November 29, 2009 - December 5, 2009


Market Research Trends for 2010

Anyone interested in research trends should read Jane Mount's Ten Trends for 2010 here.

The research industry, of which polling is a subset, is changing rapidly and there are a number of fast moving trends at work.

Mount's are:

In-Sourcing: Client side market research functions stretch budget by using suppliers less and internal resources more.

Global Studies: The market research industry is a prime example of how the world is shrinking. More and more projects are now multinational. Eventually our project teams will be globally dispersed to work the 24 hour global clock and to provide global analytical perspective. Parenthetically, Guam is the perfect location for Eastern US companies looking to work the 24 hour global clock with dispersed staff.

Rise MROCs: Sometimes called HOC (hosted online communities), these market reseach online communities are rapid insight generators and will put pressure on traditional focus groups. Think of them as an ongoing focus group-forum online among a company's consumer segments.

Decline of traditional focus groups: See above.

No More CYA Surveys: All too common in corporate America, the post-decision validator survey may not survive budget tightening.

The need for higher quality online panels: Online panels are a wonderful tool for surveying niche audiences, but are panelists being burned out? Panel quality is a big initiative for the industry moving forward.

Client Desire for Innovation: Will the industry take advantage of new tools?

Data Mining: I agree with Mount here, but think the real opportunity for data mining is with the client's existing datasets and purchase records.

Triangulation vs. Perfection: Mount argues that RDD is no longer the gold standard and that mixed mode research is the future. She's right about mixed mode.

Death of Survey Research: Here Mount is joking. But she does think it will be scaled back, losing ground to MROCs, qualitative, data mining etc. Long term, perhaps. But, I can't agree on that one.

Overall, an excellent take on an industry in flux, and fairly close to my thinking about where the industry is headed.

Global Attitudes on Global Innovation

For a look at global survey data that is both fascinating and a window on things to come, I highly recommend reviewing the NEWSWEEK-Intel Global Innovation Survey of 4,800 adults in the US, China, Germany and the UK. It was conducted this fall and can be found here.

Key points:

1. The Chinese are more optimistic (twice as optimistic!) than Americans themselves about America staying ahead of the curve on innovation.

2. Where do Americans place the blame? American schools. 42% say the problem is that American schools are offering an inadequate product when it comes to math and science. This eclipses direct government support for innovation (17%), US corporate investment (16%), and current American workers lacking tech skills (11%).

This leads me to believe that at some point very soon a renewed and intense post-Sputnikesque focus on math and science education will erupt in the United States.

3. For an interesting look at what each country views as its weaknesses, a plurality of American parents feel their children will need math and computer skills to drive innovation, but Chinese parents think their children will need creative problem solving skills.

4. Finally, 53% of American parents of teenagers admit that they have difficulty helping their children with math and science homework.

US: Afghanistan (Rasmussen 12/2-3)

12/2-3/09; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


Overall, how would you rate President Obama's handling of the situation in Afghanistan?
16% Excellent, 21% Good, 25% Fair, 36% Poor

Do you favor or oppose the President's proposal to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan?
53% Favor, 30% Oppose

Do you favor or oppose the President's commitment to a timetable that would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in 18 months?
47% Favor, 41% Oppose

Overall, do you favor or oppose President Obama's new plan for the war in Afghanistan?
37% Favor, 38% Oppose

Some people say that we need to send more troops to Afghanistan, others say we need to begin reducing the number of troops we have in Afghanistan. Which approach do you prefer?
50% Send more troops, 35% Reduce number of troops, 5% No change

In terms of U.S. national security, how important is the situation in Afghanistan?
53% Very, 30% Somewhat, 12% Not very, 3% Not at all

Was the War in Afghanistan an appropriate response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks?
67% Yes, 21% No

Abramowitz: A Note on the Rasmussen Effect

Topics: Automated polls , House Effects , IVR Polls , job approval , Measurement , Rasmussen

Alan I. Abramowitz is the Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also a frequent contributer to Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball.

In his recent post, Mark Blumenthal provides an excellent discussion of some of the possible explanations for the differences between the results of Rasmussen polls and the results of other national polls regarding President Obama's approval rating. What needs to be emphasized, however, is that regardless of the explanation for these differences, whether they stem from Rasmussen's use of a likely voter sample, their use of four response options instead of the usual two, or their IVR methodology, the frequency of their polling on this question means that Rasmussen's results have a very disproportionate impact on the overall polling average on the presidential approval question. As of this writing (December 4th), the overall average for net presidential approval (approval - disapproval) on pollster.com is +0.7%. The average without Rasmussen is +7.1%. No other polling organization has nearly this large an impact on the overall average.

A similar impact is seen on the generic ballot question reflecting, again, both the divergence between Rasmussen's results and those of other polls and the frequency of Rasmussen's polling on this question. The overall average Democratic lead on pollster.com is 0.7%. However, with Rasmussen removed that lead jumps to 6.7%. Again, no other polling organization has this large an impact on the overall average.

According to Rasmussen, Republicans currently enjoy a 7 point lead on the generic ballot question among likely voters. Democracy Corps, the only other polling organization currently using a likely voter sample, gives Democrats a 2 point lead on this question. To underscore the significance of this difference, an analysis of the relationship between popular vote share and seat share in the House of Representatives indicates that a 7 point Republican margin of victory in the national popular vote next November would result in a GOP pickup of 62 seats in the House, giving them a majority of 239 to 196 over the Democrats in the new Congress. This would represent an even more dramatic shift in power than the 1994 midterm election that brought Republicans back to power in Congress. In contrast, a 2 point Democratic margin in the national popular vote would be expected to produce a GOP pickup of only 24 seats, leaving Democrats with a comfortable 234 to 201 seat majority.

One of the biggest problems in trying to compare Rasmussen's results with those of most other polls is that Rasmussen is almost alone in using a likely voter sample to measure both presidential approval and the generic ballot. Moreover, Rasmussen has been less than totally open about their method of identifying likely voters at this early stage of the 2010 campaign, making any evaluation of their results even more difficult. However, there is one question on which a more direct comparison of Rasmussen's results with those of other national polls is possible--party identification. Although the way Rasmussen asks the party identification question is somewhat different, reflecting its IVR methodology, Rasmussen's party identification results, like almost all other national polls, are based on a sample of adult citizens. Despite this fact, in recent months Rasmussen's results have diverged rather dramatically from those of most other national polls by showing a substantially smaller Democratic advantage in party identification. For example, for the month of November, Rasmussen reported a Democratic advantage of only 3 percentage points compared with an average for all other national polls of almost 11 percentage points.

Rasmussen's party identification results have only a small impact on the overall average on this question because they only report party identification once a month. However,
Rasmussen's disproportionately Republican adult sample does raise questions about many of their other results, including those using likely voter samples, because the likely voters are a subsample of the initial adult sample. If Rasmussen is starting off with a disproportionately Republican sample of adult citizens, then their likely voter sample is almost certain to also include a disproportionate share of Republican identifiers. Of course, there is no way of knowing for certain whether Rasmussen's results are more or less accurate than those of other polling organizations. All we can say with some confidence is that their results are different and that this difference is not just attributable to their use of a likely voter sample.

US: Afghanistan (CNN 12/2-3)

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
12/2-3/09; 1,041 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)


Obama Job Approval
48% Approve, 50% Disapprove (chart)

Do you disapprove because you think his policies and actions since he became
president have been too liberal, or because you think his policies and actions have not been liberal enough?

48% Approve (From previous question)
40% Disapprove, too liberal
8% Disapprove, not liberal enough
2% Disapprove, unsure on question 2

Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?
46% Favor, 51% Oppose

Regardless of how you feel about the war in general, do you favor or oppose President Obama's plan to send about 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in an attempt to stabilize the situation there?
62% Favor, 36% Oppose

President Obama also announced that he plans to start removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in the summer of 2011. Thinking specifically about that policy and not about Obama's decision to announce it at this time, do you favor or oppose Obama's plan to start removing troops from Afghanistan in 2011?
66% Favor, 32% Oppose

And regardless of how you feel about the plan to start removing troops in 2011, do you think it was a good idea or a bad idea for Obama to announce that policy at this time?
39% Good idea, 59% Bad idea

And just your best guess -- do you think conditions in Afghanistan will or will not be good enough in the summer of 2011 for the U.S. to start removing troops?
33% Conditions will be good enough, 61% Conditions will not be good enough

Whose policies do you blame for the problems that the U.S. is currently facing in Afghanistan -- the policies of George W. Bush or the policies of Barack Obama?
64% Bush, 17% Obama, 18% Both/Neither

And if the current situation facing the U.S. in Afghanistan does not improve by the summer of 2011, whose policies would you blame for that -- the policies of George W. Bush, or the policies of Barack Obama?
54% Obama, 34% Bush, 12% Both/Neither

DE: Approval Ratings (PPP 11/30-12/2)

Public Policy Polling (D)
11/30-12/2/09; 571 likely voters, 4.1% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Markell: 40 / 31 (chart)
Sen. Carper: 44 / 31 (chart)
Sen. Kaufman: 24 / 22 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Dems in Congress: 42 / 46
Reps in Congress: 24 / 57

NV: Lowden 51 Reid 41 (MasonDixon 11/30-12/2)

Las Vegas Review Journal / Mason Dixon
11/30-12/2/09; 625 likely voters, 4% margin of error
300 likely Republican primary voters, 6% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(LVRJ: story, results)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary (trends)
Sue Lowden 25%, Danny Tarkanian 24%, Sharron Angle 13%, Bill Parson 1%, Robin Titus 1%,
Mike Wiley 1%, John Chachas 1% Mark Amodei 1%, Chuck Kozak 0%

2010 Senate: General Election
Tarkanian 48%, Reid 42% (chart)
Lowden 51%, Reid 41% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Harry Reid: 38 / 49 (chart)
Sue Lowden: 33 / 13
Danny Tarkanian: 32 / 12

US: National Survey (Kos 11/30-12/3)

DailyKos.com (D)/ Research 2000
11/30-12/3/09; 2,400 adults, 2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 52 / 41 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 41 / 50
Harry Reid: 30 / 59
Mitch McConnell: 16 / 67
John Boehner: 14 / 65
Democratic Party: 42 / 53
Republican Party: 25 / 65

State of the Country
39% Right Direction, 58% Wrong Track (chart)

SC: Sanford Impeachment (Rasmussen 12/2)

12/2/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

South Carolina

Job Approval Disapproval
Gov. Sanford: 43 / 56

Should Mark Sanford resign as Governor?
41% Yes, 42% No

If Sanford does not resign, should he be impeached and removed from office?
36% Yes, 49% No

Is Mark Sanford more ethical than most politicians, less ethical than most politicians, or about as ethical as most politicians?
12% More ethical, 26% Less ethical, 54% About as ethical

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jenny Sanford: 64 / 21

US: Afghanistan (Gallup 12/2)

USA Today / Gallup
12/2/09; 1,005 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(USA Today article, Gallup release)


As you may know, President Obama has decided to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by 30,000 while also setting a timetable that calls for the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops from that country in 2011. In general, do you favor or oppose the plan?
51% Favor, 40% Oppose

What is your view of sending 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan -- do you think that number is too high, about right, or too low?
36% Too high, 18% Too low, 38% About right

Which comes closest to your view about setting a timetable for beginning to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2011?
21% Agree with timetable
26% Should start withdrawing troops sooner
46% Too soon to set a timetable

USA Today:

By 51%-40%, those surveyed say they favor the plan Obama outlined. On specific elements, however, there is little consensus:

• Thirty-eight percent call the decision to deploy 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan "about the right number." Nearly as many, 36%, say that is too many additional troops, and 18% say it's too few.

• Just one in five agree with the timetable to begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011. Nearly half, 46%, say it's too soon to set a timetable, and one in four say troops should begin coming home before then.

An overwhelming majority worry that the costs of the war will make it more difficult to deal with problems closer to home. By nearly 3-1, 73%-26%, those surveyed say they are worried about that. A third describe themselves as "very worried."


Topics: Pollster.com

It's a change long overdue, but as some of you may have noticed this morning, the "analysis" posts on our blog now feature topic tags (such as the "Pollster.com" tag on this entry below my name above this paragraph). Other posts will feature a list of the topics they discuss. Click to tag link to see a list of previous posts on that subject. 

Since this entry's tag is not particularly interesting, you might want to clicking try a few of these: likely voters, automated polls, cell phones. We have also "back-tagged" all of the analytical blog posts I have written, and most of those from other authors, going back to through all of 2008. Hopefully, these topic tags will make it easier to find what you're looking for on Pollster.com

Please note that we have not yet applied tags to any of the "poll update" posts. The main reason is to avoid forcing someone interested in analysis pieces on a particular pollster (Rasmussen, for example) to have to through a very long list of poll updates to find what they're looking for.

As with any such change, this one may introduce some bugs we need to iron out. If you stumble on any, please don't hesitate to email us and describe the problem. And a big "thank you" to Emily whose hard work made the new feature possible.

AR: 2010 Sen (Kos 11/30-12/2)

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
11/30-12/2/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Blanche Lincoln: 41 / 50
Bill Halter: 36 / 25
Gilbert Baker: 31 / 25
Curtis Coleman: 29 / 24
Tom Cox: 28 / 23
Kim Hendren: 30 / 24
Mike Beebe: 64 / 24
Mark Pryor: 48 / 38
Barack Obama: 42 / 55

2010 Senate: General Election
42% Lincoln (D), 41% Baker (R)
44% Lincoln (D), 39% Coleman (R)
45% Lincoln (D), 31% Cox (R)
46% Lincoln (D), 30% Hendren (R)
42% Baker (R), 34% Halter (D)
40% Coleman (R), 35% Halter (D)
36% Halter (D), 32% Cox (R)
36% Halter (D), 31% Hendren (R)

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
42% Lincoln, 26% Halter

Do you favor or oppose creating a government-administered health insurance option that anyone can purchase to compete with private insurance plans?
53% Favor, 41% Oppose

US: Young Americans (Harvard 11/4-16)

Harvard / Knowledge Networks
11/4-16/09; 2,087 18-29 year olds, 2.2% margin of error
Mode: internet
(Harvard: release, toplines)


Obama Job Approval / Disapproval
58% Approve, 39% Disapprove
Health Care: 44 / 52
Federal Budget Deficit: 38 / 58
Afghanistan: 41 / 55
Economy: 44 / 52
Iran: 42 / 53

Job Approval / Disapproval
Dems in Congress: 48 / 49
Reps in Congress: 35 / 62

Among those who did anything to support Barack Obama in addition to voting:
Thinking ahead, how likely is it that you will engage in similar activities in 2012 for Barack Obama?
85% Very/Somewhat, 13% Not very/Not at all

Which comes closer to your opinion about what Congress and the President should do regarding health care reform this year?
48% They should continue trying to pass a major reform of the health care system
30% They should stop trying to pass a major reform this year and instead work on passing a more limited version
22% They should leave health care reform for another time

Now I'd like to ask you about some of the specific proposals being considered to address health care. Would you favor or oppose:

Requiring that all Americans have health insurance, with the government providing financial help for those who can't afford it:
60% Favor, 37% Oppose

A government health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans:
57% Favor, 39% Oppose

Requiring insurance companies to sell health coverage to people, even if they have pre-existing medical conditions:
76% Favor, 20% Oppose

Requiring employers to pay into a government health care fund if they do not provide health insurance to their employees:
63% Favor, 33% Oppose

Raising taxes on families with incomes of more than $350,000 as a way to pay for changes to the health care system:
59% Favor, 37% Oppose

Limits on the amount of money that patients can collect in medical malpractice lawsuits.
57% Favor, 39% Oppose

Would you favor or oppose a decision by President Obama to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan?
31% Favor, 66% Oppose

DE: 2010 Sen (PPP 11/30-12/2)

Public Policy Polling (D)
11/30-12/2/09; 571 likely voters, 4.1% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 53 / 41 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Beau Biden: 43 / 35
Mike Castle: 55 / 28

2010 Senate
45% Castle, 39% Biden (chart)

Do you support or oppose the health care bill passed in the House of Representatives a few weeks ago?
43% Support, 46% Oppose

AR: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 12/1)

12/1/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 34 / 65
Gov. Beebe: 70 / 28

2010 Senate
Kim Hendren (R) 46%, Blanche Lincoln (D) 39%
Gilbert Baker (R) 47%, Blanche Lincoln (D) 41%
Curtis Coleman (R) 44%, Blanche Lincoln (D) 40%
Tom Cox (R) 43%, Blanche Lincoln (D) 40%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Hendern: 41 / 19
Lincoln: 43 / 52
Baker: 40 / 19
Coleman: 37 / 22
Cox: 41 / 19

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?
32% Somewhat/Strongly favor, 64% Somewhat/Strongly oppose

US: Place in the World (Pew 10/28-11/8)

Pew Research Center
10/28-11/8/09; 2,000 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
10/2-11/16/09; 642 members for the Council on Feoreign Relations
Mode: Internet and Live telephone interviews
(Pew: release, methodology)



The general public and members of the Council on Foreign Relations are apprehensive and uncertain about America's place in the world. Growing numbers in both groups see the United States playing a less important role globally, while acknowledging the increasing stature of China. And the general public, which is in a decidedly inward-looking frame of mind when it comes to global affairs, is less supportive of increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan than are CFR members.

In polling conducted before President Obama's decision to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, both groups expressed pessimism about prospects for long-term stability in Afghanistan. Fewer than half of the public (46%) and CFR members (41%) say it is very or somewhat likely that Afghanistan will be able to withstand the threat posed by the Taliban. While half of the CFR members (50%) favor increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan, just 32% of the public agrees.

In the midst of two wars abroad and a sour economy at home, there has been a sharp rise in isolationist sentiment among the public. For the first time in more than 40 years of polling, a plurality (49%) says the United States should "mind its own business internationally" and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.

Electronic Bingo! 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

A 60 Minutes CBS News/Vanity Fair poll finds only 26% of Americans say they can "confidently explain what exactly the public option is to someone who didn't know" (via PoliticalWire).

Mark Murray and Jeanne Cummings report on a Peter Hart focus group on Obama.

Steve Singiser finds Democrats suffering a big enthusiasm gap; Kos, Chris Good, Eric Kleefeld, Steve Benen, Josh Marshall, and Joe Gandelman add more; Singiser digs deeper.

Jennifer Agiesta posts tag clouds on how Republicans, Democrats and independents assess the Republican party.

Frank Newport explains weighted and unweighted N sizes.

Tom Jensen finds Republicans leading among independents in six statewide 2010 races, but thinks Harry Reid's position may not be as bad as it looks.

David Hill thinks healthcare is the deeply personal sort of issue that could be realigning.

Mark Mellman considers passing health care reform a matter of political survival for Democrats.

Alex Gage says Americans want incremental health reform.

Nicholas Thompson sees challenges for Obama in the USA Today/Gallup poll.

Morley Winograd and Michael Hais find Millennials increasingly restive on the economy (via Soltis).

Tom Schaller plots state unemployment by Obama's 2008 margin.

Karl Rove examines polls on 2010 Senate races.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara shares lessons from the "No on 1" campaign in Maine.

Chris Bowers and Nate Silver debate whether electoral trouble for Democrats is good news for progressives.

Andrew Gelman and JunkCharts share thoughts on "climategate."

Rachel Dodes warns of methodological shortcomings in holiday sales forecasts.

An automated pollster discloses the number of telephone numbers dialed and times of dialing (via Lundry).

The American Revolution Center surveys Americans and finds poor knowledge of the American Revolution (via Miller).

Alabama loves electronic bingo!

NY: Same-Sex Marriage (Marist 11/16-17)

11/16-17/09; 805 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Marist release)

New York

Do you favor or oppose legalizing same-sex marriage in New York State?
51% Favor, 42% Oppose

Obama's Speech and Afghanistan Approval

Topics: Afghanistan War , Approval Ratings , Barack Obama , Priming

Will President Obama's speech last night, announcing that he will send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan now and start withdrawing American forces by July 201, turn public opinion in his favor? We will know better in a week or two, after Americans absorb the news and the usual suspects conduct another round of polls, but the short term prospects look bleak.

The Washington Post's Dan Balz shares the assessment of Duke political scientist Peter Feaver, who analyzed public opinion on the Iraq War for the Bush White House:

[Feaver] said that as Obama begins his effort to sell the new strategy, he is in a far stronger position politically than Bush was when he announced the surge policy in January 2007. But Feaver said mixed signals during the decision-making process forced Obama "to do a sharp pivot back" toward escalation, complicating his task of rallying public opinion.

NBC's Chuck Todd also points out this morning that "most Commanders-in-Chief get at least a temporary boost in the polls after delivering a major primetime address on matters of war and peace." I'm not sure if that is true. As John Sides argued in September, presidential addresses rarely move their approval ratings, and Matthew Dowd, the chief strategist for the Bush campaign in 2004, reminds us today that Bush "gave speech after speech when Iraq was going south, and they had no lasting effect." But what Todd is probably thinking about are speeches like the one Bush gave immediately after September 11, 2001, when he rallied the nation behind the "war on terror," or speeches made by both Bushes during the run-ups toward their respective Iraq Wars. The 9/11 attacks and the impending Iraq wars served to increase their popularity.

The difference in those cases is that the political leadership of both parties rallied in support of both presidents. Today, as Todd explains, "no one is happy." Democrats are expressing opposition to the troop increase, Republicans are speaking out against Obama's deadline for withdrawal.

More important, the public has been shifting sharply against the Afghan War and toward disapproval of Obama's handling of it. Surveys conducted in November show approval of Obama's handling of the War declining below 40%, significantly lower than his overall approval rating and lower, as Gallup reports, than for any other issue they tested. Gallup shows a 21 percentage point decline in Obama's Afghanistan approval since July. The recent CBS News survey shows Obama's approval on this issue down six points since September and down twenty points since April (via Sussman).


One reason why Obama's Afghanistan numbers are lower is that many Democrats do not approve. His Afghanistan approval rating among Democrats has fallen to just 57% on the CBS News survey and 54% on the USA Today/Gallup poll. Meanwhile, the CBS News survey tells us that as of mid November, only 17% of Democrats wanted to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, 21% want to keep the number as it is now and 48% want to decrease the number of troops. A recent Gallup poll yielded very similar results. So his approval rating among Democrats on this issue could fall further.

What all these results tell us is that the most likely impact of last night's speech will be downward pressure on Obama's overall job approval rating if only because of a phenomenon political scientists call "priming." All the stories on the Afghanistan speech will prime the importance of an issue that is an Obama weakness, so for the next few days, expect Obama's overall approval rating to fall slightly, even if the speech helps bump his Afghanistan approval numbers up a few points.

But say what you will about this president and his Afghanistan policy, even Obama understands that the policies he announced last night are likely to create a negative response. "I am painfully clear that this is politically unpopular," Obama reportedly told group of political columnists yesterday. "Not only is this not popular, but it's least popular in my own party. But that's not how I make decisions." He continued (via Ambinder): "If I were basing my decisions on polls, then the banking system might have collapsed and you probably wouldn't have GM or Chrysler, and it's not clear that the economy would be growing again."

For further reading: CBS pollster Sarah Dutton compares American's attitudes on Afghanistan in 2009 with their views on Iraq in 2007. ABC News pollster Gary Langer reviews the risks for Obama in Afghanistan, the prices paid by previous wartime presidents and opinions on the case that Obama is making on the threat from terrorism. Gallup's Frank Newport summarizes public opinion on the Afghanistan War.

UT: 2010 Sen (Deseret 11/19-23)

Deseret News / KSL-TV / Dan Jones & Associates
11/19-23/09; 408 adults, 4.9% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Deseret News: 2010 Sen, Obama)


U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett has seved 18 years in office. Bennett is running for re-election next year. Do you believe Bennett should eb re-elected, or is it time to give someone new a chance to serve?
27% Re-elect Bennet, 58% Give someone new a chance, 7% Depends on who runs

2010 Senate
31% Bob Bennett (R), 14% Sam Granato (D), 5% Cherilyn Eagar (R), 4% Tim Bridgewater (R), 4% Fred Lampropoulos (R), 3% Mike Lee (R), 1% James Russell Williams III (R)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 38 / 60
Congress: 27 / 70

US: Obama Approval (Gallup 11/20-22)

USA Today / Gallup
11/20-22/09; 1,017 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


Obama Job Approval / Disapproval
Energy Policy: 49 / 35
Terrorism: 45 / 47
Global Warming: 44 / 36
The Economy: 44 / 53 (chart)
Health Care: 40 / 53 (chart)
Creating Jobs: 40 / 55
The situation in Afghanistan: 35 / 55

US: Diversity (USANetwork 10/30-11/4)

USA Network / Hart Research Associates (D) / Public Opinion Strategies (R)
10/30-11/4/09; 1,614 adults, 2.8% margin of error
Mode: Internet & Live telephone interviews
(USA Network: press release, toplines, racial/ethnic group crosstabs)


USA Network Release:

"With the country on the verge of becoming a minority majority population by 2050, the survey shows Americans have mixed feelings about the population's increasing diversity. Only 25% see America's diversity as a clear-cut strength and advantage. Merely five percent say that race relations are no longer a problem in the USA. Overall, Americans, across party lines, think that gays and lesbians and Muslims experience prejudice most frequently; followed by immigrants.

According to the poll, there is plenty of blame to go around for the lack of unity in the country. Americans blame both Republicans and Democrats in Congress for doing more to divide the country than unite it, and four in ten people say that elected officials spend too little time addressing prejudice and intolerance. A majority of Americans (55%) see President Obama as a figure of unity rather than divisiveness. Parents are clearly viewed at the people best able to reduce prejudice, discrimination and intolerance, but they are also seen as falling down on the job."

Why Is Rasmussen So Different?

Topics: Automated polls , House Effects , IVR Polls , job approval , Measurement , Rasmussen

Hardly a week goes in which I do not receive at least one email like the following:

Although I really appreciate you continually adding this "outlier" poll for your aggregated data, I do wonder why Rasmussen polling numbers are ALWAYS significantly lower and different than every other poll when measuring the President's job approval rating (with the exception of Zogby's internet poll)? How do Rasmussen pollsters explain this phenomenon and, more importantly, what is your explanation for this statistically significant ongoing discrepancy between Rasmussen and pretty much every other poll out there?

We have addressed variants of this question many times, but since this questions is easily the most frequently asked via email, it is probably worth trying to summarize what we've learned in one place.

Let me start with this reader's premise. Are Rasmussen's job approval ratings of President Obama typically lower than "every other poll?" The chart that follows, produced by our colleague Charles Franklin, shows the relative "house effects" for organizations that routinely release national polls based on the approval percentage. Rasmussen's Obama job approval ratings (third from the bottom) do tend to be lower than most other polls, but they are not the lowest.


Before reviewing the reasons for the difference, I want to emphasize something the chart does not tell us. The line that corresponds with the zero value is NOT a measure of "truth" or an indicator of accuracy. The numeric value plotted on the chart represents the average distance from an adjusted version of our standard trend line (it sets the median house effect to zero, producing a line that is usually within a percentage point of our standard trend line). Since that trend line is essentially the average of the results from all pollsters, the numbers represent deviations from average. Calculate house effects using a different set of pollsters, and the zero line would likely shift.

A related point: Readers tend to notice the Rasmussen house effect because their daily tracking polls represent a large percentage of the points plotted on our job approval chart. For the daily tracking polls released by Rasmussen and Gallup Daily, we plot the value of every non-overlapping release (every third day). As of last week, Gallup Daily and Rasmussen represent almost half (49%) of the points plotted on our charts (each organization claims 24% each). As such, their polls do tend to have greater influence on our trend line than other organizations that poll less often (see more discussion by Charles Franklin, Mike McDonald and me on the consequences of the greater influence of the daily trackers).

So why are the Rasmussen results different? Here are the three possible answers:

1) LIkely voters - Of the twenty or so pollsters that routinely report national presidential job approval ratings, only Rasmussen, Zogby and Democracy Corps routinely report results for a population of "likely voters." Of the pollsters in the chart above, PPP, Quinnipiac University, Fox News/Opinion Dynamics and Diageo/Hotline report results for the population of registered voters. All the rest sample all adults. Not surprisingly, most of the organizations near the bottom the house effect chart -- those showing lower than average job approval percentages for Obama -- report on either likely or registered voters, not adults.

Why does that matter? As Scott Rasmussen explained two weeks ago, likely voters are less likely to include young adults and minority voters who are more supportive of President Obama.

2) Different Question - Rasmussen also asks a different job approval question. Most pollsters offer just two answer categories: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president?" Rasmussen's question prompts for four: "How would you rate the job Barack Obama has been doing as President... do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the job he's been doing?"

Scott Rasmussen has long asserted that the additional "somewhat" approve or disapprove options coax some respondents to provide an answer that might otherwise end up in the "don't know" category. In an experiment conducted last week and released yesterday, Rasmussen provides support for that argument. They administered three separate surveys of 800 "likely voters, each involving a different version of the Obama job approval rating: (1) the traditional two category, approve or disapprove choice, (2) the standard Rasmussen four-category version and (3) a variant used by Zogby and Harris, that asks if the president is doing an excellent, good, fair or poor job. The table below collapses the results into two categories; excellent and good combine to represent "approve," fair and poor combine to represent "disapprove."


The 4-category Rasmussen version shows a smaller "don't know" (1% vs. 4%) and a much bigger disapprove percentage (52% vs 46%) compared to the standard 2-category question. The approve percentage is only three points lower on the Rasmussen version (47%) than the traditional question (50%). As Rasmussen writes, the differences are "consistent with years of observations that Rasmussen Reports polling consistently shows a higher level of disapproval for the President than other polls" (make of this what you will, but three years ago, Rasmussen argued that the four category format explained a bigger "approve" percentage for President Bush).

We can see that Rasmussen does in fact report a consistently higher disapproval percentage for President Obama by examining Charles Franklin's chart of house effects for the disappprove category. Here the distinction between Rasmussen, Harris and Zogby -- the three pollsters that ask something other than the traditional two-category approval question -- is more pronounced.


The Rasmussen experiment shows an even bigger discrepancy between the approve percentage on the two-category questions (50%) and the much lower percentage obtained by combining excellent and good (38%). This result is similar to what Chicago Tribune pollster Nick Panagakis found on a similar experiment conducted many years ago (as described in a post last year).

Variation in the don't know category also helps explain the house effects for many of the other pollsters. The table below shows average job approval ratings for President Obama by each pollster over the course of 2009 (through November 19). It shows that smaller don't know percentages tend to translate into larger disapproval percentages. With live interviewers and similar questions, the differences are usually explained by variations in interviewer procedures and training. Interviewers that push harder for an answer when the respondent is initially uncertain obtain results with smaller percentages in the don't know column.


3) The Automated Methodology - Much of the speculation about the differences involving Rasmussen and other automated pollsters centers on the automated mode itself (often referred to by the acronym IVR, for interactive voice response). Tom Jensen of PPP, a firm that also interviews with an automated method, offered one such theory earlier this year:

[P]eople are just more willing to say they don't like a politician to us than they are to a live interviewer because they don't feel any social pressure to be nice. That's resulted in us, Rasmussen, and Survey USA showing poorer approval numbers than most for a variety of politicians.

Other commentators offer a different theory, neatly summarized recently by John Sides, who speculates that since automated polls "generate lower response rates" than those using live interviewers, automated poll samples may "[skew] towards the kind of politically engaged citizens who are more likely to think and act as partisan[s] or ideologues," even after weighting to correct demographic imbalances.

A lack of data makes evaluating this theory very difficult. Few pollsters routinely release response rate data (and even then, technical differences in how those rates are computed makes comparisons across modes challenging). And, as far as I know, no one has attempted a randomized controlled experiment to test Jensen's "social pressure" theory applied to job approval ratings.

But that said, it is intriguing that the bottom five pollsters on Franklin's chart of estimated house effects on the approval rating all collect their data using surveys administered without live interviewers: Rasmussen and PPP use the automated telephone methodology and Harris, Zogby and You/Gov Polimetrix survey over the Internet (using non-probability panel samples). Of course, with the exception of YouGov/Polimetrix, these firms also either interview likely or registered voters, use a different question than other pollsters, or both.

As such, it is next to impossible to disentangle these three competing explanations for why the Rasmussen polls produce a lower than average job approval score for President Obama, although we can make the strongest case for the first two.

P.S.: For further reading, we have posted on the differences between Rasmussen and other pollsters in slightly different contexts here, here and here and on my old MysteryPollster blog here, here and here. Also be sure to read Scott Rasmussen's answer last week to my question about how they select likely voters. Finally, Charles Franklin posted side-by-side charts showing the Obama job approval house effects for each pollster last week; he has posted similar house effect charts on house effects on the 2008 horse race polls here, here, here and here.

US: Religion & Politics (Pew 8/11-27)

Pew Research Center / Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
8/11-27/09; 4,013 adults, 2% margin of error
Survey B: 8/20-27/09; 2,003 adults, 2.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)


As I name some groups, please tell me whether you feel each one is generally FRIENDLY toward religion, NEUTRAL toward religion, or UNFRIENDLY toward religion? (asked of Survey B only)

The Democratic Party:
29% Friendly, 39% Neutral, 22% Unfriendly

The Republican Party:
48% Friendly, 29% Neutral, 12% Unfriendly

Hollywood and the makers of movies:
11% Friendly, 34% Netural, 47% Unfriendly

News reporters and the news media:
14% Friendly, 42% Neutral, 35% Unfriendly

The Obama administration:
37% Friendly, 36% Neutral, 17% Unfriendly

12% Friendly, 42% Neutral, 35% Unfriendly

MI: 2010 Gov (Mitchell 11/17-24)

Mitchell Research and Communications
11/17-19,22-24/09; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Detroit News article, RCP post)


2010 Governor: Republican Primary
Mike Cox 27%, Pete Hoekstra 24%, Mike Bouchard 12%, Tom George 3%, Rick Snyder 3%

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
John Cherry 49%, Andy Dillon 8%

2010 Governor: General Election
Cox 47%, Cherry 31%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Cox: 47 / 21
Cherry: 26 / 23

NC: 2010 Sen Primary (Marshall 11/23-24)

Public Policy Polling (D) for Elaine Marshall
11/23-24/09; 667 likely Democratic primary voters, 3.8% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(News & Observer post)

North Carolina

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
Elaine Marshall 42%, Kenneth Lewis 7%, Cal Cunningham 5%

Young Voters, One Year Later

Topics: Abortion , Barack Obama , Economic Issues , Federal Spending , Gay marriage , job approval , Republican Party , Unemployment , Young Voters

Last November, young voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama over John McCain by a 2 to 1 margin and broke heavily for the Democratic Party, leading many strategists and pollsters (myself included) to believe that long-term damage had been done to the GOP's standing with a new generation of voters. Columnists began writing the Republican Party's obituary; Democrats cheered while stunned Republicans asked "what now?"

But a year is a long time. With Obama's approval ratings having fallen dramatically since he took office and with Republican victories in VA and NJ statewide elections, both states that Obama had won a year earlier, the question now is: is the GOP back?

I would argue "not yet", and that has quite a bit to do with young voters. Bear in mind that young voters made up woefully slim portions of these off-year electorates (9% in NJ, 10% in VA, compared to 17% and 21% in 2008 respectively).

These groups were also less friendly to the GOP candidates. Exit polls showed Chris Christie won every age group except 18-29 year olds, who broke for Corzine 57-36. (It is a remarkable credit to the McDonnell campaign that they won 18-29 year olds by 10 points, though that margin is slimmer than his overall 16-point victory.)

Young voters have not come back to the GOP and there hasn't been a major effort to win them back. For those who are focused on the short-term fortunes of the Republican Party, young voters seem an irrelevant distraction. It's also easy to dismiss these margins as inevitable. But 18% of the electorate breaking 2 to 1 for your opponent creates a steep uphill climb to victory no matter how you slice it.

Remember, while the conventional wisdom is that young voters are "always" more Democratic, that's definitely not the case; take a look at Patrick Fisher's excellent work on the age gap. He notes that young voters were the strongest supporters of Reagan:

"Dividing the electorate by age into 18-34, 35-64, and 65 and older age groups demonstrates that younger voters tend to vote differently from the rest of the population, but not necessarily more Democratic. In every presidential election from 1960-1976 the 18-34 age group was the most Democratic age group, but in the presidential elections from 1980-1992 the 18-34 age group was the most Republican age group."

Young voters today are still leaning more Democratic and this still presents a problems to the GOP's long term hopes of reassembling a majority coalition. Young voters remain the group that gives Obama his highest approval ratings, and his decrease in approval among voters 18-29 has been only 13 points from January to November, compared to 19 points among voters 30-49.

Even young Republicans nowadays themselves differ from older Republicans. For those young people who do call themselves Republicans or Republican leaners, Washington Post's Jennifer Agiesta finds that there's a greater willingness to want to keep working with Obama, as well as an ideological gap between old and young Republicans. She finds that pluralities of young Republicans think the GOP needs to talk more about the environment (44%), federal spending (57%), illegal immigration (55%), economy and jobs (60%), and - perhaps surprisingly - same-sex marriage (33%).

Yet on a handful of the issues (including the controversial social issues), the Washington Post poll can be described in a number of ways that can seem contradictory. For instance, it is perfectly accurate to say that more young voters than older voters think the GOP focuses too much on abortion. (26% of 18-34 say abortion is focused on "too much", compared to 15% of those 65+) It is also perfectly accurate to say that more young voters think the GOP is not focused enough on abortion (34%) than those who say it is talked about too much (26%). To win young voters, do you talk about it more or talk about it less?

Not to mention the fact that this question doesn't convey how these young Republicans actually stand on these issues; 33% of young Republicans saying the party should focus more on gay marriage doesn't necessarily mean those 33% think the party should fight harder against gay marriage.

I've posted here before about the age gap on the social issues. But what I find more interesting in the data set in Agiesta's piece are the crosstabs about the economic issues. Want to find a way to unify the age groups? Take a look at the economy and jobs, where 60% of Republican voters 18-34, 61% of Republican voters 35-64, and 59% of Republican voters 65 and up all say the Republican Party should focus more on the economy. How about federal spending? With 57% of young Republicans saying the GOP focuses too little on spending (60% overall), it seems to me that the fiscal and economic issues are really where the heart of the potential is for the Republican Party to win these voters back without getting tripped up in the GOP's generation gap.

Beyond the high unemployment rates affecting young Americans, there are other polls have shown why young voters are so focused on spending and the economy. In July, Zogby found that only 18% of voters 18-29 think they are going to see social security checks one day. Young voters understand that growing entitlement spending is creating a long term nightmare for their generation and that high deficits will wind up being on their tab when the bill finally comes due. Winning back young voters starts with the economic issues, and though young voters have not returned to the GOP, the opportunity is ripe for the party to speak to their concerns.

One year later, young voters are still giving Obama a chance and have not returned to the GOP. But the Republican Party now has an opening on issues that do not create an age rift in the party: spending and the economy. It will be up to GOP leadership to take this opportunity and invite young voters to join a Republican majority coalition in greater numbers. Young voters are not lost to the GOP forever, but proactive steps need to be taken to capitalize on the opportunity to drive an economic message.

States: Approval Ratings (SurveyUSA 11/20-22)

11/20-22/09; 600 adults/state, 4% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(links to all results are available here)

Job Approval / Disapproval

Pres. Obama: 38 / 59
Sen. Shelby: 54 / 37
Sen. Sessions: 55 / 36
Gov. Riley: 59 / 38

California (charts)
Pres. Obama: 53 / 38
Sen. Feinstein: 45 / 46
Sen. Boxer: 43 / 47
Gov. Schwarzenegger: 20 / 78

Pres. Obama: 38 / 58
Sen. Brownback: 57 / 30
Sen. Roberts: 57 / 31
Gov. Parkinson: 48 / 32

Pres. Obama: 38 / 58
Mitch McConnell: 43 / 52
Sen. Bunning: 37 / 54
Gov. Beshear: 39 / 55

Missouri (charts)
Pres. Obama: 38 / 58
Sen. Bond: 47 / 44
Sen. McCaskill: 48 / 48
Gov. Nixon: 44 / 46

New York (charts)
Pres. Obama: 53 / 39
Sen. Schumer: 60 / 30
Sen. Gillibrand: 35 / 45
Gov. Paterson: 24 / 67

Pres. Obama: 47 / 47
Sen. Wyden: 51 / 40
Sen. Merkley: 40 / 43
Gov. Kulongoski: 39 / 53

Virginia (charts)
Pres. Obama: 37 / 60
Sen. Webb: 45 / 49
Sen. Warner: 52 / 43
Gov. Kaine: 45 / 51

Washington State
Pres. Obama: 48 / 48
Sen. Murray: 47 / 45
Sen. Cantwell: 46 / 42
Gov. Gregoire: 33 / 63

US: Latino Voters (LatinoDecisions 11/1-16)

Latino Decisions / University of New Mexico - Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center / impreMedia
11/1-16/09; 1,000 Latino registered voters, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Latino Decisions release)


What do you think is the most important issue that President Obama, and the Congress should address over the next year? (open-ended)
32% Health care, 22% Fixing rhe economy, 17% Immigration reform, 9% War in Iraq/Afghanistan, 7% Unemployment/Jobs, 1% Housing/Mortgages, 1% Education reform/Schools

Job Approval / Disapproval
Congress: 52 / 37
Pres. Obama: 74 / 23

With all the different issues the Congress and President must address, how important do you think it is that they should pass a bill on immigration reform before the 2010 congressional election?
23% Extremely, 39% Very, 22% Somewhat, 8% Not too, 4% Not at all

With all the different issues the Congress and President must address, how important do you think it is that they should pass a bill on health care reform before the 2010 congressional election?
33% Extremely, 40% Very, 13% Somewhat, 7% Not too, 5% Not at all

Between the two issues of immigration reform and health care reform, which one is more
important for Congress and the President to address, in your opinion?

20% Immigration, 67% Health care reform

When it comes to health care, do you think the Federal government should ensure that all people have health insurance, even if it means raising taxes, or do you think we should continue with the current health care system?
61% Universal health care, 28% Continue current system

One of the proposals offered to change healthcare would create a public option--a government run health plan that would compete with private insurance so that people could choose between public and private options. Which of the following best describes your view of the public option plan?
41% Strongly support, 33% Somewhat support, 7% Somewhat oppose, 14% Strongly oppose

thinking again about the current health care debate in Washington, D.C. How much do you
think the public officials take into account the health care needs of the Latino/Hispanic community when considering reforms? Is it...

14%^ Very much, 36% Somewhat, 26% Not too much, 18% Not at all

If the Congress and President do pass a health reform bill, do you think anyone living in this country should be eligible to buy or receive health care, or should it be restricted to only American citizens and legal residents?
67% Anyone eligible, 25% Only citizens and residents

Young and Amic: Polling on fuzzy issues like healthcare reform- You can't measure what doesn't exist

Topics: health care , Health Care Reform , Question wording

Cliff Young is Senior Vice President at Ipsos Public Affairs. Cliff is head of the Public Sector practice and responsible for the Ipsos McClatchy poll. Aaron Amic is Vice President at Ipsos Public Affairs and is responsible for analytics for the Ipsos McClatchy Poll.

When the definitive history of the 2009 healthcare reform debate is written, one footnote will read how varied, even contradictory, the polls had been. We see this now. Indeed, on any given day, different people can cite different polls and come to very different conclusions. "Americans are in favor of healthcare reform-no, wait, they are against it!"

It goes without saying that given this uncertainty, cherry picking of polls has been rife on both the right and the left. Democrats prefer to cite polls on the "public option" which has consistently shown strong majority support. Republicans, on the other hand, point to polls on general support for healthcare reform-most showing only a plurality.

At a methodological level, pollsters have been grappling with this dilemma as well. The original debate centered around the variability of question wording and its effect on levels of support. The overriding question was-what is the ideal healthcare question, if even such a thing exists?

More recently, the debate has shifted to explaining the differences between generic healthcare questions and more specific ones referring to the "public option". The controversy lies in the differential levels of support-generic questions have shown only plurality support, while specific questions referring to the "public option", show majority support. The consensus explanation is that the healthcare debate is quite distant from people's day-to-day lives and so their answers are "uninformed"-in methodological speak, a classic case of "non-attitudes."

Both lines of reasoning have their merit. However, we believe that they miss the mark because they assume that polling on healthcare reform is analogous to polling on presidential elections. In our opinion, it isn't.

Indeed, in presidential elections, our job as pollsters is made easy with ballot questions being basically fixed after the primaries. Simply put, we know which candidates will be running. This, in turn, all but defines our ballot question for us.

In contrast, issues like healthcare reform are quite fuzzy as no bill typically exists at the beginning of the process. This makes the construction of a single question impossible if not simply disingenuous.

Put another way, we have no "true value" to measure against- no concrete bill exists (or at least did not exist until recently). You can't measure what doesn't exist!

The problem is most apparent when looking at generic questions on healthcare[1]. Such questions are broadly worded and lack any concrete anchor. People, consequently, can (and do) read into them what they want, making their meaning variable. To illustrate our point let's look at table 1 below.


The above question shows that only a plurality (34%) of Americans support healthcare reform (or at least the proposals in Congress). Simple Conclusion: Americans do not support healthcare reform.


However, a simple follow up question shows that about a quarter (25%) of those that oppose the reform bills actually think the proposals "do not go far enough" (see table 2 above)! This same 25% actually is much more likely to be Democrat and more likely to support the public option. People, once again, read into the question what they want.

In contrast, questions which refer to "the public option" and other specific policy measures can introduce greater certainty into the ballot question, helping to establish a clear reference point for people (See table 3 below). However, once again, such questions are nothing more than hypothetical as we do not know a priori which items will (and will not) be included.


So what are our takeaways here? What does polling on American healthcare reform teach us about polling on non-electoral policy issues involving the legislative process?

First, polling on healthcare reform is quite different than polling on presidential elections because our "true value" is not fixed. This makes the construction of singlequestions impossible and misleading. Such issues are, well, fuzzy and, therefore, only a multiple indicators approach will tell the entire story-some generic, some specific questions. Here triangulation is key.

Second, genericquestions should be used with caution. At the least, they should include a follow up question in order to determine why people favor or oppose healthcare reform. We only included such a follow up after struggling with interpreting the results.

Are such generic questions valid at all? We think they are but with caveats.

Indeed, before the final bill, such questions seem to be nothing more than a measure of optimism about the reform process, much like "right track, wrong track" questions. Looking forward to a final bill, we do expect that such generic questions will become relevant. Only then will they have a "true value" to be measured against.

Third, questions which reference specifics like the "public option" are hypothetical and have to be understood as such. Indeed, without a final bill, they should be used more for sensitivity analysis than anything predictive-which policy measures garner more support, which ones less so. While such questions say nothing about "general support for healthcare reform," they do help us understand which measures are more (and less) likely to be in the final bill as politicians read polls too.

To this end, we have tracked specific items for most of the healthcare debate. Here we understood that healthcare reform would be fundamentally a debate about the role of government (or lack thereof). All of our items fall along a government intervention continuum. In our experience, polling on "fuzzy" issues places a premium on understanding the underlying value cleavages related to the policy debate at hand. At its essence, healthcare reform is a debate about the proper role of government.

Fourth, from an analytical perspective, the combination of generic and specific (hypothetical) questions makes total sense. They allow us to be both predictive as well as diagnostic with our clients but only make sense when used together.

Fifth, from a media polling perspective, the combination of general and specific ballot questions is much less tidy than a single "up or down" measure and, thus, more complicated to explain. Looking forward to future non-electoral legislative reform debates, we, as an industry, need to do better in explaining these complexities.

[1] Examples of some questions recently fielded:

Ipsos wording: As of right now, do you favor or oppose the healthcare reform proposals presently being discussed?

ABC wording: Overall, given what you know about them, would you say you support or oppose the proposed changes to the health care system being developed by Congress and the Obama administration?

AP-GFK wording: In general, do you support, oppose or neither support nor oppose the health care reform plans being discussed in Congress?

PEW wording: As of right now, do you generally favor or generally oppose the health care proposals being discussed in Congress?

CBS wording: Do you mostly support or mostly oppose the changes to the health care system proposed by Barack Obama, or don't you know enough about them yet to say?

WI: 2010 Gov (PPP 11/20-22)

Public Policy Polling (D)
11/20-22/09; 767 likely voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Tom Barrett (D): 31 / 21
Mark Neumann (R): 16 / 27
Tommy Thompson (R): 38 / 45
Scott Walker (R): 30 / 25

2010 Governor (trends)
Barrett 41%, Neumann 39%
Barrett 46%, Thompson 41%
Barrett 40%, Walker 40%

Can Palin Win?

Topics: National Journal column , Sarah Palin , Washington Post

My column for this week looks at what polls have to say about Sarah Palin's potential support should she choose to run for president in 2012. The short version: while she will face significant skepticism about her qualifications in a general election contest, her base of support among Republicans makes her a potentially formidable candidate for the Republican nomination.

I filed my column before the holiday last week, so I did not see the national survey of Republicans published today (story, data, graphics ) by The Washington Post.  Their coverage includes a sidebar article on Palin that reports these findings:

Overall, 18 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents cited her as the person most representative of the party's core values, the highest percentage among prominent Republican figures. Among those who regularly listen to Limbaugh, however, Palin was cited by 48 percent, and among Beck's viewers, it was 35 percent, far surpassing others.

The pattern held when Republicans considered their possible choices for 2012. Palin led other Republicans, but with the support of just 17 percent. Forty-five percent of regular Limbaugh listeners said they would vote for her if their state's primary or caucus were held today, however, as did a third of those who regularly tune in to Beck's radio or television programs.


Almost half of all Republican and GOP-leaning independents alike said they think Palin has had a good effect on their party, compared with 20 percent who think she has had a negative effect. Eighty percent of Limbaugh listeners and 70 percent of Beck viewers said she has had a positive impact.

Again, Palin is not the first choice for a majority of Republicans in 2012, but she has a devoted base of support -- a good thing to start with in a multi-candidate primary election.

US: Republicans (Post 11/19-23)

Washington Post
11/19-23/09; 485 Republicans, 4% margin of error*
319 Republican-leaning independents, 5% margin of error*
*Results reported for Reps and lean Reps combined
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Post: story, results)


If the 2012 Republican presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, for whom would you vote?
17% Sarah Palin, 10% Mike Huckabee, 9% Mitt Romney, 7% John McCain, 2% Newt Gingrich, 2% Bobby Jindal, 1% Ron Paul, 1% Rudy Giuliani, 1% Tim Pawlenty

How do you personally feel about the Obama administration's policies
1% Enthusiastic, 9% Satisfied, 43% Dissatisfied, 46% Angry

How do you personally feel about the policies offered by the Republicans in Congress
7% Enthusiastic, 50% Satisfied, 35% Dissatisfied, 6% Angry

In your view, is the leadership of the Republican Party currently taking the party in the right direction or in the wrong direction?
49% Right Direction, 42% Wrong Direction

With Democrats in control of Congress and the presidency: in general, do you think the Republicans should mainly work with the Democrats to try to get some Republican ideas into legislation or should mainly work to stop the Democratic agenda?
56% Work with Democrats, 41% Work to stop Democratic agenda
On the health care system: 23% Work with Dems, 77% Try to stop changes
On energy policy: 49% Work with Dems, 46% Try to stop changes

Do you think Republican candidates for office should take only conservative positions on issues or do you think it is OK to have Republican candidates take moderate positions on some issues?
27% Only conservative, 69% Moderate OK

Thinking about the Republican Party in general and not just the people in Congress, for each issue area I name, please tell me if you think the party in general puts too much emphasis on the issue, too little emphasis on the issue, or about the right amount?
Second amendment gun rights: 16% Too much, 33% Too little, 50% Right amount
Same-sex marriage: 27% Too much, 32% Too little, 38% Right amount
Abortion: 23% Too much, 34% Too little, 42% Right amount
Federal spending: 11% Too much, 60% Too little, 28% Right mount
Taxes: 11% Too much, 44% Too little, 44% right amount
The environment: 14% Too much, 38% too little, 47% Right amount
Illegal immigration: 9% Too much, 61% Too little, 29% Right amount
The economy and jobs: 3% Too much, 60% Too little, 36% Right amount

Thinking about Republican leaders today - which one person best reflects the core values of the Republican Party?
18% Sarah Palin, 13% John McCain, 7% Mike Huckabee, 6% Mitt Romney, 4% Newt Gingrich
2% Rush Limbaugh
(others got 1% or less)

For each group I name, please tell me whether you think television news tends to be biased in favor of that group, biased against that group, or is even-handed in its reporting on that group.
The Republican Party: 6% In favor, 73% Against, 18% Even-handed
The Democratic Party: 74% In favor, 6% Against, 17% Even-handed
The Obama administration: 74% In favor, 7% Against, 16% Even-handed

Thinking now about Sarah Palin, do you think she has a good effect on the Republican Party, a bad effect on the party or hasn't made a difference either way?
46% Good effect, 20% Bad effect

US: Terrorism Trials (Gallup 11/20-22)

11/20-22/09; 1,017 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


As you may know, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has described himself as the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He is scheduled to face trial in New York City. Just your opinion, do you think it would better to have his trial in New York City or better to have it somewhere else?
42% New York City, 51% Somewhere else

Do you think it would be better to hold Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's trial in a civilian criminal court or a military court?
36% Criminal Court, 59% Military Court

How likely do you think it is that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be found guilty?
71% Very likely
20% Somewhat likely
4% Not too liekly
2% Not at all likely

How concerned are you that a trial will give Khalid Sheikh Mohammed publicity to further his cause
34% Very concerned
25% Somewhat concerned
21% Not too concerned
18% Not at all concerned

If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is found guilty, do you think he should or should not get the death penalty?
77% Should, 18% Should not

US: National Survey (Kos 11/22-25)

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
11/22-25/09; 2,400 adults, 2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Rasmussen release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama 53 / 40 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 41 / 51
Harry Reid: 31 / 59
Mitch McConnell: 15 / 68
John Boehner: 13 / 66
Democratic Party: 43 / 52
Republican Party: 24 / 66

State of the Country
40% Right direction, 57% Wrong track (chart)

US: Health Care (Rasmussen 11/28)

11/28/09; 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?
41% Favor, 53% Oppose (chart)

If the health care reform plan passes, will the quality of health care get better, worse, or stay about the same?
18% Better, 50% Worse, 25% Same

If the health care reform plan passes, will the cost of health care go up, go down, or stay about the same?
56% Up, 17% Down, 19% Same

US: Health Care (Ipsos 11/19-22)

Ipsos / McClatchy
11/19-22/09; 1,176 adults, 2.9% margin of error
ModE: Live telephone interviews
(Ipsos release)


As of right now, do you favor or oppose the healthcare reform proposals presently being discussed?
34% Favor, 46% Oppose (chart)

If opposed: You said you are opposed to the healthcare reform proposals presently being discussed. Is that because...
25% You favor healthcare reform overall but think the current proposals don't go far enough to reform healthcare
66% You oppose healthcare reform overall and think the current proposals go too far in reforming healthcare

If favor: You said you are in favor of the healthcare reform proposals presently being discussed. Is that because...
78% You favor healthcare reform overall and think the current proposals go far enough to reform healthcare
10% You oppose healthcare reform overall and think the current proposals being discussed will keep healthcare reform from happening

Do you favor or oppose...

Creation of a single payer system in which the government controls the entire healthcare insurance system:
22% Favor, 72% Oppose

Creation of a public entity to directly compete with existing health insurance companies:
52% Favor, 36% Oppose

Legislation to permit the creation of insurance co-operatives NOT run by the government:
57% Favor, 31% Oppose

Specific regulations to ensure basic patients' rights, such as portability of coverage.
76% Favor, 13% Oppose

Party ID
35% Democrat, 24% Republican, 41% independent (chart)

US: Health Care (Gallup 11/20-22)

11/20-22/09; 1,017 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


Would you advise your member of Congress to vote for or against a healthcare bill this year, or do you not have an opinion?
44% For, 49% Against, 7% No opinion (chart)

Obama Job Approval: Health Care
40% Approve, 53% Disapprove (chart)