Pollster.com

December 16, 2007 - December 22, 2007

 

"Outliers" for 12-21

Topics: 2008 , Push "Polls" , The 2008 Race

Barack Obama starts mentioning poll numbers.

John McCain wants another investigation into another so-called "push poll," this time allegedly benefiting Mike Huckabee.

Campaigns & Elections magazine reminds us that "push-polls" are not polls at all.

Giuliani pollster Ed Goeas discusses national polls and the Giuliani strategy.

Michael Mcauliff profiles Clinton pollster Mark Penn.

Kathy Frankovic reviews data showing Democrats are "far more energized" and attentive to the presidential campaign than Republicans.

Frank Newport suggests the "Huckabee boomlet" may have "leveled off" nationally, and ponders the 62% of Republicans who say they are "afraid" of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Chris Cillizza reports on response to Hillary Clinton from a Washington Post post-debate focus group in Iowa.

Mark Mellman breaks down the strategies of the Democratic presidential candidates.

David Hill thinks Hillary Clinton "may have blown her chances" by unleashing Bill Clinton in recent weeks.

Gary Langer argues that the Mitchell Report on steroids in baseball misconstrued data on teen steroid use.

Carl Bialik, in his Numbers Guy column and blog, looks at shortcomings in the "top searches" that the top Web search companies report for 2008.


NewsU Adds Election Polling Sections


With the deluge of new primary polls this week, I nearly neglected to pass along word that Poynter's NewsU online course for journalists on "Understanding and Interpreting Polls" added a new section this week on "How Election Polls Work."

newsu%20aapor.png

The new sections of the course, which were developed in partnership with the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), include the following:

How Election Polls Work gives journalists the tools to understand why good polls can report very different numbers, how to identify trends in voter preference, and how to interpret subgroup responses...

Interpreting Polls explains how to: decide what might be the lead of a story, write about subgroups, look at poll results over time and draw conclusions from those trends, and understand why similar polls might have different results.

Beyond the Horserace includes understanding how exit polls are conducted and what they tell us, and how to use polling data in reporting throughout the election cycle.

The course is available free of charge to registered users of NewsU.

Interests Disclosed: I am a member of AAPOR's Executive Council.


Iowa's Entrance Poll: A Correction

Topics: 2008 , Exit Polls , The 2008 Race

Earlier in the week, I made the mistake of being a bit less careful in an email to Mickey Kaus than I might have been writing for this blog. In an item on Wednesday about the "entrance poll" that the networks have planned for the Iowa Caucuses, Kaus accurately quoted me saying that the Iowa entrance poll has "zero check against younger interviewer bias." I subsequently had a chance to interview Joe Lenski, the consultant who will run the National Election Poll (NEP) exit poll operation for the networks in 2008, and learned that I was not quite right. While past Iowa entrance polls lacked a mechanism to correct for demographic non-response for past Iowa caucuses, the entrance pollsters will attempt such a procedure in Iowa on January 3.

The issue involves a procedure that is standard in all other network exit polling. NEP instructs their interviewers keep a hand tallies of the gender, race and approximate age of every voter they are unable to interview. The exit pollsters use these tallies to weight their data. If they find, for example, that the respondents are 65% female, but that tally of interviews, misses and refusals adds up to 55% female, they will weight the completed interviews to the latter (more accurate) statistic. The age correction has always been especially important because, I as I have written previously, the predominantly younger interviewers typically have more trouble completing interviews with older voters.

The network consortium has not asked entrance poll interviewers to keep such tallies for past caucus entrance polls, because the time pressure is greater: The interviews must be conducted as voters stream in for the 6:30 p.m. caucus start, rather than gradually over the course of a typical election day.

Lenski tells me, however, that given concerns about the big demographic variation in the Democratic race, the networks have insisted on implementing a non-response tally and correction this time around. So my dire warnings to Kaus about the potential for error on the entrance poll results (that they might "show Obama doing better than he'll really do even among those entering") were a bit premature.

Having said that, I have wondered about the accuracy of the correction given what we learned about the shortcomings of the exit polls in 2004. If interviewers have trouble keeping to "select every nth voter" selection procedure, they may also have trouble keeping accurate tallies of the voters that refused or avoided participating. Still, that is my speculation. The bottom line is that I was wrong to assert that the entrance poll would make "zero effort" to correct age bias. Apologies to all for the error.

We will post a full transcript of my interview with Lenski, which focuses on the mechanics of the Iowa entrance poll, within the next few days . Lenski also did a long interview with Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center that looks more broadly at how NEP will handle the "super crowded election season." Exit poll junkies will definitely want to read it all.


Comparing Primary Trend Estimates

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

Lots of exciting movement in the polling in both parties has pushed me to review the bidding on trend estimators. As regular readers know, the "blue" line estimator that is our standard is deliberately tuned to be a bit conservative. It requires a good bit of evidence that a change in direction is "real" before the trend will move sharply. With lots of polling, this estimator has an excellent track record of finding turning points of opinion while not chasing wild geese.

But in a hot primary, with relatively few polls each week (this week has been an exception!) it is reasonable to ask if there is short term change taking place that "old blue" just isn't quick enough to catch. So let's take a look at two alternatives.

Before we go there, let's remember that the variation across polls is quite large compared to some of the changes in support we are talking about. The variation around the trend estimates here is about +/-5 points while the trend differences are often a point or two. That means we are using quite noisy polls to estimate trends that vary much less than do the individual polls. (Mark Blumenthal has spent much of the fall discussing the variation in poll methodology and the implications this has for how uncertain we should be about individual results.)

So let's think of the single most sensitive alternative estimator we could pick: the latest poll. That would certainly move rapidly, and so be "responsive". But it would also reflect individual "house" effects due to polling organization and practices. It would also be highly unstable as an estimate of support, because individual polls vary over that approximate +/- 5 point or more range we see in the plots. In effect, this most sensitive possible estimator would just connect the dots and produce a plot that looks a lot like an earthquake on a seismograph. Lot of noise, but hard to see the systematic trend.

So we'd like to smooth out this random variation (and non-random variation due to house effects). One option is to take a rolling average. The more polls in the average the smoother the result, and you can take your pick of 5, 10 or more polls to smooth over. Of course, the more your include in the average, the more out of date the average is because it includes some polls taken a while back. I've chosen a 5 poll average here, because it should be quite sensitive yet still gain some of the advantages of averaging. Using more polls would smooth more, but defeat the purpose of having an especially sensitive estimate of trend.

The second comparison uses the same "local regression" methodology that is our standard approach here, but sets the degree of smoothing to about half that of the standard blue estimator. This "red line" estimator is more sensitive than the standard, but not as prone to jumping around as the moving average. "Red" should detect short term change more quickly than "blue", but it will also chase phantom changes due to flukes of a few polls that happen to be too high or too low. (The 5 poll average will be even more susceptible to this.)

So what do we see when we compare these estimators in IA, NH, SC and the US?

For the most part, all are in substantial agreement about big trends over the full year. The red line and black moving average show more variation than does blue, and may have picked up some "real" short term change that blue considered noise. But over all the 44 state x candidate x party comparisons, the agreement among estimators is pretty close most of the time.

For the Dems in Iowa, all three estimators are in quite close agreement right now. The differences are in the range of a point of each other. A sharp eye can see some differences of trajectory. For example, Clinton in Iowa is trending down in the blue estimator, while red sees a very recent upward trend while the black moving average fluctuates erratically. But zoom in and the differences are about a half a point or so. My experience is that you just can't reliably estimate such small differences, but feel free to make your own call here.

1IADems.png

On the Republican side in Iowa you see similar agreement with small differences near the end. Small differences for Romney and Huckabee are seen in comparing red and blue estimators-- Red and the moving average see a bit of upturn for Romney and downturn for Huckabee in the most recent polls that the blue estimator isn't convinced of. As with the Dems, none of these differences is very large.

2IAReps.png

In New Hampshire, the picture is essentially the same for the Dems. Blue sees Clinton moving down, Obama up and Edwards gaining more slowly. Red and the MA think Clinton has turned back up in the last few days, while Obama has stalled or turned down. But all these differences are again matters of at most a percentage point difference in estimated current support.

3NHDems.png

For Republicans in New Hampshire, there are somewhat bigger differences for Romney and McCain, though the trends agree for the other candidates. Red and MA think Romney took a turn down recently by as much as a couple of points, while blue sees a continuing upward trend. The blue and red estimators are still within 2 points of each other, but a real difference in upward or downward momentum would, of course, be important.

For McCain, the latest couple of polls show a substantial spike in support, and red and MA chase that spike, leading to the largest difference we've seen so far among the estimators. All three see McCain gaining, but red puts him about 4 points higher than does the standard blue trend, while MA is a point lower than red.

4NHReps.png

In South Carolina where there has been less polling and more noise, we see the biggest differences of all. It is worth appreciating what a huge range of results we've seen in recent SC polling for Clinton and Obama. I am not willing to believe that the true level of support has really varied between 20 and 45 points! But this makes the estimation especially tricky (and is why I prefer the stability that the blue estimator provides in the face of extremely noisy polling.

Blue sees Clinton as flat for some while, in the process splitting the difference between some quite high polls and other quite low ones. Either her support has suddently collapsed (but with simultaneous high and low polls) or the best bet is what the blue line estimates. Red and the MA in contrast see a downturn recently from about 43 to about 35, a major drop.

For Obama, all three see an upward trend, but with red and MA moving up much more sharply than blue. Blue puts Obama at 31, while red would go for 35 or 36.

5SCDems.png

For SC Republicans the big difference is with Huckabee, where red and MA see a very large recent gain, while blue agrees on the sharp trend but doesn't put the support as high yet. Blue puts Huckabee at about 20, while red and MA would go as high as 28.

There are small differences of recent trend for Romney and Giuliani, but these are quite small-- more on the order of the Iowa differences.

6SCReps.png

Finally, on the national scene, we gain the advantages of more dense polling. The Democratic trends are quite close to one another. And on the Republican side, even the rapid rise of Huckabee is picked up quite well and with close agreement among all three estimators.

7USDems.png

8USReps.png

The bottom line is that most of the differences we see among the estimators are small-- on the order of a point or two in the estimates. The apparent differences in the most recent trends strike me as generally being too small to reliably distinguish. What constitutes a "real" change in trend is hard to define, but I think most of the current differences are too small to put a lot of faith in.

In the case of the large differences in South Carolina, I'm inclined to pay more attention to the very large spread across individual polls, and demand clearer evidence of change, but the red and moving averages are perhaps telling us that real change is taking place. More polls would help, but in their absence I think a more prudent reading is that it is hard to know exactly what is happening. (And again I'd refer readers to Mark's posts on the differences across pollsters in practices and methods.)

But the bottom line is this is a fun game. I'll be updating with all three trend lines so you can pick your favorite and place your bets accordingly. Starting January 3 we'll begin to see how the polls and the trends line up with actual votes.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

Update: We have added regularly updating versions of these charts on our Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and National primary pages.


Iowa: Where Things Stand

Topics: 2008 , Iowa , Likely Voters , The 2008 Race

Notice the deluge of polls from Iowa and New Hampshire the last few days? It has been pretty hard to miss. We have seen six new Iowa polls in the last three days. Have we reached the point where, as one valued reader put it via email, do we now have "too many polls, too little meaning?" Is it time to stop watching polls altogether?

The big problem, particularly in Iowa, is the way a close race (especially for the Democrats) combines with wide variations in "likely caucus goer" methodology to thoroughly confuse everyone. And for good reason. Consider the screen shot from our Iowa Democrats chart (below) which shows the results for Obama (yellow), Clinton (purple) and Edwards (red) over the last two months (the light blue grid lines are 5 percentage points apart). Forget the lines, for the moment and look at the points. They are all over the place.

12-21 cloud.png

Put another way, consider the following results from the last six Iowa polls, all fielded over the last week. The support for the candidates ranges between:

  • 24% and 30% for Clinton
  • 25% and 33% for Obama
  • 18% and 26% for Edwards
  • 6% and 20% (on the Republican side) for McCain

Some of this variation is the purely random sort that comes with doing a survey (the part that the "margin of error" quantifies), and how hard each organization pushes those who are initially undecided, but a large portion also comes from how they define and select "likely caucus" goers. What makes Iowa different is that the last source of variability. It is bigger and more consequential than for other types of polls. So if we take into account both the closeness of the Democratic race and all sources of potential poll error, we really have no idea who is truly "ahead" at this point in the race. The polls are simply too blunt an instrument, especially given all the uncertainty about who will participate.

So what should we keep in mind when looking at the new polls?

1) The fact that results vary with methodology tells us something important: For the Democrats, the nature of the turnout -- what kinds of voters show up on January 3 -- will likely determine the outcome. We can see the same thing within individual polls. As I noted earlier in the week, the ABC News analysis puts this best.

Applying tighter turnout scenarios can produce anything from a 10-point Obama lead to a 6-point Clinton edge -- evidence of the still-unsettled nature of this contest, two weeks before Iowans gather and caucus. And not only do 33 percent say there's a chance they yet may change their minds, nearly one in five say there's a "good chance" they'll do so

2) Comparisons between apples-and-oranges can be very misleading. Different methodologies can produce different results, so it's a fools errand to directly compare say, yesterday's ARG result to the Post/ABC poll from earlier in the week. Averaging five or six polls at a time can help reduce the purely random variation, but in this instance (to torture the metaphor), it leaves us comparing a basket of apples, oranges and pears from this week to a basket of apples, bananas and grapefruit from the week before that. Put another way, notice the way the last 13 polls have been done by 11 different pollsters. An average of the last six polls has only two pollsters in common (Strategic Vision and Rasmussen) with the seven polls released the previous week.

12-21 thirteen IA polls.png

2) Apples-to-apples comparisons are safer, but unless the race shifts dramatically, they don't tell us much about day-to-day or even week-to-week variation. The table below shows how results from five of this week's polls compare to results from the same organizations conducted in mid-to-late November. It shows a slight average gain (+3%) for Obama, with changes of less than a point for the other candidates. Interesting, but we had too look back nearly a month to get a decent, averaged comparison, and even then the direction of the change is inconsistent across individual polls.

12-21 apples to apples.png

3) Our charts illustrate most of the variation that we can "see." Some readers may be frustrated that the lines do not shift as much as a rolling average, but more often than not, the day-do-day variation is just the "noise" of pollster house effects. If we were looking at a few hundred interviews conducted every night using a constant methodology, we might be able to see more genuine day-to-day variation. Given the data available, however, our lines are showing us about as much of the real variation as we can truly "see" through the methodological clouds.

One caveat on the above, however, is that Professor Franklin can alter the sensitivity of those trend lines to check for any short term shifts that may better fit the data. Requests for another "sensitivity analysis" have filled my email in box over the last few weeks. We have heard you, and we will have another sensitivity analysis later today, and updates next week.

So what do we know? Among Republicans, Mike Huckabee has clearly seen a dramatic increase in support for the last month, and now leads nominally in eight of the last nine polls (the individual margins may not be statistically significant, but the mostly consistent direction tells us that that Huckabee's advantage is most likely real). Still Huckabee's support remains soft and the Republican ad war is turning negative. Things can still change a lot over the next two weeks.

For the Democrats, Obama has gained over the last month, but the latest round of surveys are neither consistent nor powerful enough to tell who would win if the Iowa Caucuses were held today. And obviously, with the race as close as it appears to be, changes over the next two weeks could also prove decisive.

And now the race goes "behind the dark side of the moon," as it were, given the challenges of polling between Christmas and New Year's. I will have more to say about that very soon.


Men Won't "Stand by Hillary?"

Topics: General , Hillary Clinton

[Margie Omero is President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

A Washington Post story on Thursday declared men unwilling to support Hillary Clinton. But much like stories in Slate's compendium of easily-debunked trend pieces across topics, this story uses thin analysis and anecdotal quotes to support its claim. Selected quotes from male voters and opponents' pollsters and a quick wave over some polling data not only leave the question "Will Enough Men Stand By This Woman?" unanswered, I'm left asking, "Why was this question asked?" (Disclosure: I do not currently work for any of the Presidential candidates. Call me!)

Yes, in the Democratic primaries, Clinton does better with women than with men. But does this mean that men don't like her because of her gender? Or could it be that women like her more because of her gender or are moved by her potential First Woman President status? A recent ABC-News/Washington Post poll of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters shows women are twice as likely as men to say Clinton's historic run makes them more likely to vote for her.

Alternatively, Clinton could fare worse among men for an entirely different reason, related more to partisanship than gender. The article alludes to Clinton's popularity among men in the general election, and quotes an independent man going to hear Mitt Romney speak. Given the gender gap in partisan identification (Clinton aside), it is important to compare genders within each party. Naturally Republican-leaning men are going to like Clinton less than do Democratic-leaning women, meaning sexism or a "pushy" personality aren't automatically to blame, as the article implies.

The story also claims that men dislike Clinton because "half of men say she's not willing to say what she really thinks. Large majorities say that Obama and John Edwards are." It's true that in both Iowa and New Hampshire, clear majorities of Democratic Primary voters feel Obama and Edwards are "willing enough to say what they really think about the issues" (78% and 76% for Obama in New Hampshire and Iowa, 71% and 73% for Edwards). Clinton's numbers on this measure are indeed weaker (55% and 50% in New Hampshire and Iowa). Now, we haven't been able to track down the results to this question by gender. But given how much lower her overall numbers are on this question relative to her opponents, it seems to me that Clinton doesn't have a "male problem" as much as a "not seen as saying what she thinks" problem. Whether this is a problem that will translate into votes will be revealed in the next few weeks.


NH: The Gallup "Likely Voter Model" Arrives

Topics: 2008 , Likely Voters , The 2008 Race

One quick note about the new Gallup poll from New Hampshire that we linked to a few moments ago (see Gallup's releases on the Democratic & Republican samples). As the Gallup release indicates, it is based on their well-known but sometimes controversial "likely voter model." That fact alone makes their results different -- and not entirely comparable -- to the other New Hampshire polls we have seen.

To the extent that they have disclosed their methods, the other polls we have reported on typically use some sort of screen: They include self-reported registered voters who indicate some degree of intent to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary. The Gallup model, whether applied here or in a general election, builds on the idea that self-reported intent to participate alone tends to overstate the true turnout. So they use other measures that tend to correlate with turnout, such as attention paid the the campaign, self-reported voting in past elections, and knowledge of the location of their polling place, to narrow the sample to a percentage approximating the likely turnout. The new survey from New Hampshire applies exactly that model.

I emailed Gallup and they kindly provided this detailed document describing the mechanics. The model uses eight questions to build an eight-point scale, on which a score of eight indicates the highest probability of voting. In the current survey, they used the following questions and awarded respondents with one point for every bolded answer below:

1A. Generally speaking, how much interest would you say you have in politics -- a great deal, a fair amount, or only a little?

1B. How often would you say you vote -- always, nearly always, part of the time, or seldom?

1C. Do you happen to know where people who live in your neighborhood go to vote? (Yes or no)

1D. Have you ever voted in the polling place or ward where you now live? (Yes or no)

1E. How much thought have you given to the coming primary election for president 8211 a great deal, a moderate amount, not much, or none at all?

D8. Next, I'd like you to rate your chances of voting in the primary election for president on a scale of ten to one. If '10' represents a person who definitely will vote and '1' represents a person who definitely will not vote, where on this scale of ten to one would you place yourself? (7-10 or 1-6)

D9. Thinking back to the election in November of 2006 when John Lynch ran against Jim Coburn for governor of New Hampshire did things come up that kept you from voting, or did you happen to vote in that election? (Yes or no)

D10. Please tell me whether you, yourself, ever voted in each of the following kinds of elections. How about...

A. A Republican or Democratic primary for president
B. A Republican or Democratic primary for U.S. Senator or Congressman
C. A Republican or Democratic primary for Governor
(A yes on any earns a point).

Because of the built in penalty for those who were not old enough to have voted in previous elections Gallup gives extra points to those age 18-21. They also give an extra point to those who did not live in New Hampshire in 2006 but say they "always" or "nearly always" vote. [Clarification: Since Marc Ambinder quoted this paragraph, it made me (a) notice the typo, now corrected and (b) want to point out that 18-21 year olds get an extra point or two to the degree that they score high on the other questions. The point is that those otherwise earn a perfect likelihood score are not penalized because they were not old enough to have voted before].

I'm oversimplifying a little here (see their description for full details), but Gallup then selects some combination of respondents scoring 6 or higher weighted so that their sample size matches the expected turnout. Here is how Gallup explains their assumptions about New Hampshire turnout:

Turnout has been fairly high in recent primaries, roughly 20-25% of New Hampshire adults have voted in the Democratic primary and 25% have voted in the Republican Primary.
Given the usual incidence in our polls of 40% of New Hampshire adults saying they will vote in the Democratic primary and 40% saying they will vote in the Republican primary, the typical turnout assumptions are that 50%-55% of self-reported Democratic primary voters and 60% of self-reported Republican primary voters should turnout (roughly half of New Hampshire residents). . . Given a higher proportion of Democrats scoring as likely voters this year than in previous years, the expected turnout for Democrats was increased to 60%.

I wrote at great length during the 2004 campaign about the Gallup likely voter model and the shortcomings identified by critics. The short version is that while this model produces a lot of questionable variation when applied months before an election, as well as results that differ from other likely voter models, its track record is strong when applied the the last survey before the election.

The even shorter version: The Gallup model may produce different results than other recent polls in New Hampshire. Debate which model makes the most sense -- and I know you will -- but be careful about comparisons across polls.


POLL: EPIC-MRA Michigan Republican Primary


A new EPIC-MRA statewide survey of 612 likely Republican primary voters in Michigan (conducted 12/16 through 12/19) finds:

  • Former Gov. Mitt Romney runs at 21%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 19%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 12%, Sen. John McCain at 10% in a statewide primary.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is four percent.


POLL: Harris National Primary


A new Harris Interactive online survey of 1,792 adults nationwide (conducted 12/7 through 12/17) finds:

  • Among 552 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (48% to 30%) in a national primary; former Sen. JOhn Edwards trails at 13%, Rep. Dennis Kucinich at 5%.
  • Among 355 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs four statistically insignificant points ahead of former Gov. Mike Huckabee (25% to 21%) in a national primary; former Gov. Mitt ROmney trails at 18%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 16%, Sen. John McCain at 11%, Rep. Ron Paul at 6%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each.


POLL: USA Today/Gallup New Hampshire Primary


A new USA Today/Gallup statewide survey (USA T story, results; Gallup GOP analysis, Dem analysis) of likely voters in New Hampshire (conducted 12/17 through 12/19) finds:

  • Among 477 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads Sen. John McCain (34% to 27%) in a statewide primary; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 11%, former GOv. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Ron Paul at 9%.
  • Among 510 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Barack Obama runs even with Sen. Hillary Clinton (both at 32%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 18%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 8%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error for both subgroups is four percent.

For more information on Gallup's methodology, see Mark Blumenthal's post here.


POLL: SurveyUSA South Carolina Republican Primary


Additional results from the recent SurveyUSA automated survey of 593 likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina (conducted 12/17 through 12/18) finds:

  • When asked to choose among five candidates, former Gov. Mike Huckabee leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (28% to 18%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 16%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 15%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 12%.
  • The margin of sampling error is 4.1% for likely Republican primary voters.


POLL: Strategic Vision (R) Iowa Caucus


A new Strategic Vision (R) statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/16 through 12/18) finds:

  • Among 600 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mike Huckabee leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (31% to 25%) in a statewide caucus; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 16%, Sen. John McCain at 8%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 6%, Rep. Ron Paul at 5%.
  • Among 600 likely Democratic caucus goers, Sen. Barack Obama (at 30%) runs three statistically insignificant points ahead of Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards (both at 27%) in a statewide caucus; Sen. Joe Biden trails at 5%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error for both subgroups is four percent.


POLL: SurveyUSA 7 Statewide GE Match-ups


Seven new SurveyUSA automated surveys of registered voters in New Mexico, Washington State, Oregon, Kansas, Kentucky, Alabama, and Virginia (conducted 12/13 through 12/15) finds:

  • New Mexico (n=523; MoSE 4.4%)

    Clinton 49%, Giuliani 46%
    Clinton 59%, Romney 44%
    Clinton 49%, Huckabee 45%
    McCain 48%, Clinton 45%

    Giuliani 49%, Obama 44%
    Romney 46%, Obama 44%
    Huckabee 46%, Obama 45%
    McCain 51%, Obama 40%
  • Washington State (n=513; MoSE 4.4%)

    Clinton 52%, Giuliani 43%
    Clinton 55%, Romney 41%
    Clinton 54%, Huckabee 41%
    Clinton 49%, McCain 47%

    Obama 55%, Giuliani 38%
    Obama 57%, Romney 35%
    Obama 55%, Huckabee 37%
    Obama 50%, McCain 43%
  • Oregon (n=537; MoSE 4.3%)

    Clinton 50%, Giuliani 42%
    Clinton 51%, Romney 40%
    Clinton 50%, Huckabee 42%
    McCain 46%, Clinton 46%

    Obama 50%, Giuliani 40%
    Obama 50%, Romney 38%
    Obama 51%, Huckabee 40%
    Obama 46%, McCain 44%
  • Kansas (n=529; MoSE 4.3)

    Giuliani 51%, Clinton 39%
    Romney 49%, Clinton 43%
    Huckabee 53%, Clinton 39%
    McCain 58%, Clinton 35%

    Giuliani 52%, Obama 38%
    Romney 44%, Obama 43%
    Huckabee 50%, Obama 41%
    McCain 56%, Obama 36%
  • Kentucky (n=534; MoSE 4.3)

    Clinton 47%, Giuliani 45%
    Clinton 48%, Romney 44%
    Clinton 47%, Huckabee 46%
    McCain 50%, Clinton 44%

    Giuliani 50%, Obama 40%
    Romney 46%, Obama 40%
    Huckabee 51%, Obama 38%
    McCain 53%, Obama 35%
  • Alabama (n=544; MoSE 4.3%)

    Giuliani 49%, CLinton 42%
    Romney 46%, Clinton 45%
    Huckabee 49%, Clinton 44%
    McCain 50%, Clinton 43%

    Giuliani 52%, Obama 36%
    Romney 48%, Obama 39%
    Huckabee 52%, Obama 37%
    McCain 54%, Obama 36%
  • Virginia (n=546; MoSE 4.3)

    Clinton 52%, Giuliani 42%
    Clinton 53%, Romney 40%
    Clinton 54%, Huckabee 40%
    Clinton 48%, McCain 46%

    Obama 48%, Giuliani 45%
    Obama 50%, Romney 43%
    Obama 51%, Huckabee 42%
    McCain 50%, Obama 44%


POLL: FOX National Primary


A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics national survey (story, results) of 900 registered voters (conducted 12/18 through 12/19) finds:

  • Among 379 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (49% to 20%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 10%.
  • Among 315 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs at 20%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. John McCain both at 19%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 11%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 10%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5% for Democrats and 6% for Republicans.


Why Women (Are Assumed to) "Fail to Vote"

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

[Today's Guest Pollster's column comes from Margie Omero, President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

Women's turnout may prove crucial to victory in the upcoming Democratic primaries and caucuses. All the leading campaigns have strong female surrogates, be it Oprah, Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Edwards, or Hillary Clinton's mother, daughter, and of course, there's Hillary herself. Every candidate has a "women for __" committee, and Clinton even has a "Moms for Hillary" group. It makes sense for the campaigns to focus on the issues of interest to women voters. But do women voters require woman-specific tactics to encourage them to actually vote? EMILY's List, the pro-choice women's organization that is the largest PAC in the country, is encouraging women to caucus for Clinton through "You Go Girl," and while aimed at women specifically, it relies on the basics of GOTV: encouraging people to bring someone with them, and explaining the perhaps unfamiliar process of caucusing in Iowa. EMILY's List seems to know something the press has not yet figured out: there are not obstacles to voting that are unique to women.

In previous posts, I used Census data to establish that women are in fact voting more frequently than men, across age and education lines, and also among non-married adults, despite the "Single Anxious Female" moniker. Women have been voting at a higher rate than men in every presidential election since 1980, and in every midterm election since 1986.

But for years, there has been a lopsided amount of coverage about why women, in particular, aren't voting. Some stories cite studies of women only, but make conclusions about women-specific motivations for voting. Some use no data at all. Without comparing both genders' voting behavior, these conclusions are poorly drawn, and reflect biases of their own. Below are three common myths about women's turnout, followed by the facts that bust them.

Myth #1: Women find voting confusing

This story asked why "millions of women still fail to cast ballots." Many women-specific reasons are tossed about-nursing home abuse of "frail women," difficulty changing one's name after marriage, and the worry of domestic violence victims to have their address publicly available. While these are all unfortunate obstacles, they surely can't account for the 36% of adults who did not vote in the last presidential election. And what about that bothersome detail-that women are actually voting at a higher rate than men?

This often-cited finding from a 2006 study of unmarried adults concluded that "Many women on their own find elections complicated." Yet the toplines showed men and women similarly unconfused about the registration and voting process.

Even as far back as 1997, Knight-Ridder ran a story called "Many women don't vote because they lack the time, the information, and the belief elections are relevant to them" (link not available). That story concluded "many women have trouble with even the most basic steps in political participation," citing a poll conducted by pollsters Linda DiVall (R) and Celinda Lake (D). The poll, however, just surveyed women, making it impossible to know whether it is women alone who have trouble with these "basic steps," or non-voters as a whole.

Myth #2: Women find politics confusing

Others claim it is politics that confuses women, not just the voting process, and this confusion leads women to sit out elections. In 2004, an organization called Women Against Bush garnered national press through a "cocktail campaign" and yoga parties to organize the non-voting single woman, who allegedly believe "they have to be an expert to offer an opinion-something that has never stopped men"

Even studies that do show some women to find politics confusing still don't confirm this translates into a difference in turnout. The same 2006 study of unmarried adults noted above showed unmarried women more likely than unmarried men to agree that "Sometimes politics and elections seem so complicated I cannot really understand what's going on" (70% of unmarried women; 59% of unmarried men). However, the women in this survey were also far more likely to report having voted in 2004 (82% women, 76% men), in 2002 (66% women, 59% men), and said they were certain to vote in 2006 (53% women, 45% men).

Myth #3: Politics is a turn-off for women

Another assumption made about women and politics is that they find it too distasteful to participate, or feel so alienated from it that they simply can't relate. In 2004, the daughters of both the Republican and Democratic candidates for President and Vice President came together for a discussion called "The Missing Vote" to lament young women's lack of participation (never mind that they vote at a higher rate than younger men). One of the daughters hypothesized about the missing vote, "I think that women feel less secure in their economic status."

Another story pointed to a few anecdotal quotes in this Los Angeles Times story to show that "scores" (doesn't a score = twenty?) of women "are so turned off by politics that they are failing to vote." And this study concluded that unmarried women to have "a deep-seated level of cynicism towards the government and political system."

Fact #1: There Are Few Gender Differences In Reasons For Not Registering Or Voting

Thankfully, the Census can help clear these myths up. It turns out that there are hardly any differences across gender in apathy or disinterest in voting. The table below shows reasons for not registering and for not voting (among those who are registered), broken out by gender.

reasonsfornotregistering.png

For starters, there are not many large gender differences in any of the reasons for not registering or voting, aside from women being more likely to report illness or disability, and men more likely be too busy or out of town. But the most common reason for not registering, "not interested in the election or not involved in politics," is just as common among men (46.7%) as among women (46.5%). When it comes to political excuses (highlighted in yellow), such as lack of interest, and feeling one's vote would not make a difference, there are actually no sizable gender differences. The slight (1.4) difference between men and women reporting that they did not know how to register to vote surely does not justify over a decade of hand-wringing about women not knowing "the basic steps" of participation.

Fact #2: Women Are More Positive Than Men About Politics And Government

The research is also fairly consistent in showing women to feel less negative about their government than men. Pew has shown women just as likely as men to show interest in following local politics. And in 1999, Pew also showed women more likely than men to say "voting gives me a say in how my government is run," and "most elected officials care what I think."

Even some of the same studies that perpetuate these myths about women's (particularly unmarried women's) turnout also confirm Fact #2. This study showed unmarried women more likely than their male counterparts to be proud to be an American, and slightly more optimistic about whether the government represents them. Similarly, this study showed unmarried men somewhat more likely to say their vote didn't matter.

So before we declare women unable or uninterested in voting, we should look at the facts. It's not that there aren't women who find voting or politics confusing or off-putting; but the evidence that women feel this way more than men is inconsistent, at best. It's unclear to me why it helps women to suggest they are uniquely challenged by voting. Crying wolf cycle after cycle has made the press very quick to write the "women don't like politics" story, as pointed out here. Candidates (at least on the Democratic side) are putting a lot of thought into how to talk to women voters. Pollsters, pundits, and journalists should put as much thought into talking about women voters.


POLL: ARG Iowa, New Hampshire


Two new American Research Group statewide surveys of likely primary voters/caucus goers in Iowa and New Hampshire (conducted 12/16 through 12/19) finds:

  • Among 600 likely Democratic caucus goers in Iowa, Sen Hillary Clinton runs at 29%, Sen. Barack Obama at 25%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 18% in a statewide caucus; Sen. Joe Biden trails at 8%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 7%. Among 600 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mike Huckabee leads Sen. John McCain (28% to 20%) in a statewide caucus; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 17%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 14%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 5%.
  • Among 600 likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, Clinton leads Obama (38% to 24%) in a statewide primary; Edwards trails at 15%, Richardson at 5%. Among 600 likely Republican primary voters, McCain and Romney (tied at 26%) lead Giuliani (16%); Huckabee trails at 11%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margins of sampling error for each subgroup is 4%.


POLL: Quinnipiac Florida Primary


A new Quinnipiac University statewide survey of likely primary voters in Florida (conducted 12/12 through 12/18) finds:

  • Among 397 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (43% to 21%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 19%.
  • Among 397 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Gov. Mike Huckabee (28% to 21%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 20%, Sen. John McCain at 13%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 8%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4.9% for likely Democratic primary voters and likely Republican primary voters.


POLL: Field CA GOP Primary


A new Field Research statewide survey of 322 likely Republican primary voters in California (conducted 12/10 through 12/17) finds:

  • Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Gov. Mike Huckabee (25% to 17%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 15%, Sen. John McCain at 12%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 6%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5.7% for likely Republican primary voters.


POLL: GWU Battleground National Primary


A new GWU Battleground Poll (results; Republican analysis, Democratic analysis) of 1,000 likely voters nationwide (conducted 12/9 through 12/12 by The Tarrance Group (R) and Lake Research Partners (D) ) finds:

  • Among likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mike Huckabee (at 24%) and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 22%) leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (16%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 15%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 9%, Rep. Ron Paul at 6%.
  • Among likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (47% to 23%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. Samples sizes and margins of sampling error were not released.


POLL: CNN Iowa Caucus


A new CNN/Opinion Research statewide survey (story, results) of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/14 through 12/18) finds:

  • Among 359 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mike Huckabee leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (33% to 25%) in a statewide caucus; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 11%, Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson both at 9%, Rep. Ron Paul at 6%.
  • Among 543 likely Democratic caucus goers, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 30%, Sen. Barack Obama at 28%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 26% in a statewide caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson trails at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5% for likely Republican caucus goers and 4% for likely Democratic caucus goers.


POLL: ARG Bush Approval


A new American Research Group national survey of 1,100 adults (conducted 12/16 through 12/19) finds 32% approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as president while 66% disapprove.


POLL: SurveyUSA South Carolina Dem Primary


A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 496 likely Democratic primary voters in South Carolina (conducted 12/17 through 12/18) finds:

  • When asked to choose among three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 41%, Sen. Barack Obama at 39%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 17% in a statewide primary.
  • The margin of sampling error is 4.5% for likely Democratic primary voters.


POLL: CBS South Carolina Primary


A new CBS News statewide survey (story, GOP results, Dem results) of likely primary voters in South Carolina (conducted 12/13 through 12/17) finds:

  • Among 447 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mike Huckabee leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (28% to 20%) in a statewide primary; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 12%, Sen. John McCain at 11%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 10%.
  • Among 559 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Barack Obama runs at 35%, Sen. Hillary Clinton at 34%*, and former Sen. John Edwards 13% in a statewide primary.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5% for likely Republican primary voters and 4% for likely Democratic primary voters.


POLL: NBC/WSJ National Survey


A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal national survey (NBC story, results; Journal story, results) of 1,008 adults (conducted 12/14 through 12/17) finds:

  • Among Democrats and those who lean Democratic, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (45% to 23%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%.
  • Among Republicans and those who lean Republican, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs even with former Gov. Mitt Romney (both at 20%) in a national primary; former Gov. Mike Huckabee runs at 17%, Sen. John McCain at 14%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 11%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. Sample sizes and margins of error for both subgroups were not released.


ABC Report on the Strange Iowa Calls

Topics: 2008 , Push "Polls" , The 2008 Race

Via The Page, ABC's Brian Ross and Avi Patel have a report on more strange calls in Iowa asking mostly negative "message testing" questions about the Democratic presidential candidates. They even managed to get a tape recording. It's worth reading (and listening to) in full, but here is the lead:

Iowa Democrats are being hit with a new round of "opinion poll" calls this week that stress negative qualities of Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama and praise John Edwards as a man who "has spent his life fighting powerful interests."

The calls come from operators who say they are "out of state" and are conducting an opinion poll for a "research company."

Ross and Patel call it a classic "push poll" fraud, but that conclusion is not evident from the questions themselves. It is not clear from the story, for example, whether the calls included demographic questions or other items that are typical of a longer "message testing" survey. Either way, the mystery continues.

The verbatim questions in the ABC report bear a strong resemblance to calls reported by Politico's Ben Smith and a HuffingtonPost OfTheBus poll project respondent last week. Consider the following question transcribed verbatim from the ABC call:

Question #7: Barack Obama has taken over $12 million from the financial industry and its lobbyists. In the Senate, he was one of the only 15 Democrats who supported the financial industry by allowing predatory lenders to target (unintelligible and the poor by charging unlimited interest on their credit cards and loans. Is this very concerning, somewhat, not so concerning or not at all concerning?

Now compare it to this question reported by Ben Smith's correspondent:

Barack Obama has taken over $12 million from lobbyists and other special interests since his time in the Illinois legislature. Does Barack Obama taking money from lobbyists and special interests trouble you?

And compare again to this question reported by the OffTheBus respondent:

[Asked] If I knew that Barack Obama (pronounced incorrect! I had to instruct the interviewer how to pronounce his name!!) took over 12 million from the financial industries and voted to allow credit card companies to raise interest rates as high as they wanted to, would that affect my opinion of him?

I will yield to anyone with better Googling skills who can find a reference, but when I search on "Obama '12 million' lobbyist," I get nothing similar to the attack above other than my own blog report last week. As such, it seems reasonable to conclude that these calls are coming from the same source.

I am curious (if anyone at ABC News is reading), whether the call included any other questions during the course of the interview, either demographic questions or more standard survey questions.

Developing? We'll see.

PS: One more thing. Commenter "In Iowa" leaves this this tantalizing report on the ABC story:

I got this call a couple of days ago. Recognizing it for what it was, I asked the caller who was conducting the survey. According to them, they work for a telemarketing firm in Ohio called "Influent", and they refused to say who was paying them to do the calls. They say they work for anyone that pays them without regard to political party. They stated that they were not required by law to tell me who was financing the call.

If this comment is legitimate (and we always be careful about trusting anonymous comments), it might connect these calls to the ones Ben Smith traced last month to the same company (Influent). Those calls asked if respondents would still support John Edwards after learning that, as one respondent remembered, "he chose to continue the presidential campaign instead of staying home with his wife who has cancer."


The Insider Advantage Crosstabs

Topics: 2008 , Divergent Polls , Likely Voters , Pollsters , The 2008 Race

For today's puzzle, we have two new polls in Iowa, one from the ABC News/Washington Post partnership and another from the public relations firm InsiderAdvantage. The ABC/Post poll shows both Obama (at 33%) and Clinton (at 29%) significantly ahead of John Edwards (at 20%). The InsiderAdvantage survey -- or at least the result they chose to lead with -- shows that John Edwards (with 30%) has "leapfrogged ahead" of Clinton (26%) and Obama (24%). As our friends at NBC's First Read note, conflicting results like these make it "hard to know what's right or wrong."

Before digging deeper, it is worth highlighting this point from the ABC story:

Applying tighter turnout scenarios can produce anything from a 10-point Obama lead to a 6-point Clinton edge -- evidence of the still-unsettled nature of this contest, two weeks before Iowans gather and caucus. And not only do 33 percent say there's a chance they yet may change their minds, nearly one in five say there's a "good chance" they'll do so.

However, I want to pass along some problematic details on the recent InsiderAdvantage polls. One issue is that InsiderAdvantage sometimes conducts surveys using live interviewers, sometimes using an automated interactive voice response (IVR) method (in which respondents answer by pressing buttons on their touch tone phones) and almost never specifying which method they use in their public releases. In this case, I checked with InsiderAdvantage and they confirm that the latest Iowa surveys were done with the automated IVR method.

The second problem is potentially bigger. InsiderAdvantage typically emails us a few pages of cross-tabulations that we have sometimes posted to the site, but which they rarely post to their own site. We did not receive those crosstabulations for today's survey, perhaps because of the story I am about to share. The site RealClearPolitics has posted a more limited version for the Republican and Democratic results.

Take a look at the Democratic tab, and if you look closely, you'll see the problem: According to the crosstabs, Barack Obama gets 19.6% of the vote from men, 17.8% from women but 24.3% from all voters. Needless to say, that result is impossible, especially since they report 392 interviews conducted among men, 585 interviews among women and 977 overall (and since 392+585=977).**

We had posted the crosstabs for the InsiderAdvantage poll of Republicans in South Carolina earlier this month, but pulled them back when a reader noticed similar inconsistencies (for this posting, we have put the Democratic and Republican crosstabs back up on our server). The story of what happens next should give pause to anyone wondering how much faith to put in their surveys.

I emailed InsiderAdvantage to say that "something seems amiss" in their tabs. Mistakes happen, and I assumed I was simply reporting an error in the cross-tabulations that they would want to correct. Instead, I got some curious replies. I heard first from Matt Towery, the public face of InsiderAdvantage. He referred me to the statistician who weights their data and then offered this explanation:

We have produced many a poll that showed the male female column not seeming to "fit" with the totals. But as [the person who weights the data] will explain, the other weights applied cause the numbers to appear to "disagree" with the male female column. I can only tell you that we've used the same weighting system for going on ten years and it has rarely failed us.

Next, I heard from Gary Reese, an analyst at InsiderAdvantage, who shared his "guess" that "because of gender and age and race weightings, that may make individual cross-tabs read slightly off." The person that weights the data was not available, Reese wrote, but he would check with him and get back to me. The next day, Reese replied with a confirmation:

Was as I wrote yesterday. Multiple weightings of various demographics skew individual weightings that they don't necessarily add up to match the top line.

Now here I have to interject: I too have weighted data for many years, and this explanation is simply wrong. Either the data are weighted consistently (in a process that changes the "weight" given each respondent when the data are tabulated) or they are not. If cross-tabulations are based on weighted data, then the results in subgroups (men, women, etc) should be internally consistent with the total.

They gave me a number for the statistician that weights the data. I called, but heard nothing back, then got caught up in our office move and other more pressing stories. I finally heard back yesterday from Jeff Shusterman, the president of Majority Opinion Research (the company that conducts the InsiderAdvantage surveys) and he confirmed what should have been obvious to Towery and Reese: Only the total column in their crosstabs is weighted. Thus, for reasons that still perplex me, they choose to leave the columns for subgroups unweighted.

Before posting this item, I went back to Towery and Shusterman and asked for an explanation of the purpose of releasing weighted values for all respondents, but unweighted results for subgroups. Here is Shusterman's answer:

The purpose of the InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion polls are to provide a snapshot for major media outlets of the race at the time of polling and, as the election day approaches, to accurately predict the outcome of the election for which we have a substantial record of success. This snapshot and eventual prediction are contained in the total column of the cross-tabulations, which is accurately weighted. By contrast, our polls are not conducted to advise campaigns or to provide interesting subtext for academics or bloggers, so we do not weight or place emphasis on the other banner points.

If that's the case, I am not sure I understand why they choose to run "inaccurate" cross-tabulations at all, much less send them to us and to RealClearPolitics. Readers ought to take all of the this "interesting subtext" into account when trying to decide which polls to rely on (and we will save for another day the issue of what weighting up subgroups by factors of three or more does to the reported "margin of error").

Back to the issue of the conflicting results from Iowa. As we have reported, pollsters in Iowa have taken many different approaches to defining likely voters. The ABC News/Washington Post surveys have at least disclosed the demographics of their likely caucus-goers and the methods used to select them. InsiderAdvantage has not. Without more of these details, it is hard to do much more than speculate and pass on the good advice from First Read:

Look at the trends of the pollsters who have surveyed the state for multiple cycles, and be careful of pollsters who haven't polled Iowa before.

**Update: Several commenters are fixated on the footnoted paragraph above but appear to have paid little attention to the rest of this post. So to be clear: The contradictory results are "impossible" only if all of the crosstabs columns were weighted consistently, which they obviously were not. The results are also "impossible" in terms of the reality the data are supposed to represent, and that is the point. If you are ready to weight all Democratic voters to 48% black, then it makes no sense to release results for the same survey by gender where men are 10.9% black and women are 18.4% black.


POLL: ABC/POST Iowa GOP Caucus


Additional results from the recent ABC News/Washington Post statewide survey (ABC story, results; Post story, results) of likely primary voters in Iowa (conducted 12/13 through 12/17) finds:

  • Among 501 likely Republican primary voters, Former Gov. Mike Huckabee leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (35% to 27%) in a statewide caucus; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 9%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Ron Paul both at 8%, Sen. John McCain at 6%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4.5%.


POLL: Rasmussen Iowa Democratic Caucus


Additional results to the recent Rasmussen Reports automated survey of 775 likely Democratic caucus participants in Iowa (conducted 12/17) finds:

  • In a statewide caucus; Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 31%, Sen. Barack Obama at 27%, former Sen. John Edwards at 22%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 9%, Sen. Joe Biden at 5%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4%.


POLL: Rasmussen IA GOP, NH Primary


Two new Rasmussen Reports automated surveys of likely primary voters/caucus participants in Iowa and New Hampshire (Iowa conducted 12/17, New Hampshire conducted 12/18) finds:

  • Among 496 likely Republican caucus participants in Iowa, former Gov. Mike Huckabee runs at 28%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 27%, Sen. John McCain at 14%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Sen. Fred Thompson both at 8%, Rep. Ron Paul at 6%.
  • Among an unknown number of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, Romney runs at 31%, McCain at 27%, Giuliani at 13%, Huckabee at 11%, Paul at 7%.
  • Among 791 likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 31%, Sen. Barack Obama at 28%, former Sen. John Edwards at 18%, former Gov. Bill Richardson at 8%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4% for Republican caucus participants in Iowa, 3% for likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, and 4% for likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire.


POLL: SurveyUSA Florida Dem Primary


Additional results from the recent SurveyUSA automated survey of 495 likely Democratic primary voters in Florida (conducted 12/15 through 12/16) finds:

  • When asked to choose among three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (53% to 21%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 19%.
  • The margin of sampling error is 4.5%.


POLL: Reuters/Zogby National Primary


A new Reuters/Zogby national survey of likely primary voters (conducted 12/12 through 12/14) finds:

  • Among 432 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edges out former Gov. Mike Huckabee (23% to 22%) in a national primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 16%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 13%, Sen. John McCain at 12%.
  • Among 436 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (40% to 32%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4.8% for likely Republican primary voters and likely Democratic primary voters.


POLL: Field CA Dem Primary


A new Field Research statewide survey (story, results) of likely primary voters in California (conducted 12/10 through 12/17) finds:

  • Among 457 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (36% to 22%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%. Since October, Clinton's lead over Obama has "declined" from 25 points to 14 points.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4.7% for likely Democratic primary voters.


POLL: ABC/Post Iowa Dem Caucus


A new ABC News/Washington Post statewide survey (ABC story, results; Post story, results) of 652 likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa (conducted 12/13 through 12/17) finds:

  • Sen. Barack Obama narrowly leads Sen. Hillary Clinton (33% to 29%) in a statewide caucus; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 20%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 8%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is four percent.


POLL: CNN/WMUR/UNH New Hampshire Primary


A new CNN/WMUR/UNH statewide survey (CNN story, WMUR story, Dem results, Rep results) of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 12/13 through 12/17) finds:

  • Among 469 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (38% to 26%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 14%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 8%.
  • Among 407 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads Sen. John McCain (34% to 22%) in a statewide primary; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 16%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 10%, Rep. Ron Paul at 5%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is five percent for both likely Republican primary voters and likely Democratic primary voters.


"Electability" Surge or Order Effect?

Topics: 2008 , Measurement , The 2008 Race

Did the order of questions help create the result that led this morning's story by Susan Page about the new USA Today/Gallup poll? That possibility is worth considering, at least. Here is the headline and relevant text :

Poll: Electability key among Democrats

WASHINGTON — Democratic voters increasingly are focused on nominating the most electable presidential candidate, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama fares better than New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton against prospective Republican rivals...

[snip]

In a shift, Democratic voters are almost evenly divided between those who want a nominee who agrees with them on almost all issues and those who want one with the best chance of beating the Republican. Last month, they preferred an ideological match by 3-2.

The full text of the "electability" question is as follows:

5. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party) Which type of candidate would you prefer to see the Democrats nominate for president in 2008; a candidate who agrees with you on almost all of the issues you care about but does not have the best chance of beating the Republican, (or) a candidate who has the best chance of beating the Republican, but who does not agree with you on almost all of the issues you care about?

In November, Democrats preferred the better-on-the-issues candidate by a 58% to 36% margin, but that margin faded considerably (49% to 45%) on the survey conducted this week.

One concern I have with this sort of measure is that is forces a choice that most real voters have not considered (or at least, have not considered in those terms). Consider this question from the just released Diageo/Hotline survey on which "winning the general election" ranks last:

I'm going to read you a list of traits people might look for in a presidential candidate. Please tell me which candidate for president to have? [Result among Democrats/Democratic leaners]

50% Will lead the country in a new direction
22% Has the experience necessary to be president
17% Is an inspirational leader
4% Has the best chance of winning the general election
11% (All of the above/none/not sure)

At very least, the Diageo/Hotline results provide different perspective on just how important "electability" is to Democrats nationally. However, they do not explain why preference for the electable candidate went up by nine points in a month on the USA Today/Gallup question. For that we need to consider question order.

In both the November and December Gallup surveys, the issues-vs-electability question was preceded by presidential candidate favorable ratings and (for Democrats) a trial-heat question featuring the entire Democratic field and another featuring just Clinton and Obama. In November, the issues-vs-electability question immediately followed the Obama-Clinton matchup, but in the survey this week, a new question came in between:

4. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party) If you had to choose, would you rather see the Democrats nominate someone for president in 2008 who is very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal, (or) very liberal?

30% liberal/very liberal
48% moderate
19% conservative/very conservative

Could a question tossing out the terms "liberal" and "conservative" -- particularly given that two-thirds of Democrats say they prefer a "moderate" or "conservative" candidate -- have primed the importance of selecting a candidate with "the best chance of beating the Republican" enough to increase preference for such a candidate? I submit that it may have done just that. The fact that preference for a "liberal" candidate is six points lower than the percentage of Democrats that consider themselves "liberal" provides some support for that argument.

As always, we cannot know for certain without a "split sample" experiment that tests both versions (with and without the ideological preference preceding the "issues-vs-electability" question) on the same survey. However, we ought to consider the possibility that the apparent surge in desire for an electable candidate among Democrats is just a question order effect.


POLL: SurveyUSA OH/MO/WI/MN General Election Match-ups


Four new SurveyUSA automated surveys testing general election match-ups for President among registered voters (conducted 12/13 through 12/15) finds:

    Minnesota (n=556):

    Clinton 51%, McCain 42%
    Clinton 53%, Huckabee 41%
    Clinton 53%, Giuliani 40%
    Clinton 58%, Romney 36%

    McCain 50%, Obama 41%
    Giuliani 48%, Obama 44%
    Obama 47%, Huckabee 42%
    Obama 48%, Romney 42%
    Wisconsin (n=542):

    McCain 49%, Clinton 42%
    Clinton 45%, Giuliani 42%
    Clinton 47%, Romney 42%
    Clinton 49%, Huckabee 40%

    Obama 46%, McCain 44%**
    Obama 48%, Giuliani 40%
    Obama 52%, Huckabee 36%
    Obama 53%, Romney 35%
    Ohio (n=539):

    McCain 45%, Clinton 45%
    Clinton 49%, Giuliani 40%
    Clinton 51%, Romney 40%
    Clinton 51%, Huckabee 39%

    McCain 47%, Obama 38%
    Giuliani 46%, Obama 40%
    Obama 43%, Romney 42%
    Obama 43%, Huckabee 42%
    Missouri (n=547):

    Clinton 49%, Huckabee 47%
    Clinton 49%, Giuliani 43%
    Clinton 50%, McCain 46%
    Clinton 51%, Romney 41%

    Huckabee 47%, Obama 45%
    Obama 47%, McCain 44%
    Obama 47%, Giuliani 42%
    Obama 49%, Romney 39%

**Typo corrected.


POLL: Diageo/Hotline National Survey


A new Diageo/Hotline national survey of 812 registered voters (conducted 12/10 through 12/14) finds:

  • Among 336 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton narrowly leads Sen. Barack Obama (35% to 30%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 14%.
  • Among 291 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edges out former Gov. Mike Huckabee (21% to 17%) in a national primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 13%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 11%, Sen. John McCain at 10%, Rep. Ron Paul at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5.3% for likely Democratic primary voters and 5.7% for likely Republican primary voters.


POLL: Strategic Vision (R) Florida Primary


A new Strategic Vision (R) statewide survey of likely primary voters in Florida (conducted 12/14 through 12/16) finds:

  • Among likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (48% to 31%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 6%.
  • Among likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani runs slightly ahead of former Gov. Mike Huckabee (25% to 21%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 15%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 13%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 10%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. Sample sizes and margins of sampling error were not released for likely Democratic primary voters and likely Republican primary voters.

Full results will be available this evening.


POLL: SurveyUSA Iowa GEs


A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 539 registered voters in Iowa (conducted 12/13 through 12/15) finds:

General Election Match-ups for President:

    McCain 46%, Clinton 45%
    Clinton 46%, Huckabee 45%
    Clinton 48%, Romney 45%
    Clinton 47%, Giuliani 42%

    Obama 51%, Romney 39%
    Obama 51%, McCain 39%
    Obama 52%, Huckabee 39%
    Obama 55%, Giuliani 36%


POLL: SurveyUSA Florida, California Primaries


Two new SurveyUSA automated survesy of likely voters in Florida and California finds:

  • Among 431 likely Republican voters in Florida asked to choose between five candidates, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani narrowly leads former Gov. Mike Huckabee (29% to 24%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 20%, Sen. John McCain at 10%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 6% (conducted 12/15 through 12/16).
  • Among 497 likely Republican primary voters in California asked to choose between five candidates, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Gov. Mike Huckabee (28% to 20%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 16%, Sen. John McCain at 14%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 13% (conducted 12/14 through 12/16).
  • Among 741 likely Democratic primary voters in California asked to choose between three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (49% to 30%) in a statewide primary, former Sen. John Edwards trails at 5% (conducted 12/14 through 12/16).
  • The margin of sampling error is 4.8 for likely Republican voters in Florida, 4.5% for likely Republican primary voters in California, and 3.7% for likely Democratic primary voters in California.


Outliers for 12-17

Topics: 2008 , Exit Polls , The 2008 Race

Roger Simon has a must-read review of the Iowa entrance poll planned by the networks.

Mickey Kaus would rather they didn't.

The Caucus graphs the television advertising totals from Iowa and New Hampshire through November (via Martin).

Evan Tracey reports the first $1 million day in television ad spending.

Michael Whitney has yet more on the efforts by the Clinton campaign to surveys its donors online.

The Wall Street Journal's Kaufman and Bauerlein see an "unexpected ripple effect" of Barack Obama's improving poll standing on his standing among African Americans nationally.

Steve Kornacki explores the parallels between the Democratic race in 2008 and the Mondale-Hart race in 1984 (via Smith).

Jim Geraghty wonders what happened to the New Hampshire Attorney General's push-poll investigation.

David Hill thinks Mike Huckabee might just be that "new person" that voters tell pollsters they are looking for.

Anthony Salvanto considers whether "all the polling done" in Iowa may be helping drive up Huckabee's numbers nationally.

Mark Mellman thinks Rudy Giuliani can still win the nomination, with Huckabee's help.


POLL: Chicago Tribune Illinois Primary


A new Chicago Tribune/WGN statewide survey of likely primary voters in Illinois (conducted 12/9 through 12/13) finds:

  • Among 500 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani edges out former Gov. Mike Huckabee (23% to 21%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 14%, Sen. John McCain at 12%, Former Sen. Fred Thompson at 11%.
  • Among 500 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Barack Obama leads Sen. Hillary Clinton (50% to 25) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4.4% for likely Republican primary voters and likely Democratic primary voters.


Re: Disclosure Project: Results from Iowa

Topics: 2008 , Disclosure , Divergent Polls , Iowa , The 2008 Race

Last week's Disclosure Project report produced two good questions worthy of follow-up.

Q: Given then almost complete lack of overlap in the way pollsters are defining likely caucus goers, how useful are poll averages?

Good question. Averaging polls with differing methodologies is always a bit risky if those differences affect the results in a big way. Simple averages of the most recent polls can get distorted when one "outlier" value enters the average. That's one reason why we have greater confidence in our regression trend lines. Because they draw on all of the available data rather than just a handful of recent polls, they are less likely to be thrown off by a single odd value. But the Iowa example is a tough example because, as the reader understands, the selected "likely voter" universes are so different, and because those difference affect the results.

It may be helpful to think of this process like a game of darts. Suppose twenty people all threw darts at a bullseye. Some throws would be more accurate, some less so. If we imagine that we could see only where the darts landed (but not the target) and then picked the center-point in the pattern misses, that point would probably be pretty close to the bullseye.

In a sense -- and like all metaphors, this one is imperfect -- that's why poll averaging works. When all of the pollsters are aiming for roughly the same target (or the same universe of "likely voters"), the average of their efforts typically gets us closer to reality than any one poll, largely because of the inherent random variability that affects individual surveys.

But what if those "throwing the darts" can't see the target and are guessing at its location? What if some aim carefully while others throw carelessly? What if some players guess at the target by looking at the throws made by other players? In that case, the mid-point of the various throws may be off completely.

And that is the fear with polling in Iowa. If the average of the pollsters guesses about the size and characteristics of the likely caucus-goers is about right -- even with all the obvious variation -- then averages or trend lines based on the combined results will get us closer to reality than the individual polls. However, if the consensus "best guess" about the pool of likely caucus goers is way off, than we may be in for a big surprise on January 3.

Q: So, as a close reader of the polls, where do you think the Democratic race in Iowa stands today?

This is a tougher question, but obviously the one that everyone is asking.

The safest thing we can say is that polling in Iowa represents too blunt an instrument to tell is with any precision who would be ahead if the caucuses were held today. This has less to do with the statistical "margin of sampling error," than with both the wide divergence in likely caucus goers and the practical difficulties of modeling the caucus process. But let's look more closely at the results.

12-16 Iowa.png

Our chart for the Democrats, which draws a regression line through the cloud of results, currently shows Obama with an estimated 28.2%, Clinton with 26.7%, Edwards with 22.7% and other candidates running far behind. This result represents the rough consensus of all the polls, drawing on both recent results and the apparent trend over the course of the year. But a look at the range of results for each candidate on the chart, or in the table below, shows considerable variation in the margin between Obama, Clinton and Edwards.

12-17 Iowa Dem chart.png

Three recent polls released since December 1-- by Research2000, Strategic Vision and Newsweek -- show margins in Barack Obama's favor of 9, 8 and 6 percentage points each over Hillary Clinton (though only the Research2000 result is large enough to be statistically significant in its own right, assuming a 95% confidence level). Four other surveys conducted during the same period -- by Diageo/Hotline, RasmussenReports, Mason Dixon/MSNBC/McClatchy and Zogby -- show either an exact tie or Clinton ahead by 2-3 statistically insignificant points.

Does methodology explain the apparent divergence in these results? Perhaps. Newsweek's sample represents a greater than average number of Iowa's adults (24%) than most of the other polls that disclosed their Iowa methodologies. However, both Research2000 and Strategic Vision have failed to disclose comparable details about their methodologies, so we cannot be certain. It is entirely possible that these three sampled a broader slice of the Iowa population than the other pollsters.

If so, these results are generally consistent with what cross-tabulations show within individual surveys: Obama should do better the more the samples include younger voters, first-time caucus goers and independents.

So what do we make of this? The three frontrunner campaigns can all make a reasonable case why polls have been systematically under-representing their true caucus night strength. Obama supporters argue that polls aiming to replicate past turnout are missing their younger, first-time supporters. Clinton and Edwards supporters arguing just the opposite, that polls are including too many younger, independent voters than have voted in past caucuses. The Edwards campaigns also argues that given the 15% threshold requirement to win delegates, its organizational advantage and supposed strength in rural Iowa will add 2-3 points to the actual results as compared to his poll standing.

If I had to guess, I would say there is some truth to all three arguments, and that they may effectively cancel each other out. So even if the pollsters are far apart in their individual "models" of the likely electorate, their collective average may be close to reality, and the overall average suggesting a very close race is probably right.

But it may not be. It is always possible that they are all (or mostly) aiming at the wrong target, a possibility that makes this entire exercise so terrifying to pollsters and so interesting to everyone else.


POLL: USA Today/Gallup '08 Primary


A new USA Today/Gallup national survey (USA Today story, Dem results, Rep results; Gallup analysis) of adults (conducted 12/14 through 12/16) finds:

  • Among 399 Republicans and those who lean Republican, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Gov. Mike Huckabee (27% to 16%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain, former Sen. Fred Thompson, and former Gov. Mitt Romney both trail at 14%.
  • Among 513 Democrats and those who lean Democratic, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (45% to 27%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trials at 15%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5% for Republicans and Republican leaners and for Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Updates with links.


POLL: Quinnipiac New York Primary


A new Quinnipiac University statewide survey of 1,083 registered voters in New York State (conducted 12/4 through 12/10) finds:

  • Among 335 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Gov. Mike Huckabee (34% to 12%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 11%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 7%, former Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul both at 5%.
  • Among 461 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (55% to 17%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5.4% for registered Republicans and 4.6% for registered Democrats.


 

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