November 1, 2009 - November 7, 2009


US: National Survey (Economist 11/1-3)

Economist / YouGov
11/1-3/09; 1,000 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(Economist release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Hillary Clinton: 56 / 37 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 27 / 49
Sarah Palin: 37 / 53 (chart)
Joe Biden: 45 / 41
Harry Reid: 20 / 40

Obama Job Approval
50% Approve, 44% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 79 / 15 (chart)
Reps: 13 / 84 (chart)
Inds: 44 / 47 (chart)
Economy: 46 / 47 (chart)
Health Care: 46 / 46 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
16% Approve, 58% Disapprove (chart)

2010 House: General Election
46% Democrat, 37% Republican (chart)

State of the Country
35% Right Direction, 52% Wrong Track (chart)

In February, Congress passed President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus bill. Do
you think the stimulus bill is working?

27% Yes, 48% No

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% Favor, 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, 31% Oppose

Do you favor increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan?
41% Increase, 42% Decrease, 17% Keep the same

US: National Survey (Kos 11/2-5)

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
11/2-5/09; 2,400 adults, 2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 55 / 38 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 38 / 53
Harry Reid: 33 / 56
Mitch McConnell: 16 / 66
John Boehner: 15 / 63
Democratic Party: 42 / 50
Republican Party: 23 / 66

State of the Country
41% Right Direction, 55% Wrong Track (chart)

US: Health Care (CNN 10/30-11/1)

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
10/30-11/1/09; 1,018 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)


In your view, is Barack Obama doing enough to cooperate with the Republicans in Congress, or

49% Yes, 49% No

In your view, are the Republicans in Congress doing enough to cooperate with the Barack Obama,
or not?

31% Yes, 67% No

From everything you have heard or read so far, do you favor or oppose Barack Obama's plan to reform health care?
45% Favor, 53% Oppose (chart)

As you may know, several health care bills have been passed by committees in the U.S. House and Senate and they can be brought before Congress for debate and a final vote at any time. Which of the following do you think Congress should do:
26% Continue working on those bills this fall and make relatively minor changes before passing final legislation
33% Continue working on those bills this fall but pass final legislation only if major changes are made
24% Start work on entirely new bills that would not be ready until some time next year
15% Stop working on any bills that would change the country's health care system

Now thinking specifically about the health insurance plans available to most Americans, would you favor or oppose creating a public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies?
55% Favor, 44% Oppose

How Did the Polls Do in 2009?

Topics: 2009 , Accuracy , Automated polls , Incumbent Rule , IVR , Maine Question 1 , New Jersey , New York City , NY-23 , Virginia

I had intended to post a "quick" summary of what Tuesday night's results say about how the polls did, but like a thread pulled on a sweater, my outline kept getting longer. So apologies for the delay in getting this summary posted. What follows is a review of how the polls performed this year, with a closer look at the question posed yesterday by our own Brian Schaffner, was it "a victory for IVR polling?"   

New Jersey. Our final trend estimate based on all pre-election polls was dead even, with each major party candidate receiving 42.0% of the vote and independent Chris Christie 10.1%. Christie had a one-point lead on the RealClearPolitics average of the last five non-partisan polls (+1.0%), roughly the same margin as using our more "sensitive" trend line (+1.1%).   

The unofficial count, as of this writing, has Christie leading by 4.3% (though as noted yesterday, all of these unofficial results are likely to change slightly as provisional and absentee ballots are counted). So the average polling error in New Jersey was between 3.3% and 4.3% depending on the average. Nate Silver did a compilation of comparable New Jersey polling errors (compared to final averages) on 9 previous elections that ranged from a low of 0.5 to a high of 4.8. So the error yesterday, while higher than average, fell well within recent experience.

At the same time, nearly everyone has noticed that the average of the final polls from three organizations using an automated methodology (sometimes refered to as "interactive voice response" or IVR) had Christie ahead by four percentage points (46% to 42%) -- roughly the same as his unofficial margin -- while the last three live-interviewer telephone polls had Corzine leading by an average of one point (41% to 40%)


As I wrote on Monday night, what makes that gap between automated and live-interviewer polling interesting is that it was not some random fluke on the last few polls, but persisted throughout the campaign to a degree that we did not see in Virginia this year or in most states during the 2008 presidential election. My conclusion was that the consistency in the estimate of Corzine's vote on so many recent polls suggested a looming "incumbent effect," that voters had largely made up their mind on Corzine but that a small but critically important number were still weighing whether to support Christie or Daggett. So, the theory goes, the IVR polls did better by removing the live interviewer and simulating a secret ballot, thus pushing voters harder to make a choice and more accurately recording their true intentions over the phone.

And what happened to Daggett? Our final trend estimate had him at 10%, but he received only 5.8% of the vote. Although it had been rising until mid-October, Daggett's support ultimately followed the traditional pattern. Many voters that had been intrigued by his candidacy ultimately concluded that their votes would be wasted and opted to support either Christie or Corzine. The Fairleigh Dickinson Unversity poll provided a hint of where Daggett's support was heading in an experiment conducted on their last survey: They found that Daggett received just 6% -- the same number he won on election day -- when they only named Corzine and Christie as candidates but accepted Daggett as a volunteered choice. When they offered a three-way-choice that included Daggett, his support jumped to 14%.

Virginia. Republican Bob McDonnell's victory in Virginia was never in doubt during the final weeks of the campaign, so political junkies were less obsessed with the polling numbers, but the polling errors in Virginia were, on average, about the same as in New Jersey. Our final trend estimate had McDonnell ahead by 13.4% (54.7% to 41.0%). The unofficial tally has McDonnell leading by 17.4% (58.7% to 41.3%) so the error, as of this writing, averages 3.7 points on the margin.


In Virginia, the gap between the results of automated and live interviewer polls was not nearly as big or as consistent as in New Jersey. The average of the final automated polls in Virginia conducted by PPP, SurveyUSA and Rasmussen had McDonnell at 56% compared to 54% on the final polls in the last week conducted by five organizations using live interviewers, while both sets of poll gave Democrat Creigh Deeds an average of 41% of the vote. However, the final automated polls by SurveyUSA and PPP along with the live interviewer survey by Virginia Commonwealth University are closest to the final margin (as of this writing).

New York City. Our final trend estimate had Mayor Michael Bloomberg leading Democratic challenger William Thompson by a 14-point margin, (53.1% to 39.0%), but Bloomberg won by less than five (50.6% to 46.0%) so the polling error is large (9 points on the margin) -- roughly the same as the infamous New Hampshire polling debacle).

What happened? Marist pollster Lee Miringoff describes it as a "text book case of pre-election poll analysis:"

It is not unusual in contests between a well-known incumbent (Bloomberg) and a relatively unknown challenger (Thompson) that the incumbent ends up getting pretty much the same number he was attracting in pre-election polls. Undecided voters tend to find the challenger or not vote at all, having already rejected the incumbent.

He refers, of course, to the "incumbent rule," a subject I speculated about at length in 2004, only to see it generally not apply that year, in close races in 2006 or 2008. That said, it does appear to have returned in New Jersey and New York City on Tuesday.

But that apparent reemergence raises an important question: If the rule is no longer a "rule," but rather a phenomenon that occurs only occasionally, how do we know to expect it? Miringoff wrote yesterday that Marist's polls "showed the trend that Democratic voters were 'coming home' to Thompson." That result would have been a helpful warning sign. Problem is, I can't find any reference to it in Marist's final poll release. Instead, I find this prediction: "If today were Election Day," they wrote on Wednesday without qualification, "Mayor Michael Bloomberg would handily win a third term."

If anyone deserves to say "I told you so" in New York, it is Thompson pollster Geoff Garin, who released a survey last week showing Thompson gaining (he said), trailing by only 8 points (38% to 46%) and by only 3 points (41% to 44%) among those who said they were certain to vote. The release prompted Bloomberg spokesman Howard Wolfson to retort that it "gives new meaning to the term margin of error." Not exactly. (And yes, we managed to miss this poll and omit it from our chart -- apologies to Garin and our readers for that oversight).

I asked Garin for his thoughts and he agrees that "undecideds split against incumbent" in the New York race and that such a split was knowable in advance, but argues:

[I]t is stupid to think they would split 100 to nothing. There was a high undecided in NYC because voters were cross pressured -- they did not want to reward Bloomberg for his bad behavior on term limits, but they didn't know enough about Thompson to know whether he would be up to the job.

Garin also thinks their sample made a difference:

I think the main reason we did better and the public polls were off is that we worked off the voter file, and were persnickity about who we took into what was very likely to be a low turnout election. Even among whites, the smaller the turnout scenario the better for Thompson. I am sure the public polls let in too many people.

Maine Question 1. Polling on the gay-marriage referendum was far more limited -- just seven public polls released over the course of the campaign -- and the complicated ballot language and the error prone nature of prior referenda poll warned us to expect the unexpected. Yet while the differences between the final polls were relatively small, it is worth noting that the automated survey from PPP was the only one that showed more support for the anti-gay marriage position than opposition. Our final trend estimate showed the No side (pro gay marriage) with a two point lead (49.4% to 47.1%) but Question 1 won by nearly six (52.8% to 47.2%).

While this one experience is far from a conclusive test, there are at least theoretical reasons to think that automated surveys have an advantage in measuring true preferences on issues like gay marriage, where the presence of a live interviewer might introduce some "social discomfort" that would make the respondent reluctant to reveal their true preference.

* * *

So were automated IVR polls the big winners on Tuesday, as Mickey Kaus, Taegan Goddard and PPP's Tom Jensen argue? If what you care about most is predicting the winners, it is clear that the automated surveys provided a more accurate gauge of the outcome, especially in New Jersey where the closer simulation of the secret ballot probably gave us a heads up of an imminent "incumbent rule" effect favoring Christie. SurveyUSA also deserves credit for coming closer than most pollsters to the final margin in New Jersey, Virginia and New York City.

But that said, consider that we count on polls to do much more than predict the outcome. In addition to the points raised by Brian Schaffner here yesterday, consider two things:

First, as a live-interviewer media pollster pointed out to me yesterday, there were some inconsistencies with subgroups, particularly by race. As the table below shows, despite relatively small sample sizes, the three automated surveys showed Republicans Christie and McDonnell winning a greater percentage of the African American vote than the final live-interviewer surveys and the exit polls (though there were a few inconsistencies; namely Rasmussen in New Jersey and Marist in New York City).


If you believe the exit poll result, then the automated surveys provided a generally misleading sense of whether the Republican candidates were about to make bigger inroads than they did among African-American voters (consider also commenter RussTC3's observation about big differences between job approval ratings as measured by PPP and the exit polls -- as Mike Mokrzycki reminds us we do polls for reasons other than predicting the outcome).

Second, there is one last contest we need to review....

New York 23. Although three last minute polls on the special election in New York's 23rd Congressional District conducted after Republican Dede Scozzafava withdrew from the race last Saturday showed Conservative Doug Hoffman leading Democrat Bill Owens by margins of between 5 and 17 points, Owens prevailed by 4 points (49.0% to 45.9%). Whatever shortcomings we might identify in the polling, the far bigger error was the interpretation applied by pundits, most notably me, who foolishly assumed that the trend in Hoffman's direction was unstoppable and that normal assumptions about last minute developments would apply. In retrospect, it is obvious that there was nothing normal about the last 72 hours of this particular campaign.

Moreover, we should have paid closer attention to the evidence of growing voter uncertainty in the final Siena Research Institute poll. Their final survey, conducted on Sunday night, showed Hoffman with modest but not quite statistically significant lead (41% to 36%) but also a doubling of the undecided (from 9% to 18%) in just a few days. So their poll showed that voter uncertainty was surging at a time when it is usually nonexistent. To his great credit, Siena pollster Steven Greenberg also argued that Owens might still gain from the Scozzafava endorsement on Sunday since "most voters are not political junkies" and had not yet heard the news" (an argument I boldly dismissed since few undecided voters had a favorable impression of Scozzafava -- apologies to Greenberg for that).

But while we might plausibly reconcile the results of the Siena poll with the outcome, the PPP survey is another story. While their estimate of Owens' support (34%) was within a few points of the other polls, PPP had Hoffman receiving five percentage points more support (51%) than he ultimately received (45.9%). A late shift among the undecided voters cannot explain the difference.

I am planning to look more closely at this example, but the important point for now is that while the automated polls turned in a strong performance in New Jersey, Virginia and Maine, the PPP poll in NY-23 was highly misleading.

The larger lesson is this: Automated polls have been maligned, unfairly in my view, as inherently "unreliable." Yet when it comes to predicting election outcomes they continue to prove, NY-23 aside, at least as reliable as surveys done by conventional means. In New Jersey this week, they were more accurate in predicting the winner. At the same time, however, it would be wrong to jump to the opposite conclusion and place inherently greater trust in all automated surveys,  especially when used for purposes other than predicting election outcomes.

All polls have their limitations. Rather than trying to divide them into two categories, "reliable" and "crap," we might do better to try to understand their limitations and interpret the results we see accordingly.

US: News Interest (Pew 10/30-11/2)

Pew Research Center
10/30-11/2/09; 1,001 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)


Most Closely Followed Story
29% Reports about swine flu and the vaccine
22% Debate over health care reform
17% Reports about the condition of the U.S. economy
10% The U.S. military effort in Afghanistan
8% The Major League Baseball World Series
2% News about political instability in Pakistan

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?
5% Mostly good news, 31% Mostly bad news, 62% A mix of good and bad news

CA: 2010 Gov (Capitol Weekly 10/26-28)

Capitol Weekly / Probolsky Research (R)
10/26-28/09; 750 likely 2010 primary election voters, 3.7% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Probolsky research release)


2010 Governor: Republican Primary
37% Whitman, 15% Campbell, 6% Poizner (chart)

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
46% Brown, 19% Newsom (chart)

CA: 2010 Sen Ratings (SurveyUSA 11/4)

11/4/09; 500 adults, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(SurveyUSA release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barbara Boxer: 33 / 37 (chart)
Carly Fiorina: 11 / 24
Chuck DeVore: 8 / 15
Al Ramirez: 10 / 12

MD: 2010 Gov, Sen (Clarus 10/30-11/1)

Clarus Research Group
10/30-11/1/09; 637 registered voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Clarus release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. O'Malley: 48 / 40
Sen. Cardin: 46 / 26
Sen. Mikulski: 57 / 28
Pres. Obama: 60 / 33

Maryland will have an election for Governor next year. At this point, would you like to see Martin O'Malley re-elected or would you like to see somebody new get elected?
39% Re-elect, 48% Someone new

2010 Governor
O'Malley 47%, Ehrlich 40%

Maryland will also elect a U.S. Senator next year. At this point, would you like to see Senator Barbara Mikulski re-elected or would you like to see somebody new get elected?
53% Re-elect, 36% Someone new

US: 2012 Pres (Gallup 10/31-11/1)

USA Today / Gallup
10/31-11/1/09; 1,021 adults, 4% margin of error
301 Republicans, 7% margin of error
347 independents, 7% margin of error
339 Democrats, 7% margin of error
ModE: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release, USA Today story)


I'm Going to read you a list of possible Republican candidates in the 2012 presidential election. Please tell me whether you would, or would not, seriously consider supporting each for president

Among Republicans:
Mike Huckabee: 71% Yes, 25% No
Mitt Romney: 65% Yes, 31% No
Sarah Palin: 65% Yes, 33% No
Newt Gingrich: 60% Yes, 35% No
Tim Pawlenty: 32% Yes, 48% No
Haley Barbour: 26% Yes, 52% No

Among all adults:
Mike Huckabee: 40% Yes, 51% No
Mitt Romney: 39% Yes, 51% No
Sarah Palin: 33% Yes, 63% No
Newt Gingrich: 29% Yes, 63% No
Tim Pawlenty: 18% Yes, 60% No
Haley Barbour: 15% Yes, 65% No

Please tell me whether you think each of the following people is qualified or is not qualified to be president
Mike Huckabee: 50% Yes. 36% No
Mitt Romney: 49% Yes, 39% No
Sarah Palin: 31% Yes, 62% No
Newt Gingrich: 44% Yes, 46% No
Tim Pawlenty: 25% Yes. 51% No
Haley Barbour: 18% Yes, 57% No

US: National Survey (Ipsos 10/29-11/1)

Ipsos / McClatchy
1,077 adults, 3% margin of error
525 Democrats, 4.3% margin of error
446 Republicans, 4.7% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Ipsos release)


State of the Country
38% Right Direction, 57% Wrong Track (chart)

Obama Job Approval / Disapproval
53% Approve, 43% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 82 / 15 (chart)
Reps: 21 / 78 (chart)
Inds: 45 / 41 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
29% Approve, 68% Disapprove (chart)

Has the U.S. economy turned the corner on the current crisis, is the worst yet to come, or have things stabilized but not yet begun to improve?
7% Turned the corner, 32% Worst yet to come, 59% Stabilized but yet to improve

2010 House: Generic Ballot
48% Democrat, 41% Republican (chart)

As of right now, do you favor or oppose the healthcare reform proposals presently being discussed?
39% Favor, 49% Oppose (chart)

Creation of a public entity to directly compete with existing health insurance companies.
51% Favor, 43% Oppose

Legislation to permit the creation of insurance co-operatives NOT run by the government.
57% Favor, 35% Oppose

Party ID
34% Democrat, 22% Republican, 44% independent (chart)

KY: 2010 Sen (Benenson 10/4-7)

Benenson Strategy Group (D) / Jack Conway (D)
800 likely Democratic primary voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interveiws
(Benenson release)


2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
Mongiardo 40%, Conway 37%

A Victory for IVR Polling?

A friend sent me a couple of links earlier pointing to pundits and pollsters who are taking last night's results as evidence for the merits of IVR polling. First off, as Mark noted earlier, it is a bit too early to be making such comparisons. With regard to the claims being made about IVR polling in particular, I would add the following points:

First, there is no way to control for other reasons that these polls might have generated different results, including different approaches to screening for likely voters and how undecideds are dealt with. With regard to the latter issue, it is important to note that the pollsters using live interviewing in New Jersey were showing more than twice the percentage of undecideds as those using IVR.

This leads to a second important point (related to the first): comparing these pollsters based on the final result presupposes that each pollster that has been entered into this fictitious competition was actually trying to get the final result correct in the first place. If that was the goal, then it seems as though each polling firm would have allocated all of their undecided respondents into one camp or another.

Third, one of the reasons for concerns with IVR polling is that citizens with only a cell phone cannot be reached by these pollsters and these citizens now comprise at least one-fifth of the population. Yet, while the cell-only problem may generally be an issue for IVR technology (and for live interview pollsters who aren't calling cell phones), it is less of a problem for polling on elections, and particularly in low turnout elections. This is because the types of people that do not have landlines are less likely to be voters (and particularly less likely to be voting in low turnout elections). Ultimately, an off-year low turnout election may actually be less of a challenge for IVR-based polls because the non-coverage bias should be smaller for these contests. Where these polls may run into greater challenges is when they attempt to make inferences about the American public rather than registered (or likely) voters.

Exit Poll 'Outliers'

Topics: 2009 , Exit Polls

For whatever reason, the usual network web sites did not post full tabulations of the exit poll results from last night or at least did not post them in an easily discoverable place. However, for those interested -- and our readers always are -- the New York Times did post full tabulations for the exit polls conducted by Edison Research in New Jersey, Virginia and New York City. [Update: tabulations are also available from CNN and MSNBC].

Also, the following analysts and organizations have posted in-depth analyses of the exit poll results:

[I'm confident this list is missing similar analysis from other organizations, so please add a comment or email us if you see articles worth linking to].

A Question I Won't Answer

Topics: Accuracy , Pollsters

"So who was the most accurate pollster yesterday?"

If I had $100 for every time I've been asked that question by a reporter on the Wednesday morning after an election, I could retire early. And after five years of blogging on this beat, it's a question I'm determined to refuse to answer today.


First, all the votes are not yet counted (including 7% of the precincts in NY-23), and the counts that are available do not yet include the absentee and provisional ballots that will be added later and are not reflected in those percentage-of-precincts-reporting statistics you see on all the media vote counts morning. Take a look at this snap judgement from November 5, 2008. It declared a "big winner" among prognosticators on the assumption that Barack Obama won by 6.1 percentage points (52.4 to 46.3), but when all the ballots were counted the margin was 7.2 (52.9% to 45.7%). So that particular snap judgement picked the wrong "big winner."

Second, the whole notion of crowing a "big winner" based on a handful of polls in a handful of states is foolish. The final polls yesterday had random sampling error of at least +/- 3 percentage points. If a poll produces a forecast outside its margin of error, that's important. But if several polls capture the actual result within their standard error, chance alone is as likely as anything else to determine which one "nails it" and which miss by a point or two.

Third, there are sometimes other problems with making too much of "hitting a bullet with a bullet" on the final poll, when the polls leading up to it provide different results.

Yes, there are several good stories about what went right and what went wrong with yesterday's polling, including some important lessons about the value of automated polling. Some pollsters certainly did better yesterday than others. And I'm hoping to have something written and posted on that subject later today, provided that I don't get bogged down by the calls and emails from reporters wanting me to tell them, "who was the most accurate pollster yesterday?

US: Obama (Gallup 10/16-19)

10/18-19/09; 1,521 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


Do you think the country is -- or is not -- more deeply divided this year on the major issues facing the country than it has been in the past several years?
68% More deeply, 29% Not more deeply

Regardless of which presidential candidate you preferred, do you think the Obama administration will or will not be able to do each of the following?

Increase respect for the United States abroad:
60% Yes, will, 38% No, will not

Improve the health care system:
46% Yes, 52% No

Reduce unemployment:
51% Yes, 46% No

Control federal spending:
31% Yes, 67% No

Keep the U.S. safe from terrorism:
57% Yes, 40% No

Bring U.S. troops home from Iraq in a way that is not harmful to the U.S.:
56% Yes, 41% No

Bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan in a way that is not harmful to the U.S.:
46% Yes, 50% No

Heal political divisions in this country:
28% Yes, 69% No

US: 2010 Generic Ballot (CNN 10/30-11/1)

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
10/30-11/1/09; 952 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)


2010 House: Generic Ballot
50% Democratic Candidate, 44% Republican candidate (chart)

Would you say you will definitely vote for the _____, or is it possible you
would change your mind between now and the election?

27% Definitely Democratic, 23% Democratic could change,
22% Republican could change, 22% Definitely Republican

Would you be more likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who supports President Obama, or
more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes President Obama?

54% Supports Obama 41% Opposes Obama

KY: 2010 Senate (SurveyUSA 10/30-11/2)

10/30-11/2/09; 1,770 registered voters, 2.4% margin of error
448 likely Republican primary voters, 4.7% margin of error
602 likely Democratic primary voters, 4.1% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(SurveyUSA release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
35% Rand Paul, 32% Trey Grayson, 3% Roger Thoney, 2% Bill Johnson, 1% Brian Fouglas Oerther

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
39% Dan Mongiardo, 28% Jack Conway, 5% Lillie Miller-Johnson, 2% Darlene Fitzgerald Price,
1% Maurice Marion Sweeney

2010 Governor: General Election
43% Grayson, 39% Conway
48% Grayson, 38% Mongiardo
44% Conway, 39% Paul
43% Mongiardo, 43% Paul

WSJ vs. WSJ on 2009 elections

Topics: 2009 , polls , Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal, 11/3/09:

Republicans Are Poised for Gains in Key Elections
Outcomes in New York, New Jersey and Virginia Are Unlikely to Forecast Much About National Races in 2010, History Shows

Republicans appear positioned for strong results in three hard-fought elections Tuesday. But isolated, off-year contests aren't always reliable indicators of what will happen in the wider federal and state races held in even-numbered years.

Wall Street Journal, 11/4/09:

Republicans Win in Key States

A Republican sweep in Virginia and New Jersey on Tuesday shifted the political terrain against President Barack Obama only a year after his historic election.

PS For the record, the WSJ was right the first time. Despite what the press will tell you, a handful of off-year elections don't tell us much about the "political terrain" facing Obama and the Democrats. As Matthew Yglesias points out, we have these things called "polls" that we can use to measure people's political beliefs and opinions. Perhaps we should consider using those instead.

Update 11/4 11:41 AM: Dave notes in comments on my blog that the first story includes a similar passage about the election potentially revealing "much tougher political terrain," which I missed:

A Republican sweep in Tuesday's key contests would at minimum show that Democrats face much tougher political terrain than they did a year ago.

I'm not sure what the passage means (the metaphor of "political terrain" is not well-defined) but it seems to contradict the lede of the story, which states that off-year elections are not reliable indicators. The point remains that the ledes are in tension (if not in direct contradiction).

It's also worth noting note the contradiction between the election "show[ing]... political terrain" (11/3) and the results actually "shift[ing] the political terrain" (11/4). Maybe it's time to retire the metaphor, which lets reporters vaguely suggest that things have changed without specifying how.

Update 11/4 8:49 PM -- Eric Boehlert at Media Matters has a virtually identical item on the AP's election coverage:

The AP on Tuesday:

To be sure, it's easy to overanalyze the results of such a small number of elections in a few places. The results will only offer hints about the national political landscape and clues to the public's attitudes. And the races certainly won't predict what will happen in the 2010 midterm elections.

The AP on Wednesday:

To be sure, each race was as much about local issues as about firing warning shots at the politically powerful. But taken together, the results of the 2009 off-year elections could imperil Obama's ambitious legislative agenda and point to a challenging environment in midterm elections next year.

(Cross-posted to brendan-nyhan.com)

Election Night Recap, NJ and NY23


I'm headed to bed but here are a couple of snapshots of election night.

First, above, New Jersey then and now. Whatever else you say about the race, Corzine lost support across all regions of the state and by relatively constant amounts. This "uniform swing" shows that he didn't just lose in Rep areas, or Dem areas, or urban centers. The decline in Corzine support was very widespread and quite even. An across the board loss.

In NY23, Hoffman generally outperformed McCain's vote in 2008, but not by enough to take the race. These are based on 87% of precincts reporting, so not quite final data.


Finally, the dynamics of both NJ and NY23 were pretty stable. Despite differences in reporting times from various counties, the margins held pretty constant through the evening.


Since today wasn't exciting enough, President Obama will be in Madison tomorrow, so my day will be pretty well taken up with teaching in the morning and news coverage the rest of the day. I'll leave it to Mark and colleagues to provide the wisdom tomorrow. Happy Election Day Post.

Election Night 2009 Live Blog

Topics: 2009 , Election Night , Liveblog

NY-23: Hoffman 42 Owens 34 (NOM 11/1-2)

National Organization for Marriage* / QEV Analytics
11/1-2/09; 318 likely voters, 5.5% margin of error
Mode: live telephone interviews
(NOM release)

*National Organization for Marriage has endorsed Doug Hoffman for Congress

New York 23rd Congressional District

2009 House: Special Election
42% Hoffman, 34% Owens, 16% Scozzafava (chart)

IL: 2010 Sen (GQR 10/25-28)

Alexi Giannoulias (D) / Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D)
10/25-28/09; 805 likely voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(The Hill post)


2010 Senate
Giannoulias 46%, Kirk 43%
Kirk 48%, Hoffman 39%

2009 Pre-Election Wrap

Topics: 2009 , Accuracy , Maine Question 1 , New Jersey 2009 , New York 23rd District , Virginia

Since 2002 (and probably earlier), you could do pretty well in predicting the outcomes of races for President, Senate, Governor and even the U.S. House by collecting the final polls in each race and averaging them. In fact, in 2008, the final Pollster.com trend estimates and RealClearPolitics averages did as well or better at calling election outcomes as those more "sophisticated" models you heard so much more about last year.

The reason is that while highly variable, the final polls were largely unbiased in the aggregate. Any one poll might be way off from the final result, but the average of all of them usually comes reasonably close to the final result. There have certainly been exceptions in individual states, but in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, the polls looked reasonably accurate once averaged across all states.

We may perceive things differently tonight. First, instead of watching polling across 20 or 30 contests, most of us are focused on just three or four races and for two of these -- New York's 23rd District and the Maine Question 1 -- we have only one or two recent polls to consider.

Second, as  Nate Silver pointed out yesterday, the challenges in some of today's elections -- again, especially Maine and NY-23 -- may be more like what pollsters faced during last year's presidential primaries, where poll averages often missed the mark by wide margins.

Silver also posted a handy comparison of final poll averages in New Jersey elections since 2000 (below), which helps make two important points. First, as he writes, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary there has not been "any particular tendency by Democrats to outperform their numbers once the final polls are in." Second, though usually very close to the result, final poll averages in individual states typically missed the final margin by a few percentage points. So even though our final New Jersey trend estimate is a remarkable 42.0% to 42.0% tie, for example, the final margin will be close but probably not that close.


Which brings me to our final polling-wrap up for 2009. Here's what the final polls and our trend estimates are showing:

  • New Jersey, again, ends up as 42.0% to 42.0% tie on our trend estimate, a contest simply too close to call between Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie, with independent Chris Daggett running far behind at 10.1% and likely falling. My hunch, explained last night, is that Christie prevails.
  • New York's 23rd District special election for Congress was the focus of much speculation over the weekend. The last two polls, both conducted immediately after original nominee Dede Scozzafava withdrew from the race, each had Conservative Doug Hoffman leading Democrat Bill Owens, but by widely different margins (5 and 17 percentage points). Our trend estimate, which has Hoffman leading by 7 points (43% to 36%) also factors in previous polling that showed a closer contest. The ultimate margin is anyone's guess, but my sense is that Hoffman will win comfortably.
  • The outcome of Virginia's race for Governor has never been in much doubt. Republican Bob McDonnell began with a roughly 7-point lead over Democrat Creigh Deeds that never significantly wavered, widening to nine points by Labor Day and ending at our final trend estimate of roughly 14 points (55% to 41%).
  • Ditto for the New York City Mayor's Race. Incumbent Michael Bloomberg led Democratic challenger William Thompson consistently on polling throughout the race, although his lead on our final trend estimate (53% to 39%) is sightly narrower than earlier in the year.
  • And the very few polls on Maine's Question 1, the gay marriage referendum, show a close contest, although as I wrote earlier this afternoon, referenda polling is notoriously error prone. The age composition of the PPP survey seems closer to plausible than the final DailyKos/Research 2000 survey, but beyond that, your guess is probably as good as mine.

Two notes on what's coming up later tonight. First, the consortium of network news organizations (known formally as the National Election Pool or NEP) is conducting exit polls in New Jersey and Virginia tonight. While official results will not begin to appear until the polls close, some early leaked estimates will probably start to bounce around the internet sometime after 6:00 p.m. As I explained at about this time last year (on on most election days since 2004), these are not likely to be much more accurate than the pre-election polls summarized above. Very large grains of salt are in order.

And finally, we will be live blogging here once again tonight. If all goes well, we should be using a more advanced tool that will allow our all-star line-up of contributors (Charles Franklin, Kristen Soltis, Margie Omero, Steve Lombardo and hopefully more) to join in. We hope you'll join us starting at about 6:30 eastern time.

Maine's Question 1: An Overdue Look

Topics: Gay marriage , Maine Question 1 , Referenda

I have to admit that I had been hoping to take a closer look at polling on Maine's Question 1 on Gay Marriage over the weekend, but got distracted by the fuss over the New York 23rd District special election. The polling is difficult to evaluate partly because there has been so little of it. While I have a lot of confidence in our trend estimates in states with large numbers of polls, the small number of polls in Maine (7 total since Labor Dayl) allow for just crude linear trend lines.

Another reason why the Maine polls are difficult to evaluate is that issue referenda polling is so treacherous and prone to error. A 2004 paper by Joe Shipman, then director of election polling for SurveyUSA, showed that polling on ballot measures had triple the rate of error (9.5 average error on the margin) as polls in presidential elections (3.4) and nearly double that of contests for statewide offices (4.6). I summarized the assumed reasons for that greater error rate in a long post four years ago today, but the most relevant to Maine are a greater difficulty modeling the likely electorate and the problem of accurately conveying ballot language.

A particularly painful example followed a few days after that post, when a set of ballot initiatives in Ohio produced some of the biggest polling errors in recent memory. The combination of failing to poll late and not accurately reproducing the actual ballot language were likely culprits.

Let's start with the ballot language in Maine that voters are confronting right now:

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?

So, a "Yes" vote is a vote against gay marriage, and a "No" vote is for gay marriage. Confused? Imagine the uncertainty some Maine voters may be experiencing without that extra bit of explanation. As you can see in the table at the bottom of our chart, only the Pan Atlantic SMS surveys reproduce the actual ballot language -- and nothing else -- while the other pollsters provide a line of explanation to clarify the meaning of "Yes" and "No."

The final round of polling has shown a relatively close race, although results have varied. A survey conducted two weeks ago by Pan Atlantic SMS, shows the No side prevailing by an 11-point margin (53% to 42%), while a Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll conducted late last week shows a dead-heat (No 48%, Yes, 47%) Finally, the Democratic automated polling firm PPP conducted a survey over the weekend that had the Yes side ahead by a not-quite-statistically significant four points (51% to 47%) despite a very large (n=1,133) sample.

Complicating the issue further is that the final poll from PPP differed in both the age of the "likely voters" they selected and the way they interviewed (via an automated, recorded voice methodology). Less than a third of PPP's likely voters (32%) were under age 45, compared to more than half (51%) of the Research 2000/DailyKos survey. Both showed much more support for the No side from younger voters.

On the question of age, the Research 2000 sample was even younger than the Maine exit poll in November 2008 (43% age 18-45) and far younger than in November 2006 (36% age 18-45). Of course, the PPP sample was older than both, but keep in mind that exit poll estimates are sometimes too young.

The question of the automated mode is more complicated. The automated polls conducted by SurveyUSA in California 2008 may have picked up more support for ultimately successful anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 than on live interviewer surveys conducted at the same time. However, the convoluted nature of the timing of the various polls and the final result from SurveyUSA (showing Prop 8 narrowly failing) make it impossible to draw firm conclusions.

So what conclusions can we reach about tonight's outcome in Maine? I have more faith in the age composition of the PPP poll than the one from Research 2000, but given the much larger potential for error in ballot referenda and the close margins on the two final polls, your guess is probably as good as mine.

NC: 2010 Senate (ChangeCongress 10/31-11/1)

Change Congress (D) / Research 2000
10/31-11/1/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Change Congress release)

North Carolina

Favorable / Unfavorable
Richard Burr: 39 / 46 (chart)

Richard Burr is up for re-election in 2010. Do you think he should be reelected
to a new six year term, or is it time for someone new?

21% Re-elect, 45% Someone new

2010 Senate (trends)
Burr 42%, Elaine Marshall 35% (chart)
Burr 43%, Bob Etheridge 35%

US: Obama, Clinton (Rasmussen 10/27-28, 10/30-31)

Obama survey: 10/27-28/09; 1,000 adults, 3% margin of error
Clinton survey: 10/30-31/09; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Rasmussen: Obama, Clinton)


If Barack Obama was up for re-election right now, how likely would you be to vote for him??
45% Very/Somewhat, 49% Not very/Not at all

Has the election of Barack Obama as President had a positive influence on race relations, a negative influence on race relations or has it had no impact?
37% Positive, 30% Negative, 26% No impact

Since Barack Obama was elected President, are you doing better or worse economically?
16% Better, 48% Worse, 32% Same

Obama Job Rating
42% Excellent/Good, 57% Fair/Poor

Favorable / Unfavorable
Hillary Clinton: 54 / 43 (chart)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Clinton as Secretary of State: 59 / 37

Suppose Hillary Clinton had won the Democratic Presidential nomination. Would she be doing a better job as President than Barack Obama, a worse job as President, or about the same?
27% Better, 14% Worse, 49% Same

Would Hillary Clinton have had more influence if she remained in the U.S. Senate instead of becoming secretary of State
35% Yes, 36% No

US: Obama (CNN 10/30-11/1)

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
10/30-11/1/09; 1,018 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)


Obama Job Approval / Disapproval
54% Approve, 45% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 46 / 54 (chart)
Foreign Affairs: 51 / 47 (chart)
Health Care: 42 / 57 (chart)

In general, would you say that President Obama's views and proposed programs for the country are too liberal, not liberal enough, or just about right for the country?
42% Too liberal, 14% Not liberal enough, 44% About right

Do you think the election of Barack Obama has or has not created significant changes in the
country? If yes: Do you think the country has changed for the better or changed for the worse?

40% Change for the better, 27% Change for the worse, 2% Change but not better or worse,
29% No change

All in all, do you think Barack Obama has been a better president than George W. Bush, or do you think Bush was a better president than Obama has been?
57% Obama better. 34% Bush better

And do you think Joe Biden has been a better vice president than Dick Cheney, or do you think Cheney was a better vice president than Biden has been?
54% Biden better, 38% Cheney better

TX: Perry 42 Hutchison 30 (UTexas 10/20-27)

University of Texas / Texas Tribune
10/20-27/09; 800 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
357 likely Republican primary voters, 5.2% margin of error
266 likely Democratic primary voters, 6.1% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(Texas Tribune: story, results)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 41 / 52
Gov. Perry: 36 / 44
Sen. Hutchison: 39 / 27

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
42% Rick Perry, 30% Kay Bailey Hutchison. 7% Debra Medina

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
19% Kinky Friedman, 10% Tom Schieffer, 3% Mark Thompson, 5% Ronnie Earle,
2% Felix Alvarado, .3% Hank Gilbert

2010 Governor: General Election
34% Perry, 33% Generic Democrat, 8% Generic third party
36% Hutchison, 25% Generic Democrat, 9% Third party
36% Perry, 25% Schieffer, 11% Third party
40% Hutchison, 20% Schieffer, 10% Third party
38% Perry, 23% Friedman, 15% Third party
41% Hutchison, 21% Friedman, 12% Third party
38% Perry, 21% Earle, 12% Third party
42% Hutchison, 18% Earle, 10% Third party

If Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison resigns from the senate in order to run for governor and there
is a special election to fill her senate seat, which of the following candidates would you vote for,
or haven't you thought enough about it to have an opinion?

13% David Dewhurst (R), 13% Bill White (D), 10% John Sharp (D), 3% Michael Williams (R),
3% Florence Shapiro (R), 2% Elizabeth Ames Jones (R), 1% Roger Williams

NJ-Gov: 42.0% to 42.0%. Really.

Topics: Chris Christie , Incumbent Rule , IVR Polls , Jon Corzine , New Jersey 2009

With all but perhaps or or two final polls logged, our trend estimate in New Jersey, as of this writing, stands at a 42.0% to 42.0% deadlock between Corzine and Christie, with Chris Daggett falling to 10.1%. That amazingly close result will likely change if we add another poll or two tomorrow, but a shift of a half point or so in either direction will have little meaning. The polling on this race is as close as it every gets, and as our standard trend line (below) shows, has been for the last few weeks.

The bottom line is that our final estimate is too close, in and of itself, to forecast winner. As I noted last Friday, our final estimates for the 2008 election included four states with final Obama-McCain margins that rounded to a percentage point or less. The nominal leader won in two of these states (North Carolina and North Dakota) but lost in two others (Missouri and Indiana).

But wait. Does our standard trend line ignore a last minute trend to Christie, analogous to the presumed movement to Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary? If you use our chart's Smoothing Tool to change to the "more sensitive" setting (as illustrated below), you will see a hint of a trend toward Christie. The Republican challenger's support ticks up slightly (to 42.5% as of this writing), while Corzine's line moves slightly (to 41.4%).   

Intriguing as it seems, given the mix of different methodologies and field periods on our chart, we cannot be sure that the twitch in the more sensitive line represents a real change and not just random noise. The slight move to Christie is because three of the five surveys released today show nominal movement to Christie, while only one shows a nominal shift to Corzine and one shows no change in the margin. I'm not certain of the odds calculation on that outcome, but the probability that it occurred by chance alone is far more than the usual 5% we usually require to say it is statistically significant (using different calculations, Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray reaches a similar conclusion).

Even if real, the 1.1 point margin favoring Christie on the more sensitive trend estimate is still not large enough to characterize the race as "leaning" Christie's way. So, for better or worse, if you are looking for a purely objective, empirical "call" of the New Jersey race, our trend estimates are not much help. The finals snapshot is just too close.

If, on the other hand, you are interested in some purely subjective speculation -- and that's what all of the various predictions of the outcome amount to -- read on.

Let's start with a review of the biggest New Jersey polling puzzle, the consistent difference in results between automated and live interviewer surveys, and then consider what it may imply about two things that polls are least able to measure consistently and accurately: Who will turn out to vote and what voters really mean when they say they are undecided.

The automated-vs-live-interviewer puzzle. As reviewed here on Friday, the three pollsters that use an automated, recorded voice methodology -- SurveyUSA, Rasmussen Reports and PPP -- have produced results consistently better for Christie and worse for Corzine than the other live-interviewer telephone surveys.


As the chart above shows, that difference persists through the final round of surveys released today and late last week. On their final polls PPP, SurveyUSA and Rasmussen have Christie leading by an average of 4 points (46% go 42%) while the three live-interviewer surveys released earlier today by Quinnipiac University, Monmouth University and Democracy Corps had Corzine leading by an average of one point (41% to 40%).

Modeling turnout: Probably the most important result in today's data comes from a single table buried in the cross-tabulations of the poll released by the Democratic-affilliated Democracy Corps. Their poll puts Corzine ahead by the largest margin 41% to 36%. The cross-tab shows that virtually all of Corzine's lead on the Democracy Corps poll comes from voters who did not cast a ballot in the 2005 election (and since Democracy Corps samples from a voter list, this classification is based on actual vote history, not a self-report):

2009-11-02_DemocracyCorpsVote History.png

Among those who voted in 2005 (84% of the Democracy Corps sample), Corzine leads by only a single percentage point (39% to 38%) in the Democracy Corps poll. Among those who have voted in other elections but not 2005 (and every respondent to this poll self-reported having voted in 2008), Corzine leads by more than two-to-one (54% to 26%). Thus the much discussed "all out push" by the Corzine campaign to win over Obama backers.

Corzine backers were cheered today by tabulations on two of the new polls showing the Governor with a significant lead among early voters. SurveyUSA's new poll found 14% had already voted and Corzine led among these voters by 12 points (50% to 38%). Monmouth found half as many early voters (6%) but an even wider Corzine lead among them (51% to 31%). Tantalizing as it is, we will not know until this time tomorrow whether the Corzine campaign is truly mobilizing the new Obama voters from 2008 or whether they are simply getting a lot of hard core Democrats that would have voted anyway to cast their ballots early. If Corzine wins, it will surely be because of this organizations advantage.

Last week, Nate Silver speculated better Corzine performance on automated polls might be due to an effectively "tighter screen" on those surveys:

An automated poll tends to be associated with lower response rates, since an automated script can't do as much a human to coax someone into an interview, and therefore sometimes tends to reach a more enthusiastic set of respondents (in effect, it may serve some of the same functions as a very tight likely voter screen).

Since Republicans tend to be more enthusiastic right now, that may be what's causing the automated polls to be more favorable to them. But since none of us yet know how the enthusiasm gap is going to play out in practice, it would be premature to come to any conclusion about whether the voter universe that Rasmussen and PPP are coming up with is "too tight" or "just right.

Perhaps, although as I noted on Friday, the automated-vs-live-inteviewer gap is significantly smaller in Virginia. On the final round of polls, the lead by Republican Bob McDonnell is only two points greater on the automated polls (56% to 41%) than the last five live interviewer polls.

Either way, my sense is that overall turnout will be driven less by the respective campaign field organizations than by the underlying enthusiasm gap driving voter decisions. It is one thing to help an already enthusiastic voter cast an early ballot. It is something else to convince a complacent voter to get excited about a candidate for whom they have mixed feelings.

Measuring those who are undecided. If you spend time with horse race polling numbers, it doesn't take long to discover that some of the biggest differences among pollsters involve the undecided percentage. One reason is that voters do not fall neatly into "decided" and "undecided" categories. Vote decisions fall along a continuum from completely committed to totally undecided, with most voters falling somewhere in between. The size of the undecided category on a poll may depend on the wording or structure of the question or how hard interviewers pushes for a decision. Automated surveys frequently obtain a smaller undecided percentage, and one reason may be that voters feel less comfortable revealing their "secret ballot" choice with a live interviewer.

Complicating this issue further is that saying "I'm undecided" on a survey may imply something other than total indecision. In a three-way race, it may mean that the voter has decided against voting for one candidate, but has not settled on which of the two alternatives deserves their choice (see some evidence of this sort of uncertainty in the focus group conducted by Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray).

The theory behind the incumbent rule (that I spent a lot of time speculating about in 2004) is that the undecided category swells with voters that have decided against supporting the incumbent but are not yet ready to embrace the challenger.

Over the last eight to ten years, it has been hard to find much evidence of an automatic "break" of undecided voters toward challengers especially in highly competitive races, probably because incumbents have become so much more adept at turning the tables and "going negative" on their opponents.

However, if we take a closer look at the automated-vs-live-interviewer puzzle in New Jersey, we see a pattern that a few years ago I would have treated as clear evidence of the incumbent rule in action. All of the surveys, regardless of their methods, are yielding consistent results for Corzine -- most have him within a point of 42%. But the final automated surveys show a much smaller undecided vote and a consistently higher percentage for Christie (45-47%) than the live interviewer surveys (36-42%). (And NRO's Jim Gerhaghty notices that this pattern extends back to far more surveys than those in the table below).


So what does all this tell us about the too-close-to-call final estimate we are showing for New Jersey? This now nearly three-year-old comment from Republican pollster Neil Newhouse sums up my feeling:

[N]ewhouse noted the example of his client, incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach (Pennsylvania-6), who was in a 44% to 44% tie on their final internal poll conducted a week before the [2006] election. In the "old days," Newhouse said, we would have assumed an easy Murphy victory. However, Gerlach ultimately prevailed (51% to 49%) after a closing with a final television ad featuring a personal appeal by Gerlach that Newhouse credited for the victory. As for the incumbent rule, Newhouse said, "we are seeing a bit of a change, but not much consistency." While he still tends to give challengers the "benefit of the doubt" when incumbents are under 50%, Newhouse believes it is no longer "carte blanche automatic" that the undecided vote on the final poll will all go to the challenger.

All other things being equal -- and 42.0% to 42.0% is about as equal as they get -- I still tend to give a challenger like Christie the "benefit of the doubt" when up against an incumbent like Corzine even though recent examples of the "incumbent rule" are few and far between. That instinct is reinforced by the large number of voters that are either undecided or still leaning to independent Daggett (with Daggett's support falling) and the fact that no matter how hard pollsters appear to push, Corzine does not seem to rise beyond 42%.

So while the empirical evidence says this race is still too close to call, my hunch is that Christie will emerge the narrow victor.

NJ: Corzine 43 Christie 41 (FDickinson 10/22-11/1)

Fairleigh Dickinson / PublicMind
10/22-11/1/09; 1,119 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Fairleigh Dickinson release)

New Jersey

Favorable / Unfavorable
Corzine: 40 / 52
Christie: 39 / 45
Daggett: 29 / 21

2009 Governor
Corzine 43%, Christie 41%, Daggett (vol) 8%

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Corzine: 37 / 52
Pres. Obama: 53 / 37

Editors note: This final release by Fairleigh Dickinson combines results from a survey they released last week (conducted 10/22-10/28) with just n=425 interviews conducted since, for which they have not reported results separately. Since our policy is to include only non-overlapping results, and since this latest release would plot on the end-date of an 11 day field period, we have opted to leave it off of our trend estimate chart.

AR: Approval Ratings (TBQ 10/12-15)

Talk Business Quarterly / The Political Firm (R) / The Markham Group (D)
10/12-15/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Talk Business Quarterly: story, toplines)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 40 / 56
Mike Beebe: 71 / 15
Blanche Lincoln: 42 / 46

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 39 / 59
Gov. Beebe: 79 / 13
Blanche Lincoln: 45 / 45

If the 2010 election was held today, and you had to make a choice, would you vote to re-elect Blanche Lincoln as your United States Senator no matter who ran against her?
25% Yes, 61% No

Maybe the Off-Year Election is Meaningful?

Although everyone from Charlie Cook to the short order cook at Denny's has told us not to "over-interpret" the results of the three off-year elections, our sense is that the opposite may be true: that is, many may be under-interpreting the meaning of a GOP sweep tomorrow. Yes, a lot can and will happen between now and Election Day 2010, but make no mistake: Republicans are likely to sweep all three races tomorrow and that does say something about the direction of the country and voter perceptions of the economy.

Our assessment of the polls suggests that McDonnell will win decisively in Virginia (easy pick), Christie will narrowly take New Jersey (hard pick) and Hoffman will take NY-23rd. While each of these races has its own unique political environment, the collective sweep does tell us a few things from a macro perspective.

  1. Obama is personally popular but voters remain unsure of the effectiveness of his policies. That is why his personal popularity does not necessarily translate into help for either Corzine or Deeds. Poll after poll shows that the President is well-liked but voters are not yet convinced that his policies are moving the country in the right direction.
  2. It's still all about the economy and, to some extent, Democrats are being punished for it. This, of course, can change in the next six months but for now voters are willing to look to Republicans for answers (even with a weak candidate like Christie).
  3. This is what happens when a change election environment comes back to bite you. Democrats were all about change in 2008 but the shoe doesn't fit as well in 2009. Voters are dissatisfied with the direction of the country and they still want some sort of remedy. This was a difficult case for Corzine to make given the fiscal mess in New Jersey but Deeds simply blew it on this measure.

However, things are not all rosy for the GOP. Here are four reasons why Republicans should still worry:

  1. The Republican Party image is in disrepair and this will continue to cast a negative shadow on all of its candidates.
  2. The Democrats own the WH and Congress, so the Party will be the beneficiary of the eventual economic recovery.
  3. The person most identified with the GOP today is Sarah Palin and, given her current image attribute ratings among voters, she is probably unelectable in a general election scenario. The latest WSJ poll had her at favorability rates at 46% negative and just 27% positive.
  4. At this time, there are no tangible brand benefits to voting for a Republican. Certainly there are opportunities (e.g. tough on spending, economic growth without increased taxes and a hard line on terrorism), but until the GOP attaches itself to meaningful solutions to important issues, it will not regain dominance.

New Jersey Governor

Tomorrow will likely validate one of the best truisms in politics: an incumbent will get what s/he polls. In virtually every poll taken, Corzine has been hovering around 40%. It is highly unlikely that his vote share will exceed this number. Voters already know him, and they either like him or they don't like him; there are few, if any, voters who remain undecided on Governor Corzine. The wild card, of course, is third party candidate Chris Daggett. If he gets to 15% then Corzine has a chance. Our analysis of public and private polls has Christie winning narrowly while falling well short of 50% of the vote. We believe Daggett will finish with about 10%, a remarkable showing for a relatively unknown independent candidate. What has kept the race close is the failure of the Christie campaign to define its candidate in a positive way. As Tom Jensen of PPP points out, Corzine will need to win 12% of the vote among voters who have a negative opinion of him. It is probably not going to happen.


Virginia Governor

Last year at this time, pundits were heralding a new era of politics. In their view, Democrats--led by Barack Obama--had reshaped the political map and turned red states into blue states (or, at the very least, purple states). Well that was yesterday. Look! Virginia is red again. Republicans had the better candidate and an aligned electorate. Deeds' campaign has been flailing and unfocused since its hysterical swings at McDonnell over his thesis. Message discipline is key in politics and the Deeds campaign had very little of it.



There isn't much heavy lifting to be done with the polling for this race. We can start by tossing out any polls that began fielding prior to Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava's withdrawal from the race on Saturday. That leaves just two results from the past few hours: Hoffman +17 and Hoffman +5. While Scozzafava has endorsed her Democratic opponent Bill Owens, the lion's share of her votes seem to have found their way to Conservative Doug Hoffman, whose insurgent candidacy from the right has been surprisingly effective. Scozzafava's flame-out is especially interesting in light of the fact that incumbent John McHugh, a relatively moderate Republican, won handily with 63% and 65% of the vote in (respectively) 2006 and 2008. This, in a district Obama won 52% - 47%.

NJ: Corzine 41 Christie 36 (DemCorps 10/29-11/1)

Democracy Corps (D)
10/29-11/1/09; 606 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(DemCorps release)

New Jersey

Favorable / Unfavorable
Corzine: 39 / 47 (chart)
Christie: 35 / 43
Daggett: 16 / 32
Obama: 55 / 28 (chart)

2009 Governor
41% Corzine, 36% Christie, 14% Daggett (chart)

NJ: Corzine 43 Christie 41 (Monmouth 10/31-11/1)

Monmouth University / Gannett
10/31-11/1/09; 722 likely voters, 3.7% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Monmouth release)

New Jersey

2009 Governor
Corzine 43%, Christie 41%, Daggett 8% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Corzine: 40 / 44 (chart)
Christie: 40 / 38
Daggett: 21 / 21

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Corzine: 36 / 54 (chart)

VA: McDonnell 58 Deeds 40 (SurveyUSA 10/30-11/1)

10/30-11/1/09; 574 likely voters, 4.1% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(SurveyUSA release)


2009 Governor
58% McDonnell, 40% Deeds (chart)

NJ: Christie 45 Corzine 42 (SurveyUSA 10/30-11/1)

10/30-11/1/09; 582 likely & actual voters, 4.1% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(SurveyUSA release)

New Jersey

2009 Governor
Christie 45%, Corzine 42%, Daggett 10% (chart)

US: Health Care (Rasmussen 10/30-31)

10/30-31/09; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(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?
42% Favor, 54% Oppose (chart)

If the health care reform plan passes, will the quality of health care get better, worse, or stay about the same?
27% Better, 52% Worse, 15% Same

If the health care reform plan passes, will the cost of health care go up, go down, or stay about the same?
55% Up, 23% Down, 17% Same

FL: 2010 Sen, Gov (St. Petersburg Times 10/25-28)

St. Petersburg Times / Bay News 9 / Miami Herald / Schroth, Eldon & Associates (D) / The Polling Co. (R)
10/25-28/09; 600 registered voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(St. Petersburg Times: 2010, Crist vs Bush)


Job Rating
Gov. Crist: 42% Excellent/Good, 55% Fair/Poor (chart)
Pres. Obama: 46 / 51 (chart)

2010 Senate: Republican Primary
50% Charlie Crist, 28% Marco Rubio (chart)

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary (trends)
26% Kendrick Meek, 6% Maurice Ferre

2010 Governor: General Election
38% Alex Sink, 37% Bill McCollum (chart)

If you could pick between former Gov. Jeb Bush and current Gov. Charlie Crist to lead Florida right now, which one would you choose?
46% Bush, 41% Crist
Republicans: 71% Bush, 22% Crist

Do you approve or disapprove of Charlie Crist's appointment of George LeMieux to replace Mel Martinez in the United States Senate?
33% Approve, 26% Disapprove

NY-23: Hoffman 41, Owens 36 (Siena 11/1)

11/1/09; 606 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Siena: release, crosstabs)

New York 23rd Congressional District

Favorable / Unfavorable
Dede Scozzafava (R): 27 / 48
Bill Owens (D): 37 / 38
Doug Hoffman (C): 47 / 33

2009 House: Special Election
Hoffman 41%, Owens 36%, Scozzafava 6% (chart)

Polling Cap-And-Trade

Topics: Cap and Trade , National Journal column

Since I typically file a column on Friday that runs on Monday, and since NationalJournal.com is focused on the theme of energy policy this week, today's topic is the challenge of polling on a little known public policy issue like Cap and Trade.  Hope you click through.

NYC: Bloomberg 50 Thompson 38 (Quinnipiac 10/29-11/1)

10/29-11/1/09; 1,360 likely voters, 2.7% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)

New York City

2009 Governor
50% Bloomberg, 38% Thompson, 1% Christopher (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
William Thompson: 45 / 21
Michael Bloomberg: 63 / 28 (chart)
Stephen Christopher: 3 / 7

NJ: Christie 42 Corzine 40 (Quinnipiac 10/27-11/1)

10/27-11/1/09; 1,533 likely voters, 2.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)

New Jersey

2009 Governor
42% Christie, 40% Corzine, 12% Daggett (chart)

Daggett voters only: Who is your second choice for governor?
39% Corzine, 29% Christie

Favorable / Unfavorable
Christie: 41 / 40
Corzine: 39 / 53 (chart)
Daggett: 23 / 17

NY-23 Watch - Monday Morning

Topics: Bill Owens , Dede Scozzafava , Doug Hoffman , NY-23 , PPP , Siena Institute

We got two new pieces of polling news last night from New York's 23rd District. The first is the one and only survey from Public Policy Polling (PPP), a firm that does automated surveys for Democratic candidates but also conducts and releases surveys in high profile races like NY-23 as a marketing tool. PPP's poll, also the first conducted since Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava withdrew on Saturday morning, forecasts a different outcome than previous surveys, including the Siena Research Institute poll conducted last week: They show Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman with a huge lead over Democrat Bill Owens -- 17 points (51% to 34%) on a three-way matchup that includes Scozzafava, whose name will remain on the ballot), 16 points on a question that only asked about Hoffman and Owens (54% to 38%).

The second piece of news was a release from the Siena Research Institute announcing that they will release another new poll this morning a little after 9:30 a.m. Eastern time.

The new PPP survey suggests a significant acceleration of the trend evident in other polling including Siena's -- a collapse of Scozzafava's support while Hoffman's vote soars and Owens creeps up slowly. Strictly speaking, Scozzavfava's withdrawal and subsequent endorsement of Owens over the weekend render previous horse race results virtually useless as predictors of the outcome. We are probably best advised to throw out the previous polls (and the trend estimate based on them in the chart above) and simply examine the two post-withdrawal poll we'll have available later this morning.

If the Siena results are consistent with PPP, this discussion will be mostly academic. The Siena and PPP surveys use very methodologies, and given Charles Franklin's analysis of the last Siena survey on Saturday, I would not be surprised to see their update produce a closer result than PPP. I will update this post accordingly when we have those results.

UPDATE: Surprise, surprise, the Siena results show Hoffman narrowly ahead of Owens, but by a smaller, five-point margin (41% to 36%) than PPP, with Scozzafava getting only 6% of the vote and 18% undecided. With 606 interviews, that margin is not quite statistically significant given the usual 95% confidence interval.

Given that Siena uses a classic random digit dial (RDD) sample and live interviewers, while PPP uses a voter list sample and an automated recorded-voice method, some are going to want to ignore the PPP results and focus on the large number of undecided voters (18%) in the Siena survey. Even Siena pollster Steven Greenberg is arguing that Hoffman might not have the advantage going into tomorrow's election since "most voters are not political junkies like I am and didn't know" as of yesterday, that Scozzafava had endorsed Owens.

Apologies to my Democratic friends for the pessimism, but I don't see it. First of all, even if we focus only on the Siena survey, the crosstabs offer little hope of a decisive rebound among those undecided as of last night. Scozzafava's rating among the undecided is 28% favorable, 22% unfavorable, while half (50%) have no opinion. In case it's not obvious: If a voter doesn't like Scozzafava by now, there's not much chance her endorsement of Owens will mean much to them.

Keep in mind that before asking who they would support, the Siena question informed every voter that while Scozzafava's name would remain on the ballot she has "suspended her campaign" and "released those individuals supporting her campaign to transfer their support as they see fit." As such, nearly two-thirds (65%) of those still planning to vote for her say they are "absolutely certain" about their choice with "no chance I will change my mind."

Among the undecided, the ratings of Owens and Hoffman are similar, although Hoffman's negatives are slightly higher (by a margin that is far from statistically significant):

  • Owens - 26% favorable, 20% unfavorable, 54% don't know
  • Hoffman - 24% favorable, 25 unfavorable, 51% don't know

The overriding message from the big "don't know" numbers among the undecided is that most are not likely to vote. None of these numbers suggests a late, decisive break toward Owens.

There's also the matter of the trend. Scozzafava's withdrawal accelerated the trend to Hoffman's that was already quite strong. On the Siena surveys, for example, Hoffman's vote has increased from 16% to 23% to 35% to 41% on four surveys conducted since October 1. Count me as skeptical that the six-point bump in Hoffman's support seen in last night's poll fully captured the benefit to Hoffman from Scozzafava's departure.

And then, finally, we come back to the PPP poll and its bigger Hoffman margin. Rather than go on at length (again) about the differences between random digit dial (RDD) samples and voter lists and about the trade-offs between live interviewers and an automated method, let's consider it this way: Both are blunt instruments for sampling adults, selecting "likely voters" and measuring their preferences. Neither can be considered a gold-standard, a true random sample that perfectly covers, models or represents those who will vote tomorrow.

However, my experience conducting surveys for political campaigns, especially in Congressional districts in non-presidential year races, taught me the value of the vote history available on registered voter lists. More often than not, surveys I helped conduct based on such lists came closer representing the true likely electorate than media RDD samples which, like the Siena survey, disclose little to nothing about their likely voter screen or demographic composition.

Add to that the potential advantages of a self-administered automated survey in getting voters to provide more honest answers about whether they plan to vote and who they plan to vote for, and I find it difficult to ignore the PPP results. Hoffman looks like he's headed to a comfortable victory.

VA: McDonnell 56 Deeds 42 (PPP 10/31-11/1)

Public Policy Polling (D)
10/31-11/1/09; 1,457 likely voters, 2.6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


2009 Governor
McDonnell 56%, Deeds 42% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Deeds: 39 / 45
McDonnell: 55 / 35

ME: Marriage (PPP 10/31-11/1)

Public Policy Polling (D)
10/31-11/1/01; 1,133 likely voters, 2.9% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


Question 1 for the upcoming Maine Referendum Election reads '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?' Do you intend to vote yes or no on Question 1, which would undo the law that lets same sex couples marry?
51% Yes, 47% No (chart)

NJ: Christie 47 Corzine 41 (PPP 10/31-11/1)

Public Policy Polling (D)
10/31-11/1/09; 994 likely voters, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

New Jersey

2009 Governor
Christie 47%, Corzine 41%, Daggett 11% (chart)

Is your second choice for Governor Chris Christie or Jon Corzine? (Asked only of Daggett voters)
Corzine 45%, Christie 36%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Chris Christie (R): 43 / 42
Jon Corzine (D): 34 / 58 (chart)
Chris Daggett (i): 24 / 35

Job approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 45 / 45 (chart)

NY-23: Hoffman 51-Owens 34 (PPP 10/31-11/1)

Public Policy Polling (D)
10/30-11/01/09; 1,747 likely voters, +/- 2.3% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP blog entry and release)

New York 23rd Congressional District

2009 House: Special Election
51% Hoffman, 34% Owens, 13% Scozzafava (chart)
54% Hoffman, 38% Owens (on 2-way choice question)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Bill Owens (D): 35 / 45
Doug Hoffman (C): 50 / 37
Dede Scozzafava (R): 31 / 52

NJ: Christie 43 Corzine 42 (Monmouth 10/28-30)

Monmouth University / Gannett
10/28-30/09; 1,041 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Monmouth release)

New Jersey

2009 Governor
Christie 43%, Corzine 42%, Daggett 8% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jon Corzine: 39 / 49 (chart)
Chris Christie: 44 / 36
Chris Daggett: 22 / 22

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Corzine: 35 / 55 (chart)

VA: McDonnell 53 Deeds 41 (MasonDixon 10/28-29)

Mason-Dixon / Richmond Times-Dispatch
10/28-29/09; 625 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Times-Dispatch article)


2009 Governor
53% McDonnell, 41% Deeds (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 43 / 43 (chart)

VA: McDonnell 53 Deeds 40 (YouGov 10/27-30)

10/27-30/09; 742 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(YouGov release)


2009 Governor
McDonnell 53%, Deeds 40% (chart)

NJ: Corzine 43 Christie 41 (YouGov 10/27-30)

10/27-30/09; 780 likely voters, 4.4% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(YouGov release)

New Jersey

2009 Governor
Corzine 43%, Christie 41%, Daggett 8% (chart)

Scozzafava'd 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Jon Lerner shares his take on Scozzafava's departure from his CFG sponsored poll.

Micah Sifry proposes a way for Chris Daggett to overcome fear of wasted voting; 55,000+ (as of this hour) take the Daggett Pledge.

Jennifer Agiesta says Deeds is underperforming outside NoVA.

Tom Jensen says even Obama ran better in rural VA; finds Corzine will need 17% from NJ voters who don't like him.

Anthony Salvanto and Mark Gersh drill down on NY-23.

Charlie Cook sees no bellwethers in the 2009 races.

Stuart Rothenberg sums up the outlook for 2009.

Chris Bowers unveils his 2009 election forecast and debuts his National House Ballot monitor.

Jim Geraghty ponders the undecideds in New Jersey.

Ben Smith chronicles the role of pollster Joel Benenson in the Corzine campaign.

Sarah Dutton breaks down Obama's approval slide.

Gallup presents five key realities of public opinion and health care reform.

Frank Luntz releases another health care strategy memo (via Lundry); Brian Beutler summarizes.

Nicholas Thompson says the NBC/WSJ polls shows Americans have different health priorities than Obama.

Alex Bratty sees GOP opportunity amidst low trust in government.

Tom Schaller outlines a general theory of Democratic disgruntlement.

Steve Benen has his usual fun with the Fox News polls.  

Tom Edsall expands on the Hart Research findings that average people don't see government stimulus helping them.

Bloomberg/Selzer says investors still fear Rout in Stocks.

Josh Tucker finds factoid in SUSA tabs: Corzine hits 50% among Springsteen fans.

Flowing Data puts cell size in perspective (the other kind of cell size).

And Ana Marie Cox explains "scozzafava'd."