August 30, 2009 - September 5, 2009


VA: McDonnell 54 Deeds 42 (SurveyUSA 9/1-3)

9/1-3/09; 611 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(SurveyUSA release)


2009 Governor
Bob McDonnell 54%, Creigh Deeds 42% (chart)

Enjoy The Holiday Weekend 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Gallup finds no increase in job creation.

Charlie Cook says Democrats should be "very frightened" about Obama's sharp drop among independents; Politico's Arena posts many responses, including one from our friend Greg Dworkin ("DemFromCt").

Joel Benenson sends a memo (pdf) to Democrats on the Hill.

The Wall Street Journal reports on Democratic pollsters telling liberal advocates the public option "wouldn't fly."

Keith Olberman speculates about a primary challenge to Obama; Ben Smith, Tom Jensen and Chris Bowers say not a chance.

The Pew Research Center shares crosstabulations showing Obama's approval ratings slide.

Gary Langer assesses Obama's slide.

David Wasserman asks if angry white seniors will hold the keys to 2010 (via Schaller).

Nate Silver thinks Obama's speech will be big.

Chris Bowers looks hard at Rasmussen and the national house ballot.

Steve Benen shares a few thoughts on Obama's approval rating polls.

Chris Weigant sees erosion in Obama's base.

Kos reports results showing the public option "still polling strongly."

Jay Cost suggests changes in course for Obama.

Neil Newhouse and Lisa Valentine celebrate the Obama descent.

Tom Jensen digs into Obama approval and changes in Party ID nationally and in states.

Andrew Gelman corrects a report on the ANES weighting.

AAPOR posts video of an August DC-AAPOR polling panel on health care (audio better than video, presentations here).

Join the R Flashmob Project (via Gelman..and if you don't know what "R" is, don't bother).

Pollster.com celebrates a birthday (special bonus: also wins praise in Wisconsin).

Happy Birthday to Us

Topics: Pollster.com

Pollster.com quietly turned three-years-old this week. We launched with this post and a less pretty set of charts on September 1, 2006. Since that time, according to Sitemeter, we've served up over 80 million page views during over 28 million visits. We were honored to win the Warren J. Mitofsky Innovators Award from the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) two years ago, receive praise for "excellent reporting" of pre-election polls in 2008 from statistical visualization guru Edward Tufte and, just last month, be named one of the 50 Best Websites of 2009 by Time.com (along with the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter). Though exhausting at times, it has been a truly rewarding adventure, and we look forward to celebrating many more birthdays in the years ahead.

But as we pause and reflect on the last three years, I want to take a moment thank those who have helped make Pollster.com a reality: Doug Rivers, who originally conceived of Pollster.com and continues to provide financial and technical support through our principal sponsor YouGov/Polimetrix; our partners at the National Journal Group: Charles Franklin who has been a valued partner in this effort from day one; our growing list of contributors; the many talented individuals who helped develop our website, database and charts (though I'll single out Jeff Lewis, Seth Hill, Ben Schaffer and Quentin Fountain for their extraordinary contributions); and finally, Eric Dienstfrey and his successor Emily Swanson, the true heros who worked the hardest to bring you an accurate and up-to-date Pollster.com every day.

And, of course, we owe the biggest thank you to all of you who visit, read and link regularly. We would not be here but for your support.

Coincidentally, Will Urquhart at at SumOfChange.com just posted a well-produced video of the complete Netroots Nation panel that Charles Franklin and I participated in last month along with DailyKos contributing editor Greg Dworkin (DemFromCT), Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report, and Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com.

If you have time to watch just one presentation, I highly recommend the one by Charles Franklin that begins at about 19:55. Among other things, Charles provides the best review I've seen yet of the philosophy that guides the way we construct our charts and analyze polling data at Pollster.com.   

My presentation begins at about 52:00 and is the made-for-TV-movie version (if you will) of the three-part-series I posted last month entitled, "Can I Trust This Poll."

US: National Survey (DemCorps 8/30-9/1)

Democracy Corps (D)
8/30-9/1/09; 1,000 likely voters
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(DemCorps release)


State of the Country
38% Right direction, 54% Wrong track (chart)

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

Favorable / Unfavorable
Obama: 53 / 35 (chart)
Republican Party: 31 / 44
Democratic Party: 42 / 42

2010 House: National Ballot
49% Democrat, 40% Republican (chart)

Party ID
38% Democrat, 30% Republican, 31% independent (chart)

KY: 2010 Sen (Kos 8/31-9/2)

Daily Kos (D) / Research 2000
8/31-9/2/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
400 Democratic primary voters, 5% margin of error
400 Republican primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Trey Greyson (R): 43 / 21
Rand Paul (R): 39 / 16
Daniel Mongiardo (D): 47 / 39
Jack Conway (D): 45 / 37
Gov. Steve Beshear: 49 / 42
Sen. Mitch McConnell: 44 / 51
Barack Obama: 34 / 63

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
37% Mongiardo, 30% Conway

2010 Senate: Republican Primary
40% Grayson, 25% Paul

2010 Senate: General Election
45% Grayson, 41% Mongiardo
46% Grayson, 40% Conway
42% Mongiardo, 37% Paul
41% Conway, 37% Paul

Do you favor or oppose creating a government-administered health insurance option that anyone can purchase to compete with private insurance plans?
46% Favor, 45% Oppose

US: National Survey (Economist 8/30-9/1)

Economist / YouGov
8/30-9/1/09; 1,000 adults, 4.8% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(Economist release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 51 / 42 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 24 / 50
John Boehner: 15 / 25
Ted Kennedy: 54 / 32

Obama Job Approval
49% Approve, 43% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 80 / 16 (chart)
Reps: 14 / 78 (chart)
Inds: 48 / 46 (chart)
Economy: 43 / 48 (chart)
Health Care: 41 / 48 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
18% Approve, 58% Disapprove (chart)

2010 National House Ballot
41% Democrat, 37% Republican (chart)

State of the Country
35% Right direction, 51% Wrong track (chart)
Economy: 25% Getting better, 38% Getting worse (chart)

Party ID
32% Democrat, 25% Republican, 31% independent (chart)

Overall, given what you know about them, do you support or oppose the proposed changes to the health care system being developed by Congress and the Obama administration?
46% Support, 54% Oppose (chart)

The U.S. Justice department has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate some of the tactics that were used by the C.I.A when questioning suspected terrorists. Do you think appointing a special prosecutor is a good or bad idea?
41% Good idea, 34% Bad idea

US: National Survey (Kos 8/31-9/3)

Daily Kos (D) / Research 2000
8/31-9/3/09; 2,400 adults, 2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


.Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 52 / 43 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 32 / 59
Harry Reid: 31 / 58
Mitch McConnell: 19 / 63
John Boehner: 15 / 63
Democratic Party: 39 / 52
Republican Party: 23 / 69

State of the Country
40% Right direction, 55% Wrong track (chart)

US: Prosecuting Interrogators (Gallup 8/31-9/2)

8/31-9/2/09;1,026 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


As you may know, Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the U.S. government's use of harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects during the Bush administration. From what you know or have read, do you approve or disapprove of this investigation?

47% Approve, 49% Disapprove
Dems: 73 / 23
Reps: 22 / 75
Inds: 40 / 55

US: Unemployment (Heldrich 8/6-12)

Rutgers University / Heldrich Center for Workforce Development
8/6-12/09; 1,202 adults unemployed any time in last 12 months, 5.1% margin of error
894 currently unemployed and looking for work
224 were unemployed in last 12 months but currently employed
Mode: Internet
(Heldrich: release, toplines)


Heldrich Center release:

"The survey finds that 60% of the recently unemployed lost their jobs suddenly, without advance warning. Eight in ten got two week's notice or less. Just 15% of the jobless received any severance, and virtually none were offered retraining. Three in four unemployed workers say the economic situation has had a major impact on them and their family.

Only 40% of the currently unemployed received unemployment insurance to help them weather the economic crisis and 83% of those who did receive aid are concerned that their benefits will run out before they find a job. Underscoring another important debate, only half of the jobless have health benefits.

...Over half of the unemployed have lost their jobs for the first time, while 4 in 10 had held the same job for three or more years."

What's Up in NJ...And With Our Charts?

Topics: 2009 , Charts , Christopher Christie , John Corzine , New Jersey , Pollster.com

Two new polls on the New Jersey governor's race this week generated a lot of discussion. When I first saw them Tuesday morning, I thought they presented a great potential (warning: over-used-cliche approaching) "learning moment" regarding our charts. Within minutes, some of you who had been playing with our charts discovered a few quirks -- ok, bugs -- in the way our charts work. Today I want to briefly discuss both.

Let's start with the substance. The new polls from Quinnipiac and Fairleigh Dickinson Universities show Republican Chris Christie leading incumbent Democratic Governor John Corzine by ten and five percentage points respectively. The margins prompted some surprise given the closer results seen on other recent polls. Does that mean, as Josh Marshall put it on Tuesday, that a few weeks of "terrible (or seemingly terrible) news for Christie, hasn't had much of an effect?"

Here are the most recent polls:


Most political junkies tend to look first at the margins separating the top two candidates. In this case, scanning the mostly red numbers in the far right column creates the narrative that Marshall and others saw developing in New Jersey: The double-digit leads favoring Christie earlier in the summer narrowed to single digits, including two surveys that showed the margins narrowing to just two percentage points either way. Then the new polls appear, one (from Quinnipiac) showing Christie ahead by ten points and one (from Fairleigh Dickinson) showing him ahead by five. The numbers produce a narrative: At first Corzine appears to be "closing," then maybe he isn't or, perhaps, Christie is "gaining" once again.

There is another way to look at polling data, however, especially in a race featuring an incumbent. While not as gripping as a narrative it probably gets close to the truth about the status of the race over the last month or so. While the vote for Christie varies widely across the different surveys, the vote for Corzine is much more consistent. In fact, all of the results fall within the range of 39%, plus or minus 5% (which happens to be the margin of sampling error typically reported for surveys of 500 interviews). Look at our chart below, altered (using the choices tool) to display only the Corzine percentages and trend line, and you can see the pattern plainly. Since July, the blue dots appear to be randomly scattered around the blue line. The trend is essentially flat.

Now let's look only at the red Christie results. The lower numbers on the Neighborhood (35%) and the two Democracy Corps polls (40% and 43%) help bend back the red line ever so slightly. In this case, the small-c conservative nature of our loess regression trend line is doing what it is designed to do, taking all the data into account but smoothing out the line and minimizing the impact of the bigger "outliers." In this case, the inflection on Christies trend is small. Christie's percentage of the vote, as estimated by out trend line, has declined by only two percentage points (from 48.9% to 46.8%) since Memorial Day. A trend-line based on a straight averages of recent polls would show more variation.

The next question is, why so much variation in the Christie number? Part of the explanation is that some polls prompt for independent Chris Daggett, some do not. Also, some polls -- especially the Neighborhood survey -- use methods that make it easier for respondents to be "undecided." As always, variations in the way pollsters define "likely voters" probably play a role as well. Finally, the level of Christie's support may be changing.

However, the important pattern -- more consistency for the better known incumbent candidate and much variation around the other choices -- is not unusual. While Corzine's current level of support may change, the fact that he seems stuck at just under 40% should be, at least for now, a continuing source of concern for Democrats.

Now for the recently discovered bugs in our charts. You can, of course, use the "filter" tool to drop particular pollsters, and one obvious thing to examine is what happens if you drop an outlier like, for example, Neighborhood poll. What appears to happen, however, is that dropping just a poll or two will also make a significant change in the smoothing factor used to draw the line, something that should not happen. One alert Pollster reader noticed that by dropping the one-and-only New Jersey poll done by Zogby International -- a poll that is now over a year old -- causes a big shift in the current estimate. Again, something like that should not happen, is a bug in the chart. With more than 40 polls available to plot, the chart should leave the smoothing factor constant and it is not. Having isolated the bug, we are at work on a fix. Apologies for not noticing it until now.

Also, if you use the "choices" tool to select something with a percentages under 20% (such as "undecided" or a candidate like Daggett) strange things happen with the "current estimate" percentage that appears in the box in the upper right corner of the chart. Unfortunately, that box displays the last point of the line that appears on the chart as it is drawn. So, for example, if the entire line his hidden (because the percentage range begins at the default value of 25%), the chart shows "0.0%" as the current value. While this unintended "feature" works consistently, it is not at all intuitive and something we need to repair. Until then, a simple tip: When displaying a choice with small percentages, expand the lower percentage range to 0 (by either using the "Pct Range" tool or by clicking a few times on the "-" sign that appears at the lower end of the percentage axis when you hold your mouse over it).

Have you experienced any other problems or odd behavior with our charts? We are putting together a list of "known issues," so if you have, please drop us a line.

NV: 2010 Sen (Kos 8/31-9/2)

Daily Kos (D) / Research 2000
8/31-9/2/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Harry Reid: 36 / 52
Danny Tarkanian: 47 / 28
Sue Lowden: 43 / 24
Jim Gibbons: 17 / 61
John Ensign: 28 / 53
Barack Obama: 48 / 41

2010 Senate
Tarkanian, 45%, Reid 40%
Lowden 44%, Reid 41%

Do you favor or oppose creating a government-administered health insurance option that anyone can purchase to compete with private insurance plans?
52% Favor, 40% Oppose

Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not?
74% Yes, 11% No

NYC: Mayor (SurveyUSA 8/28-9/1)

8/28-9/1/09; 567 likely Democratic primary voters, 4.2% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(SurveyUSA release)

New York City

2010 Mayor: Democratic Primary
Thompson 52%, Avella 14%, McMillan 3%, Rogers 1% (chart)

PA: Specter 37 Toomey 29 (F&M 8/25-31)

Franklin and Marshall College
8/25-31/09;562 registered voters, 4.1% margin of errorter
296 registered Democrats
214 registered Republicans
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(F&M release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Ed Rendell: 32 / 53 (chart)
Arlen Specter: 35 / 42 (chart)
Bob Casey: 41 / 18 (chart)
Barack Obama: 55 / 37 (chart)
Joe Sestak: 13 / 4
Tom Corbett: 23 / 4
Jim Gerlach: 8 / 5
Pat Toomey: 18 / 10

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 47% Excellent/Good, 53% Only Fair/Poor (chart)
Sen. Specter: 35 / 57 (chart)
Gov. Rendell: 29 / 68 (chart)

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
Specter 37%, Sestak 11% (chart)

2010 Senate: General Election
Specter 37%, Toomey 29% (chart)
Toomey 26%, Sestak 22% (chart)

Do you think that Arlen Specter has done a good enough job as senator to deserve re-election, or do you believe it is time for a change?
34% Deserves re-election, 54% Time for a change

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
15% Corbett, 6% Gerlach (trend)

Aging 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

David Brooks proclaims "Obama's slide" the fastest ever. Charles Franklin says not quite. Glen Bolger, Jonathan Chait, Kevin Drum, Jonah Golberg and Ezra Klein discuss.

Gallup, ABC News, Rasmussen Reports and Siena College (for NY State) all report big recent gains in consumer confidence, but Gallup warns that Americans continue to watch their spending.

First Read warns of "erratic robo-polling firms" and "more BAD poll now than ever before," Political Wire solicits responses from PPP's Tom Jensen and Research 2000's Del Ali.

Nate Silver sees no magic in 50%.

Andrew Alexander laments the Post's focus on health care tactics over substance, draws commentary from John Sides, Andrew Gelman, Paul Krugman, Matt Yglesias, Julian Sanchez and Ezra Klein (plus this guy agrees with Sides).

Matt Bai assesses the age divide (via Political Wire).

Ezra Klein explores why seniors oppose "government run" health care, but not Medicare.

Jennifer Agiesta looks at Post/ABC health care reform attitudes by age.

DemFromCT gathers more health reform data by age.

Jim Lindgrin critiques the IU survey on health care myths (more here; via McArdle who doesn't like NBC's informed question).

David Moore takes issue with Brooks and McInturff on health care.

Pat Caddell pontificates on health care reform.

Steve Singiser asks if all likely voters are Republican.

Kos digs deeper into Democratic declines on the generic congressional ballot.

David Johnson speaks - sees warning signs for Obama.

Sahil Kapur reports only 4% of Israelis think Obama is "pro-Israel."

Gary Langer reports on a study that finds trouble for opt-in internet surveys.

Survey Practice devotes an issue to "non-probability" samples.

ResearchRants rips an education demographic with too many categories.

And a media consultant special: the demo reel you wish you'd made (NSFW).

Brooks and the 'Obama Slide'

Topics: Andrew Kohut , Barack Obama , David Brooks , Government spending , job approval , Party Identification

David Brooks' column in yesterday's New York Times has provoked considerable debate on both the Left and Right. It makes a number of assertions about public opinion, some with more support than others. While we can quibble with some of his claims, Brooks is generally right about Obama's slide, and Democrats and progressives ought to heed his warning about underlying public skepticism toward "big spending" and "big government."

Brooks starts with "two tides" that swept American politics this past winter:

The first was the Obama tide. Barack Obama came into office with an impressive 70 percent approval rating . . .

Close, but not quite. The early approval ratings that registered at or above 70 percent were based on surveys conducted before Obama's inauguration that asked about how he was handling the presidential transition. Of the questions that asked Americans to rate Obama's performance as president, immediately after the inauguration the biggest numbers came from Gallup (67%) and IPSOS/McClatchy (69%).

See also Charles Franklin's post earlier today, which takes issue with analogous claims made that Obama was "wildly popular" at the beginning of his term as compared to other presidents. "Obama entered office with strong support," he argues, "but not so strong as that of Eisenhower or Kennedy, and after a couple of weeks his approval was above average but only by a bit."

Brooks continues:

...The second was the independent tide. Over the first months of this year, the number of people who called themselves either Democrats or Republicans declined, while the number who called themselves independents surged ahead.

The percentage of independents has certainly increased since last year's election, although "surge" may be in the eye of the beholder. Here Brooks is most likely relying on the May report by the Pew Research Center that found independent ID "surging" from 30% to 39% (the same percentage that Brooks quotes in his next paragraph) between December 2008 and April 2009. They also found that their average percentage of independents from January to April (36%) approached a historical high: "[T]he only previous year when independent identification has been this high was in 1992 when Ross Perot ran a popular independent candidacy."


But consider that Pew's "surge" to 39% in April has abated slightly. Since April, the four surveys conducted by the Pew Center have reported slightly lower levels of independence. The average (36%) is the same percentage as their most recent survey conducted in late August.

If we look at other pollsters that have reported an independent percentage consistently across their surveys since last September,** we do see confirmation of a similar, though slightly smaller increase. The chart above shows the results for the eight pollsters listed in the table below. The green "independent" trend line indicates a roughly six percentage points increase since September (from just over 32% to 37.9%).


The table above probably mutes the size of the change a bit, since I averaged all surveys conducted this year, but it presents evidence of a robust trend: Every pollster captured at least a nominal increase in the independent percentage among adults over the last year.

Some of this is likely a typical pattern during and just after a high turnout presidential election. I did a similar comparison for late 2004 versus the first eight months of 2005 for the two pollsters (Gallup and Pew) for which I have party ID data. Gallup showed a three percentage point increase in independence in 2005, while the Pew independent number was roughly the same from late 2004 to the first half of 2005.

So there was definitely an increase in the independent percentage following the election, although your mileage may vary on whether to call that a "surge." The single digit increase is certainly smaller than the shifts in Obama's approval rating. The more important point involved the long term trend: The percentage of independents reported this year by Pew Research (36%) is nearing an all-time high.

Brooks continues:

Obama's job approval is down to about 50 percent. All presidents fall from their honeymoon highs, but in the history of polling, no newly elected American president has fallen this far this fast.

On this point, definitely click through to the Charles Franklin post from earlier today that explores this assertion thoroughly. Shorter Franklin: Obama's decline is significant but it was not quite as steep slightly steeper than Bill Clinton's fall in 1994, though it did not fall as low as Clinton. On the other hand, much of Obama's decline has occurred since May, a steeper slide that he says "should be far more worrisome to the White House than the initial polls or the net change from first to last poll."

More from Brooks:

Anxiety is now pervasive. Trust in government rose when Obama took office. It has fallen back to historic lows. Fifty-nine percent of Americans now think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Anxiety about the direction of the country -- as measured in the right direction/wrong track question -- certainly remains pervasive. I am not sure which survey produced the 59% statistic that Brooks cites, but it is within the range of recent results we have collected and our chart does show a rebound in the "wrong track" percentage after a decline earlier this year.   

But do these measures equate with "trust in government?"

Data reported by CBS News just this week says no. They have long asked Americans if they "trust the government in Washington to do what is right." Results compiled by the Polling Report show that, if anything, Obama's presidency has produced a small but continuing uptick in trust in government.   


While trust in government has not "fallen back" to historic lows, according to the CBS data, it remains very low. Thus the caution to the Obama and the Democrats remains the same as noted by the Pew Research Center report back in May. While Obama continues to enjoy strong personal popularity, that sentiment does not translate into a "commensurate shift in support for a broader government mandate:" Also, as the Pew Center's Andrew Kohut argued more recently, "broad distrust of government -- "which was not evident in the 1960s -- is an important reason why Americans are reacting so differently to health care reform in 2009 than they did [when Medicare was enacted] in 1965."

Brooks' final assertion about public opinion:

The public has soured on Obama's policy proposals. Voters often have only a fuzzy sense of what each individual proposal actually does, but more and more have a growing conviction that if the president is proposing it, it must involve big spending, big government and a fundamental departure from the traditional American approach.

Here I think Brooks is basically right, and while the decline in Obama's approval has many sources -- some of it inevitable -- the caution about "big spending" and "big government" is a caution Democrats and progressives would do well to heed.

It is hard to find a specific survey question that gets at this point directly, but it matches observations I have heard lately from campaign pollsters from recent focus groups. The "policy proposals" that voters have heard the most about were the bailout of the financial industry, the "stimulus" bill, the bailout of the auto manufacturers and the health care proposal. While the financial bailout was not created on Obama's watch, and while much of the rest was forced by the economic downturn, what all have in common is that they involved massive levels of government spending. Voters are hearing a lot about spending and "takeovers," but have yet to see much evidence that the trillions spent (or slated to be spent) are having a positive impact on their lives.

What survey evidence supports this assertion? Consider these two results:

  • The new CNN survey just out today shows a approval of Obama's handling of the "budget deficit" plummeting from 52% in march to 36% this week, while disapproval increased from 47% to 63% -- easily the worst issue area for Obama of 10 tested.
  • A USA Today/Gallup poll from late July (7/19) found 59% who said that "President Obama's proposals to address the major problems facing the country call for too much government spending," 27% say the call for the "right amount," and 11% say they spend "not enough."

And there is certainly ample evidence, highlighted best by this week's new CBS News poll, that the public has a fuzzy sense of what the Democrats health care proposals will do. Less than a third (31%) say they understand the health care reforms (67% say they are confusing), but far more believe health care reform is "impossible" without either increasing the deficit (47%) or raising taxes on the middle class (45%). And whatever their understanding, most are skeptical that they will personally benefit: Fewer than one American in five believes the proposed health care reforms will help them personally (18%), will reduce their costs (20%) or improve the quality of their care (19%).

You may not agree with Brooks' prescription, but he is right that Obama's biggest challenge in selling health care reform is the underlying skepticism of big government compounded by the recently heavy levels of government spending.

**Polling and media organizations are often inconsistent about the way they ask and report the "independent" percentage. Some push the initially uncertain harder for a choice, some offer "other" as an option and some report a percentage that combines independent, other and don't know (or some combination of the three).   

WV: Approval Ratings (MBE 8/27-30)

Mark Blankenship Enterprises
8/27-30/09; 400 registered voters, 4.9% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Mark Blankenship release

West Virginia

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 45 / 51
Sen. Byrd: 69 / 29
Sen. Rockefeller: 65 / 32
Gov. Manchin: 78 / 19

US: Health Care (CNN 8/28-30)

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
8/28-31/09; 1,010 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)


From everything you have heard or read so far, do you favor or oppose Barack Obama's plan to reform health care?

48% Favor, 51% Oppose (chart)

As you may know, several health care bills have been passed by committees in the U.S. House and Senate and they can be brought before Congress for debate and a final vote at any time. Which of the following do you think Congress should do:

25% Continue working on those bills this fall and make relatively minor changes before passing final legislation
28% Continue working on those bills this fall but pass final legislation only if major changes are made
25% Start work on entirely new bills that would not be ready until some time next year
20% Stop working on any bills that would change the country's health care system

Do you think the country's health care system needs a great deal of reform, only some reform, or no reform at all?

45% Great Deal
46% Only Some
7% No Reform

Now thinking specifically about the health insurance plans available to most Americans, would you favor or oppose creating a public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies?

55% Favor
41% Oppose

Do you think Barack Obama does or does not want the federal government to eventually take over all aspects of the health care system in this country?

53% Does
42% Does not

VA: Approval Ratings (PPP 8/28-31)

Public Policy Polling (D)
8/28-31/09; 596 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(PPP release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 47 / 49 (
Gov. Kaine: 47 / 38 (chart)
Sen. Warner: 54 / 30 (chart)
Sen. Webb: 47 / 40 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Former Sen. George Allen: 50 / 38

If George Allen was to run for office again in the future would you definitely vote for him, consider voting for him, or definitely not vote for

31% Definitely vote for him
31% Consider voting for him
36% Definitely not vote for him

VA: McDonnell 51 Deeds 42 (Rasmussen 9/1)

9/1/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 50 / 49 (chart)
Gov. Kaine: 51 / 46 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Bob McDonnell (R): 55 / 28
Creigh Deeds (D): 48 / 42
Mark Warner: 62 / 30 (chart)
Tim Kaine: 52 / 43 (chart)

2009 Governor
McDonnell 51%, Deeds 42% (chart)

US: National Survey (Ipsos 8/27-31)

Ipsos / McClatchy
8/27-31/09; 1,057 adults. 3% margin of error
499 Democrats, 4.4% margin of error
401 Republicans, 4.9% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Ipsos: Health Care release, toplines; political tracker release, toplines)


State of the Country
40% Right direction, 54% Wrong track (chart)

Obama Job Approval
56% Approve, 40% Disapprove (chart)
Democrats: 88 /10 (chart)
Independents: 54 / 37 (chart)
Republicans: 18 / 78 (chart)

2010 House National Ballot
42% Democrat, 34% Republican (chart)

As of right now, do you favor or oppose the healthcare reform proposals presently being discussed?
40% Favor, 45% Oppose (chart)

Do you favor or oppose...

Legislation to permit the creation of insurance co-operatives
NOT run by the government

54% Favor, 36% Oppose

Creation of a public entity to directly compete with existing
health insurance companies

49% Favor, 41% Oppose

Party ID
34% Democrat, 22% Republican, 45% independent (chart)

US: National Survey (Harris 8/10-18)

Harris Interactive
8/10-18/09; 2,498 adults
Mode: Internet
(Harris release)


Job Approval
Congress: 22% Excellent/Pretty good, 78% Only fair/poor (chart)
Hillary Clinton: 51 / 31
Joe Biden: 33 / 38
Nancy Pelosi: 19 / 48
Republicans in Congress: 12 / 52
Democrats in Congress: 21 / 47
Harry Reid: 10 / 29
Mitch McConnell: 8 / 20
John Boehner: 8 / 19

US: National Survey (Pew 8/20-27)

Pew Research Center
8/20-27/09; 2,003 adults, 2.5% margin of error
1,669 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew: release, complete report)


Obama Job Approval
52% Approve, 37% Disapprove (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
The Republican Party: 40 / 50
The Democratic Party: 48 / 43
Congress: 37 / 52

State of the Country
28% Satisfied, 65% Dissatisfied (chart)

2010 National House Ballot (asked of registered voters only)
45% Democrat, 44% Republican (chart)

As of right now, do you generally favor or generally oppose the health care proposals being discussed in Congress?
38% Favor, 44% Oppose (chart)

Do you think ______ would be better off or worse off if
the president and Congress passed health care reform, or don't you think it would make much difference?

You and your family: 27% Better off, 30% Worse off, 36% Not much difference
The country as a whole: 39% Better off, 33% Worse off, 19% Not much difference

Party ID
32% Democrat, 26% Republican, 36% independent (chart)

US: Party & Ideology (Gallup 7/1-8/17)

7/1-8/17/09; 47,413 adults, 1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)



"Conservative white Democrats and moderate/liberal white Republicans are relatively rare creatures in the contemporary American political environment; 6% of Americans meet the former definition, and 11% the latter. Almost half of Americans, on the other hand, fit into the more conventional segments of moderate/liberal white Democrats or conservative white Republicans.

...Among the population segments that form the basis of this analysis, moderate/liberal white Democrats give President Obama the highest average job approval. Conservative Democrats still strongly approve of Obama, but at a significantly lower average level than do their fellow Democrats who are moderate or liberal.

On the other side of the spectrum, while well less than a majority of all white Republicans approve of Obama, those who are unconventional in the sense of being moderate or liberal are about three times as likely to approve as are those who are more conventionally conservative."

NY: Spitzer (SurveyUSA 9/1)

9/1/09; 500 adults, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(SurveyUSA release)

New York

If Eliot Spitzer runs for public office again, which of the following best describes you:
15% For Spitzer no matter what
39% Against no matter what
47% Depends on office / ballot

Who is better qualified to be governor of New York?
41% Spitzer, 24% Paterson
59% Giuliani, 25% Spitzer
61% Giuliani, 27% Paterson

How Fast Does Approval Fall?

Topics: Approval Ratings , Barack Obama , Gallup


David Brooks commented in his column yesterday "All presidents fall from their honeymoon highs, but in the history of polling, no newly elected American president has fallen this far this fast." Mostly right, sort of. But some context would help.

First, Obama's approval has fallen 16 points from his first Gallup poll reading to his most recent, finished 8/31, from 68% to 52% approval.  That's a smidgen more than Bill Clinton, who fell 14 points from his first poll to his last prior to September 1, 58% to 44%. One might pick a nit with Brooks that while Obama has fallen two more points he started substantially higher and that 52% now is quite a bit better than the 44% Clinton had at this point in his term.

(All the polls used here are by Gallup which is the only organization with polling reaching back to FDR. I'm looking only at first term elected presidents here, so no Truman, Johnson or Ford. FDR's first term predates polling, of course. I include all polls taken prior to September 1 of the first year in office.)

A look at the chart above also shows that NOT every president "falls from their honeymoon highs", at least not by September 1. Of the 9 presidents in the chart, five actually gained in approval from late January to the end of August, and one more finished where he began. Usually the gains are modest, but the first President Bush gained 13 points over this time, and President Reagan picked up 9.  More modest gains of 6, 4 and 3 points came to Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon respectively. Carter held even at 0 change. So of the nine, only the second Bush (-2) and Clinton and Obama have dropped between first poll and the end of August. That, of course, aids Brook's main point which is that Obama has suffered significant loss of support compared to other presidents-- it is just not the case that everyone falls off over the first 8 months.

A more important nit is that simply comparing the first and last polls ignores all the ones in between. Polls, as we know, jump around quite a bit, so a little bump up early or late can distort the rate of approval change. It is better to use all the polls to get the best estimate we can of the rate of change.

The chart below shows the estimated monthly rate of change in approval, using all the polls from January through the end of August. I fit a simple linear trend to each president. Not all change linearly, for example Obama fell, rose and then fell more steeply. A linear fit misses the nuance, but it gets the basic story right-- how fast have approval ratings been changing when we take all the data into account. The chart below ranks the presidents according to their estimated monthly change in approval.


Based on this estimate, Obama has the second greatest rate of decline, losing 1.6 percentage points of approval each month. Clinton did worse, falling at a monthly rate of 2.3 points.  If you look back to the first figure, you see that Clinton fell faster and further, but then rebounded a bit at the end of the summer, making his net change a little smaller (-14) but his overall rate of decline a bit steeper. Obama's chart shows two phases, an initial shallow decline with a bit of a rebound and a more recent decline at a higher rate. Linear fits don't distinguish between these details. But it is pretty clear that based on the linear trend, Clinton fell faster than Obama, contra-Brooks.

What is more interesting is how many presidents managed only slight declines or even gains in the first 8 months. Carter and the second Bush both lost just over a half point per month. Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan all gained, from 0.1 to 0.2 points per month. Eisenhower gained an impressive 0.65 points per month, and the first Bush gained an astonishing 1.9 points per month. So no, not everyone falls off. But yes, Obama has fallen, and quite badly in comparison. Just not quite the absolute worst.

We might put Obama's trend in perspective of his predecessors as well. The next chart shows the trends for all these presidents, highlighting Obama.


This chart offers one important corrective to a widely repeated myth: Obama was not "wildly popular" at the start of his term. This exaggeration is repeated so often that it is becoming a universal "truth". But the fact is Obama entered office with strong support, but not so strong as that of Eisenhower or Kennedy, and after a couple of weeks his approval was above average but only by a bit. It is this myth that adds to the drama of his current fall, but the myth exaggerates how high in the pantheon Obama first stood.

The second useful perspective of this chart is that much of the decline has come after 3.5 months, or starting in May. The decline since then has been quite steady, dropping Obama from a shade above average at 3.5 months, to a next-to-last place now. This second slide should be far more worrisome to the White House than the initial polls or the net change from first to last poll.

Finally, we should remember that the first 8 months do not tell the future. Clinton ranks dead last as of September 1, yet finishes with one of the highest approval ratings, and maintained high approval for longer than anyone since Eisenhower. Nor could GW Bush's approval on 9/1 say anything about his approval following 9/11.

The best perspective is the full term, and with time marked by elections rather than months. The chart below provides this for all presidents since FDR's 3rd term. The scales are exactly comparable across presidents so your eye can show you differences in trends. And the vertical blue lines mark off mid-term and presidential election dates. Those are the moments that matter. A low approval on November 2, 2010 will push Democratic losses in the House well above 20 seats. But a rebounding approval (driven by a better economy) can hold those losses below the historic average. That is the future still in Obama's hands to write. And that is basically what David Brooks was saying to the White House.


US: National Survey (CNN 8/28-31)

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
8/28-31/09; 1,010 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN story)


Obama Job Approval
53% Approve, 45% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 90 / 8 (chart)
Reps: 15 / 85 (chart)
inds: 43 / 53 (chart)
Economy: 49 / 51 (chart)
Foreign Policy: 54 / 42 (chart)
Health Care: 44 / 53 (chart)

Two Very Good Questions from the AP-Gfk Survey

In reading through the July 16-20, 2009 AP-Gfk poll (have not seen the August data release) I came across two very interesting questions worth tracking.

The first is on the pace of change that the Obama administration is pushing (question CURX4 on page 23) and asks respondents if the Obama adminstration is... "trying to change too many things too quickly", "changing things about the right amount at the right speed", or "not changing enough things quickly enough". The wording is a bit clunky, but the segmentation is fascinating and worth tracking. Between April and July the "too quickly" and "right amount" percentages have nearly flipped, suggesting that a growing percentage of the public (32% in April and now 49%) may be concerned at the direction and pace of change. Even more interesting is that this data shows the American public evenly split with 49% wanting a slower rate of change and 49% thinking the rate of change is either about right (37%) or not fast enough (12%). It would be very interesting to see this data among 2008 voters, self IDed independents, and 2004 red state independents.

The second is on job loss. Question CUR38 (page 26) asks for self-reported job loss for the respondent and "someone in your family". It would be stronger if it asked "someone in your household", but the trend data is fascinating and will be interesting to watch over time. Interestingly, the companion question queries on job loss over the past six months among "someone you know personally." This again would be interesting to track over time.

US: National Survey (CBS 8/27-31)

(CBS: Health Care story, results; Economy story, results


Obama Job Approval
56% Approve, 35% Disapprove (chart)
Reps: 19 / 69 (chart)
Dems: 86 / 8 (chart)
Inds: 50 / 39 (chart)
Economy: 53 / 41 (chart)
Health Care: 40 / 47 (chart)

Congress Job Approval
26% Approve, 58% Disapprove (chart)

State of the Economy
36% Getting Better, 25% Getting Worse, 38% Staying the same (chart)

Party ID
25% Republican, 36% Democrat, 39% independent (chart)

US: Health Care (Gallup 2006-2008)

November 2006, November 2007, November 2008
2,802 adults with health care coverage, 2% margin of error
1,753 adults with private health insurance, 3% margin of error
1,049 adults with public health insurance, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


Quality of Health Care Received:
Private Insurance: 87% Excellent/Good, 13% Only Fair/Poor
Public Insurance: 82% Excellent/Good, 17% Only Fair/Poor

Rating of Coverage
Private Insurance: 75% Excellent/Good, 25% Fair/Poor
Public Insurance: 74% Excellent/Good, 26% Fair/Poor

US: Afghanistan (CNN 8/28-31)

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
8/28-31/09; 1,010 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN story)


Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?
42% Favor, 57% Oppose

Do you think the United States is winning or not winning the war in Afghanistan?
35% Is winning, 62% Is not winning

Do you think the United States can or cannot win the war in Afghanistan?
59% Can win, 40% Cannot win

States: Approval Ratings (SurveyUSA 8/26-27)

8/26-27/09 (CA: 8/26-28); 600 adults per state, 4% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(links to all results are available here )

Job Approval / Disapproval

Pres. Obama: 40 / 58
Sen. Shelby: 58 / 35
Sen. Sessions: 63 / 31
Gov. Riley: 61 / 36

Pres. Obama: 62 / 33 (chart)
Sen. Feinstein: 51 / 41 (chart)
Sen. Boxer: 46 / 44 (chart)
Gov. Schwarzenegger: 19 / 76 (chart)

Pres. Obama: 45 / 51
Sen. Grassley: 54 / 34
Sen. Harkin: 49 / 38
Gov. Culver: 36 / 51

Pres. Obama: 45 / 51
Sen. Brownback: 54 / 36
Sen. Roberts: 58 / 34
Gov. Parkinson: 49 / 35

Pres. Obama: 36 / 61
Sen. McConnell: 47 / 48
Sen. Bunning: 35 / 55
Gov. Beshear: 47 / 47

Pres. Obama: 53 / 44 (chart)
Sen. Klobuchar: 58 / 36 (chart)
Sen. Franken: 45 / 41 (chart)
Gov. Pawlenty: 48 / 50 (chart)

Pres. Obama: 48 / 50 (chart)
Sen. Bond: 51 / 39 (chart)
Sen. McCaskill: 52 / 43 (chart)
Gov. Nixon: 50 / 41 (chart)

New Mexico
Pres. Obama: 52 / 46
Sen. Bingaman: 57 / 37
Sen. Udall: 50 / 42
Gov. Richardson: 55 / 43

New York
Pres. Obama: 58 / 38 (chart)
Sen. Schumer: 59 / 35 (chart)
Sen. Gillibrand: 39 / 39 (chart)
Gov. Paterson: 24 / 71 (chart)

Pres. Obama: 54 / 39
Sen. Wyden: 56 / 35
Sen. Merkley: 43 / 43
Gov. Kulongoski: 40 / 53

Pres. Obama: 42 / 54 (chart)
Sen. Webb: 46 / 40 (chart)
Sen. Warner: 57 / 31 (chart)
Gov. Kaine: 45 / 46 (chart)

Washington State
Pres. Obama: 51 / 46
Sen. Murray: 47 / 43
Sen. Cantwell: 45 / 40
Gov. Gregoire: 35 / 62

Pres. Obama: 45 / 50 (chart)
Sen. Kohl: 47 / 42 (chart)
Sen. Feingold: 46 / 44 (chart)
Gov. Doyle: 33 / 62 (chart)

US: Congress (PPP 8/27-30)

Public Policy Polling (D)
8/27-30/09; 596 registered voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(PPP release)


If the election for Congress was today, would you vote for your current Representative or for their opponent?
47% Current representative
33% Challenger

Job Approval / Disapproval
Democrats in Congress: 36 / 57
Republicans in Congress: 32 / 59

2010 National House Ballot
45% Republican, 41% Democrat (chart)

Party ID
35% Democrat, 34% Republican, 30% Independent/Other (chart)

VA: McDonnell 49 Deeds 42 (PPP 8/28-31)

Public Policy Polling (D)
8/28-31/09; 596 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(PPP release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Creigh Deeds (D): 47 / 34
Bob McDonnell (R): 53 / 31

2009 Governor
McDonnell 49%, Deeds 42% (chart)

US: Health Care, Afghanistan (CBS 8/27-31)

CBS News
8/27-31/09; 1,097 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CBS: Health care story, results; Afghanistan story, results)
(Updated with full results)


Health Care:

Do you have an understanding of health care reform ideas?
31% Yes, understand reforms
67% No, they're confusing

Has president Obama clearly explained his plans for health care reform?
31% Yes, 60% No

Government would so a (better/worse/) job than private insurers at...

Providing medical coverage:
36% Better
47% Worse

Holding down costs:
47% Better
38% Worse


Obama Job Approval: Afghanistan
48% Approve, 30% Disapprove

How are things going for the U.S in Afghanistan?
37% Well, 52% Badly

U.S. Troop levels in Afghanistan should be...
25% Increased
41% Decreased
23% Kept the same

Is appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA a...
50% Good idea, 38% Bad idea

US: National Survey (Zogby 8/28-31)

Zogby Interactive
8/28-31/09; 4,518 likely voters, 1.5% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(Zogby release)


Obama Job Approval
42% Approve, 48% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 75 / 13 (chart)

Obama Favorable Rating
50% Favorable, 48% Unfavorable (chart)

State of the Country
38% Right direction, 53% Wrong track (chart)

NJ: Christie 47, Corzine 37 (Quinnipiac 8/25-30)

8/25-30/09; 1,612 likely voters, 2.4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)

New Jersey

Favorable / Unfavorable
Chris Christie (R): 41 / 30
Jon Corzine (D): 34 / 57 (chart)
Chris Daggett (i): 8 / 4

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Corzine: 34 / 60 (chart)
Sen. Lautenberg: 43 / 41 (chart)
Sen. Menendez: 40 / 37 (chart)
Pres. Obama: 51 / 43 (chart)

2009 Governor
Christie 47%, Corzine 37%, Daggett 9% (chart)

NJ: Christie 47, Corzine 42 (FDickinson 8/24-30)

Fairleigh Dickinson/Public Mind
8/24-30/09; 715 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(FDU: 2009 Gov, Obama Approval)

New Jersey

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jon Corzine (D): 37 / 54 (chart)
Chris Christie (R): 38 / 35
Chris Daggett (i): 9 / 4

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Corzine: 37 / 52 (chart)
Pres. Obama: 56 / 36 (chart)

2009 Governor
47% Christie, 42% Corzine, 1% Daggett (vol) (chart)

US: Climate Change Bill (Rasmussen 8/29-30)

8/29-30/09; 1,000 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)

From what you know about the climate change bill that passed the House, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose it?
35% Strongly / Somewhat favor
40% Strongly / Somewhat oppose

Will the climate change bill that passed the House of Representatives help the economy, hurt the economy, or have no impact on the economy?
15% Help
35% Hurt

What is more important, taking steps to stop global warming or creating jobs?
22% Taking steps to stop global warming
65% Creating jobs

US: Swine Flu (Gallup 8/26)

8/26/09; 1,007 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


How likely do you think it is that you or someone in your family will get swine flu?
36% Very / Somewhat
62% Not too / Not at all

How confident are you that the federal government will be able to handle an outbreak of swine flu in this country?
60% Very / Somewhat
39% Not too / Not at all

Suppose a vaccine for the swine flu virus is developed later this year. Do you think you, personally, would or would not get this vaccine?
55% Would
42% Would not

Don't Shoot the Pollsters

Topics: Bill McInturff , health care , NBC/Wall Street Journal , Peter Hart

My National Journal column for the week, on criticism of questions asked by the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll over the last few months on a public option in health care reform, is now posted.  I will have more to say on this subject later today.