October 11, 2009 - October 17, 2009


The View from the Depression, an Illustration

A bit off our usual polling focus, but Joe Nocera has a nice article in the New York Times Friday. It reviews the recently published depression diary of Benjamin Roth, giving  a contemporary account of what it was like. Nocera does a great job of using the diary as a vehicle to talk about the policy issues of that era and ties them to our current issues.

This post is an illustration for his text. The fall, then rise, of unemployment, and the rebound then second drop of the stock market in the 1937-38 period are an implicit warning for our current condition as Nocera discusses. 

And here is our current unemployment condition, in states and nationally. Click the chart for a full size version.


ADDENDUM 10/18/09: Mark Sadowski posted a great comment below on the controversy over which measures of unemployment should be used to examine the Depression and New Deal era.  This is a debate that has had a flourish of renewed interest as some have argued that the New Deal had little effect on unemployment. Mark's comment below provides a great overview of these issues with pointers to the relevant literature. 

For comparison, here is another version of the chart, with the original and revised data plotted. While the difference may matter for some purposes, as an illustration of Nocera's article it is the timing of shifts that matters, and those shifts are closely parallel.


US: Health Care, Afghanistan (Fox 10/13-14)

Fox News / Opinion Dynamics
10/13-14/09; 900 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Fox: Afghanistan, Health Care)


Based on what you know about the health care reform legislation being considered right now, do you favor or oppose the plan?
35% Favor, 54% Oppose (chart)

Which would you prefer -- the current health care system or the health care plan proposed by the Democrats in Congress?
51% current, 34% Democrats' plan

Obama Job Approval / Disapproval
Afghanistan: 41 / 43

Do you think the Obama administration has clearly explained what the United States is trying to achieve in Afghanistan?
26% Yes, 67% No

Do you support or oppose sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan?
46% Support, 46% Oppose

PA: 2010 Gov Primaries (Rasmussen 10/13)

10/13/09; 469 likely Democratic primary voters, 5% margin of error
553 likely Republican primary voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Automated
(Rasmussen: Democratic Primary, Republican Primary)


2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
19% Onorato, 14% Wagner, 11% Hoeffel, 6% Doherty, 4% Knox (chart)

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
54% Corbett, 10% Gerlach (chart)

Omero: Virginia update

Topics: gender , Virginia

I just wanted to post this brief update in the interest of full disclosure: After, and 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.

US: 2012 Rep Primary (Rasmussen 10/15)

10/15/09; 750 likely 2012 GOP primary voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)


2012 President: Republican Primary
29% Huckabee, 24% Romney, 18% Palin, 14% Gingrich, 4% Pawlenty

Regardless of who you would vote for, which candidate would you least like to see win the Republican nomination in 2012....
28% Pawlenty, 21% Palin, 20% Gingrich, 9% Romney, 8% Huckabee

IA: 2010 Sen, Gov (Kos 10/12-14)

Daily Kos (D) / Research 2000
10/12-14/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Chuck Grassley (R): 55 / 40
Bob Krause (D): 39 / 31
Roxanne Conlin (D): 44 / 29
Christie Vilsack (D): 41 / 25
Tom Fiegen (D): 28 / 19
Chet Culver (D): 56 / 39
Terry Branstad (R): 57 / 26
Bob Vander Plaats (R): 22 / 24
Chris Rants (R): 13 / 21
Tom Harkin (D): 54 / 35
Barack Obama (D): 55 / 36

2010 Senate
52% Grassley, 35% Krause
51% Grassley, 39% Conlin
51% Grassley, 40% Vilsack
54% Grassley, 31% Fiegen

2010 Governor
55% Culver, 33% Vander Plaats
58% Culver, 28% Rants
48% Branstad, 43% Culver

US: National Survey (Harris 10/5-12)

10/5-12/09; 2,293 adults
Mode: Internet
(Harris release)

Obama Job Approval
55% Positive, 45% Negative 45 / 55 (chart)
Reps: 14 / 86 (chart)
Dems: 77 / 23 (chart)
Inds: 40 / 60 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
16% Positive, 84% Negative (chart)

State of the Country
39% Right Direction, 61% Wrong track (chart)

US: National Survey (Kos 10/12-15)

DailyKos (D) / Research 2000
10/12-15/09; 2,400 adults, 2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 55 / 37 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 37 / 55
Harry Reid: 33 / 57
Mitch McConnell: 17 / 64
John Boehner: 13 / 62
Democratic Party: 41 / 51
Republican Party: 21 / 67

State of the Country
40% Right Direction, 56% Wrong track (chart)

US: Palin, Edwards (Gallup 10/1-4)

10/1-4/09; 1,013 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Edwards: 21 / 59
Palin: 40 / 50 (chart)

NJ: Christie 40 Corzine 39 (SurveyUSA 10/12-14)

10/12-14/09; 611 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(SurveyUSA release)

New Jersey

2009 Governor
Christie 40%, Corzine 39%, Daggett 18% (chart)

NJ: Corzine 40, Christie 37(NYTimes 10/9-14)

New York Times
10/9-14/09; 987 adults, 3% margin of error
867 registered voters (no margin of error provided)
475 likely voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Times: story, results)

New Jersey

Job Approval / Disapproval (all adults)
Pres. Obama: 62 / 25 (chart)
Gov. Corzine: 33 / 49 (chart)
Sen. Menendez: 32 / 22 (chart)
Sen. Lautenberg: 38 / 22 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable (registered voters)
Jon Corzine (D): 30 / 46 (chart)
Chris Christie (R): 19 / 37
Chris Daggett (i): 13 / 10

2009 Governor (likely voters) (chart)
40% Corzine, 37% Christie, 14% Daggett
Update: Including leaners - 40% Corzine, 39% Christie, 14% Daggett
46% Corzine, 43% Christie, 3% Daggett (vol)

NJ: Christie 45 Corzine 41 (Rasmussen 10/14)

10/14/09; 750 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)

New Jersey

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 57 / 43 (chart)
Gov. Corzine: 40 / 59 (chart)

2009 Governor
Christie 45%, Corzine 41%, Daggett 9% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Chris Christie (R): 46 / 51
Jon Corzine (R): 43 / 55 (chart)
Chris Daggett (i): 45 / 27

Greetings from LSU

Topics: Breaux Symposium , IBD/TIPP , Reilly Center

Here's a quick apology for my lack of blogging today and (in advance) for tomorrow too. I was traveling for much of today to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where tomorrow I'm participating all day in the John Breaux Symposium at the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at Louisiana State University.

If you happen to be in Baton Rouge and have some free time tomorrow, tomorrow's discussion should be terrific. The topic is "Redefining Public Opinion Polling in an Age of Segmented Markets and Personalized Communication." In addition to yours truly, the panelists include our own Charles Franklin, Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report, Scott Keeter of the Pew Research Center, Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Susan Herbst of Georgia Tech.

Meanwhile, two quick "outliers":

Louis Jacobson of Politfact.com did a fact check on Glenn Beck's citation of a result from the IBD/TIPP poll of physicians that I discussed on Pollster and in a column last month. Jacobson's piece includes considerable new reporting on the issue -- including the full text of the questions asked in the survey. It's worth a click. 

Finally, we overlooked a new Rasmussen poll in New Jersey today. I just added the trial heat question to our chart; we should have the usual poll update post in the morning.

US: National Survey (Fox 10/13-14)

Fox New / Opinion Dynamics
10/13-14/09; 900 registered voters, 3% margin of error
369 Democrats, 5% margin of error
333 Republicans, 5% margin of error
148 independents, 8% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Fox release)


Obama Job Approval
49% Approve, 45% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 85 / 12 (chart)
Reps: 11 / 82 (chart)
Inds: 42 / 47 (chart)
Economy: 48 / 49 (chart)
Health Care: 42 / 50 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
24% Approve, 66% Disapprove (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 55 / 41 (chart)
George W. Bush: 41 / 54
Nancy Pelosi: 30 / 53

Do you think Barack Obama deserved to win the Nobel Peace Prize?
29% Deserved, 65% Did not deserve

Party ID
41% Democrat, 37% Republican, 16% independent (chart)

DE: 2010 Senate (Kos 10/12-14)

Daily Kos (D) / Research 2000
10/12-14/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Beau Biden (D): 65 / 29
Ted Kaufman (D): 36 / 26
John Carney (D): 41 / 19
Chris Coons (D): 34 / 8
Mike Castle (R): 64 / 30
Charlie Copeland (R): 11 / 8
Greg Lavelle (R): 9 / 6
Jack Markell (D): 55 / 28 (chart)
Tom Carper (D): 53 / 31
Barack Obama (D): 64 / 32 (chart)

2010 Senate (trends)
Castle 46%, Biden 45%
Castle 51%, Kaufman 37%
Castle 49%, Carney 41%
Castle 51%, Cooms 39%

2010 House
Carney 44%, Copeland 21%
Carney 44%, Lavelle 18%

US: National Survey (Economist 10/11-13)

Economist / YouGov
10/11-13/09; 1,000 adults, 4.9% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(Economist release)


Obama Job Approval / Disapproval
52% Approve, 39% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 85 / 8 (chart)
Reps: 17 / 78 (chart)
Inds: 50 / 43 (chart)
Economy: 44 / 49 (chart)
Health care: 46 / 45 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
14% Approve, 60% Disapprove (chart)

2010 House: Generic Ballot
47% Democrat, 37% Republican (chart)

State of the Country
40% Right direction, 48% Wrong track (chart)

President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Do you approve
or disapprove of Barack Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize?

35% Approve, 45% Disapprove

Which of these statements best describes how you feel about Barack Obama being awarded
this year's Nobel Peace Prize?

20% I think Barack Obama deserved this year's Nobel Peace Prize
39% I am happy Barack Obama received the prize, but the Nobel Committee really
should have waited until he had been president longer and had accomplished
41% I think that awarding the prize to Barack Obama this year was a mistake; he
does not deserve it

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?

51% Support, 49% Oppose (chart)

Do you favor or oppose having a "public option" which would allow individuals to purchase
health insurance coverage from the government?

45% Favor, 33% Oppose

FL: 2010 Gov (FLCOC 10/8-10)

Florida Chamber of Commerce / Cherry Communications (R)
10/8-10/09; 605 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Orlando Sentinel post, St. Petersburg Times post)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Crist: 62 / 28 (chart)

2010 Governor
42% McCollum (R), 35% Sink (D) (chart)

US: News Interest (Pew 10/9-12)

Pew Research Center
10/9-12/09; 1,003 adults, 3.5 margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)


Most Closely Followed Story
25% Debate over health care reform
24% Reports about swine flu and the vaccine
16% Reports about the condition of the U.S. economy
11% The U.S. military effort in Afghanistan
9% Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize
4% A NASA spacecraft striking the moon in search of water

If the swine flu vaccine was available to you, would you get it or not?
47% Yes, would get it
47% No, would not

How confident are you in the government's ability to deal with the swine flu?
64% Very/Somewhat, 34% Not too/Not at all

In general, do you think news reports are overstating the danger of the swine flu, understating the danger of the swine flu, or presenting it about right?
43% Overstating the danger
7% Understating the danger
46% Presenting it about right

Are you hearing mostly good news about the economy these days, mostly bad news about the economy or a mix of both good and bad news?
6% Mostly good, 27% Mostly bad, 66% A mix of good and bad

From what you've seen and heard, do you think a health care reform bill will pass over the next year or not?
45% Yes, will
46% No, will not

NY-23: 2009 Special (Siena 10/11-13)

10/11-13/09; 617 likely voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Siena release)

New York 23rd Congressional District

2009 House: Special Election
Bill Owens (D) 33%, Dede Scozzafava (R) 29%, Doug Hoffman (C) 23% (trend)

US: Obama, Clinton Favs (Gallup 10/1-4)

10/1-4/09; 1,013 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 56 / 40 (chart)
Hillary Clinton: 62 / 34

PA: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 10/13)

10/13/09; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
469 likely Democratic primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Automated
(Rasmussen: General election, Dem Primary)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 51 / 48 (chart)
Gov. Rendell: 37 / 61 (chart)

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
46% Specter, 42% Sestak (chart)

2010 Senate: General Election
45% Toomey, 40% Specter (chart)
38% Sestak, 37% Toomey (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Arlen Specter (D): 46 / 52 (chart)
Pat Toomey (R): 52 / 27
Joe Sestak (D): 37 / 34

Life Metaphors

You often hear metaphors for life. They run the gamut from a battle to a box of chocolates.

But what metaphors do Americans apply to their own lives? What metaphor do they believe most describes their own life?

I've wondered about this for some time as a researcher. More than just interesting data, I believe that this question can be useful for advertising, writing copy, and marketing products (especially lifestyle products that tend to mesh with life milestones).

The question strikes me as a valuable psychographic data point.

With this in mind, StrategyOne polled Americans (n=1,000 telephone survey) October 9-12, 2009 with the following question:

"People often use metaphors to describe their life... Which ONE of the following do you think best descibes your life?"

A Journey: 51%
A Battle: 11%
The Seasons: 10%
A Novel: 8%
A Race: 6%
A Live Performance, Like a Play: 5%
A Carousel: 4%
Other: 2%
Unsure: 2%

The responses above were provided to particpants and are well-known life metaphors from Western culture. For example, life as a journey is from Homer's Odyssey (and the Epic of Gilgamesh should also be credited as well). Life as a battle is Homer's Iliad. Life as the seasons is from Ecclesiastes and ascribed to King Solomon. Life as a race is from St. Paul. And life as a performance or play is from The Bard - Shakespeare.

The interesting thing about the data in this instance is that (a) journey is the dominant metaphor for life among Americans and (b) there are minimal differences by age, gender and region. The only real difference is by income where those making less than $35,000 are three times as likely to describe their lives as a battle (20% vs. 6% average for the other income groups).

In the political realm this suggests that candidates may be best served explaining their bios within the context of a journey rather than a battle or some other metaphor.

Multinational comparisons would be interesting here. Would more traditional, non Western countries rely so heavily on the journey metaphor?

Finally, it should be noted that this is in no way as penetrating as Zaltman's "Marketing Metaphoria" and does not delve into what the authors of this exceptional work call "deep metaphors." Instead, we were interested in the tactical question of what metaphors for life aare the most useful in basic communication and marketing materials.

FL: 2010 Sen (Meek 9/23-28)

Feldman Group (D) for Kendrick Meek
9/23-28/09; 800 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(TPM post, Florida Politics post)


2010 Senate
Charlie Crist (R) 47%, Kendrick Meek (D) 31% (chart)

FL: Crist, Obama Nobel (InsiderAdvantage 10/13)

10/13/09; 523 registered voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Automated
(InsiderAdvantage release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Crist: 48 / 41 (chart)

There are several versions of a new national healthcare bill being considered by the Congress. In general, what is your opinion of the passage of a national healthcare bill by Congress?
49% Favor Passage
47% Oppose Passage

Recently, it was announced that President Barack Obama is the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. What is your opinion of President Obama's selection as winner of the Nobel Prize for 2009?
33% The president sould be awarded the Nobel Prize
47% The president should not be awarded the Nobel Prize

Public Option: Who Knows It? Who Wants It?

Topics: Health Care Reform , Public Option

Regular readers may recall my lament that despite the many, many times pollsters have asked Americans to react to descriptions of the so-called "public option" in health care reform, very few have attempted to probe the depth of Americans' knowledge about the proposal.

The point of debate is often whether Americans "want" a public option. These arguments sometimes get expressed in the context of representative democracy. "65% of Americans are begging Congress for an inclusive public option," wrote one Daily Kos diarist a few weeks ago, yet "our Representatives in the Senate are REFUSING to give The People what they overwhelmingly want." Poll questions like the one cited by the diarist typically measure how Americans react to a brief description of the Public Option concept. Those are helpful, but if Americans are really "begging" for a public option, we might also want to measure how many know what the public option is before hearing the pollster's description.

Unless I've missed it, the only effort to tackle this question was an opt-in internet panel survey conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates and presented at an event they sponsored with AARP [see correction below]. They found that only 37% of their adult sample could correctly identify the Public Option from a list of three possible choices. As Nate Silver pointed out, if the respondents had picked randomly, a third (33%) would have chosen correctly.

Today, we have a new measure from a respected source that has often probed Americans about their level of political knowledge: The Pew Research Center today released an update of their semi-annual "News IQ Quiz," a survey that poses a dozen multiple choice or true/false questions about key facts in the news.

Today's update includes three questions about the health care debate, reproduced in the box below:


The Pew survey finds that a majority of adults (56%) are able to associate "public option" with health care rather than another issue. On the one hand, as the report points out, that awareness ranks toward the high end of Pew's awareness questions. On the other, as a gauge of knowledge, the bar is pretty low. Recognizing that the term "public option" has something to do with health care does not mean you can explain what the term means, how it might work or who it might cover. At least we know that nearly half of Americans (44%) have no clue that the term even involves the health care debate.

How many Americans both know what the public option is and "want" it? Unfortunately, the Pew survey includes no favor-or-oppose questions, so we have to guess, but the number probably falls far short of a majority. The Pew Report does tell us that Democrats are just as likely as Republicans to correctly answer the public option question (59% for each), so it's unlikely that the more knowledgeable are radically different in terms of their attitudes about specific reform proposals. In other words, are 65% really "begging" for a public option? Not likely.

Of course, attitudes about public policy are seldom static, and it's fair to expect our representatives to take into account attitudes that are "latent" and might flower into actual opinions as awareness grows later in the debate or during some future election campaign. That said, health care has been about as high profile as legislative debates get, so we are not likely to see big swings in awareness or opinion over the next few months. What people "want" now is pretty much what they will want when members of Congress cast their floor votes on health care legislation later this year.

Correction: The original version of this post said the Penn, Schoen, Berland poll was "sponsored by AARP (an organization that has not taken a formal position on the public option)."  PSB emailed to say that while they presented their survey at an event they sponsored with AARP, the seniors groups did not pay for the poll itself.

TN: Obama Approval (MTSU 9/28-10/10)

Middle Tennessee State University
9/28-10/10/09; 716 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(MTSU release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 46 / 48

Evaluating the Post-Presidential Campaign

Next week we will be 10 months into the Obama post-presidential political campaign and we thought it would be a good time to inventory its positives and negatives. The administration is bringing a political campaign approach to its policy agenda; as such, it is probably best to view its strategies and tactics through the same prism.


  1. The President's activist agenda is in strong contrast to Bush and perceptions of the last years of the Bush presidency. Few voters are likely to say that Obama is not trying to do something. While some pundits will argue that Obama is overexposed, we disagree. His offensive on healthcare the last 45 days has been a plus. There are simply too many diversions in our digital, 24/7 media world that keep people from paying attention. His improved approval rating is a reflection of this. One possible negative implication is the growing perception that his activity is a sign of big government intrusion. A must-read on this topic is a piece filed yesterday by Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press.
  2. Sotomayor. The handling of the Sotomayor nomination to the Supreme Court was terrific and helped steady the ship in early August. While there was some grumbling from Republicans about the choice of a "Wise Latina" the end result was that Obama was able to replace Souter with someone who is just 55 years young and certainly tilts the court further to the left. This is not just a victory for progressive jurisprudence, however, but also from a PR standpoint: while expending minimal political capital, Obama was able to make history by naming the first Hispanic and third female to the SCOTUS.
  3. Despite early PR blunders on health care, the President's reform campaign over the last 30 days has stopped the public opinion bleeding. Two things have happened: first, the public is more likely now to believe that health care reform is a top priority than back in July; and second, voters are less apprehensive that the plan would not harm them. This tells you one thing: the President never should have outsourced the first phase of healthcare reform to Congress. Team Obama said they were doing that because of lessons learned from Clinton's healthcare push in 1993. If so, they learned the wrong lesson.


  1. The President and his team appear to have misinterpreted their 2008 victory as a mandate for social change. Uncharacteristically, this appears to have been done with little regard to actual public opinion. Voters last November were looking for change, but it was almost all about the economy/jobs (and, to a much lesser extent, Iraq). Obama's approval rating drop is tied to the rising unemployment rate and a belief that he is not solving the nation's economic problems. As long as consumer confidence lags, so will the President's numbers.
  2. The "stimulus package" was a PR bust. In a recent WSJ poll, less than half of voters (46%) thought the stimulus prevented a greater downturn. According to a CBS poll from last week, while a plurality (47%) see the stimulus as making the economy better in the long run, nearly as many see it as either making the economy worse (21%) or having no impact (24%). The bottom line is that the focus should have been on jobs. A late September survey conducted by Democratic pollster Geoff Garin for the Economic Policy Institute showed that more than 8 in 10 registered voters (81%) thought that the Obama administration needs to do more about unemployment and disappearing jobs. Only 13% thought the president had done enough. Again, polls showed support for a targeted jobs package with a combination of some infrastructure investment and tax cuts. All of which would have been tough to argue against and may have even garnered bipartisan support.
  3. Team Obama misplayed healthcare from the get-go. They aimed big, which isn't a bad thing, but they aimed so big that it has come crashing down on them. Then, to make matters worse, they learned the wrong "lesson" from 1994 ("don't give them an actual plan to pick apart") and came across as indecisive and unprepared due to their lack of specificity. Public opinion polls show that there is support for substantive change to our healthcare system, but there are a lot of items they should have and could have accomplished with bipartisan support (electronic medical records, health insurance reform vis-à-vis pre-existing conditions, etc.) that would have allowed them to claim health reform "victory" while setting them up for more substantive change down the road. The key lesson from 1994 was "don't bite off more than you can chew (in other words, more than the people want and are ready for)" and they whiffed on that. The public decided that covering more people but allowing everyone who currently has coverage to keep the same coverage without spending more money was probably impossible. We may still see bills pass the floor of both the House and Senate in the coming weeks which would cause the public's perception of Obama's handling to rebound; however, it is undeniable that a good measure of damage has already been done.
  4. The White House miscalculated the seriousness and intensity of the Town Hall meetings and then added insult to injury by saying that the town hall participants were not legitimate, which only served to make voters angrier. The tactic backfired in a big way.
  5. Obama ran as the "anti-politician" but his job now is inherently political, which diminishes his biggest attribute. This partially explains Obama's rapid approval rating drop. It is not necessarily because of his policies (although some of it assuredly is); it is because of the fact that he is doing anything at all. Before he was above the fray, now he is in it.


  1. The Nobel Peace Prize. It is obvious how the prize feeds the negative perception that Obama is overly lauded despite having a thin record of actual accomplishments. However, it was completely beyond the White House's control that a group of six inscrutable Norwegians decided to bestow the Nobel Peace Prize on Obama. Furthermore, by donating away the monetary prize and treating the honor as a "Call to Action" Obama largely was able to defuse the blowback.

An Up-to-the-Minute Review of the Public Opinion Landscape as of Noon Today:

  • The fact that the storyline this morning is about the insurance industry launching a multi-state ad campaign attacking the health care plan - is a positive for the President. A CBS News poll in August had the insurance industry's unfavorable rating at 46%. Although we must say that the attack line -- warning that seniors in private Medicare plans could lose benefits under the legislation - is a pretty good one.
  • Obama's approval rating is slowly trending back up. The latest Gallup tracking poll result (released yesterday) now shows Obama at 56% approval and 36% disapproval. Our synthesis of the most recent public and private polls has his approval rating at 53% and disapproval at 41%. This is a marked improvement over 30 days ago. At that time his disapproval rating was at 45% according to our average of all polls at that time). Remember that his approval rating drop from the mid-60's was with all major demographic and political groups. It fell 11 points among women and nine points among men; and by 12 points among Republicans, 10 points among Democrats and nine points among independents from April to September. Look for polls to show improvement among these groups in the coming days and weeks.

    obama approval oct 14.jpg

  • The New Jersey Governor's race will go to the wire but Virginia is almost certainly over. A new Quinnipiac poll has NJ in a statistical tie with the Democrat incumbent Corzine at 40%, Republican Christie at 41% and Independent Chris Daggett at 14%. McDonnell has been up between 8-15% for almost two months. While there was some tightening in VA in mid-September due to the "Thesis" story (especially in northern Virginia), McDonnell appears to have regained his solid lead--due in large part with ads aimed at Independents and women. Enthusiasm for McDonnell is twice that for Deeds according to the Washington Post. In an off year election this is critical. Barring some sort of surprise, Virginia will elect a Republican Governor in 3 weeks.
  • While stocks are surging this morning, unemployment is still the key driver of public opinion and it remains abysmal. The unemployment rate when Barrack Obama took office was 7.6% and 11.6 million Americans were unemployed. The current rate of unemployment (as of September) is 9.8% and the number of jobless Americans is 15.1 million. Below are the number of payroll jobs the country has lost month-by-month since January. (August and September data is still "provisional.")

    job losses.jpg

  • The 2010 elections will be almost exclusively about the economy and jobs. While it is speculation at best to estimate the magnitude of losses Democrats might endure it is instructive to look at what happened during the 1981-1982 recession. In January of 1981 when Reagan took office unemployment was at 7.5%. In November of 1982 unemployment had risen to 10.8%. Reagan's approval rating at the time of the election had dropped to 43% (47% disapproval). Democrats picked up 26 seats in the House and one in the Senate. Of course this election will have its own set of variables (including retirements, candidate recruitment, generic ballot, partisan identification) but we do tend to think that two numbers will be hugely important a year from now: the President's approval rating and unemployment. Even if the recession "ends" tomorrow, unemployment is a lagging indicator and that number will almost definitely be higher on Election Day 2010 than it was when Obama took office--representing a substantial drag on Democrats in 2010.

US: Obama Approval (Marist 10/7-12)

10/1-8, 10/12/09; 1,026 adults, 3% margin of error
913 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
(all questions asked of registered voters unless otherwise noted)
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Marist release)


Obama Job Approval
53% Approve, 41% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 84 / 11 (chart)
Reps: 21 / 74 (chart)
Inds: 45 / 47 (chart)
Health Care: 44 / 49 (chart)
Economy: 48 / 47 (chart)

State of the Country (all adults)
47% Right direction, 47% Wrong Direction (chart)

Overall, would you describe the direction in which President Barack Obama is moving the country as:
46% Change for the better
34% Change for the worse
18% No change at all

Do you think a public option is a good thing or a bad thing to include in heath care reform? (all adults)
60% Good thing, 27% Bad thing

Do you think the current economic conditions are mostly something President Obama inherited or are they mostly a result of his own policies?
70% Mostly inherited, 24% Mostly the result of his own policies

NJ: Approval, Obama Nobel (PPP 10/9-12)

Public Policy Polling (D)
10/9-12/09; 571 likely voters, 4.1% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(PPP release)

New Jersey

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 46 / 45 (chart)
Sen. Lautenberg: 36 / 45 (chart)
Sen. Menendez: 34 / 45 (chart)

Do you think that President Obama is deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize?
30% Yes, 56% No

Do you think that President Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize increases or decreases
the prestige of that award, or does it not make a difference?

12% More prestigious, 46% Less prestigious, 42% No difference

ME: Marriage, Job Approval (Pan Atlantic 9/30-10/7)

Pan Atlantic SMS Omnibus Poll
9/30-10/7/09; 401 likely voters, 4.9% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pan Atlantic SMS release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 58 / 38

Job Performance Rating
Gov. Baldacci: 50% Excellent/Good / 49% Very Poor/Poor

In general, do you favor or oppose President Obama's plan for health care reform?
46% Favor, 41% Oppose

"Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows
individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?" If today was Election
Day, how would you vote on this issue?

43% Yes, 52% No

NYC: Bloomberg 55 Thompson 38 (SurveyUSA 10/10-12)

10/10-12/09; 562 likely voters, 4.2% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(SurveyUSA release)

New York City

2009 Mayor
Mike Bloomberg 55%, Bill Thompson 38% (chart)

PA: 2010 Sen (Susquehanna 10/7-12)

Susquehanna Polling and Research
10/7-12/09; 700 registered voters, 3.7% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 50 / 37
Gov. Rendell: 38 / 53

Do you think Arlen Specter has done his job as United States Senator well enough to
deserve reelection, or do you think it's time to give a new person a chance?

31% Reelect, 59% New person

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
Specter 44%, Sestak 16% (chart)

2010 Senate: General Election
Specter 42%, Toomey 41% (chart)

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
Corbett 36%, Gerlach 13% (chart)

NJ: Christie 41 Corzine 40 (Quinnipiac 10/7-12)

10/7-12/09; 1,264 likely voters, 2.8% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)

New Jersey

2009 Governor
Christie 41%, Corzine 40%, Daggett 14% (chart)

Who is you second choice for governor (asked only of Daggett voters)
Christie 40%, Corzine 33%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Chris Christie (R): 38 / 40
Jon Corzine (D): 40 / 53 (chart)
Chris Daggett (i): 19 / 7

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Corzine: 39 / 56 (chart)

PA: 2010 Sen, Gov (GrassrootsPA 10/7)

GrassrootsPA (R) / Dane & Associates (R)
10/7/09; 2010 Governor questions asked of ~200 likely voters each, 4.25% margin of error
2010 Senate questions asked of ~400 likely voters each, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(GrassrootsPA: Governor, Senate)


2010 Governor (trends)
Corbett 41%, Jack Wagner 37%
Corbett 44%, Tom Knox 36%
Corbett 44%, Dan Onorato 32%
Corbett 53%, Joe Hoeffel 27%

2010 Senate
Specter 46%, Toomey 43% (chart
Sestak 43%, Toomey 38% (chart)

VA: McDonnell 50 Deeds 43 (Rasmussen 10/12)

10/12/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 53 / 47 (chart)
Gov. Kaine: 54 / 43 (chart)

2009 Governor
McDonnell 50%, Deeds 43% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Bob McDonnell: 59 / 34
Creigh Deeds: 47 / 47

NJ: Christie 40, Corzine 39 (PPP 10/9-12)

Public Policy Polling (D)
10/9-12/09; 571 likely voters, 4.1% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(PPP release)

New Jersey

2009 Governor
Christie 40%, Corzine 39%, Daggett 13% (chart)

Is your second choice for Governor Chris Christie or Jon Corzine? (Asked only of Daggett voters)
Christie 48%, Corzine 34%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Chris Christie (R): 42 / 44
Jon Corzine (D): 37 / 55 (chart)
Chris Daggett (i): 30 / 24

CA: Schwarzenegger Approval (Field 9/18-10/5)

9/18-10/5/09; 1,005 registered voters, 3.2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Field release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Schwarzenneger: 27 / 65 (chart)

Random Sampling and 'Opt-In' Internet Panel Surveys

Topics: National Journal column

My column this week takes up the subject of "opt in" internet panel surveys and a recently released, much debated accuracy study by a team of Stanford researchers. As this subject is too big for a single column, I've split it into two parts. This week, in Part I, I take up the issue at the heart of the controversy: random probability sampling.

IL: 2010 Sen (Kirk 10/7-8)

Mark Kirk for US Senate (R) / Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies (R)
General Election Poll: 10/8/09; 978 likely voters, 3.1% margin of error
Primary Election Poll: 10/7/09; 848 Republican primary voters, 3.4% margin of error
Mode: Automated telephone
(The Hill post)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
Kirk 61%, Hughes 3%, Lowrey 2%, Wallace 1%,
Zadek 1%, Thomas 1%, Arrington 1%, Kuna 0%

2010 Senate: General Election
Kirk (R) 42%, Giannoulias (D) 35%

US: Health Care (Rasmussen 10/10-11)

10/10-11/09; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)


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?
44% Strongly/Somewhat Favor, 50% Strongly/Somewhat Oppose (chart)

If the health care reform plan passes, will the quality of health care get better, worse, or stay about the same?
26% Better, 50% Oppose, 18% Same

If the health care reform plan passes, will the cost of health care go up, go down, or stay about the same?
51% up, 21% down, 19% Same

The Afghan Dilemma


The end of the summer saw some rebounding of President Obama's domestic approval ratings, and his overall job approval.  But it is now the foreign front that poses the greatest potential to damage the president's approval ratings. Afghanistan looms large.

Domestically, things have turned in Obama's favor. After falling through much of the spring and summer, support for Obama's handling of health care reform has taken a noticeable upturn since mid-August. Approval of his handling of the economy is flat or slightly up, and his overall job rating has risen 3 points or so since it's low point at the end of August. Even his worst approval rating, on handling the deficit, has stopped declining, though it remains below 40%.

But the problem is now with foreign policy matters and most specifically with Afghanistan.  Through the spring, even as he increased troop levels in Afghanistan, Obama enjoyed an approval rating on that war of near 60%.  But those ratings have taken a sharp dive over the last four months, even as domestic issue approval rebounded. Since June, approval of his handling of Afghanistan has fallen some 17 points, from about 60% to about 43%.

During much of the summer conversation focused on the damage a falling health care approval was doing to Obama's overall job ratings. Now the attention should turn to the potential damage of  whatever decision he makes about how to wage the Afghan war. Increasing troop levels, and therefore casualties, will not be popular among progressives in his own party, and will surely not win back any Republican support. But refusing to increase commitments there is likely to result in little visible improvement while maintaining American targets, and therefore casualties. While the president may have succeeded in bringing back some support for his domestic agenda, that was an easier sell within his party than will be the case with Afghanistan. The driving mechanism with Afghanistan is going to be casualties and perceptions of progress or lack thereof plus a base of ideological opposition to the war among Democrats.

The declining approval on Afghanistan has also begun to be reflected in declines in approval of his handling of foreign policy in general. (Handling of Iraq and Iran have relatively few recent polls, so are omitted from the figure.) While foreign policy approval has been a strength, generally running higher than overall job approval, that may not be the case much longer.

If the military decisions are daunting either way, the political implications are at least as difficult. A Democrat committing more troops to a war now eight years old, with troops stressed from repeated deployments, is going to be a hard, perhaps impossible, sell to his partisans. But with Republican support now down in single digits, the president can look for support only from Democrats and some independents. Those groups are quite reticent to support an escalation.

NV: 2010 Sen (MasonDixon 10/6-8)

Mason Dixon / Las Vegas Review Journal
10/6-8/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
300 Republicans, 6% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(LVRJ release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
23% Sue Lowden
21% Danny Tarkanian
9% Sharron Andle
1% Bill Paron
1% Robin Titus
1% Mike Wiley
0% Chuck Kozak
0% John Chachas
0% Mark Amodei

2010 Senate: General Election
Tarkanian 48%, Reid 43%
Lowden 49%, Reid 39%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Harry Reid: 38 / 50
Sue Lowden: 31 / 15
Danny Tarkanian: 30 / 11

VA: McDonnell 48 Deeds 40 (Mason-Dixon 10/6-8)

Mason Dixon Polling & Research / Richmond Times-Dispatch

10/6-8/09; 625 likely voters, +/- 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Times Dispatch article, cross-tabs; Virginia-Pilot article)


2009 Governor
McDonnell 48%, Deeds 40% (chart)