June 14, 2009 - June 20, 2009


National Poll Deluge "Outliers"

Topics: Outliers Feature

New national polls from CBS/New York Times, NBC/Wall Street Journal and the Pew Research Center inspire commentary and analysis from: Michael Barone, Steve Benen, Alex Bratty, Jon Chait, Chris Cillizza, DemFromCt, John Dickerson, William Galston, Linda Hirshman, Ed Kilgore, Ezra Klein, Taylor Marsh, Neil Newhouse and Jeremy Ruch, Glenn Reynolds, Greg Sargent, Jonathan Singer, Sam Stein, Jake Tapper and Chuck Todd, et. al.,

David Moore provides five reasons to distrust the Terror Free Tomorrow Iran pre-election poll.

John Sides points to a study on whether international observers deter election fraud.

Gallup shows Obama's job approval slipping to 58% for the first time.

Nate Silver looks at health care events correlated with Bill Clinton's job approval in 1993-1994.

Bill Schneider thinks Republicans will have a hard time finding a new leader.

Markos Moulitsas finds greater empathy among Millennials (more here).   

Chris Bowers thinks an open Pennsylvania primary would benefit Sestak.

Jennifer Skalka shares her thoughts on the DGA poll of Virginia.

National Journal's insiders grade the White House staff.

Tom Jensen has reason to be irked (or maybe not).

Lee Sigelman summarizes a study on how political consultant compensation affects political campaigns.

Carl Bialik says Nielsen did not provide its panelists with digital converter boxes.

Michelle Bachmann plans to leave most Census questions blank.

The White House wants to ask about same-sex unions in the 2010 Census.

And no, this is not from an Iranian version of Pollster.com. It's a chart (via Sullivan) purporting to show increasing strength of crowds in Iran:


Beam: Lying About 2008?

Topics: Christopher Beam , Measurement , Retrospective vote questions

Slate's Christopher Beam notices an apparently extreme example of something common in political opinion polling. Winning candidates typically do much better in questions that ask respondents to recall who they voted for in the last election:

In the 2008 election, Obama won 53 percent of the votes; John McCain got 46 percent. But two new polls, conducted by the Wall Street Journal/NBC and the New York Times/CBS, show Obama winning by a much wider margin.

When respondents were asked by the WSJ whom they voted for in the 2008 presidential elections, 41 percent said they voted for Obama, compared with 32 percent for McCain. Factor out the 18 percent who said they didn't vote, and you've got Obama beating McCain by 11 points, 50 percent to 39 percent.

The gap in the New York Times poll is even wider. In it, 48 percent of respondents said they voted for Obama, compared with 25 percent for McCain. Again, subtract the 19 percent who say they didn't vote, and you've got Obama winning by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, with 60 percent to McCain's 32 percent.

This sort of discrepancy is not unusual, as Beam reports and as evidenced by an old MysteryPollster post that he links to. Still, he catches what appears to be an unusually large gap:

[T]he disparity between declared Obama voters and actual Obama voters is especially wide. The gap is usually in the single digits, and it waxes and wanes with the president's popularity. The New York Times poll, conducted periodically since Obama's inauguration, shows the gap between Obama and McCain steadily growing. In February, he led McCain 42 percent to 28 percent. In April, it was 43-25. By June, his lead had grown to 48-25. "Even by the standards of historical numbers, that's a large gap," says Adam Berinsky, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Beam does a good job explaining the likely reasons for the gap, and I recommend reading it in full (though full disclosure: he interviewed me for the piece via email).

NM: 2010 Gov (DGA: 5/31-6/4)

Democratic Governors Association (D)/
Halstad Strategic Research (D)
5/31-6/4/09; 613 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

New Mexico

2010 Governor
Denish (D) 57%, Wilson (R) 35%
Denish 57%, Pearce (R) 35%

Wang on Tehran's Pre-Election Polls

Topics: Iran , Sam Wang

Our discussion of pre-election polling in Iraq (here and here) has so far been limited to the Terror Free Tomorrow/New America Foundation poll. There were other pre-election polls, however. Renard Sexton summarized those results a week ago and found some evidence of momentum toward Mir Hossein Mousavi. Now Sam Wang, the Princeton neuroscientist who has been "meta-analyzing" polling and doing election projections since 2004, has blogged an analysis of polls in Teheran that suggests an "anomaly" with the official count:

National Iranian polls were highly variable and of suspect quality. But within Tehran, polls were more uniform and allow a comparison. Six Tehran polls gave a median lead for Moussavi by 4%. This differs notably from the official tally for the city, Ahmadinejad by 12%. The 16-point discrepancy suggests an anomaly in Tehran and opens the question of whether fraud occurred here - and elsewhere. However, it is also important to note several caveats, including polling uncertainty and possible shifts in opinion following the Ahmadinejad-Moussavi debate on June 3rd.

I want to emphasize Wang's caveats. He limits his analysis to Teheran, and as he notes, even if we assume the 16-point discrepancy observed there applies nationwide, "it would still not be enough to alter the overall outcome." He also points out that we may be mixing geographic definitions: "[The] polls might have been restricted to the actual city of Tehran, which is not all of Tehran province." Still, his analysis adds something worthwhile to the debate.

Update - An alert reader emails:

Seems that Wang's possible mix-up on the geography is more than a caveat. [In the official count], Mousavi won the city of Tehran 52-43, while losing the whole province to Ahmadinijad by six points (51 to 45 percent)

Omero: More are concerned about the deficit?

Topics: NBC/Wall Street Journal , Obama

A question from the NBC/WSJ poll released this week made some news this week, and risks framing the upcoming health care debate.  A majority (58%) agreed with the statement "The President and the Congress should worry more about keeping the budget deficit down, even though it may mean it will take longer for the economy to recover."  Only a third (35%) agreed with this statement: "The President and the Congress should worry more about boosting the economy even though it may mean larger budget deficits now and in the future."

News outlets reported this as "people are more concerned about the deficit than the economy."  But in fact, when asked that question, respondents were quite clear that they were more concerned about the economy.  More said "job creation and economic growth" (31%) should be the top priority for the federal government than said "the deficit and government spending" (19%).  Similarly, more said unemployment was the most important economic issue (35%) than the deficit (24%).

So why does the longer question show an inflated emphasis on the deficit?  One hypothesis is the wording of the question.  The "focus on the deficit" answer category ends on a positive note--the implication is the economy will eventually recover.  The other answer category ends on a negative note--the potential for deficits down the road.  I don't know if this explains the results to the question, and, for the record, I don't doubt the balanced intentions of the researchers (Hart/McInturff).  But the difference between this question's results and the rest of the survey warrant discussion.

This single result is framing the current debate in terms of "voters are concerned about Obama's spending," as in the first sentence here. But not only does a recent NYT analysis show the deficit is hardly caused by Obama, Americans don't blame Obama either.  Nearly half (46%) in the NBC/WSJ survey blame former President Bush, and only 6% blame Obama. A good reminder as we enter a debate over the cost of health care reform.

Mebane Interviewed by GOOD

Topics: Iran , Walter Mebane

Walter Mebane, author of the analysis of the 2009 Iran elections that we linked to yesterday, gave a brief interview to the website GOOD.  He covers the same ground but with a somewhat easier to follow explanation.  The summation:

So when I do the analysis predicting what happened in 2009 based on the first stage of the 2005 election, I get sort of naturalistic patterns in the coefficients that represent the model, so to speak, but the number of outliers explodes. The number of observations [towns or cities] that the model does not describe goes from 8 to 79. And that's 79 out of 320, that's a large number. And when I look at the towns that are suspicious, that the model doesn't describe all that well but that I don't throw out completely, that rises to 192 observations. So out of 320 towns, 192 of them are not well described by the model. Moreover, in 172 of those, it's Ahmadinejad's vote that looks suspicious. And among the 172, 119 of those have Ahmadinejad getting more votes than this natural model predicts.

So now that looks a lot like fraud. He gaining extra votes that don't match what you predict based on a refined examination of the previous year's election, taking into account the extra mobilization, which the model does, and also looking at all four candidates. It's not a proof by any stretch of the imagination, but it's certainly a more intuitive explanation to say that there are widespread distortions where people simply added a lot of votes or did something to augment Ahmadinejad's support."

HI: 2010 Sen, Gov (Kos, 6/15-17)

Daily Kos (D)/Research 2000
6/15-17/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
400 Democratic primary voters, 5% margin or error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

Pres. Barack Obama: 68 / 26
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D): 55 / 33
Mufi Hannemann (D): 56 / 20
Duke Aiona (R): 44 / 26
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D): 56 / 38
Gov. Linda Lingle (R): 51 / 43

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
Abercrombie 42%,Hannemann 22%

2010 Governor: General Election
Abercrombie 45%, Aiona 36%
Hannamann 44%, Aiona 34%

2010 Senate: General Election
Inouye 52%, Lingle 40%

PA: 2010 Senate (Rasmussen-6/16)

Rasmussen Reports
6/16/09; 800 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR


Job Approval / Disapproval
Obama: 60 / 39 (chart)
Gov. Rendell: 53 / 46 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Sen. Specter (D): 53 / 43 (chart)
Sestak (D): 42 / 32
Toomey (R): 50 / 35

2009 Senate
Sen. Specter 50, Toomey 39 (chart)
Sestak 41, Toomey 35 (trend)


VA: McDonnell 45, Deeds 44 (Kos 6/15-17)

Daily Kos (D)/Research 2000
6/15-17/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews


Obama: 56 / 41 (chart)
Deeds: 47 / 35
McDonnell: 55 / 36

2009 Governor
McDonnell 45%, Deeds 44% (chart)


US: National Survey (PPP 6/12-16)

Public Policy Polling (D)
6/12-16/09; 638 voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: IVR


Obama Job Approval
52% Approve, 44% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 82% Approve, 14% Disapprove (chart)
Reps: 18% Approve, 78% Disapprove (chart)
Inds: 46% Approve, 49% Disapprove (chart)

Gingrich: 35 / 46
Huckabee: 43 / 35
Palin: 43 / 49
Romney: 41 / 36

2012 President
Obama 49%, Gingrich 41%
Obama 50%, Huckabee 43%
Obama 52%, Palin 40%
Obama 48%, Romney 40%

Party ID
43% Democrat, 34% Republican, 23% independent (chart)


US: National Survey (Pew 6/10-14)

Pew Research Center
6/10-14/09; 1,502 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews


State of the country
30% Satisfied, 64% Dissatisfied (chart)

Obama Job Approval
61% Approve, 30% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 52% Approve, 40% Disapprove (chart)

Obama: 72 / 25 (chart)
Pelosi: 35 / 41

Party ID
34% Democrat, 25% Republican, 34% independent (chart)

I'd like your opinion about some possible international concerns for the U.S. Do you think that [Iran's nuclear program] is a major threat, a minor threat or not a threat to the well being of the United States?

    60% Major threat
    20% Minor threat
    5% Not a threat

Do you favor or oppose changing the health care system in this country so that all Americans have health insurance that covers all medically necessary care?

June 2009: 75% Favor, 21% Oppose
June 1994: 76% Favor, 19% Oppose

(analysis, results)

US: Healthcare (Marist 4/21-23)

4/21-23/09; 1,204 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews


Do all, some, or none of the adults/children in your household have health insurance or a health plan right now?

    79% All insured
    21% Some or none insured


US: Health Care (RWJ May 09)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, U of Michigan
May 2009, 4.3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews


"In its measure of consumer confidence about insurance coverage and access to care, the poll found a drop of 1.3 points from April to May. The confidence index, which the pollster and foundation officials initiated in May, was fixed at 100 points and dropped to 98.7. The index will be tracked and released monthly."

(story, release)

PA: Specter 51, Sestak 32 (Rasmussen 6/16)

6/16/09; 374 likely Democratic voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: IVR


Sen. Specter: 72 / 26
Sestak: 57 / 21

2010 Senate Primary
Dems: 51% Specter, 32% Sestak (chart)


Mebane: "Moderately Strong Support" for Iran Fraud

Walter Mebane, the University of Michigan political science and statistics professor who specializes in statistical tools "for detecting anomalies and diagnosing fraud in election results," has updated his assessment of the official vote return statistics for the Iran elections. Mebane now says he sees "moderately strong support for a diagnosis that the 2009 election was afflicted by significant fraud."

In his initial analysis, Mebane used town-level data from the second "run-off" stage of the 2005 Iranian elections to model expectations for the 2009 results. The technical difference in the update is that Mebane has incorporated town-level data from the first stage of the 2005 elections. In his revised analysis, Mebane is struck by "the large number of outliers":

One might expect that given the increased political resolution provided by having measures of the first-stage candidates' support, combined with the turnout ratio variable interactions, the model would do a good job capturing more of the variations in the 2009 vote

His conclusion. Something is fishy in the official 2009 results and the deviations appear to benefit Ahmadinejad:

More than half of the 320 towns included in this part of the analysis exhibit vote totals for Ahmadinejad that are not well described by the natural political processes the model of Table 15 represents. These departures from the model much more often represent additions than declines in the votes reported for Ahmadinejad. Correspondingly the poorly modeled observations much more often represent declines than additions in the votes reported for Mousavi.

Modified conclusion: In general, combining the first-stage 2005 and 2009 data conveys the impression that while natural political processes significantly contributed to the election outcome, outcomes in many towns were produced by very different processes. The natural processes in 2009 Ahmadinejad have him tending to do best in towns where his support in 2005 was highest and tending to do worst in towns where turnout surged the most. But in more than half of the towns where comparisons to the first-stage 2005 results are feasible, Ahmadinejad's vote counts are not at all or only poorly described by the naturalistic model. Much more often than not, these poorly modeled observations have vote counts for Ahmadinejad that are greater than the naturalistic model would imply. While it is not possible given only the current data to say for sure whether this reflects natural complexity in the political processes or artificial manipulations, the numerous outliers comport more with the idea that there was widespread fraud than with the idea that all the departures from the model are benign. Additional information of various kinds can help sort out the question. Remaining is the need to see data at lower levels of aggregation and in general more transparency about how the election was conducted.

Having watched a lot of misleading exit poll pseudoscience ricochet around the internet in the aftermath of our own elections in 2004, I have a reflexive caution about quick blog posts claiming statistical evidence of fraud. Walter Mebane falls in an altogether different category. No one is better qualified to find statistical evidence of fraud in election data. He has made his raw data and R-code available (here), and other statisticians (including those with better knowledge of Iran's elections) may reach different conclusions. But if someone like Walter Mebane is no longer on the fence about the 2009 data, it means a lot.

Update Washington Post polling director Jon Cohen reminds us of the limits of this sort of circumstantial evidence:

This analysis adds a new dimension to the debate over the results, but is still well short of "hard evidence" of fraud, particularly given our limited understanding of voting behavior in Iran.

He also summarizes a Post letter-to-the-editor that makes a point I tried to make (albeit less clearly) on Tuesday:

And all of this may miss a key point brought up by a reader in today's Post: in a letter-to-the-editor, John Cronin of Takoma Park writes that our search for "proof" through numbers may be misguided. "[W]hen an unelected ayatollah -- the "supreme leader," no less -- controls much of the media, the military and the courts, the whole state is effectively rigged," Cronin writes, "[i]t's hard to imagine any election being truly fair under such conditions, regardless of the extent to which the ballot boxes are stuffed."

US: National Survey (NBCWSJ 6/12-15)

NBC/Wall Street Journal
6/12-15/09; 1,008 adults, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews


State of the Country
42% Right direction, 46% Wrong track (chart)

Obama Job Approval
56% Approve, 34% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 51% Approve, 38% Disapprove (chart)

Obama: 60 / 29 (chart)
Sotomayor: 30 / 16
Democratic Party: 45 / 37
Republican Party: 25 / 44
Cheney: 26 / 48
Pelosi: 24 / 46

Congressional Job Approval
29% Approve, 57% Disapprove (chart)

Party ID
31% Democrat, 21% Republican, 37% independent (chart)

Now I am going to tell you more about the health care plan that President Obama supports and please tell me whether you would favor or oppose it.

The plan requires that health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. It also requires all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage for their employees, or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured. Families and individuals with lower- and middleincomes would receive tax credits to help them afford insurance coverage. Some of the funding for this plan would come from raising taxes on wealthier Americans.

Do you favor or oppose this plan?

    55% Favor
    35% Oppose

(NBC story, results; WSJ story, results)

US: National Survey (CBSTimes-6/12-16)

CBS News / New York Times
6/12-16/09; 895 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Obama Job Approval
63% Approve, 26% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 92 / 4 (chart)
inds: 58 / 25 (chart)
Reps: 23 / 63 (chart)

Economy: 57% Approve, 35% Disapprove (chart)

State of the Country
44% Right Direction, 50% Wrong Track (chart)
Economy: 27% Getting Better, 25% Getting Worse (chart)

Party ID
38% Democrat, 24% Republican, 31% independent (chart)

What do you think right now? Should the Senate vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, or vote against Sotomayor, or can't you say?

    34% Vote to confirm
    9% Vote against

(CBS story, results; Times story, results)

The Public's View of Obama and McCain's Campaign Strategies

Political pundits generally settle on a shared view of a campaign, one that includes a story about which groups each candidate worked hardest to win votes from. But how does the general public perceive the candidates' campaign strategies?

In 2008, I included a battery on the Cooperative Congressional Election Study which asked 1,000 American adults to indicate which types of people each candidate had focused more attention on (the actual wording of the question was "During the presidential election campaign, which of the following groups do you think [Barack Obama/John McCain] has focused most of his attention on?") Respondents could select up to five groups from a list of 21 and each respondent was asked to complete this exercise for both candidates.

I am using these data for a project I'm working on looking at targeting during campaigns; however, I thought that I'd share some initial results here. The chart below aggregates the responses to these questions to show how the public viewed both candidates' campaigns. The chart shows what proportion of the public that thought that Obama (on the y-axis) or McCain (on the x-axis) had focused on winning the votes of each group.


Groups in the upper left hand corner are those that a large proportion of the public thought the Obama campaign focused on targeting, but only a small share thought McCain did. Clustered far up in that corner are young adults, lower income Americans, and African Americans. Also near that top left corner are liberals. None of these groups are surprising to see in this corner, though they may be there for different reasons.

Groups in the bottom right corner are those that a large share of voters thought McCain targeted but which fewer thought Obama focused on. These groups included whites, conservatives, and upper income Americans. No surprises here either.

In the top right corner are groups that Americans thought both candidates focused on winning votes from. Interestingly, there are very few groups in this area, with middle income Americans standing mostly alone. Aside from this group, the public did not appear to identify too many groups that they thought both candidates were trying to win over.

Some other interesting findings from this chart:

  • More Americans thought that McCain tried to win the votes of women than Obama. It is interesting to ponder how big a role the Pallin selection was in affecting this perception. It is also worth noting that while more Americans thought that McCain was trying to win the votes of women, the gender gap strongly favored Obama in the actual voting.
  • Women are not the only group where the public's view of the candidates' strategies didn't quite match with the actual success of the candidate among that group. For example, Obama edged out McCain among Americans earning $150,000 or more. He also won big among those describing themselves as ideological moderates.
  • It is also interesting to see where Born-Again Christians fall on this chart. Despite the publicity Obama gained for targeting young evangelicals, few in the public actually credited him with trying to win over the votes of this group. However, perhaps more intriguing is the question of where this group might have fallen along the x-axis in the 2004 election. While between 20 and 30% of Americans thought McCain, it seems likely that this number is significantly lower than it would have been for Bush in '04.
  • Finally, there appears to be some polarization in these perceptions. In particular, note how far apart the income and racial groups are distributed on this chart. The public viewed African Americans as being almost the exclusive domain of the Obama campaign while whites were overwhelmingly viewed as being only targeted by McCain. Furthermore, the Obama campaign was viewed as being the only campaign focusing on lower income Americans while McCain was the only candidate viewed as focusing on those with higher incomes. On the other hand, both candidates were viewed as targeting middle income Americans.
  • These perceptions undoubtedly vary depending on whether a respondent is or isn't a part of each particular group. For example, those with higher incomes may have been more likely to think that Obama was focusing more attention on those with lower incomes compared to those who actually have lower incomes. I'll be exploring these dynamics when I analyze the data in more detail.

Overall, the chart provides some interesting insight into how the public viewed the candidates' strategies and raises an interesting question...how comparable would these perceptions be to the judgments of journalists and political pundits who follow the campaign for a living?

More on the TFT Iran Poll

Topics: Iran , Terror Free Tomorrow poll

Via Sullivan, a new op-ed from Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty that walks back a little from the nut graph of their original Washington Post op-ed that was the object of much criticism. On Monday they argued:

While Western news reports from Tehran in the days leading up to the voting portrayed an Iranian public enthusiastic about Ahmadinejad's principal opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, our scientific sampling from across all 30 of Iran's provinces showed Ahmadinejad well ahead.

Yesterday, on CNN, they qualified:

Our poll concluded three weeks before the election. It does not predict the final vote, nor does it measure a possible surge for Moussavi, which many believe occurred in the final weeks. Instead, as we wrote on Monday, our survey indicates "the possibility that the vote is not the product of widespread fraud" because of Ahmadinejad's formidable early lead.

More importantly, they also review some of the context provided other measures on their survey:

Nearly 80 percent want the right to vote for all their leaders, including the all-powerful supreme leader, while nearly 90 percent chose free elections and a free press as the most important goals they have for their government -- virtually tied with the top priority of improving the Iranian economy.

And here is the most important fact of all: More than 86 percent of those who told us they support Ahmadinejad also choose free elections and a free press as their most important priorities for their leaders. In other words, in our survey, Ahmadinejad supporters back real democratic reforms in Iran as much as supporters of the more avowedly reform candidate Moussavi.

Separately, Mark Mellman joins the chorus of critics of Monday's op-ed, but also makes a similar point about attitudes they measured that were not in sync with Ahmadinejad.

Whether or not "the reelection of President Ahmadinejad is what the Iranian people wanted," [the poll] demonstrates voters dissent from some, though not all, of his polices. In contrast to their candidate, strong majorities support rapprochement with the United States and the establishment of democratic institutions.

While a narrow 52 percent majority supports the development of nuclear weapons, 74 percent would have Iran guarantee not to develop nukes in exchange for trade and investment from abroad. other measures from the first survey:

Of course Mellman also notes some agreement:

[O]ne chilling statistic will send shivers up spines in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Just 27 percent of Iran's voters would favor a peace treaty with Israel if an independent Palestinian state is established, but 62 percent "oppose any peace treaty" and "favor all Muslims continuing to fight until there is no State of Israel in the Middle East."   On that issue, Ahmadinejad seems to command a majority.

One reader emailed Monday asking me to urge the sponsors of the survey -- Terror Free Tomorrow (TFT) and the New America Foundation -- to release the raw, respondent level data from their survey in order to enable regional cross-tabulations of their vote preference question. Again, the three-week span between the completion of the survey and Election Day renders the data mostly useless as direct forensic evidence of voter fraud.

However, given that TFT is a non-profit with a stated mission of providing facts to help counter extremism, they would do a real public service by putting the machine-readable, respondent level data online right now. Access to that data would not prove or disprove fraud, but it would allow scholars to get a better understanding of the attitudes present among the Iranian citizenry just before their election campaign got underway in earnest.

P.S. Posting on Tehran Bureau, Muhammad Sahimi makes a similar argument about reform impulses in the Iranian public using the TFT data:

Let us begin with the American poll. According to the poll, 77% of the respondents said that they want the Supreme Leader to be elected directly by the people; 74% favor full inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities to ensure that it will not be used for non-peaceful purposes; 77% favor normal trade with, and full recognition by the United States; 68% favor Iran's government to help the U.S. in Iraq, and 52% favor recognition of Israel in return for U.S. recognition and open. trade. Who espouses such policies? The reformists, not President Ahmadinejad.

90% of the respondents thought that the economy should be the top priority of their government. How has Mr. Ahmadinejad's economic performance been (aside from distributing cash among the poor in the last month of the campaign)? Dismal! Unemployment, inflation, and the costs of housing, fuel, and food have all skyrocketed since 2005

Hill: The GOP Case for Bob Groves

Topics: David Hill , JPSM , Robert Groves

Texas based Republican pollster David Hill is speaking out in favor of confirming Bob Groves as director of the U.S. Census Bureau and against the mysterious "hold" placed on his nomination by an unnamed Republican Senator. In his weekly column, Hill describes the "furtive opposition" by his own party as "ill-advised" and outlined "a strong Republican case" for Groves' confirmation.

Hill's endorsement of the Groves nomination has some significance, given both the Senate hold and the instantaneous "dismay" that House Republicans expressed about the appointment's supposed "ulterior political agenda."

Tempting as it is to reproduce the entire column, I will confine myself to the two most memorable paragraphs. First, regarding Groves' stellar reputation:

On merit, Bob Groves is an exemplary social scientist. No one is more qualified than he to lead data collection that has such vital implications for commerce and industry, not just political parties. Doesn't Groves's curriculum vitae exude the excellence that Republicans want to bring to governance, especially when the results so profoundly affect entrepreneurship, marketing and business planning?

Second, he provides a personal testimonial:

Groves also has the judgment to handle the job. I once had the good fortune of being a co-consultant with him on a project for the University of Utah. We spent several days there advising that institution's nascent survey research and polling unit. It provided us the opportunity to exchange views about the challenges of polling in a university context. How does the university poll on public policies, topical issues and state elections without interjecting corrosive partisan politics? Bob's counsel was wise and reflected a value-free perspective that will serve him well as Census director. You can be certain that Bob will serve science and the data, not political partisanship. His wholly controversy-free tenure at the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center attests to this conclusion.

I can share a similar story. In the late 1990s, I was lucky to have been a student in two classes Groves taught at the University of Maryland's Joint Program in Survey Methodology (JPSM). At the time, I was very much a partisan Democrat, with a client list that included members of Congress. As an undergraduate, I had professors who took great interest in my political activities and delighted in war stories about the campaign trail (I had taken time off as an undergraduate to work on a presidential campaign). Bob was not among them. If anything, I think he found my political consulting background a bit sleazy.

One of these classes, Introduction to the Federal Statistical System, presented and described the federal statistical agencies (Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, etc.). We spent a lot of time discussing how these agencies could better fulfill their missions while remaining independent of political pressure. It is the memory of those sessions, more than anything else, that makes me want to laugh out loud at the notion of Groves as a partisan appointee bent on "political manipulation." That is exactly backward. Groves is, as Hill puts it, someone certain to "serve science and the data, not political partisanship."

David Hill deserves a lot of credit for bucking some in his own party by standing up for this nomination -- and do read the whole column to get his complete argument. I hope more Republican pollsters follow his example.

UpdateAlex Lundry, of TargetPoint Consulting, joins the Republicans for Groves bandwagon.  

Update 2:  Not a pollster, but Republican media consultant Mike Murphy says he's "with David Hill." 

Update 3:  Republican pollster Chris Wilson, founder and CEO of Wilson Research Strategies, adds his name to the list of Groves supporters.

GA: 2010 Gov (SVision-6/12-14)

Strategic Vision (R)
6/12-14/09; 800 Likely Voters, 3% Margin of Error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


Job Approval/Disapproval
Obama: 49/43
Gov. Perdue (R): 53/36
Sen. Chambliss (R): 50/40
Sen. Isakson (R): 56/35

2009 Governor: Primary
Reps: Oxendine 35, Handel 13, Deal 12
Dems: Barnes 49, Baker 30, Poythress 5


IRAN: Election Honesty (Gallup-2008)

Gallup Poll
4/30 - 5/31/2008; 1,040 adults, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Face-to-face interviews


In Iran, do you have confidence in each of the following, or not?
How about the honesty of elections?

    50% Yes
    40% No

    66% Yes, 29% No

    36% Yes, 49% No


PA: 2010 Gov (FMMA-6/4-9)

Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates (D) /
Tom Knox (D)
6/4-9/09; 800 registered Democrats, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


2009 Governor - Democratic Primary (trends)
Onorato 22, Knox 21
Knox 14, Onorato 14, Wagner 13, Cunningham 7

(story, results)

Double Video "Outliers"

Topics: Outliers Feature

Stan Greenberg revisits his 1993 health care polling and finds little has changed.

Josh Tucker shares lessons on Iran from his research on the "Colored Revolutions" (see also "Things to Watch" on MonkeyCage).

Renard Sexton reviews whether an Iran recount would address reported irregularities.

John Sides considers the origins of electoral fraud.

Nate Silver looks at the Terror Free Tomorrow/New America Foundation poll; as does Chris Bowers.

Gallup finds "conservatives" are a plurality, draws commentary from Kathryn Jean Lopez, Pete Wehner, Right Wing News (on the Right) Steve Benen and Ed Kilgore (on the Left).

Joe Lenski says Deeds win is a classic outcome in a 3-way primary.

Steve Singiser reviews the polling early line on 2009.

Tom Jensen compares divergent Wisconsin polls, Wisconsin Democrats bash PPP's automated polls.

Americans United for Change creates a cable ad touting a Diageo/Hotline poll result.

DemFromCT shares a health care survey conducted by the Employee Benefits Research Institute.

Businessweek publishes Edward Tufte's slideshow (via Lundry)

The Daily Show reports the fake Iranian exit poll results (worth the click for the "Soccer Imams" reference alone):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Irandecision 2009 - Election Results
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

And the BBC comedy, Yes, Prime Minister explains how pollsters get the results they want (via @randomsubu):

On Proving Vote Fraud in Iran

Topics: Iran

Today's Washington Post does a real service with its front page story by Glenn Kessler and Jon Cohen that reviews both the plentiful "signs of fraud" in last week's disputed election in Iran, and the frustrating lack of "hard evidence" to substantiate it. The key paragraph:

There are many signs of manipulation or outright fraud in Iran's disputed election results, according to pollsters and election experts, but the case for a rigged outcome is far from ironclad, making it difficult for the United States and other Western powers to denounce the results as unacceptable. Indeed, there is also evidence that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent president deeply disliked in the West for his promotion of Iran's nuclear program and his anti-Israeli rhetoric, simply won a commanding victory.

The Kessler/Cohen piece is one of the most thorough reviews of what we know and, unfortunately, what we cannot know about whether vote fraud occurred in Iran. The article reviews the inconclusive Terror Free Tomorrow/New America Foundation poll (that Cohen critiqued yesterday) and also goes into more detail on the various "suspicious indicators," including:

  • The conflicting claims and counterclaims on election night, and the "relatively consistent" margin for Ahmadinejad as official results were reported.
  • The suspicion that "so many ballots were said to have been counted so quickly."

  • The apparent secrecy surrounding tallies from individual polling stations and lack of vetting by representatives of opposition candidates.
  • The questionable pattern of regional results, including surprisingly poor performances by opposition candidates Mousavi and Karroubi in their home provinces.

The bottom line?

"There are suspicious elements here, but there's no solid evidence of fraud," said Walter R. Mebane Jr., a University of Michigan professor of political science and statistics and an expert on detecting electoral fraud.

Separately, as noted by Andrew Sullivan via the blog Stochastic Democracy, Mebane has produced a brief report with the details behind his conclusions. He compares "district level vote counts" and turnout in 2005 to predict support for Ahmedinejad in 2009. He reports that his model works well for most districts, but those deviations from the model he observed were in Ahmedinejad's favor [Correction: Both Stochastic Democracy and I misread Mebane. The the outliers from Mebane's model show places where Ahmadinejad's vote share is smaller than expected, not larger]. Mebane's conclusion:

In general, combining the 2005 and 2009 data conveys the impression that a substantial core of the 2009 results reflected natural political processes. In 2009 Ahmadinejad tended to do best in towns where his support in 2005 was highest, and he tended to do worst in towns where turnout surged the most. These natural aspects of the election results stand in contrast to the unusual pattern in which all of the notable discrepancies between the support Ahmadinejad actually received and the support the model predicts are always negative. This pattern needs to be explained before one can have confidence that natural election processes were not supplemented with artificial manipulations. Also remaining is the need to see data at lower levels of aggregation and in general more transparency about how the election was conducted.

[Update:  Mebane subsequently updated his analysis with further data and found "moderately strong support" for fraud].

It is worth remembering that truly "solid evidence" is hard to come by given the closed nature of both the Iranian election and its government. Consider the proof offered in the preliminary report issued on the disputed Ukranian election in 2004 by the most authoritative monitor, the Office of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). They found "significant shortcomings" in the Ukraine election based on eyewitness testimony and physical evidence gathered by the 4,000 international observers, plus 10,000 more from within Ukraine deployed as accredited journalists. As far as I know, no such independent monitoring occurred in Iran.

It is also worth asking whether, at a certain level, we need to search for "proof" of fraud in the patterns of official vote reports given the graphic and indisputable evidence on display over the last few days in Iran of a ruthless, violent suppression of fundamental human rights. View this extremely disturbing video that Sullivan linked to (if you can bear it) of black-masked police mercilessly beating a defenseless protester, at one point apparently attempting to break his bones while shouting to the crowd, "watch this."** Evidence of fascism may not equate to evidence of vote fraud, but...does it matter?

**Update: The video apparently dates back two years, although it's probably worth asking the same question. Does it matter?  Watch Sullivan's blog for similar video from the last few days.   

VA-Gov: Deeds 42, McDonnell 38 (DGA-6/10-14)

Anzalone-Liszt Research (D) /
Democratic Governors Association (D)
6/10-14/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


2009 Governor
Deeds (D) 42, McDonnell (R) 38 (chart)
Generic Republican 38, Generic Democrat 36


US: Ideological Groups (Gallup-2009)

Gallup Poll
January to May 2009, 10,000 adults
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


How would you describe your political views -- [very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal, (or) very liberal]?

    40% Consertavie
    35% Moderate
    21% Liberal


Post's Cohen on Iran Polls

Topics: Iran

Today's Washington Post features an op-ed by Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty that cites a "scientific" survey they helped conduct of the Iranian people "from across all 30 of Iran's provinces [that] showed [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad well ahead." Ballen and Doherty argue that rather than indicating "fraud and electoral manipulation...The fact may simply be that the reelection of President Ahmadinejad is what the Iranian people wanted."

This morning, Washington Post polling director Jon Cohen blogged a helpful reality check:

[A] closer look at the one sponsored by Terror Free Tomorrow and the New America Foundation [cited by Ballen and Doherty] reveals ample reason to be skeptical the conclusions drawn from it.

Methodologically, this survey passes muster as it's relatively straightforward to pull a good sample of the Iranian population, using the country's publicly available population counts and listed telephone exchanges. But the poll was conducted from May 11 to 20, well before the spike in support for Mousavi his supporters claim.

(See here for a summary of available Iran polls that finds some evidence for Mousavi momentum late in the campaign.)

More to the point, however, the poll that appears in today's op-ed shows a 2 to 1 lead in the thinnest sense: 34 percent of those polled said they'd vote for Ahmadinejad, 14 percent for Mousavi. That leaves 52 percent unaccounted for. In all, 27 percent expressed no opinion in the election, and another 15 percent refused to answer the question at all. Six percent said they'd vote for none of the listed candidates; the rest for minor candidates.

The whole thing is worth reading in full.

Update:  Gary Langer, polling director of ABC News, covers much of the same ground, but catches that Terror Free Tomorrow's pre-election analysis "predicted a runoff":

To declare Ahmadinejad comfortably ahead based on these data is to assume that the people who did not express a preference divided precisely the same as those who did answer the question. This theoretical calculation produces a majority for the incumbent. The question is whether such a calculation is justified - and the reality is that even TFT did not make this leap in its pre-election analysis.

Rather it leaped in another direction, noting that "the race may actually be closer than a first look at the numbers would indicate," because more than six in 10 respondents who expressed no opinion "reflect individuals who favor political reform and change in the current system." It went on to predict "that none of the candidates will likely pass the 50 percent threshold."

Juan Cole makes a similar point and links to the original Terror Free Tomorrow report (pdf).

Lessons from Virginia and the Google Blast

Topics: Google Blast , National Journal , online advertising

My NationalJournal.com column for this week looks at lessons learned from last week's Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia.

Unfortunately, I had only three short paragraphs to devote to the "Google blast" purchased by the Deeds campaign. For more detail, I recommend the article I linked to by Nancy Scola of the Personal Democracy Forum. as well as this more in-depth account by ClickZ's Kate Kay that I found after filing the column. Kay interviewed Kyle Osterhout, partner at Media Strategies, the time buying agency that purchased television, radio and online advertising for the Deeds campaign and reported these details:

Deeds ran display and search ads targeted to people throughout Virginia for two months leading up to yesterday's primary. However, the last-minute Google ads were intended for Northern Virginian eyes only. Deeds was endorsed by The Washington Post, and the campaign believed that endorsement would carry more weight with Northerners, said Osterhout.

During the 28-hour Google blast, about 8.8 million ad impressions ran, and were clicked around 3,000 times. Like many display ad efforts, the click-through rate was tiny. But Get-Out-the-Vote campaigns like this one are not necessarily driven by online action: they're meant to get people to go out and vote.

In addition, they're often aimed at persuasion. "The goal was to push to primary voters that Deeds was the candidate that was endorsed The Washington Post," Osterhout told ClickZ News. Television ads mirrored that message. According to Osterhout, the campaign team plans to analyze ad performance according to Web site, ad size, and placement "to try to pinpoint what exactly worked the best."

The "Google Blast" advertising used by the Deeds campaign, as well as by Scott Murphy's campaign earlier this year in New York's 20th Congressional District, represent something of a threshold. Campaigns area starting to use Internet advertising as a means of persuading uncertain voters rather than as a prospecting tool to reach new donors or volunteers.

As the same time, Osterhout's comments and the click-through rates he provides tell us that the Deeds internet ads functioned as online yard signs. They were effective at communicating a message that could be boiled down to a single sentence. "The Washington Post endorsed only one Democrat: Creigh Deeds."


The estimate I cited for the reach of the Google ad network -- more than 80% -- comes from an analysis of ComScore data by Eric Frenchman, an online marketing and advertising consultant who worked on the McCain-Palin campaign and claims to have coined the term "Google Blast." A Google spokesperson told me that Google does not release official numbers on their network's reach, but she did point me to the most recent ComScore numbers like those that Frenchman used for his estimates.