March 14, 2010 - March 20, 2010


Christopher Walken Takes the Census 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Gary Langer says Obama won't recover until the economy does.

Frank Newport reviews a recent dispute over interpreting health care polls.

Politifact examines opposition to health reform because it "doesn't go far enough."

Josh Kraushaar and James Hohmann say polls have "rarely played such a public role" as in the health reform debate

Public Opinion Strategies polls house districts in Democratic leadership districts and swing districts on health care.

Andy Barr reports on Democrats reactions to Republican polls.

Alex Bratty says the latest NBC/WSJ poll shows lack of confidence in Congress.

Jeremy Rosner and Matt Bennet think Obama is strongest on national security.

David Johnson says he should have disclosed a conflict in Strategic Vision's latest release.

Andrew Gelman adds
to a Nate Silver post on biased questions.

Haaretz asks Israeli's is the find Obama fair (51%), friendly (18%) or hostile (21%); Time has more Obama's Israeli poll numbers.

And Christopher Walken answers the Census (via FlowingData).

GA: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 3/17)

Topics: poll

3/17/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor
41% Oxendine (R), 41% Barnes (D)
43% Deal (R), 40% Barnes (D)
42% Handel (R), 39% Barnes (D)
40% Barnes (D), 38% Johnson (R)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Karen Handel: 44 / 32
John Oxendine: 53 / 34
Nathan Deal: 39 / 30
Eric Johnson: 33 / 27
Roy Barnes: 44 / 43

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 44 / 54
Gov. Perdue: 54 / 43

States: Approval (SurveyUSA 3/12-14)

3/12-14/10; 600 adults, 4.1% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(all results available here)

Job Approval / Disapproval

Pres. Obama: 52 / 44
Sen. Feinstein: 41 / 49
Sen. Boxer: 40 / 50
Gov. Schwarzenegger: 17 / 81

Pres. Obama: 37 / 61
Sen. Brownback: 50 / 42
Sen. Roberts: 57 / 36
Gov. Parkinson: 44 / 41

Pres. Obama: 42 / 52
Sen. Voinovich: 39 / 52
Sen. Brown: 42 / 46
Gov. Strickland: 40 / 54

Pres. Obama: 48 / 50
Sen. Wyden: 49 / 41
Sen. Merkley: 38 / 45
Gov. Kulongoski: 34 / 56

Washington State
Pres. Obama: 46 / 49
Sen. Murray: 42 / 45
Sen. Cantwell: 38 / 49
Gov. Gregoir: 31 / 65

US: National Survey (Economist 3/13-16)

Topics: poll

Economist / YouGov
3/13-16/10; 1,000 adults, 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?
48% Support, 53% Oppose (chart)

Obama Job Approval
46% Approve, 47% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 82 / 14 (chart)
Reps: 4 / 89 (chart)
Inds: 41 / 54 (chart)
Economy: 40 / 51 (chart)
Health care: 40 / 52 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
9% Approve, 66% Disapprove (chart)

2010 House: Generic Ballot
45% Democrat, 38% Republican
Registered voters: 45% Republican, 44% Democrat (chart)

State of the Country
32% Right Direction, 53% Wrong Track (chart)

US: Health Care (KFF 3/10-15)

Topics: poll

Kaiser Family Foundation
3/10-15/10; 1,208 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kaiser: summary, toplines)


As of right now, do you generally support or generally oppose the health care proposals being discussed in Congress?
46% Support, 42% Oppose (chart)

Do you think _____ would be better off or worse off if the president and Congress passed health care reform, or don't you think it would make much difference?
You and your family: 35% Better, 32% Worse, 28% No difference
The country as a whole: 45% Better, 34% Worse, 14% No difference

If the president and Congress do pass health care reform, do you think that would make _____ better, worse or would it stay about the same?
The quality of your own health care: 28% better, 29% Worse, 36% Same
The cost of health care for you and your family: 31% Better, 32% Worse, 29% Same
Your ability to get and keep health insurance: 35% Better, 22% Worse, 36% Same

And what if the president and Congress DO NOT pass health care reform, and things stay as they are. Do you think each of the following will get better or worse over the next several years, or will it stay about the same?
The quality of your own health care: 10% Better, 31% Worse, 56% Same
The cost of health care for you and your family: 8% Better, 48% Worse, 40% Same
Your ability to get and keep health insurance: 10% Better, 32% Worse, 54% Same

Party ID
36% Democratic, 20% Republican, 35% independent (chart)

KY: 2010 Sen (Kos 3/15-17)

Topics: poll

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
3/15-17/10; 600 likely voters, 45 margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
47% Mongiardo, 31% Conway

2010 Senate: Republican Primary
40% Paul, 28% Grayson

2010 Senate
43% Grayson (R), 38% Mongiardo (D)
44% Grayson (R), 36% Conway (D)
46% Paul (R), 37% Mongiardo (D)
45% Paul (R), 39% Conway (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Trey Grayson: 53 / 24
Ran Paul: 55 / 25
Daniel Mongiardo: 45 / 41
Jack Conway: 44 / 40
Steve Beshear: 50 / 45
Mitch McConnell: 46 / 49
Jim Bunning: 33 / 56
Barack Obama: 39 / 57

US: National Survey (Fox 3/16-17)

Topics: poll

Fox News / Opinion Dynamics
3/16-17/10; 900 registered voters, 35 margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Fox release)


Obama Job Approval
46% Approve, 48% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 80 / 15 (chart)
Reps: 12 / 84 (chart)
Inds: 47 / 45 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
18% Approve, 76% Disapprove (chart)

Based on what you know about the health care reform legislation being considered right now, do you favor or oppose the plan?
35% Favor, 55% Oppose (chart)

Party ID
40% Democrat, 37% Republican, 18% independent (chart)

HCR Vote Probabilities For the Undecided

The "undecided" health care votes are mostly right where you'd expect: marginal Dem districts and among the more moderate House Democrats. There are a few outliers that may be real or may be temporary hesitations, and there are a few surprises in both directions with firm yes votes in questionable districts and puzzling no votes (though the Stupak amendment and abortion account for some of these.)

Who's up in the air, and what are their probabilities of voting no? I model this based on Obama's share of the two party vote in the district in 2008 and the member's roll call record on a liberal-conservative scale as estimated by Simon Jackman of Stanford University (Thanks!).  Other variables don't add to the model: being in trouble for re-election doesn't add anything over and above the district and ideology measures. Those in trouble are in districts you'd expect to be trouble. Retirement and seeking higher office also have no measurable effect. And the Washington Post whip feature provides health industry contributions and percent uninsured in the district. Those do nothing to explain position either.  In the end, when you are down to a game of inches like this, the statistical model can only speak to the broad tendencies, not the special circumstances that may flip a member on way or another.

These positions are taken from the Washington Post and The Hill's published counts. They were updated through noon on Friday, though positions are certain to change. 

First, the members who voted No on November 7 and who are currently undecided, with their estimated probability of voting no now.

Now the much more numerous "Yes"votes in November, who haven't taken a firm position this time:

And for some perspective, how these probabilities vary by lib-con roll call records (via Simon Jackman), and then by Obama vote in the district.

Based on the probabilities alone, the Speaker and White House still have some heavy lifting to do, despite the sense that the Democratic members are shifting towards a very narrow passage.

US: 2012 Pres Primary (PPP 3/12-14)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
3/12-14/10; 614 likely Republican primary voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


2012 President: Republican Primary
28% Romney, 24% Huckabee, 23% Palin, 11% Paul

US: National Survey (RNC 3/9-11)

Topics: poll

OnMessage, Inc. for the Republican National Committee
3/9-11/10; 1,200 likely voters, 2.8% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(OnMessage release)


2010 Congress: Generic Ballot
37% Republican, 36% Democrat (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 47 / 47 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 29 / 56
Harry Reid: 20 / 43

Job Approval / Disapproval
49% Approve, 47% Disapprove (chart)
Health Care: 41 / 55 (chart)

Do you favor or oppose the health care reform bill currently being considered by Congress?
40% Favor, 54% Oppose (chart)

US: National Survey (Kos 3/15-18)

Topics: poll

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
3/15-18/10; 1,200 registered voters, 2.8% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 53 / 41 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 37 / 55
Harry Reid: 27 / 66
Mitch McConnell: 21 / 63
John Boehner: 20 / 62
Democratic Party: 39 / 55
Republican Party: 30 / 66

State of the Country
38% Right Direction, 59% Wrong Track (chart)

WI: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 3/16)

Topics: poll

3/16/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor (trends)
46% Neumann (R), 42% Barrett (D)
48% Walker (R), 42% Barrett (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Mark Neumann: 53 / 27
Scott Walker: 55 / 28
Tom Barrett: 53 / 34

Polling Standards at the New York Times?

Topics: Ann Selzer , Can I Trust This Poll , Field Poll , New York Times , Sampling

When I visited the Daily Kos blog this afternoon, I was greeted by the following headline "Chamber of Commerce Skews Polling in Dem Swing Districts" linking to a New York Times blog piece. In the Times piece, author Robb Mandelbaum explains that the Times cannot publish results from the partisan Chamber surveys because

Instead of randomly selecting their respondents, the Chamber of Commerce sampled from voter lists, a practice The New York Times and many other media pollsters do not endorse because the lists are often outdated and are generally not representative -- they do not include unlisted telephone numbers, for example.

In other words, the New York Times claims it will not publish polls conducted using registration based list sampling (RBS).

As I am not familiar with the New York Times' "stringent standards" for publishing poll results, I was admittedly perplexed when I read about the New York Times' opposition to RBS polling. Why? Because I had seen them publish polls in the past that use RBS.

Just today, in fact, the Times published an RBS result in an a blog discussing Senator Barbara Boxer's bid for re-election:

'A new Field Poll shows that the three candidates hoping to unseat Senator Barbara Boxer have gained ground. Senator Boxer, who is in her third term, trails Tom Campbell, a former congressman, 44 to 43 percent, and leads Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, 45 to 44 percent.'

The Field Poll, one of the oldest and most widely respected polling firms in California, uses RBS technology "when conducting surveys of the state's registered voter population". A search of the New York Times' archive reveals 20 mentions of the Field Poll in the last 12 months.

The Field Poll is not the only firm to use RBS technology. The vaunted pre-caucus Iowa Poll conducted by Ann Selzer rode RBS to being the only poll to predict a Kerry/Edwards 1-2 finish in the 2004 Democratic Iowa Caucus, and it accurately projected Obama and Huckabee victories in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. The New York Times has quoted Selzer's pre-caucus polls.

Of course, I would still be somewhat suspicious of the Chamber of Commerce sponsored polls, and Mandelbaum implies the Times is too. They are after all polls conducted by a Republican leaning firm for an organization against the current healthcare reform bill. But for the New York Times' to claim they never publish RBS polls is laughable.

Indeed, It appears that the Times accepts list based samples in some instances but not others. So what is the New York Times' standard for publishing RBS polls?

FL: 2010 Sen (Kos 3/15-17)

Topics: poll

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
3/15-17/10; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
400 likely Republican primary voters, 5% margin of error
400 likely Democratic primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
58% Rubio, 30% Crist, 12% undecided (chart)

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
24% Meek, 21% Crist

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
47% McCollum, 9% Dockery (chart)

2010 Senate: General Election (trends)
45% Crist (R), 36% Meek (D) (chart)
41% Rubio (R), 40% Meek (D) (chart)
32% Rubio (R), 29% Crist (i), 27% Meek (D)
40% Rubio (R), 38% Crist (D)

2010 Governor: General Election (trends)
41% McCollum, 35% Sink (chart)
37% Sink, 15% Dockery

Favorable / Unfavorable
Kendrick Meek: 25 / 18
Charlie Crist: 44 / 45 (chart)
Marco Rubio: 29 / 36
Alex Sink: 27 / 24
Bill McCollum: 44 / 29
Paula Dockery: 12 / 7
Bill Nelson: 42 / 40 (chart)
George LeMieux: 17 / 38
Barack Obama: 47 / 49 (chart)

Lundry: Graphing the Stimulus

Topics: Alex Lundry , Charts , data visualization , Edward Tufte

Alex Lundry is a political pollster, microtargeter, data-miner and data-visualizer. He spends most of his time searching for big ideas hidden inside of big data. He has visualized historical tax receipts,White House visitor logs, ideological estimates of Supreme Court justices (called a "very cool graphic" by the Washington Post), and hundreds of thousands of survey interviews. In 2009, Politics Magazine named him a "Rising Star."

President Obama's recent appointment of Yale professor Edward Tufte to the independent commission charged with tracking stimulus funds underscores the growing importance of data visualization in both public policy and political debate.

Tufte is inarguably the modern era's leading authority on data visualization, the transformation of raw data into graphical form. These visuals - graphs, charts and other types of information graphics - are frequently responsible for remarkably stunning revelations and deep insights that may otherwise have been obscured among large and cumbersome spreadsheets or databases.

The federal stimulus is just that - an incomprehensibly enormous $787 billion piece of legislation being distributed across 50 states, 435 congressional districts, 28 federal agencies and over 160,000 individual projects. President Obama's challenge is to convincingly show the American public that their money is being well-spent.

Thanks to a neurological phenomenon called the pictorial superiority effect, the human brain is hardwired to find visualizations more compelling than a spreadsheet, speech or memo. So it's no wonder that Obama has turned to a data visualization guru for the monitoring of his administration's largest legislative accomplishment to date. Meaningful visualizations of stimulus data can make the project more transparent, accountable, and could ultimately even impact the legislation's perceived success.

Transparency, allowing the public to see the who, what, when and where behind stimulus funding, will help alleviate any perceptions of waste, inefficiency, or unfairness. Indeed, the most common criticisms of government spending are that it is unequally or unfairly distributed across communities, that it goes to unworthy projects, or that it simply isn't doing those things it was meant to do: stimulate the economy and create jobs. But states like California have already engaged with design firms to visualize the disbursement of stimulus funds, mapping dollars to projects and locations, in turn increasing voters' investment in the bill as they see its direct benefits to their community.

Data visualization can also make the federal stimulus more accountable, revealing fraud, abuse or even honest mistakes. A case in point: the public outcry over the recent revelation that stimulus funding seemed to go to congressional districts that didn't exist. This seemingly innocuous data entry error quickly became an anti-stimulus talking point, whereas a simple visualization of the data could have revealed the problem well ahead of its entry into the news cycle.

Finally, there is also great political advantage to effective visualizations of the Stimulus Act. Convincing voters of its merit will take more than declarative speeches and number-drenched spreadsheets, and the Obama administration knows this. Their appreciation for the political power of data visualization was on display last month when it released a graph of weekly job losses since December 2007. The bars, color-coded by presidential administration, tell a distinct, if not debatable, story about the stimulus' impact. The visualization took the internet by storm as pro-stimulus voters shared, linked, blogged and tweeted the image, and anti-stimulus voters denounced it as infographic propaganda, all the while scrambling to create their own charts telling their side of the story.

These chart wars are only going to become more and more common in political discourse. President Obama understands this acutely - and this was certainly the subtext in appointing Edward Tufte to the stimulus board.

Colbert Answers the Census 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Gallup Daily tracks Obama's approval to lowest level yet.

National Journal insiders are betting
on passage of health reform.

Chris Cilizza says public indecision on health care reform is a "myth."

Alan Reifman compares two polls of swing districts on health care reform.

Reid Wilson digsdeeper into divergent PA polls

The International Association of Machinists finds low Obama approval among its members.

A pollster is testing Betsy McCaughey for NY Senate (via Smith).

Ipsos finds 91% of Hispanics plan to participate in the Census.

Joel Benenson talks to Time's Michael Scherer.

The Pew Research Center answers the burning question, "What does Pew stand for?"

Stephen Colbert answers the Census (via Sullivan).

A Tale of Two NBC/WSJ Health Reform Questions

Topics: Charts , Health Care Reform , Measurement , NBC/Wall Street Journal

The two-question sequence on health care reform asked by the highly regarded NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll -- slightly updated since I wrote about it in my column two weeks ago -- has been getting a fair amount of attention.. And rightly so. Although I've been arguing for a long time that, our chart aside, it's a bad idea to try to boil all of public opinion on health reform down to a single measure, these two questions do a good job of getting at what people know and how they react when asked about "Barack Obama's health care plan."

They begin with a question that they have tracked since April:

From what you have heard about Barack Obama's health care plan, do you think his plan is a good idea or a bad idea? If you do not have an opinion either way, please just say so.

On the most recent survey, just 36% consider the plan a good idea (up from 31% in late January), 48% consider it a bad idea (up from 46%) and 16% either have no opinion or are unsure (down from 23%). This question, which prompts to say when they have "no opinion," also shows a slow steady decline over the past year in the percentage without an opinion, from 41% last April to just 16% now.

Then they follow up:

Do you think it would be better to pass Barack Obama's health care plan and make its changes to the health care system or to not pass this plan and keep the current health care system?

Here opinion divides evenly: 46% say pass and change, 45% do not pass and keep the current system, with the rest volunteering a response of "neither" (4%) or unsure (5%).

What is even more interesting is the pattern of the result when tabulated by party identification. The tabulations below (kindly provided by the NBC/WSJ pollsters) includes party "leaners" among the partisans, so the independent group represents the 15% of adults on their most recent survey that think of themselves as "strictly independent."


Republicans are solidly, consistently opposed to Obama's health reform bill. Four out of five (83%) think its a bad idea -- a number that has not changed since January -- and almost as many (79%) would rather not pass the plan and keep the status quo.

While a majority of Democrats favor the legislation, we see an 11-point gap between the number who think it's a good idea (64%) and those who prefer to pass the bill (75%). Among independents the gap is 19 points: Only 26% are convinced the bill is a good idea, but far more want to pass the bill and change the system (45%).

So while Republicans are uniformly opposed, many Democrats have doubts, even those who prefer to see the bill pass than to do nothing. For some, these doubts are about the lack of a public option or too much compromise, but for others, the doubts stem from their perceptions (right or wrong) about the bill's cost or the increased role of government (for more, see Nate's Silver's word clouds of the very helpful Gallup open-ended data).

The slight increase in support for reform measured by most surveys in recent weeks (the just released Pew Research Center poll being an apparent exception) comes mostly from Democrats. That pattern makes perfect sense, since the intramural disagreements among Democratic leaders have faded considerably in recent weeks. Consider Glenn Greenwald's summary:

For almost a full year, scores of progressive House members vowed -- publicly and unequivocally -- that they would never support a health care bill without a robust public option...Up until a few weeks ago, many progressive opinion leaders -- such as Moulitsas, Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann and many others -- were insisting that the Senate bill was worse than the status quo and should be defeated. But now? All of those progressives House members are doing exactly what they swore they would never do -- vote for a health care bill with no public option -- and virtually every progressive opinion leader is not only now supportive of the bill, but vehemently so.

The important point: Neither of these poll questions gets at the whole of public opinion on health care reform nor provides even a complete picture of the general impressions of the legislation. If you focus exclusively on the "good idea/bad idea" question (which, incidentally, now matches almost perfectly the Pew Research "favor or oppose" results released today), you miss that three quarters of Democrats and nearly half of independents prefer to move forward with this bill than remain locked in the status quo.

But if you focus exclusively on the pass-and-change/don't-pass-don't-change question, you miss the big doubts expressed by the vast majority of true independents and nearly a third of Democrats, and the huge gap in intensity of opinion on this subject that separates Republicans and Democrats.

Finally, I received two emails yesterday taking us to task for including the first NBC/WSJ question in our chart but "completely ignoring" the second. Here's one:

Right now, you're using the "good idea/bad idea" numbers from the NBC/WSJ poll today. However, the name of the graph on your website is "Favor" or "Oppose". If someone favors something, they would say pass it.

You should be using this metric or both metrics - not the "good idea/bad idea" metric by itself, which does not fit whatsover into your chart.

Our chart admittedly flaunts a bit of polling orthodoxy by combining results from different questions using different language and response categories. The more traditional approach would stop at the sort of apples-to-apples comparisons plotted in my post yesterday. So reasonable people will likely disagree with the questions we have chosen to include or exclude on the chart. If we dropped the good idea/bad idea result from the most recent NBC/WSJ poll, and replaced it with the pass & change/don't pass-don't change result, our overall trend estimates would narrow slightly (from 43.4% favor, 48.9% oppose to 44.7% favor, 48.5% oppose).

But I disagree with the argument that the second NBC/WSJ question is obviously closer to the standard "favor or oppose" question asked by other pollsters. It does ask if the respondent wants to pass the bill, which is straightforward, but it also frames the question in terms of change versus the status quo. How many Republican leaders have you heard state that they oppose the Democratic plan because they want to "keep the current health care system" as it is now?

Moreover, the most important purpose of the chart to track trends apparent across multiple polls, not to somehow magically derive the true levels of support and opposition from multiple polls. The NBC/WSJ poll has tracked their good idea/bad idea formulation for almost a year. Abruptly switching introduces some discontinuity. For better or worse, we will stick with this measure for NBC/WSJ unless and until they start tracking something else.

WI: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 3/16)

Topics: poll

3/16/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Senate (trends)
47% Thompson (R), 45% Feingold (D)
51% Feingold (D), 35% Westlake (R)
49% Feingold (D), 40% Wall (R)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Tommy Thompson: 59 / 39
Russ Feingold: 51 / 47 (chart)
Terrence Wall: 39 / 28
Jake Westlake: 34 / 26

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 52 / 48 (chart)
Gov. Doyle: 46 / 53 (chart)

US: 2012 Pres (PPP 3/12-14)

Public Policy Polling (D)
3/12-14/10; 1,403 registered voters, 2.6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


2012 President
46% Obama, 44% Huckabee
49% Obama, 41% Palin
45% Obama, 34% Daniels
44% Obama, 44% Romney

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 47 / 48 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Mike Huckabee: 31 / 36 (chart)
Sarah Palin: 36 / 50 (chart)
Mitch Daniels: 7 / 19
Mitt Romney: 32 / 39 (chart)

US: Health Care (Rasmussen 3/17)

Topics: poll

3/17/10; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


Suppose that your representative in Congress votes for the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. Would that make you more likely or less likely to vote for your representative in Congress This November?
34% More likely, 50% Less likely

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?
45% Somewhat/Strongly Favor, 52% Somewhat/Strongly Oppose (chart)

Do you favor or oppose a single payer health care system where the federal government provides coverage for everyone?
33% Favor, 54% Oppose

US: National Survey (Pew 3/10-14)

Topics: poll

Pew Research Center
3/10-14/10; 1,500 adults, 3% margin of error
356 Republicans, 6.5% margin of error
646 Democrats, 5.55 margin of error
543 independents, 5.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)


Obama Job Approval
46% Approve, 43% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 74 / 17 (chart)
Reps: 17 / 73 (chart)
Inds: 37 / 49 (chart)
Economy: 41 / 52 (chart)
Health Care: 39 / 52 (chart)
Foreign policy: 42 / 40 (half sample, N=749) (chart)

State of the Country
23% Satisfied, 71% Dissatisfied (chart)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Rep Leaders in Congress: 25 / 59
Dem Leaders in Congress: 31 / 57

As of right now, do you generally favor or generally oppose the health care bills being discussed in Congress?
38% Favor, 48% Oppose (chart)

Party ID
33% Democrat, 22% Republican, 37% independent (chart)

AZ: 2010 Sen Primary (Rasmussen 3/16)

Topics: poll

3/16/10; 541 likely Republican primary voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
48% McCain, 41% Hayworth

CA: 2010 Sen (Field 3/9-15)

Topics: poll

Field Poll
3/9-15/10; 748 likely voters 3.7% margin of error
353 likely Republican primary voters, 5.5% margin of error
ModE: Live telephone interviews
(Field release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
28% Campbell, 22% Fiorina, 9% DeVore (chart)

2010 Senate: General Election
44% Campbell, 43% Boxer (chart)
45% Boxer, 44% Fiorina (chart)
45% Boxer, 41% DeVore (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barbara Boxer: 38 / 51 (chart)
Tom Campbell: 23 / 18
Carly Fiorina: 20 / 22
Chuck DeVore: 9 / 13

CT: 2010 Gov Primary (Quinnipiac 3/9-15)

Topics: poll

3/9-15/10; 1451 registered voters, 2.6% margin of error
549 Democrats, 4.3% margin of error
387 Republicans, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)


2010 Governor: Democratic Primary (trends)
28% Lamont, 18% Malloy, 4% Glassman, 2% Marroni, 1% Figueroa

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
30% Foley, 4% Fedele, 4% Boughton, 2% Griebel, 2% Wright

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Rell: 59 / 34 (chart)

Obama and the Reagan myth

Topics: 1982 , 2010 , Barack Obama , midterm , Ronald Reagan

As I've repeatedly noted, journalists have a tendency to attribute electoral outcomes and poll ratings to political tactics rather than the underlying fundamentals (most notably, the state of the economy). That's why the current Obama blame game has been so painfully predictable.

The latest example comes from TNR's John Judis. To his credit, Judis has previously written about the central importance of the economy to presidential approval. Nonetheless, his most recent article suggests that Ronald Reagan's "thematic" communication strategy limited GOP losses in the 1982 elections and should therefore be instructive for the Obama administration:

[A] president's political acumen--his ability to put the best light on his and his party's accomplishments--can mitigate the effects of rising unemployment. That's what Ronald Reagan and the Republicans achieved in the 1982 midterm elections...

Using economic models, some political scientists predicted that Democrats would pick up as many as 50 House seats. The Democrats also hoped to win back the Senate, which they had lost in 1980. But when the votes were tallied, the Republicans lost 26 House seats and kept their 54 seats in the Senate. How did Reagan and the Republicans manage to contain their losses in this midterm election? That's a question not simply of historical interest, but of direct relevance to Obama and the Democrats who are likely to face a similar, although perhaps not as severe, economic situation in November 2010.

Reagan blamed the Democrats for leaving him with "the worst economic mess in half a century"... By cutting spending and taxes, Reagan claimed that he was showing the way toward a recovery...

Reagan stated this theme not once, but hundreds of times and in virtually the same words, and it was featured in national Republican ads....

Obama understood the importance of thematic politics in his presidential campaign, but he and his political advisors have yet to find a way to characterize what he has tried to do as president...

In general, I'm skeptical of claims that Reagan's communication style had large macro effects on politics. Here's what I wrote, for instance, about a similar claim by the New Yorker's George Packer:

Packer suggests the President needs to convey "a strong worldview" like Ronald Reagan, who supposedly succeeded despite the recession of 1981-1982 and political compromises with Democrats because he conveyed such a worldview: "Reagan could recover from battlefield setbacks because he was fighting a larger war."

In reality, Reagan "could recover" because the economy recovered. His supposedly clearer worldview didn't seem to change media coverage or his approval ratings in 1981-1982 when the economy was at its worst. There's no reason to think that speeches conveying a clearer worldview would have a significant effect on Obama's standing.

To see if this intuition held up, I asked Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University who is forecasting the 2010 election, if there's any evidence to support Judis's claim that the GOP overperformed in 1982 relative to what we would have otherwise expected. Here's what he wrote:

Interesting question. The model predicts a loss of 27 seats and the actual loss was 26 seats. That's using a model with separate dummy variables for first and second midterms. With a single dummy variable, the predicted seat loss is 32 or 33 seats. Still very close to the actual seat loss. But two of the predictors in the model are the generic ballot and net presidential approval in late August or early September, both of which could possibly be influenced by presidential actions. I'd have to go back and check whether either one showed any improvement for the GOP during the spring and summer of 82. My guess is that they did not, though, in which case the Reagan strategy argument would be undermined.

After checking, he reported back:

First, Reagan's approval rating sank during 1982. He started out in the upper 40s and ended up in the low 40s by the time of the election. Not exactly an indication that his strategy was working to help Republicans in the midterm election. You'd want a higher approval rating, not a lower approval rating.

Second, the Democratic lead in the generic ballot was large throughout the year and never diminished. The average lead was 12 points in January, 18 points in April, 20 points in May-July, 18 points in August, and 19 points in the last pre-election poll in late September. So no sign there that Reagan's strategy was working.

Abramowitz also verified that these results were not affected by the inclusion of the 1982 election by excluding it from the data used to forecast the outcome of that election:

The out of sample forecasts are a loss of 33 seats for the model with the simple midterm dummy variable and a loss of 27 seats for the model with separate first and second midterm dummy variables--82 was a first midterm of course, so a slightly smaller seat loss is predicted. Not bad.

Similarly, while Judis cites relatively old forecasts of House seat change in the 1982 election, a more recent model perfectly forecasts the net House seat change for 1982 out of sample (i.e., excluding data from that year).

In short, don't buy the hype. Reagan may have been an effective communicator, but we attribute his success to those skills in large part because the economy rebounded in time to create a landslide in his 1984 campaign against Walter Mondale. There's no convincing evidence that his "thematic" approach improved the GOP's performance in 1982. For the same reasons, while Obama's communications strategy could probably be improved, it's not clear that doing so would significantly change the outcome in November.

Update 3/19 10:00 AM: I passed on a commenter's request for comparable Senate projections for 1982 to Abramowitz. Here's what he wrote:

The models (they're identical to the House models) predict Republican losses of 2 or 3 seats. The actual result was a loss of 1 (or 0 if you factor in pickup of Byrd's seat in VA). The key here is that Republicans were only defending 13 seats vs. 19 Dem seats in 82.

In other words, the Senate results, like those in the House, can largely be explained by the political fundamentals. There's no evidence that Reagan's message caused Republicans to perform unusually well in 1982.

[Cross-posted to brendan-nyhan.com]

Z-statistic 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Naftali Bendavid says Democrats will be watching the polls as a health care vote approaches.

Jennifer Agiesta reviews polling on legislative procedures.

Glen Bolger counsels Republicans on responding to "party of no" attacks.

Ed Goeas and Leslie Sanchez say Republicans have an opportunity to woo Hispanic voters.

Lake Research releases a poll of military personnel on DADT.

Lymari Morales asks
whether workers' hopes will be dimmed after Obama downgraded job forecasts.

Mark Mellman notes the evolution of public sentiment on Iran.

The Republican National Committee is polling on an updated Contract with America.

David Hill writes that the census Super bowl ad may have been ineffective.

Andrew Gelman debuts
a new and improved z-statistic (a little too early for April Fools).

Rising Tide for HCR, Especially Among Dems

Topics: Dennis Kucinich , Health Care Reform , Tom Jensen , Trend lines

When reporters asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) today about whether his intention to vote for the health reform bill might convince other doubting Democrats, he answered: "If I can vote for this bill, there's not many people who shouldn't be able to support it."

Kucinich's decision had no effect on the polls conducted earlier this week, and I do not expect his announcement alone to significantly impact public opinion. However, as PPP's Tom Jensen put it earlier today, Kucinich's "flip...is symbolic of a broader shift" that has occurred in recent weeks as support for health reform legislation has increased among liberals and Democrats. The often vigorous debate among Democratic leaders in evidence for much of the last year has faded, and the Democratic and liberal rank-and-file are slightly more likely to express support. If the bill passes, that trend may add a few percentage points of support in the coming weeks.

First, let's look at the current snapshot of the overall trend in support for health reform as measured by our trend chart (as of this writing - click to see the automatically updated, interactive version).


Now let's explode that trend a bit and consider a second chart showing apples-to-apples comparisons -- trend lines for pollsters that tracked opinion using questions whose wording did not vary over time. Six of the seven pollsters show nominal increases in support for health care reform legislation.** While only a few tracked during January, the results from all pollsters are mostly consistent with a slight decrease in support following the Massachusetts Senate election followed by a rebound during February and early January. Our trend estimate, which is based on all of the health care favor-or-oppose results and not just those plotted below, shows support increasing from a low of 40.6% on January 26 to 43.9% as of this writing.


Now consider the pattern in the opposition percentage. Four organizations (Economist/YouGov, Rasmussen, McClatchy/IPSOS and PPP) show nominal declines in opposition since mid-January, and three (Kaiser Family Foundation, AP-GfK and NBC/Wall Street Journal) show nominal increases. Our trend line shows a decline (from 52.3% to 48.8% since late January), since the organizations showing declines have polled more frequently.


It may be just a coincidence, but the nominal declines have also all occurred for organizations whose measures tend to show more opposition, while the nominal increases have occurred among those that typically report smaller opposition percentages.

Nonetheless, the overall point is that while the level of support for health reform varies widely depending on how pollsters ask the question, the trends are reasonably consistent: Most organizations have tracked modest increases in support for health reform.

Also, on some of the most recently released surveys, the increases in support have been larger for Democrats than Republicans.

  • The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows an eight point increase in the number of Democrats saying the health reform bill is a "good idea" since late January (from 56% to 64%) compared to just a four point increase for Republicans (from 6% to 10%) .
  • PPP shows a 13-point increase in support for reform among Democrats since mid-February (from 63% to 76%), but only a one point increase among Republicans (from 10% to 11%).
  • PPP also shows a 16-point gain in support among liberals (from 73% to 89%), compared to a 4 point drop among conservatives (12% to 8%).
  • The most recent Economist/YouGov poll shows a seven point gain in support among Democrats since late January (from 73% to 80%), while Republicans showed no change (11%).***

So the recent increases in support for reform appear to be coming mostly from Democrats. As skeptical progressive like Dennis Kucinich offer their votes for the health reform bill, that trend could continue.

**The Economist/YouGov time series omits the poll conducted in early march (2/28-3/2) that used a slightly health reform question. See my post from last week for more details.

***Thanks to Hart Research and the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll for sharing results by party.

[Note (10:17 pm): This post originally displayed an inadvertently uploaded older version of the Percent Oppose chart that omitted the new polls released this week. Apologies for the oversight]. 

NC: 2010 Sen (PPP 3/12-15)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
3/12-15/10; 878 likely voters, 3.3% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

North Carolina

2010 Senate
41% Burr (R), 39% Generic Democrat (chart)
43% Burr (R), 32% Cunningham (D) (chart)
43% Burr (R), 32% Lewis (D) (chart)
41% Burr (R), 36% Marshall (D) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Cal Cunningham: 4 / 10
Kenneth Lewis: 5 / 9
Elaine Marshall: 17 / 12

Job Approval / Disapproval
Sen. Hagan: 31 / 44 (chart)
Sen. Burr: 35 / 37 (chart)

US: National Survey (Economist 3/6-8)

Topics: poll

Economist / YouGov
3/6-8/10; 1,000 adults, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(YouGov: toplines, crosstabs)
Note: this poll has not been published on the Economist's web site


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?
50% Support, 50% Oppose (chart)

Obama Job Approval
48% Approve, 45% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 80 / 15 (chart)
Reps: 12 / 85 (chart)
Inds: 44 / 51 (chart)
Economy: 40 / 53 (chart)
Health care: 41 / 51 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
10% Approve, 65% Disapprove (chart)

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

State of the Country 31% Right Direction, 56% Wrong Track (chart)

Re: The Literary Digest Poll

Topics: Coverage error , Dominic Lusinchi , George Gallup , Jan Werner , Literary Digest , Pollsters , Probability samples

Last week, I linked to an article on Dr. George Gallup that included a reaction from statistical consultant Dominic Lusinchi that had been posted on the members-only listserv mailing list of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). Lusinchi argued that the original article perpetuated two "myths" about the infamous Literary Digest poll of 1936 -- the poll whose failure helped establish competitor Gallup as a household name. No sooner had I reproduced Lusinchi's email than Jan Werner, another knowledgeable AAPOR member took to the listserv to quarrel with Lusinchi's version of the history.

While a discussion of the shortcomings of a 74-year-old poll may seem a little out of place here, it involves issues that remain highly relevant to the contemporary debates about modern surveys, including the merits of probability sampling and the errors that can result from poor coverage or a low response rate. Since I posted Lusinchi's original comments, I also want to share the full exchange, which begins after the jump. Thanks to Dominic and Jan for allowing me to reproduce their comments here.

Continue reading "Re: The Literary Digest Poll"

US: National Survey (PPP 3/12-14)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
3/12-14/10; 1,403 registered voters, 2.6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


Obama Job Approval
47% Approve, 48% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 75 / 19 (chart)
Reps: 11 / 86 (chart)
Inds: 44 / 50 (chart)

Do you support or oppose President Obama's health care plan, or do you not have an

45% Support, 49% Oppose, 6% No opinion (chart)

2010 Congress: Generic Ballot
46% Republican, 43% Democrat (chart)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Dems in Congress: 31 / 56
Reps in CongresS: 23 / 60

CA: 2010 Gov (Field 3/9-15)

Topics: poll

Field Poll
3/9-15/10; 748 likely voters, 3.7% margin of error
353 likely Republican primary voters, 5.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Field release)


2010 Governor: Republican Primary
63% Whitman, 14% Poizner (chart)

2010 Governor: General Election
46% Whitman, 43% Brown (chart)
49% Brown, 32% Poizner (chart)

CA: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 3/15)

Topics: poll

3/15/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor
40% Whitman (R), 40% Brown (D) (chart)
42% Brown (D), 27% Poizner (R) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Meg Whitman: 51 / 34
Jerry Brown: 46 / 44
Steve Poizner: 29 / 47

CT: 2010 Sen (Quinnipiac 3/9-15)

Topics: poll

3/9-15/10; 1,451 registered voters, 4.2% margin of error
549 Democrats, 4.2% margin of error
387 Republicans, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)


2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
81% Blumenthal, 6% Alpert

2010 Senate: Republican Primary
44% McMahon, 34% Simmons, 9% Schiff (chart)

2010 Senate
62% Blumenthal, 26% Simmons (chart)
61% Blumenthal, 28% McMahon (chart)
64% Blumenthal, 21% Schiff (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Richard Blumenthal: 70 / 18
Merrick Alpert: 4 / 3
Rob Simmons: 38 / 21
Linda McMahon: 36 / 26
Peter Schiff: 10 / 6

Job Approval / Disapproval
Sen. Lieberman: 39 / 54 (chart)
Sen. Dodd: 35 / 58 (chart)
Pres. Obama: 54 / 42 (chart)

US: National Survey (NBC/WSJ 3/11-14)

NBC News / Wall Street Journal
3/11-14/10; 1,000 adults, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(NBC: story, results; WSJ: story, results)


State of the Country
33% Right Direction, 59% Wrong Track (chart)

Obama Job Approval
48% Approve, 47% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 47 / 50 (chart)
Health Care: 41 / 57 (chart)

Positive / Negative
Barack Obama: 50 / 38 (chart)
Democratic Party: 37 / 43
Republican Party: 31 / 43
Tea Party Movement: 29 / 28
Sarah Palin 30 / 45 (chart)
Mitt Romney 27 / 25 (chart)

What is your preference for the outcome of this year's congressional elections-- a Congress controlled by Republicans or a Congress controlled by Democrats?
Among registered voters (n=846): 45% Democrats, 42% Republicans

From what you have heard about Barack Obama's health care plan, do you think his plan is a good idea or a bad idea? If you do not have an opinion either way, please just say so.
36% good idea, 48% bad idea, 15% do not have opinion (chart)

Do you think it would be better to pass Barack Obama's health care plan and make its changes to the health care system or to not pass this plan and keep the current health care system?
46% better to pass plan, 45% better not pass/keep current system

Party ID
32% Democrat, 23% Republican, 40% independent (chart)

Edward Tufte 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

John Anzalone recommends health reform messages for Democrats (via Smith - more here).

Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann say consequences for Democrats will be worse if they don't pass health care reform.

Alan Reifman seesa negative slant in health care poll questions from a conservative group.

Jonathan Bernstein responds to Saletan on how polling can inform elected official (via Sullivan).

And every time you make a power point, Edward Tufte kills a kitten.


US: Census (Pew 3/10-14)

Topics: poll

Pew Research Center
3/10-14/10; 1,500 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)



As forms for the 2010 U.S. Census arrive in households across the nation this week, a new Pew Research Center survey finds nearly universal awareness of the census, with 94% of Americans saying they have heard of the census and 79% having heard something recently about it. Nearly nine-in-ten Americans (87%) now say they definitely or probably will fill out and return their forms, or have already done so. This represents a six-point increase in likely participation since January.

But the likelihood of participation remains much higher for some groups than for others. In particular, young people and those with lower levels of income and education remain significantly less likely than others to say they will take part. Slightly higher numbers of Republicans (90%) than Democrats and independents (85% each) say they intend to participate, but more Democrats than Republicans or independents think the census is very important for the country (76% among Democrats, 61% among Republicans and independents).

Strategic Vision: Back, But Not Here

Topics: AAPOR , David Johnson , Disclosure , Mark Grebner , Michael Weissman , Nate Silver , NCPP , Strategic Vision

They're back. As reported yesterday by Politico, Strategic Vision, LLC posted results** from what they claim is a survey of Georgia. As per our previous entries on this subject (here and here), we will no longer publish their results as "poll updates" or in our poll charts. Yesterday's release does virtually nothing to answer of questions raised by well over 200 purported surveys released by Strategic Vision since 2004. It also falls well short of the minimal standards of disclosure that got the company into trouble in the first place.

For the uninitiated, the saga began with a rare censure by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) last fall resulting from Strategic Vision's failure to comply with requests for information about their response rates and weighting procedures -- information that 21 other organizations provided upon request in connection with AAPOR's investigation of the primary election polls of 2008.

Following AAPOR's action, blogger Nate Silver raised the possibility of fraud and subsequently found a pattern in the trailing digits of the percentages reported in Strategic Vision polls suggesting a "possibility of fraud." Michael Weissman, a retired professor of Physics at the University of Illinois and frequent commenter on Silver's site, did some additional number crunching (a Fourier analysis) and concluded that the odds were 1 in 5,000 that the pattern in Strategic Vision could have been produced by chance alone.

The issues raised by Silver and Weissman were highly technical and difficult for mathematical mortals to evaluate, but even more troubling was Strategic Vision's strange pattern of half-truths and evasion. Commenters on FiveThirtyEight discovered that the four offices listed on the Strategic Vision web site were UPS store mailboxes. In the wake of the initial stories, Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson announced to at least five news organizations that he would soon take legal action against AAPOR and Silver. He promised to release additional subgroup tabulations of the contested data. None of this ever happened.

"We intend to vindicate ourselves," Johnson told Politico a few days after the AAPOR Censure. If his surveys were real, if they had been conducted by live interviewers at actual call centers, Johnson should have a wealth of evidence at his disposal to silence his critics. The public polls released by Strategic Vision since 2004 (archived here and here by Harry Enten) add up to more than 200,000 interviews. That many interviews would leave a lot of witnesses: Call center managers, supervisors, probably hundreds of interviewers, any one of which could come forward to vouch for the process that produced the numbers. And there should be electronic records of the actual survey data somewhere -- at least for the most recent projects. Why hasn't Strategic Vision taken any steps to present some of this evidence and vindicate themselves?

Yesterday, Johnson tried to Strategic Vision stopped releasing public polling in September and went dark in terms of public polling until this week. Here's what he told Politico:

[Johnson said] that the lull in his firm's work had represented a deliberate choice to take some time off in the light of the allegations and let the scrutiny subside. He also said a family illness prevented him from polling the Georgia gubernatorial race earlier in the year.

"Some of the stuff was getting to me. I felt it was best to take some time off," Johnson said. "You know the old adage - lawyers should never defend themselves. I should never try to be my own PR person."

He also told Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Jim Galloway that his libel suit threats "was me speaking in anger because I was really outraged at the time."

Yesterday's release includes two new twists. For this first time, Strategic Vision sent Galloway and other reporters a set of tables in a compressed file showing results tabulated by gender, age, race and income, and all of their percentages are computed to one decimal point. Is it more likely that these results are based on some sort of interview data, for what that's worth.

Mark Grebner, a Michigan-based, Democratic political consultant, left this comment on Pollster.com last month when Johnson started promising new surveys:

I've got a counter-intuitive guess: maybe SV-LLC will start doing real polling. It's not hard, it doesn't cost much money, and it would serve more than one purpose.

One thing is that it would restore their status as serious participants in conservative politics. A second benefit is that it would undermine the case against them, at least in the public's mind.

Maybe they'll never release another result, but if they do, I'd guess it would be genuine.

Doesn't affect the utter bogusness of everything they've done to date, of course.

He's right that new surveys, even if "genuine," do nothing to resolve the serious questions raised about Strategic Vision's previous work.

But let's ponder the meaning of "genuine" as we consider what Strategic Vision's latest release does not tell us: They say nothing about the mode of the survey (whether it used live interviewers or some automated method), the sample frame (whether telephone numbers were selected from some sort of list or via a random digit method), the weighting procedure (whether results were weighted and the variables used to weight them), and they do not identify of who conducted the survey (the call center or field-work provider, if these used one). These basic facts are part of the minimal disclosure requirements of both AAPOR and the National Council on Public Polls (NCPP).

NCPP also requires that its members describe the "size and description of the subsample, if the survey report relies primarily on less than the total sample." It is not clear whether NCPP's mandate applies to cross-tabulations, but it is very clear that Strategic Vision tables provide no information about the size of each demographic subgroup.

Both organizations also mandate that releases tell us, "who paid for the poll?" Strategic Vision's release says nothing about how this poll was paid for and, as an alert Pollster reader informs me, fails to disclose a significant conflict of interest: A search of Georgia campaign finance records shows that Strategic Vision was paid $3,500 to conduct a poll in 2009 for Ralph Hudgens, a candidate in the Republican primary contest for Insurance Commissioner tested in the new survey.

So again, for all of these reasons, we will no longer publish results by Strategic Vision, LLC on Pollster.com. But that raises a much bigger problem: Strategic Vision is not the only polling organization that has fallen far short of the minimal disclosure requirements of organizations like AAPOR and NCPP, and their results do appear on Pollster.com. That shortcoming is something I want to discuss at greater length this week. Stay tuned.

**For what it's worth: That link and the rest of the Strategic Vision, LLC web site remains inaccessible to computers in our offices and to our colleagues at the National Journal Group and Atlantic Media.

PA: 2010 Sen Primary (Rasmussen 3/15)

Topics: poll

3/15/10; 481 likely Democratic primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
48% Specter, 37% Sestak (chart)

NC: 2010 Sen Primary (PPP 3/12-15)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
3/12-15/10; 420 likely Democratic primary voters, 4.8% margin of error
311 likely Republican primary voters, 5.6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

North Carolina

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
20% Marshall, 16% Cunningham, 11% Lewis, 4% Harris, 2% Williams, 0% Worthy

2010 Senate: Republican Primary
58% Burr, 5% Jones, 4% Burks, 1% Linney

2012 President: Republican Primary
30% Huckabee, 27% Palin, 25% Romney

Erikson: Would the Health Care Bill Become More Popular After Passage? The Lesson from Medicare

Topics: Barack Obama , Health care , Lyndon Johnson , Medicare

Robert S. Erikson is a professor of political science at Columbia University.

If the health care reform bill finally passes Congress and is signed into law, what will be the response of public opinion? Would it turn out that support goes up once the public learns the details of the law, as the Democrats claim? Would Obama's image improve following successful passage? Which party would receive the net benefit?

For clues, we can turn to public opinion polls from the 1960s both before and after passage of Medicare in June 1965. There was a far lesser density of public opinion polling in that era, but the small set of available polls from back then (retrieved via iPOLL) reveal the following.

During the 1965 health care debate, public opinion was ambivalent on how to deliver health care to seniors. Whether a plurality favored President Johnson's public plan or the Republican alternative designed to expand private coverage depended on the exact question wording. But there was considerable popular support for Medicare when presented to the public for an up-or-down vote. In a February 1965 Harris Poll, 62 percent answered affirmatively when asked "Do you favor or oppose President Johnson's program of medical care for the aged under Social Security?"

The lesson for today is that following passage in June 1965, support for Medicare increased further. By December of 1965, the percent who told Harris they "approved" of Medicare rose to a consensus of 82 percent. Ever since, the public's support for Medicare has never been in doubt.

Perhaps even more telling, support for Johnson's handling of health care rose even as his overall popularity began to plunge. In April 1965, when President Johnson was enjoying 67 percent approval in the Gallup Poll, a similar 65 percent told Harris they favored "what [Johnson] has been doing on Medicare under Social Security." After passage, in October 1965, 80 percent of Harris respondents rated Johnson's job as "excellent" or "very good" on "working for Medicare for the aged."

The year 1966 brought a fading of Johnson's political fortune, largely due to declining support for his handling of Vietnam. By August 1966, Johnson's overall approval in the Gallup Poll had sunk to 47 percent. But in the same month, the percent in the Harris Poll who rated Johnson's performance as "excellent" or "very good" on Medicare held firm at 84 percent.

The lesson of 1960s polling can provide some encouragement to today's Democrats. If the analogy holds for today's political scene, a Health Care Reform Law of 2010 will become popular and Obama will be credited with a success in the eyes of public opinion. But like all analogies when applied to today's politics, it must be interpreted with considerable caution. Medicare was considerably more popular at the time of passage than is the current health care bill on the eve of its final vote. And Medicare's opponents at the time of passage were weaker politically than today's Republican leadership, united in opposition.

CA: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 3/11)

Topics: poll

3/11/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Senate
Boxer (D) 46%, Fiorina (R) 40% (chart)
Boxer (D) 46%, DeVore (R) 40% (chart)
Boxer (D) 43%, Campbell (R) 41% (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barbara Boxer: 48 / 45 (chart)
Chuck DeVore: 32 / 28
Carly Fiorina: 44 / 31
Tom Campbell: 44 / 29

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 58 / 42 (chart)
Gov. Schwarzenegger: 24 / 75 (chart)

Getting Smarter 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Glen Bolger sees the "mood gap" favoring Republicans.

Joel Benenson counters Schoen & Caddell on health care reform, and Byron York counters Benenson; Frank Newport referees.

William Saletan says Democrats should pass their 2008 agenda regardless of what the polls say.

Benenson releases a new poll for the SEIU and says the Democrats' agenda isn't hurting them (via Smith).

Marist reports that most think the internet is making us smarter.

PA: 2010 Sen, Gov (Susquehanna 3/3-6)

Topics: poll

Susquehanna Polling and Research (R)
3/3-6/10; 700 likely voters, 3.7% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Susquehanna release)


2010 Senate
42% Toomey (R), 36% Specter (D) (chart)

2010 Governor
37% Corbett (R), 26% Wagner (D) (chart)
39% Corbett (R), 24% Onorato (D) (chart)

CO: 2010 Primaries (PPP 3/5-8)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
3/5-8/10; 451 likely Democratic primary voters
497 likely Republican primary voters
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
40% Bennet, 34% Romanoff

2010 Senate: Republican Primary
34% Norton, 17% Buck, 7% Wiens, 5% Greenheck, 2% Martinez, 1% Barton, 1% Tidwell

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
58% McInnis, 8% Maes, 2% Mager, 1% Vanderbilt

WI: 2010 Sen, Gov (WPRI 3/7-9)

Topics: poll

Wisconsin Policy Research Institute*
3/7-9/10; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(WPRI release)

*WPRI is a non-profit organization committed to "free markets, limited government, private initiative, and personal responsibility."


2010 Senate (trends)
47% Feingold (D), 32% Wall (R)
51% Thompson (R), 39% Feingold (D)

2010 Governor (trends)
36% Walker (R), 32% Barrett (D)
34% Barrett (D), 34% Neumann (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jim Doyle: 43 / 49 (chart)
Tommy Thompson: 57 / 32
Terrence Wall: 10 / 7
Tom Barrett: 35 / 18
Russ Feingold: 50 / 39 (chart)
Scott Walker: 38 / 16
Mark Neumann: 36 / 16

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 49 / 49 (chart)
Gov. Doyle: 48 / 50 (chart)

Census: Why Ads & Advance Letters?

Topics: Advance Letters , US Census

This week's column looks at the U.S. Census and the controversy over its use of television advertising and advance letters to convince Americans to fill out and return their census forms.

The column reviews how the census differs from a survey -- the census has a constitutional mandate is to to count every member of the population -- but does not make explicit what they have in common: Both involve questionnaires that both need to coax their respondents to complete. As such, the advance letters are supported by decades of methodological research proving that their worth, something the Washington Post's Jennifer Agiesta reviewed last week.