election) of 1,000 adults (condycted 9/10 through 9/12) find:

  • 33% approve of the way George Bush is handling his job as president, 64% disapprove.
  • Among 482 registered Democrats and those who lean Democratic, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (34% to 20%) in a national primary; former V.P. Al Gore trails at 16%, former Sen. John Edwards at 10%. Without Gore, Clinton runs at 43%, Obama at 23%, and Edwards at 13%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • Among 358 registered Republicans and those who lean Republican, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs slightly ahead of former Sen. Fred Thompson (24% to 29%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 15%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 7%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 6%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 5%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.

View all National Primary poll data at Pollster.com:

AUSTopDems190.png AUSTopReps190.png
Democrats Republicans


POLL: Wnthrop/ETV African Americans in SC


A new Winthrop/ETV statewide survey of 657 African American adults in South Carolina (conducted 8/19 through 9/9) finds that among those likely to vote in the South Carolina Democratic primary, Sen. Barack Obama runs slightly ahead of Sen. Hillary Clinton (35% to 31%) in a statewide primary; 29% are undecided. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.


POLL: Research 2000 Lieberman '06 Vote


A new Research 2000 statewide survey of 600 likely voters in Connecticut (conducted 9/10 through 9/12 for Daily Kos (D) ) finds:

  • 49% say they voted for Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, in the 2006 election, 42% for Ned Lamont, the Democrat, and 9% for Alan Schlesinger, the Republican.
  • If they could "vote again for U.S. Senate," 48% would vote for Lamont, 40% would for Lieberman, and 10% would for Schlesinger.


Bush Approval: 4 New Polls, Trend at 33.3%

Topics: George Bush

1BushApproval2ndTerm20070912.png

A very busy week for pollsters with four new polls today. CNN/ORC was conducted 9/7-9/07, finding 36% approval of President Bush's job performance while 61% disapprove. Harris, done 9/7-10/07 gets 31% approval, 67% disapproval, while AP/Ipsos from 9/10-12/07 puts approval at 33% and disapproval at 64%. The latest is the Fox poll taken 9/11-12/07 which finds approval at 37% and disapproval at 58%.

The addition of these four polls raises the trend estimate of approval to 33.3%. This is the first time since May 9 that approval has reached the one-third point.

The new polls are nicely balanced around the current estimate: Fox and CNN are about as far above the trend as Harris and AP are below it. You can get a sense of the house effects of each of these pollsters from the chart below.

2LastSixPolls20070912.png

The balance of polls above and below trend is also evident in the residuals plot below. No recent poll is close to being an outlier. All of the last 10 polls lie within the normal range of sampling variation.

With President Bush scheduled to address the nation tonight about Iraq policy it will be very interesting to see if the current upturn in approval is sustained. The testimony by General Petraeus and the President's speech could (I stress could) convince some citizens to give the Iraq policy more time, or could push in the opposite direction among those who were hopeful of a faster reduction in forces. (Note I'm talking about those still on the fence enough about Iraq to be affected either way. Obviously a lot of people have long since made up their minds in either direction and are unlikely to be affected by the testimony or the speech.)

3BushResiduals20070912.png

Cross posted at Political Arithmetik.


POLL: Fox National Survey


A new FOX News/Opinion Dynamics nationa survey (story, results) of 900 registered voters (conducted 9/11 through 9/12) finds:

  • 37% approve of the job George Bush is doing as president; 58% disapprove.
  • Among 396 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (32% to 21%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 15%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 8%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • Among 297 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (39% to 20%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%, former V.P. Al Gore at 9%. Without Gore, Clinton runs at 43%, Obama at 24%, Edwards at 13%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.

View all National Primary poll data at Pollster.com:

AUSTopDems190.png AUSTopReps190.png
Democrats Republicans


POLL: NBC/WSJ National Survey


A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal national survey (NBC story, results; WSJ story, results) of 1,002 adults (conducted 9/7 through 9/10) finds:

  • 33% approve of the job George Bush is doing as president; 61% disapprove.
  • 23% approve of the job Congress is doing; 65% disapprove.
  • Among registered Democrats and those likely to vote in the Democratic primary, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 44%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (23%) and former Sen. John Edwards (16%) in a national primary. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • Among registered Republicans and those likely to vote in the Republican primary; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani narrowly leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (32% to 26%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 14%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 11%. All other candidates receives less than five percent each.
  • General election match-ups:

    Romney 38%, Clinton 51%
    Romney 34%, Obama 51%
    Thompson 38%, Obama 47%
    Thompson 41%, Clinton 50%
    Giuliani 42%, Clinton 49%
    Huckabee 36%, Clinton 50%

* Errors corrected.

View all National Primary poll data at Pollster.com:

AUSTopDems190.png AUSTopReps190.png
Democrats Republicans


POLL: ARG National Primary


A new American Research Group national survey of likely primary voters (conducted 9/9 through 9/12) finds:

  • Among 600 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 39%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (21%) and former Sen. John Edwards (15%) in a national primary; Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Bill Richardson both trail at 5%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • Among 600 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani narrowly leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (24% to 23%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 14%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 9%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 6%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.

View all National Primary poll data at Pollster.com:

AUSTopDems190.png AUSTopReps190.png
Democrats Republicans


5767 Remainders


Frank Newport ponders whether, the recent Gallup result aside, other polls may be showing "real changes in the GOP presidential race."

Kathy Frankovic considers why so many Americans believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Chris Bowers links to the final national results for the 2006 elections for U.S. House of Representatives. These show a slightly larger Democratic margin (8.2%) than previously estimated (see also my comparison to pre-election "generic" polls based on the preliminary vote totals).

First Read teases a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll set to air tonight on "NBC Nightly News beginning at 6:30 pm ET -- or click on to MSNBC.com at the same time."

The Winthrop/ETV poll also tells us, via email, that they will "release a groundbreaking poll taken exclusively of African Americans in South Carolina" sometime tomorrow evening.

I include those last two items partly because the entire staff here at Pollster.com world headquarters (that's me and the indefatigable Eric Dienstfrey) will be taking tomorrow off to celebrate the New Year 5768. Our updates will resume on Friday.

Until then L'Shana Tova to all.


POLL: Insider Advantage FL Survey


Two new Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion statewide surveys of voters in Florida (article, video; conducted on behalf of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, 9/6 through 9/10,) finds:

  • Among 500 Democratic likely voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 36%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (18%), Sen. Joe Biden at 9%, and former Sen. John Edwards (9% 8%)* in a statewide primary. All other candidates receive less than 5% each, and 21% are undecided.
  • Among 500 Republican likely voters, former Sen. Fred Thompson leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads (27% to 21%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 9% and former Gov. Mitt Romney 8%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each and 25% are undecided.

According to the Insider Advantage release (link added):

Matt Towery . . . CEO of InsiderAdvantage, said: "Another survey released today shows Rudy Giuliani in the lead over Thompson. However, that survey includes Newt Gingrich in the survey question. Since Newt is currently not a candidate, and - unless Thompson crumbles, will not be a candidate - we felt a 'non-Newt' survey would provide a better overall view of the GOP field. Having Newt in a poll takes votes away from candidates and forces others to be undecided." Towery served as Gingrich's campaign chair until he resigned from the House in the late 1990s.

*Note: The original version of this post inadvertently omited Sen. Joe Biden and had Edwards at 9%. The email release we received from InsiderAdvantage reported the Edwards percentage as 9.4%, but the InsiderAdvantage website currently reports it at 8% (thanks to reader ME for the catch).


AAPOR & NewsU: Understanding and Interpreting Polls


Regular readers will know that I am active in the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the leading professional association of pollsters and survey researchers. That volunteer commitment sometimes competes with Pollster.com for my attention, as it did this week as AAPOR unveiled a new and improved website and participated in the launch of a very cool online course on "Understanding and Interpreting Polls" developed in partnership with the Poynter Institute's prestigious News University (NewsU).

newsu%20aapor.png

Some background: NewsU is a project of The Poynter Institute for Media Studies that provides "interactive, inexpensive" online courses aimed primarily at journalists. Who should take this "one to two hour" course on polling? According to NewsU: "new journalists, veteran journalists, J-school students, political science majors, bloggers, voters and anyone who wants to know why polls work and how they are conducted." And what will you learn?

As election season approaches, journalists are bombarded with data from polls. Are you confident you can tell the legitimate numbers from the sloppy surveys? How effectively can you evaluate the polling methods? Do you know when nine out of 10 really isn't nine out of 10? In this course, you'll learn to dig into the survey data and see how the numbers measure up.

This course will help you gain a better understanding of how polls are conducted, what to look for in the methodology and how to determine the legitimacy of a poll. When you are finished, you should know what questions to ask about polls, where to look for answers and why it matters.

The course requires a free registration, but is otherwise accessible to all. It is full of all sorts of interactive Flash graphics and includes a three-part audio presentation by the Pew Research Center's Richard Morin (formerly polling director at The Washington Post) about how polls can help "correct common perceptions, speculation or generalizations that found their way into news stories and commentary about major news events."

For those willing to invest an hour or two, this site provides invaluable background on how polls are conducted. NewsU also promises to add new lessons in the coming months on election polling and how to interpret and report poll results.

For those who want to get some quick highlights (without the registration but also without the snazzy interactive graphics), selected material from the NewsU course also appears on the new AAPOR website among the answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" on random sampling, question wording and questions to ask when reporting on a poll.


POLL: SurveyUSA New Hampshire GEs


Via tpmcafe, a new SurveyUSA statewide survey of 536 registered voters in New Hampshire (conducted 9/4 through 9/5) finds Sen. Hillary Clinton leading former Sen. Fred Thompson (51% to 41%), running even with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (both at 47%), and running just behind former Gov. Mitt Romney (44% to 45% respectively) in three statewide general election match-ups.


POLL: Gallup Republican Primary Analysis


New analysis from Gallup Poll on their recent national survey (conducted for USA Today) finds "little change in Republicans' preferences for their party's 2008 presidential nomination," contrary to recent results from CNN, CBS News, and The Washington Post.


POLL: MA-05 GE


A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 411 likely voters in the Massachusetts CD-05 special election (conducted 9/07 through 9/10) finds Democrat Niki Tsongas leading Republican Jim Ogonowski (51% to 41%). All other candidates receive less than 5% each.


POLL: Strategic Vision (R) GA Primary


A new Strategic Vision (R) statewide survey of likely primary voters in Georgia (conducted 9/7 through 9/9) finds:

  • Among Republicans, former Sen. Fred Thompson leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (32% to 17%) in a statewide primary; former Speaker Newt Gingrich trails at 9%, Sen. John McCain at 8%, former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Gov. Mike Huckabee both at 6%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
  • Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (34% to 25%) in a statewide primaryl former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 8%, and Sen. Joe Biden at 5%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
  • Among 800 likely general election voters, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss leads Democratic candidate Vernon Jones (56% to 30%) in a senatorial match-up.


POLL: Quinnipiac FL Survey


A new Quinnipiac University statewide survey of 1,141 registered voters in Florida (conducted 9/3 through 9/9) finds:

  • Among 446 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 42%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (13%), former V.P. Al Gore (12%), and former Sen. John Edwards (9%) in a statewide primary. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
  • Among 438 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (28% to 17%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 11%, Sen. John McCain at 10%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 6%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
  • General election match-ups:

    Clinton 44%, Giuliani 44%
    Obama 38%, Giuliani 47%
    Edwards 42%, Giuliani 46%
    Clinton 45%, McCain 40%
    Obama 39%, McCain 42%
    Edwards 42%, McCain 39%

View all Florida Primary poll data at Pollster.com:

AFLTopDems190.png AFLTopReps190.png
Democrats Republicans


POLL: ABC/Post 08 Primary


Additional results from the recent ABC News/Washington Post national survey (story, results) of 1,002 adults (conducted 9/4 through 9/7) finds:

  • Among 467 Democrats and those who lean Democratic, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (41% to 27%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 14%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • Among 401 Republicans and those who lean Republican, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 26%) leads Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson (both at 18%) in a national primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 9%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at and former Gov. Mike Huckabee both at 5%. Without Gingrich, Giuliani runs at 28%, Thompson at 19%, McCaina t 18%, Romney at 10%, Huckabee at 5%. All other candidates receives less than five percent each.
  • 68% of Republicans are satisfied with the choice of candidates; 26% dissatisfied.

View all National Primary poll data at Pollster.com:

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Democrats Republicans


POLL: CNN 08 Primary/GE


A new CNN/Opinion Research national survey (story, results) of 1,017 adults (conducted 9/7 through 9/9) finds:

  • Among 379 registered Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edges out former Sen. Fred Thompson (27% to 26%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 14%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 10%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 6%. Without Gingrich, Giuliani runs at 28%, Thompson at 27%, McCain at 15%, Romney at 11%, and former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 5%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
  • Among 465 registered Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (39% to 20%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwareds trails at 15%, former V.P. Al Gore at 13%. Without Gore, Clinton runs at 46%, Obama at 23%, Edwards at 16%, and Gov. Bill Richardson at 5%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
  • General election match-ups (among 914 registered voters):

    Clinton 50%, Giuliani 46%
    Clinton 55%, Thompson 42%
    Obama 45%, Giuliani 49%
    Obama 53%, Thompson 41%

View all National Primary poll data at Pollster.com:

AUSTopDems190.png AUSTopReps190.png
Democrats Republicans


POLL: Times/Bloomberg Early Primary States


Via Ben Smith, new L.A. Times/Bloomberg statewide surveys (story, results) of likely primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina (conducted 9/6 through 9/10) finds:

  • Among 462 likely Democratic caucus goers in Iowa, Sen. Hillary Clinton narrowly leads former Sen. John Edwards (28% to 23%) while Sen. Barack Obama and Gov. Bill Richardson trail at 19% and 10% respectively. Among 350 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mitt Romney (at 28%) leads former Sen. Fred Thompson and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (both at 16%) while former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. John McCain trail at 8% and 7% respectively. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • Among 618 likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, Clinton (at 35%) leads Edwards and Obama (both at 16%) while Richardson trails at 8%. Among 412 likely Republican primary voters, Romney narrowly leads Giuliani (28% to 23%) while McCain trails at 12%, Thompson at 11%, Huckabee at 6%, and Rep. Ron Paul at 5%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • Among 313 likely Democratic primary voters in South Carolina, Clinton leads Obama (45% to 27%) while Edwards trails at 7%. Among 430 likely Republican primary voters, Thompson runs slightly ahead of Giuliani (26% to 23%) while McCain trails at 15%, Romney at 9%, and Huckabee at 6%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.


POLL: SurveyUSA KY Gubernatorial


A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 533 likely voters in Kentucky (conducted 9/8 through 9/10) finds Democratic candidate Steve Beshear leading Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher (58% to 39%) in a general election match-up for Governor.

Kentucky Gubernatorial poll data:

PollsterDatesN PopSteve
Beshear
Ernie
Fletcher*
SurveyUSA9/8-10/07533 LV5839
SurveyUSA8/4-6/07613 LV5837
Prest-Osb7/25-8/2/07600 LV4931
SurveyUSA7/14-16/07560 LV5936
IA/MO7/8-9/07693 RV4138
Rasmussen5/24-25/07500 LV5135
SurveyUSA5/23-24/07609 LV6234


POLL: Gallup World Muslims


A new Gallup World international survey "based on in-home, in-person interviews with randomly selected national samples (urban and rural) of approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 years and older, conducted in countries with predominantly Muslim or substantially Muslim populations from 2005 through 2007" finds:

  • 94% of "politically radicalized" Muslims say "religion is an important part of daily life" while 90% of moderate Muslims say the same.
  • 50% of politically radicalized Mulsims say "moving toward democracy will help Arab/Muslim societies progress;" 35% of moderate Muslims say the same.
  • "The real difference between those who condone terrorist acts and all others is about politics, not piety. For example, the politically radicalized often cite "occupation and U.S. domination" as their greatest fear for their country and only a small minority of them agree the United States would allow people in the region to fashion their own political future or that it is serious about supporting democracy in the region."


POLL: AP-Ipsos 9/11 Survey


A new AP/Ipsos national survey (story, results) of 1,000 adults (conducted 9/6 through 9/9) finds:

  • 37% say the U.S. "made the right decision" in going to war with Iraq; 57% say the U.S. "made a mistake."
  • 36% think "sending more troops to Iraq has helped stabilize the situation there;" 58% do not.
  • 34% say history will judge the war in Iraq as "more of a success" or a "complete success;" 59% say "more of a failure" or "complete failure."


POLL: Rasmussen Minnesota Senate, President


A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of 500 likely voters in Minnesota (conducted 9/6) finds:

  • Republican Sen. Norm Coleman narrowly leads Democrats Al Franken (46% to 41%) and Mike Ciresi (46% to 42%) in general election match-ups for U.S. Senate.
  • Sen. Hillary Clinton leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (50% to 37%), former Sen. Fred Thompson (51% to 40%), and former Gov. Mitt Romney (52% to 34%) in general election match-ups for president.


POLL: Rasmussen Virginia Senate, President


A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of 500 likely voters in Virginia (conducted 9/5) finds:

  • Former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner leads former Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore (54% to 34%) and leads Republican Rep. Tom Davis (57% to 30%) in hypothetical general election match-ups for U.S. Senate.
  • Sen. Hillary Clinton edges out former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (44% to 41%), former Sen. Fred Thompson (46% to 44%), and former Gov. Mitt Romney (44% to 40%) in statewide general election match-ups for president.


POLL: CBS/NYT 2008, Giuliani


New results from the most recent CBS News/New York Times national survey (CBS story, results; Times story, results) of 1,263 adults (conducted 9/4 through 9/9) finds:

  • Among 356 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edges out former Sen. Fred Thompson (27% to 22%) in a national primary -- "narrowing his lead over Thompson to 5 percentage points after holding a 20-point edge last month;" Sen. John McCain trails at 18%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 14%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
  • Among 470 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 44%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (26%) and former Sen. John Edwards (17%) in a national primary. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
  • 48% say "being Mayor of a large city is the right kind of experience for becoming president;" 44% say it is not; 80% say "being a U.S. Senator is the right kind of experience," 79% say being a Governor is.
  • 31% of likely Republican primary voters who support Giuliani think Giuliani is opposed to abortion rights, 41% think he supports abortion rights, and 28% don't know.


POLL: SurveyUSA CA Primary


A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 2,100 adults in California (conducted 9/7 through 9/9) finds:

  • Among 509 likely Republican primary voters asked to choose between four candidates, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edges out former Sen. Fred Thompson (28% to 26%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 18%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 14%.
  • Among 765 likely Democratic primary voters asked to choose between three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 51%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (27%) and former Sen. John Edwards (14%) in a statewide primary.
  • "Thompson runs 2nd today overall, at 26%, up 7 points from SurveyUSA's August tracking poll. Giuliani had led by 20 points in August, leads by 2 points today."

View all California Primary poll data at Pollster.com:

ACATopDems190.png ACATopReps190.png
Democrats Republicans


What Are the Demographics?

Topics: 2008 , Disclosure , The 2008 Race

Before my vacation in August, I used two posts to review the sorry state of disclosure with respect to how tightly (or not-so-tightly) the pollsters screen for likely primary voters, especially those in early primary or caucus states. Today I want to take a look at another question we might want to ask about these polls to help sort out the differences in results among them: What are the demographics?

The issue that becomes much more acute in pre-primary surveys is that the pollster is trying to determine two things at once: (1) identify the voters that will participate in the primary and (2) measure the attitudes and vote preference of those voters. When different primary polls produce seemingly contradictory results, the culprit is usually the people selected. So if we want to try to tease out the reasons why polls show different results, we want to know as much as we can about the "likely voters" they sample.

Just last week, for example, I looked at the differing results in some polls of Iowa Democratic "likely caucus goers" and found wide variation in the number reporting past caucus participation. As explained in the post, that variation appears related to support for various candidates (previous caucus goers are more likely to support John Edwards, newcomers more apt to support Hillary Clinton and, to a lesser extent, Barack Obama).

For the Democratic candidates, it is not hard to imagine that variation in demographic variables like gender, age and race might have similar effects. For example, various public polls have shown that Clinton does better among women and Obama better among younger voters. Clinton and Obama also dominate among African Americans to the relative detriment of John Edwards and other candidates. Demographic patterns in polls of Republican primary voters have been relatively inconsistent, although Giuliani and McCain tend to do better among moderates and Republican leaning independents.

The demographic composition can vary widely. Consider the African American percentage of the likely Democratic primary electorate in South Carolina in polls released over the last several months.

Needless to say, the variation above is huge (although the relationship between racial composition and the Clinton-Obama result has been weak so far). While these results certainly cannot all be right, the right answer is not obvious. African-Americans comprised 47% of Democratic primary voters in the 2004 South Carolina primary, according to the network exit poll, but of course an exit poll is also a survey with potential problems of its own. And whatever the past result, the composition in 2008 may be different.

The important point is that educated poll consumers will want to know all they can about the demographics of pre-primary polling, and unfortunately, such information is very hard to find. I went back to the public releases from 23 different organizations that have released public polls in the last six months or so in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

  • Hamilton Beattie/Ayres McHenry (SC) - gender age, race, income, party
  • PPP (IA, SC) - gender, age, race (SC only), party
  • SUSA (NH) - gender, age, ideology
  • Time (Iowa) - gender, age, education, race, party affiliation, percentage of past caucus goers

As I recall, the Garin-Hart survey of South Carolina also included some demographics (as I included their result for race in my post on 5/3), but their PDF release is no longer available online. A few organizations provide more limited information: The American Research group routinely provides the percentage of independents included in their samples (but not standard demographics). The ABC/Washington Post survey of Iowa caucus goers provided results to a question on past caucus attendance (but nothing more). And two surveys of South Carolina - from Clemson University and CNN - both provided the African-American composition only.

The national surveys are not much better. Only two organizations routinely provide full data on the demographic composition of the subgroups that hear primary trial-heat questions: Cook Political Report/RT Strategies and Diageo/Hotline.

For more than a month, I have been promising some ideas about what we might do about this paucity of information. I'll have more on that in the next post.


Three Elements of Iraq War Opinion

Topics: Iraq

1ReviewofWarOpinion.png

This is the week for a review of opinion of the war. There are three questions that have been asked consistently throughout the war.

    "Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?"

    "All in all, do you think it was worth going to war in Iraq, or not?"

    "Do you think going to war with Iraq was the right thing for the United States to do or the wrong thing?"

(There is some variation in the wordings across organizations, but they all aim at these three topics.)

The long run story these questions tell is of decreasing support for the war, from quite strong support initially to low levels today.

There is differentiation, however, across these elements. President Bush's handling of the war has consistently been rated lower than the other two after the initial 6 months of the war.

Americans have become dubious of the costs and benefits of the war as well, with less than 40% thinking it worth the cost since early 2006.

But the public has somewhat more trouble believing the war was not the right thing to do. Over 40% continue to think the US did the right thing, even if the costs have outweighed the benefits and the President's handling of the war has been poor.

Flipped, these data show solid majorities believing the war was a mistake, that it has not been worth it and that the President's handling of it has been unimpressive.

So why doesn't public opinion force an immediate end to the war? One reason is because the public is more equivocal as to motivation than to performance, and more equivocal still as to solutions. A referendum on Bush's performance would lead to overwhelming rejection. But a vote on whether the war was fundamentally wrong in the first place finds a substantial minority still supports the war.

When we move to specific policy options, we see similar results. The CBS/New York Times polls taken 9/4-8/07 finds results similar to other recent polls:

Bush War Approval: 26%
War worth cost: 34%
US Did right thing: 41%

(All in the ballpark of the trends above.)

Do you think the Republican or the Democratic party is more likely to make the right decisions about the war in Iraq?:
Republican: 32%
Democratic: 42%

A Democratic advantage, but not an overwhelming one.

What should the US do now?...
Increase Troops: 11%
Keep same: 19%
Decrease troops: 35%
Remove all: 30%

Combining the first two, this is a 30%-35%-30% split. The "swing vote" here is what do the 35% mean when they say "decrease"? Do they have something like General Petraeus presented today, with a draw-down to pre-surge levels by July 2008? Or do they prefer a much more dramatic reduction, and by an earlier deadline? It is this 35% of the population that could produce overwhelming pressure for a large reduction if they turned out to be united with the "remove all troops" group. But if not, they provide a crucial buffer of opinion for the administration and Republican allies.

Likewise, opinion on the effect of the surge is more balanced than opponents of the war might wish:

Would you say the troop increase is making the situation in Iraq better, making it worse or is it having no impact?

Better: 35%
Worse: 12%
No Impact: 45%

While a lot see no impact (and may favor a troop reduction in any case) the 35% seeing improvement is quite striking as a basis for support of the surge. Take some share of the 45% that don't think it has mattered much but who aren't opposed to continuing the surge, and again we have a substantial reservoir of support for current policy, and more importantly we lack an overwhelming consensus in favor of a reversal of current policy. Absent that kind of irresistible opinion force, Republicans in Congress can continue to support the President.

Bottom line: Frustrated anti-war forces are understandably angry that the 2006 election victory and subsequent Democratic Congress has failed to bring change to Iraq policy. The trend lines above show how support for the war has declined dramatically since 2003. Anti-war forces can correctly point to substantial majorities who are critical of various aspects of the war.

But change in Congress also requires that Republican members perceive that opinion against the war is so overwhelming that it is time for them to also abandon ship. That mark in public opinion has not been reached. So long as a substantial minority (say 40%+) support the current policy (or at least oppose a rapid withdrawal) then Republicans can count on a public that is too divided on the issue to pose the certainty of electoral catastrophe. This isn't to say Republicans don't wish the issue would go away, or that they relish running in 2008 with nearly 6 years of inconclusive war on their watch. But opponents of the war will not prevail in Congress unless a more massive opposition emerges--- and one united on the specific details of how to end the war.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.


POLL: USA Today/Gallup Iraq, 2008


A new USA Today/Gallup national survey (Gallup Iraq results; USA Today Iraq story, results; 2008 story, results) of 1,028 adults (conducted 9/7 through 9/8) finds:

  • 63% have a "great deal" or "fair amount of confidence in the recommendations of Gen. David Petraeus for what to do next in Iraq; 26% have "only a little" or "almost none."
  • Among 425 Republicans and those who lean Republican, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (32% to 20%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 14%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 9%, former Speaker Newt Gingrich at 7%. Without Gingrich, Giuliani runs at 34%, Thompson at 22%, McCain at 15%, Romney at 10%, and former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 5%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
  • Among 500 Democrats and those who lean Democratic, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (39% to 19%) in a national primary; former V.P. Al Gore trails at 16%, former Sen. John Edwards at 14%. Without Gore, Clinton runs at 45%, Obama at 24%, and Edwards at 16%. All other candidates receive less than 5% each.
  • 70% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats "generally pleased" with their selection of candidates.

View all National Primary poll data at Pollster.com:

AUSTopDems190.png AUSTopReps190.png
Democrats Republicans


POLL: ABC/BBC/NKH Iraq Survey


A new ABC News/BBC/NHK survey (ABC story, results, methodology; BBC story, results) of 2,212 adults in Iraq, including oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Kirkuk and the Sadr City section of Baghdad (conducted 8/17 through 8/24) finds:

  • 33% approve of the way Nouri Kamel al-Maliki is handling his job as prime minister; 66% disapprove.
  • 70% believe the U.S. increase in the number of its forces in Baghdad and surrounding provinces in the past six months has made "security in areas where these forces have been sent" worse; 18% say better.
  • 47% say U.S. and other coalition forces should "leave now" from Iraq, 34% say they should "remain until security is restored", 10% say "remain until the Iraqi government is stronger," 7% say "remain until the Iraqi security forces can operate independently, and 2% say "remain longer but leave eventually."

Update: ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer discusses the methodology in more detail.


POLL: ABC/Post Bush, Iraq


A new ABC News/Washington Post national survey (ABC story, results; Post story, results) of 1,002 adults (conducted 9/4 through 9/7) finds:

  • 33% approve of the way George Bush is handling his job as president; 64% disapprove.
  • 53% think General David Petraeus's progress report "will try to make things look better than they are" in Iraq; 39% think it "will honestly reflect the situation."
  • 28% think the increase in U.S. forces in Iraq has made the situation better, 12% say worse, and 58% say it "hasn't made much difference."


POLL: SurveyUSA Idaho Senate Match-ups


A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 534 registered voters in Idaho (conducted 9/6) tested hypothetical senatorial match-ups should Sen. Larry Craig leave the Senate:

    Larry LaRocco 36%, Dirk Kempthorne 55%
    Larry LaRocco 39%, David Leroy 42%
    Larry LaRocco 36%, Jim Risch 52%
    Larry LaRocco 34%, Mike Simpson 54%
    Larry LaRocco 36%, Lawrence Wasden 46%
    Larry LaRocco 41%, Dane Watkins 40%


POLL: CBS/NYT Bush, Iraq


A new CBS News/New York Times national survey (CBS story, results; Times story, results) of 1,035 adults (conducted 9/4 through 9/8) finds:

  • 30% approve of the way George Bush is handling his job as president; 64% disapprove.
  • 35% think the additional 20,000 troops sent to Iraq is making the situation better, 12% say worse, and 45% say it is having no impact.
  • 24% believe the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq, 12% say the insurgents are, and 60% say neither side is.

We will post links as soon as they are available.


 

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