Slightly off topic, but nonetheless important to those of us
watching the poll trends: University of New Hampshire Professor Dante Scala has some useful information
posted on his Graniteprof blog on
the size of various candidate advertising buys on New Hampshire's WMUR.
The most helpful fact: John McCain's buy for next week is $72,700
for 99 spots. Mitt Romney's buy over the same period is $158,825
for 140 spots (his "highest to date for 2007"). McCain's buy, he adds, "includes
ad, although I am not sure how many times that particular spot will run in
the next week."
If we assume that the McCain campaign has shifted their
entire buy to the Woodstock
ad, it tends to confirm the report from The Atlantic's Marc
A McCain adviser insists that this
ad buy is real -- in other words, it's not a video press release (from a
campaign with... not much money) designed to convince us naive press folks into
running it for free. The buy, the adviser said, is "substantial" and
It is worth noting that Manchester's
WMUR (an ABC affiliate) is New
commercial network affiliate. As such, it is the most efficient and affordable
part of a candidate's New Hampshire
media buy. A complete New Hampshire buy also
includes much more expensive time on the Boston stations that
reach most New Hampshire
Scala also provided similar data on the Democrats two weeks
ago showing weekly buys of $203,825 and $117,970 for Obama
and Clinton respectively, with nothing on WMUR in October from Richardson,
Dodd or Biden (as of two weeks ago, all three aired spots earlier in the year).
Correction: the original version of this post had the wrong affiliation for Prof. Scala.
Two new survey findings -- from Gallup and Fox News -- remind us of a
lesson that always bears repeating. Those of us that write and obsess about
politics typically over-estimate the degree to which ordinary Americans follow
the day-to-day workings of government and politics. It is what Gallup's Frank Newport
calls "insider parochialism" in his latest installment of Gallup Guru:
"The tendency for those of us who are following the presidential election
closely to assume that everyone else is too."
Newport provides an example of how one such controversy
-- Rudy Giuliani's stands on "key social and value issues" like gay marriage -- is not yet on the radar screens of most Americans even though political junkies
like us examine "every word the former New York City mayor utters" for evidence
that "he is ignoring, sticking to, or modifying his historical positions on
abortion and same-sex marriage." Newport's
data show that much of this is sailing right over the heads of the average
Republican voter out there across the land. Most startlingly - at least to me -
the latest USA Today/Gallup poll indicates that 74% of Republicans say they are
unsure where Rudy Giuliani stands on the issue of legal same sex unions. That's
little changed from January when we first asked this question.
Republicans are a little more knowledgeable about
the fact that Giuliani is pro-choice on abortion. Still, more than half of the
Republicans we recently interviewed said that they were unsure about
where he stands on this issue -- which has received a great deal of
intense pundit and commentator scrutiny [link added].
I agree with Newport's
main point. Most Americans are not political junkies and do not follow politics obsessively. Still, it is probably
worth considering in this instance that headlines like the one Newport cites ("Giuliani
Does a 180 on Marriage Issue?") probably leave some well informed Americans
feeling genuinely "unsure" of his position.
Nonetheless one need not stop here for evidence that
Americans do not make the same connections between issues as what Newport calls "the
political class." Consider the widely held assumption that Congressional job
approval numbers are down because Congressional Democrats have not been willing
or able to cut off funding for war in Iraq. A few days ago, Chris
Matthews made this point on MSNBC's Hardball during an interview with Democratic
Caucus Chair Rahm Emmanuel:
[The reason] you have single or
double-digit support right now is because Republicans don't like Democrats and
Democrats want this war over with. That's why the combination of those negative
votes hurt you in job approval.
Yet today's new survey from Fox
News/Opinion Dynamics included some intriguing results that show it may
not be that simple. They used open-ended questions to ask voters to explain in
their own words why they approve or disapprove of both President Bush and
Congress. When asked to explain why they disapprove of Bush, nearly half of
Democrats (47%) named the war in Iraq. However, when they asked the
same question of those who disapprove of the job Congress is doing, only 12% of Democrats mentioned the war in Iraq.
Another 9% complained that Congress does not oppose or "stand up to" to
President Bush enough. Far more could not volunteer anything to explain their
disapproval (30%), answered in general terms (17% are coded as "not doing
anything/bad job") or mentioned other issues.
Matthews is certainly right to say that "Democrats want this
war over." A September poll by CBS News showed
91% of Democrats wanting to remove most U.S.
troops from Iraq
within two years (70% want most troops out within a year). But the fine points
of the debate in Washington, the nitty-gritty details of what Congress does
(and does not do) that get debated every day on shows like Hardball, remain
remote and unclear for most Americans. The continuing Congressional stalemate
over Iraq policy certainly
contributes to the low ratings of "Congress" among Democrats, but it would be far
too simple to say that Iraq
explains it all.
For further reading: Back in April, the Pew Research
Center updated their
classic study of "What Americans
Know" about politics and government. These studies track not only "how much
Americans know about national and international affairs" in surveys conducted since
1989, but also look at how knowledge corresponds to the news sources that
Americans say they turn to.
Additional results from the recent Field Poll statewide survey of 434 likely Democratic primary voters in California (conducted 10/11 through 10/21) finds:
Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (45% to 20%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 11%. With former V.P. Al Gore included, Clinton runs at 35%, Gore at 22%, Obama at 16%, and Edwards at 8%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 10/23) finds:
Among 733 Republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (28% to 19%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 16%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 10%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 6%.
A new Research 2000 statewide survey of 600 likely voters in Kentucky (conducted 10/22 through 10/24) finds Democratic challenger Steve Beshear leading Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher (55% to 40%) in a statewide general election match-up for Governor.
A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics national survey (Bush story, Clinton story, results) of 900 registered voters (conducted 10/23 through 10/24) finds:
35% approve of the job George Bush is doing as president; 55% disapprove.
Among 329 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (42% to 25%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
Among 303 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (31% to 17%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 12%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 7%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 5%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
Now that our trend estimates are appearing in the Slate Election Scorecard, with the daily twitches
of our trend lines getting extra attention, I will try to provide some running
commentary here on how the addition of new polls changes the trends from day to
One intriguing example comes from the new
poll in New Hampshire
out today from St. Anselm College.
This New Hampshire
poll is the second in a row showing Hillary Clinton receiving 43% of the vote, above
our trend line but consistent with its increasing upward slope. The new poll,
and the addition of nearly two weeks to the trend since the last New Hampshire poll,
helps push her score on our estimate up to 40.5%, a 1.2 point increase since
the last update.
The continuing Clinton
upward trend aside, however, the results also indicate some potentially good news
for Obama. On the last four New
Hampshire polls - all conducted since late September -
Obama's share of the vote has been above our trend line: 22%, 21%, 23% and 22%.
The five polls before that - all conducted in the prior month - were slightly
lower: 17%, 16%, 18%, 17% and 19%. Remember, Professor Franklin set the
sensitivity of these trend lines to minimize the impact of just one poll.
So the current Obama trend line (above) reflects the slight
decline in Obama's New Hampshire
support from earlier in the year. Still, the addition of the most recent result
flattens that downward slope just slightly and, as such, increases our current
estimate of his support slightly (from 19.4% to 19.5%) since the last update.
What makes this intriguing is that Obama started buying New Hampshire television
campaign ads in earnest roughly four
weeks ago. So this is a trend worth watching very carefully.
I ran out of time yesterday,
but want to amplify one more point from Mark Mellman's column about Iowa Caucus
myths. Mellman writes:
Myth 2: Iowa is all about organization. The theory
here is simple but misleading: turnout is small, the demands on caucus-goers
great and therefore organization is king. In truth, while organization is
vitally important, it is not sufficient; message matters as much in Iowa's caucuses as it does in New Hampshire's primary.
Mellman goes on to cite two examples -- Dick Gephardt in 1988
and his client John Kerry in 2004 -- that succeeded largely because of a persuasive
message communicated largely though late television advertising campaigns. To that let me add a third,
from personal experience: The surprise second place finish by Gary Hart in
In 1984, as a 20-year-old college student, I spent three
glorious weeks in Iowa as the sole full time
organizer assigned to rural Grundy County. At
that point, as far as we knew, Hart was mired in the single digits in the few Iowa polls available,
competing for a second or third place finish against Senators John Glenn, Alan
Cranston and former Senator George McGovern. However, things were starting to
look up. Hart had been credited with a strong debate performance in late January.
More important, the Hart campaign had decided to roll the dice on a late media
buy, cutting off all money for field organizing and other expenses.
When I arrived at our Waterloo
office, I remember feeling deflated by the lack of funds and the tools necessary
for organizing (cirica 1984): cars, phones and campaign literature. The Hart
field organization was a lean, mean operation that depended mostly on the enthusiasm
of inexperienced young volunteers like me.
My task for the three weeks was essentially to try to contact,
by phone, the 700 or so registered Democrats in Grundy County,
identify and personally visit those who seemed to be leaning to Hart in an
attempt to designate a caucus leader in Grundy's 18 precincts. I also tried to
identify those who seemed to be undecided. The "literature" was a photocopied news
clipping of Hart's stop in the town of Grundy
Center, a one page summary of his farm policy (the glossy phamplets were
long gone), both accompanies by a handwritten note stuffed in a hand-addressed
envelope. Though I plugged away for 20 days, by caucus night I had identified
less than a dozen Hart supporters in the entire county.
The journal I kept records my experiences at the caucus site
in Grundy Center, a school cafeteria that would
host six precinct caucuses in one room. Four years before, 78 registered
Democrats had participated in caucuses in these six precincts, but going into the room, my "hard count" of known Hart supporters stood at just 7. As such, I
had good reason to fear not reaching the "viability" level (at least 15% in
each precinct) necessary to win delegates to the county convention. But turnout
was down that year, and only 50 registered voters showed up. More importantly,
another 8 Grundy voters walked in ready to vote for Hart - people I had
certainly not identified. We not only easily made viability but picked up additional
support on the "second round" of voting and walked away with 11 of 31 county
I cannot locate the totals for Grundy County for 1984 (if
anyone reading this has them, please email me), but my recollection is that
Gary Hart received in excess of 30% of the delegates there, nearly double his
statewide total and one of his strongest performances in the state.
How did this happen? Hart's performance in Grundy had a lot
less to do with my organizational skills than the message delivered by his
television advertising and a "free media" story that had Hart the "hot"
candidate among the second tier competitors to Mondale. John Glenn, who just
weeks before had been the first choice of many rural voters, like those in Grundy
County, had received increasingly negative coverage of his sputtering campaign.
So in the final weeks, a lot of Glenn's rural supporters simply shifted to
Hart. I am sure my own efforts played some
role. The mere presence of a field organizer in Grundy, and all of my handwritten
notes and personal visits, helped provide first hand reinforcement of the
notion that Hart was "hot" and "doing better" - in other words, that he was a viable
candidate worthy of support. But the decisive factor in Hart's Iowa surge was message, not
PS: Just yesterday, Carrie Dann of NBC/National Journal interviewed with Gary Hart on his perspective on the 2008 race.
A new Saint Anselm College statewide survey of 1,514 registered voters in New Hampshire (conducted 10/15 through 10/21) finds:
Among 498 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (32% to 22%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 15%, Rep. Ron Paul at 7%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 6%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 5%.
Among 613 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (43% to 22%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 14%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 6%.
All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
A new Field Poll statewide survey of 315 likely Republican primary voters in California (conducted 10/11 through 10/21) finds former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 25%) leading former Gov. Mitt Romney (13%), Sen. John McCain (12%), and former Sen. Fred Thompson (12%) in a statewide primary. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
A new Quinnipiac University statewide survey of 1,025 registered voters in Florida (conducted 10/17 through 10/22) finds:
Among 416 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (43% to 18%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 12%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
Among 394 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 30%) leads Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson (both at 14%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 12%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 8%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
General election match-ups:
Giuliani 46%, Clinton 43%
Giuliani 47%, Obama 40%
Clinton 47%, Romney 39%
Obama 44%, Romney 37%
Democratic pollster Mark Mellman has another must read in
The Hill out this morning. Today's column reviews "three myths" regarding the Iowa caucuses. As the
pollster for John Kerry's surprising, come-from-behind Iowa victory in 2004, ought to know (Mellman
is not aligned with a campaign in 2008).
His first myth:
Iowans vote electability. Almost
everyone says it, but if this myth were a reality, Hillary Clinton and Rudy
Giuliani would be knocking 'em dead in Des
Moines and across the state. In the latest Iowa Poll,
42 percent of Democrats thought Clinton
the most electable, compared to 23 percent for Edwards and 14 percent for
Obama. Yet, Clinton
garners just 29 percent of the vote with Edwards and Obama close behind at 23
and 22 percent respectively. Clinton
under-polls her electability quotient by 13 points, while Obama over-polls his
I have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of reporters
over the last month or so, and this topic comes up often. I agree with Mellman
here, only I would take it further: The whole concept of "electability" means
something different to ordinary voters than it does to those of us who follow
politics obsessively. To the political-junkie-elite, voting on "electability" describes
the impulse to pass on a candidate that one prefers for their qualifications or
ideology, choosing a more "electable" candidate instead.
However, ask ordinary voters which candidate is most "electable"
or stands the best chance of beating the Republican in the general election (something
I did often in focus groups for clients), and they typically choose the candidate
with the most political experience or the one that seems to be leading or "doing
well" in campaign coverage. Thus, Clinton's
current standing as the most electable candidate, both in Iowa and nationally, comes as little surprise.
Actually, the Des
Moines Register/Selzer poll
included even better evidence that proves Mellman's point. At the end of their
survey, they asked this question
separately of both likely Democratic and likely Republican caucus goers:
Sometimes people decide to support
the candidate they think is most electable, even if they think there is another
candidate who would make a better president. If you were assured that your
party would win the November 2008 election, no matter who the candidate was -
so that you were free to vote for the person you truly thought would be the
best president - for whom would you vote?
If Iowans preferred an "electable" candidate rather than the
one "who would make a better president," we would expect to see a big
difference between their current vote preference and the candidate named on
this follow-up question. But for the Democrats (as the table below shows), the
results are virtually identical. The only candidate who seems to suffer "electability"
defections is Dennis Kucinich, who gets only 1% of the vote despite convincing 4%
of Iowa Democrats that he would be the best president.
The results are even more counterintuitive for the Republicans.
As Mellman noted, nearly a third of likely Republican caucus goers (32%)
consider Giuliani most "electable." Yet the percentage that supports Giuliani (11%)
is actually lower than the percentage
that says he would make the best president (14%). Mitt Romney is the current
choice of 29% of Iowa Republicans, yet only 20% consider Romney the best
potential president. If anything these results suggest that Romney may still be
more vulnerable in Iowa
than the current standings would have you believe.
Mellman's observations about two other myths are - that Iowa is all about
organization and that turnout is everything - are interesting. Go read
A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg national survey (story, results) of 1,039 registered voters (conducted 10/19 through 10/22) finds:
Among 469 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 48%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (17%) and former Sen. John Edwards (13%) in a national primary. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
Among 364 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (32% to 15%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 13%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 11%, and former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 7%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
General election match-ups:
Clinton 48%, McCain 38%
Obama 44%, McCain 36%
Clinton 49%, Romney 34%
Obama 42%, Romney 32%
Clinton 47%, Giuliani 41%
Obama 43%, Giuliani 40%
Clinton 49%, Thompson 38%
Obama 46%, Thompson 31%
A new Cook Political Report/RT Strategies national survey of 855 registered voters nationwide (conducted 10/18 through 10/21) finds Sen. Hillary Clinton edging out former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (43% to 39%) and leading former Gov. Mitt Romney (46% to 37%) in national general election match-ups.
A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 572 likely voters in Kentucky (conducted 10/19 through 10/21) finds Democratic challenger Steve Beshear leading Gov. Ernie Fletcher (58% to 38%) in a general election match-up for Governor.
As many of you know, our partnership with the online journal
Slate resumed last week, as they
kicked off their new Election
Scorecard feature, which is once again powered and provided by
Pollster.com. For now, the Slate
feature displays our most recent trend estimate for each candidate in the early
primary states as well as handy Flash graphic. The display of trend updates has
both the writers at Slate and yours truly watching the daily twitches in the numbers
more carefully. Today's movement in the national numbers for the Democratic
primary reveals an idiosyncrasy in the way our trend estimates behave that I
want to explain.
Some background: The trend lines we plot in our charts are different
from the rolling averages we plotted for the races for Senate, Governor and
U.S. House in 2006, and from the "polling averages" you see on other web sites.
A polling average makes use of data from just the most recent polls included in
the average (be it 5 polls or some other number). Our approach - developed by
our partner, Professor Charles Franklin - has been to plot line based on a "local
regression" that takes into account all available data for the current
estimate, not just the most recent 4 or 5 or 8 polls.
The key difference between trend estimates and rolling averages
is that an average produces a new estimate for each combination of polls
included in the average at any point in time. The regression line produces a
trend line - a line, rather than a point
- with a particular slope that
is either moving up, down or staying level at any point in time.
Another key issue is the level of sensitivity that Professor
Franklin built into the regression model that produces the trend line. I'll let
I've chosen an estimation method
and designed the approach we take so that the trend estimator should be
resistant to bias due to a single organization or a single poll. While it can
be fooled under the right circumstances, those should be both rare and short
lived, rather than common and long term.
explains the mechanics of the estimator in more detail in posts here,
This brings me to the most recent odd twitch in the national
averages for the Democratic presidential trial heat. Late last week, our last
update of the national Democratic numbers had Hillary Clinton at 43.2%. Yesterday,
we updated the charts with a new
national poll conducted and released by the Republican firm, Public Opinion
Strategies, that gave Clinton
40% of the Democratic vote. Yet despite showing a result for Clinton that was below her latest trend estimate, the addition
of the new poll moved her estimate up higher
by nearly a full percentage point (from 43.2% to 44.1%).
Why? It is all about the what the regression estimate tells
us about the trend evident in the last 10 or so polls. The chart makes clear
that our most recent estimate of the trend is sharply up for Clinton. As per Franklin's design, the addition of just one
new poll did not significantly lessen that upward slope. However, since the end
date of the new poll comes a full week since the last poll, the line has moved forward
in the upward direction for another week, thus producing a nearly one point increase.
The point is, we're not just adding one new poll and
dropping one old poll from a last-five or last-six poll average. We are
gradually updating a trend line based on all the data available.
As it seems to be a day for not taking ourselves too
seriously, here is another item from the incomparable Onion (via an alert reader and Andrew
Sullivan). A warning, this video clip includes strong language NOT suitable
for young children or offices:
I suppose it was inevitable. Just about everyone who follows
politics knows by now about late night comic Stephen Colbert's one state run for president, launched last week. Well today, the inevitable, as reported
by The Washington Post's Chris
Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican
polling firm, recently completed a national poll of 1,000 likely 2008 voters
that included Colbert's name in both the GOP and Democratic primaries. (He has
announced his plans to run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.) In
the field from Oct. 18-21, the survey has a 5 percent margin of error.
In the Democratic primary, Colbert takes 2.3
percent of the vote -- good for fifth place behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton
(40 percent), Sen. Barack Obama (19 percent), former Sen. John Edwards (12
percent) and Sen. Joe Biden (2.7 percent. Colbert finished ahead of Gov. Bill
Richardson (2.1 percent), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (2.1 percent) and former Sen.
Mike Gravel (less than 1 percent).
He was less lucky in the Republican
field, where he took less than 1 percent of the vote behind even longshot
candidates like Reps. Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul. Former New York City Mayor
Rudy Giuliani led the Republican field with 29 percent, followed by former Gov.
Mitt Romney at 12 percent, former Sen. Fred Thompson (11 percent) and Sen. John
McCain (10 percent).
See the Cillizza item for a quote from POS partner Neil
Newhouse and decide for yourself if Newhouse is any more serious about the Colbert
candidacy than Colbert.
After struggling to find some meaningful lesson in all of
this, I simply give you Colbert's estimable mentor Jon Stewart, who made the following
observation about Vice President Dick Cheney's 18% job approval rating last
The 18 percent thing is you really
have to think of this in -- let's look at this just purely statistically. Four
out of five dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who
chew gum. So, there is one out of five dentists who say "You chew gum? Ah,
why not put sugar in it?"
These are not the best dentists, OK that's 20 percent. He's not even getting
all the dentists who recommend sugared gum. That's low. I think Dracula has a
higher Q rating right now than the vice president.