July 12, 2009 - July 18, 2009


NY: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 7/14)

7/14/09; 800 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: IVR


New York

2010 Governor
Guiliani 55%, Paterson 33% (chart)
Cuomo 48%, Giuliani 41% (chart)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Sen. Gillibrand: 30& Excellent/Good, 54% Fair/Poor (chart)
Gov. Paterson: 32 / 67 (chart)
Pres. Obama: 63 / 37 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Paterson: 38 / 60 (chart)
Cuomo: 64 / 32
Giuliani: 56 / 39
Gillibrand: 43 / 34 (chart)
Maloney: 36 / 33

Walter Cronkite, Most Trusted Man in America

Walter Cronkite, iconic news anchor for CBS, died July 17 at age 92. For my generation of news junkies Cronkite and the Chet Huntley-David Brinkley team at NBC defined television news. (ABC was a late bloomer-- we didn't get ABC in south Alabama in those days.) Tonight, in the shadow of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, it is impossible not to remember our personal history through the images of Cronkite or Huntley or Brinkley on network TV telling us the great stories of the '60s and '70s. We don't have to romanticize or idealize the shortcomings of network news to appreciate the jobs they did. 

Cronkite has often been called "the most trusted man in America", and the surprisingly limited amount of public polling on this topic backs that up. The earliest poll I could find was an April 1974 Virginia Slims poll, done by Roper, that asked how much the respondent respected as list of public figures. Cronkite scored 60% "a great deal" and another 31% "somewhat" with only 4% "not at all". Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was close to Cronkite at 56/29/8. No one else was close. President Richard Nixon, 4 months from resignation, scored 24% "a great deal", and 41% "not at all". 

Cronkite was also among the most recognizable figures of the 1970s. A July 1975 Roper survey found 93% could correctly identify him as a TV journalist. 6% said they didn't know and less than 1 percent thought he was anything else. Harry Reasoner was correctly identified as a TV journalist by 82%, but 5% thought him a sports star. Actual sports stars, tennis champion Chris Evert and pitcher Nolan Ryan, were correctly identified by only 56% and 23% respectively. The one person in the survey who was the near equal of Cronkite was Johnny Carson. Like Cronkite, 93% correctly identified him as a TV entertainer, but 3% thought Carson was a TV journalist.

In the month before Cronkite's retirement in 1981, a Louis Harris & Associates poll probed Cronkite's standing with the public: "If you had to choose, who would you say is your favorite nightly network TV (television) news anchorperson--John Chancellor, Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Roger Mudd, Frank Reynolds, or Max Robinson? " A full 50% picked Cronkite, with 12% for Chancellor in second place.

Asked specifically if Cronkite was "someone you could really trust" 81% said they could, and on 12% said not. (The question was a rating with excellent+pretty good as trusting, and fair+poor as not trusting. Breakdowns in the original categories are not available.) Sadly, no other news anchors were asked about on this question so we lack comparison. Even more poeple, 86%, said Cronkite presented a "balanced treatment of the news". Only 9% said not.

In April 1985, four years after he left the anchor's desk, a Roper/US News & World Report survey rated a number of TV journalists. The Excellent/Good/Don't Know ratings were
Cronkite 47/37/5
Rather 28/44/10
Jennings 22/36/28
Brokaw 18/37/28
Koppel 15/32/43
Lehrer 7/11/74

Finally, in July 1985 the Times Mirror Center for People and the Press (predecessor to the current Pew center) sponsored a poll by Gallup that was explicitly comparative. Their question was "Please rate the believability of the following people, using this same scale of 4 to 1 (where '4' means you can believe all or most of what they say and '1' means you can believe almost nothing of what they say."

These data are plotted in the figure above. Whether we look at percent in the most believable category or the mean score the order of results is essentially the same: Cronkite on top by a substantial margin. 

Most of those with low rankings are also not well known, hence a lower percent in the top category simply because few respondents know how to rate them. But this doesn't much affect the relative rankings, and doesn't touch Cronkite's dominance. If we redo the figure, calculating the percentage in the most believable category but omitting all those who can't rate the person, the basic chart is unchanged though some publicists will be pleased by improvement while others disappointed. (The correlation of raw rating and adjusted is .90, so the order doesn't shift in large ways in any case.)
So given the somewhat limited data available, the title "most trusted man in America" may actually have belonged to Walter Cronkite, at least among television journalists and a few other prominent media figures. None of these data, collected over 11 years, place Cronkite anywhere other that at the top of visibility and recognition. And the later data on quality and believability ranks him first in every measure.

That isn't a bad reputation to have created and sustained on the Evening News. 

Best. Onion. Parody. Yet. (Also 'Outliers')

Topics: Outliers Feature , Robert Groves

Henry Ferrell and Ed Kilgore respond to Conor Clarke's case against polls.

Conor Clarke asks why we care about polls; Ryan Sager offers an answer (via Appel), John Sides offers another.

The New York Times praises the Groves confirmation.

Sarah Dutton compares Sotomayor's numbers to those of previous nominees.

Jennifer Agiesta recalls polling from the 1960's on Medicare.

Gary Langer recalls historic polling on the space program.

Peter Brown questions whether deficits will be a voting issue (via Smith).

Patrick Murray doubts Obama can help Corzine.

Charlie Cook sees Democratic momentum slowing but not reversing.

National Journal's GOP insiders weigh in on whether Sarah Palin will be an asset in 2010.

David Hill says Palin could learn from Michael Jackson and Barack Obama.

Gene Ulm says the Obama honeymoon is over

Resurgent Republic sees a shift to Republicans among independents.

Neil Newhouse is feeling groovy too.

Benenson Strategy Group is hiring.

Andrew Gelman maps estimates of support for school vouchers by state, religion, race/ethnicity and income.

The Pew Internet Project reports on how people are using the internet during the recession.

Zubin Jelveh sorts out the great pet v. human health care debate.

Research Rants wonders what Zogby is up to.

And, finally, The Onion produces their best. poll. parody. yet. (Also highly accurate, based on personal experience).

Study: Most Children Strongly Opposed To Children's Healthcare

US: Health Care (Rasmussen 7/14-15)

7/14-15/09; 1000 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: IVR



Would it be a good idea to set up a government health insurance company to compete with private health insurance companies?

35% Yes, 50% No

A proposal has been made to raise taxes on those who earn more than $250,000 a year to pay for the cost of health care reform. Do you favor or oppose raising taxes on those who earn more than $250,000 a year to pay for the cost of health care reform?

48% Favor, 44% Oppose

US: Health Care (InsiderAdvantage 7/15)

7/15/09; 636 registered voters, 3.8% margin of error
Mode: IVR



What is your opinion of the proposed government-run healthcare program which is currently a part of the US House of Representative's overall healthcare legislation?

37% Favor, 52% Oppose

What level of trust do you have in the federal government's ability to provide and administer an efficient and effective health care program?

26% Trust the government, 47% Do not trust the government

NH: 2010 Sen (Kos 7/13-15)

Daily Kos (D) / Research 2000
7/13-15/09, 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews


New Hampshire

Favorable / Unfavorable
Paul Hodes (D): 34 / 21
Charlie Bass (R): 31 / 23
Kelly Ayotte (R): 36 / 13
Barack Obama: 62 / 30 (chart)

2010 Senate (trends)
Hodes 42%, Bass 37%
Ayotte 39%, Hodes 38%

If the 2010 election for Governor were held today would you to reelect John Lynch would you consider voting for another candidate or would you vote to replace Lynch?

61% Reelect, 15% Replace

Health Care Goals: Costs, Coverage or Both?

Topics: Health Care Reform , Measurement

In his column in The Hill this week, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman attempts to make sense out of some very divergent obtained by national pollsters recently on the question of whether Americans consider controlling costs or expanding access to coverage the more important goal for health care reform.  The column is worth reading in full, but I want to add one thought:  I'm not a fan of the costs-or-coverage question. Read on for the reason.

Mellman notes that the recent CBS/New York Times poll finds that providing insurance to the uninsured wins as "the more serious problem" by a 39-point margin (65% to 26%), while many other polls, including those conducted by his firm, tend to show the opposite. A result released just this week by USA Today/Gallup, for example, shows American's choosing the goal of "controlling rising health care costs" over "expanding health care coverage" by a ten-point margin (52% to 42%). I tracked down at least some of the questions he referred to in the column and reproduce them in the table below (results via the Polling Report).


Mellman offers two potential explanations for the wide variation in results. One culprit, not surprisingly, is the text of the questions. "Queries that identify cost as the greatest concern," he writes, "tend to focus on the personal, whereas those that put coverage in the lead focus on the national."

Another concerns the possibility that pollsters are measuring a non-attitude:

When polls produce widely divergent results, the culprit is often non-attitudes. Sometimes the issues voters have never considered an issue until we ask. Pollsters push for opinions respondents don't really have and which could therefore be expressed quite differently in different polls. While healthcare costs and coverage are central to voters, they may have never really prioritized them, though it is hard to imagine a 53-point swing based just on non-attitudes.

Let's put that a different way. All of the questions above force respondents to choose between the goals of reducing costs and expanding access to coverage. What if they feel strongly about both goals?

The new USA Today/Gallup results released this week suggest that many Americans do exactly that. Their survey begins with a list of ways health care reform "might affect you personally," and asks respondents to rate the importance of each. They find:

  • 86% rate "being able to get health insurance regardless of your job status or medical situation" as at least very important (including 43% who consider it extremely important).
  • 83% rate "making your health insurance more affordable" as at least very important (including 40% who consider it extremely important).

Conceptually, both goals involve the issue of costs. Most Americans understand that if they lose their job or attempt to purchase insurance with a pre-existing condition their personal costs will be significantly higher than with ordinary, employer-provided health coverage. So it would not surprise me that many Americans have trouble disentangling the goals of cost and access to coverage.

I will have more to say about this in my column next week, but the notion that Americans worry mostly rising health care costs or mostly about covering everyone can mislead us about what those Americans who want it really want out of health care reform. It's not about cost or access to coverage. It's about both.

US: National Survey (Ipsos 7/9-13)

7/9-12/09; 1,007 adults, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(McClatchy: story, Ipsos: story, results, Health Care: story, results)


Obama Approval
57% Approve, 38% Disapprove
Dems: 84 / 13
Reps: 24 / 73
Inds: 50 / 36

State of the Country
40% Right Direction, 54% Wrong Track

Party ID
35% Democrat, 21% Republican, 44% Independent

Should the primary goal of a national health care overhaul be more to extend health insurance to the millions of Americans who now lack it, or should the primary goal be to rein in the rising costs of health care? If you had to choose one goal over the other, which would you choose?

46% Extend health insurance to those who lack it
44% Rein in the rising costs of health care

Do you support requiring that all Americans are enrolled in a health insurance plan - whether
through their employer or through a public insurance plan>

69% Support, 26% Oppose

NJ: Christie 45 Corzine 37 (Monmouth 7/9-14)

Monmouth University/Gannett
7/9-14/09; 923 adults, 3.2% margin of error
792 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
527 likely voters, 4.3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Source: 2010 Gov, Corzine Approval)

New Jersey

Favorable / Unfavorable

Gov. Corzine (D)
Registered voters: 38 / 46
Likely voters: 41 / 50

Chris Christie (R)
Registered voters: 43 / 24
Likely voters: 50 / 26

Chris Daggett (i)
Registered Voters: 6 / 9
Likely voters: 7 / 10

Job Approval / Disapproval

Pres. Obama
Registered voters: 59 / 29
Likely voters: 56 / 34

Gov. Corzine:
Adults: 37 / 49
Registered voters: 38 / 51

2009 Governor (among likely voters)
45% Christie, 37% Corzine, 4% Daggett

TX: 2010 Rep Primary (Rasmussen 7/15)

7/15/09; 776 likely Republican primary voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: IVR



Favorable / Unfavorable (among Republicans)
Gov. Perry: 76 / 23
Sen. Hutchison: 72 / 25

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
46% Perry, 36% Hutchison

NY: 2010 Dem Primaries (Rasmussen 7/14)

7/14/09; 373 likely Democratic primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: IVR

(source: Sen, Gov)

New York

Favorable / Unfavorable (among Democrats)
Gov. Paterson: 49 / 50
Andrew Cuomo: 78 / 15
Sen. Gillibrand: 49 / 25
Carolyn Maloney: 42 / 24

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
61% Cuomo, 27% Paterson (chart)

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
33% Maloney, 27% Gillibrand (chart)

US: 2012 Rep Primary (Gallup 7/10-12)

(Updated with Iraq, Afghanistan findings)

7/10-12/09; 1,018 adults, 3% margin of error
455 Republicans, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Source: 2012 Pres, Iraq & Afghanistan)


Favorable Ratings Among All Adults
Palin: 43 / 45 (chart)
Romney: 37 / 29
Huckabee: 42 / 23

Favorable Ratings Among Republicans
Palin: 72 / 21
Romney: 56 / 17
Huckabee: 59 / 16

2012 President: Republican Primary
26% Romney, 21% Palin, 19% Huckabee, 14% Gingrich, 3% Pawlenty, 2% Barbour

In general, how well would you say things are going for the U.S. in:

Iraq: 56% Well, 40% Badly
Afghanistan: 54% Well, 43% Badly

NC: 2010 Sen, 2012 Pres (PPP 7/10-12)

Public Policy Polling (D)
7/10-12; 767 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR

(source: Pres, Sen)

North Carolina

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 49 / 44 (chart)
Sen. Hagan: 32 / 32 (chart)
Sen. Burr: 36 / 29 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Palin: 44 / 46

2010 Senate (trends)
Burr 40%, Generic Democrat 38%
Burr 40%, Cal Cunningham 31%
Burr 42%, Kenneth Lewis 31%

2012 President
Obama 49%, Palin 42%

VA: McDonnell 44 Deeds 41 (Rasmussen 7/14)

7/14/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR



Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 51 / 48 (chart)
Gov. Kaine: 55 / 43 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
McDonnell: 50 / 27
Deeds: 49 / 35
Sen. Warner: 64 / 32 (chart)
Gov. Kaine: 48 / 44 (chart)

2009 Governor
McDonnell 44%, Deeds 41% (chart)

US: Sotomayor (Rasmussen 7/14)

7/14/09; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: IVR



Sotomayor Favorable/Unfavorable
47% Favorable, 46% Unfavorable

Based upon what you know at this time, should the United States confirm Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court Justice?
37% Yes, 43% No

US: National Survey (Hotline 7/9-13)

Diageo / Hotline
7/9-13/09; 800 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(story, results)


Obama Approval
56% Approve, 38% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 91 / 6 (chart)
Reps: 25 / 68 (chart)
Inds: 48 / 44 (chart)
Economy: 49 / 47 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Obama: 58 / 37 (chart)
Biden: 47 / 38
Palin: 43 / 46 (chart)
Sotomayor: 31 / 24 27 / 46
Pelosi: 27 / 46

2010 House Generic Ballot
39% Democrat, 32% Republican (chart)

State of the Country
31% Right Direction, 55% Wrong Track (chart)

Do you support or oppose the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme
Court of the United States?

50% Support, 28% Oppose

Party ID
33% Democrat, 27% Republican, 30% independent (chart)

TN: 2010 Governor (InsiderAdvantage 7/13)

Insider Advantage
7/13/09, 604 registered voters, 3.8% margin of error
Mode: IVR



2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
McWherter 23%, Herron 13%, Kyle 6%, Cammack 5%, McMilan 3%

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
Wamp 22%, Haslam 15%, Ramsey 7%. Gibbons 4%

Tuesday Afternoon 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

John Sides responds to Conor Clarke's proposal to "get rid of polls."

Glen Bolger reminds us that most Americans are not following the Sotomayor confirmation.

Bob Schieffer offers his take on Obama's falling approval ratings.

Gary Andres finds hope for Republicans on Rasmussen's issue comparatives.

Tom Jenses sees little cross-over potential for Palin.

Steve Benen puzzles over a CNN question about Barack Obama smoking.

Nate Silver looks at the Hutchinson vs. Perry Republican primary for governor in Texas.

Simon Jackman charts Franken's first 12 roll call votes and finds him "left of the Democratic median" (Sides has more).

Steve Singiser considers the tough numbers for Democratic candidates for governor.

Chris Bowers sees public support for a surtax on wealthy Americans to fund health care reform.

Christina Davidson reviews the methods -- and limitations -- of the Department of Labor survey that determines the unemployment rate (via Sullivan).

Michelle Bachmann and Ted Poe introduce a bill to sharply curtail the information collected by the U.S. Census.

Mike Huckabee conducts an automated "survey" on abortion in Iowa.

The DNC is hiring data analysts (via Lundry).

DC-AAPOR sponsors a panel on pre-election polling next week (including yours truly).

US: Sotomayor (Rasmussen 7/12-13)

7/12-13/09; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: IVR



Favoarble / Unfavorable
Sotomayor: 45 / 46

Based upon what you know at this time, should the United States confirm Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court Justice?

38% Yes, 44% No

NC: Perdue Approval (PPP 7/10-12)

Public Policy Polling (D)
7/10-12/09; 767 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR


North Carolina

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Perdue: 25 / 55 (chart)

CBS Survey: Updates on Economy and Palin

Topics: 2012 , Approval Ratings , Barack Obama , Economy , Sarah Palin

The new CBS News poll released yesterday updates us on two topics -- Sarah Palin and the economy's impact on Obama's approval rating -- covered here in recent days.

First, the new survey includes an update on an economic question that closely tracks a new question (that I charted in yesterday's column) about perceptions of economic news tracked this year by the Pew Research Center's News Index surveys. CBS regularly asks Americans if they "think the economy is getting better, getting worse, or staying about the same." The trend in "getting worse" on the CBS surveys neatly parallels the trend in "hearing mostly bad news" about the economy on the Pew surveys. Both indicate that increasingly negative perceptions of the economy over the last two months.


CBS has also tracked a drop in Obama's approval rating -- from 63% in June to 57% on this week's survey -- that they attribute to the economy:

The driving issue behind the President's decline in approval appears to be the economy. Now 48% of Americans approve of how he's handling the economy while 44% disapprove, when just last month Americans approved of his handling of this issue by a margin of 22 points. This drop is most dramatic among Democrats. 66% of Democrats now approve of his handling of the economy, down 21 points from last month.

On Palin, the CBS survey shows a greater impact on ratings of the soon-to-be-former Governor than the PPP survey we discussed last week. First, the CBS rating shows a significant drop in her favorable rating:

Today, only 23% of Americans (and 26% of registered voters) hold a favorable view of Sarah Palin. More - 37% - view her unfavorably. Just prior to the November presidential election, registered voters' opinions were divided. Now, a sizable number of them (36%) are undecided or say they haven't heard enough about her - a higher number than last fall.


Republicans (38%), conservatives (38%) and white evangelicals (35%) hold positive ratings of Governor Palin. 56% of Democrats view her unfavorably. One striking finding -- 45% of Republicans say they are are undecided or haven't heard enough about Palin to offer an opinion, compared to just 31% of Democrats.

Note that the favorable percentages tend to be lower on the CBS polls than other surveys because the CBS question offers respondents the option of saying they are "undecided" or "haven't yet heard enough...to have an opinion.

The bigger problem, on this survey at least, is in perceptions of her "ability to be an effective President." Last week, we tried to compare a new question from PPP about Palin's "fitness" for the presidency to prior questions asked by other pollsters about whether Palin is "qualified" or "prepared" to be president. The new CBS survey is the first new national survey to update a question about Palin's readiness they had asked last year: "Do you think Sarah Palin would have the ability to be an effective President?"

The results:

Whether Sarah Palin runs in 2012 or not, right now most Americans do not think she would have the ability to be an effective president. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents say this. In the fall of 2008, a majority of voters did not think Palin could be an effective president, if that was necessary - but more then - 37% - thought she could. The change is even more striking among Republicans. Last fall 71% of Republican registered voters thought she could be an effective president if that became necessary. Now just 33% think she has that ability.   


Chris Cillizza argues that these results encapsulate the problem Palin now faces:

That just one-third of self-identifying Republicans -- her most loyal constituency -- believe that Palin could be effective as president speaks to the stature gap from which she currently suffers. Even those who like (or even love her) a majority believe she would not be effective as commander-in-chief.

To be taken seriously as a national figure and as a potential candidate in 2012, Palin needs to reverse those numbers.

PS: We have just added a Pollster.com chart that tracks Sarah Pain's favorable rating as measured by all national public polls. Keep in mind that for the moment, only two national surveys have measured Palin's favorability since her resignation announcement.

IA: Gov. Culver (VCR 7/2-6)

Voter/Consumer Research (R) / TheIowaRepublican.com
7/2-6/09; 500 registered voters, 4.4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews



Gov. Culver Job Approval
53% Approve, 41% Disapprove

Culver Favorable / Unfavorable
48% Favorable, 41% Unfavorable

Do you believe Chet Culver has performed his job as Governor well enough to deserve re-election or is it time to give someone else the chance to do better?

36% Deserves reelection, 36% Give someone else a chance

NJ: Christie 48 Corzine 33 (RGA 7/6-7)

Basswood Research (R) / Republican Governors Association
7/6-7/09; 600 registered voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews


New Jersey

2009 Governor
Christie 48%, Corzine 33% (chart)

US: Health care (Gallup 7/10-12)

USA Today / Gallup
7/10-12/09; 1,518 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews



Do you favor or oppose Congress passing a major health care reform bill this year?
56% Favor, 33% Oppose

Do you favor or oppose requiring employers to pay a fee if they do not provide health insurance for their employees?
61% Favor, 35% Oppose

NJ: Christie 53, Corzine 41 (Quinnipiac 7/8-12)

7/8-12/09; 1,514 likely voters, 2.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews


New Jersey

Chris Christie (R): 39 / 20
Jon Corzine (D): 34 / 58 (chart)
Christopher Daggett (I): 5 / 2

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Corzine: 33 / 60 (chart)
Sen. Lautenberg: 43 / 40 (chart)
Sen. Menendez: 40 / 37 (chart)
Pres. Obama: 60 / 34 (/polls/nj/job-obama.html)

2009 Governor
Christie 53%, Corzine 41% (chart)
Christie 47%, Corzine 38%, Daggett 8%

US: National Survey (CBS 7/9-12)

CBS News
7/9-12/09; 944 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(story, results, Palin: story, results)


Obama Job Approval
57% Approve, 32% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 82 / 9 (chart)
Reps: 30 / 62 (chart)
Inds: 50 / 34 (chart)
Foreign Policy: 53 / 30 (chart)
Economy: 48 / 44 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
22% Approve, 65% Disapprove (chart)

State of the Country
35% Right direction, 57% Wrong track (chart)

State of the Economy
14% Very/Fairly Good, 86% Very/Fairly Bad
21% Getting Better, 33% Getting worse (chart)

Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans?

64% Favor, 29% Oppose

Palin: 23 / 37 (chart)

Would Palin have the ability to be an effective president?
22% Yes, 65% No

Compared to the way the news media have treated other political figures, have the news media been harder on Sarah Palin, easier on Sarah Palin, or have they treated her the same as other political figures?

46% Harder, 7% Easier

Party ID
35% Democrat, 23% Republican, 42% independent

Groves Nomination: Debate & Cloture Vote

Topics: Census , Robert Groves

(Late update:  The Senate confirms Robert Groves as Census Director on a voice vote following a 76-15 vote to end debate - details below).

My colleagues across the hall at Congress Daily confirm that the nomination of Robert Groves for Census director will come up for an hour of debate at 4:30 p.m. eastern time and that a "cloture vote" (to cut off debate) is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. As always, U.S. Senate floor debates are televised on the C-SPAN 2 network (also available by "live stream" online).

The background: President Obama nominated Groves in early April. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a confirmation hearing on May 15 and approved the nomination on a unanimous voice vote five days later. The nomination has not yet come to a vote because two Republican Senators placed a hold on the nomination. On Friday, Roll Call reported that the hold was placed by Republican Senators David Vitter and Richard Shelby, and TPM reported that Democratic majority leader Harry Reid would "file for cloture."

For thoughts on why Groves is an exceptionally well qualified nominee, see the column by Republican pollster David Hill and from me from last month.

Update (4:35 EST): The debate is underway as scheduled.  I will post subsequent updates on the debate here as warranted.  

4:54 p.m. - Senators Vitter and Shelby lead off against Groves (and cloture).  Their objection?  Their questions to the Obama administration about the role in the Census of the organization formerly known as ACORN (or more formally, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) have not been answered.  For a reasonable review of the issue, see this report from the Wall Street Journal.

5:05 p.m. - An even better review of the ACORN/Census red herring from the Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact.com:

Yes, the bureau does partner with organizations to help recruit workers. To date, it has 30,000 such partners.

ACORN is one.

Partners agree "to promote the 2010 Census among their constituents." As a partner, ACORN has agreed to spread the word among its people about the availability of temporary Census jobs. The U.S. Census Bureau expects to hire 1.4 million people through the course of the 2010 census, the bulk of them to do the door-to-door questionnaires, so the bureau casts a wide net to get applicants, including through its partners. Partners don't get paid, but they presumably benefit by getting the word out to members about jobs, and also by providing a public service emphasizing the importance of filling out the Census.

According to Census Bureau information provided to Congress on June 1, 2009, "ACORN and other partner organizations simply promote the availability of temporary Census jobs, but have no role in the terms or conditions of employment beyond promotion of the availability of temporary jobs. Applicants that are hired by the Census Bureau to work on the 2010 Census are required to go through a background check that includes an FBI name check and fingerprint check so that felons are not hired to work on the 2010 Census."

Partners are also encouraged to donate testing space for the millions of people who will apply for the temporary Census jobs. No payments are made for that. And lastly, partners are asked to promote full participation in the Census among their members, through newsletters, e-mails, local meetings etc. Again, there's no payment for that.

5:23 p.m. - Some memorable quotes from the three Senators -- Tom Carper (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Carl Levin (D-MI) -- that have spoken in favor of the Groves nomination.

Levin: Groves "may be the best qualified candidate ever nominated" to direct the Census.

Collins, on the helpful endorsement of Groves by the American Statistical Association: "I did not know that such an organization existed."

Carper, on what a "big deal" it is for his support for University of Michigan professor Groves: "and I'm an Ohio State guy!"

5:29 p.m. - All in all, this has not been much of a "debate." Vitter and Shelby read their statements, mostly about Acorn, and have not been heard from since. Then Carper, Collins and Levin spoke on Groves' qualification and on the issue of statistical sampling but have not mentioned ACORN. The Senate is now in a quorum call, with the vote to end cloture still likely to occur in a few minutes at 5:30.

My colleagues tell me that if the vote to end cloture is especially large -- say, 80 votes or more -- it is likely that the Senate will immediately approve the nomination by a voice vote. If there are 60+ votes for cloture, but the vote is close, the final confirmation vote could be delayed for another 30 hours of Senate business.

5:55 p.m. - The cloture vote will certainly pass. So far I count 15 no votes: Vitter, Shelby, Inhofe, Roberts, Bunning, Isakson, Chamblis, Crapo, Sessions, Conryn, Risch, Brownback, Enzi, Ensign and Barrasso. Among others, I heard Republican Senators Kyl, McCain, Martinez, Corker, Gregg, Coburn and McConnell vote "aye."

6:00 p.m. - And just like that, we have a new Census director.  The cloture vote passed by a 76-15 vote and the Senate immediately approved the nomination on a unanimous voice vote.  Congratulations to Dr. Groves!

Late(r) update:  More from the Washington Post, AP and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

US: Sotomayor (Gallup 7/10-12)

7/10-12/09; 1,018 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews



Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of Sotomayor serving on the Supreme Court, or not?

53% Vote in favor
33% Vote not in favor

Sotomayor: 38 / 26

It's the Economy...

Topics: Barack Obama , Economy , job approval , National Journal column

My National Journal column this week focuses on the recent modest downturn in President Obama's job approval rating and its apparent underpinning: the poor economy and, in particular, an increase in bad economic news over the last 10 weeks. As a tease to get you to read the whole thing, here is the graphic prepared by the National Journal's Reuben Dalke.


The aquamarine line represents the percentage who say they are hearing "mostly bad news" about the economy (rather than mostly good news or a mix of good and bad) on the weekly News Index surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center (as summarized in a recent report).

The downward pressure that the bad economic news puts on Obama's job approval rating explains why the Obama administration is moving with considerable haste to enact the more political challenging pieces of its agenda, particularly health care reform and energy legislation. Consider Nate Silver's pessimistic assessment this morning:

Suppose that the recession ends in August. Perhaps six months from then -- in February or March -- the economy will actually have started to create jobs. But the employment picture will have gotten worse in the meantime; it will be creating jobs from a peak of, say, 9.9 percent if the administration is lucky, or say, 11.2 percent if it isn't. It will take some time to get the number back down to the 9.5 percent that it's at presently, much less to fall below the 7.6 percent number that would represent an overall gain of jobs during Obama's tenure.

If Silver is right about the trend in unemployment, then he is definitely right that "the next couple of months...are precious for the Democrats." If we choose to measure political capital by job approval ratings, then more bad economic news will likely bring Obama's approval ratings down.

Update:  The new survey from CBS News largely confirms the worsening economic perceptions measured by the Pew News Index surveys.  Details here.  

US: Sotomayor (CBS 7/9-12)

CBS News
7/9-12/09; 944 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews



Favorable / Unfavorable
Sotomayor: 23 / 15

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?

30% Vote to confirm
14% Vote against

If Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court, do you think she will favor certain groups over others when making her judicial decisions, or do you think she will treat all groups the same under the law?

21% Will favor certain groups
60% Will treat all groups the same