March 1, 2009 - March 7, 2009


Implied Causation "Outliers"

Topics: Outliers Feature

Jon Cohen examines Newt Gingrich's numbers.

Andrew Gellman produces maps-a-plenty on FiveThirtyEight.

Mark Mellman shares lessons of stimulus polling.

David Hill considers Mike Huckabee's new gig.

Gary Langer fisks a Harvard study on medically related bankruptcy.

Democracy North Carolina assess the impact of early voting and same day registration in 2008 (via PPP).

Nathan Heflick and Jamie Goldenberg assess the impact of Sarah Palin's looks on support for the Republican ticket (via Tom Jacobs via Ben Smith).

John Sides finds evidence of a modest increase in political giving in the just released ANES 2008 data.

Tom Jensen hears from Rush Limbaugh's fans.

Patrick Ruffini wonders (tongue in cheek) whether Twitter causes unemployment

And webcomic xkcd has an answer...maybe (via Jakulin).


US: National Survey (Newsweek-3/4-5)

Newsweek / PSRA
3/4-5/09; 1,203 adults, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Obama Job Approval
58% Approve, 26% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 86 / 6 (chart)
Reps: 33 / 49 (chart)
inds: 51 / 29 (chart)

Obama Favorable Rating
72% Favorable, 22% Unfavorable (chart)

State of Economy
3% Excellent/Good, 96% Fair/Poor (chart)

How confident are you that, as President, Barack Obama will be able to turn around the economy?

    25% Very confident
    40% Somewhat confident
    16% Not too confident
    17% Not at all confident

How much longer do you think the current economic recession is likely to last?

    12% Less than 12 months
    54% One to two years
    23% Three to five years
    8% More than five years

(story, results)

CA: 2010 Gov (Field-2/20-3/1)

Field Poll
2/20 - 3/1/09; 761 registered voters, 3.6% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


'10 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary
Dianne Feinstein 38%, Jerry Brown 16%, Antonioni Villaraigosa 16%, Gavin Newsom 10%
Jerry Brown 26%, Antonioni Villaraigosa 22%, Gavin Newsom 16%, John Garamendi 8%

'10 Republican Gubernatorial Primary
Meg Whitman 21%, Tom Campbell 18%, Steve Poizner 7%


CA: 2010 Gov (Lake-2/19-29)

Lake Research (D) *
2/17-19/09; 800 likely voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


'10 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary

    27% Jerry Brown
    20% Antonioni Villaraigosa
    14% Gavin Newsom
    8% John Garamendi
    3% Steve Westly
    1% Jack O'Connell

'10 Gubernatorial General Election

Brown (D) 26%, Steve Poizner (R) 30%
Brown (D) 43%, Meg Whitman (R) 27%
Newsom (D) 38%, Poizner (R) 29%
Newsom (D) 40%, Whitman (R) 25%


* Editor's note: Lake Research tells us this was an omnibus survey conducted on behalf of mulitple clients, none of whom are candidates for Governor.

Are Stocks Like Tracking Polls?

Topics: AAPOR , Barack Obama , Stock Market

Earlier this week, President Obama analogized recent short term stock market fluctuation to changes in a political "tracking poll." TalkingPointsMemo captured the video and Ben Smith provided a transcript:

What I'm looking at is not the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market, but the long-term ability for the United States and the entire world economy to regain its footing. And, you know, the stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics. You know, it bobs up and down day to day. And if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you're probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong.

I took Obama's point about the potential for meaningless "day-to-day gyrations" in both tracking polls and stock prices, yet still found the analogy a little jarring since tracking polls and the stock market differ so much. Wondering if other pollsters had a similar reaction, so I asked using the listserv of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the smaller universe of those following me on Twitter.

Most agreed that Obama's underlying point was basically valid: The stock market, like a tracking poll, is subject to a lot of short term and seemingly random variation, albeit for different reasons (see the "random walk" hypothesis). As Democratic researcher Jason Boxt put it, "one blip doesn't a trend make."

Yet several agreed with Republican pollster Alex Lundry that the analogy is "crass" or otherwise imperfect. As Doug Strand points out, "the stock market is not going up and down right now, it's largely going down." A sustained four-month drop in a tracking poll would certainly cause a pollster to reevaluate their long term strategy. But how much of that decline is a reaction to Obama's economic proposals? Opinions on that question will differ.

Whatever your judgement about the value of the stock market and opinion polls as tools to evaluate the state of the economy or Obama's long term economic strategy, it is important to remember that stock traders on any given day are not a representative sample of all Americans or even of those that own stocks or mutual funds. And while virtually all stock traders make some sort of judgement about the future value of the stocks they buy or sell, those judgements are influenced only partially by their view of the overall economy and their evaluation of the merits of Obama's economic policies.

I have reproduced the longer comments from the AAPOR listserv below, as they raise some interesting points I had not considered. Most of these comments come from survey researchers with an academic bent.

In his comments, Doug Strand asks to see more of the context of Obama's remarks. I've embedded below the full C-SPAN video of the question and answer session with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The question about stock market trends comes at 8:33. The version at C-SPAN.org includes an interactive transcript.

Also, our comments section is wide open, so please post your thoughts.

Continue reading "Are Stocks Like Tracking Polls?"

US: National Survey (FOX-3/3-4)

FOX News / Opinion Dynamics
3/3-4/09; 900 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Obama Job Approval (chart)
63 Approve, 26% Disapprove

Congressional Job Approval (chart)
41% Approve, 48% Disapprove

Which of the following statements do you agree with more? (ROTATE) SCALE: 1. I'd rather pay higher taxes to support a larger government that provides more services. 2. I'd rather pay lower taxes and have a smaller government that provides fewer services.

    35% Higher taxes / larger government
    55% Lower taxes / smaller government

What do you think the nation's economy needs more of right now -- the economic policies of Ronald Reagan or the economic policies of Barack Obama?

    40% Reagan
    49% Obama

(story, results)

US: National Survey (Hotline-2/28-3/2)

Diageo / Hotline
2/28 - 3/2/09; 803 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Direction of Country (chart)
32% Right Direction, 55% Wrong Track

Obama Favorable Rating (chart)
68% Favorable, 27% Unfavorable

Obama Job Approval (chart)
67% Approve, 27% Disapprove

'10 Congressional Generic Ballot (chart)
40% Democrat, 34% Republican

From what you have read or heard about President Obama's proposed $75 billion plan in which the government would help prevent foreclosures on individual homes, do you support or oppose this proposal?

n=250 voters paying very close attention to "the details of the various economic plans being discussed in Washington:"

    48% Support
    47% Oppose

n=552 voters paying somewhat or not close attention:

    59% Support
    30% Oppose

(data, analysis, Morning Grind, On Call, Hotline TV)

14 States: Obama Approval (SurveyUSA-1/20-22)

2/20-22/09, 600 adults, 4% margin of error in each state
Mode: IVR

Obama Job Approval / Disapproval (1/20 - 1/21 results)

Alabama: 48 / 45 (60 / 24)
California: 63 / 33 (77 / 15)
Iowa: 63 / 32 (68 / 22)
Kansas: 54 / 37 (62 / 24)
Kentucky: 57 / 37 (62 / 25)
Massachusetts: 66 / 29 (78 / 11)
Minnesota: 62 / 32 (64 / 21)
Missouri: 51 / 43 (65 / 21)
New Mexico: 59 / 34 (65 / 22)
New York State (2/17 - 2/18): 70 / 25 (78 / 11)
Oregon: 61 / 32 (68 / 18)
Virginia: 54 / 42 (62 / 23)
Washington State: 64 / 32 (69 / 17)
Wisconsin: 60 / 37 (70 / 18)

VA: 09 Gov Dems (PPP-2/28-3/1)

Public Policy Polling (D)
2/28 - 3/1/09; 647 likely Democratic primary voters, 4%
Mode: IVR

McAuliffe 21, Moran 19, Deeds 14
(2/1: McAuliffe 18, Moran 18, Deeds 11)


While I Was Out Lecturing

Topics: Mike Quigley , Peter Giangreco , Political Science

Those of you who follow my very occasional Twittering know that I flew to Chicago last Thursday to give a lecture at a class at Loyola University Chicago. I want to share a slightly off-topic story from that visit.

I got to the classroom a few minutes early. One of the two lecturers who teaches Loyola's Political Science 300, Managing Political Campaigns, showed up a few minutes later and greeted me. Friendly but a little gruff, looking a bit weary and casually dressed, he bantered with the students as they straggled in. He began by reminding the class that their term paper would be due right after Spring Break (their collective choice, apparently), teased them about the distractions this would cause while applying "cocoa butter," and offered some guidelines for source material. Then his co-lecturer introduced me, and I gave my talk about how surveys work and how political campaigns use polling.

The scene resembled any other small undergraduate classroom, except for one thing: The lecturer that greeted me was Mike Quigley. In addition to teaching this class, Quigley was also serving as a Cook County Commissioner and running for Congress in a Democratic primary election to be held just five days later. Last night, he finished first in a field of 12, a win that is tantamount to victory in the overwhelmingly Democratic 5th District of Illinois.

A little background: Quigley's co-lecturer for PoliSci 300, Peter Giangreco, has been a close friend of mine since we both worked on Gary Hart's presidential campaign as undergraduates at the University of Michigan in 1984. Pete is now a Chicago based political consultant whose firm, The Strategy Group, played a leading role in the Obama campaign. When Pete called me last year and invited me to give a guest lecture to his class, I was happy to oblige. Coming back this year was a similar no-brainer.

Mike Quigley I have met only twice: In that same classroom last year and last week. And, to be honest, I was amazed that Quigley showed up at all last Thursday, given the intense nature of a Congressional campaign in its final week. I know well how grueling and all-consuming a race for Congress can be. As I was about to leave, I had to ask how he found the time and energy to continue teaching.

Quigley shrugged. "Some of these kids need the credits to graduate," he said. He felt he simply could not abandon their class just because of how own unexpected career development.   

In endorsing Quigley in mid-February, the Chicago Sun Times described him as "the real deal," and offered an observation entirely consistent with my very brief impression:

Issues aside, what's perhaps most refreshing about Quigley is, oddly, his lack of political charm.

He doesn't exactly light up a room. Or even smile much.

He is what he is, a scrappy policy wonk who actually cares about the stuff he fights for. Not a guy who has glommed on to these issues because they're polling well.

So there, maybe this is "on-topic" after all. If Quigely takes his Congressional duties as seriously as his commitment to the students in Loyola's PoliSci 300, the voters of the 5th District will be very fortunate.

NJ: 09 Governor (FDickinson-1/2-7)

Fairleigh Dickinson University / PublicMind
2/25-3/2/2009; 751 registered voters, +/-4% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

New Jersey 2009 Governor

Jon Corzine (D-i) 32, Christ Christie (R) 41
(Jan: Corzine 40, Christie 33)

Corzine 36, Steve Lonegan (R) 32
(Jan: Corzine 46, Lonegan 28)

Corzine 37, Rick Merkt (R) 28
(Jan: Corzine 43, Merkt 23) 

Corzine 38, Brian Levine (R) 27

Corzine's job as governor:
30% excellent/good, 68% only fair/poor
(Jan: 32% excellent good, 66% only fair/poor)

(release, tabular results, survey details)

US: National Survey (Quinnipiac-2/25-3/2)

Quinnipiac University Polling Institute
2/25-3/2/2009; 2,573 Voters, Margin of Error +/- 1.9%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


59% approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President; 25% disapprove.
45% approve of the Democrats in Congress, 45% disapprove
30% approve of the Republicans in Congress, 58% disapprove

From the Quinnipiac release:

American voters don't believe either President Barack Obama or "the federal government" will solve the nation's economic crisis in two years, but they still approve 59 - 25 percent of the job their new President is doing, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

While most voters support President Obama's $75 billion mortgage rescue plan, they say 64 - 29 percent that the plan is unfair to those who pay their mortgage on time. But they believe 55 - 37 percent that the plan will stabilize home prices as the White House contends.

US: National Survey (NBC/WSJ-2/26-3/1)

NBC News / Wall Street Journal
2/26-3/1/09; 1,007 adults, +/- 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews (102 respondents reached by cell phone)


Obama Job Approval
60% Approve, 26% Disapprove
Economy: 56% Approve, 31% Disapprove

Obama Favorability Rating
68% positive, 19% negative

Congressional Job Approval
31% Approve, 54% Disapprove

U.S Economy
7% Satisfied, 92% Dissatisfied

(Wall Street Journal story, results; MSNBC story, results).

The Curious Case of the Liberal-Leaning Youth Vote

Over the last few months, I've focused a great deal of attention on researching the youth vote, digging into the factors that influence partisan identification and voting behavior among these young voters. As a Republican pollster, I'm primarily interested in diagnosing "what went wrong?" in terms of young voters in the last few cycles. Some of the possible answers seem obvious - the charisma of Obama, the age of McCain, the disillusionment with the GOP, the Iraq war, President Bush, the GOP's differences with young voters on issues like the environment and "moral issues" - and in the coming weeks, I hope to examine these factors. But first, I'm interested in starting a discussion with Pollster.com readers about the topic.

As a starting point, let's take a look at the electorate from 1972* through 2004. This comes from media exit poll data and the universe for "overall" in this instance is those respondents who provided their age. Additionally, "independent" does not include "other/something else". I am currently waiting on the data set for 2008, and thus I'm not yet able to break down 2008 by age, so it has been omitted from this chart. (Democrats did better in terms of partisan identification in 2008 than they did in 2004.)
Thesis Figures.003.jpg

This chart shows that prior to 1984, partisan identification was more fluid, with Watergate turning massive quantities of Republicans into Independents, particularly among young voters. Yet once 1984 rolls around, young voters behave quite similarly to voters overall in terms of partisan identification. With the exception of the 1996 election (featuring the Republican nomination of Sen. Bob Dole), trends in partisan identification among young voters look quite a bit like they do for the electorate overall.

Yet ideologically, a very different story is told about elections since 1984. While partisan identification among young voters has very closely followed that of the overall electorate since that time, the youth vote has been ideologically very different ever since the 1992 election of Bill Clinton. In this case, I use 1984 as the starting point because media exit polls prior to 1984 ask their ideology question in a different manner, omitting "moderate" and instead using "somewhere in between" as a response option. For the sake of comparing apples to apples, I've chosen to begin the chart where the question wording becomes consistent.

Thesis Figures.004.jpg
In 1984 and 1998, the 18-29 cohort contained more "conservative" identifiers than "liberal" identifiers. Yet in 1992, this changes and more 18-29 year olds identified as "liberal" than they did "conservative". Yet among voters overall, conservative still found many more identifiers than liberal. This trend has continued since Clinton's election; while the overall electorate has more conservatives than liberals, the young electorate has more liberals than conservatives. Something happened in 1992 (perhaps the election of the young governor of Arkansas?) that changed the ideological makeup of the young electorate. It will be extremely interesting to see what the ideological makeup of the 2008 electorate is in terms of young voters.

So what does this mean for the Republican Party moving forward? In 2004, young voters looked a lot like voters overall in terms of party ID, but looked further to the left in terms of ideology. What does this party ID/ideology discrepancy mean?

Once we get a chance to dig into the 2008 data, we will know more about how the youth vote changed in the environment that was nothing short of toxic for Republicans. But even the ideological post-Clinton shift that endured into the Bush years should be a fact that the GOP considers as they craft a strategy moving forward to rebuild a long-term majority coalition.

*In the interest of disclosure, 1972 is not an arbitrary starting point, it is rather the oldest data set I currently have, and I would welcome the input of any scholars or readers with data from media exit polls prior to 1972).

US: National Survey (Cook/RT - 2/27-3/1)

Cook Political Report / RT Strategies
2/27-3/1/09; 880 registered voters, +/- 3.5 % margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Obama Job Approval (among registered voters)
57% Approve, 28% Disapprove

(via Cook Political release -- results, cross-tabs)

Hitting the Stratosphere?

Topics: Approval Ratings , Barack Obama , Frank Rich , New York Times , Speech Reaction , State of the Union

The online version of Frank Rich's column in Sunday's New York Times includes a link to our chart of President Obama's job approval rating in its third sentence. Thank you, Mr. Rich. That said, we hope you will forgive if we pick a nit with the conclusion that follows:

BARACK OBAMA must savor the moment while he can. It may never get better than this.

As he stood before Congress on Tuesday night, the new president was armed with new job approval percentages in the 60s. After his speech, the numbers hit the stratosphere: CBS News found that support for his economic plans spiked from 63 percent to 80.

Rich makes a fair point when he warns Obama that his job approval numbers may be peaking. We wince a little, however, when he compares the results from the CBS survey of speech watchers to the overall job approval ratings that appear on our chart.

Did Obama's speech blast his job approval numbers into outer space? Not if you look at our chart or, more specifically, at the two organizations -- Gallup and Rasmussen -- that fielded national surveys last week in the days after Obama's speech. Gallup, which reported Obama's approval rating at 63% a few days before the speech, showed it increasing slightly to 67% on interviews conducted Feb. 25-27 (after the speech), with a subsequent decline back to 63% over the weekend. Your call as to whether that variation is real or random (given the +/- 3% margin of sampling error associated with each report). Over the same period, Obama's approval percentage on the Rasmussen Reports daily tracking has varied between 58% and 60%.

Bottom line: Neither survey showed Obama's ratings zooming to the "stratosphere" in the immediate aftermath of the speech.

Why did the CBS survey of speech watchers yield a much bigger reaction? Well, for one, it sampled those who said they had watched the speech rather than the nation as a whole, an audience that usually skews in the President's favor.** Quoting from the CBS analysis [pdf] of their Tuesday night survey:

As is often the case in Presidential addresses, Americans who watched the speech tonight were more likely to be from the President’s political party – 38% were Democrats, 26% were Republicans and 36% were independents.

Second, the statistic Rich took from the post-speech survey was not on overall job approval rating but rather the percentage approving Obama's "plans for dealing with the economic crisis." The questionnaire did not include an overall job performance rating, perhaps to make before-and-after speech comparisons less tempting.

Third, for whatever reason, quick reaction polls typically yield exuberant responses to presidential addresses. In 2007, CBS found that the percentage of State of the Union watchers who said that George W. Bush "shares your priorities" rose from 38% to 53% during the speech. Moreover, CBS consistently found overwhelming approval for the proposals that Bush "made in his speech:" 80% in 2005, and 77% in 2006, 82% in 2007 (see my post from 2007 for similar data from Gallup), a period during which Bush's overall approval ratings showed a slow and very steady decline.

Even though these quick reaction surveys almost always show a strong positive response, presidents rarely experience lasting or even temporary bumps in their approval ratings following a State of the Union address. So far, it appears that Obama's address last week was no exception.

Obama's ratings may never get better, but they did not hit quite the high last week that Frank Rich implies.

**CBS News samples speech watchers using the nationally representative Knowledge Networks internet panel. In linking to the their results Tuesday night I put quotation marks around the words nationally representative (a phrase they used to describe the sample) which struck some readers as an expression of editorial skepticism about their methodology. Apologies for that, as I intended no such meaning. That said, as I explained back in August, there are reasons to be a bit more cautious about interpreting results from a panel survey.

US: Cong. Approval (2/20-22)

USA Today / Gallup Poll
2/20-22/09; 1,013 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Congressional Job Approval
Democrats: 47% Approval (37% in December)
Republicans: 36% Approval (25% in December)

"Interestingly, Americans of all political affiliations show similar increases of about 10 percentage points in their ratings of the Republicans in Congress compared with last December. But only Republicans have an overall positive view of the Republicans in Congress, at 61% approval."

"But the changes in congressional Democrats' ratings are not as broad-based as those observed for the Republicans in Congress. There have been 20- and 12-point increases in the ratings of the Democrats in Congress among Democrats and independents, respectively, but a 5-point decrease among Republicans."