Pollster.com

January 10, 2010 - January 16, 2010

 

MA: Brown 48 Coakley 45 (ARG 1/12-14)


American Research Group
1/12-1/14/10; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(ARG release)

Massachusetts

2010 Senate
48% Brown, 45% Coakley (chart)


Report Card 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Rothenberg and Cook shift Massachusetts to a "toss-up."

Anthony Salvanto breaks down the Massachusetts Senate race.

Reid Wilson weighs the risks and rewards of Obama's visit to MA.

Marc Ambinder reports Coakley's tracking has her down 4, Byron York hears the same thing.

Chris Bowers' prediction puts Coakley ahead.

Micah Sifry tracks online metrics on the Massachusetts Senate race.

PPP will release their final MA poll on Sunday evening.

Frank Newport assesses the impact of the Christmas bombing incident.

Luke Frans asks how far Obama's standing with independents can fall.

Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen defend Rasmussen against accusations of partisanship.

Al Quinlan thanks Chris Dodd for a lifetime of service.

Gallup hands out 2009 report cards.


CA: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 1/14)


Rasmussen
1/14/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

California

2010 Senate (trends)
46% Boxer (D), 43% Fiorina (R) (chart)
46% Boxer (D), 40% DeVore (R)
46% Boxer (D), 42% Campbell (R)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barbara Boxer: 51 / 46 (chart)
Chuck DeVore: 33 / 29
Carly Fiorina: 38 / 34
Tom Campbell: 49 / 23


US: Health Care (Fox 1/12-13)


Fox News / Opinion Dynamics
1/12-13/10; 900 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Fox News release)

National

Based on what you know about the health care reform legislation being
considered right now, do you favor or oppose the plan?

39% Favor, 51% Oppose (chart)

Do you think you and your family would be better off or worse off under the
health care reforms being considered, or would the reforms not make much of a
difference to your family?

14% Better off, 38% Worse off, 41% No difference

Do you think the negotiations between the House and the Senate on health
care reform legislation should be held in public sessions that are televised or
should the negotiations be held in private sessions behind closed doors?

86% Public, 11% Private


CNN: 2010 House (1/8-10)


CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
1/8-10/10; 955 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)

National

2010 House: Generic Ballot
48% Republican, 45% Democrat (chart)


NV: 2012 Sen (PPP 1/11-12)


Public Policy Polling
1/11-12/10; 763 likely voters, 3.6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

Nevada

Job Approval / Disapproval
Sen. Ensign: 38 / 44 (chart)

2012 Senate
49% Ensign (R), 40% Berkley (D)
43% Ensign (R), 41% Goodman (D)
47% Ensign (R), 36% Miller (D)


NY: 2010 Sen (Marist 1/13-14)


Marist
1/13-14/10; 885 registered voters, 4.5% margin of error
370 Democrats, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Marist release)

New York

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary (trends)
43% Gillibrand, 24% Ford

2010 Senate: General Election (trends)
45% Gillibrand, 42% Pataki (chart)
42% Pataki, 36% Ford

Job Rating
Sen. Gillibrand: 24% Excellent/Good, 51% Fair/Poor (chart)
Sen. Schumer: 51% Excellent/Good, 42% Fair/Poor (chart)
Pres. Obama: 56% Excellent/Good, 43% Fair/Poor (chart)


US: National Survey (Kos 1/11-14)


DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
1/11-14/10; 2,400 adults, 2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)

National

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 55 / 42 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 42 / 49
Harry Reid: 29 / 61
Mitch McConnell: 20 / 62
John Boehner: 20 / 61
Democratic Party: 41 / 55
Republican Party: 32 / 59

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


Masschusetts: Poll Coverage and Dissonant Ads

Topics: Cognitive dissonance , Martha Coakley , Massachusetts , Scott Brown , Suffolk University poll

This morning, I'm sure of only one thing about the Massachusetts Senate race: The perception among Massachusetts voters that Democrat Martha Coakley is likely to defeat Republican Scott Brown, is not long for this world. Even the newly released Suffolk University poll shows that by a better than two-to-one margin (64% to 26%) Massachusetts still believe Coakley will win. But since Suffolk is a local University, uses live interviewers and has the Boston Herald and Boston's NBC affiliate as sponsors, their finding that Brown leads Coakley by a not quite statistically significant four points (50% to 46%) is huge news in Massachusetts this morning.

2010-01-15-GreatScott

In addition to the Herald front page, the poll was also the big story on all of the local Boston television stations last night or this morning (online video available as of this writing at WCVB-5, WHDH-7, WFXT-25, WBZ-38). Watch those stories, and its hard to imagine that perceptions of a likely Coakley victory will survive the weekend. If you are a Democrat, that is probably the only silver lining in today's news.

On the other hand, the tone of these stories follows the all too typical pattern of political news coverage: an analytical focus on strategy and tactics: "What happened to Coakley's lead?" "Why is Brown surging?" In assessing tactics, they inevitably praise Brown's efforts ("Brown has been out-hustling Coakley on the campaign trail"), while dissecting the apparent failures of the Coakley campaign. If "momentum" is a factor in campaign politics, this sort of coverage is a big reason why.

Another troubling pattern for Democrats: To the extent that these stories discuss the negative advertising being run by Coakley and her Democratic allies this week, it is only as a possible explanation for her poll numbers. The WBZ story, for example, cites callers to local talk radio and emails to the station complaining about negative ads. The WBZ anchor then concludes:

That is the combination of [Coakley's] problems, visibility and negativity. You can go negative, political ads work, political consultants always say that, but only if the voter knows exactly who you are, so at this point, since there is this perception that she hasn't been out there hustling as much...since voters don't know who she is, all they see from her is negativity at this point, and at the 11th hour, that's tough to overcome.

That's not quite right. Negative advertising works when voters see its message as credible. Ad buys as heavy as the combined efforts of the Coakley campaign, the DSCC and SEIU have undoubtedly been noticed and, as such, will create some cognitive dissonance among voters still leaning to Brown. The big question is how those voters resolve the dissonance. If they come to accept the arguments the ads are making as valid, some may back away from supporting Brown. But cognitive dissonance theory says that denial and rationalization are more powerful instincts than acceptance, so it is easier for voters who already like Brown to dismiss the content of the ads as typical political "mudslinging."

The key to resolving that dissonance is the way the news media covers the campaign: If news stories focus on the substance of the ads and the debate between the candidates, there is a greater chance that the ads will have an impact. If coverage focuses on tactics alone -- as horse race stories inevitably do -- the ads are more likely to fail.

One last thing about the Suffolk Poll. One astute Pollster reader emails with a question: The poll asks "if you know when the election is (and terminates the interview if you don't have the right answer). Is that unusual for special elections?"

That question is a little unusual, in my experience, but in fairness to the Suffolk University pollsters, there really is no "usual" with likely voter screens, especially in special elections. Selecting likely voters is really where political polling is more art than science. To make matters worse, pollsters do not typically reveal the full text of their screen questions, so give the Suffolk pollsters credit for being fully transparent on that score.

I think their screen is reasonable. After all, you're not very likely to vote if you don't know the election is next week [UPDATE: but see the contrary view of reader Dan below]. The classic Gallup likely voter model includes a similar question about knowledge of your voting location (although that is just one item in a seven question scale). I would question the Suffolk screen if I believed that the Coakley campaign was poised to mount a massive weekend get-out-the-vote effort aimed to reminding identified supporters about where and when they vote. By most accounts, that is not likely.


MA: Brown 54 Coakley 39 (PajamasMedia 1/14)

Topics: poll

Pajamas Media (R) by CrossTarget (R)
1/14/10; 946 likely voters, 3.2% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Pajamas Media post )

Massachusetts

2010 Senate
54% Brown, 39% Coakley (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Brown: 61 / 28
Coakley: 39 / 51


US: National Survey (Economist 1/10-12)


YouGov / Economist
1/10-12/10; 1,000 adults, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(Economist release)

National

Obama Job Approval
45% Approve, 48% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 79 / 18 (chart)
Reps: 10 / 87 (chart)
Inds: 36 / 56 (chart)
Economy: 40 / 54 (chart)
Health Care: 40 / 53 (chart)

Congress Job Approval
13% Approve, 62% Disapprove (chart)

2010 House: General Election
46% Democrat, 39% Republican (chart)

State of the Country
36% Right Direction, 50% Wrong track (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
George W. Bush: 31 / 63
Barack Obama: 51 / 42 (chart)
Michelle Obama: 57 / 30
Joe Biden: 40 / 42

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?
46% Support, 55% Oppose (chart)


OH: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 1/12)


Rasmussen
1/12/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Ohio

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Strickland: 43 / 54 (chart)

2010 Governor
Kasich (R) 47%, Strickland (D) 40% (chart)


NH: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 1/12)


Rasmussen
1/12/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

New Hampshire

2010 Governor (trends)
Lynch (D) 51%, Kimball (R) 32%
Lynch (D) 53%, Testerman (R) 30%

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Lynch: 58 / 38 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
John Lynch: 59 / 38 (chart)
Karen Testerman: 33 / 30
Jack Kimball: 31 / 28


MN: Franken, Pawlenty (Rasmussen 1/11)


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

Minnesota

Job Approval / Disapproval
Sen. Franken: 50 / 47 (chart)
Gov. Pawlenty: 53 / 44 (chart)
Pres. Obama: 52 / 48 (chart)

Suppose Governor Tim Pawlenty runs for President in 2012 and wins the Republican nomination. If Pawlenty was the Republican Presidential candidate, would you vote for him?
37% Yes, 46% No

Has Governor Pawlenty's potential run for President had a positive impact or negative impact on the job he's been doing as Governor?
225 Positive, 43% Negative, 26% No impact


CO: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 1/13)


Rasmussen
1/13/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Colorado

2010 Senate (trends)
Norton (R) 47%, Romanoff (D) 35%
Norton (R) 49%, Bennet (D) 37%
Wiens (R) 44%, Romanoff (D) 39%
Wiens (R) 44%, Bennet (D) 38%
Buck (R) 40%, Romanoff (D) 39%
Buck (R) 43%, Bennet (D) 38%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Ken Buck: 38 / 20
Michael Bennet: 42 / 40 (chart)
Andrew Romanoff: 40 / 36
Tom Wiens: 36 / 24
Jane Norton: 51 / 26

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 47 / 51 (chart)
Gov. Ritter: 45 / 55 (chart)


NJ: Christie (Rasmussen 1/13)


Rasmussen
1/13/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

New Jersey

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 53 / 47 (chart)
Gov. Corzine: 36 / 62 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Chris Christie: 57 / 35 (trend)

Since his election has your impression of Chris Christie become more favorable, less favorable or has it remained about the same?
17% More Favorable, 9% Less Favorable, 71% Same


US: National Survey (Ipsos 1/7-11)

Topics: poll

Ipsos / McClatchy
1/7-11/10; 1,336 adults, 2.7% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Ipsos release)

National

State of the Country
39% Right Direction, 55% Wrong Track (chart)

Obama Job Approval
52% Approve, 45% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 81 / 17 (chart)
Inds: 49 / 46 (chart)
Reps: 18 / 80 (chart)

Has the U.S. economy turned the corner on the current crisis, is the worst yet to come, or have things stabilized but not yet begun to improve?
11% Turned the corner
30% Worst yet to come
56% Stabilized, but not yet begun to improve

Party ID
33% Democrat, 22% Republican, 45% independent (chart)


ND: 2010 Sen (Kos 1/11-13)


DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
1/11-12/10; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)

North Dakota

2010 Senate
Hoeven (R) 56%, Schultz (D) 32%
Hoeven (R) 55%, Heitkamp (D) 34%
Hoeven (R) 56%, Scheider (D) 32%

2010 Congress
Pomeroy (D) 46%, Cramer (R) 24%
Pomeroy (D) 47%, Sand (R) 22%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 41 / 54


MA: Brown 50 Coakley 46 (Suffolk 1/11-13)


7News / Suffolk University
1/11-13/10; 500 registered voters, 4.4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Suffolk: release, toplines)

Massachusetts

2010 Senate
50% Brown (R), 46% Coakley (D), 3% Kennedy (i) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Martha Coakley: 49 / 41
Scott Brown: 57 / 19
Joseph L. Kennedy: 19 / 25
Barack Obama: 55 / 35
Deval Patrick: 41 / 50
Tim Cahill: 32 / 17

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 48 / 43
Gov. Patrick: 35 / 56


US: National Survey (Fox 1/12-13)

Topics: poll

Fox News / Opinion Dynamics
1/12-13/10; 900 registered voters, 3% margin of error
352 Democrats, 5% margin of error
307 Republicans, 6% margin of error
182 independents, 7% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Fox News release)

National

Obama Job Approval
50% Approve, 42% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 84 / 11 (chart)
Reps: 13 / 81 (chart)
Inds: 45 / 38 (chart)

Congress Job Approval
27% Approve, 63% Disapprove (chart)

State of the Country
35% Satisfied, 64% Dissatisfied (chart)

Overall, do you think the country is better off or worse off today than it was a year ago?
45% Better, 39% Worse

Are you and your family better off or worse off today than you were a year ago?
28% Better, 33% Worse

As of now, do you think Barack Obama is meeting, exceeding or falling below expectations?
36% Meeting, 6% Exceeding, 50% Falling below

Is President Obama a stronger leader than you expected, a weaker leader, or about what you expected?
14% Stronger, 20% Weaker, 62% Same

If John McCain had become president, do you think he would be doing a better job, a worse job, or about the same kind of job as President Obama?
26% Better, 40% Worse, 27% Same

If Hillary Clinton had become president, do you think she would be doing a better job, a worse job, or about the same kind of job as President Obama?
25% Better, 21% Worse, 48% Same

Do you think the Obama administration has made the economy better or worse?
40% Better, 26% Worse

Party ID
39% Democrat, 34% Republican, 20% independent (chart)


You're in Good Hands 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Steve Kornacki shares rumors of further narrowing in Coakley's internal polling.

Peter Wehner reviews
Obama's Polling Blues (via Resurgent Republic).

Reid Wilson weighs in on the Allstate/National Journal poll.

Glen Bolger doubts Americans will give Democrats credit for economic gains in 2010.

Members of Congress predict big losses for Democrats in the midterms.

Ben Smith recalls
the perils of early House handicapping.

Gallup analyzes recent polling in Haiti.

Ryan Grimm dismisses the ABC Afghanistan poll, Gary Langer pushes back.

Google is hiring a survey research scientist.

Research Rants explores the market research failure behind NBC's Jay Leno debacle.

Jim Geraghty goes
for the groaner.


A Lot of 'Distrust in Everything' Going Around

Topics: Allstate National Journal poll , Andrew Sullivan , Barack Obama , Economy , Glenn Beck , Sarah Palin , Trust

Watching a clip of Glenn Beck interviewing Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan catches this comment from Beck: "I don't know yet if [Palin's] strong enough, if she's well-enough advised, or if she knows she can no longer trust anyone." Sullivan goes on to comment that "distrust of everything in politics, of every politician, of the 'system' that has been co-opted by mysterious and menacing elites, and a sense of total beleaguerment in the modern world" has become a familiar theme from "the far right."

For what it's worth, "distrust of everything" was also a prominent theme of a briefing I attended this morning on the new Allstate/National Journal poll. As my colleague Ron Brownstein put it this morning, in an economy where they are "more directly exposed to financial risk than earlier generations," Americans "don't have much confidence that any institution, government, business or the financial sector is doing much right now to help them" deal with that risk.

"As the recession has grown more prolonged," he added, "this alienation from institutions has only deepened and hardened." In follow-up interviews he conducted with survey respondents, Brownstein found "more of an edge of fear, even desperation. A sense of this economic weight settling on people and and being uncertain when the cloud is going to lift." (I've embedded the full video of the presentations below -- Brownstein's comments are at 9:55, the presentation by FD pollster Ed Reilly begins at 13:30).

The data that Brownstein had in mind came from a set of questions that asked respondents to report how much trust they have in a series of people and institutions "to help you manage the financial risks in your life." Most expressed "a lot" of trust in themselves (74%) and their spouse or family members (64%) but others ranked much lower:

Just 15 percent say they have "a lot" of trust in financial advisers to help them cope with financial risk. Labor unions ranked next in trustworthiness, at 12 percent.

100115_poll_trust.gif

Fewer than one in 10 express "a lot" of confidence in national banks, corporations, or the federal government. Strikingly, about half of those polled say they have no trust in any of those three institutions to help them. "These government plans aren't working out, and these corporations are using the government to their benefit," insisted Scott Holland, whose timber business in Garner, N.C., is bankrupt. "I really don't trust anybody at this point."

The flip side of this distrust is a sense that while Wall Street has benefited from government efforts to jump start the economy, ordinary people have seen little benefit:

At the root of the dissatisfaction crackling through the survey is the widespread belief that government's response to the economic crisis mostly benefited affluent individuals and powerful business and financial institutions--the very groups that many respondents blame for the upheaval. "There weren't enough consequences on some of the people who were part of the demise of the banks," said William Fields, a retired engineer and political independent from Villa Hills, Ky.

100115_poll_benefits.gif

Who has "benefited most" from "the actions the federal government has taken to respond to the financial crisis over the last 12 months?" Three-quarters of those polled say it has been Big Business or the rich. Forty percent picked banks and investment companies, with another 20 percent identifying major corporations and 16 percent choosing wealthy individuals. Just 9 percent contend that the middle class has been the principal beneficiary, and 8 percent say that the poor have benefited most. African-Americans are more likely than whites to see middle- or lower-income families as the major beneficiaries. But in all demographic groups, the sense is widespread that over the past year most of the jam was placed on the top shelf, to paraphrase Texas populist Jim Hightower.

The survey also asked what "large financial corporations" could do to "increase the trust you have in them." The proposal that drew the most favorable response, by far, was "paying back the bailout money they received from the federal government as soon a possible." More than half (59%) said that would increase their trust "a lot," 28% said it would increase it "some" and only 11% said "not at all.".

An audience member asked about a tax increase on financial institutions proposed today by President Obama to help defray the costs of the financial bailout. Pollster Reilly responded (at 57:55 in the video) that the measure is "obviously very much aligned with where public opinion is" and that "in order to maintain any kind of a consensus moving forward politically, they have to demonstrate to these institutions that benefited from government assistance during the last year, that a fair deal has been struck and that they are paying back."

So responding to a sense of "distrust of everything in politics" is not just the province of the far right. It is a reaction to public opinion across the board.

[Special thanks to the National Journal's Ryan Morris and Reuben Dalke for sharing their beautiful graphics above that will appear in the print edition of the magazine this week].


Taylor: Were the Benchmarks Wrong?

Topics: Harris Poll , Internet Polls , Opt-in internet polls , Sampling

Humphrey Taylor is chairman of the Harris Poll at Harris Interactive, which conducts surveys on the internet.

I have read Yeager and Krosnick's recent, well researched essay on this subject with great interest.  It was written in response to my comments (of October 26) on their paper comparing the accuracy of RDD telephone surveys and Internet surveys conducted with probability and non-probability samples posted in August 2009.

In their new essay Yeager and Krosnick provide evidence to refute my two criticisms of their original paper.

"Consistency"

My first criticism was the data they presented, even if completely accurate, did not show that the "RDD telephone data was consistently more accurate than the non-probability surveys." Yeager and Krosnick agree with me that the Harris Interactive's data points are closer to the benchmarks on two of the six items they used by 2.64 and 0.56 percentage points. They argue that the word "consistently" was justified because these differences are small (and they are). So this is really a question about semantics. The Oxford English Dictionary defines consistently as "uniformly, with persistent uniformity." IF the RDD sample produced more accurate data on six out of the six variables, that would be consistently more accurate but four out of six is not.

Social Desirability Bias

Yeager and Krosnick agree with me that "Internet surveys are less subject to social desirability bias than are surveys involving live interviewers," and provide some useful references to support this conclusion. However, they argue that "the measures of smoking and drinking we examined were not contaminated by social desirability bias."

Smoking and Drinking

The authors provide several hypotheses, other than social desirability bias, that might explain why Harris Interactive's online surveys found more drinkers and smokers than the benchmark survey and the RDD survey, both involving live interviewers. For example they suggest that "perhaps the people who agreed to participate in the opt-in Harris Interactive Internet surveys generally possessed the studied undesirable attributes at higher rates than did respondents to the RDD sample." This is possible, of course, just as it is possible that Harris Interactive's online respondents are much more likely to be gay or lesbian, and less likely to give money to charity, to clean their teeth, believe in God, go to religious services, exercise regularly, abstain from alcohol and drive under the speed limit. However this hypothesis sounds very like the argument used by the tobacco industry for thirty years or more that the correlation between smoking and lung cancer could be because those prone to this disease were more likely to smoke .

Yeager and Krosnick also address the evidence I quoted from the Federal government's NHANES survey which found that based on blood samples more people had apparently smoked than admitted to smoking cigarettes when they were interviewed.The authors present several hypotheses to explain this difference, all of which may be true but none of which are proven. It is surely true, as they suggest, that part of the increase is due to people using tobacco in ways other than smoking cigarettes. But they also argue that the data from the blood samples cannot be usedas a check on respondent's answers because for most respondents there was a gap of "between two and nine weeks" between the interview and the drawing of the blood sample, and that smoking behavior may have changed during this time. If so this would be a big increase in the number of smokers over a short time, and this trend if it continued would rapidly increase the number of adult smokers, which has not happened.

As I suggested at the beginning, I am impressed by Yeager and Krosnick's research on the literature on this topic. Furthermore, I concede that I have not proved that social desirability bias is the only possible explanation for the differences between our online survey data and the live interviewer surveys on smoking and drinking (including our own). However, Yeager and Krosnick have not proved my hypothesis is wrong and their explanations for these differences are also hypothetical and, I submit, less plausible.

The 7 "secondary demographics"

This was not part of my argument about "were the benchmarks wrong?" but was in the original paper by Yeager and Krosnick and was referenced again in the authors' reply, so a few comments may be useful. The seven variables were picked by the authors from a long list that they might have used. Had they chosen other variables the results might have told a different story, but we do not have those data. The average errors involved were modest ( 3.0 and 1.7 respectively) and the differences between the two samples was small. One of the seven variable was the number of adults in the household, a variable for which Harris normally weights; I am not sure why it was not weighted in this survey. By far the biggest error in the Harris survey was for people in households with incomes of between $50,000 and $60,000 (why that particular bracket and not others?) Replies to questions about incomes are notoriously unreliable and here again social desirability bias may well be at work.

One other thing

At the risk of extending this dialogue, there is one other important point that should be made about the research on which Yeager and Krosnick have based their paper and their conclusions.
They reported that the RDD telephone survey used in these comparisons was very different from the typical telephone surveys used by any of the published polls. It was in the field for six months, non-respondents were offered a $10 incentive to participate, and it achieved a 35.6% response rate. In other words, the sample was presumably much better than the samples used in all the published telephone polls, which do not pay incentives, are usually in the field for only a few days, and achieve much lower response rates. Even if the RDD survey used by the authors had been more accurate than our online poll (which, of course, I dispute) it would say nothing about the accuracy of the RDD telephone polls published in the media.


MA: Coakley 49 Brown 41 (BMG 1/12-13)


Blue Mass. Group (D) / Research 2000
1/12-13/10; 500 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Blue Mass. Group: post, crosstabs)

Massachusetts

2010 Senate
49% Coakley (D), 41% Brown (R), 5% Kennedy (L) (chart)


US: Health Care (CNN 1/8-10)


CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
1/8-10/10; 1,021 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)

National

As you may know, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed bills that would make major changes in the country's health care system. Based on what you have read or heard about those bills, do you generally favor them or generally oppose them?
40% Favor, 57% Oppose (chart)

Do you oppose those bills because you think their approach toward health
care is too liberal, or because you think they are not liberal enough?

40% Favor (from previous question
45% Oppose, too liberal
10% Oppose, not liberal enough

Now thinking specifically about the health insurance plans available to most Americans, would you favor or oppose creating a public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies?
54% Favor, 46% Oppose

The two bills before Congress have different ways to pay for the costs associated with the changes they would make to the health care system. If you had to choose, would you rather see Congress pass a bill that raises taxes on high-income Americans, regardless of the kind of health insurance plan they have, or would you rather see Congress pass a bill that raises taxes on high-quality health insurance plans, regardless of the amount of money made by the people covered by those plans?
61% Raise taxes on people with high incomes
29% Raise taxes on high-quality health insurance plans


NV: 2010 Sen (PPP 1/11-12)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
1/11-12/10; 763 likely voters, 3.6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

Nevada

2010 Senate (trends)
51% Lowden (R), 41% Reid (D) (chart)
50% Tarkanian (R), 42% Reid (D) (chart)
46% Lowden (R), 38% Berkley (D)
47% Tarkanian (R), 39% Berkley (D)
42% Goodman (D) 42%, Lowden (R) 40%
41% Goodman (D), 41% Tarkanian (R)
44% Lowden (R), 34% Miller (D)
45% Tarkanian (R), 34% Miller D)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 44 / 52 (chart)
Sen. Reid: 36 / 58 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Shelley Berkley: 27 / 27
Oscar Goodman: 43 / 21
Sue Lowden: 29 / 22
Ross Miller: 18 / 16
Danny Tarkanian: 33 / 24

Do you support or oppose President Obama's health care plan, or do you not have an opinion?
36% Support, 54% Oppose

Do you think that Harry Reid should step down from his position as Senate Majority Leader?
42% Yes, 49% No


A Good Way to Help Haiti

Topics: Haiti , Partners in Health , Paul Farmer

Given the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, the internet has been buzzing with ways to help. I want to amplify this suggestion from The Nation's Peter Rothberg:

There are numerous ways to help groups already on the ground. One of the best, Partners In Health, has been operating in the country since 1987, originally to deliver health care to the residents of Haiti's mountainous Central Plateau region. PiH now also operates clinics in Port au Prince and other major Haitian cities. With hospitals and a highly trained medical staff in place, Partners In Health is already mobilizing resources and preparing plans to bring medical assistance and supplies to areas that have been hardest hit. Donations to help earthquake relief efforts will be quickly routed to the disaster.

You can make an online donation to Partners in Health on their website. According to this detailed update on what they are doing to help, their "greatest need is financial support."

I am seconding that recommendation because of a similar testimonial I heard this morning from my spouse, a physician and former colleague of Paul Farmer, Partner's executive vice president, when they both practiced at the Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston.

Farmer's work in Haiti was the subject of Tracy Kidder's best-selling book, Mountains Beyond Mountains. To get a sense of the story, and why my wife has total confidence in Farmer's work, here are two brief excerpts of an interview Kidder gave last year:

I had met [Paul Farmer] in 1994 and found him intriguing, but I think the decisive moment was when I saw his health center in Haiti for the first time in 2000.You travel from the airport along this horrible road where you mostly notice the absence of things: Electricity, arable land, even trees. And after three hours of witnessing unremitting misery all around you --people without food, without shoes-- you come to this verdant citadel that provides high-quality medical services to everyone for miles around, regardless of their ability to pay. I remember feeling that if it was possible for this to be here, then anything was possible.

[...]

It's amazing: They now have nine sites in Haiti, including four hospitals complete with operating rooms, and they've got AIDS under control in the entire central plateau of Haiti. I mean Haiti is still in desperate shape, but this is something good that's happened there, and they're continuing to expand. They now have about three thousand staff members of Partners In Health in Haiti, almost all Haitian, and a total of about five thousand worldwide.

Take it from my family: If you want to make a donation that will be put to immediate use to help those in need in Haiti, you can do no better than Partners in Health.

Update -  An even better testimonial from Kidder comes this morning in an op-ed in today's New York Times

But there are effective aid organizations working in Haiti. At least one has not been crippled by the earthquake. Partners in Health, or in Haitian Creole Zanmi Lasante, has been the largest health care provider in rural Haiti. (I serve on this organization's development committee.) It operates, in partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health, some 10 hospitals and clinics, all far from the capital and all still intact. As a result of this calamity, Partners in Health probably just became the largest health care provider still standing in all Haiti.

Fortunately, it also offers a solid model for independence -- a model where only a handful of Americans are involved in day-to-day operations, and Haitians run the show. Efforts like this could provide one way for Haiti, as it rebuilds, to renew the promise of its revolution.


OH: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 1/12)


Rasmussen
1/12/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Ohio

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 46 / 54 (chart)
Gov. Strickland: 43 / 54 (chart)

2010 Senate
Portman (R) 44%, Fisher (D) 37% (chart)
Portman (R) 43%, Brunner (D) 40% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Rob Portman: 49 / 25
Lee Fisher: 41 / 39
Jennifer Brunner: 37 / 39


US: National Survey (Pew 1/6-10)


Pew Research Center
1/6-10/10; 1,504 adults, 3% margin of error
359 Republicans, 6.5% margin of error
484 Democrats, 5.5% margin of error
605 independents, 5$ margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)

National

Obama Job Approval
49% Approve, 42% Disapprove (chart)
Reps: 15 / 77 (chart)
Dems: 84 / 9 (chart)
Inds: 39 / 49 (chart)
Economy: 42 / 51 (chart)
Health care: 38 / 52 (chart)
Terrorism: 51 / 39
Foreign Policy: 44 / 40 (chart)

State of the Country
27% Satisfied, 69% Dissatisfied (chart)

In the long run, do you think Barack Obama will be a successful or unsuccessful president, or do you think it is too early to tell?
24% Successful, 21% Unsuccessful, 52% Too early to tell

Job Approval / Disapproval
Reps in Congress: 27 / 57
Dems in Congress: 35 / 53

Looking ahead, so far as you are concerned, do you think that 2010 will be better or worse than 2009?
67% Better, 26% Worse

2010 House: Generic Ballot
46% Democrat, 44% Republican (chart)

Compared with the Bush Administration, do you think the policies of the Obama Administration have made the United States
28% Safer from terrorism
22% Less safe from terrorism
46% Haven't made a difference

In dealing with important issues facing the country, are [RANDOMIZE; Barack Obama and Republican leaders in Congress, Republican leaders in Congress and Barack Obama] working together or not working together? (if not) Who do you think is most to blame for them not working together?
25% Working together
19% Not working together, Obama to blame
32% Not working together, Republican leaders to blame
16% Not working together, other/neither/both/don't know to blame

Party ID
33% Democrat, 22% Republican, 42% independent (chart)


US: National Survey (NationalJournal 1/3-7)

Topics: poll

AllState / National Journal Heartland Monitor
1/3-7/10; 1,200 adults, 2.8% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(National Journal: Ronald Brownstein article, results)

National

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

Obama Job Approval
47% Approve, 45% Disapprove (chart)

And, if the election for President in 2012 were held today, would you ...?
39% Definitely/Probably vote to re-elect Obama
50% Definitely/Probably vote for someone else

And, in general, who do you trust more to develop solutions to the country's economic challenges... President Obama OR Republicans in Congress?
55% Obama, 26% Republicans in Congress

Had John McCain won the presidency, do you think the policies that he would have pursued over the last 12 months would have left the country in...
36% About the same shape as it is now under Obama
32% Worse shape than it is now under Obama
24% Better shape than it is now under Obama

And, on the topic of health care, as you understand it, do you support or oppose the current legislation to reform health care in the U.S. currently being considered by Congress and the Senate? Do you support/oppose strongly or somewhat?
45% Support, 46% Oppose (chart)


US: Terrorism, Health Care (Quinnipiac 1/5-11)


Quinnipiac
1/5-11/10; 1,767 registered voters, 2.3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)

National

Obama Job Approval
Terrorism: 48 / 44

Who do you trust to do a better job handling health care - President Obama or the Republicans in Congress?
42% Obama, 41% 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 ongress?
34% Approve, 54% Disapprove (chart)

Generally speaking, do you think the proposed changes to the health care system under consideration in Congress go too far, not far enough, or are they about right?
44% Too far, 29% Not far enough, 17% About right

Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?
59% Support, 35% Oppose

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?
59% Right thing, 35% Shouldn't be involved

How likely do you think it is that in the near future there will be a terrorist attack in the United States causing large numbers of lives to be lost?
78% Very/Somewhat, 20% Not very/Not at all

When it comes to dealing with people suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks against the United States, which would you prefer: trying them in open criminal court with a jury and a civilian judge or trying them in a closed military court with a military judge?
34% Criminal court, 59% Military court

Should president Obama close the Guantanamo Bay prison?
28% Yes, 60% No

What concerns you more about the government's anti-terrorism policies - that they have gone too far in restricting the average person's civil liberties or that they have not gone far enough to adequately protect the country?
25% Gone too far, 63% Not gone far enough

In order to prevent terrorism, should there be greater use of body scanners at airports - which allows screeners to scan a person's body through their clothing?
84% Yes, 13% No


CT: 2010 Sen (Quinipiac 1/8-12)

Topics: poll

Quinnipiac
1/8-12/10; 1,430 registered voters, 2.6% margin of error
542 Democrats, 4.2% margin of error
378 Republicans, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)

Connecticut

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary (trends)
Blumenthal 82%, Alpert 4%

2010 Senate: Republican Primary (trends)
Simmons 37%, McMahon 27%, Schiff 4%

2010 Senate: General Election (trends)
Blumenthal 62%, Simmons 27%
Blumenthal 64%, McMahon 23%
Blumenthal 66%, Schiff 19%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Richard Blumenthal: 74 / 13
Merrick Alpert: 3 / 3
Rob Simmons: 36 / 18
Linda McMahon: 24 / 21
Peter Schiff: 8 / 5

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Rell: 64 / 28 (chart)
Sen. Lieberman: 39 / 54 (chart)
Sen. Dodd: 36 / 58 (chart)
Pres. Obama: 55 / 41 (chart)


Massachusetts Polls Update (1/13)

Topics: 2010 , Harrison Hickman , Incumbent Rule , Likely Voters , Martha Coakley , Massachusetts , Scott Brown

The flurry of commentary on polling in the Massachusetts Senate race plus a handful of new polls -- some real, some rumor -- provide some new topics worth discussing. I'm going to take these in order, but none take away from the obvious conclusion that the race is likely to be a lot closer than most assumed a few weeks ago.

1) Recent Trend? On Sunday, I bemoaned the lack of apples-to-apples polling comparisons available over the last few weeks. Yesterday's update from Rasmussen Reports showing Scott Brown trailing Martha Coakley by just two percentage points (49% to 47%) appears to provide such a comparison, since Rasmussen's track a week ago showed Coakley leading by nine (50% to 41%). But read the fine print:

The results of this poll are not precisely comparable with last week's results because this poll includes the independent candidate by name while the previous poll simply offered the choice of "some other candidate." Additionally, the latest poll results include "leaners."

Leaners are those who don't initially have a preference for one of the major candidates but indicate that they are leaning in that direction. Without "leaners," Brown was actually ahead by a single percentage point.

The pressing of leaners is the bigger issue here, particularly given a pattern I'll discuss below. Rasmussen shows independent Joe L. Kennedy receiving just 3% of the vote (this Kennedy is unrelated to the more famous Kennedy family that includes the late Senator and his nephew Joseph P. Kennedy, who once represented Boston in Congress).

Now, I don't want to belabor this point. My colleague Marc Ambinder reported last night that the "internal Democratic tracking in MA last week had Coakley up by 15. Today, she's up by five." And there is no denying that Brown has significantly narrowed the gap since November, so it's likely that he has continued to gain in recent days.

Our chart above -- which happily compares apples and oranges without remorse, but does not include the rumored internal polling -- does indicate a narrowing margin since January 1.

2) Turnout or Persuasion? On Sunday, I argued that "turnout matters," mostly because cross-tabulations in both the Boston Globe/UNH and Rasmussen surveys show a much closer race among the most interested and likely voters than among other respondents. This latest Rasmussen survey (added to the bottom of the table below) confirms the trend:

2010-01-10-MA-Turnout.png

We can assume that a special election will draw fewer voters than an off-year general election for Governor or Senator held in November, but it is not clear where to draw the line in defining the likely electorate. And efforts to increase turnout will help Coakley: And for every three previously disinterested voters who change their minds and decide to vote this week, two will be Coakley supporters..

In that context, I have to agree with Chuck Todd and company at NBC's First Read:

[I]t probably doesn't help Brown that the contest has been nationalized. All the ads Democratic and conservative groups are now airing, all the money that's now flowing into the race, and all the reminders about how health care hangs in the balance will likely boost Democratic enthusiasm.

That said, I agree with Nate Silver that the close nature of the race is "not just about turnout." As Pollster reader Harry Enten (aka Poughies) noted on Sunday, the voters identified as independent on the automated surveys support Scott Brown by margins of better than two-to-one, while the Boston Globe/University of New Hampshire poll shows a very slight Coakley advantage among both independent identifiers and the much larger group of those who report they declared no party affiliation when they registered to vote.


2010-01-11-MA-independents

Having made these comparisons, let me offer some big caveats: In comparing "independents" we have two variables that might introduce house effects -- the likely voter screen and the way the pollster asks about party identification -- plus much larger random error (as these smaller subgroups typically involve much smaller sample sizes). That said, I can't account for all the difference between the Globe and the other polls on the basis of the LV screen and question wording alone. Given that, as Harry Enten notes, the surveys are much more similar in terms of the results they report for Democrats and Republicans, it looks like the differences separating the Globe and the automated surveys have a lot to do with those who consider themselves independent.

[An aside: it is likely that a more stringent likely voter screen would have a slightly disproportionate impact on independents. I checked some national pre-election polling data from 2004 and 2008 and found that while narrowing from the least restrictive to most restrictive likely voter models makes independents slightly more Republican leaning, it is hard to see how such a phenomenon alone explains the 20+ point differences in the table above].

If you accept the very close margins on the PPP and Rasmussen surveys as real, then Brown is successfully persuading a lot of non-Republicans to support him who typically vote Democratic.

Here's a hypothesis that might explain the pattern: if Brown ekes out a victory or comes within a few percentage points of winning, it will because he wins the support of a lot of voters -- most of them independent -- who typically vote Democratic. Brown has probably not yet closed the sale with these voters, given their prior vote history, but they are poised to support him. Perhaps it is harder for them to tell a live interviewer they are ready to vote Republican. Perhaps the more anonymous nature of the automated methodology better simulates the act of voting which will ultimately force a decision.

3) A 50% Coakley Ceiling? On Monday, pollster Scott Rasmussen noted that all three surveys available then "show Coakley right around the 50% mark....If Coakley is truly right around [50%], then the race is hers to lose, and Brown's best possible scenario is a very narrow victory." Rasmussen is correct about the consistency of of Coakley's support. It extends to his most recent survey and to the narrower cuts of likely and interested voters from both the Rasmussen and Globe surveys:

2010-01-11-Coakley-Ceiling.png

Consider again the theory I offered above. It may be that Brown is on the verge of winning the support of a lot of voters who typically vote for Democrats, so the differences in methodology -- how hard each pollster effectively pushes for a decision -- produce a much bigger variation in his measured support.

Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics has a different theory. He argues that the pattern evokes the much discussed "incumbent rule" (popularized by pollster Nick Panagakis) and thus expects a decisive break of undecideds likely for Brown. Trende concedes that the rule has weakened over the past decade, a development that he attributes to the faster flow of information in the internet/cable age, something Mickey Kaus has dubbed the Feiler Faster thesis.  

Previously, incumbents generally enjoyed strong name recognition, while challengers were typically unknown. The reasoning behind the undecided rule," Trende says, "is that if voters haven't fallen in love with the incumbent by election day, they aren't going to vote for him (or her). The undecideds, therefore, can be expected to take a flier on the challenger." He argues that in a world where information flows faster, races for Governor, Senate and Congress now "receive a lot more scrutiny than they used to," so challengers are better known and the "rule" breaks down. At very least, the rule "is probably inapplicable as a predictive device...when you have two well-known candidates."

This special election, he says, is different, and Coakley is effectively the incumbent:

We have a sitting Attorney General who came out of a contested primary, going up against a more-or-less completely unknown state Senator. She's struggling to get above 50%. All of this points toward a very close final race -- potentially much closer than a week ago when I guessed at a 54-46 spread. Again, this is also consistent with what we're seeing in the variance in the Coakley/Brown numbers. Coakley should be worried.

Coakley should be worried -- and may well face a ceiling of support near 50% -- but I would not count on it. First, Brown is a long way from "completely unknown." Even the Globe poll, completed a week ago, found more than two thirds (69%) of likely voters able to rate Brown either favorably or unfavorably. Second, while Coakley is better known, the name recognition disparity between the two candidates is not unusual, even in the internet age.

Finally, I think Trende misses the best explanation for the incumbent rule, offered three ago by my old boss, Democratic pollster Harrison Hickman:

Hickman pointed out that in the 1980s, the conventional wisdom was to avoid mention of your opponent, a habit that helped explain why challengers won much of the late undecided vote. Now, he said, the general pattern is for incumbents to vigorously attack challengers throughout the campaign. "Incumbents put so much more pressure on challengers then they used to." (See this pre-election column by Dick Meyer of CBS News that includes data Hickman gathered showing the impact of negative advertising on candidate favorable ratings since 1986).

And of course, over the last 24 hours, the Coakley campaign, the DSCC and SEIU have all devoted significant media buys to negative attacks on Brown. Those attack ads may or may not persuade (a different issue), and will certainly be answered, but if we are truly living in a Feiler Faster world, expect the negative messages to disseminate rapidly.

Five years ago, a certain blogger noticed a similar pattern in the polling on the Bush-Kerry race in Ohio. Bush's numbers were amazingly consistent -- four polls had him at 47% and one at 46% -- while Kerry's numbers fluctuated between 45% and 50%. The blogger speculated that this pattern showed "the underlying principles of the Incumbent Rule in action" and boldly predicted that Bush "is likely headed for an Ohio defeat."

Bush carried Ohio, 50.8% to 48.7%. Incumbents did not break decisively to Kerry. If anything, Bush gained over the last two weeks, mostly because he made the race as much about Kerry as Bush. The big question hanging over the Massachusetts Senate race is whether Coakely and her allies can do the same to Brown over the next week.


ID: Approval Ratings (Greg Smith 12/20-23)


Greg Smith & Associates
12/20-23/09; 400 adults, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Greg Smith & Associates release)

Idaho

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Otter: 53 / 19
Pres. Obama: 35 / 54


Self-Describing 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Frank Newport explains why pollsters accept self-reports of issue knowledge.

Neil Newhouse and Jeremy Ruch say Obama's numbers are near historic lows for second-year presidents.

Joshua Tucker sees evidence of shifting opinions on the U.S. in the ABC News Afghanistan poll.

Sarah Binder finds that Obama's legislative success is based on few public positions by the administration.

Mark Mellman ponders Obama's first year in office.

David Hill sees
warning signs for campaigns in Conan O'Brien's plight.

Alan Reifman parses
the latest health care polling.

A Jim Geraghty reader crunches the numbers and expects a Brown win in Massachusetts.

Harris releases an online poll on online (and print) media consumption.

xkcd produces a self-describing chart:

xkcd.png


NH: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 1/12)


Rasmussen
1/12/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

New Hampshire

2010 Senate (trends)
45% Hodes (D), 38% Lamontagne (R)
49% Ayotte (R), 40% Hodes (D) (chart)
43% Hodes (D), 37% Binnie (R)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 52 / 47 (chart)
Gov. Lynch: 58 / 38 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Kelly Ayotte: 60 / 21
Paul Hodes: 49 / 43
Ovide Lamontagne: 38 / 35
Bill Binnie: 34 / 29


MN: 2010 Gov Primaries (Rasmussen 10/11)


Rasmussen
10/11/10; 331 likely Democratic primary voters, 5% margin of error
301 likely Republican primary voters, 6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Minnesota

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
34% Mark Dayton, 25% R.T. Rybak, 12% Margaret Anderson Kelliher, 5% Matt Entenza (trend)

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
52% Norm Coleman, 9% Tom Emmer, 9% Marty Seifert, 5% Pat Anderson (trend)


NV: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 1/11)


Rasmussen
1/11/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Nevada

2010 Senate (trends)
Lowden (R) 48%, Reid (D) 36% (chart)
Tarkanian (R) 50%, Reid (D) 36% (chart)
Angle (R) 44%, Reid (D) 40%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Harry Reid: 41 / 55 (chart)
Sue Lowden: 47 / 28
Danny Tarkanian: 49 / 28
Sharron Angle: 39 / 33

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 49 / 50 (chart)
Gov. Gibbons: 35 / 63 (chart)


US: National Survey (Quinnipiac 1/5-11)


Quinnipiac
1/5-11/10; 1,767 registered voters, 2.3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)

National

Obama Job Approval
45% Approve, 45% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 81 / 12 (chart)
Reps: 16 / 74 (chart)
inds: 42 / 48 (chart)
Economy: 41 / 54 (chart)
Foreign Policy: 45 / 46 (chart)
Health Care: 35 / 58 (chart)
Afghanistan: 45 / 45
Creating Jobs: 34 / 59
Terrorism: 48 / 44

Job Approval / Disapproval
Dems in Congress: 32 / 59
Reps in Congress: 32 / 58

State of the Country 27% Satisfied, 72% Dissatisfied (chart)

Do you think Barack Obama's first year as President has been mainly a success or mainly a failure?
45% Success, 45% Failure

Do you think Barack Obama has been a better President than George W. Bush, worse, or about the same as President Bush?
43% Better, 30% Worse, 23% Same

In the Presidential election of 2008, if John McCain had become President instead of Barack Obama, do you think that, in general, the nation would be better off than it is today or worse off than it is today?
35% Better, 37% Worse, 17% Same

Would you say that Barack Obama - shares your views on issues that you care about or not?
46% Yes, 50% No

Do you think that the policies of President Barack Obama make the United States a safer place than the policies of former President George W. Bush, less safe, or about as safe as the policies of former President Bush?
24% Safer, 35% Less safe, 38% Same


US: Obama, Health Care (Gallup 1/8-10)


USA Today / Gallup
1/8-10/10; 1,023 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup: Obama, Health Care)

National

Obama Approval / Disapproval
Terrorism: 49 / 46
Foreign Affairs: 47 / 47 (chart)
Economy: 40 / 56 (chart)
Health Care: 37 / 58 (chart)

Would you advise your member of Congress to vote for or against a healthcare bill this year, or do you not have an opinion?
49% Vote for, 46% Vote against (chart)


MA: Coakley 49 Brown 47 (Rasmussen 1/11)


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

Massachusetts

2010 Senate
49% Coakley (D), 47% Brown (R), 3% Kennedy (i) (chart)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 57 / 41
Gov. Patrick: 40 / 59

Favorable / Unfavorable
Scott Brown: 59 / 33
Martha Coakley: 58 / 40


Not Unprecedented 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Tom Jensen blogs more thoughts on Massachusetts.

Nate Silver says a close race in Massachusetts is far from unprecedented.

Jim Geraghty reports on a reader called by PPP.


US: National Survey (CNN 1/8-10)


CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
1/8-10/10; 1,021 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)

National

Obama Job Approval
51% Approve, 48% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 44 / 54 (chart)
Foreign Affairs: 51 / 46 (chart)
Terrorism: 50 / 49
Health Care: 40 / 59 (chart)

In general, would you say that President Obama's views and proposed programs for the country are too liberal, not liberal enough, or just about right for the country?
46% Too liberal, 10% Not liberal enough, 42% About right

Do you consider the first year of the Obama administration to be a success or a failure?
47% Success, 48% Failure

Congressional Job Approval
27% Approve, 72% Disapprove (chart)


MA: 2010 Gov (PPP 1/7-9)


Public Policy Polling (D)
1/7-9/10; 744 likely voters, 3.6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

Massachusetts

2010 Governor
Patrick (D) 29%, Baker (R) 27%, Cahill (i) 21%
Patrick (D) 28%, Cahill (i) 25%, Mihos (R) 21%
Galvin (D) 26%, Cahill (i) 22%, Mihos (R) 20%
Galvin (D) 26%, Baker (R) 26%, Cahill (i) 18%

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Patrick: 22 / 59

Favorable / Unfavorable
Charlie Baker: 17 / 13
Tim Cahill: 24 / 22
Willliam Galvin: 36 / 18
Christy Mihos: 20 / 35


US: Race in America (Pew 10/28-11/30)


Pew Research Center
10/28-11/30/10; 2884 adults, 3% margin of error
812 non-Hispanic blacks, 4.5% margin of error
376 Hispanics, 7.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)

National

Pew:

Despite the bad economy, blacks' assessments about the state of black progress in America have improved more dramatically during the past two years than at any time in the past quarter century, according to a comprehensive new nationwide Pew Research Center survey on race.

Barack Obama's election as the nation's first black president appears to be the spur for this sharp rise in optimism among African Americans. It may also be reflected in an upbeat set of black views on a range of other matters, including race relations, local community satisfaction and expectations for future black progress.

In each of these realms, the perceptions of blacks have changed for the better over the past two years, despite a deep recession and jobless recovery that have hit blacks especially hard.


NJ: Corzine, Christie (FDickinson 1/4-10)

Topics: poll

Fairleigh Dickinson
1/4-10/10, 801 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Fairleigh Dickinson release)

New Jersey

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jon Corzine: 30 / 61 (chart)
Chris Christie: 45 / 23

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Jon Corzine has done as governor?
33% Approve, 58% Disapprove (chart)

Do you approve or disapprove of way Chris Christie has handled his transition to governor?
48% Approve, 13% Disapprove


The Pendulum Swings Back

Topics: 2010 , Approval Ratings , Democrats , Harry Reid , Obama , Turnout

While we hate to interrupt the feeding frenzy over Harry Reid and Game Change, we thought the time was right for a quick, unvarnished snapshot of the current political environment and look at where we think voter turnout might be heading this fall.

Current Political Environment:

  1. The GOP is finally winning on the issues and Reid is a distraction. While Republicans must be salivating over the Harry Reid comments and backlash, we think that some consideration should be given to letting this go. Yes, it further tarnishes Congress and may further suppress Democrat turnout in November, but the rise of the GOP over the last several months has been largely due to the condition of the economy and opposition to some of the administration's policies. Take, for example, the erosion POTUS has had in his perceived handling of these three issue areas:

    Handling of Economy: 42% approve, down 14 points from a year ago.
    Foreign Policy: 47% approve, down 8 points from a year ago.
    Health Care: 41% approve, down 15 points from a year ago.

    Voters are very issue-centric these days. The Obama team and Democrats in Congress would much rather be talking about race than jobs, spending and national security.

  2. The Obama agenda and message has been spread so thin, it is almost meaningless. There is a fine line between demonstrating an aggressive, action-oriented agenda and trying to do so much that people really don't know what you've done or what you're doing. The administration appears to have tipped into the latter. Team Obama wanted to be the "anti-Bush" administration, but in doing so they may have lost a lot of momentum and meaning to any change they have generated. We will know more about public reaction in the coming months, but for the time being it appears that Obama would have been better off picking one or two signature initiatives in year one.

  3. The GOP is benefiting from the anti-incumbent sentiment, but it remains a largely hollow brand. Until the Republican party can paint a picture of its new brand image in a clear and compelling way - it remains a default party rather than a movement. Voters are being repelled from the Democrats and are only moving over to the GOP column by default. The only way to lock them in is to present a clear and compelling agenda--and that has not happened to date.


Observations on Voter Turnout for 2010:

The overall trend to the national voter turnout rate has been upward since 1980. However, there is a very obvious, consistent up-down pattern to voter turnout in presidential versus midterm elections. For example, when we separate the two types of elections and look at the trend, we see that the increase in turnout has been driven entirely by increases in turnout for Presidential-year elections. In off-years, turnout is actually down very slightly over the past 30 years. So the gap between Presidential and midterm turnout is also increasing. This is not unexpected, given the increased exposure and attention received by Presidential races over this period.

  • From 1980 - 2006, there were four Presidential elections where turnout exceeded the expected rate. In three of the four following midterm elections, turnout was again higher than expected. There were also three Presidential elections where turnout fell below the trend line. In all three of those cases, turnout was lower than the expected rate given the overall trend. Accordingly, it appears that higher turnout in a Presidential race generally leads to higher turnout in the following midterm, and vice-versa.

    o In the famous Gingrich-led "wave" election of 1994, overall turnout was indeed higher than both the predicted value and either the 1990 or 1998 midterms. However, this famous increase in turnout might have been predicted just by the turnout surge for Clinton's victory in 1992.


  • What does this tell us for 2010? Looking just at the trend line, the data would predict a 39.4% national turnout rate. However, knowing that turnout did exceed expectations in 2008, we'd wager that in 2010 turnout will exceed the trend and fall somewhere in 41.5%-42.5% range.

112chart1.jpg


  • Of course, in looking all elections, it's not just about how many people vote but who they vote for. And while this data says nothing about the composition of the electorate in the lower-turnout midterm years, an examination of the less-than-reliable exit polls can provide some color to these results.
  • The first thing that jumps out is that there is a strong relationship between midterm turnout and the composition of the electorate. When midterm turnout is high, it is generally because of an increase in the turnout of the base of the party that does not hold the White House.

    o This relationship was especially strong in 2002 and 2006, where Democrats turned out in unprecedented numbers for the midterm elections. Of course, the outcomes in those years could not be more different, with the Republicans actually picking up 8 House seats in 2002 but losing 31 in 2006. And in 1994, when Republicans picked up 54 seats, they were only 36% of voters. Other factors such as the geographic distribution of a party's turnout and the independent vote--which swung strongly against Democrats in 1994 and Republicans in 2006--are also significant factors in election outcomes.

112chart2.jpg
Our conclusion is that after one party rides a higher-turnout election into the White House, they can usually expect a corresponding wave--this time, in favor of their opponents--at the polls the following year. And the size of the midterm turnout "wave" is generally proportionate to the increase in the previous cycle's overall turnout. However, just getting the national boost to turnout in the base is not enough by itself for gains and losses in Congress: the geographic distribution of the turnout and the split among independents is also vital.

So we shouldn't be surprised when a major story after the 2010 election is the surge in Republican turnout. And as we've noted before, perhaps Obama and the Democrat's turnout spike last year was not the precursor to a sustained Democratic shift in the electorate, but rather part of the same back-and-forth pattern that caught Clinton in 1994 and Bush in 2006. The current electoral environment certainly feels similarly anti-incumbent as well--not to mention recent horserace polls.

Thanks to John Zirinsky and Pete Ventimiglia for their analysis and insight on turnout.


US: National Survey (CBS 1/6-10)

Topics: poll

CBS News
1/6-10/10; 1,216 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CBS: results, Job Approval story, Health Care story, Guantanamo story, Air Travel story)

National

Obama Job Approval
46% Approve, 41% Disapprove (chart)
Reps: 13 / 79 (chart)
Dems: 81 / 11 (chart)
Inds: 42 / 40 (chart)
Economy: 41 / 47 (chart)
Health Care: 36 / 54 (chart)
Afghanistan: 46 / 38
Terrorism: 52 / 35

Do you approve or disapprove of the way ______ in Congress are handling health care?
Dems: 29 / 57
Reps: 24 / 61

Do you think the changes to the health care system under consideration in Congress go too far in trying to provide health insurance to as many Americans as possible, don't go far enough, or are the changes about right?
32% Too far, 35% Not far enough, 22% About right

Do you think the changes to the health care system under consideration in Congress go too far in trying to control costs, don't go far enough, or are the changes about right?
24% Too far, 39% Not far enough, 21% About right

Do you think the changes to the health care system under consideration in Congress go too far in trying to regulate the health insurance industry, don't go far enough, or are the changes about right?
27% Too far, 43% Not far enough, 18% About right

Party ID
30% Democrat, 25% Republican, 45% independent (chart)


What Are Your Neighbors Watching? 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Gary Langer highlights General McChrystal's response to a new ABC News/BBC/ARD poll of Afghanistan.

Scott Rasmussen looks closer at the Massachusetts polls; Sean Trende adds more.

Philip Klein analyzes divergent Massachusetts polls (via Hot Air).

Chris Bowers says that polling averages are more reliable than attempts to find the most accurate poll.

Tom Jensen looks at special election upsets by Democrats since 2004.

Ben Smith says the New York Times is threading a needle with their polling coverage.

John Sides scolds Maureen Dowd for generalizations about "Americans."

Andrew Gelman links to yet another chart of health quality by cost.

Nate Silver crunches the numbers the risk of terrorist attacks; Eric Lawrence responds, Gelman replies to Lawrence.

NY Times graphic artists create an incredible interactive graphic using Netflix data (hint: confusing until you use the slider at the top) via Lundry.


MA: 2010 Sen (Coakley 1/8-10)

Topics: poll

Mellman Group (D) for Martha Coakley Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
1/8-10/10; 800 likely voters
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Politico story)

Massachusetts

2010 Senate
50% Martha Coakley (D), 36% Scott Brown (R), 6% Joe Kennedy (i) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Brown: 48 / 25
Coakley: 56 / 33


OK: 2010 Gov (SoonerPoll 1/2-5)

Topics: poll

SoonerPoll.com / Tulsa World
1/2-5/09; 621 registered voters, 4% margin of error
325 Democrats, 5.4% margin of error
267 Republicans, 6% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Tulsa World: Governor, Approval)

Oklahoma

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
Mary Fallin 68%, Randy Brogdon 16%

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
Drew Edmondson 46%, Jari Askins 36%

2010 Governor: General Election
Fallin 51%, Edmondson 39%
Fallin 52%, Askins 36%

Favorable / Unfavorable
Askins: 43 / 28
Fallin: 54 / 29
Edmondson: 51 / 31
Brogdon: 13 / 21

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 36 / 58
Gov. Henry: 67 / 23
Sen. Inhofe: 61 / 29
Sen. Coburn: 65 / 26


Strategic Vision: Yet Another Promise of Crosstabs

Topics: crosstabulations , David Johnson , Larry Petersen , Savannah Morning News , Strategic Vision

An article yesterday by Larry Peterson of the Savannah Morning News rehashes much of the Strategic Vision, LLC controversy covered in my column a few weeks ago, but also features some new comments from Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson and this bit of news:

Some pollsters include cross-tabs with their results; others supply them only to paying clients. Until now, Johnson has said he's among the latter.

But [Johnson's] opted for a nod to critics who say his lack of transparency raises suspicions that he may have at least cut some corners.

He's provided the Morning News cross-tabs for a recent Georgia survey. And says he'll provide them to the news media with a survey his firm plans to conduct later this month.

No doubt, they'll be scrutinized by experts.

No doubt. If only someone would publish them. Mr. Peterson, if you have crosstabulations for a Strategic Vision poll, you may be the first, It would help if your newspaper could share with your readers whatever Johnson provided.

If Johnson's promise sounds familiar, it is probably because he made a similar pledge to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Jim Galloway back in September:

Events of the last week have caused Strategic Vision to come to the same conclusion about its future polling.

"We're going to release all the crosstabs, and put an end to this right now," Johnson said. "That will squelch anybody from saying anything."

We're still waiting.

Finally, Peterson's article includes this curious reference to me under the heading "Partisan Flap:"

Johnson says the flap has a partisan dimension.

A conservative, he works mostly for Republicans; Blumenthal is an avowed Democrat and has served as a director of the opinion research group.

I'm not sure how an "avowed Democrat" differs from an ordinary "Democrat" (except that the former sounds more sinister), but the second half of that sentence is incorrect: I have never been the "director" or president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) or of any other "opinion research group," as Peterson reports. I did serve for two years as a member of AAPOR's 15-member, all-volunteer Executive Council, something disclosed in almost every column or blog post I have written on this subject.


US: Terrorism (CNN 1/8-10)


CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
1/8-10/10, 1,021 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)

National

How worried are you that you or someone in your family will become a victim of terroris?
9% Very worried, 25% Somewhat worried, 35% Not too worried, 30% Not worried at all

How much confidence do you have in the Obama administration to protect U.S. citizens from future
acts of terrorism?

24% A great deal, 41% A moderate amount, 19% Not much, 16% None at all

Which comes closer to your view -- the terrorists will always find a way to launch major attacks no matter what the U.S. government does, or the U.S. government can eventually prevent all major attacks if it works hard enough at it?
60% Terrorists will always find a way
39% Government can prevent attacks

As you know, a man has been charged with attempting to use an explosive device on Christmas Day to blow up a plane that was flying to Detroit. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama has responded to that incident?
57% Approve, 39% Disapprove

If you had to choose, would you rather see the man who has been charged in that incident brought to trial in a criminal court run by the civilian judicial system, or would you rather see him tried by a
military court run by the U.S. armed forces?

42% Criminal court, 57% Military court

As a result of this incident, do you think that any top officials in the federal agencies responsible for handling the issue of terrorism should be fired, or don't you think so?
46% Should be fired, 51% Don't think so

As you may know, new machines called full-body scanners could be used at airports to scan passengers for weapons or explosives that cannot be detected by the machines currently in use. The new machines display an image of what the person being scanned looks like naked but that image is shown only to security personnel in a closed room at some distance from the machine itself. Do you think full-body scanners like that should or should not be used in U.S. airports?
79% Should be used, 20% Should not be used

Based on what you have read or heard about full-body scanners, do you think they pose a health risk to the people who go through them, or don't you think so?
18% Health risk, 76% Don't think so

Suppose you were at an airport planning to board a flight and security personnel were using a full body scanner like that to scan all passengers. Do you think you would feel unconcerned about that
or would that make you feel uneasy?

72% Unconcerned, 27% Uneasy

If you had a choice between going through a full body scanner that would take a small amount of time or spending much more time being frisked or patted down by a [male if respondent is male, female if respondent is female] security guard who would put his hands directly on your body, which option would you choose -- the full body scanner or a manual search of your body by a security guard?
82% Scanner, 15% Manual search


US: Air Travel (Gallup 1/5-6)


USA Today / Gallup
1/5-6/10; 542 adults who ahve taken two or more air trips in the past year, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)

National

As you may know, on Christmas Day a passenger on a Northwest airlines flight from Amsterdam attempted to set off explosives just before the plane landed in Detroit. Are you, personally, more concerned about the safety of air travel now than before this incident occurred, or has your level of concern not changed?
29% More Concerned, 70% No Change

One method of airport security that is expected to be used more widely at U.S. airports is a full body scan of passengers as they go through the security checkpoint. The full body-scan would show a graphic image of a person's body underneath his or her clothes. The image would be viewed only by federal screeners in a separate, private room. Do you approve or disapprove of U.S. airports using the full body scan on airline passengers?
78% approvem 20% Disapprove

ow uncomfortable would you, personally, be with undergoing a full-body scan at an airport security checkpoint?
10% Very uncomfortable, 22% Somewhat uncomfortable, 19% Not too uncomfortable, 48% Not uncomfortable at all

As you may know, an alternative to a full body scan would be to have an airport security agent pat passengers down, that is to touch their bodies or clothing to search for hidden objects. Which method would make you more uncomfortable -
70% Pat down, 22% Full body scan

How effective do you think a full-body scan would be in preventing terrorists from smuggling dangerous objects or explosives on board an airplane?
38% Very effective, 46% Somewhat effective, 8% Not too effective, 5% Not effective at all


US: Health Care (Rasmussen 1/8-9)


Rasmussen
1/8-9/10; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

National

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?
40% Strongly/Somewhat Favor, 55% Strongly/Somewhat Opposev (chart)


Dodd's Odds

Topics: Christopher Dodd , Incumbent , Incumbent Rule , National Journal column

My column for this week looks at whether Sen. Christopher Dodd was right to insist that "any certain prediction" of his defeat in 2010, had he chosen to run for reelection, "would be absurd." While the odds of an incumbent Senator coming back from a double-digit polling deficit this early are very long, there are a few examples that I review in the column.

Thanks to the pollsters I emailed and my Twitter "tweeps" for digging into their collective memories of Senate campaigns in the not-so-recent past.

Note: most of the poll results for past races cited in the column come from the subscriber-only archives of The Hotline, thus the lack of links. 


NV: 2010 Sen, Gov (LVRJ 1/5-7)


Las Vegas Review-Journal / Mason-Dixon
1/5-7/10; 625 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Senate: story, results; Governor: story, results)

Nevada

2010 Senate: Republican Primary (trends)
Tarkanian 28%, Lowden 26%, Angle 13%, Amodei 1%

2010 Senate: General Electiontrends)
Tarkanian (R) 49%, H. Reid (D) 41% (chart)
Lowden (R) 50%, H. Reid (D) 40% (chart)
Angle (R) 45%, H. Reid (D) 40%

2010 Governor: Republican Primary (trends)
Sandoval 39%, Gibbons 23%, Montandon 7%

2010 Governor: General Election (trends)
43% R. Reid (D), 36% Gibbons (R)
53% Sandoval (R), 31% R. Reid (D)
41% Goodman (i), 24% R. Reid (D), 21% Gibbons (R)
35% Sandoval (R), 33% Goodman (i), 20% R. Reid (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Oscar Goodman: 43 / 15
Brian Sandoval: 36 / 5
Barack Obama: 34 / 46 (chart)
Danny Tarkanian: 33 / 16
Harry Reid: 33 / 52 (chart)
Sue Lowden: 32 / 17
Rory Reid: 25 / 35
Sharron Angle: 21 / 11
Jim Gibbons: 18 / 53

Do you support or oppose the health care reform legislation that appears likely to pass Congress and be signed into law by President Obama?
35% Support, 54% Oppose

Do you approve of disapprove of Senator Harry Reid's efforts to get a health care reform bill through the U.S. Senate?
33% Approve, 60% Disapprove


Massachusetts Polls: Divergent Results But One Clear Finding

Topics: Divergent Polls , Likely Voters , Martha Coakley , Massachusetts , Scott Brown , Turnout

We have two new polls out in Massachusetts on the January 19 special election to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, and their results could not be more different. The new survey conducted Saturday through Wednesday last week by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center on behalf of the Boston Globe shows Democrat Martha Coakley leading by 17 percentage points (53% to 36%), while a new automated poll conducted on Thursday and Friday by Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows a dead heat, with Brown one point ahead (48% to 47%). A third survey conducted on Monday by Rasmussen Reports has Coakley ahead by nine (50% to 41%).

2010-01-10-three_MA_polls.png

The disparity of the results is likely to provoke the usual angst about inconsistent polls, debates about past pollster accuracy and the customary conspiracy theories about intentional bias. Forgive me if I don't join in, because as different as these results seem to be, I think the discrepancies actually add up to a consistent and important finding on the state of voter preferences this past week.

Here are three things to keep in mind about polls on the special election:

Turnout Will Matter -- The big spread in results among the polls, and differences apparent within two of them, are all consistent in supporting one finding: The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Scott Brown. These differences indicate that the voters most interested and most likely to vote are Republican, while Democrats are more blase.

Consider the differences in the table below from within Globe/UNH and Rasmussen surveys. Both show a dead even race among the most interested and certain voters, while Coakley leads by huge double-digit margins among all other voters.


2010-01-10_MAvotebyturnout.png

Those differences mean the overall results reported by any poll are going to be very sensitive to the "tightness" of the screen or likely voter model used. The more restrictive the screen, the closer the result. My assumption is that the "if you do not intend to vote...please hang up" automated methodology employed by PPP produced an effectively tighter screen and, thus, a likely voter sample closer to the "certain" or "extremely interested" subgroups of the Boston Globe and Rasmussen polls.

Pollsters can't predict turnout - I have yet to see any poll or statistical model that can predict voter turnout with precision, especially in an oddly timed special election like the one in Massachusetts. What pollsters try to do is monitor self reported enthusiasm and interest as compared to previous, comparable contests and try to calibrate their screens and models appropriately (although there is much debate among pollsters about the accuracy of those calibrations and their necessity).

The bigger challenge in predicting turnout, however, has to do with something more fundamental: The size and makeup of the electorate will depend on decisions not yet made by those who may or may not vote on January 19. How many will become more interested and decide to vote over the next 9 days? I'm not sure any poll or methodology can predict that with confidence.

Keep in mind that as of this past week, most Massachusetts voters assumed that Coakley would win in a walk. According to Globe/UNH poll, nearly three quarters (74%) of Massachusetts voters believe Coakley will win, while only 11% say the same about Brown. In that sense, news of a narrowing race could work to Coakley's advantage if it convinces Democrats that their votes are needed and that Ted Kennedy's seat could be lost to the Republicans without their help.

Turnout differences complicate trend tracking - The big spread in these poll results complicates our ability to spot trends. For example, PPP's Tom Jensen last night noted that they fielded their poll on Thursday and Friday, while the Globe/UNH poll was fielded in the first part of last week (Saturday through Wednesday). The earlier start to the Globe poll, he wrote yesterday, "could make a diff[erence] when things are moving fast." That's true in theory but difficult to evaluate in this case because we have to assume we are comparing an apple (the Globe/UNH results) to an orange (PPP) in terms of their likely voter samples.

Now that we have more than five polls released for this race, we should have our tracking chart posted (along with the tracking table, probably later tonight), but be forewarned: The small number of polls and the big "house effects" among them mean that we will really need to limit ourselves to same-pollster comparisons to evaluate trends over the last week. Coakley lead by an average of 29 percentage points on three surveys conducted before the primary last year, but leads by an average of 8 point on the three surveys conducted this past week. So we will see narrowing of the margin between the trend lines on our chart. Has Brown continued to gain over the last week? To answer that questions, we will need o watch tracking polls conducted next week by the same pollsters in the field this week.

Do we have a clear picture today of who will win on January 19 and by how much? Probably not, but we do have a sense of the dynamics that will ultimately determine the outcome.

And one last thought for those covering and commenting on this race: please spare us the cliche about the outcome depending on which campaign's "troops" do the best job turning out their supporters. Field organizations can make a difference, especially when contests are close, but the discrepancies in enthusiasm we are seeing are unrelated to canvassing and phone banking. Conservative Republicans are angry and ready to walk on hot coals if necessary to register their discontent with the direction of government. If he enthusiasm gap narrows, it will be because Democrats come to believe that Martha Coakley shares their priorities, Scott Brown threatens those priorities and the outcome of the election is in doubt.

Update: Via Twitter, Alex Lundry notes that the Globe Poll tests independent Joseph L. Kennedy (no relation to the famous family), while the PPP poll does not.  What's interesting about that is that the presence of a "Kennedy" on the ballot appears to cos Republican Brown more support than Democrat Coakley .  Also, for what it's worth, roughly 90% of those who support "Kennedy" (4 of his 5 percentage points) have not yet "definitely decided on a candidate, and about the same number (90%) are voters that are less than "extremely interested" in the Senate race.  

Update 2: Nate Silver reviews some of the other differences between the three polls.

Update 3: Our chart is now live:


MA: Coakley 53 Brown 36 (Globe/UNH 1/2-6)


Boston Globe / University of New Hampshire Survey Center
1/2-6/10; 554 likely voters, 4.2% margin of error
Mode: Live interviewer phone
(Globe article, results & crosstabs)

Massachusetts

2010 Senate (trends)
53% Martha Coakley (D), 36% Scott Brown (R), 5% Joe L. Kennedy (i), 5% undecided

2010 Governor
30% Deval Patrick (D), 23% Tim Cahill (i), 19% Charlie Baker (R)
32% Deval Patrick (D), 23% Tim Cahill (i), 19% Christy Mihos (R)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Brown: 44 / 25
Coakley: 61 / 26
Joe L. Kennedy: 11 / 21
Patrick: 39 / 50
Baker: 19 / 13
Cahill: 39 / 15
Mihos: 22 / 33

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Patrick: 41 / 52

Let me ask you a question about healthcare. The U.S. House and Senate have just passed overhauls of the nation's heath care system that they say will cover people without insurance and lower health care costs. Based on what you have seen or heard, do you favor or oppose the health care reform legislation that is going through Congress?
43% favor, 36% oppose, 3% neutral, 18% don't know


MA: Brown 48, Coakley 47 (PPP 1/7-8)


Public Policy Polling
1/7-8/10; 774 likely voters, 3.6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP analysis, results & crosstabs)

Massachusetts

2010 Senate (trends)
48% Scott Brown, 47% Martha Coakley, 6% undecided

Favorable / Unfavorable
Brown: 57 / 25
Coakley: 50 / 42

Do you support or oppose President Obama's health care plan, or do you not have an opinion?
41% favor, 47% oppose, 12% don't know


 

MAP - US, AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY, PR