June 15, 2008 - June 21, 2008


Radio Daze "Outliers"

Topics: Clinton , George Bush , National Journal

Carl Bialik reveals the mysterious methodology of America's most familiar poll.

Kathy Frankovic asks...what's the right age for a President?

Frank Newport compares George Bush and Richard Nixon.

Jennifer Agiesta sees a rebound in Hillary Clinton's ratings.

PPP teases a Michigan poll.

And few personal updates:

First, blogging time was light today because of two radio interviews. I taped a segment with NPR's Scott Simon on tomorrow's Weekday Edition Saturday. They tell me it's likely to air sometime between 8 and 8:30 am Eastern time.

I was also part of the National Journal On Air program on XM Radio's POTUS '08 channel. It aired earlier this afternoon, but audio should be posted here on NationalJournal.com.

I'll also be attending the Personal Democracy Forum in New York next week. If you're there, I will be part of the "Idea Market" on Tuesday afternoon. Hope to see you!

POLL: Newsweek National


National (6/18-19)
Obama 51, McCain 36

A "Flaw" in the Iowa Poll?

Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , John McCain , Pollsters , Sampling Error , SurveyUSA

Earlier today, commenter "axt113" noticed what he or she described as a "flaw" in the just released Iowa poll from SurveyUSA: "It has McCain winning the AA vote 55% to 45." I was distracted and nearly let it pass, but then our friend Ben Smith blogged a similar though subsequently hedged comment:

I'm sure it's a very small sample -- this is a poll of Iowa -- but it does raise the red flag when a survey shows Obama losing African-Americans to McCain.

UPDATE: I should have been clearer. It raises a red flag about the poll. Though really, it's mostly just another reason not to read the cross-tabs when they involve tiny, perhaps single-digit, samples.

The problem, which Ben alludes to, is that the weighted value of the African-American subgroup in the Iowa poll is just 2%. If we assume (for the moment) that the black respondents had a weight of 1.0, then those African-American results are based on a sample of 8-12 respondents. Pollsters typically have to weight up the African-American percentage in national surveys, since the black population is typically clustered in urban centers where response rates are lower (causing a non-response bias that needs to be corrected with weighting). I have no idea if such an adjustment would be necessary in Iowa, but if so, it would make that tiny subgroup even tinier.

I won't even bother to try to calculate the "margin of error" for 10 respondents. Some statisticians believe that the assumptions of the formulas break down at that level, rendering the calculations largely meaningless. For that reason, Many pollsters -- including every firm I've ever worked for -- have a policy of never releasing crosstabs to a client with a crosstab of less than 100 or less than 50 interviews (or whatever number they feel comfortable with).

Does the fact that 10 interviews produced a screwy result indicate a flawed poll? Not at all. That's the point of random sampling. The more interviews you do, the less error you get. Pull out any subgroup of 10 and you're bound to see very screwy and utterly "random" results. The larger the sample gets, the more those screwy (and offsetting) results cancel out.

If anything is flawed, it is arguably the practice of releasing cross-tab results based on such a small subgroup, though in fairness there are trade-offs here. SurveyUSA, has a mostly standard set of crosstabs that are sometimes very tiny. They do this (I assume) partly because it simplifies their programming tasks and partly because their format includes "row percents" that tell us about the weighted value of their standard demographics measures (race, age, gender, party). In other words, people like me badger pollsters to tell us the demographic composition of their samples. By including smaller subgroups in their standard table, SurveyUSA provides an answer as standard procedure.

Having said all that, Mike_in_CA raises a different but very good question regarding this Iowa poll:

[W]hy would SUSA poll Iowa right now, in the midst of catastrophic flooding? One has to wonder how many people have been forced out of their homes, away from their telephones. Probably not the best time to poll a state.

I do not know the answer, though I would be curious about the likely political skew that might result from those not available to be surveyed? Is it more urban, more rural? The floods appear to be affecting the eastern portions of the state. Are those typically more Democratic or Republican? Readers with knowledge of Iowa are encourage to comment.

POLL: SurveyUSA California


Obama 53, McCain 41

POLL: Latino Decisions National

Latino Decision
Pacific Market Research/
University of Washington political scientists Matt Barreto and Gary Segura

National Latinos**
Obama 63, McCain 24
Florida: Obama 43, McCain 42
AZ, CO, NM and NV: Obama 57, McCain 31

**Latino Decisions surveyed 800 Latino registered voters in 21 states. Registered voters were identified using the complete voter registration databases for each state, and then merged with a Spanish-surname list from the U.S. Census. Phone calls were then randomly made to the phone list of registered voters.

All respondents are verified to be Latino, and verified to be registered voters. The survey was conducted by telephone, and available in English and Spanish, depending on the preference of the Latino respondent.

POLL: Rasmussen Nevada

Rasmussen Reports

McCain 45, Obama 42

POLL: Daily Tracking

Gallup Poll

Obama 46, McCain 44

Rasmussen Reports

Obama 48, McCain 44

POLL: USAToday/Gallup National

USA Today/Gallup

Obama 50, McCain 44

** This survey is an entirely different sample from the Gallup Daily Tracking surveys.

POLL: SurveyUSA Iowa


Obama 49, McCain 45

POLL: Rasmussen New Hampshire


New Hampshire
Obama 50, McCain 39
Sen: Shaheen (D) 53, Sununu (R-i) 39

POLL: SurveyUSA IN-09


Indiana CD-09
Hill (D-i) 51, Sodrel (R) 40, Schansberg (L) 4

POLL: InsiderAdvantage Georgia

InsiderAdvantage / PollPosition

McCain 44, Obama 43, Barr 6

POLL: Rasmussen Colorado

Rasmussen Reports

Obama 43, McCain 41
Sen: Udall (D) 49, Shaffer (R) 40

POLL: Voter/Consumer Kentucky

Voter/Consumer Research (R-McConnell)

McCain 50, Obama 31
Sen: McConnell (R-i) 50, Lunsford (D) 39

POLL: Fox National

FOX News/
Opinion Dynamics
(story, results)

Obama 45, McCain 41
Obama 42, McCain 39, Nader 4, Barr 2
Generic: Democrat 42, Republican 35
Obama/Clinton 48, McCain/Romney 41

Bradley-Wilder 2008?

Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , John McCain , Measurement , Pollsters

My NationalJournal.com column, on what pollsters will do to determine whether the so-called "Bradley-Wilder" effect will skew polls in the presidential race, is now posted online.

In preparing the column, I also emailed a handful of campaign pollsters, both Democrats and Republicans. Their reactions did not quite fit the ultimate focus of the column, but were nonetheless interesting, so I want to summarize them here.

For whatever reason, the Republicans were more willing to go on the record with their comments than the Democrats. All of the campaign pollsters I heard from -- including the Democrats -- agreed explicitly or implicitly with what became the central argument of the column: We can only determine whether the "Bradley-Wilder" effect will be in play this fall empirically, not with hunches or past history.

Along those lines, Republicans Alex Gage and Alex Lundry of TargetPoint reported that they have been experimenting with a "list question" methodology much like that used in the Heerwig-McCabe analysis that won the student paper award at this year's AAPOR conference (see my interview with author Brian McCabe). Like the NYU students, Gage and Lundry have seen evidence that respondents are less likely to report that they could support a black candidate when asked using the list question method. However they wonder whether knowledge that Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee undercuts the value of this method, which involves estimating a "true" willingness of respondents to report that they are willing to support "an African American candidate for president."

Republican David Hill, who also writes a weekly column for The Hill, is dubious that white McCain supporters will be reluctant to report their vote to pollsters:

We are so over that (racism in polling)....Are there still racists out there? Sure. But are there a host of closeted racists that tell pollsters one thing and then do another in the polling place. I don't think so. If they are racist, they will just say they are voting for McCain or are undecided. They won't lie and say they are for Obama.

He also argues that some of the races typically cited as evidence of the effect from the 80s and 90s were " situationally specific" and that the absence of comparable "local" angles makes him not fear the reappearance of the effect in elections for President.

Finally, both Jon McHenry (of Ayres, McHenry & Associates) and Neil Newhouse (of Public Opinion Strategies - a firm that will be polling for the McCain campaign) wonder whether those still undecided in late October may "break" toward McCain for reasons more complicated than just race. Newhouse speculated that "by election day, Obama will be the functional equivalent of the incumbent in the race, and is not likely to be the beneficiary of many undecided white voters." McHenry, making essentially the same argument, fleshed it out a bit more:

It's not a given that McCain getting the undecided white vote is attributable to "the Effect." We could actually have people walking into the booth who want a change, but just can't quite pull the trigger for a guy who has so little experience, at least if national security is an issue for them. The result is the same, though.

Again, to see my take on this, see the full column for a fuller explanation of the "Bradley Effect" and my take on it.

Update: Chris Cillizza also reviewed the history of the "Effect" in a recent column.

Update II: I've also added the full verbatim comments from Pew Scott Keeter (that I quoted from in the column) after the jump.

Continue reading "Bradley-Wilder 2008?"

POLL: SurveyUSA Washington CDs


Larsen (D-i) 56, Bart (R) 38

Reichert (R-i) 51, Burner (D) 45

POLL: Rasmussen Ohio, Florida

Rasmussen Reports

McCain 44, Obama 43

McCain 47, Obama 39

Whatcha Got "Outliers"

Topics: 2008

Marist pollster Lee Miringoff shares memories of Tim Russert.

And Peter Hart remembers Russert's role in creating the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

Mark Mellman sees the underlying fundamentals as "tremendous assets" for Barack Obama.

Kathy Frankovic asks whether voters can look beyond partisanship in judgements about the economy.

Gary Langer and Jon Cohen review the ABC/Post results on the Supreme Court's Guantnamo Bay decision.

Jennifer Agiesta has all the numbers for independents from the ABC/Post poll.

Brian Schaffner ponders what Jim Webb would add to the Democratic ticket.

Chris Bowers compares Obama's trajectory to Kerry's.

John Sides looks back to analysis from the 1980s for a reality check on "Reagan Democrats."

David Hill says campaigners, and pollsters, should do less instant analysis and more thinking.

Frank Newport reprises his public opinion quiz.

Patrick Murray blogs on New Jersey's summer polls.

And if you haven't seen the GraphJam charts yet, take a mental health break and click through (via Sullivan).

POLL: ARG New Hampshire, Florida

American Research Group

New Hampshire
Obama 51, McCain 39
Sen: Shaheen (D) 54, Sununu (R-i) 40
Gov: Lynch (D-i) 65, Kenney (R) 21

Obama 49, McCain 44

Comment of the Day

Topics: 2008 , Likely Voters

Posted by "hobetoo" in response to my post on likely voter models and what effect they may be having this year"

On the possible effect of the enthusiasm gap on the representativeness of polls using registered vs. likely voter screens, I would suggest the following point for consideration.

If candidate A is generating a lot more enthusiasm among his supporters than Candidate B is among his own supporters, then it also seems likely that candidate A's supporters would be more likely to participate in polls. Rather than being underrepresented, then, Candidate A's supporters would perhaps be more likely to be overrepresented than Candidate B's. (I'm thinking of John Brehm's argument that participation in polls is akin to participating in politics, and so the same factors that predispose people to vote are likely to predispose them to consent to an interview.)

POLL: Rasmussen Maine

Rasmussen Reports

Obama 55, McCain 33
Sen: Collins (R-i) 49, Allen 42

Moore: Hunter College's LGB Poll and Prevalence Rates

Topics: David Moore , George Bush , UNH Survey Center

Today's Guest Pollster article comes from David W. Moore, a senior fellow with the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. He is a former vice president and senior editor with the Gallup Poll, where he worked for 13 years, and is the founder and former director of the UNH Survey Center. He manages the blogsite, Skeptical Pollster.com.

The new Hunter College poll of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) Americans provides important insights into the lives of this difficult-to-reach population. The poll is an excellent example of what polls can do best - reveal how people view their own experiences, thus providing history with important information on how people lived and thought at any given point of time. The forthcoming presentation1 by the authors should provide additional information about the study.

One of the intriguing findings of the study is the percentage of people who identify as LGBs. The prevalence rate, 2.9 percent, is in line with other studies over the past couple of decades, which suggest that somewhere under five percent of Americans report they are homosexual. A decade ago, NORC's Tom Smith reported that "a series of recent national studies indicate that only about 2-3 percent of sexually active men and 1-2 percent of sexually active women are currently homosexual."2 The Hunter College poll differs somewhat from these numbers, suggesting that the percentage of men and women identifying as LGBs is about equal - though half the women, and only a third of the men say they are bisexual.

It's important to recognize that these figures are lower-bounded estimates, and that the actual percentage of Americans who are LGBs is probably higher than what the polls can measure. While public acceptance of LGBs is higher now than it was, say, a couple of decades ago, there is still considerable public disapprobation of homosexual behavior. Such an environment cannot help but deter many LGBs from admitting their true sexual orientation.

In this context, it is noteworthy that the percentage of people willing to admit they are LGBs correlates with the political environment in which they live. The Hunter College poll shows that among people living in "strong Democratic states" (where John Kerry beat George W. Bush by five percentage points or more), the number of LGBs is about 3.6 percent; in swing states, it's about 3.2 percent; and in strong Republican states (where Bush won by five percentage points or more), it's about 2.0 percent.3 These differences appear to be statistically significant, though the authors could provide statistical tests to verify the observation.

If it is true that the percentages vary by political environment, there are at least two explanations. One is that LGBs move to states that are generally more accepting of homosexuals. The other is that LGBs are simply more willing to admit their sexual orientation when they live in a more favorable environment. One test would be to compare the figures by age by political environment - with the hypothesis that older LGBs might be more likely to move to friendly environments, while younger LGBs would not yet have had the time to do so. Thus, the correlation between political environment and willingness to admit that one is an LGB would be higher among older than younger people. If the rates are similar, it rules out the notion that the correlation is due to LGBs moving to a more friendly environment, and suggests instead that it is the environment itself that influences whether LGBs are willing to admit their sexual preferences.

Whatever the results, the poll itself deserves careful consideration of all of its findings. The methodology appears to be rigorous, while the findings provide innovative insights into the personal experiences and political orientation of LGBs.

1 Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, 208, West 13th Street, New York City.

2 Tom W. Smith, "American Sexual Behavior: Trends, Socio-Demographic Differences, and Risk Behavior," GSS Topical Report No. 25, National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, updated December, 1998, p. 7.

3 These percentages are my recalculation of figures provided in the report in Table 2. The authors should be able to provide more precise calculations.

POLL: SurveyUSA Wisconsin


Obama 52, McCain 43

POLL: PPP Virginia

Public Policy Polling (D)

Obama 47, McCain 45
Sen: Warner (D) 59, Gilmore (R) 28

POLL: GQR Battleground States

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D)/
NARAL Pro-Choice America

12 Battleground States*
Obama 47, McCain 45

"Once balanced information about Obama and McCain’s respective positions on choice is introduced, Obama gains 6 points overall, with his lead in battleground states expanding from a net 2 points (47-45 percent) to a net 13 points (53-40 percent)."

* Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

POLL: Zogby National


Obama 47, McCain 42

POLL: Quinnipiac Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida

Quinnipiac University

Obama 47, McCain 43

Obama 48, McCain 42

Obama 52, McCain 40

"Likely Voters" and 2008

Topics: 2008 , ABC/Washington Post , Barack Obama , Gallup , John McCain , Likely Voters , Pollsters , USA Today

TNR's Noam Scheiber wonders whether national polls that report on the preferences of "registered voters" might "understate the support of the candidate with the enthusiasm on his side--Obama in this case" as compared to state level surveys that are typically reporting on the preferences of "likely voters."

He sees a some suggestive evidence in the apparent enthusiasm gap identified in the ABC/Post poll (as per today Post article):

But [McCain] starts that campaign with several deficits, including an enthusiasm gap. A majority of voters, 55 percent, said they are enthusiastic about Obama's candidacy, while 42 percent said the same for McCain. Three times as many said they are "very enthusiastic" about Obama as said so about McCain.

Even among McCain and Obama supporters, there is a clear difference in interest.

Ninety-one percent of Obama's supporters are enthusiastic about his candidacy, including 54 percent who are very enthusiastic. Fewer of McCain's backers are as ardent: 73 percent are enthusiastic about his run, but just 17 percent are very much so. There appears to be some leftover animosity toward him on the right. Overall, 13 percent of conservatives are very enthusiastic about McCain, compared with nearly half of liberals who feel as strongly about Obama.

The theory that Obama's enthusiasm advantage may translate into a a turnout edge is intriguing but difficult to prove with the data we have available right now. The main reason is that this far from an election, the process of identifying true "likely voters" is a sketchy exercise at best.

True, media pollsters have spent decades developing likely voter "models" to identify the true electorate, but most of that research identifies characteristics that are proven to predict turnout a few weeks before the election (or background, see my blogging on this topic from October 2004). The most elaborate approaches, like the classic Gallup likely voter model, use self-reported registration, intent to vote, past vote history, interest in the campaign and knowledge of voting procedures to score each respondents probability of voting. They then separate likely voters from less likely (or weight the most likely more heavily than the least likely) based on their assumptions about the level of turnout.

The basis for these models are validation studies that measure how well these variables predict turnout, and almost all were conducted in the final weeks of the campaign, not in June. And we have other evidence -- most notably a 2004 POQ article by Robert Erikson and his colleagues -- showing that the Gallup model may introduce too much volatility into the survey results before October. As a result, most national pollsters report on registered voters until the fall.

With those warnings in mind, we do have Gallup data for both registered and "likely" voters (using their traditional model) for the seven surveys they conducted so far during 2008 in partnership with USA Today. I copied those into the table below. They show a very slight pattern supporting Scheiber's theory. Obama did a point or two better among likely voters (but no better) on six of the seven surveys. On average across all the surveys, however, this "effect works out to four tenths of a percentage point.


Back in 2004 we typically saw the reverse pattern. Bush did slightly better than Kerry with "likely voters" using the Gallup style model, than with all registered voters.

Unfortunately, we know less little about the "likely voter" models used by most state level polls, as pollsters tend to divulge few details about their methods. However, those that have shared details typically use relatively simple screens for registered voters who say they are likely to vote in November. Since virtually all self-described registered voters say they are likely to vote, these "likely voter" screens are functionally not much different from the registered voter results we are seeing on national surveys (this conclusion is not warranted for the handful of state level polls using list samples to select those with past voting history, but that is another topic altogether).

POLL: SurveyUSA Kentucky


McCain 53, Obama 41
Sen: McConnell (R-i) 50, Lunsford (D) 46

POLL: Rasmussen Alaska

Rasmussen Reports

McCain 45, Obama 41
Sen: Stevens (R-i) 46, Begich (D) 44

POLL: Daily Tracking

Gallup Poll

Obama 46, McCain 42

Rasmussen Reports

Obama 48, McCain 44

POLL: Civitas North Carolina

Civitas Institute (R)
Tel Opinion Research

North Carolina
McCain 45, Obama 41, Barr 2
Sen: Dole (R-i) 48, Hagan (D) 38, Cole (L) 1
Gov: Perdue (D) 43, McCrory (R) 41, Munger (L) 2

Then and Now, Take Two

Topics: 2008 , ABC/Washington Post , Barack Obama , Bush , Clinton , Gallup , John McCain , Pew Research Center , Rasmussen , Washington Post

If you read about today's Washington Post/ABC News poll online, you probably missed the "Act II, Scene I" sidebar graphic from the Post's print edition that is also available online. The gist if the graphic is that while the McCain-Obama vote looks now looks identical to Bush vs. Kerry preferences four years ago, the larger political terrain as defined by the Bush job rating, the perceived direction of the nation and views about the Iraq War are very different.

2008-06-17_Act II, Scene I - washingtonpost.com.png

One piece of context worth considering, however, is that the Post/ABC poll of June 2004 had Kerry doing slightly better than other polls taken at about the same time. The following list -- which comes from the RealClearPolitics listing from 2004 -- shows that the Post/ABC survey was the only one conducted during the latter half of the month showing Kerry with even a "numeric" lead. The average for the month had Bush ahead by a single percentage point (45% to 44%).


Regardless of whether the current national horse-race is exactly the same as at this point in 2004, or a few points better for the Democrats, the larger point of the Post graphic still holds: We have seen far bigger changes in the percentage of Americans that disapprove of George Bush's performance as president (+17 percentage points since June 2004 in the ABC/Post poll), that say things in the country "have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track" (+27) and that conclude the war in Iraq was "not worth fighting for" (+11).

And as long as we are on the subject, we cannot repeat it often enough: Polls are, at best, a measure of where the race stands "if the election were held today. " It isn't held today. The 2004 race aside, polls in June are historically poor predictors of the ultimate outcome of the presidential election in November.

Nate Silver did a nice round-up over the weekend of how June polls since 1988 compare to November outcomes and concluded:

So in four out of the last five elections, an average of June polls would have incorrectly picked the winner of the popular vote. That's kind of a problem for anybody who is overly confident about how this election is going to turn out.


Public Policy Polling (D)

Obama 50, McCain 39

POLL: SurveyUSA Minnesota


Obama 47, McCain 46
Coleman (R-i) 52, Franken (D) 40
Coleman 41, Franken 31, Ventura (i) 23

POLL: ABC/Post National

ABC News ('08 election story, results-pdf; Gas story, results)
Washington Post (election story, results, gas prices story)
n=1,125 adults, interviewed June 12-15


Obama 48%, McCain 42%

Obama 49%, McCain 45% (RV)

George Bush as President: 29% approve, 68% disapprove

Have recent price increases in gasoline caused any financial hardship for you or others in your household, or not?

77% Yes
23% No

[Earlier update: Our colleague Marc Ambinder has apparently seen a sneak peak of the rest of the results from this survey. We will update this post later tonight if more links become available].

POLL: Rasmussen Virginia

Rasmussen Reports

Obama 45, McCain 44
Sen: Warner (D) 60, Gilmore (R) 33

Obama and White Women

Topics: 2008

Last week, when reporting on the newly released NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the coverage by those outlets emphasized McCain's apparent lead among suburban women. Yesterday, New York Times columnist Frank Rich had this reaction:

[T]he myth of Democratic disarray is so pervasive that when “NBC Nightly News” and The Wall Street Journal presented their new poll results last week (Obama, 47 percent; McCain, 41 percent) they ignored their own survey’s findings to stick to the clichéd script. Both news organizations (and NBC’s sibling, MSNBC) dwelled darkly on Mr. Obama’s “problems with two key groups” (as NBC put it): white men, where he is behind 20 percentage points to Mr. McCain, and white suburban women, where he is behind 6 points.

Since that poll gives Mr. Obama not just a 19-point lead among all women but also a 7-point lead among white women, a 6-point deficit in one sliver of the female pie is hardly a heart-stopper. Nor is Mr. Obama’s showing among white men shocking news. No Democratic presidential candidate, including Bill Clinton, has won a majority of that declining demographic since 1964. Mr. Kerry lost white men by 25 points, and Mr. Gore did by 24 points (even as he won the popular vote).

Rich has a point.

I wondered how Obama's performance among white women in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll now compares to John Kerry recent polls and to the final vote in 2004. Let's start with other recent polls. I was able to track down numbers from three more surveys (as of this writing) that released results among white women. Ironically, the NBC/WSJ survey provides the most promising results for Obama among white women registered voters. He leads by seven percentage points on that survey among white women, but trails narrowly on the recent Gallup (-3) and Rasmussen (-4) surveys:

06-16_white women2006.png

When compared to the 2004 election, however, Obama is doing at least as well among white women right now as John Kerry did against George Bush in 2004. The table below shows both the exit poll results (the preferences of actual voters with no undecided) and the final Pew Research Center survey (finished three days before the election).

06-16_white women 2004.png

The final numbers in 2004 either show Obama doing better than Kerry (if you compare the margins) or as well as Kerry (if you focus on Obama's percentage of the vote). The national exit poll (weighted to the final count) showed Bush winning white women by an 11 point margin (55% to 44%). Hillary Clinton would likely be doing better against McCain than Obama among women right now, but it is hard to make the case with the latest results that Obama begins with a particularly acute problem with white women.

POLL: Cook/RT National

Cook Political Report/RT Strategies

Obama 44, McCain 40

Pew's Internet and Politics Survey

Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , Blogosphere , John McCain , Pew Research Center

You may have seen it already elsewhere online, but yesterday, the Pew Internet & American Life {roject released a report on the Internet and the 2008 election (summary, full report/pdf, questionnaire/pdf). The Pew Internet Project tracks the way Americans interact online more thoroughly than any other public source that I know of, and this report updates several measures on the Internet and politics that they track every six months or so.

Here are some of the highlights:

In total, 46% of all adults are using the internet, email, or phone text messaging for political purposes in this election. That is the percentage of those who are doing at least one of the three major activities we probed—getting news and information about the campaign, using email to discuss campaign-related matters, or using phone texting for the same purpose.

  • 40% of all Americans (internet users and non-users alike) have gotten news andinformation about this year’s campaign via the internet.
  • 19% of Americans go online once a week or more to do something related to the campaign, and 6% go online to engage politically on a daily basis.
  • 23% of Americans say they receive emails urging them to support a candidate or discuss the campaign once a week or more.
  • 10% of Americans use email to contribute to the political debate with a similar frequency.

The survey also finds that 35% of adults report having watched at least one type of politically related video online during the campaign (from five categories that the Pew survey asked about). They also find a partisan tilt to political Internet use:

Younger online political users tilt in favor of the Democrats in general and Obama in particular, and that has a bearing on the partisan breakdown of online activity. Simply put, Democrats and Obama backers are more in evidence on the internet than backers of other candidates or parties.

While the results above have garnered the most attention, I wonder whether campaigns are already tailoring their online communication strategies to fit the perceived weaknesses of online information identified by the Pew report:

Although a respectable share of online Americans say that the internet has helped them to be more involved in the campaign and feel more personally connected to their candidate of choice, even larger numbers feel that the internet is a megaphone for extreme viewpoints and a source of misinformation for many voters.


  • 60% agree that "the internet is full of misinformation and propaganda that too many voters believe is accurate," 32% disagree.
  • 48% agree that "the news and information you get online is just the same as you can get anywhere else," 47% disagree.

In other words, does this result suggest more interaction and a greater willingness of ordinary consumers to "fact check" information on their own? If so it provides some support for Thomas Goetz' speculation about the motivation behind the Obama FightTheSmears.com site.

Finally, two methodological footnotes. First, the Pew Internet study was conducted by telephone using a random digit dial (RDD) sample of wired phone and without a supplemental sample of cell-phones, something the Pew Center does periodically for their political surveys.

Second, the full report includes both the final response rate (25%) and a full set of disposition data -- a rarity for public poll releases. Keep in mind that this particular Pew survey was in the field for a full month, something that helped boost its contact rate to levels higher than is typical for most 3-6 day political surveys.

POLL: Mellman Louisiana

Mellman Group (D-Landrieu)

Landrieu (D-i) 49, Kennedy (R) 33

POLL: Siena New York State

Siena College

New York State
Obama 51, McCain 33

POLL: Times New York State

New York Times
(story; results)

New York State
Obama 51, McCain 32

POLL: Mason-Dixon Nevada


McCain 44, Obama 42

POLL: Rasmussen Kansas, Arkansas

Rasmussen Reports

McCain 47, Obama 37
Sen: Roberts (R-i) 48, Slattery (D) 39

McCain 48, Obama 39