September 20, 2009 - September 26, 2009


Strategic Vision: Time for Transparency

Topics: Disclosure , Nate Silver , Strategic Vision , Transparency

Troubling new details continue to emerge about Strategic Vision following their reprimand from AAPOR for a lack of methodological disclosure earlier this week. We ought to take great care before making allegations of outright fraud, but there is now enough conflicting information -- including lack of evidence of any physical Strategic Vision office -- that the burden of proof has shifted to Johnson. His obligation is not to AAPOR but to the general public. Transparency is the first crucial ingredient that allows us to determine whether their polls, or any other, deserve our trust.

I want to set aside Nate Silver's trailing digit analysis aside for the moment (beyond my comments yesterday), as I understand that he is working on further analyses that respond to some of the questions raised by his commenters. Instead, I want to focus on the conflicting statements of Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson and other details reported by Politico's Ben Smith and others yesterday.

1) Johnson and AAPOR - Johnson told Smith that "he was refusing to cooperate with AAPOR" because the organization refuses to tell him the identity the person that filed the complaint:

"What we have asked from the very beginning was we would share all the methodology we wanted, - we wanted a copy of who filed the complaint," he said. "If they want transparency there has to be full transparency."

The problem with that statement is the phrase "from the beginning." AAPOR made multiple requests for methodological information from Strategic Vision -- and from 20 other polling organizations that did surveys in four primary states in 2008 -- starting in March 2008. These included two letters sent by Federal Express to the primary Strategic Vision mailing address listed on their web site. But these had nothing to do with any "complaint," and Johnson and Strategic Vision ignored them all.

Johnson's claim that he is "refusing to cooperate" with AAPOR contradicts two statements he made earlier in the week saying that he had cooperated fully. The journal Research reported that Johnson "said the firm had supplied AAPOR with all the information it had requested on 19 June this year." He also told ABC's Gary Langer that "I'm a little confused because we provided them the information on June 19."

AAPOR's press release this week is consistent with the more detailed statement given to ABC's Gary Langer by AAPOR Standards Chair Stephen Blumberg: After receiving a request for information in March 2009, Johnson finally "responded with an explicit refusal to provide the requested information," then after "in response to notification of AAPOR's initial findings of a violation, Mr. Johnson provided some, but not all, of the information requested." At that point, he stopped responding to their queries.

This whole episode is both puzzling and troubling. No, pollsters were not generally as cooperative with the AAPOR investigation last year as some of us had hoped. But Strategic Vision's bizarre stonewalling of AAPOR's requests this year, last year and (and of mine in 2007) were unusual. None of it makes much sense.

2) Where are The Cross-tabs? - Ben Smith writes: "Details of Strategic Vision's polls have long raised flags among pollsters, in part because it refuses -- unlike other pollsters -- to release "cross-tabs" -- the detailed demographic breakdowns of individual polls."

Strategic Vision is not the only pollster that fails to regularly post cross-tabular tables on its web site the way SurveyUSA, PPP and others do. Some hold back such tables for paying subscribers. Others prefer to report subgroup results selectively. However, Strategic Vision is the only pollster that, as far as I know, has refused to release cross-tabulations of its political surveys to anyone, including reputable journalists.

Three years ago (3/31/2006), for example, Johnson promised my colleagues at The Hotline that he would "honor requests for crosstabs and will make them available online in 4/06, when their website is revamped to handle the files." No such files ever appeared on the Strategic Vision website.

A helpful reader also alerts me to requests for cross-tabs made to Johnson by Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal Constitution in March 2006 and twice (here and here) in 2007, but finds no evidence that Galloway ever received any of the promised cross-tabs.

3) Where's the Office? - Some alert commenters on FiveThirtyEight discovered something that Ben Smith also reported: "[Strategic Vision's] website, as recently as last month, listed offices in Atlanta, Madison, Seattle, and Tallahassee -- all of which match the locations of UPS stores, rather than actual offices."

And to underline the point, the Atlanta mailing address (2451 Cumberland Parkway SE, Suite 3607) that, as of this hour, remains the only address on the Strategic Vision contact page is also a post office box at a UPS Store. That was the same address to which AAPOR sent its FedEx requests during 2008. I called to the UPS Store to confirm, and Suite 3607 is a mailing address that they maintain.

FiveThirtyEight reader inferno asks a good question: "[D]o they have any sort of actual physical address? i.e., an office?" If there is, its awfully hard to find any record of it.

The annual business registration for Strategic Vision filed with the Georgia Secretary of State indicates that their most recent filing -- which, notably, appears to be "active" but in "noncompliance" -- also lists the Cumberland Parkway address. The only previous address for the firm in a prior filing (2002) lists a suite in a Peachtree Street office tower that, according to a Google search, now appears to be occupied by a law office.

4) What Does It Cost? - Ben Smith gets to the crux of the issue: "Another question is how the firm pays for its polls. Its website lists at least 172 public polls, and at a stated cost of $30,000 a poll, that's an expenditure of more than $5 million -- quite a sum for a small firm."

The "stated" $30,000 cost comes from a 2006 interview Johnson gave to then Hotline polling editor Aoife McCarthy (3/31/2006). She wrote:

So how much does all of this cost? Strategic Vision uses these political polls as marketing tool for the company. Johnson says each poll costs an average of $30K to conduct. Do the math -- 39 polls in '05 and 10 polls so far in '06 at the bargain price of $30K results in nearly $1.5M in just 15 months. That does not include the first year of polling in '04.

Would it really cost Strategic Vision $30,000 to conduct surveys that typically include 800-1000 interviews? I doubt it. Not if they are really the "10-question-per-state-polls" that Johnson claimed to the Hotline in 2004 (roughly the length of most polls on their website). Not if, as Johnson reports in the 2006 Hotline interview that "callers are paid directly by Strategic Vision." I'll save the specific numbers for another post (if anyone is interested), but I have a hard time figuring out how his costs could be much higher than $5 per interview (though that still would amount to nearly a million dollars since 2004).

Why would he cite such a big number? I haven't a clue, but given all the other issues now swirling, it is a question David Johnson needs to answer. In 2004 he told the Hotline that "no client is paying," but he told Smith yesterday that some of their surveys "are piggybacked onto other polls." So which is it?   

So my bottom line: I have no idea whether Nate Silver's insinuations of fraud are real, but the burden of proof is shifting. Strategic Vision has to become considerably more transparent about their methods and data, or we will have little choice but to reach an ugly conclusion.

But there is a much bigger problem here for the rest of us. The larger issue is not whether Strategic Vision may be fabricating numbers or whether another less sensational explanation exists for all this obfuscation and contradiction. The problem is that anyone could theoretically make up a set of numbers and -- without a lot more transparency about methods and data than we now typically see -- pass it off as a real poll. The way those of us in the "new media" consume polling releases from every conceivable source, and that certainly includes Pollster.com, makes that possibility all too real. PPP's Tom Jensen has this exactly right:

I could leave PPP, start Tom Jensen Polling, put out a bunch of topline numbers the day before an election that just copied the Pollster, RCP, or Nate Silver predictions and be one of the most accurate pollsters in the country. That would be pretty darn easy and anyone could do it. And that's why public pollsters should hold themselves to a higher standard and also be held to a higher standard by the media.

That's perhaps the most extreme reason why, last month, I argued for a system of scoring pollsters for the quality of their disclosure and posting those scores online, as a matter of routine, alongside polling results. This episode makes the need for such a system more clear and more urgent than ever.

So who's with me?

Atoning for My 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

The Associated Press reports that the part-time census worker Bill Sparkman was found hanging, gagged and bound with his Census ID taped to his chest but said "investigators have not determined if it was a homicide, suicide or an accident."

Zach Roth confirms that Sparkman had the word "Fed" scrawled on his chest in felt tip pen.

David Johnson answers Ben Smith's questions about Strategic Vision

Tom Jensen offers thoughts on Strategic Vision and crosstabs.

Gallup sees no change in Obama's job approval rating in September.

John Sides reminds us how many Americans tune out from politics.

Anthony Salvanto and Mark Gersh ask if 2010 will be another 1994.

Andrew Gelman sees a potential GOP House takeover in 2010.

Ed Kilgore wonders if a funny thing could happen on the way to the GOP 2010 landslide.

Chris Bowers sees Democrats regaining a foothold on the national generic congressional ballot.

Gary Langer models seniors concerns about Medicare and health reform.

Alan Reifman explores regional differences in health reform attitudes.

Health Care for American Now commissions a poll on the public option in conservative swing House districts.

Resurgent Republic finds support for its focus group findings in the NBC/WSJ poll.

Seth Masket explores the hard-to-disentangle relationship between racial resentment, party identification and opposition to Obama (via Sides).

James Vega explores the use of polling to track "delusional thinking" in politics.

And totally unrelated to polling or statistics: President Obama blames the media for encouraging "outliers in behavior"

CO: 2010 Sen, Gov (Tarrance 9/16-17)

Tarrance Group (R) / Colorado Policy Insitute (R)
9/16-17/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Tarrance release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 48 / 47 (chart)
Gov. Ritter: 48 / 46 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Ritter: 47 / 43 (chart)

2010 Governor: Republican Primary (trends)
McInnis 40%, Penry 13%

2010 Senate: Republican Primary (trends)
45% Norton, 15% Buck

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary (trends)
41% Bennet, 27% Romanoff

MI: 2010 Gov (IMP-MRG 9/12-20)

Inside Michigan Politics / Marketing Resource Group
9/12-20/09; 600 likely voters, 4.1% margin of error
242 Republicans, 6.3% margin of error
226 Democrats, 6.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(MRG release)


2010 Governor: Republican Primary
Mike Cox 27%, Pete Hoekstra 26%, Mike Bouchard 15%, Tom George 2%, Rick Snyder 2%

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
John Cherry 40%, John Freeman 9%, Alma Wheeler Smith 8%

2010 Governor: General Election
41% Bouchard, 38% Cherry
42% cherry, 34% Snyder
35% Cox, 33% Cherry, Andy Dillon (i) 13%

US: Congress (Rasmussen 9/22-23)

9/22-23/09; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)


Congress Job Approval
14% Excellent/Good, 83% Fair/Poor (chart)

Over the past year, has Congress passed any legislation that will significantly improve life in America?
19% Yes, 59% no

Over the next year, how likely is it that Congress will seriously address the most important problems facing our nation?
49% Very/Somewhat likely, 47% Not very/Not at all likely

Are most members of Congress sincerely interested in helping people or are they just interested in their own careers?
15% Helping people, 74% Their own careers

Are most members of Congress corrupt?
35% Yes, 40% No

Strategic Vision: A Bigger Story?

Topics: AAPOR , David Johnson , Nate Silver , Pollsters , Strategic Vision

The Strategic Vision story is getting far more interesting. In the wake of a public reprimand from the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) for failing to disclose "essential facts" about his company's methods, and after more than a year of doing his best to avoid public comment, Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson now has much to say and is threatening legal action. Meanwhile, over at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver says he has found evidence that "suggests, perhaps strongly, the possibility of fraud" in Strategic Vision's numbers.

On Wednesday, he provided this response to a call from Jim Galloway at the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson said his firm had wanted to appeal the judgment, and said a Sept. 17 hearing had been scheduled - and then canceled by the AAPOR. "We've asked for a copy of the complaint that was filed against us, and who filed it," Johnson said. "How can you respond to something when you don't know who filed the complaint."

Moreover, he added, "We're not a member of their organization. I don't know anything about them."

Johnson also gave Galloway an email sent by AAPOR to Johnson this past June acknowledging receipt of "some of the information requested regarding polls in New Hampshire and Wisconsin" (emphasis added).

Yesterday, James Verrinder of the website Research reports that Johnson now "vows legal action" against AAPOR and some of its members:

Johnson said he "disagreed completely" with the charge levied at his firm by AAPOR and vowed to take legal action against the association. He said the firm had supplied AAPOR with all the information it had requested on 19 June this year, and had electronic proof of what was sent.

Johnson believes a competitor is behind the original complaint to AAPOR, and wants to see the source of the action against his firm. "I find it unusual," he said, "that an organisation that says they are all about transparency won't supply us with details of the complaint. What they were asking for were trade secrets."

He said: "We will be taking legal action. We have spoken with our attorneys and have gotten them the documentation and should know exactly the venue and specific charges that we will be filing against AAPOR specifically and individual members of AAPOR personally."

Johnson alleges that the AAPOR's acted "maliciously" in issuing its ruling. "I think it was timed to coincide with the results of a poll we had out yesterday [on the gubernatorial elections in Georgia]," he said.

Both accounts also include responses from AAPOR President Peter Miller. Miller told Galloway that "AAPOR had sent Johnson notices four times asking him to confirm his attendance at that hearing last week, and finally ended up canceling because of the lack of any response." Miller told Verrinder that it was "completely wrong" that a competitor had filed the complaint and reiterated that Johnson's 2009 response, received after the release of the AAPOR report in April, did not include all of the requested information. In a previous article, also published today, Verrinder had reported that the reply still did not provide requested information about response rates and weighting or estimating procedures.

Now separately, Nate Silver claims to have found evidence of a non-random pattern in the trailing digits of the percentages reported by Strategic Vision in their public polling since 2005, and the implications of that assertion are pretty explosive. Last night, he raised some suggestive questions that mirror some of the unsubstantiated gossip and prodding I've received via email for years from a Democratic activist or two in Georgia. But this morning, as Silver puts it himself, he's making a much more concrete allegation (emphasis his):

Certain statistical properties of the results reported by Strategic Vision, LLC suggest, perhaps strongly, the possibility of fraud, although they certainly do not prove it and further investigation will be required.

In other words, Nate is suggesting that Strategic Vision has been making up its numbers. The analysis he reports this morning is based on Benford's Law, the same principle similar to the principles behind much the analysis of Iran election fraud that we reported this summer [see the clarification below]. The idea is the last digit of numbers with two or more digits should have a uniform distribution. A '1' should occur as often as a '2,' a '3' etc. According to Nate, the pattern for Strategic Vision is far from uniform:

[T]his data is not random. It's not close to random. It's not close to close. Which brings up the other possibility: Strategic Vision is cooking the books. And whoever is doing so is doing a pretty sloppy job. They'd seem to have a strong, unconscious preference for numbers ending in '7', for instance, as opposed to those ending in '6'. They tend to go with round numbers that end in '5' or '0' slightly too often. And they much prefer numbers with high trailing digits like 49 and 38 to those with low ones like 51 and 42.

I haven't really seen anyone approach polling data like this before, and I certainly haven't done so myself. So, we cannot rule out the possibility that there is some mathematical rationale for this that I haven't thought of. But it looks really, really bad. There is a substantial possibility -- far from a certainty -- that much of Strategic Vision's polling over the past several years has been forged.

I recognize the gravity of this claim. I've accused pollsters -- deservedly I think in most cases -- of all and sundry types of incompetence and bias. But that is all garden-variety stuff, as compared against the possibility that a prominent polling firm is making up numbers whole cloth.

I would emphasize, however, that at this stage, all of this represents circumstantial evidence. We are discussing a possibility. If we're keeping score, it's a possibility that I would never have thought to look into if Strategic Vision had been more professional about their disclosure standards. And if we're being frank, it's a possibility that might actually be a probability. But it's only that. A possibility. An hypothesis -- as yet unproven.

Predictably enough, my email box is filling with the same question: What do you think of this? My first reaction is similar to "Mark" (not me) and some other commenters on FiveThirtyEight: The analysis is intriguing, but I would find it far more convincing if he ran comparable statistics for some of the other prolific pollsters in the same contests since 2005 (Rasmussen, SurveyUSA, Quinnipiac, ARG, Zogby, Mason-Dixon, etc). If the Strategic Vision pattern is really different from all the rest, then it would reduce the possibility that the pattern Nate found "is a function of polling in general" (as commenter Matt puts it).

Also, while I stipulate that I am no expert in Benford's Law, my sense from reviewing the analysis of the Iranian election is that its assumptions can get extremely complex. As such, we need to very cautious about jumping to conclusions based on the pattern that Silver is reporting. That said, I will have more about Strategic Vision, AAPOR and the theme of transparency in my National Journal column on Monday.

Update and Clarification: To prove I'm no expert, I initially described Silver's analysis incorrectly. Mark Lindeman is right in the comment below when he says that Nate Silver is expecting a uniform distribution, not a Benford distribution.  

I also exchanged email with Walter Mebane, the University of Michigan professor whose has done much work in this area, most recently on fraud in Iran.  He reviewed Silver's post and urges caution, saying that some of the comments there (such as those from Mark, Allen and Zach) "cover the kinds of further questions" he would want to ask. Like Zach, Mebane says that with two-digit numbers, we should not expect a uniform distribution of the last digit, especially if it is based on percentages that have been rounded in a biased manner.  Echoing commenter Mark, he says that a "comparison with other polling houses would probably be the most informative and quickest thing to do."

Update 2:  For those wondering whether Strategic Vision, LLC has any real clients, a colleague passes along some indisputable proof that they do.  The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has used Strategic Vision to conduct a series of statewide surveys since 2007 (click on any link showing a state's "Opinion on K-12 Education and School Choice").  I count 14 surveys in all since 2007, the most recent released just last wewek. 

Ironically, these reports show that the Friedman Foundation demonstrates a prominent commitment to "methods and transparency."  Check Page 2 of the most recent report for Nebraska: "We are committed to sound research and to provide quality information in a transparent and efficient manner."  A methodology section found within includes the sort of information -- including response rates and call disposition reports -- that Strategic Vision continues to resist releasing for their political surveys. 

AZ: 2010 Sen (PPP 9/18-21)

Public Policy Polling (D)
9/18-21/09; 617 likely voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(PPP release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Sen. Kyl: 43 / 40
Sen. McCain: 48 / 40

Favorable / Unfavorable
Janet Napolitano: 44 / 47
Gabrielle Giffords: 19 / 21
Rodney Glassman: 6 / 12

2010 Senate
McCain 53%, Napolitano 40%
MCain 57%, Giffords 30%
McCain 55%, Glassman 25%

NY: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 9/22)

9/22/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)

New York

2010 Senate
Gillibrand (D) 44%, Pataki (R) 41% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Kirsten Gillibrand: 39 / 42 (chart)
George Pataki: 46 / 48

CA: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 9/23)

9/23/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 60 / 39 (chart)
Gov. Schwartzenegger: 33 / 63 (chart)

2010 Senate (trends)
Boxer (D) 49%, Fiorina (R) 39%
Boxer (D) 46%, DeVore (R) 37%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barbara Boxer: 51 / 42 (chart)
Chuck DeVore: 31 / 37
Carly Fiorina: 32 / 35

OH: 2010 Sen, Gov (Rasmussen 9/23)

9/23/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)
(Update: 2010 Gov release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 48 / 50 (chart)
Gov. Strickland: 47 / 50 (chart)

2010 Senate
Portman (R) 41%, Fisher (D) 40% (chart)
Portman (R) 40%, Brunner (D) 38% (chart)

2010 Governor
Kasich (R) 46%, Strickland (D) 45% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Rob Portman: 45 / 23
Lee Fisher: 42 / 34
Jennifer Brunner: 37 / 36
Ted Strickland: 48 / 46 (chart)
John Kasich: 47 / 25

US: National Survey (Kos 9/21-24)

Daily Kos (D) / Research 2000
9/21-2/09; 2,400 adults, 2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 54 / 38 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 34 / 57
Harry Reid: 31 / 57
Mitch McConnell: 18 / 64
John Boehner: 12 / 63
Democratic Party: 40 / 50
Republican Party: 22 / 68

State of the Country
41% Right Direction, 53% Wrong Track (chart)

US: National Survey (Economist 9/20-22)

Economist / YouGov
9/20-22/09; 1,000 adults, 5% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(Economist release)


Obama Job Approval
51% Approve, 42% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 85 / 12 (chart)
Reps: 16 / 82 (chart)
Inds: 51 / 44 (chart)
Economy: 43 / 47 (chart)
Health Care: 45 / 46 (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?
49% Support, 51% Oppose (chart)

Congress Job Approval
14% Approve, 62% Disapprove (chart)

2010 House: Generic Ballot
35% Republican, 46% Democrat (chart)

State of the Country
35% Right Direction, 51% Wrong Track (chart)

Party ID
33% Democrat, 25% Republican, 31% independent (chart)

NY: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 9/22)

9/22/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)

New York

Job Approval / Disapproval
Obama: 61 / 38 (chart)
Paterson: 39 / 60 (chart)

2010 Governor
Lazio (R) 38%, Paterson (D) 38% (chart)
Giuliani (R) 50%, Paterson (D) 39% (chart)
Cuomo (D) 65, Lazio (R) 26% (chart)
Cuomo (D) 58%, Giuliani (R) 37% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Paterson: 38 / 57 (chart)
Giuliani: 55 / 44
Lazio: 33 / 49
Cuomo: 68 / 25

VA: McDonnell 48 Deeds 44 (InsiderAdvantage 9/23)

InsiderAdvantage / Majority Opinion Research
9/23/09; 602 registered voters, 3.8% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Politico release)


2009 Governor
McDonnell 48%, Deeds 44% (chart)

NJ: Christie 40 Corzine 39 (DemCorps 9/22-23)

Democracy Corps (D)
9/22-23/09; 601 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(DemCorps release)

New Jersey

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jon Corzine (D): 35 / 47 (chart)
Chris Christie (R): 32 / 34
Chris Daggett (i): 8 / 10
Barack Obama: 57 / 28 (chart)

2009 Governor
40% Christie, 39% Corzine, 11% Daggett (chart)

US: National Survey (CBS/Times 9/19-23)

CBS News / New York Times
9/19-23/09; 1,042 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CBS: story, results, health care story, health care results; Times: story, results)


Obama Job Approval
56% Approve, 33% Disapprove (chart)
Health Care: 47 / 45 (chart)
Economy: 50 / 40 (chart)
Dems: 85 / 8 (chart)
Reps: 23 / 67 (chart)
Inds: 47 / 38 (chart)

State of the Country
41% Right Direction, 53% Wrong Track (chart)
Economy: 36% Getting Better, 17% Getting Worse, 46% Same (chart)

So far, do you think the government's stimulus package has made the economy better, made the economy worse, or has it had no impact on the economy so far?
36% Better, 13% Worse

Regardless of how you usually vote, who do you think has better ideas about reforming the health care system -- Barack Obama, or the Republicans in Congress?
52% Obama, 27% Republicans

Do you mostly support or mostly oppose the changes to the health care system proposed by Barack Obama, or don't you know enough about them yet to say?
30% Mostly Support, 23% Mostly Oppose, 46% Not enough to say

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?
65% Favor, 26% Oppose (chart)

Party ID
37% Democrat, 22% Republican, 41% independent (chart)

Omero: Even on Mad Men women are in the workplace (unsolicited advice for Creigh Deeds)

Topics: gender , Virginia

The Virginia Governor's race is coming to a slow boil in the post-thesis environment.  Polls show Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds narrowing the gap, in part because Deeds's television ads have begun to focus on McDonnell's problematic law school thesis, in full here, and written about here and here.  But how have Virginians' attitudes toward the McDonnell's blueprint affected their views of the two candidates?  And how can Deeds best capitalize on McDonnell's out-of-the-mainstream views?

Many have yet to learn about the thesis contents, and learning about it is good for Deeds

Recent polling shows about half of voters haven't heard about the controversy surrounding McDonnell's thesis.  The Clarus research group poll showed 48% hadn't heard about the thesis, but those who had were more likely to feel unfavorable than favorable toward McDonnell as a result.  This recent Washington Post poll showed over half (54%) to know "just some" or "hardly anything" about the thesis.  And when read some about the thesis, they too become more unfavorable toward McDonnell.  Further, this strong Washington Post analysis of the poll shows awareness of the thesis is even lower among younger women--who are particularly likely to find the contents objectionable.  There is clearly more room for growth on the thesis argument, and those who hear about the thesis seem to move away from McDonnell.

McDonnell wrote about the scourge of working women--a far out of the mainstream view

McDonnell's thesis included a wide range of extreme views on everything from abortion, homosexuals, birth control for married couples, an unusual use of the word "fornicator," and the opposition of working women.  This last point--his views toward working women, represents a huge departure from attitudes toward and the reality of work and gender.

But don't take my word for it.  In his own words, McDonnell calls working women, "detrimental to the family."  He ridicules "some women's" desire for "individual self-actualization," "workplace equality," and "the private choices of individuals to increase their family income."   He laments, "Must government subsidize the choices of a generation of with an increased appetite for the materialistic components of American society?"   By singling out women at fault, McDonnell implies that when men try to increase their family income, it is not materialistic. 

It is obvious to most, of course, that many women have no choice but to work.  Some are widows, or unmarried or never married, are caretakers for parents, or have husbands or partners who have lost their jobs.  But also, many women simply would prefer to work.  A 2007 Gallup poll showed more women would prefer to work rather than stay at home if they were free to do either.  And recent labor statistics confirm  what we know to be true; women, mothers or not, participate in the workforce in huge numbers.   More than 70% of women aged 35 to 44 are employed.  These findings highlight how out of touch McDonnell is with how women live their lives. 

It's also important here to stress that McDonnell wrote of working women, not just working mothers.  Not that working mothers are necessarily controversial, although some debate the costs and benefits for one's personal circumstances.  But as we've written elsewhere, voters want to see more help to working mothers, not less.

But this particular extreme view needs more exposure

Public polling on the race doesn't quite capture voters' attitudes toward the full panoply of McDonnell's extreme views.  The Washington Post poll described the thesis this way:  "In his thesis, McDonnell criticized working mothers and homosexuals as detrimental to families and urged the promotion of traditional values through government.  McDonnell calls this not in-line with his current views while Deeds says this shows McDonnell's real positions on these issues. "  This description lacks some precision by replacing "working women" with "working mothers," and it does not measure reactions to McDonnell's extreme view that women do not have the right to workplace equality, or to increase their family's income. 

Of Deeds two recent televised ads on the thesis, only one mentions, briefly, the thesis's points on working women.  (There is an excellent video on his website, however, which you can view here.)  Instead, much of Deeds's advertising ties McDonnell's position in the thesis on birth control and abortion, to his sponsoring 35 bills restricting a woman's right to choose. 

I understand the need to attach McDonnell's thesis to his votes in office.  The large number of sponsored bills shows the thesis was more than an "academic exercise" as McDonnell claims, but an actual "blueprint" for his political career.  But McDonnell also voted against getting tough on gender discrimination at the workplace, and against improvements to day care that would help working women.  And while McDonnell is certainly to the right of most Virginians when he opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest, abortion is still the more controversial topic. 

McDonnell's thesis response ad further belies his views toward women.  In his own defense, he touts his work cracking down on child predators and domestic violence.  While those are undoubtedly important, as his only legislative defense, it suggests McDonnell views women chiefly needing to protection from physical danger, rather than from economic inequities.  The Deeds campaign should keep McDonnell defending his thesis all the way through November; they might well be preparing to shift to the working women argument in the remaining weeks.

Even on the hit show Mad Men, set in a 1960s New York ad agency where blackface is accepted and homosexuality is not, women have entered the workforce.   If 1963 is too modern by Bob McDonnell's politics, then what does that say about his plan for Virginia's future? 

Update (10/15) and subsequent interests disclosed: Partly because of the work I did for this post, I am now part of a group called "Working Women for Virginia" that is raising money to educate voters about Republican candidate Bob McDonnell's extreme views.  We have a video up here.

NJ: Christie 46, Corzine 38 (SVision 9/18-20)

Strategic Vision (R)
9/18-20/09; 800 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(SVision release)

New Jersey

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 48 / 43 (chart)
Gov. Corzine: 37 / 54 (chart)
Sen. Menendez: 50 / 39 (chart)
Sen. Lautenberg: 47 / 44 (chart)

2009 Governor
Christie 46%, Corzine 38%, Daggett 8% (chart)

NY: 2010 Sen, Gov (Marist 9/22)

9/22/09; 616 registered voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews and IVR
(Marist release)

New York

Do you think it's right or wrong for the White House to suggest that Governor Paterson should not run for office next year?
27% Right, 62% Wrong

Do you agree or disagree that having David PAterson on the ticket would hurt other Democratic canddiates running in new York next year?
43% Agree, 41% Disagree

Do you want David Paterson to run for governor in 2010, or not?
25% Yes, 63% No

Job Approval
Gov. Paterson: 17% Excellent/Good, 79% Fair/Poor (chart)
Pres. Obama: 52 / 46 (chart)

2010 Senate (trends)
Giuliani 51%, Gillibrand 40%
Pataki 45%, Gillibrand 41% (chart)

US: 2012 Pres (PPP 9/18-21)

Public Policy Polling (D)
9/18-21/09; 621 likely voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(PPP release)


Obama Job Approval
52% Approve, 44% Disapprove (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jeb Bush: 22 / 45
Mike Huckabee: 38 / 36 (chart)
Sarah Palin: 37 / 55 (chart)
Mitt Romney: 33 / 38 (chart)

2012 President
Obama 50%, Bush 37%
Obama 48%, Huckabee 41%
Obama 53%, Palin 38%
Obama 48%, Romney 39%

The Death of an Interviewer

Topics: Census , Interviewers

If you have been following the news on cable television or online this morning you have probably already heard about the hanging death of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part time fieldworker for the U.S. Census in Kentucky. According to an Associated Press report, an unnamed law enforcement official said Sparkman's body was found with the word "fed" scrawled on his chest.

Very little about this story has been confirmed by official sources. "Investigators," the story tells us, "are still trying to determine whether the death was a killing or a suicide, and if a killing, whether the motive was related to [Sparkman's] government job or to anti-government sentiment." So we should take care to avoid jumping to conclusions about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Sparkman's death.

Still, let's remember that a Census "field worker" is really a survey interviewer. As noted this morning by the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe, the Census hires "hundreds of thousands of temporary workers across the country [to] walk door-to-door conducting various demographic surveys." Their work is neither partisan nor political. It is vital to the accurate collection of Census Bureau statistics on the U.S. population and economy.

As my colleague David Hill pointed out a few months ago, accurate Census data has profound importance, not just to the functioning of government, but also to "entrepreneurship, marketing and business planning." He quoted a commercial broker named Howard Carr who once told the Albany Times:

The raw, dry, detailed facts and figures about people that the U.S. government collects every 10 years are the stuff real estate developers live by [and are used by businesses] for everything from determining how many health-conscious products to stock on supermarket shelves to deciding on which side of the street a day-care center should be built.

Last night, SurveyUSA CEO Jay Leve, whose company uses an automated methodology rather than live interviewers, took to the listserv of the American Association of Public Opinion Research with this message: "If Mr. Sparkman's hanging is related to his work for the Census Bureau -- and unclear yet that it is -- this is an attack on each of us, however we collect our data."

Amen to that.

IA: 2010 Sen. Gov (Rasmussen 9/22)

9/22/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen: Gov, Sen)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 48 / 49
Gov. Culver: 43 / 53

2010 Governor
54% Branstad (R). 34% Culver (D)
43% Vander Plaats (R), 39% Culver (D)

2010 Senate
56% Grassley (R), 30% Krause (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Culver: 43 / 50
Branstad: 64 / 29
Vander Plaats: 45 / 30
Grassley: 68 / 30
Krause: 33 / 30

US: National Survey (F&M 9/15-21)

Franklin and Marshall College
9/15-21/09; 1,046 adults, 3% margin of error
900 registered voters, 3.3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(F&M release)


State of the Country
36% Right Direction, 55% Wrong Track (chart)

Obama Job Approval
51% Excellent/Good, 47% Fair/Poor (chart)

2010 House: Generic Ballot
43% Democrat, 30% Republican (chart)

Party ID
34% Democrat, 22% Republican, 42% Independent (chart)

Compared to other advanced industrial nations of the world, do you think the U.S.
healthcare system is...?

36% Above average, 29% Average, 30% Below average

Do you think the country's healthcare system is in need of reform, or not?
79% Yes, 15% No

Who do you think has better ideas about reforming the country's healthcare system?
47% Obama, 21% Republicans in Congress

MA: 2010 Gov (Suffolk 9/12-15)

Suffolk University
9/12-15/09; 500 registered voters, 4.4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Suffolk release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Deval Patrick (D): 42 / 45
Tim Cahill (i): 35 / 12
Charlie Baker (R): 15 / 11
Christy Mihos (R): 27 / 23

Do you think Governor Deval Patrick deserves to be re-elected or is it time to elect someone else?
29% Deserves re-election, 56% Someone else

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Patrick: 42 / 49

2010 Governor
Patrick 36%, Cahill 23%, Baker 14%
Patrick 36%, Cahill 24%, Mihos 17%,

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
Caker 43%, Mihos 19%

NYC: 2009 Mayor (Quinnipiac 9/16-21)

9/16-21/09; 1,513 likely voters, 2.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)

New York City

2009 Mayor
52% Mike Bloomberg (R-i), 36% William Thompson (D), 2% Stephen Christopher (C) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Thompson: 42 / 12
Bloomberg: 64 / 29 (chart)
Christopher: 3 / 6

Job Approval / Disapproval
Mayor Bloomberg: 69 / 26 (chart)

US: News Interest (Pew 9/18-21)

Pew Research Center
9/18-21/09; 1,000 adults, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)


All things considered... these days have you been hearing too much, too little, or the right amount about Barack Obama?
37% Too much, 12% Too little, 46% Right amount

Most Closely Followed Story
36% Debate over health care reform
15% Reports about the condition of the U.S. economy
14% Reports about swine flu and the availability of a vaccine
12% The murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le in a campus lab building
6% The U.S. military effort in Afghanistan
4% Obama cancelling a planned missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic

How much if anything, have you heard about each of the following?

Senator Max Baucus unveiling his health care reform proposal:
19% A lot, 36% A little, 45% Nothing at all

Employees of the community organizing group "ACORN" appearing to give advice to a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute:
31% A lot, 25% A little, 43% Nothing at all

Charges that racism is a factor in criticisms of President Obama and his policies:
40% A lot, 35% A little, 24% Nothing at all

A September 12th rally in Washington to protest government spending and policies:
23% A lot, 37% A little, 40% Nothing at all

AZ: 2010 Gov (PPP 9/18-21)

Public Policy Polling (D)
9/18-21/09; 617 likely voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(PPP release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Brewer: 26 / 43

Favorable / Unfavorable
Terry Goddard (D): 44 / 22
Dean Martin (R): 27 / 19
Fife Symington (R): 17 / 54

2010 Governor
Goddard 46%, Brewer 36%
Goddard 45%, Martin 37%
Goddard 52%, Symington 29%

PPP national "birther"/"truther" poll

Topics: 9/11 , birth certificate , birther , Bush , conspiracy , Obama

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling continues his interesting polling on political misperceptions in a new national poll (PDF) that was conducted Sept. 18-21 and released today.

As in the New Jersey poll released last week, PPP's national poll includes contrasting "truther" and "birther" questions. However, Jensen consulted with me on the wording of the "truther" question, which I had criticized, and ended up selecting new wording I adapted from a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll. The new question removes the ambiguity associated with the phrase "advance knowledge," which could be interpreted to refer to the August 2001 memo Bush received warning of the threat from Al Qaeda:

Old question: "Do you think George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks?"

New question: "Do you think President Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place because he wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?"

Here are the poll results for the two misperceptions by party:

9-11 v birthers in numbers

The primary finding is that the Obama birth certificate misperception has become far more prevalent among Republicans (42% no, 22% not sure) than the 9/11 misperception for Democrats (25% yes, 12% not sure). The percentage of Republicans who directly endorse the myth has increased substantially since the Daily Kos poll released in late July (which found 28% of Republicans said Obama wasn't born in this country and 30% weren't sure).

In terms of the 9/11 myth, the PPP results are generally consistent with what Scripps found in 2006, though reported levels of 9/11 misperceptions are lower among Democrats* (note: the Scripps results are juxtaposed below with the Daily Kos poll results referenced above):

9-11 v birthers

The difference in 9/11 misperceptions between the two polls could be the result of variations in question wording (among other things, the original Scripps question refers to "people in the federal government" rather than President Bush) or differences in the response options (yes/no versus a scale of likelihood). 9/11 misperceptions may also have declined over time, particularly since Bush is no longer in office.

(Cross-posted to brendan-nyhan.com)

AAPOR "Raises Objections" to Strategic Vision's Non-Disclosure

Topics: AAPOR , Disclosure , Strategic Vision

As the final act of a yearlong investigation of the polling mishaps leading up to the New Hampshire and other primary elections last year, the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) today criticized the firm Strategic Vision LLC for refusing to disclose "essential facts" about surveys it conducted prior to the 2008 New Hampshire and Wisconsin primaries. An AAPOR press release described Strategic Vision's nondisclosure as "inconsistent with the association's Code of Professional Ethics and Practices and contrary to basic principles of scientific research."

When AAPOR's special ad hoc committee released its report last April, over a year after the New Hampshire miscues it was created to investigate, it had still not received "minimal disclosure" from 3 of 21 firms that had received requests a year earlier (though Strategic Vision's evasions were notworthy and consistent with my own experience). Today's AAPOR release completes the story:

For more than one year, AAPOR was unable to obtain the following basic information about Strategic Vision LLC's polling in New Hampshire and Wisconsin: who sponsored the survey; who conducted it; a description of the underlying sampling frame; an accounting of how "likely voters" were identified and selected; response rates; and a description of any weighting or estimating procedures used. AAPOR considers the release of this information for public polls to be a minimum requirement for professional behavior among those who conduct public opinion research.

Following Strategic Vision LLC's failure to respond to AAPOR's inquiries, a complaint was filed alleging a violation of the association's Code of Professional Ethics and Practices. The investigation process included two notices of non-compliance to Mr. David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision LLC, who explicitly refused to provide the requested information. Later, after receiving notification of the association's initial findings of a violation, Mr. Johnson offered partial but incomplete information. AAPOR never received any information about response rates, weighting, or estimating procedures. The AAPOR Executive Council now concludes that the repeated noncompliance by Strategic Vision LLC was a violation of the AAPOR Code.

AAPOR's action comes with no penalty, since no one associated with Strategic Vision is an AAPOR member.

The release also notes that this action "concludes AAPOR's official evaluation" of the 2008 primary polling mishaps while also noting that Strategic Vision was the "only polling firm" that failed to meet its minimal disclosure standards in response to their committee's requests. That action implies that other firms have provided additional information since the release of the committee's report in April. As of this hour, however, the reports available on the Roper Center web page appear to include no new information on the South Carolina surveys by Clemson University and Ebony/Jet/Lester & Associates beyond what they publicly released in 2008 (both firms had been singled out in the April report, along with Strategic Vision, for failing to respond to committee requests).

So there you have it. Twenty months after announcing its intention to request data related to New Hampshire primary poll, six months after reporting that only 7 of 21 firms had gone beyond the minimal disclosure that AAPOR mandates for public release "in any report of research results," AAPOR today "raises objections" about the response of one firm.

To put it simply: The process of "on demand" disclosure backed by the sort of punitive sanction issued today is not working. As I wrote in August, there may be a better way.  

[Interests disclosed:  I'm an active AAPOR member and served on the AAPOR's Executive Council from 2006 to 2008].

Update: ABC's Gary Langer has more, including news that "AAPOR also said an updated and final version of its report on the pre-primary polls is now available."  An AAPOR spokesperson tells me that Gary is in error and that the report has not been recently updated.

US: National Survey (PPP 9/18-21)

Public Policy Polling (D)
9/18-21/09; 621 likely voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(PPP release)


Obama Job Approval
52% Approve, 44% Disapprove (chart)
Dem: 81 / 16 (/polls/us/jobapproval-obama-dems.html)
Rep: 18 / 79 (chart)
Ind: 52 / 40 (chart)

Do you support or oppose President Obama's health care plan, or do you not have an opinion?
45% Support, 46% Oppose (chart)

Do you think Barack Obama was born in the United States?
59% Yes, 23% No

Do you think President Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place because
he wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?

14% Yes, 78% No

Party ID
40% Democrat, 35% Republican, 25% Independent/Other (chart)

GA: 2010 Gov (SVision 9/18-20)

Strategic Vision (R)
9/18-20/09; 800 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Strategic Vision release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Perdue: 48 / 40
Sen. Chambliss: 47 / 39
Sen. Isakson: 53 / 38
Pres. Obama: 35 / 58

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
John Oxendine 38%
Karen Handel 15%
Nathan Deal 10%
Eric Johnson 6%
Austin Scott 3%
Ray McBerry 2%
Jeff Chapman 1%

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
Roy Barnes 45%
Thurbert Baker 30%
David Poythress 5%
Dubose Porter 2%

Two Rasmussen Scales in MN

Topics: Al Franken , Minnesota , Pollsters , Rasmussen , Tim Pawlenty

As noted in the 'outliers' post, MyDD's Jonathan Singer flagged an odd inconsistency in a recent Rasmussen Reports survey of Minnesota. They asked likely voters to rate Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty on their standard approval scale (strongly approve, somewhat disapprove, somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove) but then asked about Senator Al Franken using a different scale ( excellent, good, fair or poor).

As Singer points out, the excellent-good-fair-poor scale typically produces lower positive scores. He links to a Pollster.com guest post from Chicago Tribune pollster Nick Panakagis showing that "fair" sounds like a neutral category that appears to attract voters that might otherwise answer "somewhat approve."

"Why," asks Singer, "is Rasmussen using two different metrics -- one, which tends to find higher approval ratings, for the Republican; another, which tends to find lower approval ratings, for the Democrat?"

I put that question to the folks at Rasmussen Reports and received this response from a spokesperson:

It was a mistake that slipped through the cracks. The matter has been addressed internally with all involved.

We work with a local TV station that provides us with local knowledge. In exchange, they get first look at the data and Scott Rasmussen goes on air to discuss the results. In practical terms, this means they suggest questions and topics that are likely to be of interest in their state.

They do not commission the poll, it's a Rasmussen Reports poll and we are ultimately responsible for the questions.

We work with a standard template that includes the President's Job Approval rating and the Governor's. In this case, the station suggested a variety of topics ranging from politics to the Vikings playoff chances and Bret Favre. The station recommended the questions on the Senators and did so with the excellent, good, fair, poor rating. The person preparing the script noted (correctly) that this was an acceptable format we have used before in other surveys. However, they should have noted the inconsistency with the other approval questions and asked all in the same way. The editor reviewing the process also failed to pick up the inconsistency.

Credit to Rasmussen Reports for admitting a mistake, but they should also append this statement to the original analysis and post it separately so that those who saw (and linked to) the original numbers will see their explanation.

MO: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 9/21)

9/21/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 44 / 56 (chart)
Gov. Nixon: 58 / 38 (chart)

2010 Senate (trends)
Roy Blunt (R) 46%, Robin Carnahan (D) 46%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Blunt: 57 / 33
Carnahan: 52 / 42

Generally speaking, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats?
38% Favor, 59% Oppose

NJ: Christie 48 Corzine 41 (Rasmussen 9/21)

9/21/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)

New Jersey

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 53 / 47 (chart)
Gov. Corzine: 38 / 61 (chart)

2010 Governor
Christie 48%, Corzine 41%, Daggett 6% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Chris Christie (R): 48 / 46
Jon Corzine (D): 39 / 60 (chart)
Chris Daggett (i): 28 / 27

US: Health Care (Gallup 9/11-13)

9/11-13/09; 1,030 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


Which of these statements do you think best describes the U.S. health care system today -- it is in a state of crisis, it has major problems, it has minor problems, it does not have any problems?
17% State of crisis
56% Major problems
25% Minor problems
2% No problems

What do you, personally, see as the biggest problem with healthcare in the United States today? (open ended)
38% Cost/Unaffordable
15% Too many uninsured
13% Insurance companies
8% Lack of availability
5% Too many frivolous lawsuits/Medical malpractice
5% Too much bureaucracy/government involvement

If you had to choose, which goal would you say is more important in terms of healthcare - expanding health care coverage to include nearly all Americans or controlling rising healthcare costs in the U.S. today?
39% Expanding coverage
59% Controlling costs

How satisfied are you with...

The quality of medical care available to you and your family:
80% Satisfied, 19% Dissatisfied

The cost of medical care for you and your family:
61% Satisfied, 38% Dissatisfied

Keep Rocking, Boss 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

John Judis reviews the strong relationship between trends in unemployment and presidential approval ratings.

Tom Holbrook says its too early to predict Democratic losses in 2010.

Josh Goodman attributes a closer VA race to delayed reaction to the thesis (via Singiser).

Sam Stein finds another RNC "poll" pushing dubious questions; Michael Scherer has more.

Nate Silver notes Grassley's falling poll numbers.

Jay Cost questions the popular support for health reform.

Kos finds positive reaction to the public option in blue dog districts down on Obama.

Andrew Gelman shares the trait that predicts lame VP nominees.

Lisa Valentine profiles working women and their resistance to Republicans.

Gene Ulm looks at the correlation between consumer confidence and votes for congress.

Jonathan Singer calls out different Rasmussen job approval ratings questions for Pawlenty and Franken.

Tom Jensen thinks Obama is "more or less in the same place he was on election day."

Mark Mellman runs the numbers on Afghanistan.

David Hill says Obama's school speech hurt his education allies and helped his enemies.

Stan Greenberg reviews Lynn Vavreck's, The Message Matters: The Economy and Presidential Campaigns.

Frank Luntz says voters aren't racist, just furious at Obama and Dems.

86% of New Jersey wants Springsteen to "keep rocking as long as he wants."

US: National Survey (NBC/WSJ 9/17-20)

NBC / Wall Street Journal
9/17-20/09; 1,005 adults, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

P.M. Update -- full release links: NBC story, results; Wall Street Journal story, results.

(First Read tease)
(Update: First read tease #2)


State of the Country
39% Right Direction, 48% Wrong Track (chart)

Obama Job Approval
51% Approve, 41% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 50 / 42 (chart)
Foreign Policy: 50 / 36 (chart)
Health Care: 45 / 46 (chart)

Congress Job Approval
22% Approve, 66% Disapprove (chart)

Obama Favorable Rating
56% Positive, 33% Negative (chart)

What is your preference for the outcome of next year's congressional elections--a Congress controlled by Republicans or a Congress controlled by Democrats?
43% Democrats, 40% Republicans

Do you generally approve or disapprove of the way that Republicans in Congress are handling the issue of health care reform?
21% Approve, 65% Disapprove

From what you have heard about Barack Obama's health care plan, do you think his plan is a good idea or a bad idea? If you do not have an opinion either way, please just say so.
39% Good idea, 41% Bad idea (chart)

Would you favor or oppose creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies?
46% Favor, 48% Oppose

Party ID
31% Democrat, 18% Republican, 43% independent (chart)

First Read:

Is Obama overexposed?

According to a new NBC/WSJ poll, the answer is mostly no -- although it depends on whether you're a Democrat or Republican.

In the poll, 34% say they see and hear Obama too much, 9% say they see/hear him too little, and 54% say it's the right amount.

Among McCain voters, however, 63% say they're seeing too much of the president. That's compared with only 8% of Obama voters who say that.

Among independents, 52% say Obama's exposure is the right amount, versus 40% who say it's too much.

First Read:

Thirty-nine percent believe Obama's health-care plan is a good idea, which is up three points since August. Forty-one percent say it's a bad idea.

In addition, 45% approve of Obama's handling of health care, while 46% disapprove, which is up from his 41%-47% score last month. By comparison, just 21% approve of the Republican Party's handling of the issue.

Is NoVA Shifting?

Topics: 2009 , Virginia

What's up with the polls in the Virginia governor's race? Although four new surveys last week left at least one of our readers unsure "what to believe," they were mostly consistent within the usual margin of random variation. Overall, Republican Bob McDonnell still leads Democrat Creigh Deeds, but by a narrower single-digit margin than before. The more intriguing aspect of the new results is what they may imply about a new wave of television advertising now blanketing Northern Virginia.

The Northern Virginia region -- or "NoVA" as politicos call it -- plays something of a wild-card in Virginia election campaigns. It makes things interesting both because the fast growing, suburban counties that ring Washington, D.C. have trended more Democratic in recent years and because its voters live in one of the most expensive and politically inefficient television advertising markets in the country.


Definitions of "Northern Virginia" vary,** but I prefer the broader cut that includes all of the counties in the Washington, D.C. media market as defined by A.C. Nielsen (the highlighting of the nationalatlas.gov map above is mine). The D.C. market includes a huge chunk of Virginia's voters (36% in the 2008 presidential election) and has recently gone for Democrats by wider margins than the rest of the state. They gave Barack Obama a 16-point margin over John McCain (57% to 42%) and Tim Kaine a 14-point margin for Governor in 2005 over Republican Jerry Kilgore (56% to 42%). Interestingly, Obama and Kaine still carried the rest of Virginia, albeit by much narrower margins (Obama by one point, 51% to 49% and Kaine by two, 50% to 48%).

The reason I prefer to look at the larger media market, which includes a handful of rural counties beyond the DC suburbs, is that these voters get their broadcast television advertising through Washington DC stations. The DC market, 8th largest in the nation four years ago, is a wildly inefficient way to communicate with voters in Northern Virginia. Yet TV ads remain the most powerful tool available to reach the less politically engaged and therefore more persuadable voters who typically decide elections.

Since television advertising is so expensive and inefficient in NoVA, campaigns typically air their broadcast ads there later and at less volume than in Virginia's other big markets. As such, Northern Virginia voters tend to engage later in the campaign, causing some interesting late shifts especially in races with lesser known candidates. Deeds' surprise win in the Democratic primary for Governor this year was one example. Jim Webb's late surge in 2006 was especially instructive.

That year, news media stories had pummeled incumbent Senator George Allen over his now infamous "Macaca" comments in late August, yet many political observers wondered why he remained ahead throughout much of September. Webb's surge did not occur until his campaign was able to purchase significant time in the Washington DC market in October.

And that history brings us to the current race and the four new polls completed and released last week. In late August, a front page Washington Post story highlighted McDonnell's very conservative twenty-year-old graduate school thesis. The paper followed up with more front-section coverage on recriminations that followed (thus infuriating conservatives). Two automated surveys conducted soon thereafter, by Rasmussen Reports and SurveyUSA, showed no discernible change in voter preferences.

Those surveys came before both the McDonnell and Deeds campaigns launched their Northern Virginia television advertising just after Labor Day on September 8. The first Deeds spot was positive -- a version of an introductory advertisement featuring their candidate speaking to the camera that had run elsewhere during the primaries but not in the DC market.

The Deeds campaign did not start airing a negative ad on the Post "Culture Warrior" story until September 9, and one source that has been following the advertising closely tells me that the Deeds negative ad did not start airing heavily in the DC market until early last week. Either way, the four new surveys -- from the Washington Post, Rasmussen, DailyKos/Research 2000 and Clarus -- were the first to capture the effects, if any, from the initial wave of advertising. All were completed by last Thursday.


Clarus showed 20% of the voters as undecided, obviously a bit of an outlier compared to the other surveys. That result is most likely the result of interviewers pushing less for an answer and is essentially consistent with a large number (31%) who told the Washington Post's pollsters that they are either undecided or might still change their minds.

Nevertheless, the three other surveys produced reasonably consistent horse race results: All three showed results within the margin of sampling error of a 50% to 45% McDonnell lead, which is also exactly the same five-point margin as on the Clarus survey. So all four show a closer contest than the eight-point or better McDonnell leads we have been seeing on other surveys over the summer. As such, I think it's reasonable to look at our more sensitive trend lines (reproduced below), which capture the closer result shown in the more recent surveys, rather than our standard estimator. The difference is a roughly four-point McDonnell lead below versus a seven point lead using our standard estimate.

Is the change bigger in Northern Virginia? That is what I would expect given both the "Culture Warrior" story and the recent debut of television advertising in the region. Unfortunately, some of the data on that question is incomplete. The Washington Post survey shows a much bigger shift in it's Northern Virginia region (from "about even" in August to a 57% to 40% lead for Deeds now) than in other regions. The Kos/Research2000 poll shows only a not-significant single point drop for McDonnell overall, although that change appears to occur entirely in their Northern Virginia region (Deeds up 3, McDonnell down 3). And Rasmussen did not report on any regional crosstabs for their most recent survey.

So will these modest Deeds gains persist? Can Deeds continue to close the gap? Obviously, the race still has a long way to go, and McDonnell has a favorable political environment plus a lot of history on his side. The Deeds campaign stepped up the tone and volume of its attacks this week, but then, so did McDonnell. If you're a Democrat, the bad news is that Deeds is still behind on all surveys and McDonnell still holds the votes he needs to win. The good news -- perhaps -- is that these new polls may have caught just the first few days of negative television advertising. If the Deeds message works, and if it is not neutralized by McDonnell's counterpunch, then we may still see further gains in the next round of polls.

**More on regions: Most public polls have been defining "Northern" Virginia using the 703 and 571 area codes or a set of counties covering similar geography. Either way, they define "NoVA" more narrowly (26-27% of all voters) than the full DC media market.

MD: 2010 Sen, Gov (Gonzales 9/8-17)

Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies
9/8-17/09; 833 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gonzales release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. O'Malley: 48 / 37
Sen. Mikulski: 67 / 22

Favorable / Unfavorab;e
Michael Steele (R): 40 / 34
Bob Ehrlich (R): 42 / 26
Barbara Mikulski (D): 64 / 23
Martin O'Malley (D): 47 / 28

2010 Governor
O'Malley 49%, Ehrlich 38%
O'Malley 52%, Steele 37%

If the November 2010 general election for United States Senate were held today, would you vote to re-elect Barbara Mikulski, would you want to consider another candidate, or would you vote to replace Barbara Mikulski?
55% Re-elect Mikulski, 19% Definitely replace, 26% Consider another candidate

US: National Survey (ARG 9/18-21)

American Research Group
9/18-21/09; 1,100 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(ARG release)


Obama Job Approval
50% Approve, 45% Disapprove (chart)
Democrats: 82 / 13 (chart)
Republicans: 17 / 77 (chart)
Independents: 36 / 57 (chart)
Economy: 49 / 47 (chart)

State of the Economy
36% Getting better, 25% Getting worse, 33% Staying the same (chart)

Party ID
23% Republican, 37% Democrat, 31% independent (chart)

AZ: 2012 Pres (PPP 9/18-21)

Public Policy Polling (D)
9/18-21/09; 617 likely voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(PPP release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 47 / 47

Favorable / Unfavorable
Mike Huckabee: 36 / 35
Mitt Romney: 40 / 39
Sarah Palin: 44 / 48

2012 President
Huckabee 49%, Obama 45%
Romney 50%, Obama 43%
Palin 47%, Obama 47%

Do you support or oppose President Obama's health care plan, or do you not have an opinion?
40% Support, 53% Oppose

US: Afghanistan, Swine flu (Fox 9/15-16)

Fox News / Opinion Dynamics
9/15-16/09; 900 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Fox: Afghanistan, swine flu)


Obama Job Approval on Afghanistan
51% Approve, 32% Disapprove

Do you support or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?
46% Support, 45% Oppose

Do you support or oppose sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan?
41% Support, 50% Oppose

Do you agree or disagree with the view that the military action being taken in Afghanistan is necessary to protect Americans from having to fight terrorists on U.S. soil?
58% Agree, 33% Disagree

How concerned are you about the spread of the H1N1 virus or swine flu in
the United States?

64% Very/Somewhat, 35% Not very/Not at all

How prepared do you think the federal government is to deal with a
potential outbreak of the H1N1 virus or swine flu?

68% Very/Somewhat, 27% Not very/Not at all

Do you plan to get a vaccine shot against the H1N1 virus or swine flu, if the vaccine becomes available?
53% Yes, 39% No

US: Afghanistan (Pew 9/10-15)

Pew Research Center
9/10-15/09; 1,006 adults, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)


Do you think the U.S. and NATO should keep military troops in Afghanistan until the situation has stabilized, or do you think the U.S. and NATO should remove their troops as soon as possible?
50% Keep troops in Afghanistan
43% Remove their troops

I'd like your opinion about some possible international concerns for the U.S. What ______, would this be a major threat, a minor threat or not a threat to the well being of the U.S.?

If Islamic extremists took control of Pakistan:
64% Major threat, 19% Minor threat, 65 Not a threat

If Iran developed nuclear weapons:
82% Major threat, 12% Minor threat, 2% Not a threat

If the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan:
76% Major threat, 17% Minor threat, 3% Not a threat

Thinking specifically about Afghanistan, please tell me if you think we are making progress or losing ground in each area.

Training Afghan security forces:
51% Making progress, 28% Losing ground, 1% No change

Reducing the number of civilian casualties there:
37% Making progress, 43% Losing ground, 2% No change

Establishing democracy in Afghanistan:
42% Making progress, 41% Losing ground, 2% No change

Defeating the Taliban militarily:
41% Making progress, 42% Losing ground, 2% No change

Promoting economic development:
44% Making progress, 35% Losing ground, 2% No change

NY: 2010 Sen, Gov (Siena 9/13-17)

9/13-17/09; 792 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Siena2010 races, Obama)

New York

Favorable / Unfavorable
David Paterson (D): 29 / 59 (chart)
Rick Lazio (R): 22 / 25
Andrew Cuomo (D): 66 / 21
Rudy Giuliani (R): 56 / 38
Kirsten Gillibrand (D): 29 / 24 (chart)
Barack Obama: 65 / 31 (chart)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Paterson: 18% Excellent/Good, 80% Fair/Poor (chart)

If David Paterson runs for Governor in 2010, would you vote to elect him or would you prefer someone else?
14% Elect, 71% Prefer someone else

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
66% Cuomo, 20% Paterson (chart)

2010 Governor: General Election
Paterson 39%, Lazio 35% (chart)
Giuliani 52%, Paterson 35% (chart)
Cuomo 52%, Giuliani 39% (chart)
Cuomo 64%, Lazio 18% (chart)

Would you prefer to see Attorney General Andrew Cuomo run for re-election as Attorney General next year or would you prefer to see him run for Governor instead?
47% Governor, 34% Attorney General

2010 Senate: General Election (trends)
46% Giuliani, 38% Gillibrand

MN: Gov, Sen (Rasmussen 9/15)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Pawlenty: 56 / 43 (chart))

How would you rate the way that Al Franken is performing his role as Senator?
41% Excellent/Good, 54% Fair/Poor

How would you rate the way that Amy Klobuchar is performing her role as Senator?
56% Excellent/Good, 42% Fair/Poor

How concerned are you about the amount of time Governor Pawlenty is traveling out of the state?
50% Very/Somewhat, 46% No very/Not at all

Generally speaking, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats?
49% Favor, 48% Oppose

In reacting to the nation's current economic problems, what worries you more....that the federal government will do too much or that the federal government will not do enough?
51% Too much, 38% Not enough

A Tale of Two Doctor Polls

Topics: Disclosure , Health Care Reform , National Journal column

My National Journal column for the week explores two recent surveys of physicians that produced widely divergent results. One was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), conducted by two researchers at he Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The second was conducted by Investors' Business Daily (IBD) and the TechnoMetrica Institute of Policy & Politics (TIPP).

The column focuses on the huge difference in the quality of disclosure between the two -- the NEJM study tells us much, much more about its methods and questions than the IBD/TIPP survey. The latter fails to meet even minimal standards for disclosure mandated by the National Council on Public Polls and the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

Late Update - One of the subsequent stories published by Investor's business daily on their survey of doctors now includes the following information not disclosed in their initial report:

The questionnaires were sent out Aug. 28 to 25,600 doctors nationwide. The sample was purchased from a list broker, Lake Group Media of Rye, N.Y. One hundred of those responding were retired, and their answers were not included in the final results.

If it was there last week, I missed it, but this new information tells us two things: First, the IBD/TIPP survey did not use the same sample frame as the NEJM survey. Second, as reader Franzneumann points out, the response rate is significantly lower: Even if they had included the 100 retired doctors along with 1,376 reported interviews, their response rate is only 6%. Compare that to the 43% response rate reported by the NEJM survey.

Update1:  So why do the two surveys produce such different results? As I argued in the column, without even minimal disclosure from the IBD/TIPP poll we can only speculate, but here are the most likely theories:

1) Different questions. The NEJM study asks a three-way, forced choice between a private only option (involving "tax credits or low income subsidies to buy private insurance"), a public only option (that would "eliminate private insurance and cover everyone in a single plan like medicare") and a combination offering a choice between public and private plans. It makes no reference to current legislation, the Democrats or President Obama. We do not know exactly what the IBD question asks, although it appears to be simply about "the proposed plan" or possibly about a "proposed government expansion."

We have seen some pretty big differences on samples of all adults between surveys that simply ask about health reform "proposals" being debated in Congress (without further definition) and those that attempt to describe a "public option." For example, in August, CBS News found 57% of adults in favor and 35% opposed to "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." At about the same time, the Pew Research Center reported 38% of adults in favor and 44% opposed to "the health care proposals being discussed in Congress."

The three-option question that the NEJM survey reported also produces a bigger percentage supporting a public option, alone (10%) in in combination with private plans (63%), than an up-or-down, favor-or-oppose question. The NEJM questionnaire actually asked about each of the three proposals separately (see the column for complete wording), then followed up with a three way choice.

They have not yet reported on the individual results, although Alex Federman, one of the two medical researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York who conducted the survey, tells me that 65% said they supported a choice between public and private options when asked about it separately. They plan to publish the remaining results from the survey in future articles. Federman added that they considered the three way choice most appropriate, both because of what they learned from questionnaire pretesting and because they wanted doctors to make the same choice facing legislators between a public-only option, private-only options or a choice between the two. In pre-testing, Federman says, they learned that Doctors had all sorts of opinions on health reform, but "a lot of people were more mixed" between their views of public and private options.

2) Different samples? I put a question mark on this theory because, as reviewed in the column, we know almost nothing about how the IBD/TIPP poll sampled "practicing physicians." As Nate Silver points out, they do not even define what they mean by "practicing." However, if the IBD/TIPP used a different sample frame than the AMA Physician Masterfile (a comprehensive list of all physicians, not an AMA membership list), it might well explain some of the difference in results.

[Clarification: See Late Update above -- The IBD/TIPP survey did use a different sample frame although for now we know only where it came from, not how it differed. They also imply that "practicing" means non-retired].

[One dissent worth noting: This morning, a public health research used Twitter to take issue with my observation of that the AMA file is a "very accurate" list. "Best out there?," she asked. "Yes, but problematic."]

3) Response bias? Even if the the two lists (or "sample frames") were identical, it is possible that different kinds of doctors responded to the two surveys. For example, did the IBD survey prominently identify their survey as sponsored by Investors' Business Daily? Those who know or subscribe to it know that its editorials tend to be more conservative, and its editorial criticism of the Obama health care reforms have drawn sharp rebuke. As such, reform supporters might be less likely to participate in an IBD survey. Of course, we do not know anything about how the IDB/TIPP survey recruited respondents.

[Clarification: See the Late Update above -- The IBD/TIPP survey has a response rate of roughly 6% compared the a 43% response rate on the NEJM survey].

According to Federman, the NEJM survey identified itself as coming from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and prominently identified its support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The headline of the initial postcard they sent identified it as "The National Physician's Survey on Health Care Reform" (emphasis in original). The subhead: "Congress wants to hear from doctors on health care reform."

Some relatively recent research has shown that "interest in the survey topic, reactions to the survey sponsor, and the use of incentives" are the three most critical variables in the linkage between the response rate and the potential for non-response bias. Perhaps those interested in "health care reform" enough to do a survey are more supportive of reform than those opposed?

4) Different survey dates. The surveys did have different field periods. The first NEJM questionnaires were sent out on June 25 and they started analyzing data on September 4. The IBD poll, published on September 15, says only that it was "conducted by mail the past two weeks."

While it is possible that the field dates contributed to the difference in results, since opposition to reform has increased over the course of the year, it's unlikely. First, as Charles Franklin noted on Friday, opposition to health care reform among all adults has been mostly stable since early July, about the time when the NEJM survey started. Second, according to Federman, they sent out their questionnaires in multiple waves, analyzed the results by wave and found no trends over the course of the field period.

Again, much of this commentary is just speculation. The larger point is that when one survey discloses its methods and the other does not, we are left guessing.

US: Missile Defense (Rasmussen 9/18-19)

9/18-19/09, 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)


Do you agree or disagree with the president's decision to halt deployment of an anti-missile shield in Europe?
31% Agree, 38% Disagree

Will the President's decision to halt deployment of the anti-missile shield in Europe help or hurt our relationship with European countries?
23% Help, 43% Hurt, 12% No impact

Russia announced that it was pleased with the President's decision concerning the anti-missile shield in Europe. How likely is it that Russia will now help the United States to deal with concerns about Iran's nuclear weapons program?
41% Very/somewhat, 48% Not very/Not at all

US: Health Care (Harris 9/8-15)

9/8-15/09; 2,334 adults
Mode: Internet
(Harris release)


Even if you don't know the details of his plan, how do you feel about President Obama's proposals for health care reforms?"
49% Support, 41% Oppose (chart)

Based on what you're read, seen or heard, how would you rate the health care plans proposed by each of the following?
President Obama: 53% good, 47% Bad
Democrats in Congress: 46 / 54
Republicans in Congress: 35 / 65

There have been a number of different things cited regarding the health plan proposed by the White House. Based on what you have read, seen or heard, are the following items part of the president's plan or not?

If this plan is passed Medicare will be phased out:
32% Part of the plan, 46% Not part of the plan

This plan promotes euthanasia to help keep costs down:
25% Part of the plan, 56% Not part of the plan

Health care will be rationed under this proposed plan:
41% Part of the plan, 41% Not part of the plan

The government will be able to access individual's bank accounts to help pay for services:
23% Part of the plan, 54% Not part of the plan

NYC: 2009 Mayor (Marist 9/15-17)

9/15-17/09; 792 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
446 likely voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Marist: 2009 Mayor, Bloomberg Approval, toplines)

New York City

2009 Mayor (chart)
Registered voters: 50% Bloomberg, 39% Thompson
Likely voters: 52% Bloomberg, 43% Thompson

Favorable / Unfavorable

Mike Bloomberg: (chart)
Registed voters: 62 / 32
Likely voters: 63 / 33

Bill Thompson:
Registered voters: 49 / 22
Likely voters: 56 / 21

Job Approval / Disapproval

Mayor Bloomberg: (chart)
Registered voters: 59 / 40
Likely voters: 64 / 36

US: Gov't Responsibility (Gallup 8/31-9/2)

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


Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country's problems. Which comes closer to your own view?
57% Government doing too much
38% Government should do more

In general, do you think there is too much, too little or about the right amount of government regulation of business and industry?
45% Too much, 24% Too little, 27% Right amount

Do you think the federal government today has too much power, has about the right amount of power, or has too little power?
51% Too much, 8% Too little, 39% Right amount

IA: 2010 Gov, Sen, Marriage (Register 9/14-16)

Des Moines Register / Selzer & Co.
9/14-16/09; 803 adults, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Register: Pres, Sen, Gov, marriage)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 53 / 41
Sen. Harkin: 55 / 33
Sen. Grassley: 57 / 30

Favorable / Unfavorable
Sen. Grassley: 64 / 28
Gov. Culver: 55 / 38

For each of the following, please tell me if you think you will definitely vote for the person, would seriously consider an alternative, would definitely vote for an alternative, or would not vote.
Sen. Grassley: 45% Definitely for, 24% Consider alternative, 13% Definitely alternative
Gov. Culver: 28% Definitely for, 27% Consider alternative, 21% Definitely alternative

Do you favor or oppose the recent Iowa Supreme Court decision that allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry in Iowa?
26% Favor, 43% Oppose, 30% Don't care much

If a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage were helf today, how would you vote?
41% Yes to ban
40% No to continue
17% Would not vote

VA: McDonnell 51 Deeds 47 (Post 9/14-17)

Washington Post
9/14-17/09; 1,003 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Post: story, blog post, results)


2009 Governor
McDonnell 51%, Deeds 47% (chart)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Kaine: 59 / 38 (chart)
Pres. Obama: 53 / 47 (chart)