April 25, 2010 - May 1, 2010


Ford: Response to Nate Silver

Topics: modeling , Nate Silver , Politics Home , Robert Ford , UK elections

This morning, Nate Silver responded to yesterday's guest post by Robert Ford on the PoliticsHome UK poll tracking and seat projection model. In this entry, Ford responds on behalf of his team of political scientists that also includes Will Jennings, Mark Pickup and Chris Wlezien.

In a previous post at pollster.com I explained the model we have developed with politicshome. Nate Silver has since posted a lengthy critique of our approach, which I will respond to here on behalf of the team.

First I'd like to clarify a little the background to the post. We were asked by pollster.com to provide an explanation of the differences between the two approaches, and we did so. We provide our projections free of charge to politicshome.com as a way of contributing to the understanding of the current state of play, which in Britain as in the US is too often driven by a focus on individual polls, on spurious margin of error changes and on naive applications of uniform swing. Nate's model is also a valuable contribution to analysis of the British situation and as such we view it as a complement to our work, not as a competitor.

We agree with Nate that naive uniform swing performs poorly. We disagree that this implies abandoning the swing approach entirely, as the evidence from past elections suggests it is relatively straightforward to modify the swing model to improve its accuracy.

Modified swing models such as this have been employed with considerable success to the task of forecasting British election results from exit polls over the last 35 years. We attempt to build on this work, rather than start afresh. We do not consider this stubbornness or traditionalism but rather an appropriate approach given our aims: we wanted to provide a better tool for understanding and interpreting the polls, so we turned to research tools with a strong track record. We do not believe that this approach is necessarily superior to the approach Nate takes, and we agree that science is well served by putting alternative approaches to the problem out in the public domain in as much detail as possible.

We do, however, think there are two important problems with the approach Nate takes. The first is that it is necessarily more subjective than ours: the data needed to construct the matrices Nate uses simply do not exist, and the modeller therefore needs to construct them based on his own judgement. Nate quite rightly deals with this by adopting a scenario based approach to his forecast, so we can see how different assumptions lead to different outcomes. Again, I'd like to emphasise that we don't think this approach is wrong - it may well lead to a better forecast - it is just not our approach. We do feel that when a model involves subjective judgements like this, there should be a lot of clarity about how the decisions are made. Of course, model selection always requires some exercise of judgement, but we prefer an approach which requires fewer decisions, and therefore leaves less subjective judgement to justify. Nate's response to our post has certainly clarified his modelling process a great deal, although we still have a number of unanswered questions. For example: how do his team decide what to put into each cells of their matrix? What might lead him to change their entries? How are the matrices changed for subsets of the data- how does the vote split down in Scotland, for example? Where do the votes lost by retiring incumbents go? I'm sure good answers exist for all of these questions, I would just like to learn more about them.

The second problem is that the proportional swing methodology Nate proposes does not have a good intellectual basis. Proportional swing supposes that most voters have a roughly similar propensity to switch votes, so when a party starts with a high level of support it will lose more than when it has a low level of support. As was first pointed out by Iain Maclean in 1973, there is no reason to suppose that all voters have an equal propensity to switch in this way. Many voters may be committed to one party, and may never consider voting for another. If the propensity to switch votes is unrelated to the strategic situation in the seat - in other words, if "floating voters" are equally distributed across seats - then uniform swing is more likely than proportional swing. We would still, however, observe proportional swing if floating voters were disproportionately influenced by local factors, and if these local factors tended to drive them away from the locally dominant party.

Yet in reality, the distribution of British floating voters is fairly uniform across seats. David Voas' analysis of the 2005 British Election Study shows no difference between marginal and safe seats in the proportions of voters who are undecided, who are thinking of changing their votes, and who have changed their minds about whether to vote at all. As Voas notes, in such a situation we would expect a uniform swing if the influences driving voters' decisions are primarily national. Our view is that the influences in British elections generally are national - the television and print media markets operate at a national level, the parties are national operations, the operation of government is national. The most salient issues - unemployment, the recession, immigration - are national issues. The unique new factor in 2010 - the "Clegg Bounce" was the consequence of a debate aired on national television. There is therefore every reason to suppose that floating voters are being swayed by national factors. And as they are distributed evenly across seats, there is therefore also every reason to suppose that the change in vote will be distributed evenly. We may, of course, be wrong about this, as about every other aspect of our model. But we would welcome a clearer explanation from the fivethirtyeight.com team as to why they think proportional swing should operate in Britain, given the even distribution in floating voters and the dominance of national issues, national parties and a national media.

So our overarching justifications for using models based on uniform swing are that they have a long and strong track record, and a strong intellectual grounding. We apply similar criteria of strong empirical and intellectual grounding when making our adjustments. We adjust the swing in Scotland because Scotland has a uniquely distinct political culture, with a strong devolved Parliament where a different party currently governs, a distinct national media, and a different party system. The empirical evidence from repeated polling also confirms that the pattern of swing is very different there. We haven't made other regional adjustments because both the intellectual case and the evidence base are weaker. I should apologise to Nate for misunderstanding which regional data he used to make his adjustments. The data he is using is fine in terms of recency but the differences in it are not very large and some of the sample sizes for individual regions are quite small.

We adjust the swing in marginal constituencies because we know that the parties concentrate their spending and campaign resources in such seats, and we know from past research that such campaigning efforts make a difference. We also have a good evidence base from a series of recent polls of Labour held marginal constituencies, all of which have shown around a 2% swing bonus to the Conservatives. I'd like to spend a little time clarifying all the decisions here, as Nate has described this section of the model as its "weakest facet" and considers the choices to be "arbitrary". We apply the swing bonus in Labour held seats where the party holds 6 to 14 point majorities. There are two reasons for this choice- again they are intellectual and empirical. The intellectual aim here was to capture the subset of seats where the Conservatives would be concentrating their resources in order to win a majority. Seats requiring very small swings are almost certain to fall, and so are likely to receive less campaign resources, which is why we apply the 6 percent cut-off: the polling in 2010 has consistently shown a swing from Labour to the Conservatives of well more than 3 percent, implying nearly all of these seats should fall. The 14 point cut-off is chosen as if they capture seats above this point, the Conservatives are almost certain to have a majority. As achieving a majority is their primary goal, the seats needed to achieve it should receive the most resources. The empirical justification is that the 6 to 14 point range roughly equates to the range of seats that have been polled. The choices are therefore not arbitrary, although they must involve a degree of judgement. We are not wedded to them and will happily adopt more elegant solutions to modelling this issue - we would welcome suggestions on this front. However, the choices we currently make are well grounded both theoretically and empirically.

We do not apply such adjustments to seats involving the Liberal Democrats, again for both intellectual and empirical reasons. Intellectually, the Lib Dems have far fewer resources available, and until recently they were focussing most of these on defending seats from the Conservatives, not winning them from Labour. We do not see any strong theoretical reason to expect the recent pickup in Lib Dem fortunes to apply most strongly in Lab-Lib Dem seats. We also have very little polling data on this subject - there has been one poll suggesting the Lib Dems are doing better in Labour held seats than Tory held ones - but it has a relatively small sub-sample of each.

It is also by no means clear that applying a marginality adjustment to Lab-Lib Dem marginals would have a dramatic effect. Current polling suggests around a 7 point rise in Lib Dem support from 2005 and a nine point decline in Labour support. There are only 28 seats where the Lib Dems are close enough to win seats on the basis of such an 8 point swing from Labour to the Lib Dems. Allowing a 2 point bonus only brings about another ten seats into view. Applying the bonus to Conservative seats would have a somewhat larger effect, although it would be dampened because the Conservatives are also expected to improve their vote, reducing Lib Dem opportunities. However, we would not rule out strong Lib Dem performance in such seats entirely, and our approach allows us to model it effectively. We have not chosen to do so yet because we don't think there is enough evidence to do so but we could certainly explore what the effect will be on our estimates. If time permits, we will do so.

With regards incumbent effects, I concede that I was not clear about what I meant by robust effects and was too harsh in my assessment of Nate's modelling choice here, though to be fair he had not previously provided details of the source of his estimates. We decided not to add an incumbency adjustment for two reasons. Firstly the pattern of effects changes quite considerably between elections. A quick regression analysis of the 2001 election, identical to Nate's, shows a negative Labour incumbency effect twice as large as in 2005, and a Conservative effect which is about the same. The Lib Dem effect - which is the largest in Nate's model and the most consequential - is the least robust. A 3 point negative retirement effect becomes a one point positive effect. In 2005, the Lib Dems did much worse when the incumbent MP retired. In 2001, they did slightly better. Secondly, there are strong reasons to expect the incumbent effect to operate very differently in this election. Parliament was convulsed by a massive expenses scandal in the summer of 2009, with many incumbent MPs abusing their privileges to buy property and luxury goods at the tax payer's expense. This is widely expected to have a significant impact on many races, and has significantly altered both the pattern of retirements and the value of incumbency. Voters may choose to punish the worst offenders, or reject all incumbents as tainted. We simply do not know. To make strong assumptions about how incumbency works in 2010 derived solely from how they worked in 2005 seems imprudent to us given the circumstances.

Nate's conclusion makes three arguments: that uniform swing models make strong, unfounded assumptions, that uniform swing models have failed badly in some elections and that uniform swing models are inelegant. I think each is a little unfair. Uniform swing's assumptions are strong, but there has been a lengthy and fruitful academic debate in Britain about their foundations, and there is more intuition and empirical evidence to support them than to support the assumption of proportional swing. Nate is right that a basic, naive uniform swing model performs poorly in elections like 1997, but this is an argument for improvement, not abandonment. In fact, a modified probabilistic uniform swing model, with data based differential swing adjustments was employed in 1997 to model the result based on the exit poll, and performed very well. Finally, Nate accuses the uniform swing model of inelegance. I disagree - it is true that the model can predict negative votes, but this is simple to correct for. A negative vote simply suggests the party's achieved vote will be very low. I don't see what is so inelegant about that, and I find much that is elegant in a model that can condense vote changes into a small number of coefficients which can easily be derived from commonly available polling data.

My colleagues and I agree with Nate that models should be constantly analysed, tested and improved. We have attempted to build a model that incorporates thirty years of such analysis, testing and improvement in the realm of BBC exit poll forecasting. Our view is that the technology developed in this context can provide a valuable resource for understanding how current polling will translate into results, and this was the motivation for making a set of projections based upon it available via the politicshome.com website. It is possible that the developments of the past few weeks have rendered this technology obsolete and require a radically new approach. We remain unconvinced, but in the end it is the British voters will provide the final verdict on the debate, at least for this election cycle.

Ford: Our Model vs. 538

Topics: modeling , Politics Home , UK elections

As noted yesterday, we are now following the PoliticsHome UK poll tracking and seat projection model developed by political scientists Robert Ford, Will Jennings, Mark Pickup and Chris Wlezien. I asked Ford if he could explain how their efforts differ from the model developed by Nate Silver and his colleagues at FiveThirtyEight.com. This is his response.
--Mark Blumenthal

How does our model differ from Nate Silver's recently unveiled model of UK elections? The very brief answer is that our model involves applying a modified version of "uniform swing" - the same change of vote in each seat, with some modifications - while Nate's involves proportional swing where the change in each seat relates to the balance of party power beforehand. Under Silver's model, we should see a greater swing against Labour where Labour start more strongly, and this effect should increase proportional with Labour's starting strength.

Empirically, there is little support for Nate Silver's conception of proportional swing, as shown in this recent paper by my colleague David Voas.

There is no evidence of larger swings in recent elections (including 1997) where parties start off more strongly. There is some evidence that swings are larger where the parties are competing more closely, but in our view Nate's model is a poor way to capture this dynamic.

We agree with Nate that there is plenty of evidence that a naive application of uniform swing is misleading, however we feel the best approach is to improve on uniform swing rather than abandon it entirely. Two major factors are seldom accounted for in popular applications of uniform swing. Firstly, uniform swing is generally applied deterministically, making no allowance for random variation in swing between seats. Secondly, it is applied too rigidly, making no allowance for systematic deviations identified in the data. We apply a probabilistic model, based upon a formula developed by John Curtice and David Firth for application in the 2005 General Election, where it was employed very successfully to project the result from exit polls. The model allows for a non-normal distribution in swing variations, and calculates a probability of each party winning each seat based on the vote shares expected (from opinion polls or exit polls). The seat totals are simply the sum of the probabilities.

This model also incorporates systematic differences in swing suggested by the polling data. We anticipate stronger Conservative performance in the marginal seats where they are competing directly with Labour by allowing an extra 2 points of swing to them in such seats. We also anticipate a different pattern of party performance in Scotland - which has its own government and a different party system - by incorporating the latest polling data estimates from Scotland, and adjusting the change in the rest of England and Wales to ensure the aggregate changes sums up the same. These adjustment are based on differentials which have shown up robustly in several recent polls of marginal constituencies and of Scotland

Nate also makes a variety of adjustments of this kind, but his changes are not as well grounded in empirical evidence from the polling data. Firstly, the transition matrix he applies to vote shares is based upon a weak evidence base - while pollsters provide details of respondents' recalled 2005 vote, the transition matrices calculated from this are subject to bias due to respondents' tendency to misremember their votes - in particular remembering voting for the winning party when they did not. This phenomenon is well established, and British pollsters attempt to correct for it in their weighting. However, any model which uses transitions in vote from polling data is likely to overestimate the extent of switching from the current governing party to opposition parties, because many people who say they voted for the governing party last time did not actually vote for them. We suspect this may contribute to Nate's high estimate of change from Labour to the opposition parties.

Secondly, the changes Nate makes for regional differentials in swing are based on polling data that is two years old and was collected in a very different political environment to the current one - the Conservatives were a long way ahead in the polls while the Lib Dems were far below their current tally. We considered incorporating regional swings based on this data, but rejected the change due to the age of the data. We incorporate changes for Scotland as we have a good evidence base from Scotland specific polling, which is regularly updated.

We do not attempt to model "tactical voting", or the effects of incumbent retirements because we simply do not have good quality, recent data on the pattern or level of such effects. Our own regression analysis of incumbent effects did not reveal robust effects of incumbent retirements in recent elections, so we are rather surprised to learn that Nate has uncovered some. Modelling effects such as these, where the statistical evidence is weak requires making strong assumptions. We prefer not to make such assumptions, sticking only to effects where the evidence base is very strong.

On top of our votes to seats projection, we also make efforts to develop a robust estimate of current public opinion. Nate freely admits that his public opinion figures are "educated guesses based on recent cross-tabular results". We employ a state space model to estimate current public opinion every few days, while controlling for systematic "house effect" differences between the pollsters and differences in the sample sizes they employ in their polls. The polling data inputted into our model is therefore based on a more systematic aggregation of available public opinion, although to be fair our current estimate of public opinion is quite close to Nate's.

To sum up, we believe our model has a stronger basis in existing analysis of UK voting patterns, and is based upon techniques that were employed successfully in 2005. Our approach is more sophisticated than other available UK resources, both in terms of its poll aggregation technique and in terms of its seat projection technique. We disagree with Nate's claim that uniform swing models are a low bar to clear - a model based upon a modified uniform swing approach, which employed the probabilistic techniques we use, got the Labour majority in 2005 exactly right based upon exit poll data and early seat declarations. This looks to us like rather a high bar to clear!

Of course, this election is perhaps the most difficult to predict since polling began in Britain, and it may be that uniform swing fails miserably, and that proportional swing of the form Nate proposes manifests strongly next Thursday. We prefer to navigate these uncharted waters with tried and tested methods as a guide, Nate suggests a radically new environment requires radically new methods. We will all know for sure in a week!

For those interested in learning more, the model used to forecast the 2005 election based upon exit poll data and early results is detailed here. Our seat projection techniques are based on those used in this model.

Further details of the model are also available on our PoliticsHome.com page.

Twittering 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Glen Bolger resigns from the Crist campaign; Mark Ambinder looks at the new math in Florida.

Anthony Wells posts UK instapolls after the 3rd debate and reposts answers to common questions about polling.

Gary Langer discusses how competing values impact public opinion on offshore drilling.

Frank Newport blogs more on Arizona's immigration law.

William Frey analyzes the demographics of Arizona (via Sullivan).

Alex Bratty takes a look at the "November No-Shows."

Mark Ambinder asks, "who are Democrats messaging to?"

John Sides finds no association between political polarization and government distrust.

Bob Groves attends the Academy Awards.

Edison Research tracks popularity and awareness of Twitter (via Huffington Post).

US: National Survey (Kos 4/26-29)

Topics: National , poll

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
4/26-29/10; 1,200 registered voters, 2.8% margin of error
Mode: live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 55 / 42 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 39 / 50
Harry Reid; 29 / 59
Mitch McConnell: 24 / 61
John Boehner: 22 / 58
Democratic Party: 41 / 53
Republican Party: 32 / 65

State of the Country
41% Right Direction, 56% Wrong Track (chart)

DE: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 4/29)

Topics: Delaware , Senate

4/29/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen Release)


2010 Senate
55% Castle (R), 32% Coons (D) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Chris Coons: 48 / 38
Mike Castle: 65 / 32

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 54 / 46 (trend)
Gov. Markell: 58 / 38 (trend)

OH: 2010 Sen Primary (Suffolk 4/27-29)

Topics: poll

Suffolk University
4/27-29/10; 400 likely Democratic primary voters, 4.9% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Suffolk: release, toplines)


2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
55% Fisher, 27% Brunner (chart)

AZ: 2010 Gov Primary (PPP 4/23-25)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
4/23-25/10; 387 likely Republican primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


2010 Governor: Republican Primary
With Arpaio: 33% Arpaio, 25% Brewer, 15% Martin, 11% Mils, 1% Munger
Witout Arpaio: 38% Brewer, 19% Mils, 16% Martin, 3% Munger

US: National Survey (Economist 4/24-27)

Topics: National , poll

Economist / YouGov
4/24-27/10; 1,000 adults, 3.4% margin of error
715 registered voters
Mode: Internet
(Economist release)


Obama Job Approval
45% Approve, 48% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 79 / 15 (chart)
Reps: 11 / 89 (chart)
Inds: 38 / 57 (chart)
Economy: 41 / 52 (chart)
Health care: 43 / 50 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
14% Approve, 65% Disapprove (chart)

2010 Congress: Generic Ballot (chart)
Registered voters: 48% Democrat, 42% Republican
All adults: 47% Democrat, 38% Republican

State of the Country
34% Right Direction, 51% Wrong Track (chart)

US: Supreme Court (ABC/Post 4/22-25)

Topics: poll , Supreme Court

ABC News / Washington Post
4/22-25/10; 1,001 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(ABC: story, results; Post: story, results)


"How comfortable are you with Barack Obama selecting the next Supreme Court nominee"
65% comfortable, 33% not comfortable

"Please tell me whether to you personally it would be a factor in favor of a Supreme Court nominee, a factor against a Supreme Court nominee, or not a factor one way or the other"
Woman: 15% factor in favor, 3% factor against
Gay or Lesbian: 4 / 25
Protestant: 7 / 5
African-American: 16 / 3
Someone with experience as a judge: 70 / 5
Someone with experience outside the legal profession, for example in the field of business or politics: 35 / 26

"Would you want the next justice to vote to (uphold) Roe versus Wade, or vote to (overturn) it"
59% uphold, 38% overturn

NH: 2010 Sen, Gov (UNH 4/12-21)

Topics: poll

University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll / WMUR-TV
4/18-28/10; 512 adults, 4.4% margin of error
462 likely voter, 4.6% Margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(UNH release)

New Hampshire

Favorable / Unfavorable
Paul Hodes: 30 / 31
Kelly Ayotte: 38 / 13
Ovide Lamontagne: 10 / 12
Jim Bender: 5 / 5
Bill Binnie: 22 / 11
Jeanne Shaheen: 47 / 39 (chart)
Judd Gregg: 51 / 25 (chart)

2010 Senate
47% Ayotte (R), 32% Hodes (D) (chart)
37% Lamontagne (R), 36% Hodes (D) (chart)
37% Hodes (D), 34% Bender (R)
38% Binnie (R), 36% Hodes (D) (chart)

IL: 2010 Sen, Gov (Rasmussen 4/28)

Topics: Illinois , poll

4/28/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin fo error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen: Governor, Senate)


2010 Senate
46% Kirk (R), 38% Giannoulias (D) (chart)

2010 Governor
45% Brady (R), 38% Quinn (D) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Mark Kirk: 52 / 31
Alexi Giannoulias: 42 / 47
Pat Quinn: 43 / 50
Bill Brady: 47 / 32

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 61 / 39
Gov. Quinn: 40 / 58

US: National Survey (POS 4/11-13)

Topics: National , poll

Public Opinion Strategies (R)
4/11-13/10; 800 likely voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(POS release)


State of the Country
35% Right Direction, 60% Wrong Track (chart)

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

Congressional Job Approval
30% Approve, 67% Disapprove (chart)

Generic Ballot
Congress: 41% Republican candidate, 39% Democratic candidate (chart)
Governor*: 38% Republican candidate, 37% Democratic candidate
*(only asked in states with 2010 Governor's races)

Party ID
31% Democrat, 28% Republican, 40% independent (chart)

NY: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 4/27)

Topics: Governor , New York

4/27/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

New York

2010 Governor
56% Cuomo, 24% Lazio (chart)
55% Cuomo, 25% Paladino
50% Cuomo, 27% Levy

Favorable / Unfavorable
Carl Paladino: 27 / 41
Rick Lazio: 38 / 38
Andrew Cuomo: 65 / 28
Steve Levy: 35 / 32

UK Projections from PoliticsHome

Topics: Politics Home , Rob Ford , UK elections

As the attention of American political junkies turn to May 6 general election in the United Kingdom, we want to highlight the polling averages and projections of our colleagues at PoliticsHome. We have created a page that displays the PoliticsHome interactive chart of their polling average and seat projections over time and will, for the next 10 days, display their latest projections in the right column of our site. I have also reproduced both below.


Regular readers will recall that we partnered with PoliticsHome during the fall of 2008 and included a miniature version of their Campaign08 website on Pollster.com. Alas, PoliticsHome has put their US website into mothballs, but they certainly know the politics of the UK. Don't be fooled by the different look and feel of their chart. The underlying methods for poll aggregation and seat projection are quite sophisticated.

PoliticsHome offers much more detail -- and an impressive interactive constituency map -- on their "Poll Centre" page (note: a "constituency" is what we typically call a "district"). There you will find a detailed explanation of their methodology written by Rob Ford, a Hallsworth Research Fellow in the Institute for Social Change at the University of Manchester.

The gist is this: They first aggregate all of the UK national vote preference polls to create the "estimate of current electoral sentiment" plotted in the chart above. Their pooled estimate takes into account...

the estimated biases of the individual pollsters ("house effects"), the effects of sample size on the likely accuracy of polls, and the effects of the sampling decisions pollsters make, which mean their samples are not truly random ("design effects").

Next they create a projection of how the national vote preference will likely translate into seats in Parliament won by each party. Like the models of Simon Hix and Nick Vivyan (h/t MonkeyCage) and Nate Silver and his colleagues at FiveThirtyEight, they do not assume a "uniform shift." As Ford explains:

This simplified [uniform shift] method gives us a general idea about the state of play politically, but it can be misleading for two reasons. Firstly, it assumes that the "swing" will be the same everywhere, which may not be the case. Secondly, it makes no allowance for uncertainty. If the UNS calculation indicates that the Conservatives will win a seat by 1%, the seat is allocated to them with the same certainty as another seat where the expected margin is 15%.

To deal with this uncertainty problem, their model incorporates calculations of the probability of "that each party will win a given seat" based on historical election data from 2001 and 2005, a process that Ford explains in more detail.

They also deviate from "uniform swing" in two ways:

Firstly, there is fairly consistent polling evidence that the political landscape looks different in Scotland to the rest of Britain, perhaps in part due to the change in government at Holyrood in 2007. To allow for this, we employ a separate estimate of Scottish opinion derived from the most recent Scotland specific polls available.

Secondly, a series of polls have indicated that the level of swing from Labour to the Conservatives will be higher in marginal constituencies, a pattern which has also been observed in past elections. To allow for stronger performance in the marginals, we expect an extra two points of swing in seats where Labour hold majorities of between 6% and 14% compared with other seats.

From my vantage point, what differentiates this model is that its deviations from "uniform swing" are based on hard empirical evidence from regional polls rather than "educated guesses" about cross-party defections. Also, where the PoliticsHome model makes exceptions for individual seats ("to allow for factors that do not fall within the scope of the statistical analysis"), Ford provides clear documentation and explanation for each.

PoliticsHome updates its election projection on a weekly basis, so we have two more updates to go. They posted earlier today on the "state of play" before this afternoon's debate.

For more discussion of the UK elections -- including the "uniform swing" issue, see also the two-part interview that Emily conducted with Anthony Wells, editor of PollingReport/UK.

Update: While Rob Ford wrote the methodological brief posted on PoliticsHome, I am told that the PoliticsHome model is the work of a team of political scientists that also includes Will Jennings, Mark Pickup and Chris Wlezien.

NV: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 4/27)

Topics: poll

4/27/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor
47% Reid (D), 37% Gibbons (R) (chart)
53% Sandoval (R), 35% Reid (D) (chart)
45% Montandon (R), 39% Reid (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jim Gibbons: 43 / 65 (chart)
Mike Montandon: 41 / 28
Brian Sandoval: 53 / 28
Rory Reid: 43 / 48

Uncertain 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Jay Cost discusses the uncertainty of model projecting the outcome of the 2010 elections.

Gary Andres considers recent polling on the enthusiasm gap.

Anthony Wells says a "Mrs. Duffy effect" may be difficult to discern.

Nate Silver updates his UK election projection.

Chris Cillizza reports Crist polled Florida this week; Steve Schale (via Smith), Eric Kleefeld and Tom Jensen discuss Crist's chances as an independent.

NV: 2010 Sen (Kos 4/26-28)

Topics: nevada , Senate

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
4/26-4/28; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
400 likely Republican primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Kos release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary (trend)
38% Lowden, 28% Tarkanian, 13% Angle

2010 Senate
43% Tarkanian (R), 41% Reid (D), 6% Ashjian (TP) (chart)
45% Lowden (R), 41% Reid (D), 4% Ashjian (chart)
44% Angle (R), 41% Reid (D), 5% Ashjian (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Harry Reid: 37 / 53 (chart)
Scott Ashjian: 7 / 27
Danny Tarkanian: 44 / 33
Sue Lowden: 42 / 34
Sharron Angle: 41 / 29
Barack Obama: 44 / 47 (chart)
Jim Gibbons: 21 / 59 (chart)
John Ensign: 19 / 60 (trend)

US: AZ Immigration Law (Gallup 4/27-28)

Topics: National , poll

4/27-28/10; 1,013 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)


Based on what you have heard or read about the new Arizona immigration law, do you favor or oppose it?
All adults: 39% Favor, 30% Oppose
Adults who have heard of the law: 51% Favor, 39% Oppose

AR: 2010 Sen (Kos 4/26-28)

Topics: Arkansas Senate

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
4/26-28/10; 600 likely voters, 4% margin of error
400 likely Democratic primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews


2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
43% Lincoln, 35% Halter, 7% Other (chart)

2010 Senate: General Election
52% Boozman (R), 42% Lincoln (D) (chart)
50% Hendren (R), 40% Lincoln (D) (chart)
47% Baker (R), 40% Lincoln (D) (chart)
46% Coleman (R), 42% Lincoln (D) (chart)
47% Cox (R), 42% Lincoln (D) (chart)
47% Boozman (R), 42% Halter (D)
45% Hendren (R), 43% Halter (D)
44% Baker (R), 43% Halter (D)
43% Halter (D), 41% Coleman (R)
44% Halter (D), 42% Cox (R)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Blanche Lincoln: 41 / 54
Bill Halter: 48 / 32
John Boozman: 44 / 32
Kim Hendren: 38 / 27
Gilbert Baker: 36 / 30
Curtis Coleman: 36 / 31
Tom Cox: 34 / 27
Barack Obama: 39 / 58

Note: If no candidate receives greater than 50% in the Democratic Primary, the top two finishers compete in a runoff.

IN: 2010 Sen (SurveyUSA/MDCfIP 4/22-26)

Topics: poll

SurveyUSA / Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics
4/22-26/10; 1,250 likely voters, 2.8% margin of error
407 likely Republican primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Mike Downs Center release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
36% Coats, 24% Hostettler, 18% Stutzman, 6% Bates, 4% Behney

2010 Senate: General Election
47% Coats (R), 31% Ellsworth (D)
45% Hostettler (R), 32% Ellsworth (D)
41% Stutzman (R), 35% Ellsworth (D)

NV: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 4/27)

Topics: poll

4/27/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Senate
52% Lowden (R), 39% Reid (D) (chart)
51% Tarkanian (R), 41% Reid (D) (chart)
48% Angle (R), 40% Reid (D) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Harry Reid: 43 / 56 (chart)
Sue Lowden: 56 / 35
Danny Tarkanian: 53 / 35
Sharron Angle: 48 / 33

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 48 / 51 (chart)
Gov. Gibbons: 35 / 63 (chart)

Obama tax increase misperception grows

Topics: Barack Obama , misperception , Taxes

Earlier this year, I noted a CBSNews.com post showing that 24% of Americans thought President Obama had raised taxes for most Americans and 53% believed taxes had been kept the same. The numbers, which were drawn from a CBS/New York Times poll conducted February 5-10, were even worse among Tea Party supporters -- 44% thought taxes had been increased and 46% thought taxes were the same. In reality, Obama cut taxes for 95% of working families.

The latest CBS/New York Times poll, which was conducted April 5-12, asks the same question:

So far, do you think the Obama Administration has increased taxes for most Americans, decreased taxes for most Americans, or have they kept taxes about the same for most Americans?

The findings show that misperceptions about changes to income taxes under Obama have gotten worse. The percentage of respondents who think taxes have gone up under Obama has increased from 24% to 34% among the general public and from 44% to 64% among Tea Party supporters:


It's the all-too-predictable result of combining misleading rhetoric suggesting Obama has raised taxes with people's biases toward their pre-existing beliefs.

Update 4/29 1:26 PM: Per Gary Wagner's comment, I should clarify two points. First, my interpretation of the CBS/NYT question, which I think is a fair one, is that the correct response is that taxes have decreased. While some taxes have been increased, there has been a net decrease in federal taxes for most Americans under Obama. Also, some respondents may anticipate the likely increase in taxes for individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000 in 2011 as having already taken place, but this increase (a) has not happened, (b) is provided for under current law and is not the direct result of legislation endorsed by Obama (though he has declined to extend the Bush tax cuts in this income group), and (c) will not increase taxes for most Americans.

[Cross-posted at brendan-nyhan.com]

AZ: 2010 Sen Primary (PPP 4/23-25)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
4/23-25/10; 387 likely Republican primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
46% McCain, 35% Hayworth, 7% Deakin (chart)

2012 President: Republican Primary
27% Romney, 19% Gingrich, 13% Palin, 12% Huckabee, 9% Paul

OR: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 4/26)

Topics: Oregon , poll

4/26/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor
41% Dudley (R), 41% Kitzhaber (D)
50% Kitzhaber (D), 34% Lim (R)
48% Kitzhaber (D), 33% Alley (R)
40% Dudley (R), 40% Bradbury (D)
44% Bradbury (D), 32% Lim (R)
43% Bradbury (D), 34% Alley (R)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Chris Dudley: 46 / 25
John Kitzhaber: 58 / 34
John Lim: 34 / 35
Allen Alley: 38 / 35
Bill Bradbury: 48 / 35

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 59 / 40
Gov. Kulongoski: 48 / 51

OH: 2010 Sen, Gov (Quinnipiac 4/21-26)

Topics: poll

4/21-26/10; 1,568 registered voters, 2.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)


2010 Governor
44% Strickland, 38% Kasich (chart)

2010 Senate
40% Fisher, 37% Portman (chart)
40% Brunner, 36% Portman (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Ted Strickland: 45/ 32 (chart)
John Kasich: 27 / 10
Lee Fisher: 27 / 13
Jennifer Brunner: 25 / 14
Rob Portman: 25 / 8

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Strickland: 47 / 38 (chart)
Sen. Brown: 45 / 31 (chart)
George Voinovich: 47 / 35 (chart)
Pres. Obama: 45 / 50 (chart)

AZ: 2010 Sen (Behavioral Research Center 4/12-25)

Topics: Arizona , Senate

Behavioral Research Center
4/12-25/10; 666 registered voters, 3.9% margin of error
315 likely Republican primary voters, 5.3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Behavioral Research Center)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
54% McCain, 28% Hayworth (chart)

2010 Senate: General Election
46% McCain, 24% Glassman
37% Hayworth, 30% Glassman

AR: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 4/26)

Topics: Arkansas Senate

4/26/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Senate (trends)
51% Hendren (R), 30% Lincoln (D) (chart)
53% Baker (R), 31% Lincoln (D) (chart)
52% Coleman (R), 32% Lincoln (D) (chart)
54% Holt (R), 31% Lincoln (D)
57% Boozman (R), 29% Lincoln (D) (chart)
45% Hendren (R), 33% Halter (D)
48% Baker (R), 33% Halter (D)
43% Coleman (R), 37% Halter (D)
49% Holt (R), 31% Halter (D)
56% Boozman (R), 31% Halter (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Kim Hendren: 36 / 26
Blanche Lincoln: 31 / 63
Gilbert Baker: 42 / 27
Curtis Coleman: 37 / 29
Jim Holt: 47 / 27
John Boozman: 58 / 24
Bill Halter: 48 / 42

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 35 / 63
Gov. Beebe: 68 / 30

Dogs and Husbands 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Patrick Ruffini thinks 2010 will be bigger for Republicans than 1994; Andrew Sullivan raises an eyebrow.

Jon Chait takes on Frank Luntz and his "bailout bill" spin, Kevin Williamson says it is a bailout bill, Chait responds.

Jennifer Agiesta notes that current generic House "reelect" numbers match those from the early '90s.

Jennifer De Pinto assesses where Americans rank immigration as an issue.

Tom Jensen sees potential gains for Democrats in Senate races with still unresolved primaries.

Mark Mellman discusses the economy's impact in 2010.

John Sides finds that most Tea Party respondents to the Politico/TargetPoint poll favor Republicans.

John McLaughlin finds no change in perceptions of Tea Party groups since January.

Humphrey Taylor answers questions about the UK elections.

Henry Copeland endorses the Hix/Vivyan UK poll tracking and projections.

Nathan Empsall argues Crist as an independent is still on life support.

Gallup finds that education is a better predictor of abortion attitudes than gender.

David Hill argues that abortion has declined in prominence as an issue for Republicans.

Sean Trende thinks Obama's coalition is weak, even for 2012.

Edison Research will exit poll in the Republic of Georgia.

The Dartmouth News interviews Harry Enten.

AP asks the burning question: which is a better listener, a dog or a husband?

Charlie, the Dark Horse, Crist?

Topics: Charlie Crist , Florida

Charlie Crist looks like he'll be declaring his independent candidacy tomorrow. I think his chances of winning are quite low. As I have pointed out, Crist will be not be the new Joe Lieberman. Crist will not have the dough and more importantly Kendrick Meek is no Alan "Gold" Schlesinger, the sacrificial Republican lamb in '06 Connecticut. But even if somehow Crist got some money, the math just does not seem there.

Looking at the four most recent polls and using the Florida electorate calculator created by my boss Mark Blumenthal, it is very difficult for me to see the path for Crist to win... even in his best case scenario.

Issue 1:

As Nate Silver has noted, Marco Rubio is well on his way to earning 70-80% of the Republican vote in a general election. Rubio's net favorable split among Republicans was an astronomical 66/8 in the latest Quinnipiac poll. Only one of last four polls has registered Crist's support among Republicans above 30%, while the average is in the upper 20's. Expect that number to fall or stay level once Crist declares an Independent candidacy. Does anyone think undecided Republicans will flock to the candidate who deserted the party (Crist) and not the Republican they like (Rubio)?

Issue 2:

Since 1998, no Democratic candidate for major statewide office has earned less than 78% of the Democratic vote. Even in the Jeb Bush romp of Buddy MacKay in 1998, Bush only took 21% of the Democratic vote. Crist only got 14% of Democrats in 2006. Now you may say Crist running as an independent candidate will be different. Maybe. Remember Meek, an African-American, will almost certainly win all the approximately 20% of African-American Democrats. But for arguments sake, we will say that does Crist holds the nearly 30% of Democrats polls claim he will get come November (and those polls will change as Meek brings up his very low name recognition with advertising).

Issue 3:

Independents. Crist is in the mid to upper 30's in all the polls among his "base". So said number may rise on declaration of an independent run, but they probably will not. Why? Most independents usually lean strongly to one party or the other. It is the reason that Lieberman's numbers stayed steady among independents even after he declared an independent run in 2006.

So where does that leave us? Using the 2006 midterm electorate as a model (it worked quite well in Virginia and New Jersey in 2009 and Massachusetts in 2010) and giving Crist his most favorable electoral breakdown (30-R, 30-D, 50-I), he only gets 35% of the vote. That means, he would have to pray that Rubio and Meek literally split the rest of the vote down the middle.

Just to show you how tenuous this prayer is give Meek 2% of Republican support and understand Meek will probably take at least that much. All of a sudden, Crist takes only 34.2% of the overall vote.

It is a straw house that the big bad wolf is ready to blow over.

US: National Survey (Pew 4/21-26)

Topics: National , poll

Pew Research Center
4/21-26/10; 1,546 adults, 3% margin of error
413 Republican, 6% margin of error
499 Democrats, 5.5% margin of error
554 independents, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Pew release)


Obama Job Approval
47% Approve, 42% Disapprove (chart)
Reps: 18 / 75 (chart)
Dems: 79 / 13 (chart)
Inds: 41 / 46 (chart)
Economy: 38 / 54 (chart)
Health Care: 40 / 51 (chart)

State of the Country
29% Satisfied, 66% Dissatisfied (chart)

Thinking about the Republican Party, who do YOU think of as the leader of the Republican Party these days...
8% McCain, 4% Palin, 3% Romney, 2% Limbaugh, 2% Gingrich, 1% McConnell, 1% Bush, 1% Steele, 1% Boehner, 1% Huckabee

OH: 2010 Sen Primary (Quinnipiac 4/22-26)

Topics: Ohio , poll

4/22-26/10; 987 likely Democratic primary voters, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Quinnipiac release)


2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
41% Fisher, 24% Brunner (chart)

A Question That's Too Salty

Topics: Measurement , Rasmussen

I got an email yesterday from Alan Abramowitz flagging this question released Monday by Rasmussen Reports from an automated survey of American adults (not likely voters):

Some public health groups are urging the FDA to set mandatory standards for how much salt is allowed in food. Should the government set limits on how much salt Americans can eat?

33% Yes
55% No
12% Not sure

The government setting limits on how much salt we can eat? Is that what "some public health groups" are urging? Not quite.

Here's the story as reported in last week's Washington Post (emphasis added):

Two members of Congress urged the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday to move quickly to limit the amount of salt in processed foods, calling the matter a "public health crisis" that demanded a swift response from government.


Their comments came after the release Tuesday of a report of experts, convened by the Institute of Medicine, that found that most Americans are consuming dangerous levels of sodium and that voluntary efforts by the food industry to reduce salt have failed. The report recommended that the FDA immediately launch efforts to limit salt levels over a period of years to allow consumers to adjust to less salty food.

The Institute of Medicine is proposing to limit the amount of salt in processed food. No one is urging the government to restrict the sale of salt or "set limits on how much salt Americans can eat." Even if "public health groups" got their way, anyone could still choose to salt their food as much as they want.

It would be interesting to see how Americans react to the idea of the government limiting the salt levels allowed in processed foods. Unfortunately, that's not the question that Rasmussen asked.

See a poll question that's similarly leading or biased? Drop us an email.

AZ: 2010 Sen (PPP 4/23-25)

Topics: Arizona , Poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
4/23-25/10; 813 likely voters, 3.4% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP Release)


2010 Senate
49% McCain (R), 33% Glassman (D)
42% Glassman (D), 39% Hayworth (R)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Rodney Glassman: 7 / 15
J.D. Hayworth: 23 / 50

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 45 / 51
Sen. McCain: 34 / 55
Sen. Kyl: 35 / 39

AZ: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 4/27)

Topics: Arizona , poll

4/27/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor
48% Brewer (R), 40% Goddard (D)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Brewer: 56 / 42

GA: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 4/22)

Topics: Georgia , poll

4/22/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor
45% Oxendine (R), 43% Barnes (D)
46% Deal (R), 39% Barnes (D)
42% Handel (R), 41% Barnes (D)
42% Barnes (D), 37% Johnson (R)
44% Oxendine (R), 34% Baker (D)
47% Deal (R), 31% Baker (D)
44% Handel (R), 36% Baker (D)
38% Johnson (R), 35% Baker (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Karen Handel: 48 / 26
John Oxendine: 51 / 35
Nathan Deal: 41 / 27
Eric Johnson: 29 / 28
Roy Barnes: 47 / 43
Thurbert Baker: 42 / 39

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 41 / 57
Gov. Perdue: 55 / 42

Framing Risks, Losses, and Costs During the Health Care Reform Debate

Topics: Framing , Health care

Brendan Nyhan posted yesterday about his article in the just-released special issue of The Forum on the politics of health care reform. There are several compelling articles in the issue by notable scholars, including Representative David Price.

My own contribution to the issue (along with co-author David Eckles) is an expansion of an earlier post on this blog. Here is the key take-away from our piece:

While a large majority of Americans did see rising health care costs as a problem, very few of these same people thought that reform would improve this situation, and when it came to whether people supported or opposed the reform plan, it was the anticipated costs of the legislation, not concerns about current rising costs, that appeared most salient to Americans. Ultimately, Democrats passed health care reform legislation in spite of their inability to secure significant public support for the plan. Yet their efforts to mitigate the effects of loss aversion on public support for the proposal may have kept even more Americans from opposing the legislation, and if Republicans mount a serious attempt to repeal the reform law, it will be Democrats who are appealing to the public's aversion to risk and loss.

For the most part, the public agreed that rising health care costs were a major issue and that something had to be done to curtail those costs. However, they also tended to agree with Republicans that the health care reform legislation was not going to help limit those costs. In fact, a significant proportion thought it was going to make them worse. And, as the figure below indicates, prospective views about how the legislation would influence costs had a much more influential role in structuring opinion on the health care reform legislation than did concerns about current rising costs.


Another major point of our article is the importance of loss aversion; that is, the public's tendency to over-value what they already have and under-value what they do not yet own. This tendency worked against Democratic efforts to win public support for health care reform, but it is also why we argue that now that people have been given health care reform, it will likely be quite difficult for Republicans to attempt to take it away.

Check out our piece here, and all of the other great contributions here. (Free registration is required for access).

US: National Survey (ABC/Post 4/22-25)

Topics: National , poll

ABC News / Washington Post
4/22-25/10; 1,001 adults, 3% margin of error
870 registered voters (generic ballot only)
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(ABC: story, results; Post: story, results)


Obama Job Approval
54% Approve, 44% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 49 / 49 (chart)
Health Care: 49 / 49 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 57 / 41 (chart)

2010 Congress: Generic Ballot
Registered voters: 48% Democrat, 43% Republican (chart)

Right now, are you inclined to vote to re-elect your representative in Congress in the next election or are you inclined to look around for someone else to vote for?
32% Re-elect, 57% Look around

Generally speaking, would you say you favor smaller government with fewer services, or larger government with more services?
56% Smaller gov't, fewer services
40% Larger gov't, more services

Party ID
34% Democrat, 23% Republican, 38% independent (chart)

New article on health care misinformation

Topics: Barack Obama , Betsy McCaughey , Bill Clinton , death panels , euthanasia , health care , misperception

I have a new article on health care misinformation in The Forum that may be of interest to Pollster.com readers (link requires free registration; ungated copy here):

Why the "Death Panel" Myth Wouldn't Die: Misinformation in the Health Care Reform Debate

Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama struggled to overcome widespread and persistent myths about their proposals to reform the American health care system. Their difficulties highlight the influence of factual misinformation in national politics and the extent to which it correlates with citizens' political views. In this essay, I explain how greater elite polarization and the growth in media choice have reinforced the partisan divide in factual beliefs. To illustrate these points, I analyze debates over health care reform in 1993-1994 and 2009-2010, tracing the spread of false claims about reform proposals from Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and analyzing the prevalence of misinformation in public opinion. Since false beliefs are extremely difficult to correct, I conclude by arguing that increasing the reputational costs for dishonest elites might be a more effective approach to improving democratic discourse.

The article covers several topics I've discussed on my blog such as Betsy McCaughey, death panels, and naming and shaming in much greater depth. It also includes a new empirical analysis of survey data on misperceptions about the Clinton and Obama plans -- here's the key graph showing the perverse relationship between perceived and actual knowledge of the plans among opposition partisans (the y-axis is the predicted level of belief in the listed misperception):


Please read my article to find out more. (Note: It's part of a special issue of The Forum on health care reform that's worth checking out.)

ND: 2010 Sen, House (Rasmussen 4/20)

Topics: North Dakota , poll

4/20/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen: Senate, House)

North Dakota

2010 Senate
69% Hoeven (R), 24% Potter (D)

2010 House
49% Berg (R), 45% Pomeroy (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Tracy Potter: 43 / 31
John Hoeven: 82 / 16
Early Pomeroy: 51 / 48
Rick Berg: 53 / 28

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 44 / 54
Gov. Hoeven: 83 / 15

Poll-Wielding 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Gallup finds that the most enthusiastic voters favor Republicans in the generic ballot.

Anthony Wells explains what happens in the case of a hung parliament and discusses young voters and the Liberal Democrats.

Chris Bowers says the OFA faces an "almost impossible task" in motivating young Obama supporters to vote in 2010.

Ben Smith reports some members of Congress are trying to close the census mailers loophole (again).

Nate Silver criticizes Rasmussen's question on Arizona's new immigration law.

Two polls of Utah Republican delegates show Sen. Bennett in trouble (via Goddard).

Brenden Nyhan disagrees with Ezra Klein on measuring epistemic closure; Henry at the Monkey Cage adds more.

The April edition of Survey Practice is now available.

Congress.org considers the rise of polls as weapons.

MI: 2010 Dem Gov Primary (Rasmussen 4/22)

Topics: Michigan , Poll

4/22/10; 321 likely Democratic primary voters, 6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
15% Other, 13% Dillon, 12% Bernero, 9% Smith

US: National Survey (DemCorps 4/17-20)

Topics: National , poll

Democracy Corps* (D)
4/17-20/10; 1,000 2008 voters
872 likely 2010 voters
(questions asked of 2008 voters unless otherwise noted)
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Democracy Corps release)

*Democracy Corps is a non-profit organization founded by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Democratic consultant James Carville.


State of the Country
34% Right Direction, 57% Wrong Track (chart)

Obama Job Approval
48% Approve, 46% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 46 / 50 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Republican Party: 33 / 44
Democratic Party: 39 / 45
Barack Obama: 49 / 40 (chart)

2010 Congress: Generic Ballot (chart)
2008 voters: 45% Democrat, 43% Republican
Likely 2010 voters: 45% Republican, 43% Democrat

As you may have heard, President Obama's health care reform plan was passed by Congress and signed into law. From what you have heard about this plan, do you favor or oppose Obama's health care reform plan?
42% Favor, 49% Oppose (chart)

Party ID
37% Democrat, 29% Republican, 28% independent (chart)

AZ: 2010 Gov (PPP 4/23-25)

Topics: poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
4/23-25/10; 813 likely voters, 3.4% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)


2010 Governor
47% Goddard (D), 44% Arpaio (R)
47% Goddard (D), 44% Brewer (R)
47% Goddard (D), 36% Martin (R)
45% Goddard (D), 37% Mils (R)
46% Goddard (D), 31% Munger (R)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Joe Arpaio: 53 / 38
Terry Goddard: 39 / 27
Dean Martin: 19 / 13
Buz Mills: 18 / 16
John Munger: 4 / 11

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Brewer: 35 / 46

RI: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 4/21)

4/21/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Rhode Island

2010 Governor
35% Chafee (i), 26% Robitaille (R), 24% Lynch (D)
33% Chafee (i), 33% Caprio (D), 21% Robitaille (R)

Favorable / Unfavorable
John Robitaille: 41 / 27
Frank Caprio: 56 / 29
Lincoln Chafee: 53 / 38
Patrick Lynch: 44 / 45

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 57 / 41
Gov Carcieri: 53 / 45

MI: 2010 Gov Primary (Rasmussen 4/22)

Topics: Michigan , poll

4/22/10; 481 likely Republican primary voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)


2010 Governor: Republican Primary
28% Hoekstra, 14% Snyder, 13% Cox, 9% Bouchard

NC: 2010 Sen Primary (PPP 4/24-26)

Topics: North Carolina , poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
4/24-26/10; 458 likely Democratic primary voters, 4.6% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

North Carolina

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
26% Marshall, 23% Cunningham, 7% Lewis, 4% Williams, 3% Harris, 3% Worthy (chart)

NC: 2010 Sen Primary (SurveyUSA 4/23-25)

Topics: North Carolina , poll

4/23-25; 511 likely Democratic primary voters, 4.4% margin of error
520 likely Republican primary voters, 4.3% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(SurveyUSA release)

North Carolina

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
23% Marshall, 19% Cunningham, 10% Lewis, 7% Harris, 4% Williams, 4% Worthy (chart)

2010 Senate: Republican Primary
59% Burr, 6% Jones, 6% Linney, 3% Burks (trend)

SD: 2010 Gov, House (Rasmussen 4/21)

Topics: poll , South Dakota

4/21/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen Governor, House)

South Dakota

2010 Governor
41% Knudson (R), 41% Heidepriem (D)
53% Daugaard (R), 33% Heidepriem (D)
46% Heidepriem (D), 31% Howie (R)

2010 Congress
45% Herseth Sandlin (D), 41% Nelson (R)
50% Herseth Sandlin (D), 35% Noam (R)
48% Herseth Sandlin (D), 36% Curd (R)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Dave Knudson: 54 / 21
Dennis Daugaard: 61 / 23
Scott Heidepriem: 48 / 36
Gordon Howie: 33 / 36
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: 55 / 43

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 45 / 54
Gov. Rounds: 64 / 34

Epistemic Closure 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Bob Groves says Census response rates have unexpectedly increased over 2000.

Ben Smith reports that the RNC has continued to send its "census" mailings despite a law cracking down on them.

An ABC News / Washington Post poll finds most Americans want more financial regulation.

Felicia Sonmez says occupations listed on the ballot may help Tom Campbell; John Sides wants more evidence.

Anthony Wells rounds up British polls released Monday.

Nate Silver criticizes "Swingometer" projections in the UK.

R.L.G. at Democracy in America tries to kick his polling habit; Andrew Sullivan adds more.

Alex Bratty analyzes common themes in "State of the State" speeches.

Chris Bowers explores the "ubiquitous political junkie fantasy."

Ezra Klein proposes measuring 'epistemic closure' via misinformation .

US: Generic Ballot (Gallup, Rasmussen 4/19-25)

Topics: National , Poll


4/19-25/10; 1,600 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)

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

4/19-25/10; 3,500 likely voters, 2% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

2010 Congress: Generic Ballot
44% Republican, 38% Democrat (chart)

MI: 2010 Gov Primary (EPIC-MRA 4/21)

Topics: poll

EPIC-MRA / Detroit Free Press / WXYZ-TV
4/21/10; 400 likely Democratic primary voters, 4.9% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Free Press article)


2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
28% Fieger, 20% Dillon, 13% Bernero, 8% Smith

NV: 2010 Sen Primary (NNB 4/22)

Topics: Nevada , poll

Nevada News Bureau / PMI, Inc.
4/22/10; 2,675 likely Republcian primary voters, 5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Nevada News Bureau release)


2010 Senate: Republican Primary
41% Lowden, 24% Tarkanian, 17% Angle (chart)

One Word: Doctors

Topics: Doctors , Health Care Reform , Stephanie Cutter

My column this week takes one more look at health care reform and public opinion, offering some public advice to Stephanie Cutter, the White House aide who will soon be tasked with "the communications and outreach strategy for the implementation of the landmark health insurance reform legislation." My one word of advice: Doctors. Please click-through to read the whole thing.

Special thanks to Michael Dimock at the Pew Research Center for sharing some additional cross-tabulations cited in the column.

And for those of you who have never seen the 1968 classic, The Graduate, here's the famous "plastics" scene:

Anthony Wells Interview: Part 2

Topics: Internet Polls , Interpreting polls , Measurement , Sampling , UK elections

Anthony Wells is the editor of the UK Polling Report and an associate director at YouGov [interests disclosed: YouGov is Pollster.com's parent company]. He spoke with Emily Swanson on Tuesday about polling and the UK elections. Below is part 2 on polling methodology. Part 1 on the state of the race and interpreting polling data is available here.

Could you tell me about some of the different pollsters active in the UK?

We've got about 5 who I'd call established pollsters. Just in the run-up on this campaign there's been a lot of new entrants. But over time, there's been about 5 since have been there since the last election. Four of those are telephone pollsters, so they'll all use random digit dialing, and IPSOS-MORI has some degree of quota sampling in terms of who they asked depending on who in the household picks up the phone. The other three I think are pretty much random. The fifth one is ours, YouGov, and we have a panel-based internet methodology, so our sampling basically is quota sampling.

You said [in Part 1] that up until last week it looked like a Conservative blowout and suddenly it doesn't really look like that anymore. Given how quickly things can change, is it difficult for pollsters and analysts to deal with the brevity of the election cycle?

It's not really a problem in that sense - what I always noticed, the difference between US polling and UK polling is that away from election times the main currency of US polling seems to be presidential approval rating. And the generic, would you vote for Republican or Democratic candidates in congressional elections, is pretty much divided. Here, the currency is voting intention, because we always know who the alternative prime minister is going to be. So that question is asked, year in, year out, throughout the whole parliamentary term. So really, the sort of questions that pollsters ask in an election campaign are much the same as the ones we ask outside an election campaign, we just ask it more often.

So it's much like our generic congressional ballot, where they'll ask throughout the entire cycle, 'if the election were held today...'

Yeah. Like that, but we pay it far more attention. We don't really pay much attention to government approval rating, where presidential approval rating seems to be the question that everyone looks at in the US.

It seems like YouGov has really caught on in the UK, and generally speaking there's more acceptance of the idea of internet polling.

Well it was a long time, and basically we kept getting things right. There was extreme distrust to start with, and then we got the 2001 election right, and then got several sort of "mid-term" elections right, and got the 2005 election right as well, and after that point I think we began to be accepted. A stopped clock tells the right time twice a day, but if it keeps telling the right time you have to basically concede that it's working.

It was sort of a hard slog to begin with. I mean now, I talked about the 5 main established pollsters - in the run-up to this campaign, there's been at least 3 or 4 new entrants who are largely online-based ones, basically following in YouGov's footsteps. At least 2 of them were founded by people who used to work for YouGov, and they're trying to go off and do it themselves.

Are a lot of the media outlets reporting on the newer internet polls, or are they waiting until those prove themselves as well?

In terms of newspaper media, they'll mostly report on polls they've commissioned themselves, however shoddy, and then they'll probably more often report the established pollsters if they're going to mention someone else's polling, but they do tend to be very parochial about it and make a big fuss about their own one, and mention other peoples' at the bottom of page 57. The broadcast media - largely the BBC - because we've got a much more limited pool of pollsters, they largely seem to do it on a case-by-case basis. In the previous election, they really were very sniffy about internet polling, and they mentioned the 4 main phone and face-to-face pollsters at the time and didn't mention internet as much. These days, we seem to be one of the ones they do refer to, while they'll ignore most of the new entrants, so it's all whether they're established or not, not methodology, in terms of the BBC.\

Is there anything else you think US audiences should know about UK polling or the UK elections more generally?

Actually there is something that might be worth pointing out as a difference, which is our figures nearly always exclude don't knows. We percentage them out, and US ones don't. Most companies just sort of ignore them. They just assume they won't vote of they'll vote in exactly the same way. Two of them, ICM and Populus, reallocate 50% of them based on what they voted for last time.

The common parlance is that it's the "Shy Tory adjustment" - they first started doing it after 1992, when the polls got it horribly wrong, and they underestimated the Conservative vote, and one of the reasons amongst others they thought was that people were embarrassed to admit to pollsters that they were actually going to vote Conservative. And they saw, looking at the people who were saying "Don't know," a disproportionately large proportion of those were people who had voted Conservative in 1987. There was also solid evidence based on post-election callback surveys that people who said don't know did tend to vote for the party they had done previously. So they reallocate 50% or so according to their previous vote. But, while people still call it the Shy Tory adjustment sometimes, it doesn't actually help the Conservatives anymore. Now it tends to help Labour - they're actually shy Labour voters now.

Are there any resources that American audiences should know about if they're interested in UK elections?

The main one's really are the BBC website would probably be the best place to start, and beyond that it tends to be the main newspaper websites, so the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Times, and so on.