May 24, 2009 - May 30, 2009


US: Health Care (CNN-5/14-17)

5/14-17/09; 1,010 adults, 3% margin of error (release)
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


[HALF SAMPLE] Do you think the federal government should guarantee health care for all Americans, or don't you think so?

    62% Government should guarantee health care
    38% Don't think so

[HALF SAMPLE] Would you prefer a health care reform plan that raises taxes in order to provide health insurance to all Americans, or a plan that does not provide health insurance to all Americans but keeps taxes at current levels?

    47% Raise taxes; health care for all
    47% Keep takes at current level; no health care for all

Omero: Update on Sotomayor polling; the gender gap pervades

Topics: Barack Obama , Gallup , gender , Quinnipiac , Supreme Court

Yesterday I posted on some Gallup data on voter reactions to Sotomayor.  Quinnipiac released new data today, and both Gallup and Quinnipiac were nice enough to share party by gender crosstabs.  These data continue to show that women, particularly Republican women, respond strongly to Sotomayor's nomination.

Quinnipiac shows Sotomayor with stronger ratings than Roberts, and a dramatic gender gap

The Gallup poll showed a higher gender gap in support for Sotomayor than for past nominees, although she was overall about as well-received as Roberts.  But according to today's Quinnipiac poll, many more voters approve of Sotomayor (+30 "approve" minus "disapprove") than approved of either Roberts (+17) or Alito (+14) at the time of their nominations.  And women are responsible for the difference.  Sotomayor receives similar ratings from men (+17) as the previous successful nominees (+21 Roberts, +16 Alito).  But women approve of her nomination in much larger numbers (+41) when compared to Roberts (+15) or Alito (+11). 

Both polls show a very large gender gap among Republicans

In the Gallup poll, both Democratic and Republican women are more supportive of Sotomayor than their Democratic counterparts.  The difference is more modest among Democrats (men: +46 "excellent/good pick" minus "only fair/poor" pick; women: +54).  Among Republicans the difference is sizable (men: -44; women: -11). 

The Quinnipiac poll is consistent.  There is no difference in the ratings of Democratic men (+74 "approve" minus "disapprove") and Democratic women (+76).  But Republican women are almost evenly divided on Sotomayor's nomination (-9), while Republican men are more decidedly disapproving (-39).

Republican strategy?

There is much public discussion of Republicans' internal strategy (or lack thereof) when it comes to Sotomayor and race.  On the one hand, Republicans rightly worry about their lack of appeal to Hispanic voters, particularly when dealing with an obviously qualified candidate.  On the other, well, there's Congressman Tancredo (among others).  But add this to the list of growing Republican concerns:  Do Republicans really want to antagonize the first Supreme Court nominee in a while to galvanize women?  Before you answer, note the latest outrageously tone-deaf sexist attack.

UPDATE: Below is a table of the party by gender crosstabs provided by Quinnipiac & Gallup.


Ironic "Outliers"

Topics: Outliers Feature

Gallup finds Obama's May approval rating compares favorably to those of previous presidents.

Tom Jensen profiles VA's undecideds and drops a big hint about the partial results from PPP's next VA poll.

Scott Rasmussen sees a Sotomayor bounce.

National Journal's Republican Insiders advise Republicans against blocking Sotomayor (more here).

Joshua Tucker seeks comments from political scientists on the long term effects of supreme court nominees on parties and presidents.

David Hill considers Republican opportunities and challenges with independents; Glen Bolger adds more.

Nate Silver says its a myth that Hispanics oppose gay marriage; Alex Lundry disagrees.

Jay Cost shares first thoughts on Specter v. Sestak.

Chris Bowers looks at Sestak's chances.

Chris Cillizza ponders the gay marriage polling conundrum.

Alex Lundry maps Ed Kilgore's analysis (pdf) of states where 2010 election results could affect congressional redistricting.

Michael Mokrzycki and colleagues post their AAPOR presentation on cell-phone-only voters; Jim Burton has a summary.

Creoleguy32 tweets his experience as a Quinnipiac respondent (may have to scroll down, via @lrainie via @halavais)

And finally, the most. ironic. post. ever.:

"Overall I think the state-by-state electoral college counting is a bit of a distraction."
-- Andrew Gelman, writing on the site known as FiveThirtyEight.com

About That New Banner

Topics: Housekeeping , National Journal , Pollster.com

Hopefully, you have already noticed something a little different about our site today. As of this morning, a National Journal banner now sits atop our site, signifying a newly expanded partnership with the National Journal Group, publishers of the National Journal, CongressDaily, The Hotline, The Almanac of American Politics, and NationalJournal.com. While we have partnered since January 2008 -- most visibly through my weekly column on NationalJournal.com -- this new arrangement involves an even closer business relationship.

Some of you may have experienced a few bumps last night as we made the changes, but everything should be working now. If you are experiencing any unusual problems with the site, please let us know.

And as long as we are doing a bit of housekeeping, I also want to take this chance to ask for your input on both what you like about pollster and about the things you dislike or wish we would improve. I have a long list of things I would like to fix, but would appreciate your "qualitative" guidance in setting priorities. So if you can, please take a moment to leave a comment below or email me with your thoughts about the things you would most like to see upgraded or improved.

And thank you all for your continuing support!

US: SCOTUS Pick (Quinnipiac-5/26-28)

Quinnipiac University
5/26-28/09; 1,438 registered voters, 2.6% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Do you approve or disapprove of President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court?

    54% Approve
    24% Disapprove

Should Senators support or oppose Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court based only on whether she is qualified to be a justice, or should they also consider her views on controversial issues like abortion and affirmative action?

    47% Only qualifications
    43% Consider views


NJ: 2009 Gov (Rasmussen-5/27)

Rasmussen Reports
5/25/09; 400 likely Republican primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: IVR

New Jersey

2009 Governor - Republican Primary
Christie 36, Lonegan 35 (chart)


NJ: 2009 Gov (DailyKos-5/25-27)

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
5/25-27/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

New Jersey

Favorable / Unfavorable
Pres. Obama (D): 69 / 26 (chart)
Gov. Corzine (D): 36 / 55 (chart)
Christie (R): 38 / 15
Lonegan (R): 22 / 13

2009 Governor - General Election
Christie 46, Gov. Corzine 39 (chart)
Lonegan 43, Gov. Corzine 40 (chart)


Omero: Preferences for a woman nominee?

Topics: gender , Obama , Supreme Court

In the days leading up to Obama's announcement of his Supreme Court nominee, polling suggested voters were not very focused on the potential candidate's gender or race.  According to a CNN poll released over a week ago, very few said it was important to have a Hispanic or black nominee.  And almost as many women (58%) as men (65%) said it was not important for Obama to pick a woman.  A Gallup poll from around the same time showed similar results.

But, now that Sonia Sotomayor has been named, a new Gallup poll shows a gender gap has emerged.  Of the last four nominees, she has the largest gender gap in support.  There isn't male animosity toward Sotomayor, as they are evenly divided on her nomination.  However, women are overwhelmingly supportive (54% excellent/good idea, 25% only fair/poor), with three times as many finding her an "excellent" pick as a "poor" one.

Gallup suggests this gap could stem from gender differences in party identification.  But the gender gap in party identification has been consistent for some time, yet only Alito also evoked a gender gap (a smaller one, in the opposite direction).  And it is not simply the nomination of any woman that spurs a gap, as Harriet Miers was not any more popular with women.  It is likely the combination of both the nomination of a woman, and women's Democratic proclivities that produce the gap.  

But something else strikes me as important.  Despite voters' claims that a nominee's gender or race is irrelevant, Sotomayor's gender does seem to improve her standing with women.  This suggests voters may be unwilling, or unable, to report preferences they may have for a candidate of a specific race or gender.  It reminds me of this 2007 Washington Post survey, in which more voters said they would be less likely to vote for a smoker than less likely to vote for a black candidate or woman candidate.  These questions frequently measure socially acceptable attitudes about such preferences, rather than the preferences themselves.

Do Primaries Hurt the Nominee?

Topics: Primary elections

Do political primaries weaken the eventual nominees in general elections? That's a topic that has been bantered around the internet over the last few years. Yesterday, reacting to news that Joe Sestak's will challenge Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary next year, Matt Yglesias guessed that "there's little in the way of solid evidence that primaries are bad for a political party." A reader emailed, wondering if that supposition might be "provably wrong."

Most of the internet discussion tends to center on the ways that last year's long contentious battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton worked to Obama's benefit: McCain had less time in the spotlight, " sparring with Hillary made him a much better debater and campaigner" (as one of Yglesias' commenters put it) and the Obama campaign build grass-roots organizations in key primary states that ended up as general election battlegrounds (especially Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania). But that is a sample size of just one.

"Solid evidence" on this question from the political science literature is hard to come by, but as it happens, OpenLeft's Chris Bowers put together a nice summary about a week ago:

[R]esearch on whether primaries help or hurt parties in general elections shows decidedly mixed results:

  1. In researching Democratic primaries in recent House and Senate campaigns, David Kowalski and I both found a generally, though not universally, positive effect on Democratic general election performance.

  2. As we all saw in the blogosphere in 2008, divisive primaries can have a negative effect on personal relationships and involvement in political social networks. However, as we also saw in 2008, it can be reasonably countered that while the existing participants within political social networks can fracture as a result of a divisive primary, such primaries can also bring many new people into the social networks.

  3. Most academic research on the subject has indicated that divisive primaries tend to be an effect, rather than a cause, of national party division and / or poor general election performance. That is, unpopular incumbents tend to draw primary challengers, national parties that are already divided tend to have both divisive primaries and poor general election performance (PDF), and divisive primaries often happen when general election victory looks very likely. Rather than causing intra-party division, divisive primaries are usually an effect of some other, more deeply underlying factor.

There probably isn't any universal rule on whether contested primaries help or hurt, because there isn't any universal way in which contested primaries unfold, or any universal context in which they take place.

Bower's last link -- a Monkey Cage comment that references a 2005 article by Jeff Lazarus in Legislative Studies Quarterly -- is probably the most on point. While free access to the full article is not available online, you can find the abstract in a comment on Brenden Nyhan's blog last year (thanks, presumably, to the same "Jason" that cited the article on Monkey Cage). According to the abstract, Lazarus looked at data from major-party House primaries between 1976 and 1998:

I show that primary divisiveness does not cause this or any other pattern of general election results. Rather, expectations about general election results cause primaries to be divisive. Non-incumbents enter races they think they can win, and they think they can win where the incumbent is vulnerable. More candidates enter those races than others, splitting the vote among them. This stampede creates divisive primaries in which incumbents are most likely to do poorly, and challengers well, in the general elections. As a result, divisiveness is associated with (but does not cause) better general election performances among challengers and worse performances among incumbents.

It is easy to see this dynamic playing out in both Pennsylvania and (possibly) Connecticut Senate races in 2010. If primaries happen there, it is because challengers sense vulnerability in Arlen Specter and Chris Dodd.

I can also see how cause and effect can get slippery when studying this phenomenon. In my experience, the most contentious primaries typically occur in districts or states where one party has an overwhelming advantage, where the ultimate nominee is virtually assured a general election victory. Candidates in such races often savage each other, knowing that the general election will be a formality. Evidence of lasting "damage" done to the nominee in such cases is hard to come by.

US: Sotomayor Pick (Gallup-5/26)

5/26/09; 1,015 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Generally speaking, how would you rate Obama's choice of Sonia Sotomayor as a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court - as excellent, good, only fair, or poor?

    47% Excellent/Good
    33% Fair/Poor

Previous Supreme Court Picks:
Samuel Alito: 37% Excellent/Good, 39% Fair/Poor (11/05)
Harriet Miers: 44% Excellent/Good, 41% Fair/Poor (10/05)
John Roberts: 51% Excellent/Good, 34% Fair/Poor (7/05)


PA: 2010 Senate (Quinnipiac-5/20-26)

Quinnipiac University
5/20-26/09; 1,191 registered voters, 2.8% margin of error
517 registered Republicans (4.3%), 561 registered Democrats (4.1%)
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 62 / 31 (chart)
Gov. Rendell: 54 / 37 (chart)
Sen. Specter: 51 / 39 (chart)
Sen. Casey: 56 / 21 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Specter: 46 / 39 (chart)

2010 Senate

Democratic Primary (trends)
Specter 50, Sestak 21

Republican Primary
Toomey 38, Gerlach 10, Luksik 3

General Election
Specter 46, Toomey 37 (chart)
Specter 45, Gerlach 36
Sestak 37, Toomey 35
Sestak 36, Gerlach 30


Follow-up: Does Mode Make a Difference?

Topics: IVR Polls , Likely Voters , Measurement

About a month ago, I wrote a post about the fairly obvious and consistent differences among pollsters ion the Barack Obama job approval question -- what we usually refer to as "house effects." At issue is that the two of the national pollsters that have produced consistently lower scores for Obama use an automated, recorded voice to ask questions rather than live interviewers. My argument was that we should not overlook the other factors that might also explain the house effects at evidence on our job approval chart.  

One admittedly far-fetched hypothesis I floated to explain the consistently lower approval scores produced by Public Policy Polling (PPP), one of the automated pollsters, is that they ask a slightly different question: Most of the others ask respondents if they "approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president." PPP asks if they "approve or disapprove of Barack Obama's job performance" (emphasis mine). I wondered if "some respondents might hear 'job performance' as a question about Obama's performance on the issue of jobs," and suggested that they conduct an experiment to check.

Well, it turns out that the folks at PPP took my advice. They randomly split their most recent North Carolina survey (pdf) in two. The full survey interviewed 686 registered voters, so each half sample had roughly 340 interviews. One random half-sample heard their usual question (rate "Barack Obama's job performance"). The other half heard the more standard question (rate "the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president. According to PPP's Tom Jensen, the two versions "actually came out completely identical- 51 [percent approve] / 41 [percent disapprove] on each."

So much for my theory. That said, the bottom line from last month's post remains the same:

While tempting, we cannot easily attribute to [the automated methodology] all of the apprent difference to Obama's job rating as measured by Rasmussen and PPP on the one hand, and the rest of the pollsters on the other. There are simply too many variables to single out just one critical.

To review, let's quickly list a few (I discussed most in the original post).

1) Population. Rasmussen interviews "likely voters;" PPP interviews registered voters. Most of the other national media polls interview and report on all adults, although a handful (most notably Fox/Opinion Dynamics, Quinnipiac, Diageo/Hotline, Cook/RT Stategies and Resurgent Republic) all report results from registered voters.

Alert reader Tlaloc suggested that while our charts allows easy filtering by mode (live interviewer, automated, etc) it would be even more useful to filter by population. We will add that feature to our to-do list. Meanwhile, Charles Franklin prepared the chart below, which shows three solid (loes regression) trend lines for Obama's approval percentage. Black shows the polls of all adults, blue shows the polls of registered voters (including PPP, whose individual releases are designated with blue triangles) and red shows the Rasmussen Reports results.


As the chart shows, the three categories produce consistently different estimates of Obama approval, with Rasmussen lowest, adult surveys highest and registered voter surveys somewhere in the middle. Moreover, the three PPP surveys are closer to the Rasmussen result than the other registered voter surveys (and we omitted the small handful of other pollsters besides Rasmussen that report Obama approval among "likely voters").

2) Question format. If you scan the "undecided" column of our table of recent Obama job approval results (and really that should be "not sure" -- another item for our to-do list), you will see quite a lot of variation. Although Rasmussen rarely reports a specific result, they usually have only a percentage point or so that is neither approve nor disapprove. The unsure percentages for CNN/ORC, ABC/Washington Post, AP/GfK and Ipsos/McClatchy tend to be in the low single digits. PPP has produced an unsure response of 6-8 percent. Meanwhile, pollsters like Pew Research Center, CBS News, Fox/Opinion Dynamics typically produce unsure responses over 10 percentage points.

The reason for the variation is usually some combination of the format of the question, including the number of answer choices offered, whether the pollster offers an explicit "unsure" category and whether they have an added push of those who are initially reluctant to answer the question. The point is not that any particular method is right or wrong, but that these differences matter.

3) Sample frame. PPP is unlike virtually all of the other national pollsters in that they sample from a list of all registered voters culled from voter rolls. Phone numbers are usually obtained by attempting to match names and addresses to listed telephone directories. As such, a significant number of selected voters are not covered -- PPP does not say how many are missed in their public releases. That difference in coverage may also contribute to the apparent house effect.

4) Live interviewer vs automated telephone. If we could easily control for the first three factors, we might be able to reach some conclusion about whether the lack of a live-interviewer produces an effect of its own. In other words, holding all other factors equal, are some respondents providing a different answers to the job approval question when asked by an automated method rather than a live interviewer. Unfortunately, we have only national results on Obama job approval from just three pollsters that use the automated phone mode (Rasmussen, PPP and SurveyUSA - and just one poll from the latter).

The above is not an exhaustive list of the possible reasons for pollster house effects. So again, it's next to impossible to try to reach any firm conclusions about the automated mode alone. Also, as I concluded last month (and it bears repeating):

Just because a pollster produces a large house effect in the way they measure something, especially in something relatively abstract like job approval, it does not follow automatically that their result is either "wrong" or "biased" (a conclusion some readers have reached and communicated to me via email), only different. Observing a consistent difference between pollsters is easy. Explaining that difference is, unfortunately, often quite hard.

CT: 2010 Senate (Quinnipiac-5/20-25)

Quinnipiac University
5/20-25/09; 1,575 registered voters, 2.5% margin of error
614 registered Democrats (4%), 385 registered Republicans (5%)
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama (D): 71 / 22 (trend)
Gov. Rell (R): 73 / 20 (chart)
Sen. Dodd (D): 38 / 53 (chart)
Sen. Lieberman (i): 46 / 44 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Sen. Dodd (D): 37 / 51 (trend)
Alpert (D): 4 / 2
Simmons (R): 34 / 12
Caligiuri (R): 9 / 3

2010 Senate

Democratic Primary
Dodd 44, Alpert 24

Republican Primary
Simmons 48, Caligiuri 10

General Election (trends)
Simmons 45, Dodd 39
Dodd 41, Caligiuri 39


US: Gay Marriage (Gallup-5/7-10)

Gallup Poll
5/7-10/09; 1,015 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?

    40% Yes, should be
    57% No, should not be

    Among Liberals
    75% Yes, should be
    23% No, should not be

Just your best guess, do you think that allowing two people of the same sex to legally marry will change our society for -- [ROTATED: the better, will it have no effect, or will it change out society for the worse]?

    13% Better
    36% No effect
    48% Worse


CA: Gay Marriage (SurveyUSA-5/22 and 5/26)

5/22/09; 600 adults, 4.1% margin of error
& 5/26/09; 600 adults, 4.1% margin of error
Mode: IVR


Do you think same-sex couples should? Or should not? be allowed to marry in California?

    47% Should
    49% Should Not
    45% Should
    53% Should Not

In California, should Proposition 8 remain law? Or should Proposition 8 be overturned?

    49% Remain Law
    38% Be Overturned
    56% Remain Law
    40% Be Overturned

Party ID
5/22: 49% Democrat, 27% Republican
5/22: 48% Democrat, 26% Republican

Luntz Bingo "Outliers"

Topics: Outliers Feature

Gary Langer reports the public's perspective on the Supreme Count and the political equation behind the Sotomayor nomination.

Jennifer Agiesta reviews shifting public opinion on gay marriage.

Matt Bai considers why Washington missed the shift.

Frank Luntz submits to questions from the New York Times Magazine.

Paul Begala counters the Luntz health care memo.

BarbinMD counters Luntz and Begala.

Media Matters plays Luntz health care bingo.

Jay Rosen asks if Luntz really gave up politics for Hollywood.

David Frum says the Gallup "pro-life" poll moves Republicans in the wrong direction.   

Nate Silver weighs in on abortion polling.

Steve Singiser reminds us of the lessons on abortion polls about the difficulty of measuring public opinion.

Jay Cost prefers exit polls for historical party identification trends.

Patrick Murray ponders poll skepticism.

Stephen Kinney asks how long will California's preference for Democrats last.

Charles Blow maps the Republican demise in the Northeast.

Lucas O'Connor reports evidence of a generational shift among Cuban-Americans.

Desmoinesdem receives another FRUGGing call.

The MIT SENSEable City Lab vizualizes mobile phone activity during the Obama inauguration (via FlowingData).

Rasmussen Reports finds belief in life on other planets.

NC: 2010 Senate (PPP-5/19-21)

Public Policy Polling (D)
5/19-21/09; 798 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR

North Carolina

Obama Job Approval
51% Approve, 42% Disapprove (chart)

2010 Senate - General Election (all trends)
Sen. Richard Burr (R) 46, Elizabeth Edwards (D) 35
Burr 48, Walter Dalton (D) 29
Burr 44, Dan Blue (D) 33
Burr 47, Richard Moore (D) 34
Burr 47, Bob Etheridge (D) 47
Burr 44, Heath Shuler (D) 28

Burr 42, Cal Cunningham (D) 34*

* Editor's Note: This matchup is effectively an "informed vote" question, which followed biographical information from a previous question that stated "Cal Cunningham is a Democrat and former State Senator who fought in the General Assembly to invest in job training, education and protecting the environment. After September 11th, Cunningham joined the Army Reserves, twice volunteered for active duty and was awarded the Bronze Star for his efforts to have contractors in Iraq prosecuted for their crimes." In February, Burr lead Cunningham 46% to 27% without providing biographical information on Cunningham.

Party ID
Democrat 47, Republican 32


NY: 2010 Sen, Gov (Siena-5/18-21)

Siena Research Institute
5/18-21/09; 622 registered voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

New York State

Favorable / Unfavorable
Pres. Obama (D): 72 / 23 (chart)
Gov. Paterson (D): 27 / 60 (chart)
Sen. Gillibrand (D): 33 / 21 (chart)
Sen. Schumer (D): 63 / 25

Job Approval
Gov. Paterson: 18% Excellent/Good, 81% Fair/Poor (chart)

2010 Governor - Democratic Primary
Cuomo 70, Paterson 19 (chart)

2010 Governor - Republican Primary
Giuliani 78, Faso 10

2010 Governor - General Election
Giuliani 59, Paterson 31 (chart)
Cuomo 53, Giuliani 41 (chart)
Faso 38, Paterson 37
Cuomo 65, Faso 16

2010 Senate - General Election
Gillibrand 48, King 26 (chart)
Gillibrand 43, Pataki 43 (chart)

(release, crosstabs)

More on Those Virginia Polls

Topics: National Journal

After a long absence (thank you, recession), my NationalJournal.com column returns. Today's topic: Picking up where last week's item left off on those polls on the Virginia Democratic primary for governor that are not being reported in the Washington Post.

You will also see more evidence here soon on our deepening partnership with the National Journal Group. Stay tuned.  

PS:  In a related item, the Post reports today on the difficulty the Virginia campaigns are having targetting potential voters.