November 11, 2007 - November 17, 2007
The story of the anti-Romney poll calls into Iowa and New
Hampshire that I wrote
about yesterday gets stranger and stranger. Here is the lead of the story reported
last night by the Chicago Tribune's
The GOP presidential campaigns of
Mitt Romney and John McCain-rocked in different ways by a highly negative
"push poll" targeting Romney's Mormon faith-demanded Friday that the
New Hampshire attorney general investigate who is behind the tactic. The
attorney general's office said it was investigating the phone calls.
Again with feeling: This particular set of calls sounds more
like an ethically questionable "message testing" survey than a classic "push
poll." See my post
from yesterday for more details on that issue or the clarification
released last night by the American Association for Public Opinion Research
(AAPOR - full disclosure: I serve on AAPOR's executive council).
An interesting twist to the story, according to Zuckman's
story, is that a "New Hampshire law requires all political ads-including
phone calls-to identify the candidate behind the effort, or at least the
candidate who is being supported."
I went looking for more details about the questions asked on
the calls, and the most detailed report comes from State Representative Ralph
Watts, a Republican from Adel, Iowa. He taped a radio
interview with Radio Iowa that you can listen to online.
Here is the way he describes the interview (my transcription):
It started out like a lot of
telephone polls do these days. They wanted to know if I was a caucus goer, and
whether I was a regular voter and all that usual stuff. And then it progressed
into questions about Mitt Romney, and specifically about the Mormon Church.
The first one, I guess, was
innocent enough. It asked a question whether I would be more or less likely to
vote for Mitt Romney because he's Mormon. Well, I guess that's a fair question,
but not necessarily a pertinent question. And then it went on to talk about the
philosophy of the Mormon Church. Would I be more or less likely to vote for
Mitt Romney based on some of the tenants of the Mormon Church?
This telephone interview went on
for about 20 minutes. The last half of it were questions directed, they were in
a more positive light and they were directed toward John McCain. They asked a
question, what if I knew that McCain had some 330-some carrier landings and was
a Navy pilot would that make me more or less likely to vote for him. If I knew
that John McCain were a prisoner of war in Vietnam would it make me more or
less likely to vote for him. Then there was a whole series of questions about
John McCain that were very favorable questions about John McCain. It would have
led one to believe that John McCain were behind the poll, but that would have been too obvious.
And I've done some checking myself
and [with] some people, and I'm convinced that John McCain had nothing to do
with it. Who actually did it, there you don't know.
What Watts describes starts
out with typical political survey questions, then shifts to a long series of
negative arguments about Mitt Romney followed by a long series of positive
arguments about John McCain. The length of the interview and type of questions
is indicative of a "message testing" survey. Ordinarily, that pattern would
suggest a survey conducted by someone supportive of McCain looking for the best
ways to promote their candidate and to most effectively tear down Romney. However,
between the red-hot spotlight of presidential politics and the incendiary
nature of questions about Romney's religion, there is nothing ordinary about
It is tempting to try to use the facts reported by Watts and
other respondents to logically deduce the identity of the sponsor of the calls.
But readers need to remember two things about contemporary "push poll" stories:
First, respondent memories are often imperfect. They will
often exaggerate some details and omit others. Consider that in a 20-minute
interview, a pollster can typically ask 60 to 80 questions. In the description
above, however, Representative Watts specifically recalls just a half dozen or
so questions. My point here is not to challenge his story, only to suggest that
the reports we have are so far cover only the most memorable details. We may be
missing some useful context.
Second, and probably most important, keep in mind that
accusations of "push polling" have become a fact of life for campaign
pollsters. Since virtually all campaigns in both parties now conduct "message
testing" surveys, and since most reporters reflexively (and erroneously)
describe any report of a negative question on a survey as evidence of "push
polling," pollsters have grown accustomed to being so accused. Unlike the calls
involving the Democrats I wrote
about earlier in the week, these calls have all the hallmarks of a
professional survey, including the length of the questionnaire and the use of a
well-regarded call center. So given the intense media spotlight on Iowa and New
Hampshire and the explosive nature of questions about Romney's Mormonism, my
guess is that the pollster that designed this survey assumed the calls would
lead to a "push poll" story. Perhaps that assumption is a part of their
And that's what makes it impossible to try to deduce from
the available facts the campaign or interest that was behind the calls. As
Representative Watts says, the positive questions about McCain are almost "too
obvious" as a ploy intended to implicate McCain is the sponsor.
So who is behind these calls? I haven't a clue, but the
story gets stranger and stranger.
Update: Jonathan Martin has the latest on this story here and here.
Frank Newport challenges
Barack Obama's comments about "poll driven positions" and thinks a Time Magazine polling box "gets it
backwards" regarding recent slippage. [Note: our chart based on trial heats without
Gore included as a candidate now shows a small recent decline in Clinton's support
Frankovic reviews the data on the greater attentiveness and knowledge of likely
primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire (and if you are a political junkie,
the full CBS News report
on the recent CBS/New York Times surveys
in Iowa and New Hampshire surveys is a must read).
Douthat spots the most important numbers about the Republican caucuses in Iowa in that same CBS/NYT poll (via Sullivan).
Langer crunches the numbers for "latest [sub]group du jour," single women
and concludes that married women are "much more likely to be true swing voters."
Agiesta looks at the gender gap in presidential preference among African
Schneider looks at the record of polls taken a year before the
Franke-Ruta links to some incredibly thematic maps displaying results of
the 2004 Iowa Caucuses (via The
NYU journalism class surveys NYU students and finds Obama ahead (via Ben
A new USA Today/Gallup national survey of adults (conducted 11/11 through 11/14) finds:
- Among 485 Democrats and those who lean Democratic, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (48% to 21%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 12%. When former V.P. Al Gore is included, Clinton runs at 42%, Gore at 17%, Obama at 16%, Edwards at 9%.
- Among 398 Republicans and those who lean Republican, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (28% to 19%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 13%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 12%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 10%, Rep. Ron Paul at 5%.
- All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
Two new SurveyUSA statewide surveys of registered voters in Ohio and Iowa (conducted 11/9 through 11/11) finds:
McCain 47, Clinton 46
Clinton 49, Giuliani 44
Clinton 51, Romney 42
Clinton 54, Huckabee 37
McCain 52, Obama 37
Giuliani 49, Obama 41
Obama 45, Romney 41
Obama 48, Huckabee 38
McCain 48, Clinton 44
Clinton 47, Giuliani 43
Clinton 49, Romney 43
Clinton 49, Huckabee 43
Obama 50, McCain 42
Obama 52, Giuliani 39
Obama 53, Romney 39
Obama 56, Huckabee 35
Another day, another "push poll" story. This time, Politico's
Jonathan Martin reports
on an "apparent push poll" in Iowa
involving a "research firm" that "called Iowa Republicans this week
praising John McCain and criticizing Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith." AP's Phillip
the calls to:
Western Wats, a Utah-based
company, placed the calls that initially sound like a poll but then pose
questions that cast Romney in a harsh light, according to those who received
Elliot then leaps to the same quick shortcut that tempts all
to many reporters:
In politics, this type of phone
surveying is called "push polling" - contacting potential voters and
asking questions intended to plant a message in voters' minds, usually
negative, rather than gauging peoples' attitudes.
not. The information
described in the reports by Martin and Elliot sounds more like a form of
message testing done by a real pollster - not the classic "push poll" dirty
trick, although that distinction does not absolve the pollster from ethical
responsibility for the content of their questions.
In writing about
this issue I have tried to distinguish between the classic so-called "push
poll," which is not a poll at all. It has no "sample" (in any statistical
sense), no data collected, no analysis. It just amounts to someone making phone
calls to spread a nasty rumor under the guise of a survey.
What confuses everyone is that campaign pollsters routinely
conduct surveys that test campaign messages and try to simulate the dialogue of
a real campaign. That message testing can often involve negative information. As
Guiliani pollster Ed Goeas told John Martin:
"When you're doing a research call
you ask positive and negative questions on [your own candidate] and positive
and negative questions on [your opponents]," he said. "You're trying
In this case, the calls apparently came from a survey call
center known as Western Wats that acts as a vendor for many legitimate pollsters
and survey researchers. The calls reported were part of a longer interview. Elliot
included this account from one respondent:
The first 15 or 20 questions were
general questions about the leading candidates," she said. "Then he
started asking me very, very negatively phrased questions about Romney. The
first one was would you have a more favorable, less favorable, blah, blah,
blah, impression of Mitt Romney if you knew that his five sons
had never served in the military and that he considered working on a
presidential campaign as public service or some such question.
Based on those descriptions, these calls sounds like some
sort of "message testing." But tossing aside the "push poll" label does not absolve
the pollster of ethical responsibility. At a minimum, as the statement by the
American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) puts it:
[Message testing] surveys should be
judged by the same ethical standards as any other poll of the public: Do they
include any false or misleading statements? Do they treat the respondent with
fairness and respect?
The respondents quoted in the two news stories were certainly
disturbed and angered by the questions they heard. Consider also the details
these respondents remembered. Martin passes on the report of one respondent:
"Statements were on baptizing
the dead, the Book of Mormon being on the level of the Bible, and one about
equating it to a cult," said the Iowan, deeming them "common
criticisms of Mormonism."
AP's Elliot added:
Among the questions was whether a
resident knew that Romney was a Mormon, that he received military deferments
when he served as a Mormon missionary in France, that his five sons did not
serve in the military, that Romney's faith did not accept blacks as bishops
into the 1970s and that Mormons believe the Book
of Mormon is superior to the Bible.
One thing we can say without jumping to any conclusions
about who may be responsible: No campaign has made these sorts of statements or
attacks openly, and the organization that paid Western
Watts to make the calls has so far been unwilling to take
responsibility for the survey. So even if these calls were part of real survey,
even if the information was narrowly factual in some sense, the refusal of the sponsors
to accept responsibility for testing it speaks volumes about the ethics of the
Yes, campaigns (and independent groups) have the right to
privately consider strategies they ultimately decide not to pursue. But when the
market research for those potential strategies touches hundreds (or thousands) of
volunteer respondents with a message that deeply offends, and when the
organizations that sponsor the research hide behind a cloak of secrecy,
something is very wrong regardless of the label we use to describe it.
A new Strategic Vision (R) statewide survey of 1200 likely voters in Florida (conducted 11/9 through 11/11) finds:
- Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (47% to 27%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 8%.
- Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 31%) leads former Sen. Fred Thompson and Sen. John McCain (both at 13%) in a statewide primary; Mitt Romney trails at 12%, Mike Huckabee at 9%.
- All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
A new Elon University survey (story, results)of 1,374 adults in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia
- Among 498 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (45% to 17%) in a multi-state primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 11%.
- Among 476 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (25% to 16%) in a multi-state primary, former Gov. Mitt Romney trails with 12%, Sen. John McCain and Mike Huckabe both with 8%.
- All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
A new EPIC/MRA statewide survey of likely primary voters in Michigan (conducted 11/7 through 11/13 for The Detroit News and WXYZ-TV) finds:
- Among 400 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani narrowly leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (28% to 25%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 13%, Sen. John McCain at 12%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 9%.
- Among 400 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (49% to 18%) while former Sen. John Edwards trails at 15%.
- All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
A new Research 2000 statewide survey of likely caucues goers in Iowa (conducted 11/12 through 11/14) finds:
- Among 400 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton edges out Sen. Barack Obama (27% to 25%) in a statewide caucus; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 21%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 10%.
- Among 400 Republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Gov. Mike Huckabee (27% to 18%) in a statewide caucus; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 16%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 10%, Sen. John McCain at 6%, Rep. Ron Paul at 5%.
- All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
A new FOX News/Opinion Dynamics national survey (story, results) of 900 registered voters (conducted 11/13 through 11/14) finds:
- 36% approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as president; 56% disapprove.
- Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (44% to 23%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 12%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 5%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
- Among Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Sen. John McCain (33% to 17%) in a national primary; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 12%, former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Gov. Mike Huckabee both trail at 8%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
- General Election Match-ups:
Clinton 46%, McCain 45%
Clinton 47%, Giuliani 43%
Clinton 49%, Thompson 40%
Clinton 50%, Romney 37%
Full results here.
I have been focusing heavily on the Iowa caucuses, both our Disclosure Project
started with polls there and because the competition, particularly on the
Democratic side, is so intense. With a Democratic debate in Nevada
tonight, we have had two new polls out of "likely voters" in the Nevada Democratic
caucuses from Zogby
and CNN.** Their
results are quite different though for reasons that are probably explicable.
Both show Hillary Clinton leading, followed by Obama,
Edwards and Richardson, in that order, but the percentages are very different. CNN
leading Obama by 28 points (51% to 23%), with Edwards far behind (at 11%). Zogby
with a narrower, 22 point lead over Obama (37% to 19%) with Edwards closer (at
The biggest obvious difference is that the CNN survey
effectively pushed respondents harder for a choice. They show only 4% with no
opinion, while the Zogby shows 17% as unsure. This is a very common
source of variation across polls, leaving pollsters to debate which
approach - pushing for a choice or allowing uncertain voters to register their
indecision - is most appropriate when the election is still months away.
One likely contributor to that difference is that the CNN
questions includes the job title of each candidate ("New York Senator Hillary
Clinton," "Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards") which may frame the
question a bit differently. Of course, since Zogby fails to disclose the full
text of its vote question, we cannot know for certain.
But there is one other potential source of variation: How
the pollster handles the expected low turnout. The CNN release tells
us that they conducted 389 interviews with voters "who say they are likely to
vote in the Nevada
Democratic presidential caucus" out of a total sample of 2,084 adults. Thus,
CNN screens rather tightly to identify a Democratic sample that represents 19%
adults. Once again, as Zogby fails to disclose it, we have no idea what portion
of Nevada their sample represents (ditto for
Mason-Dixon, ARG and Research 2000, the three other pollsters that have
But at 19%, even the CNN survey may be a shot in the dark at
the turnout in Nevada
on January 19. In 2004, Nevada
held traditional caucuses in mid-February that drew an estimate 9,000
participants (according to the Rhodes
Cook Letter). That amounts to roughly one half of one percent (0.5%) of the
state's voting age population at that time.
Of course, Nevada
is switching to a party-run primary (the main difference being far fewer
polling places). The states of Michigan and New Mexico have used a similar system, that produces a
higher turnout than traditional caucuses (outside Iowa) typically get, but not much higher. The
2004 Democratic turnout, as a percentage of the voting age population, was 2.2%
in Michigan and 7.3% in New
Mexico (both events occurred a week before Nevada
but a week after the New Hampshire
So who turns out this time is anyone's guess. Will the
voters sampled in these surveys bear any resemblance to those that turn out in Nevada on January 19? In
size, at least, that seems very unlikely.
**Zogby has also released results for likely Republican caucus-goers.
According to their release, CNN sampled likely Republican caucus-goers, but
they have not yet released those results.
A new American Research Group statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 11/10 through 11/14) finds:
- Among 600 Republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney edges out former Gov. Mike Huckabee (26% to 24%) in a statewide caucus, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Sen. Fred Thompson both trail at 11%, Sen. John McCain at 10%.
- Among 600 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (27% to 21%) in a statewide caucus, former Sen. John Edwards trails at 20%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 12%, Sen. Joe Biden at 5%.
- All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
We have been talking quite a bit lately about the difficulty
pollsters have in identifying "likely caucus goers" in Iowa. Pollsters face similar challenges in
any similarly low turnout primary (a phenomenon that is more common than you
think) as well as in general elections (though not to the same degree). The
underlying problem for all pre-election polls is the same: When you ask people if
they are "likely" to vote in a future election, they tend to be far too
optimistic in their predictions. That is especially true if the pollster makes
it easy to say yes, by including "somewhat likely" as an answer category.
For different reasons, the candidate that voters prefer "if
the election were held today," is often different from the candidate they
actually choose on Election Day.
In a must-read
column in The Hill, Democratic
pollster Mark Mellman helps us understand why:
For 25 years, I've counseled clients and colleagues
to consider psychological research demonstrating that people are very poor
reporters of their own decision-making processes. It reveals that we have
little reason to believe much of what people tell us directly in focus groups
and polls about why they do what they do.
Though it is heresy for a pollster to say it, the
evidence also suggests people are only mediocre predictors of their own
behavior. Responses to horserace questions a year out may be a special case of
Mellman also cites a paper by political
scientists Gary King and Andrew Gelman titled, "Why Are American Presidential
Election Campaign Polls So Variable When Voters Are So Predictable?" Over at
the Horse Race Blog, Jay Cost unpacks
the findings of the King-Gellman paper which focus on polling in general
elections. He offers this quick synopsis:
Gelman and King offer what they call the
"Enlightened Preference" Model. They assert that:
(1) Voters do not have full information throughout the campaign about
the "fundamental variables" that ultimately drive vote choices.
(2) Voters do use all available information to make their decisions.
(3) Voters do not rationally account for uncertainty during the course of
This explains how polls can vary so wildly, and yet
final results can be so predictable. Voters base their election decisions on
basic variables. Thus, their vote choices are quite predictable. But it is only
at the end of the campaign that they have fully grasped the values of the
variables. Additionally, they do not factor this lack of knowledge into their
thought processes. And so, when pollsters dial them up - they rely on the data
they have available, but give answers that are less certain than they realize.
Both Mellman and Cost go into more detail. Both posts are well worth the click.
A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of 1,239 likely Democratic caucues goers in Iowa (conducted 11/12) finds Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 29%) narrowly leading former Sen. John Edwards (25%) and Sen. Barack Obama (24%) in a statewide caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson trails at 10%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
My colleague Nancy
Mathiowetz, a noted survey methodologist and current president of the
American Assoociation for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), will be a regular
contributor on Huffington Post in the coming months. Her first
post is now up, and it highlights the online course on "Understanding and
Interpreting Polls" offered jointly by AAPOR and the Poynter Institute. It's
worth a click.
Full disclosure: I serve with Mathiowetz on AAPOR's executive council.
A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation statewide survey of 304 likely Democratic caucus goers in Nevada (conducted 11/9 through 11/13) finds Sen. Hillary Clinton leading Sen. Barack Obama (51% to 23%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 11%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 5%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
By now many of you know about a new outbreak of nasty phone
calls in Iowa.
I have to say that this episode truly puzzles me. Politico's Ben Smith reported
the key details yesterday:
Two bloggers today reported receiving calls last
night from a pollster testing whether John Edwards' failure to drop out to take
care of his ailing wife could damage his campaign.
The pollster asked whether
"desmoinesdem," a well-regarded liberal Iowa blogger, would not support Edwards
because "he chose to continue the presidential campaign instead of staying
home with his wife who has cancer," the blogger reported. A blogger
on John Edwards campaign website, doridc, shared a similar
The two blogger/respondents also said the "survey" included
negative statements about both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, which led both
to believe that the calls came from someone associated with the Obama campaign.
My initial reaction was that these calls were part of some
sort of message testing rather than a so-called "push poll," and that a real
message testing poll could have involved any
of the Democratic campaigns. As regular readers know, a "push poll" is not a
poll at all but political telemarketing -- usually an effort to spread a nasty
negative message -- under the false guise of a legitimate poll. However,
campaigns sometimes use real surveys to test potential negative messages for
advertising. I've written more about the differences here; see also Stu
Rothenberg's piece and the AAPOR statement on "push
If this were a real "message test," the absence of
statements about Obama or any of the other Democratic candidates does not
necessarily implicate either Obama as the sponsor (or Dodd, Richardson or
Ambinder made a similar point yesterday). As a campaign pollster, I always
included "negatives" on my own client whenever I tested potential attacks on
the opposition. The idea was to try to keep some semblance of fairness and
balance in the questionnaire (so respondents would not immediately hang up in
anger) and to try to simulate the effects of the likely exchange of attacks
that would occur if the campaign "went negative." For what it's worth, I know
that Harrison Hickman, the Edwards pollster for whom I once worked, has always
taken the same approach.
Ben Smith, who has been all over this story for the last 24
a real call center that uses the name "Central Research" in New York and
another Central Research in Arkansas, and speculated about projects they have
done in the past. However, he subsequently reached the people that run those
companies and each flatly
denied any involvement. He also reports that each of the Democratic
campaigns - Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Biden, Dodd and Richardson - "all quickly
denied this was their poll."
Puzzled, I went back and re-read the reports of the first two
blogger/respondents (as well as another respondent account Smith reported
this morning). All tell essentially the same story:
report being asked first about their voter preference in the Democratic
caucuses, about the strength of their support for their first choice and
about their second choice.
report being asked just two more questions: A three-way forced choice
question asking them to choose from among three statements as the
"most important reason not to support Clinton." They were then asked a
similar question with two negative statements about Edwards.
then, both bloggers report (or at least imply) that the interview ends abruptly..
"End of survey" says desmoinesdem. "There
were no questions about what issues are you interested in," writes dorisdem, "or
even how likely are you to caucus." Neither mentions being asked demographic
questions (what is your age, race, etc.), although is it possible both simply left
that part out.
If the "poll" included just the five questions above, it fits the profile of
the a real so-called push poll,
again, not a poll at all but a negative "advocacy call" masquerading as a
"negative statements" are also strange, and not just because of the outrageous
and incendiary reference to Elizabeth Edwards' fight against cancer. The two
bloggers report essentially the same statements. This is dorisdem's memory:
[They ask] why do you think Hillary Clinton is a
weak candidate and gives 3 choices. A) Is a weak general election candidate.
B)Is too dependent on lobbyist money. C) Won't bring change.
Then why do [you] think John Edwards is a weak
candidate with 2 choices A) a weak general election candidate because his
positions are too liberal B) He should be home with his wife who has cancer.
are just not the sort of statements that I can imagine any of the campaigns
wanting to "test" in this form at this stage of the campaign as potential
fodder for television or direct mail advertising. Think about the ways the
campaigns are criticizing each other now in speeches, online videos and
debates. The statements in the calls make no reference to votes on Iraq, Iran,
trade policy or double-talk
in regards to Senator Clinton; nothing about hypocrisy, being too negative or
"piling on" in regards to Senator Edwards.
oddly constructed questions look mostly to me like a clumsy attempt to dress up
as a "poll" the beyond-the-pale reference to Elizabeth Edwards' illness.
very least, I find it utterly inconceivable that Harrison Hickman or the
Edwards campaign had any connection to a five-question survey of this sort, and
extremely implausible that it was part of any real poll conducted by anyone
who would be doing this?
bottom line is that I have no idea who is behind it, but we ought to consider
another scenario as at least as plausible as the notion that this came from one
of the Democratic campaigns. It is also possible that this was the work of some
independent group with Republican ties that sees some value in gathering crude
information about the Democratic race while fomenting ill-will and infighting
in the Democratic ranks. If that was the goal, you need only read the comments
under the posts of the blogger/respondents I linked to above to see evidence of
just that happening.
again, we really have no idea. It could be anyone, and we'll probably never
Just to help clarify the record, blogger/respondent doridc makes
two statements that are not quite right. First:
In polls from reputable sources they never ask for specific
voters as was the case here.
true. Most surveys that sample from registered voter lists, including just
about all of the campaigns, ask for the name on the list when they call. They
can randomly select an individual in the household (from the list). Asking for
a specific person by name allows them to match up the answers to actual vote
history on the list for analytical purposes.
Also they used my voter id as listed in the Iowa Democratic
Party database because my full name does not fit, it is missing the last 3
letters. So it was a candidate driven call.
necessarily. As I understand it -- and I have this information from individuals
with firsthand knowledge of the process -- the list that the Iowa Democratic
Party sells to campaigns is built by appending caucus "vote history" data that
they collect to the registered voter list provided by the Iowa Secretary of
State. I may be wrong on thus, but I assume that if doridc's name is truncated
in the file, that truncation occurred on the Secretary of State's list that is
available to anyone.
Smith links to this post along with confirmation oF one point above:
After talking to Blumenthal today, I went back to one of the
respondents, "desmoinesdem," to ask her about some of these details: Was
she asked about whether she plans to vote, or about her age or party
affiliation. She wasn't.
Desmoinesdem has also updated her original post with another interesting observation:
In the comments, yitbos96bb suggested a possibility that hadn't occurred to me. The pollster may be testing negative messages against Hillary (the front-runner) and whomever the respondent supports. So doridc and I got the negative messages about Edwards, but perhaps if we had named a different candidate as our first choice, we would have gotten the questions about Hillary and our first choice. A Republican group paying for a poll like this might be testing to see what kind of messages would work best against Hillary and whomever Democratic respondents lean towards.
Update (11/20): More details here.
A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 543 registered voters in Missouri (conducted 11/9 through 11/11) finds:
General Election Match-ups:
Giuliani 45%, Clinton 44%
Clinton 47%, McCain 46%
Clinton 47%, Romney 44%
Clinton 49%, Huckabee 43%
Obama 46%, McCain 45%
Obama 46%, Giuliani 43%
Obama 48%, Romney 41%
Obama 49%, Huckabee 41%
A new American Research Group national survey of likely primary voters (conducted 11/9 through 11/12) finds:
- Among 600 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (46% to 21%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 11%.
- Among 600 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani narrowly leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (25% to 21%); former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 17%, Sen. John McCain at 12%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 6%.
- All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
A new Cool Political Report/RT Strategies national survey of 855 registered voters (conducted 11/8 through 11/11) finds:
- Among 376 Democrats and those who lean Democratic, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (39% to 22%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 12%. All other candidates trail at less than five percent each.
- Among 308 Republicans and those who lean Republican, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 29%) leads Sen. John McCain, former Sen. Fred Thompson, and former Gov. Mitt Romney (all three at 12%); former Gov. Mike Huckabee trails at 8%, Rep. Ron Paul at 6%. All other candidates trail at less than five percent each.
- Clinton leads Giuliani (46% to 43%) in a general election match-up.
A new SurveyUSA automated survey of likely primary voters in South Carolina (conducted 11/9 through 11/11) finds:
- Among 577 Republicans asked to choose among five candidates, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (26% to 20%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 18%, Sen. John McCain at 14%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 12%.
- Among 448 Democrats asked to choose among three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (47% to 33%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 10%.
A new Strategic Vision (R) statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 11/9 through 11/12) finds:
- Among 600 Republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Gov. Mike Huckabee (30% to 19%) in a statewide primary; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 12%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 11%, Sen. John McCain at 7%, Rep. Ron Paul at 5%.
- Among 600 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton edges out Sen. Barack Obama (29% to 27%); former Sen. John Edwards trails at 20%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 7%, Sen. Joe Biden at 5%.
- All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
Two new CBS News/New York Times statewide surveys (CBS story, results; Times story, results) of likely caucus goers in Iowa and likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 11/2 through 11/12) finds:
- Among 793 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 25%) narrowly leads former Sen. John Edwards (23%) and Sen. Barack Obama (22%) in a statewide caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson trails at 12%.
- Among 480 Republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Gov. Mike Huckabee (27% to 21%); former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 15%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 9%.
- Among 471 Democrats, Clinton leads Obama (37% to 22%) in a statewide primary; Edwards trails at 9%, Richardson at 6%, Rep. Dennix Kucinich at 5%.
- Among 302 Republicans, Romney (at 34%) leads Giuliani and Sen. John McCain (both at 16%); Rep. Ron Paul trails at 8%, Huckabee at 6%, Thompson at 5%.
All other candidates receive less than five percent each. Full results here.
Via Ben Smith, DrudgeReport
CBSNEWSNYT POLL SET FOR RELEASE ON
25%; EDWARDS 23%; OBAMA 22%
NH: HILLARY 37%; OBAMA 22%; EDWARDS 9%
Remember folks, this apparent leak from within CBS comes
accurate" Matt Drudge so . . . make of it what you will.
Two things to keep in mind: In New Hampshire, our current
trend estimate is Clinton 39%, Obama 22, Edwards 13%.
In Iowa ,
remember that different polls are using very different methods and thus have
shown very different conceptions of the "likely caucus goer" electorate. So the
differences in methodology probably cause more poll-to-poll variation than
underlying trends. Having said that, our current trend estimate is Clinton 30%,
Obama 25%, Edwards 19%.
Update: Quoting "sources" Time's The Page confirms the numbers above and says they will be released tonight, not Wednesday. So stay tuned...
A new American Research Group national survey of 1,100 registered voters (conducted 11/9 through 11/12) finds:
On a four-way forced choice question:
- 34% think "President Bush has abused his powers as president which rise to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution and he should be impeached and removed from office."
- 21% think "President Bush has abused his powers as president which rise to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution, but he should not be impeached."
- 9% think "President Bush has abused his powers as president, but the abuses are not serious enough to warrant impeachment under the Constitution."
- 36% think "President Bush has not abused his powers as president."
On another four-way forced choice question:
- 43% think "Vice President Cheney has abused his powers as vice president which rise to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution and he should be impeached and removed from office."
- 9% think "Vice President Cheney has abused his powers as vice president which rise to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution, but he should not be impeached."
- 18% think "Vice President Cheney has abused his powers as vice president, but the abuses are not serious enough to warrant impeachment under the Constitution."
- 30% think "Vice President Cheney has not abused his powers as vice president."
The Republican race has had something for everyone this year. Front runners have faltered (McCain, remember, was the widely declared "front runner" until early spring, though he trailed Giuliani in the vast majority of national polls.) The puzzle of Giuliani's national lead continues to confound explanation in a party of social conservatives. Despite the most visible pre-primary season in history, the leader in IA and NH, Romney, remains less known nationally. The reluctant actor waited in the wings and perhaps missed his scene, certainly entering after his peak. And just to round things out there is an Arkansas governor from Hope who is beginning to be taken seriously and a Texas congressman whose internet strength is disproportionate to his polls.
(A technical note: the blue line in the figures is our standard trend estimator. The red line is more sensitive to recent change, but also less reliable because it can respond to "noise" in the data rather than real changes in trend. It is great for speculation to consider the red line, but safer for prediction to rely on the blue line, which has a better track record over the long run.)
The single most important feature for the Republican race is the discrepancy between state polls in IA and NH and the national polls. Nationally, Giuliani continues to hold a significant lead of nearly 2:1 over his nearest rivals. But in the initial states, Romney has established his own 2:1 lead in IA and a smaller 8 point lead in NH, while Giuliani struggles in IA and has remained basically flat in NH. This sets up Romney to run a classic momentum campaign based on two early successes to carry him to national prominence and through the second round of pre-February 5th primaries and caucuses.
The Iowa data in the top chart shows Romney's early success there, reaching 20% by April 1, when his national support was a modest 8%. Romney has now built his support to nearly 29% in Iowa, a significant lead over his rivals there, though not enough to dominate the race. Meanwhile he is at less than half that (12%) nationally.
Romney demonstrated his organizational strength by winning the Iowa straw poll back in August. But that story also demonstrated a potential problem for him. The straw poll win would have been news to many Republican primary voters outside of Iowa, where Romney still needs to build his visibility and support. But the press corps (and pollsters) strongly discounted his win as "expected", and focused instead on the narrow second place finish of Mike Huckabee, well behind first place. This seems to be the danger for Romney in January. He has carefully built a strong Iowa presence and support and if the election were held today would probably win (you do believe these polls, right?). That would be big news to lots of voters, and should dominate the headlines. But Romney's lead in IA has become conventional wisdom among reporters and a win is likely to be treated as the straw poll win-- news, but not surprising. The surprising second place finisher would be Huckabee, based on current polls, and that would likely be the bigger story from Iowa.
The rise of Mike Huckabee in Iowa is correctly seen as a big polling story. With limited money Huckabee has climbed into second place in the Iowa polls, and currently enjoys the sharpest upward trajectory of any Republican candidate there. While still well behind Romney, a Huckabee defeat of both Giuliani and Thompson would be legitimate "big news", and could propel the former Arkansas governor to the kind of national momentum he must have to compete after Iowa. His current trajectory is getting him noticed more, and his second place standing probably deserves even more attention than it is currently getting. Coupled with Thompson's failures, Huckabee's ascent could be come a major asset.
The other bit of news from Iowa is the failure of the Thompson campaign to launch. For all the high expectations built up in the pre-campaign campaign of Thompson, Iowa voters have failed to respond. The trend has even taken a bit of a turn down in recent weeks. At only about 12% support, Thompson trails Huckabee and Giuliani.
And the picture only gets worse for Thompson in New Hampshire where his trajectory looks like a failed rocket launch, now at less than 5% support.
It is debatable whether Giuliani, as national leader in the polls (see below) can survive losses in Iowa and New Hampshire. It seems even more unlikely that Thompson, who is falling nationally as well, can survive two poor early finishes.
This morning's news is that Thompson will receive the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee, a potentially important boost to his campaign. The organizational strength of Right to Life organizations could be a significant advantage, and might help Thompson secure the status of "choice of social conservatives". However a consensus candidate of social conservatives has yet to emerge, as demonstrated by the scattered endorsements we saw last week. If Thompson is to secure that standing it will come despite his standing in the polls, rather than because of it. Certainly the fear of other Republicans that Thompson would be the late arrival who swept all before him as not materialized.
And then there is John McCain, who has been all but written off by analysts, including me. Yesterday's news that McCain may actually borrow money to finance his campaign through the early caucuses is further evidence that the analysis is not wrong, at least in an organizational sense. McCain's campaign not only lost most of its staff, it has failed to raise money and is back to the days of the bus. Voters, however, haven't entirely gotten that message. McCain's long decline in the polls halted in the third quarter and has made a small gain nationally. A similar rebound may also have occurred in New Hampshire (but only in the more sensitive red estimator.) Still, at 15% there, McCain would be a distant third place, hardly a strong foundation to relaunch a campaign despite previous success in NH. And in Iowa, never his strong suit, McCain is at a dismal 7%, despite his line that he "drinks a cup of ethanol before breakfast every day".
The contrast between Giuliani as national poll leader, while Romney dominates in the first two states, and a possible late emergence of a relative unknown in Huckabee, sets the stage for a candidate to "emerge" from Iowa and New Hampshire. The Giuliani campaign still banks on a "firewall" in Florida and a great February 5th to maintain his campaign, and some chance that a convincing 2nd place in New Hampshire will keep him strongly in the game. For Thompson, South Carolina looks to be his best bet, though he is currently only tied with Giuliani for first place there, and is declining there as well. (A SC win for Giuliani would be huge, of course.) And Romney has had two good a two mediocre polls in SC recently, leaving it unclear if he is moving up there or not. McCain still needs a miracle. But Huckabee has moved in Iowa strongly and a little bit in New Hampshire. Elsewhere he will live or die based on those two states.
As a spectator sport, the Republican race this year has something for everyone, and is vastly entertaining. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.
If you haven't had a chance to read it yet (and you should),
my colleague Charles Franklin has taken a closer
look at the trend lines in our Democratic presidential charts (as well as
his own more "sensitive" estimators) in light of four new national polls and
three new surveys from New Hampshire, all released in the last week. He
concludes that the Democratic race has narrowed slightly in New Hampshire but sees less change nationwide:
I think the evidence favors a view
that Clinton's problems in New Hampshire may be more specific to that
state rather than reflecting a more widespread change in her campaign's
I want to add a few thoughts about why that may be, with a
closer look at the three newest surveys from New Hampshire.
Charles made the point that the three new polls in New Hampshire - from Marist College/WNBC,
Reports, and the University
of New Hampshire/Boston Globe -
show a bit more change since the recent debate than is evident in our trend
lines. Let's take a look at the "apples to apples" comparison he mentioned.
All three organizations were in the field last week and had
conducted prior surveys in mid-September or early October. All three showed similar
5-6 point declines for Clinton
and increases for Obama ranging from 2 to 7 percentage points. The Clinton decline is
statistically significant for the Rasmussen survey, but just misses given the
smaller sample sizes on the Marist and UNH surveys. Still, given the
consistency of the pattern across the three surveys, we can have reasonable
confidence that Clinton's support has fallen in New Hampshire since late
September, something not evident in the recent national polls.
Now consider how the results look by education. Both Marist
and UNH provided tabulations of vote preference by education that look
remarkably similar. Virtually all of the decline for Clinton and the gain for Obama occurred among
college educated Democrats. The race is virtually unchanged among non-college Democrats
(a category that includes those with only some college education but no degree).
This pattern is a big clue that the change has occurred
among those voters that pay the most attention to campaign news. Well educated
voters are far more likely to pay attention to news about politics and typically
possess more political
The table does not show it, but earlier surveys by the University of New Hampshire
showed that most of Clinton's
gains between July and September also came from college educated voters (particularly
college educated women). Ron Brownstein
noticed that pattern and, using data provided by Gallup,
reported the same thing among Democrats nationwide.
So why a bigger change in New Hampshire than nationwide in recent
weeks? One answer is that at this stage, New
Hampshire voters are paying more attention to the
campaign than voters elsewhere. They have been inundated with millions of
dollars of political advertising and, given the many in-person visits from
candidates, are seeing more political coverage from their local news outlets. So
they know an election is near and are following it more closely.
Four years ago, the Pew
surveys in early December among voters nationwide as well as in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. As the
table below shows, Democrats in New
Hampshire were more than twice as likely to say they
following the campaign "very closely" (33%) than Democrats nationwide (15%).
So we have a pattern here that neatly connects some of the
points I made in two recent posts ("Three Campaigns"
Hits B, B Hits A, C Wins?". Most of the political news of the last week has
gone unnoticed by the vast majority of ordinary voters nationally who are not
paying great attention to the campaign. But in New
Hampshire (and probably in Iowa
as well) the pool of attentive voters is greater and so recent news has more
potential to change voter preferences.
Also, many of the campaigns are advertising heavily there. Barack
Obama's campaign has started running television ads in New Hampshire in late
September, and voters there now know a bit more about him than those elsewhere.
Also, as Ben Smith reminds
us, "both McCain and Romney have been attacking her in television ads in
the state" which may be a factor as well.
The consistency of the two most recent New Hampshire polls makes me more confident
that the changes we are seeing are real, at least for now, especially since
they seem to be occurring among the most attentive voters that are most likely
to react to news stemming from a debate.
Since the October 30 Democratic debate, political conversation has focused on how much Sen. Clinton may have been damaged by her first "rough" debate performance. After uniformly positive evaluations of her handling of previous debates, especially in August and September, Clinton stumbled with answers that her rivals portrayed as waffling and inconsistent.
This weekend two new New Hampshire polls appeared that lend credence to the notion that Clinton's standing has taken a dip, though whether due to the debate or not remains "debatable."
The Boston Globe and University of New Hampshire found Clinton falling to 35% 11/2-7/07 from 41% in the CNN/WMUR/UNH poll of 9/17-24/07. Obama had a small rise, to 21% in the latest from 19% in the earlier poll.
Meanwhile, the Marist College poll taken 11/2-6/07 put Clinton at 38%, compared to 43% in Marist's previous reading 10/4-9/07. Obama gained five points over those two polls, to 26% from 21%.
Finally, a Rasmussen "robopoll" taken on 11/5/07 has Clinton at 34%, down from 40% in their 9/16/07 poll. Rasmussen also has Obama rising to 24% from 17%.
So on the basis of these three polls, and "apples-to-apples" comparisons of polls done by the same polling organization, there is pretty good reason to think Clinton has dropped a few points in New Hampshire, and that Obama has gained a few. The Clinton average change in the three polls is -5.7 points, and Obama's gain is 4.7 points.
If we turn to the trend estimates, based on all the polling rather than just the last three, we see a different but still interesting picture. The vertical black line in the charts marks the date of the debate.
With just three new polls, the standard trend estimator will respond to the new polls, but won't "bend". The blue trend is deliberately conservative, and wants more evidence that the trend has actually turned down before it will change direction. However, the level of the estimated trend does respond to new data. For example, on Friday with Rasmussen included but not the Globe/UNH or Marist results, Clinton's trend estimate was 40.2%. With the new polls it is down to 39.3%. Likewise Obama was at 21.0% on Friday and is now at 21.7%.
But the standard estimator may be too conservative. So we have a second estimator that picks up changes more quickly, though it can fall victim to noisy data and "see" a change when there isn't really one. So with some risk, it is fun to compare the more sensitive "red" estimator with the standard "blue" one.
Red reveals two interesting details not visible in the blue trends. Clinton appears to have flattened out, at least, starting in late September. Obama had a noticeable dip in August-September, and since that time has been trending up for over a month.
If we put a VERY sensitive estimate on the Clinton polls, we would even see a parabola shaped trend, one that rose sharply in September and early October, then fell equally sharply in November. This amounts to just connecting the polls, and ignoring all the noise and house effects present, something I am loath to do.
But even being a bit cautious there is evidence that Clinton's good rise (about 5 points) in the third quarter has stopped and perhaps dipped a tiny bit in the fourth quarter so far. If more polls come in where the last three have, then even the blue standard estimator will flatten and turn down. Meanwhile the sensitive red estimator may be prone to chase the latest polls a bit too much. But it's suggested path for the dynamics of the race is neither as foolish as chasing each poll, nor as slow to notice change in trends as the standard estimator. "Red" may have something here.
The story for Obama is also more hopeful in the red estimator. The few low polls in late August through late September suggested a slump down to the mid-to-upper-teens. The sensitive estimator catches this dip, but sees a steady rise since, to nearly 24% now.
From the point of view of even the sensitive estimator, the changes affecting both Clinton and Obama pre-date the October 30 debate, though the estimate is influenced by the three post debate polls. The story "red" tells is that Clinton had a very good third quarter-- good news about her campaign, it's strength, and her good debate performances-- helped raise her New Hampshire standing by five points. Perhaps the same news, or reviews of his failure to make progress, helped sink Obama's support about 4 points during the same third quarter. But since October 1, these patters have changed, with Clinton seeing no further gains and Obama returning to the mid-20s.
Before reaching too strong a conclusion, let's check some other data, and see if we can find any evidence for similar changes in trend in other data.
In Iowa, where they watch the candidates at least as closely as in New Hampshire, there is no evidence of a flattening of the Clinton trend. If anything, the red trend estimate is slightly higher than is the standard blue estimate (30.5% vs 29.9%). Clinton has climbed steadily since the start of the third quarter and both red and blue estimates put that trend at almost the same rate.
Obama has also seen gains since the start of the third quarter in Iowa, though the red estimate thinks the gains started from a bit lower level. At present the two trends agee quite closely, 24.8% for blue and 24.5% for red.
(The Edwards and Richardson campaigns have both suffered losses since the start of the third quarter in Iowa, though slight or no losses in New Hampshire over the same period.)
If we look at the national picture, we see a substantial Clinton rise in the third quarter (with a plateau midway, followed by a surge) and a mild decline for Obama, reversed only at the start of the fourth quarter. The sensitive estimator matches the standard trend pretty well, certainly leading to the same conclusions.
As my partner at Pollster.com, Mark Blumenthal, pointed out in an important post last week, New Hampshire and Iowa are not typical of the nation as a whole and are being exposed to vastly greater advertising and campaign appeals. Citizens there are also paying more attention to the race, given both advertising and their prized "first in the nation" status. So if we are going to detect changes in the fortunes of candidates, these two states are the best places to look. And when we do, we see some evidence of change but only in New Hampshire.
As always, more data can lead to a reconsideration, but at this point I think the evidence favors a view that Clinton's problems in New Hampshire may be more specific to that state rather than reflecting a more widespread change in her campaign's fortunes. New polling for Iowa could change that. At the moment we only have one post-debate poll from Iowa so the trends there are almost entirely driven by earlier data. But the 5 post-debate national polls are included in the national estimate with no effect, so that is some evidence that any impact is still to develop.
Sen. Clinton may have given her opponents an opening in the last debate. It remains up to them to exploit that opening to their advantage, and up to the Clinton campaign to deflect such critiques. At the moment the New Hampshire polls suggest some changes in that state. But not yet elsewhere.
Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.
A new Boston Globe/University of New Hampshire statewide survey (story; results) of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 11/2 through 11/7) finds:
- Among 400 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (35% to 21%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 15%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 10%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
- Among 404 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (32% to 20%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John McCain trails at 17%, Rep. Ron Paul at 7%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 5%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
- 24% of Democrats have "definitely decided" who to vote for, 28% are leaning and 48% have no idea. 16% of Republicans have definitely decided, 24% are leaning, and 60% have no idea.
A new Marist College statewide survey of 1,453 registered voters in New Hampshire (conducted 11/2 through 11/6) finds:
- Among 458 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (36% to 25%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 14%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 6%. When undecideds were asked to which candidate they lean, Clinton receives 38%, Obama 26%, Edwards 14%, and Richardson 6%.
- Among 372 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (33% to 22%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 13%, Rep. Ron Paul and former Gov. Mike Huckabee both at 7%, and former Sen. Fred Thompson at 5%. When undecideds were asked to which candidate they lean, Romney receives 34%, Giuliani 23%, McCain 14%, Paul 7%, Huckabee 7%, and Thompson 5%.
- All other candidates receive less than five percent each.