June 21, 2009 - June 27, 2009


Assorted Summer "Outliers"

Topics: Outliers Feature

The Pew Research Center uses fewer words, gets a different result on spending vs. deficit reduction; Ed Kilgore, and Linda Hirshman react.

Gallup finds 92% consider extramarital affairs immoral.

Nate Silver compares calls on Sanford to resign to those faced by other "pantsless pols."

Jennifer Agiesta notes a cooling among liberals toward Obama on global warming.

National Journal's insiders see a rough road for Cap and Trade.

David Hill considers why choice, competition and a plan "like Medicare" might appeal to Republicans.

Matthew Cooper has a theory on Obama's slowly declining job rating.

Carl Bialik chalks up a success for automated surveys in Virginia.

Tom Jensen sees a correlation between PPPs Obama job rating and his 2008 vote.

David Winston tests the effectiveness of GOP attacks on Nancy Pelosi.

Greg Sargent reports that Democrats are attacking Republicans for their low poll numbers.

Mark Mellman critiques the poll reporting of the London Independent.

Brenden Nyhan says its wrong to assume only Republicans mistake Obama for a Muslim.

Chris Bowers assesses Sestak vs. Specter.

Michelle Bachmann prefers ignorance to an accurate Census.

SC: Sanford Affair (Rasmussen 6/25)

6/25; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR


South Carolina

Should Mark Sanford resign as Governor?

    46% Yes, 39% No

Is Mark Sanford more ethical than most politicians, less ethical than most politicians, or about as ethical as most politicians?

    18% More ethical
    18% Less ethical
    55% About as ethical

OR: 2010 Governor (Kos 6/22-24)

Daily Kos (D) / Research 2000
6/22-24/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews




    Obama: 62 / 31
    John Kitzhaber (D): 46 / 26
    Peter DeFazio (D): 47 / 22
    Bill Bradbury: 33 / 15
    Steve Novick (D): 16 / 5
    Gordon Smith (R): 39 / 48
    Greg Walden (R): 36 / 25
    John Atkinson (R): 29 / 19

2010 Governor

    Kitzhaber 46%, Smith 37%
    Kitzhaber 44%, Walden 38%
    Kitzhaber 48%, Atkinson 35%
    DeFazio 47%, Smith 37%
    DeFazio 45%, Walden 37%
    DeFazio 48%, Atkinson 34%
    Bradbury 42%, Smith 38%
    Bradbury 40%, Walden 39%
    Bradbury 41%, Atkinson 34%
    Smith 41%, Novick 28%
    Walden 43%, Novick 28%
    Atkinson 34%, Novick 29%

US: National Survey (DemCorps 6/19-22)

Democracy Corps (D)/
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D)
6/19-22/09; 1000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews



Obama Job Approval
56% Approve, 36% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 89 / 6 (chart)
Reps: 17 / 74 (chart)
Inds: 50 / 39 (chart)

Obama: 58% Favorable, 30% Unfavorable (chart)
The Republican Party: 32 / 44
The Democratic Party: 45 / 35

State of the Country
41% Right direction, 49% Wrong track (chart)

"As you may have heard, President Obama is preparing a plan to change the health care
system. From what you have heard about this plan, do you favor or oppose Obama's health
care proposal?"

    43% Favor, 38% Oppose

Party ID
39% Democrat, 29% Republican, 30% independent (chart)

More on "Satisfaction" with Health Coverage

Topics: Health Care Reform , Measurement , Satisfaction

I want to follow-up on yesterday's post about satisfaction with health care coverage and cost, by making an admittedly wonky methodological point that yields a lesson about what makes Americans both eager for health care reform and nervous about it.

Before I started blogging I had the good fortune to conduct a long-running customer satisfaction survey program for a major American corporation. The heart of the survey was a battery of questions that asked customers to rate their satisfaction with various aspects of the company's service. Satisfaction questions of this sort have long been a staple of market research, so I never had any hesitation about asking them, but over the course of that survey are grew more and more, well, unsatisfied with questions that ask about "satisfaction," per se.

The biggest problem is that satisfaction is an attitude based on a comparison between expectations and experience. You might express satisfaction, for example, with a less than optimal experience if you start out with low expectation for that service. I wonder if something like that may be happening with satisfaction questions pertaining to the cost and quality of health care coverage.   

Consider the results obtained in surveys conducted by Democracy Corps, the polling project run by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Democratic consultant James Carville. On a survey they conducted earlier this week, 71% of voters say they are satisfied with their "own health insurance coverage" (44% are very satisfied), while 25% are dissatisfied (and note, they asked this question of voters with and without health insurance). But in their analysis, Democracy Corps reports:

Conservatives and some in the media think these voters are not serious about change, but that misreads them, as we realize from our focus groups last week. They are "satisfied" with their choice of doctors, that their employer is picking up most of the cost and that they may have better insurance than others. But, they are not happy about having traded off wages or gotten locked into a job because of health care or about the fate of a child with a chronic ailment who may not be able to get insurance in the future. So, they are nervous about change, but they want it.

Greenberg and his colleagues argue that the sense of "satisfaction" with current coverage may hide negative experiences that make Americans uncomfortable with the status quo. And some findings from other surveys bear them out. In addition to the Kaiser Family Foundation results I cited yesterday, consider this example from the June survey by the Pew Research Center. They found nearly half of adults (48%) saying that "paying for the cost of a major illness" is a "major problem for you and your family" (50% say it is "not a problem"). Almost as many (43%) say that "paying for the cost of health insurance" is a major problem (61% say it is not).

And even though Americans are satisfied with their current coverage, they also express great anxiety about the future. The CBS/New York Times survey, for example, found 49% of Americans saying they are very concerned, and 37% somewhat concerned "about the health care costs you and your family might face in the coming years" (only 13% were not at all concerned). The ABC/ Washington Post survey obtained a similar result: "A whopping 85 percent are concerned about their future costs, with 59 percent 'very' concerned."

Of course, that same ABC/Post surveys shows that the anxiety cuts both ways: "About eight in 10 [adults]," the ABC analysis tells us, "are concerned that reform may reduce their quality, coverage and choice of care, and increase their costs, government bureaucracy and the federal deficit, with anywhere from 51 to 62 percent 'very' worried about each of these."

Yes, in this climate, as KFF's Mollyann Brody told me, "it is really easy to scare people into thinking that reform will make their own situations worse off." But at the same time, people are also very anxious about their costs and future coverage under the status quo. It is that latter anxiety -- much less than any altruistic desire to help out Americans without health care coverage -- that drives the huge general desire for change and reform.

SC: Sanford Affair (Politico 6/24)

Insider Advantage / Politico
6/24/09; 926 registered voters, 3.2% margin of error
Mode: IVR

(story, results)

South Carolina

What is your opinion of the job performance of Governor Mark Sanford?

    47% Approve, 45% Disapprove

In light of the Governor's statement today, what do you believe Governor Sanford should do?

    50% Resign, 42% Remain in office

SC: Gov. Sanford (SurveyUSA 6/24)

6/24/09; 500 adults, 4.4% margin of error
Mode: IVR


South Carolina

Based on what you know, should Governor Mark Sanford remain in office? Or resign?
34% Remain in office, 60% Resign

PA: Specter 33, Sestak 13 (F&M 6/16-21)

Franklin and Marshall College
6/16-21/09; 498 adults, 4.4% margin of error
258 registered Democrats, 6.1% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews



Gov. Rendell (D): 42 / 40 (chart)
Sen. Specter (D): 31 / 37 (chart)
Sen. Casey (D): 32 / 17 (chart)
Pres Obama: 56 / 27 (chart)

Job Approval/Disapproval
Obama: 55% Excellent/Good, 44% Fair/Poor (chart)
Specter: 34 / 55 (chart)
Rendell: 38 / 59 (chart)

2010 Senate Democratic Primary
33% Specter, 13% Sestak (chart)

Dutton/Frankovic: Why Polling Doesn't Match Election Results

Topics: Measurement , Retrospective vote questions

CBS News Director of Surveys Sarah Dutton and CBS consultant (and former polling director) Kathy Frankovic answer critics who claim their most recent survey "skews left" because a question about whether respondents supported Obama or McCain in 2008 shows Obama winning by a much wider margin (48% to 25% among all adults) than he actually received (53% to 46%). The fact that the answers to a retrospective vote question fail to match the actual vote, they write, "is nothing new:"

This poll and others have asked about past vote for many years, and the results rarely match the voting results.

Here's the most extreme example: The University of Michigan's National Election studies, arguably the best academic analyses of why Americans vote the way they do, found huge disparities in how Americans reported their 1960 vote in their 1962 and 1964 post-election studies. When Americans were asked just after the 1960 election how they voted, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon were tied in the poll (matching the results: Kennedy just eked out his 1960 victory). Two years later, Americans recalled giving Kennedy a comfortable win. In 1964, after Kennedy was assassinated, the difference was even more dramatic - Americans "remembered" that they had elected Kennedy by a two to one margin!

It goes in both directions - Democratic AND Republican: In January 2002, when George W. Bush's approval rating was 82 percent, Americans recalled that they had given him a 12-point victory over Al Gore in November 2000.

Read the rest for their explanation for this common occurrence.

Slate's Chris Beam wrote about this topic last week; I wrote about it four years ago.  

[Correction: The original version of this post failed to identify Kathy Frankovic as a co-author].

US: Obama Approval (CNN 5/16-18)

CNN/Essence Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation
5/16-18/09; 1,073 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews



Obama Approval
66% Approve, 29% Disapprove (chart)

NJ: Christie 51, Corzine 39 (SVision 6/19-21)

Strategic Vision (R)
6/19-21/09; 800 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


New Jersey

Job Approval
Obama: 56% Approve, 38% Disapprove (chart)
Gov. Jon Corzine: 34 / 54 (chart)
Sen. Robert Menendez: 50 / 37 (chart)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg: 47 / 40 (chart)

2010 Governor
Chris Christie (R) 51%, Corzine (D) 39% (chart)

FL: 2010 Gov, Sen (Rasmussen 6/22)

6/22; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR

(source: sen, gov)


Job Approval
Pres. Obama: 46% Approve, 50% Disapprove
Gov. Charlie Crist (R): 60 / 36

Crist: 57% Favorable, 36% Unfavorable
Corinne Brown (D): 36 / 38
Kendrick Meek (D): 37 / 36
Bill McCollum (R): 53 / 25
Alex Sink (D): 50 / 32

2010 Senate
50% Crist (R), 29% Corinne Brown (D)
46% Crist, 28% Kendrick Meek (D)

2010 Governor
42% McCollum, 34% Sink

This is Personal: Epilogue

A follow-up to my post two weeks ago on the interactions my father-in-law and family had with considerate and professional staff of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  The impetus for that post, of course, was the murder of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns as he stood guard at the Museum.

Given the outpouring of kind words  I received to that post, I thought readers would want to know that in order to assist the Johns family, the Museum has established the USHMM Officer Johns Family Fund and is accepting donations on its behalf.  They pledge that one hundred percent of your gift will be forwarded directly to the family of Officer Johns, but note that under IRS regulations gifts such as this are not tax-deductible. 

You can donate online, by telephone or via U.S. mail:

Checks payable to USHMM Officer Johns Family Fund may be mailed to USHMM, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW, Washington DC 20024.

You may also make a gift by calling toll free 877-91USHMM (877-918-7466) from 8:00am to 8:00pm Eastern time.

SC: Sanford Approval (Politico 6/23)

6/23; 601 registered voters, 3.8% margin of error
Mode: IVR


South Carolina

Sanford Job Approval
52% Approve, 44% Disapprove

Americans Are Satisifed with Health Care, But Coverage and Cost?

Topics: ABC/Washington Post , CNN , Health Care Reform , Kaiser Family Foundation

The ABC News analysis of the newly released ABC/Washington Post poll results on health care reform leads off with this paragraph:

The chief obstacle to reform is that large majorities are satisfied with their current care and coverage; most, albeit fewer, also call their costs tolerable. Dissatisfaction with the system overall, and worry about future costs, are countered by broad concerns that change could worsen the quality, choice and coverage most Americans enjoy now.

The result: pushback works.

While I have no quarrel with that summary -- my column earlier this week made a similar point -- it is easy to miss the part about "tolerable" costs and the worry about costs in the future. So for this post, I want to focus more on those measures of satisfaction, especially those pertaining to cost. (I will leave questions about specific policy options for another post, although, as Nate Silver points out this morning, it is also possible to "push" respondents in the direction of greater support for reform).

The ABC/Post poll asked four satisfaction questions about health care and health coverage. These illustrate the point in the ABC analysis: Americans are generally satisfied with the quality of their health care, but less so their coverage and much less so with cost, although they still find more Americans satisfied (54%) with "health care costs, including both expenses not covered by insurance, and the cost of your insurance" than dissatisfied (44%).


A minor nitpick: The results reported on the ABC/Post poll for "your health insurance coverage" were tabulated among those with health coverage. That's fine, but in comparing across items we might want to factor in the 16% that say (on this survey) that they lack insurance coverage. Do that and we find that 68% are satisfied -- still a big number -- 16% are dissatisfied and 16% lack insurance.

Also note that while 49% of Americans are "very satisfied" with the "quality of care" they receive, only 35% of Americans have coverage and are very satisfied with it. Put another way, it looks as though nearly half either lack insurance coverage, are dissatisfied with their coverage or are less satisfied with their coverage than they are with the quality of their care.  The point is, Americans differentiate between the quality of their care and the quality of their coverage

Now take a look at a very similar set of satisfaction questions asked by CNN/ORC back in March. They asked very similar questions about the quality of health care received, insurance coverage and "your health care costs" and obtained virtually identical results (and it looks as though they asked their coverage question of respondents without coverage -- a few, presumably, were satisfied with their lack of coverage).


What catches my eye in this context, however, is the probe of satisfaction with "the total cost of health care in this country." On that measure, Americans are far less satisfied (23%) than on the ABC/Post question about "the overall health care system in this country" (42%). So guess what worry appears to be driving the desire for reform? Cost. Or more precisely, Americans worry about rising costs and how they may affect their access to needed care in the future.

The April tracking survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation took a more extensive look how Americans experience and perceive health care costs. They found 72% of Americans worried about "having to pay more for your health care or health insurance" (37% were very worried). Almost as many (66%) said they worried about "not being able to afford the health care services you think you need" (34% were very worried. They also found cost concerns affecting the treatment that Americans seek:

As the economy continues to falter, a majority of Americans continue to say they or someone in their household have taken steps to put off health care for cost reasons over the course of the last year. Overall, six in ten (59 percent) say they have taken at least one of seven steps to delay or skip care this past year

According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking survey, most common was relying on home remedies or over the counter drugs rather than consulting a physician, which 42 percent report, followed by skipping dental care. Three in ten reported not filling a prescription.


So yes, Americans are generally satisfied with the quality of care they receive, but less satisfied with their coverage and especially the cost of that coverage and other necessary medical expenses they incur. They also worry a lot about about being able to afford the health care services they might need in the future. Those are the attitudes that fuel the desire for reform.

OH: 2010 Sen, Gov (PPP 6/17-19)

Public Policy Polling (D)
6/17-19/09; 619 registered voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: IVR

(source: Sen, Gov, approval)


Jennifer Brunner (D): 32 / 32
Lee Fisher (D): 32 / 31
Rob Portman (R): 22 /34
John Kasich (R): 31 / 30

Job Approval/Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 51 / 40 (chart)
Sen. Sherrod Brown: 38 / 36 (chart)
Sen. George Voinovich: 37 / 44 (chart)
Gov. Ted Strickland: 43 / 42 (chart)

2010 Senate
Brunner 40%, Portman 32%
Fisher 41%, Portman 32%

2010 Governor
Strickland 44%, Kasich 42%

NY: 2010 Gov, Sen (Quinnipiac 6/16-21)

Quinnipiac University
6/16-21/09; 2477 registered voters, 2% margin of error
1048 registered Democrats, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews


New York State

Andrew Cuomo (D): 63 / 15
Gov. David Paterson (D): 28 / 54 (chart)
Rudy Giuliani (R): 55 / 36
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D): 25 / 10 (chart)
Carolyn Maloney (D): 24 / 8
Peter King (R): 22 / 11

Job Approval/Disapproval
Gov. Paterson: 28 / 61 (chart)
Sen. Gillibrand: 37 / 15 (chart)
Sen. Schumer: 63 / 23 (chart)
Pres. Obama: 67 / 26 (chart)

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
57% Cuomo, 20% Paterson

2010 Governor: General Election
52% Giuliani, 34% Paterson (chart)
51% Cuomo, 39% Giuliani (chart)

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
27% Maloney, 23% Gillibrand, Tasini 4%

2010 Senate: General Election
44% Gillibrand, 28% King (chart)
42% Maloney, 26% King

US: Health Care (ABC/Post 6/18-21)

ABC News / Washington Post
6/18-21/09; 1,001 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

(ABC story, results, Post story, results)


"Would you support or oppose a law that requires all Americans to have health insurance, either getting it from work or buying it on their own?

49% Support, 47% Oppose

Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?

62% Support, 33% Oppose

Demographic Crosstab "Outliers"

Topics: Outliers Feature

Gallup now publishes weekly demographic crosstabs for presidential approval (downloadable spreadsheet too!).

Jennifer Agiesta shares the Washington Post/ABC job approval demographic cross-tabs.

John Hinderaker says the CBS/New York Times health reform survey "skews left," Steve Benen and Eric Kleefeld counter (see also Chris Beam and yours truly).

More on the CBS/NYT health care reform survey from Gary Andres, Steve Benen, John Graham, Ed Kilgore, Nolan McCarty, McJoan, Ramesh Ponnuru, Greg Sargent and Josh Tucker

Nate Silver reviews multiple polls and their results on the public option.

Glen Bolger explores the Resurgent Republic health care polling data.

Andrew Gelman points to some statistical methods for election auditing.

Michael Franc sees a new conservative plurality.

Sheri and Alan Rivlan call for compromise to pass health care reform.

Ben Sargent notices an increase in GOP negatives in the wake of the Sotomayor nomination.

Jay Cost thinks we make too much of presidential "teflon."

DemFromCt gathers the low approval ratings of Republicans from multiple polls.

Tom Jensen ponders divergent poll results in Ohio.

Think Progress unmasks a "progressive" anti-immigration reform polling effort (via @CenteredPols)

Arlen Specter hires Democratic pollsters Jef Pollock and Mark Mellman

Nancy Scola highlights the powerful combination of Google search, Data.gov and Gapminder visualization.

Alec Gallup

Topics: Alec Gallup , Frank Newport , Gallup Daily , Pollsters

Sad news from Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport:

Alec Gallup, one of the polling world's most committed practitioners and dedicated supporters of the value of polling and all around good guys passed away last night. Alec was one of two sons of Dr. George Gallup and was the long time Chairman of the Gallup Poll. Alec lived in Princeton, New Jersey. Anyone who has worked at or with the Gallup Organization over the years and who came into contact with Alec recognized what a truly unique individual he was. He literally devoted all of his life to polling -- spanning his childhood days when he worked with his father as poll "ballots" came in via train to be tabulated at Gallup headquarters up to as recently as a week or two ago, when, even in declining health, he would call up and make suggestions about what poll questions Gallup should be asking in the current political environment. Polling has never had a greater champion, and those who knew Alec personally have never had a greater friend. Everyone who knew Alec will miss him immensely.

Alec Gallup was interviewed about his father and the early days of polling nine years ago for a PBS documentary. You can read a transcript here (via Mike Mokrzycki).

GA: Gov (Rasmussen 6/17)

247 likely Democratic primary voters, 6% margin of error
463 likely Republican primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

(source: Dem, Rep)


2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
48% Roy Barnes, 8% Thubert Baker, 5% Dubose Porter

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
35% John Oxendine, 11% Karen Handel, 10% Nathan Deal

US: National Survey (ARG 6/18/21)

American Research Group
6/18-21/09; 1,100 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews



Obama Job Approval
57% Approve, 41% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 89 / 10 (chart)
Reps: 21 / 78 (chart)
Inds: 47 / 48 (chart)
Economy: 48 / 46 (chart)

State of the country
Economy: 33% Getting better, 44% Getting worse (chart)

Party ID
41% Democrat, 31% Republican, 28% Independent (chart)

US: National Survey (ABC/Post 6/18-21)

ABC News / Washington Post
6/18-21/09; 1,001 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

(ABC story, results, Post story, results)


Obama Job Approval
65% Approve, 31% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 56% Approve, 41% Disapprove (chart)

State of the Country
47% Right Direction, 50% Wrong Track (chart)

Party ID
35% Democrat, 22% Republican, 37% Independent (chart)

Lenski: Lessons From Iran's Northern Neighbor

Topics: Azerbaijan , Fraud , Iran

Joe Lenski, whose Edison Research has been the sole provider of exit polling to the U.S. television networks since 2003, recounts his experience conducting an exit poll for the Azerbaijan parliamentary elections in 2005. He sees some significant parallels between Azerbaijan and the election just held in Iran:

First, the [Azerbaijan] election and the voting itself, which seemed open and fair at the time, turned out to be mostly for show. Once the initial results in Azerbaijan showed opposition candidates winning in certain districts, the electoral commission took steps to make sure the official results matched what the government desired, which is probably what happened in Iran. Basically, the authorities were fine with an open and seemingly fair election as long as their guy won. Once that outcome became less certain, procedures were probably put in place to make sure the official results matched what the government desired. The fraud is probably not universal, but, as in Azerbaijan, concentrated in the areas where the opposition was doing better than expected. This would explain much of the statistical evidence showing Ahmadinejad doing well in the official vote returns from provinces and towns where the reformist candidates did well in the 2005 election.

He has much more. Read the whole thing.

Mebane Update: Ballot Box Data Shows "Significant Distortions"

Topics: Fraud , Iran

Walter Mebane has once again updated his analysis of the official vote count in Iran (via Gelman), having now obtained ballot box data in 23 of 30 provinces. His modified conclusion (raw data here):

The initially released polling station data show evidence of significant distortions in the vote counts not only for Karroubi and Rezaei but also for Ahmadinejad. No significant distortions are apparent for Mousavi's vote counts. A key to interpreting these results is understanding why the vote counts for Karroubi and Rezaei are typically so small. Is it (a) inherently low levels of support, (b) voters strategically abandoning the candidates, or (c) fraudulent counts? If there is good reason to believe either (a) or (b), then (c) is less likely. The significant result for Ahmadinejad is not direct proof that Ahmadinejad's votes are fraudulent, but fraud is certainly a reasonable inference in light of reports that "Iran's Guardian Council has admitted that the number of votes collected in 50 cities surpass the number of those eligible to cast ballot in those areas" (Press TV, 2009).

Andrew Gelman, who is "inclined to believe" Mebane because he is "the expert on this stuff" (I had a similar message on Thursday) also repeats this important caveat, which is consistent with Mebane's own conclusions:

[T]his sort of statistical analysis doesn't prove anything by itself, but it can be useful in giving people a sense of where to focus attention if they want to look further.

US: Health Care (Resurgent Republic 6/15-18)

Resurgent Republic (R) / Ayres, McHenry (R)
6/15-18/09; 1,000 Registered Voters
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

(release, toplines, memo)


"Voters overwhelmingly agree that reforming health care is important but are concerned about Democratic proposals that increase federal debt, add new taxes and push those with private insurance to a public plan. The findings, according to a newly released Resurgent Republic survey, find Democrats on one side of the issue with Independents and Republicans on the other."

Roundup: Analyses of Fraud in Iran

Topics: Fraud , Iran

In addition to the turmoil and tragedy in Iran over the weekend, there were two new notable analyses of the official turnout, plus one bizarre concession by the ruling Guardian Council. Let's start with a review of the analyses:

  • Last week, we pointed to an analysis (pdf) by American political scientist Walter Mebane (explained further here). He used the county and city-level vote data from the two rounds of Iran's 2005 election to try to model the 2009 result. The underlying idea is to see whether the town-by-town variation in Ahmadenijad's vote in 2005 predicts the town-by-town variation in 2009. He found that his model did not "describe" the vote well in 192 of 320 towns and that, in 172 of those, Ahmadenijad's vote looks suspiciously high. [Update: Mebane has updated his analysis based on new ballot box data for 23 of 30 provinces showing "evidence of significant distortions in the vote counts not only for Karroubi and Rezaei but also for Ahmadinejad" - more here].
  • Over the weekend, Alex Scacco and Bernd Beber, graduate students at Columbia University,** published analyses in the last two digits in reported 2009 vote totals, on the theory that the distribution of these digits should be totally random. The found suspicious patterns suggestive of fraud in the provincial-level data but not in what they describe as county-level data. Their theory is that provincial level data were fabricated and that the "leading digits" of the county-level data subsequently manipulated to match fraudulent provincial totals (which would have required minimal tampering with the last two digits of most counties -- R analysis code and data here, via Monkey Cage).
  • Yesterday, the British think-tank Chatham House published an analysis of the provincial level data co-authored by academics at the Institute of Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews. They found irregularities in turnout -- including two provinces showing "a turnout of over 100%" -- and patterns they found implausible in the supposedly new votes cast for Ahmadenijad in 2009.   Note that while the Mebane and Scacco-Beber analyses were mostly statistical, the Chatam House analysis is more steeped in the authors' expertise in recent Iranian political history.

But perhaps most telling was this statement yesterday from the Iran's ruling Guardian Council yesterday as published by Iranian state television:

Iran's Guardian Council has suggested that the number of votes collected in 50 cities surpass the number of people eligible to cast ballot in those areas.

The council's Spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, who was speaking on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Channel 2 on Sunday, made the remarks in response to complaints filed by Mohsen Rezaei -- a defeated candidate in the June 12 Presidential election.

"Statistics provided by the candidates, who claim more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 80-170 cities are not accurate -- the incident has happened in only 50 cities," Kadkhodaei said.

Kadkhodaei further explained that the voter turnout of above 100% in some cities is a normal phenomenon because there is no legal limitation for people to vote for the presidential elections in another city or province to which people often travel or commute.

To put this in perspective, that's 50 of over 300 cities in which turnout exceeded 100% of the eligible voters. So the statement truly pushes the boundaries of "spin," or as Nate Silver puts it, "Worst. Damage Control. Ever." Nate says they are admitting to "some fraud" just not "11 million votes worth of fraud," though I'm not sure I would go that far. Kadkhodaei claims that the pattern is a "normal phenomenon," since it is legal for Iranian's to vote outside their home provinces. Still, it's quite a stretch.

Consider the update from the Chatam House authors (see p. 2) that their "results are not significantly affected" by the Guardian Council statement:

Whilst it is possible for large numbers of voters to cast their ballots outside their home district (one of 366), the proportion of people who would have cast their votes outside their home province is much smaller, as the 30 provinces are too large for effective commuting across borders. In Yazd, for example, where turnout was above 100% at provincial level, there are no significant population centres near provincial boundaries.

Note also that they found, separately, that the increase in turnout in 2009 "results in substantially less variation in turnout between provinces, with the standard deviation amongst provincial turnouts falling by just over 23% since 2005." So the Guardian Council's argument is that out-of-province voting was great enough to cause turnout beyond 100% of eligibility in 50 towns and 2 provinces, yet the Chatham House analysis shows less variability across provinces than in 2005. That's quite a pattern.

Update: Josh Tucker has more on the Kadkhodaei statement.

**The original version of this post misstated Scacco and Beber's academic affiliation - see the comment from Andrew Therriault.

US: Obama Approval (Harris 6/8-15)

Harris Poll
6/8-15; 2,177 adults
Mode: Internet



Obama Job Approval
54% Excellent/Good, 46% Only fair/Poor (chart)
Dems: 85 / 15 (chart)
inds: 47 / 40 (chart)
Reps: 19 / 81 (chart)
Economy: 47 / 53 (chart)

State of the Country
43% Right Direction, 57% Wrong Track (chart)

NV: Senate (Mason Dixon 6/18-19)

Mason Dixon/Las Vegas Review Journal
6/18-19/09; 625 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

(story, results)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Pres. Obama: 49 / 32
Sen. Ensign (R): 39 / 37 (May 12-14: 53 / 18)
Sen. Reid (D): 34 / 46

Job Approval/Disapproval
Obama: 47% Excellent/Good, 50% Fair/Poor
Reid: 43 / 55
Ensign: 48 / 45

In 2007, Senator Ensign was among several prominent Republicans who called on Idaho Senator Larry Craig to resign after he was arrested in an airport men's restroom on disorderly conduct charges. Do you feel Ensign should or should not resign because of his admitted affair?

29% Should, 62% Should not

NY: 2010 Gov (Siena-6/15-18)

Siena Research Institute
6/15-18/09; 626 registered voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

(release, crosstabs)

New York State

Favorable / Unfavorable
Gov. Paterson (D): 31 / 57 (chart)
Andrew Cuomo (D): 71 / 17
Rudy Giuliani (R): 62 / 33

Job Approval
Gov. Paterson: 20% Excellent/Good, 78% Fair/Poor (chart)

2010 Governor - Democratic Primary
Cuomo 69, Paterson 16 (chart)

2010 Governor - General Election
Giuliani 57, Paterson 27 (chart)
Cuomo 49, Giuliani 40 (chart)

NC: Sen, Gov (PPP 6/12-14)

Public Policy Polling (D)
6/12-14/09; 784 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR

(results: senate, governor, president)

North Carolina

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres Obama: 50 / 43 (chart)
Sen. Burr: 34 / 35 (chart)
Gov. Perdue: 30 / 53 (chart)

2010 Senate
Burr 38%, Democratic Opponent 41%

US: Tobacco Regulation (Gallup 6/14-17)

6/14-17/09; 1,011 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews



Do you approve or disapprove of a new law that gives the federal government power to regulate the manufacturing and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products?

46% Approve, 52% Disapprove

US: Health Care (CBSTimes 6/12-16)

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

(CBS story, results; Times story, results, graphic)


Obama Approval: Health Care
44% Approve, 34% Disapprove

Do you think the government would do a better or worse job than private insurance
companies in providing medical coverage?

50% Better, 34% Worse

Would you be willing or not willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans have
health insurance they can't lose, no matter what?

57% Willing, 37% Not willing

Some people have suggested requiring all Americans to have health insurance. Under
this plan, employers would be required to provide insurance for all their workers or pay
into a government pool that would be used to buy coverage for the uninsured. People who
do not get insurance from an employer would have to buy their coverage on their own or
from the government insurance pool. Does this sound like a good idea to you, a bad idea
or are you unsure?

26% Good idea, 28% Bad idea

The Health Care Polling Deluge

Topics: National Journal

My NationalJournal.com column for this week, on the deluge of new polls on health care reform and how to make sense of them, is now posted. Since filing on Friday, The New York Times and CBS News released a new set of results on health care reform even more extensive than those posted last week. Their questions bring the "deluge" to over 60 items related to health care reform in the last two weeks. And we are probably just getting warmed up.