December 20, 2009 - December 26, 2009


Christmas Eve 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature , pollster.com

Gallup says 78% identify as Christian.

ABC News asks the country what it wants for Christmas.

Rasmussen finds 66% rate Christmas our most important holiday.

Zogby finds 39% less in the mood to celebrate the holidays this year.

The Marist Poll finds 23% have no problem with re-gifting.

And in non-holiday news...

Frank Newport reacts to David Axelrod's comments on health care polling.

Mark Mellman does not expect a health care bump.

Bruce Drake says health care polls don't tell the whole story.

Michael Barone compares health reform to the Kansas Nebraska Act.

Chris Bowers thinks it's obvious when Lieberman's favorable rating took a hit.

The Census Bureau releases new population estimates; Rich Cohen and Reid Wilson have more in the likely impact on Congressional reapportionment.

Dale Kulp, rest in peace.

Some housekeeping notes: Emily and I will be taking some time off next week, so the pace of blogging and updates will slow considerably here until after the New Year. Hopefully, the pace of poll releases will slow as well. I will update the Obama job approval chart to the extent that the daily trackers release new data (Gallup Daily, for example, did not update today and will not update again until Saturday), and post roundups of new releases and 'outlier' links as warranted. Happy Holidays to all!

On Being a Wikipedia, Not a Google

Topics: Charts , House Effects , Pollster.com , Strategic Vision

Reader DG emails with a reaction to my column and accompanying post on Monday about Strategic Vision LLC:

I am a huge fan of your work and deeply appreciative of all the effort you and your staff have put into making pollster.com one of the best political sites on the Internet.

I do have to confess, though, to being deeply disturbed by the debacle with Strategic Vision. The fact is that there have been problems with the shop for years, yet little attention was paid, even while respectable bloggers (such as electoral-vote.com) made the call in 2004 to stop reporting SV's numbers as they were consistently, and suspiciously, pro-GOP. SV appears to me to be a very bald-faced effort to gratuitously influence national and local debates through nefarious means, and could have seriously damaged the reputation pollsters have worked so hard to build over the preceding decades. Even worse, Strategic Vision was enabled by people who damn well should have known better, like yourself.

Your site is a one-stop shop for journalists, pundits, Administration officials, etc. and anything that gets reported by you is magnified because of that. Moreover, these people do not have the time or training to effectively evaluate polls. As such, you have a responsibility to ensure methodological rigor is adhered by the pollsters whose results you report, and you must begin to call out anything from consistently being an over-the-top outlier to having an uncommonly large (such as Kaiser) or uncommonly small (Fox) party ID spread. I am not even saying to stop reporting polls like Kaiser or Fox, simply make it clear that there are methodological hang-ups with the data that your readership should be aware of. Your "general philosophy" of reporting results as long as the pollster "purports" to adhere to methodological basics is at best lazy, at worst, dangerous. Like it or not, websites such as yours have become such powerful aggregators of information that you must impose some kind of control to limit the ability of the mendacious and malicious from having an undue influence. You must be a Wikipedia, not a Google.

I agree with DG's general argument: Sites like ours need to do more to help readers evaluate individual pollsters and their methods. That was the spirt of the three part series I wrote in August titled, "Can I Trust This Poll," and the reason why I want to use our site to actively promote better methodological disclosure by pollsters.

That said, I'll cop to "lazy" in just one respect: On Monday, I gave short shrift to our "general philosophy." I combines two goals, (1) making all poll results available and (2) providing an informed and critical context -- through interactive charts and commentary -- for understanding those results. The best examples are the interactive tools we built into our interactive charts (the "filter" tool and the ability to click on any point and "connect the dots" for that pollster) to make it easy to compare the results for any individual pollster to the overall trend. We have also devoted considerable time to commentary on pollster house effects both generally and for specific pollsters (like Rasmussen).

I'll also take issue with the idea that we "damn well should have known better" with respect to Strategic Vision. The evidence that they were a "consistently over-the-top outlier" relative to other pollsters is weak. This was Charles Franklin's take three years ago:

I tracked 1486 statewide polls of the 2004 presidential race, of which Strategic Vision did 196. The Strategic Vision polls average error overstated the Bush margin by 1.2%. The 1290 non-Strategic Vision polls overstated KERRY's margin by 1.3%. Further, the variability of the errors was a bit smaller for Strategic Vision than for all the other polls combined.

Try the connect-the-dots-tool on the 2008 Obama-McCain charts for Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin (the states where Strategic Vision released five or more "polls"), and make your own judgements for 2008.

But again, I tend to agree with DG's central thrust. We can do better. I am particularly intrigued by DG's comment about being "a Wikipedia, not a Google." What Wikipedia is about, for better or worse, is "crowdsourcing." A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal described crowdsourcing as the idea that "there is wisdom in aggregating independent contributions from multitudes of Web users." How might a site like ours help individuals collaborate on efforts to evaluate pollsters? If you have thoughts or suggestions on any of this, we would love to hear them.

Heading to the Airport 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Gallup plots four key trends for the decade.

Carl Bialik examines the challenges of measuring state-by-state citizen satisfaction (more here).

Chris Bowers lists political arguments for passing or defeating the health reform bill.

Patrick O'Conner reports that people don't know what's in the health care reform bill.

Gary Andres and Whit Ayres respond to Mark Mellman's memo on health reform.

Harris Interactive reports
on a telephone survey tracking increases in time spent online.

MRA has a new blog coming in January (via Stanley).

CT: 2010 Sen Rep Primary (Moore 12/15-16)

Topics: poll

Moore Information (R) for Linda McMahon
12/15-16/09; 400 likely Republican primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Moore release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
37% Linda McMahon, 35% Rob Simmons, 4% Peter Schiff (chart)

KY: 2010 Sen (PPP 12/18-21)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
12/18-21/09; 1,199 likely voters, 2.8% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


2010 Senate
Grayson (R) 40%, Conway (D) 33%
Paul (R) 42%, Conway (D) 36%
Grayson (R) 44%, Mongiardo (D) 35%
Paul (R) 42%, Mongiardo (D) 36%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jack Conway: 19 / 18
Treey Grayson: 19 / 17
Dan Mongiardo: 25 / 37
Rand Paul: 26 / 23

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 35 / 59
Gov. Beshear: 36 / 39
Sen. McConnell: 48 / 41
Sen. Bunning: 29 / 44

US: Afghanistan (CNN 12/16-20)

Topics: poll

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
12/16-20/09; 1,160 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)


Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?
43% Favor, 55% Oppose

Ifopposed: Which of the following statements comes closer to your view: You currently oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan because you opposed the initial decision in 2001 to go to war in that country, or you favored the initial decision in 2001 to go to war in Afghanistan but events since then have made you change your mind?
43% Favor (from previous question)
31% Opposed initial decision in 2001
23% Oppose now but favored in 2001

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?

59% Favor, 39% Oppose

If opposed: Do you think the U.S. should keep the same number of troops in Afghanistan as it currently has, or do you think the U.S. should reduce the number of troops in that country but keep some there, or do you think the U.S. should immediately withdraw all troops from Afghanistan?
59% Favor (from previous question)
5% Keep the same number of troops
10% Reduce the number of troops
23% Withdraw all troops

Who do you think is currently winning the war in Afghanistan -- the U.S. and its allies, the insurgents in Afghanistan, or neither side?
18% U.S. and its allies
14% Insurgents
67% Neither side

US: National Survey (Quinnipiac 12/15-20)

Topics: poll

12/15-20/09; 1,616 registered voters, 2.4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone intereviews
(Quinnipiac release)


Obama Job Approval / Disapproval
46% Approve, 43% Disapprove (chart)
Reps: 13 / 79 (chart)
Dems: 80 / 12 (chart)
Inds: 41 / 46 (chart)
Foreign Policy: 46 / 44 (chart)
Afghanistan: 47 / 43
Global Warming: 40 / 40

Job Approval / Disapproval
Dems in Congress: 32 / 59
Reps in Congress: 29 / 62

Do you think the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan now, or should the U.S. not be involved in Afghanistan now?
51% Right thing, 41% Shouldn't be involved

How concerned are you about global warming or climate change?
29% Very, 30% Somewhat, 17% Not too, 23% Not at all

Do you believe that the earth is getting warmer or not?
59% Yes, 34% No

If Yes:Do you believe that the earth is getting warmer - mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels, or mostly because of natural patterns in the earth's environment?
57% Human activity, 33% Natural Patterns

As you may know, representatives of governments from all over the world have been meeting in Denmark to seek agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Do you think the U.S. should sign a treaty to reduce greenhouse gases:
30% Only if other major countries, such as India and China, agree to make similar economic sacrifices
33% The U.S. should sign a treaty even if these other countries do less
28% The U.S. should not sign a treaty to reduce greenhouse gases, no matter what other countries do

Which comes closer to your point of view about the Obama Administration
36% It is striking the right balance between helping reduce greenhouse gases and protecting American jobs
38% It is going too far in protecting the environment at the expense of American jobs
8% It is going too far protecting American jobs at the expense of the environment?


Topics: Outliers Feature

R.I.P. Lee Sigelman.

Reid Wilson reports that Republicans see an opportunity to tie 2010 Democrats to Pelosi.

CNN finds increasing support for health reform among Democrats, Greg Sargent, Eric Kleefeld and Jonathan Singer discuss.

Tom Jensen explores
the polling parallels between Michelle Bachman and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

NV: Ratings (WFI 12/12-15)

Topics: poll

Public Opinion Strategies (R) for Workforce Fairness Institute*
12/12-15/09; 500 registered voters, 4.4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(WFI release)

*Workforce Fairness Institute is an interest group opposing the Employee Free Choice Act


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 45 / 50 (chart)

Favorable Ratings
Harry Reid: 42 / 54 (chart)
John Ensign: 37 / 42 (chart)
Jim Gibbons: 30 / 52 (chart)

And, do you think Harry Reid has performed his job as U.S. Senator well enough to deserve re-election, or do you think it's time to give a new person a chance to do a better job?
35% Re-elect, 62% New person

Health Reform: So What Happens Now?

Topics: Barack Obama , Chuck Schumer , Health Care Reform , Mark Mellman , Sheri and Allan Rivlin

So "what happens now" to President Obama's job approval rating, especially in the event that the health care reform legislation passes into law next month? That's the "big question" that my colleague Steve Lombardo asks below. I'd add one more that's just as big: Will passage of health care reform bill change attitudes about the legislation itself?

Let's start with the president's approval rating. Yesterday, Politico's Ben Smith noted his reporting over the weekend that an "administration official" had "predicted" that passage of the reform bill "will send Obama's approval rating up past 60 percent and restore his supporters' enthusiasm." Smith subsequently updated his post: "A senior White House official objects, and says the White House certainly doesn't expect a polling bounce."

Here's an educated guess: That "senior white House official" is someone far more familiar with trends in presidential approval ratings than the first "official." Our current trend estimate of Obama's approval percentage is 48% (50% if we exclude the Rasmussen tracking), with recent individual surveys ranging from a low of 44% to a high of 54%. A "bump" above 60% percent would be extraordinary.


It may not be obvious in Charles Franklin's graphic above, but presidents rarely see sustained approval rating spikes that big (i.e. changes that are not statistical noise or persist for more than a week or so). If you play with the interactive chart of Gallup approval ratings published by USA Today, you will see that virtually all of the real bumps of this magnitude over the last 30 years occurred as Americans "rallied around the flag" in the aftermath of crises like the 9/11 2001 or the taking of American hostages in Iran in 1979 or in the run-up to the wars in Iraq. Charles points out that when presidents recover from dips in approval, as Reagan and Clinton did, their recoveries are usually slow, steady and extended. They have not been about quick gains produced by some event that persist.

The other problem is that perceptions of the "health care legislation now being considered by Congress," or "Barack Obama's health care plan" -- as measured by the various polls included in our chart -- are typically more negative than positive. Sure, an important chunk of that opposition comes from the left (a result reconfirmed in this week's CNN poll), but opposition is still opposition. Some liberal voters unhappy with the current legislation may rally to the president once a reform bill passes, but how many is anyone's guess.

The bigger problem -- especially if you are hoping for a health reform bounce -- is that so few Americans believe they will personally benefit, and majorities worry about the impact on their own costs and the government's budget. Specifically,

  • Only 35% of the adults surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation believe the reforms will make "you and your family better off." Most of the rest think it will make no difference (32%) or leave them worse off (27%).
  • 53% of adults on the recent ABC/Washington Post poll said their own health care "will cost more" if the legislation is passed, as opposed to 33% who believe their costs will go up "if the current system is left as it is now."
  • 73% of registered voters surveyed by Quinnipiac University this week agree that "any health care plan that Congress passes and President Obama signs will add to the federal budget deficit," only 18% believe Obama will "keep his promise" that reform "will not add to our federal budget deficit over the next decade."

These perceptions bring me to the second question: Will passage of health care reform affect opinions about the legislation itself? Ben Smith's item yesterday also passed along an argument from Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer that polling on the reform bill will turn around "soon":

"When people see what is in this bill and when people see what it does, they will come around," Schumer said. "The reason people are negative is not the substance of the bill, but the fears that the opponents have laid out. When those fears don't materialize, and people see the good in the bill, the numbers are going to go up."

That assertion is the basis of a memo from Democratic pollster Mark Mellman that Politico and others reported today. Mellman concedes that voters express opposition to a "content-less" plan -- in other words, a plan they know little about:

Focus group research makes clear that voters know little about the substance of the plan--all they know is that some on both the left and the right don't like it and that it is the subject of intense controversy. In essence then, these questions ask people whether they favor or oppose "a controversial plan that is in constant flux." Understood that way, it is surprising we find any support.

Mellman goes on to argue that "the individual elements of the legislation," once described, "are very popular, as is the bill in total, when it is explained."

But those findings lead us to the really critical question: Will Americans come to understand the reform bill as Mellman's questions explained it, especially since most of the key provisions will not take effect until 2014? As I explained in a column earlier this year, seniors soured on the prescription drug benefit in Medicare after it passed. Their assessments reversed, but not until almost two years later when they finally started experiencing the benefit.

If the process of debating and moving the bills through Congress has not brought much clarity, where will attitudes go during the next two election cycles? Here are two very different views of the future. The first comes from the Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb:

Liberals seem to be under the impression that health care reform will be like a new entititlement, and that Republicans will run against it at their own peril -- as was the case with Social Security reform in 2005. And they may be right, but not until this monstrous bill actually goes into effect some time in 2013. Which means that for the next four years, Republicans will be able to say whatever they want about the health care reforms that were passed but won't come into effect for years. Republicans will be able to come up with another "death panel" every week.

To put this in some perspective, the "death panel" story was named "lie of the year" by the non-partisan Politifact.com, and Goldfarb's comment was deemed "divisive and intemperate" enough to merit nomination for one of Andrew Sullivan's "Malkin Awards."

The second view of the future comes from the Washington Post's Ezra Klein:

There's a lot of talk over whether the health-care bill should begin before 2014, and whether the long delay will give the GOP sufficient time to foment a backlash.


A year after the president signs health-care reform, the country will have largely forgotten about it. That's not to say it won't be mentioned in the elections, or argued over in occasional op-eds. But what keeps it on the front page? It's easy enough to write about health-care reform when it's dominating the congressional agenda. When it's waiting to be implemented? Or when it's being implemented, and the main effect is that 16 million people without political power now have health-care coverage? [As for the backlash,] I don't buy it.

As different as they are, both visions have some merit. The Republicans have made it clear they will not relent in efforts to paint the reform as a budget-busting government takeover, and Klein is probably right that the news media will move on to other topics. As such, I would not advise supporters of reform to take much comfort in the health care debate falling off off the front pages. Americans may forget about the bill for awhile, but when Republicans candidates bring it up in 2010, voters will have memories of what they learned in 2009. People won't "see the good in the bill," unless someone makes a concerted effort to tell them. If you believe in reform, I'd recommend listening closely to my friends Sheri and Allan Rivlin:

The answer is that we need more message discipline. We need more voices of support for the underlying effort at health care reform. For every blog post about the public option that will effect fewer than 10% of the public, there needs to be 10 posts about the other provisions of the bill - no more pre-existing condition exclusions, no dropping coverage for people who get sick, insurance exchanges that offer choice and competition, etc. And if Democrats do not stop attacking other Democrats as being too much like Republicans there will soon be a lot more Republicans around to sharpen the comparison.   

CO: Ratings (WFI 12/12-15)

Topics: poll

Public Opinion Strategies (R) for Workforce Fairness Institute*
12/12-15/09; 500 registered voters, 4.4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(WFI release)

*Workforce Fairness Institute is an interest group opposing the Employee Free Choice Act


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 43 / 51 (chart)

Favorable Ratings
Michael Bennet: 26 / 23 (chart)
Mark Udall: 46 / 33 (chart)
Bill Ritter: 43 / 46 (chart)

And, do you think Michael Bennett has performed his job as U.S. Senator well enough to deserve re-election, or do you think it's time to give a new person a chance to do a better job?
20% Definitely/Probably Re-elect, 45% Definitely/Probably

US: National Survey (CNN 12/16-20)

Topics: poll

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
12/16-20/09; 1,160 adul;ts, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)


Do you think big financial institutions such as major banks and insurance companies do or do not have too much influence over decisions made by the Obama administration?
61% Do, 36% Do not

How would you rate the economic conditions in the country today -- as very good, somewhat good, somewhat poor, or very poor?
20% Very/Somewhat Good, 80% Very/Somewhat Poor

Now thinking about a year from now, do you expect economic conditions in this country will be -- very good, somewhat good, somewhat poor, or very poor?
58% Very/Somewhat Good, 43% Very/Somewhat Poor

Half Sample: Which do you think should be more important for the Obama administration:
40% Reducing the deficit, even if it might slow down economic recovery
57% Stimulating economic recovery, even if it might mean less deficit reduction

Half Sample: Which do you think should be more important for the Obama administration:
25% Reduce deficit even if unemployment remains high
74% Create more jobs even if it means less deficit reduction

Half Sample: In general, do you think there is too much, too little, or about the right amount of government regulation of business and industry?
50% Too much, 30% Too little, 18% About right

Half Sample: In general, do you think there is too much, too little, or about the right amount of government regulation of the stock market and financial institutions?
29% Too much, 45% Too little, 23% Right amount

In general, do you think blacks have as good a chance as white people in your community to get any kind of job for which they are qualified, or don't you think they have as good a chance?
72% Yes, good chance, 26% No, not a good chance

US: News Interest (Pew 12/18-21)

Topics: poll

Pew Research Center
21/18-21/09; 1,000 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)


Most Closely Followed Story
37% Debate over health care reform
18% Reports about the condition of the U.S. economy
14% News about Tiger Woods
11% Reports about swine flu and the vaccine
5% International meeting about climate change in Copenhagen
2% President Obama's plan to move Guantanamo detainees to a prison in Illinois

Thinking now about the issue of health care, from what you've seen and heard, do you think a health care reform bill will pass over the next year or not?
61% Will, 34% Will not

MN-6: Bachmann (PPP 12/17-20)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
12/17-20/09; 719 likely voters, 3.7% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

Minnesota 6th Congressional District

2010 House
Bachmann (R) 55%, Clark (D) 37%
Bachmann (R) 53%, Reed (D) 37%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Tarryl Clark: 13 / 19
Maureen Reed: 7 / 11

Job Approval / Disapproval Rep. Bachmann: 53 / 41
Pres. Obama: 39 / 55
Sen. Klobuchar: 45 / 43
Al Franken: 37 / 53

Do you consider Michele Bachmann's political views to be extremist?
37% Yes, 54% No

Do you think that Michele Bachmann is too liberal, too conservative, or about right?
8% Too liberal, 36% Too conservative, 56% About right

Do you think that Michele Bachmann is more focused on advocating for your district in the
US House or being a national leader in the conservative movement?

32% Advocating for district, 48% Leader in the national conservative movement

Obama: Worst First Year Ratings Ever?

Topics: Health Care Reform , independents , job approval , Obama

The merits of this weekend's health care reform legislation can be debated elsewhere; our focus here is on its potential political impact. And while the process was more protracted and contentious than many predicted, there is little doubt that this was a tremendous political achievement for President Obama and the Democrats. Our assumption is that the White House's political apparatus hopes that this will stop the President's job approval rating erosion. We aren't sure that it will.

Our sense is that passing the Senate health care reform bill is better for President Obama and the Democrats than not passing anything. Obama's overall job approval (48% approve) and health care approval (51% disapprove) numbers have both fallen in step with declining public support for the health care plan (currently at 36% favor, 49% oppose). The generic congressional ballot, which asks voters which party's candidate they plan to vote for in the 2010 House races, has actually favored the Republican candidate in nine of 14 publicly-released polls since the beginning of November (the current average is 44% Republican, 42% Democrat).

The generic ballot and presidential approval rating are the two best general predictors of mid-term shifts in control of Congress, so this should trouble Democratic leaders who touted a permanent, Democratic realignment of the electorate 12 months ago.

Let's tackle one of these and provide some historical context for the President's current approval ratings.

Obama's First Year: The Worst Ever?

Karl Rove's latest WSJ editorial points out that Obama's overall job approval has fallen to "the worst ratings of any president at the end of his first year." This is true, but only to a point: Obama's current approval is within a cluster that has Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan all within the margin of error at the same point in their first terms. In 1994, President Clinton and the Democrats lost a net of 54 seats in the House and eight in the Senate in the "Contract with America" tsunami. In 1982, President Reagan and the GOP lost a net of 27 seats in the House and one in the Senate. Of course, both Clinton and Reagan then went on to win re-election.

The below table shows the approval ratings for Obama and the previous six presidents at the same point in their presidency, approximately 325 days after their inauguration to their first term. (All approval numbers are from the Gallup Poll except for George H.W. Bush's approval among independents, which was taken from a CBS News poll that November.)

dec 22 chart 1.jpg

The most striking thing here is Obama's diapproval number. While Ford, Reagan and Clinton had similar approval ratings, only Obama has a nearly one-to-one ratio of approval to disapproval. This might be a testament to the polarization of the contemporary electorate, or it just might be that Obama's policies have engendered greater disapproval at a faster rate than his predecessors'.

For a pretty cool experience (or at least as cool as polling trend data can be), click the graphic below for a link to the interactive USA Today chart that allows you to compare Gallup's historic presidential approval data.

usa today.jpg


While Democrats are still quite supportive of Obama, he is really struggling with independent voters. In January, approximately 70% of independents approved of Obama's job performance. It would have been unrealistic for him to keep approval among independents at that level, but a 25-point drop is significant.

Below is a table that compares overall Presidential approval ratings with approval ratings among Independents for the last six Presidents. As you'd expect, the two figures usually move closely together. The spread between Obama's overall and independent approval ratings is currently on the high side of the typical range. Keep a close watch on Obama's job approval number with independents: if it drops into the low 40's that would suggest a catastrophic collapse of support that could be a precursor to a major swing toward the GOP in 2010.

dec 22 chart 2.jpg

Obama's Approval Rating: What Happens Now?

This is the big question. Any assessment of the current situation would suggest that Obama is due for at least a slight ratings bump with the passage of health care reform. It is our belief, however, that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the bill; this is why support for comprehensive health care reform has plummeted in recent months. While many voters oppose the bill because they disike it from a policy perspective, many others oppose it because they simply don't understand it.

Therefore, for Obama to realize some kind of January bump from health care reform's eventual passage, he will need to explain to the American public a) what the bill does and b) why it will be a good thing for them personally. Perhaps then, as is typical after these protracted legislative battles are won by a President and his party, Obama might get a modest (three-to-five point) bounce in his approval rating. But that is far from a certainty. Today, Quinnipiac University released another poll that showed a majority of voters disapprove of the Senate's health care plan. It is going to take some work to convince voters that this bill is a good thing. Not impossible, but increasingly difficult.

After that, to predict the direction of Obama's approval it would be best to watch the topline unemployment number, which has recently been a good leading indicator of Obama's approval rating.

CT: 2010 Sen (GQR 12/15-17)

Topics: poll

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D) for Chris Dodd
12/15-17/09; 601 likely voters
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CT Democratic Party release)


2010 Senate (trends)
Chris Dodd (D) 46%, Linda McMahon (R) 46%
Rob Simmons (R) 51%, Chris Dodd (D) 46% (chart)

KY: 2010 Sen Primaries (PPP 12/18-21)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
12/18-21/09; 557 likely Democratic primary voters, 4.2% margin of error
478 likely Republican primary voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release -- Democratic results begin on page 10)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
44% Rand Paul, 25% Trey Grayson

Favorable / Unfavorable (among Republicans)
Grayson: 22 / 15
Paul: 39 / 13

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
37% Jack Conway, 33% Dan Mongiardo

Favorable / Unfavorable (among Democrats)
Conway: 27 / 15
Mongiardo: 40 / 27

US: Economy, Health Care (Quinnipiac 12/15-20)

Topics: poll

12/15-20/09; 1,616 registered voter, 2.4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)


State of the Country
26% Satisfied, 74% Dissatisfied (chart)

Obama Job Approval / Disapproval
Economy: 44 / 51 (chart)
Health Care: 38 / 56 (chart)
Creating Jobs: 37 / 56

State of the Economy
7% Excellent/Good, 91% Fair/Poor
28% Getting Better, 28% Getting Worse, 43% Same

Who do you trust to do a better job handling the economy - President Obama or the Republicans in Congress?
45% Obama, 36% Reps in Congress

Do you think President Obama's policies have helped the economy, hurt the economy, or haven't made a difference?
37% Helped, 28% Hurt, 31% No difference

Looking forward, do you think President Obama's policies will help the economy, will hurt the economy, or won't make a difference?
49% Help, 29% hurt, 17% No difference

Do you think that the 200 billion dollars left over from the bank bailout should be used for a stimulus package to create jobs or should it go to reduce the federal budget deficit?
52% Jobs stimulus, 42% Reduce deficit

Who do you trust to do a better job handling health care - President Obama or the Republicans in Congress?
45% Obama, 40% Reps in Congress

From what you've heard or read, do you mostly approve or mostly disapprove of the proposed changes to the health care system under consideration in Congress?
36% Mostly approve, 53% Mostly disapprove (chart)

Which comes closer to describing your own views...
31% The president and Congress need to take on health care reform now, and I support the proposals currently being considered
28% The president and Congress need to take on health care reform now, but I don't support the proposals being considered
36% I don't think the president and Congress should take on health care reform right now?

Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?
56% Support, 38% Oppose

Do you support or oppose allowing Americans ages 55 to 64 to purchase Medicare coverage?
64% Support, 30% Oppose

Do you support or oppose allowing abortions to be paid for by public funds under a health care reform bill?
23% Support, 72% Oppose

President Obama has pledged that health insurance reform will not add to our federal budget deficit over the next decade. Do you think that President Obama will be able to keep his promise or do you think any health care plan that Congress passes and President Obama signs will add to the federal budget deficit?
18% Keep promise, 73% Add to deficit

Do you agree or disagree with the following - overhauling the nation's health care system is so important that it should be enacted even if it significantly increases the federal budget deficit.
37% Agree, 56% Agree

The Adam Lambert problem 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Frank Newport examines Obama's approval in historical context.

Mark Murray finds the biggest drop for Obama is among independents.

Gerald Seib says the recession's scars may take years to heal.

Pollsters see a tough road ahead for Democrats in 2010.

Unnamed White House officials predict Obama's numbers would hit 60 after the health care bill passes; Tom Jensen disagrees.

Chris Bowers says Obama's power among the center-left rank and file is unchallenged.

Martin Nolan calls polls the "last refuge of the scoundrel."

Peggy Noonan attributes drift in the right direction/wrong track numbers to "The Adam Lambert Problem," Steve Benen has doubts.

States: Approval Ratings (SurveyUSA 12/11-13)

Topics: poll

12/11-13/09; 600 adults/state, 4% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(links to all questions are available here)

Job Approval / Disapproval

Pres. Obama: 35 / 61
Sen. Shelby: 50 / 38
Sen. Sessions: 54 / 35
Gov. Riley: 56 / 39

Pres. Obama: 55 / 41
Sen. Feinstein: 40 / 48
Sen. Boxer: 39 / 49
Gov. Schwarzenegger: 20 / 77
(California charts)

Pres. Obama: 36 / 59
Sen. Brownback: 49 / 40
Sen. Roberts: 54 / 36
Gov. Parkinson: 45 / 37

Pres. Obama: 38 / 58
Sen. McConnell: 46 / 46
Sen. Bunning: 35 / 50
Gov. Beshear: 47 / 45

Pres. Obama: 45 / 52
Sen. Bond: 49 / 42
Sen. McCaskill: 48 / 45
Gov. Nixon: 49 / 42
(Missouri charts)

New York
Pres. Obama: 56 / 40
Sen. Schumer: 57 / 37
Sen. Gillibrand: 36 / 44
Gov. Paterson: 32 / 63
(New York charts)

Pres. Obama: 50 / 47
Sen. Wyden: 53 / 40
Sen. Merkley: 43 / 39
Gov. Kulongoski: 41 / 53

Pres. Obama: 44 / 54
Sen. Webb: 47 / 43
Sen. Warner: 55 / 38
Gov. Kaine: 47 / 45
(Virginia charts)

Washington State
Pres. Obama: 50 / 46
Sen. Murray: 52 / 40
Sen. Cantwell: 48 / 44
Gov. Gregoire: 36 / 61

US: National Survey (ARG 12/17-20)

Topics: poll

American Research Group
12/17-20/09; 1,100 adults, 2.6% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(ARG release)


Obama Job Approval
47% Approve, 48% Disapprove (chart)
Reps: 13 / 86 (chart)
Dems: 82 / 11 (chart)
Inds: 35 / 60 (chart)
Economy: 45 / 52 (chart)

IL: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 12/20)

Topics: poll

12/20/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor
Ryan (R) 46%, Quinn (D) 39%
Hynes (D) 42%, Ryan (R) 40%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jim Ryan: 53 / 34

ND: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 12/15)

Topics: poll

12/15/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

North Dakota

2010 Governor
Sand (R) 37%, Dorgan (D) 52%
Hoeven (R) 58%, Dorgan (D) 36%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Byron Dorgan: 61 / 36
Duane Sand: 54 / 32
John Hoeven: 82 / 15

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 41 / 58
Gov. Hoeven: 87 / 11

MI: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 12/16)

Topics: poll

12/16/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor
Cox (R) 39%, Cherry (D) 34%
Hoekstra (R) 46%, Cherry (D) 32%
Bouchard (R) 42%, Cherry (D) 32%

Favorable / Unfavorable:
John Cherry: 39 / 35
Mike Cox: 47 / 32
Peter Hoekstra: 50 / 26
Mike Bouchard: 48 / 27

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 48 / 50
Gov. Granholm: 32 / 66

US: National Survey (CNN 12/16-20)

US: National Survey (CNN 12/16-20)

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
12/16-20/09; 1,160 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)


Obama Job Approval
54% Approve, 44% Disapprove (chart)

Regardless of whether you approve or disapprove of Barack Obama, do you think he has met your expectations for how he would handle his job as president, or has he exceeded your expectations, or has he fallen short of your expectations?
39% Met, 11% Exceeded, 48% Fallen short

In general, do you hope that Barack Obama's policies will succeed or do you hope that his policies will fail?
71% Succeed, 22% Fail

And in general, do you think it is more likely that Obama's policies will succeed or more likely that his policies will fail?
52% Succeed, 41% Fail

As you may know, the U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would make major changes in the country's health care system. Based on what you have read or heard about that bill, do you
generally favor it or generally oppose it?

42% Favor, 56% Oppose (chart)

If oppose: Do you oppose that bill because you think its approach toward health care is too liberal, or because you think its approach toward health care is not liberal enough? (results combined with previous question)
42% Favor
39% Oppose, Too liberal
13% Oppose, Not liberal enough

Thinking about the health care and health insurance that is available to most Americans, do you think the proposals in the Senate bill would change things for the better, change things for the worse, or not make any real changes at all?
34% Change for the better, 38% Change for the worse, 26% No change

Thinking about the health care and health insurance that is available to you and your immediate family, do you think the proposals in the Senate bill would change things for the better, change things for the worse, or not make any real changes at all?
22% Change for the better, 37% Change for the worse, 39% No change

US: Health Care (Rasmussen 12/18-19)

Topics: poll

12/18-19/09; 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, 55% Oppose (chart)

FL: Crist 45 Rubio 36 (Zogby 12/7-11)

Zogby / Associated Industries of Florida / SayfieReview.com
12/7-11/09; 801 likely voters, 3.5% margin of error
303 likely Republican primary voters, 5.7% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(AIF release, Sayfie Review release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
45% Charlie Crist, 36% Marco Rubio

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
Bill McCollum 38%, Paula Dockery 7%

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 55 / 42

US: National Survey (Harris 12/7-14)

12/7-14/09; 2,276 adults
Mode: Internet
(Harris release)
Update: Health Care


Obama Job Rating
41% Excellent/Good, 59% Only Fair/Poor (chart)
Reps: 9 / 91 (chart)
Dems: 69 / 31 (chart)
Inds: 37 / 63 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
17% Approve, 83% Disapprove (chart)

State of the Country
37% Right Direction, 63% Wrong Track (chart)

Even if you don't know the details of his plan, how do you feel about President Obama's proposals for health care reform?
43% Support, 45% Oppose (chart)

Data Under the Tree: Part 2 (Star or Angel? Multi-colored or white lights?)

Today, we look again at the data under our virtual tree.

What cultural artifact is most likely to top an American Christmas tree?

The answer is an angel, narrowly. 44% of Americans report having an angel atop their Christmas tree and 38% report a star. Interestingly, 12% report having something else on top of their tree.

Only in the Western United States are star and angel running head to head. In the other regions, the traditional angel tops the star by 7-8 points.

African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to have starts atop their trees, while whites are more likely to have angels (48%-angels, 34%-stars).

Moving on to decorative lights, we asked Americans what color Christmas lights they prefer to decorate with. Overall, 56% said they preferred to decorate with multi-colored lights, while 33% prefered to decorate with white lights. Every region prefers mutli-colored lights over white lights, but there is a significant SES (household income and education) dimmension to the data.

The tipping point for white lights is at households making $75,000 or more and among college grads. The data here is fascinating.

Households making under $35,000 (68% multi-colored, 20% white lights), $35,000-$50,000 (62% multi-colored, 33% white lights) and $50,000-$75,000 (63% multi-colored, 29% white lights) prefer multi-colored Christmas lights, while households making $75,000-$100,000 (50% white lights, 40% multi-colored lights) and $100,000+ (50% white lights, 44% multi-colored lights) prefer white lights by a narrow margin.

We see the same with educational attainment, as preference for white lights increases by education (16% among high school drop outs, 27% among high school grads, 31% among some college and 44% among college graduates.

So, when you're out looking at neighborhood lights, note the decorative color pallete and you should be able to estimate the SES of the neighborhood and household income of its inhabitants.

Tomorrow we'll look at the popularity of Christmas movies.

US: Decade in Review (Pew 12/9-13)

Pew Research Center
12/9-13/09; 1,504 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)



"As the current decade draws to a close, relatively few Americans have positive things to say about it. By roughly two-to-one, more say they have a generally negative (50%) rather than a generally positive (27%) impression of the past 10 years. This stands in stark contrast to the public's recollection of other decades in the past half-century. When asked to look back on the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, positive feelings outweigh negative in all cases.


By a wide margin, the 9/11 terrorist attacks are seen as the most important event of the decade, with Barack Obama's election as president a distant second - even among his political supporters. And the sour view of the decade is broad-based, with few in any political or demographic group offering positive evaluations."

Strategic Vision LLC: An Odd Epilogue

Topics: AAPOR , Atlantic Media , David Johnson , National Journal Group , Strategic Vision

My last column for 2009 takes a look back at the strangest and most troubling polling story of the year: The allegations of fraud swirling around the firm Strategic Vision, LLC in the wake of a rare censure from the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) for a failure to disclose basic information about its weighting procedures and response rates. Please click through for all the details.

The most troubling aspect of this story may be that so little has happened since early October. Most notably: Strategic Vision abruptly stopped releasing polls.

Back in October we decided that in the absence of significantly better disclosure from Strategic Vision, we will no longer include their releases in our charts or publish them among our "poll updates." We were ready to announce that policy when they released a new survey, but...they never did. Our general philosophy has been to include any survey that purports to provide a representative snapshot of voter or adult opinion, but given the troubling questions raised about the integrity of the numbers released by Strategic Vision, we really have no choice but to make an exception.

Not that it appears to bother anyone at Strategic Vision, LLC. One odd epilogue of this story is that, for whatever reason, we can no longer access www.strategicvision.biz from our offices of the National Journal Group and Atlantic Media. Attempts to load their site from any computer that accesses the internet through the Atlantic Media corporate IP address -- and that includes the computers used by The Hotline and anyone at The Atlantic -- produces a "403 - Forbidden" error. According to wikipedia, "The 403 Forbidden HTTP status code indicates that the client was able to communicate with the server, but the server won't let the client access what was requested."

What makes this especially odd is that I am able to connect to www.strategicvision.biz through every other internet connection I have tried. On Friday, I also posted queries on Twitter and in our 'outliers' item asking followers and readers to report if they had any trouble accessing the Strategic Vision website (David Johnson did not return my call requesting comment). No one reported receiving the 403-Forbidden error. I followed up with those who got error messages produced by the apparently over-capacity tr.im URL shortening service asking them to enter www.strategicvision.biz directly.  Everyone was able to access the site.  So far,no one outside of the Atlantic Media offices has reported receiving a 403-Forbidden error.

Now beyond this circumstantial pattern, I cannot prove that Strategic Vision is intentionally blocking access to their site by Atlantic Media and the National Journal Group. If anyone reading this post encounters the same error, please comment or email me and I'll gladly update this post. But like everything else involving the Strategic Vision story, it is very strange.

US: National Survey (Economist 12/13-15)

Economist / YouGov
12/13-15/09; 1,000 adults, 3.4% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(Economist release)


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?

47% Support, 53% Oppose (chart)

Obama Job Approval
49% Approve, 44% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 84 / 13 (chart)
Reps: 14 / 83 (chart)
Inds: 42 / 53 (chart)
Economy: 41 / 52 (chart)
Health Care: 43 / 51 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
15% Approve, 59% Disapprove (chart)

2010 House: Generic Ballot:
45% Democrat, 39% Republican (chart)

State of the Country
34% Right Direction, 55% Wrong Track (chart)

US: National Survey (Kos 12/14-17)

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
12/14-17/09; 2,400 adults, 2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 54 / 42 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 41 / 49
Harry Reid: 30 / 60
Mitch McConnell: 18 / 64
John Boehner: 16 / 64
Democratic Party: 40 / 54
Republican Party: 27 / 63

State of the Country
39% Right Direction, 59% Wrong Track (chart)