Pollster.com

July 4, 2010 - July 10, 2010

 

GA: 2010 Primaries (SurveyUSA 7/7-8)

Topics: Georgia , poll

SurveyUSA for V-103 / WMAZ-TV / WXIA-TV
7/7-8/20; 955 likely Republican primary voters, 3.2% margin of error
554 likely Democratic primary voters, 4.2% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(SurveyUSA release)

Georgia

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
32% Oxendine, 23% Handel, 12% Deal, 12% Johnson, 5% McBerry, 4% Chapman, 1% Putnam

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
56% Barnes, 18% Baker, 6% Porter, 5% Poythress, 3% Bolton, 3% Camon, 1% Mangham

2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
64% Thurmond, 13% Hadley


IL: 43% Brady, 40% Quinn (Rasmussen 7/7)


Rasmussen
7/7/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Illinois

2010 Governor
43% Brady (R), 40% Quinn (D) (chart)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Gov. Quinn: 44 / 54

Favorable / Unfavorable
Pat Quinn: 42 / 54
Bill Brady: 49 / 35


GA: 2010 Gov Dem Primary (PPP 7/2-3)

Topics: Georgia , poll

Public Policy Polling (D) for J.C. Cole, a supporter of Thurbert Baker
7/2-3/10; 600 likely Democratic primary voters
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

Georgia

2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
49% Barnes, 19% Baker, 4% Porter, 3% Poythress, 2% Botlon, 1% Camon, 1% Mangham


AL: 2010 Rep Gov Runoff (Baselice/PSA 7/5)

Topics: Alabama , Governor , poll , Primary

Public Strategy Associates (R) / Baselice & Associates (R)
7/5/10; 1,003 highly likely Republican primary runoff voters, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(AL.com story)

Alabama

2010 Governor: Republican Primary Runoff
53% Bentley, 33% Byrne


US: National Survey (Economist 7/3-6)

Topics: National , poll

Economist / YouGov
7/3-6/10; 1,000 adults, 3.4% margin of error
Mode: Internet
(Economist release)

National

Obama Job Approval
43% Approve, 52% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 76 / 19 (chart)
Reps: 8 / 90 (chart)
Inds: 36 / 59 (chart)
Economy: 37 / 58 (chart)
Health Care: 43 / 51 (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
13% Approve, 65% Disapprove (chart)

2010 Congress: Generic Ballot
Registered voters (n=710, MOE=3.8%): 47% Democrat, 43% Republican (chart)
All adults: 45% Democrat, 39% Republican

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 47 / 49 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 32 / 49
Harry Reid: 22 / 42
Newt Gingrich: 34 / 40
Joe Biden: 40 / 46
Sarah Palin: 39 / 53 (chart)
Hillary Clinton: 57 / 37 (chart)
Mitt Romney: 35 / 35 (chart)

State of the Country
27% Right Direction, 61% Wrong Track (chart)

Do you think the U.S. Senate should or should not confirm Elena Kagan as a Supreme Court Justice?
40% Should confirm, 28% Should not confirm


WV: 2010 Special Sen (Rasmussen 7/8)

Topics: Senate , West Virginia

Rasmussen
7/8/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen: release, story)

West Virginia

2010 Senate Special
53% Manchin (D), 39% Capito (R)
65% Manchin (D), 26% Ireland (R)

Should the governor appoint a replacement for Senator Byrd or should there be a special election to select a replacement for Senator Byrd?
36% appoint, 59% special election

Should Governor Manchin appoint himself to the open U.S. Senate seat?
25% yes, 61% no

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 33 / 65
Gov. Manchin: 77 / 23


The LeBron Factor 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

McClatchy Newspapers is dropping its contract with Ipsos (via Goddard).

Nate Silver and Andrew Gelman respond to an "open letter" from John Zogby.

John Sides is annoyed with interpretations taken from focus groups.

Gary Langer notes that the Justice Department took the popular route in its Arizona immigration challenge.

Resurgent Republic says independents support conservative policies.

Mark Mellman assesses whether America is still number one.

David Hill notices local governments raising taxes in hard times.

Chris Cillizza finds most Tea Party supporters are Republican.

Jonathan Chait explains "paradoxes of congressional behavior."

Tom Jensen notices a wild swing in Rasmussen's NC Senate numbers and asks for a way to judge polls throughout the election cycle; Jim Geraghty questions PPP's objectivity in the race.

Bob Groves explains how Census quality is assessed.

Jim Geraghty wonders about the political ramifications of a LeBron James move.


Questions and Answers about the Huffington Acquisition

Topics: Arianna Huffington , Douglas Rivers , Huffington Post , Pollster.com

I want to try to answer some of the questions many of you have been asking about our acquisition by the Huffington Post, but I have to start with a personal story.

Seven years ago, I attended my first conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). I knew AAPOR well, and had long wanted to attend the annual conference, but until 2003 had never willing or able to devote the time and money necessary. One of the reasons I finally went was that I had been kicking around the idea -- "pipe dream" was probably more accurate at the time -- of starting a blog about polling. So I decided that attending the AAPOR conference would be a good way to get up to speed on the current methodologies and controversies.

As it happened, AAPOR had planned something bold for 2003: They invited the country's most prominent polling critic, Arianna Huffington, to be their plenary speaker. In 1998, Huffington had launched a "crusade" -- the Partnership for a Poll-Free America -- that urged her followers to hang up on pollsters in order to stop polls "at their source" because they "are polluting our political environment." In a 1998 column headlined "hang it up," she described herself as the "sworn enemy" of pollsters gathering at that year's AAPOR Conference, and hoped that "if all goes well" her crusade would spell the end of such meetings altogether.

What actually transpired was a fascinating and somewhat surprising discussion captured by the conflicting media accounts at the the time. AP's Will Lester wrote that although the pollsters were "prepared for the worst, they got charmed instead," as Huffington "set aside her apocalyptic view of the polling profession," and focused instead on points of agreement. An account in Businessweek took a different tack, noting that by evening's end, "Huffington was on the defensive, dodging accusations that he had her facts wrong and was protesting that she had been misunderstood." As an eyewitness, I can testify that both accounts were accurate. Either way, it was easily the best attended and most provocative event at any AAPOR Conference in my memory (I rescued the full transcript of the plenary session, once posted to AAPOR's web site, from the Internet Archive).

But let me stop there. If anyone had told me during that conference that (a) I would find time to start the MysteryPollster blog a year later, (b) that the blog would be a success, (c) that it would ultimately lead to a day job publishing Pollster.com, (d) that Pollster.com would win AAPOR's prestigious Innovator's Award, (e) that Pollster would eventually be sold to Arianna Huffington and (f) that I'd be truly excited by that prospect, well...let's just say that even after seven years the events of the last week or two have been a bit surreal.

So with that in mind, let's review some of the questions that friends and readers have been asking over the last 24 hours:

1) So what about Huffington's "Poll Free America" Crusade? First, for the record, I have never been a fan of the crusade: not in 2003, not when Arianna renewed it in early 2008 and not now. Even if the intended victims were, as she explained in 2003, only those polls "that are about the political questions of the day," a truly effective campaign to get Americans to hang up on surveys would also ensnare surveys that track consumer confidence, the costs of government programs, the incidence of illness and disease and the health needs of all Americans.

But that said, I can also tell you that Arianna Huffington has given her unqualified support to our longstanding mission to "aggregate polls, point out the limitations of them and demand more transparency," as she told the New York Times. She has also given us the editorial independence to disagree if we deem it appropriate, as I did in the previous paragraph. I also understand that there was a larger point she has been making all along that is in sync with our mission (something I noted in a column last year). As I said in the press release that went out today, I have long believed that to use polling data effectively, consumers need to understand its power as well as its limitations. That's what we have always been about, and that's the mission that Huffington Post has unambiguously endorsed.

So what does Arianna have to say about the apparent contradiction between her anti-polling crusade and buying a site named Pollster.com? Or, as Huffington Post commenter Marlyn, who said she "took Arianna's pledge to never participate in polls" asked last night, "What am I to do now?"

I asked Arianna how she would answer Marlyn's question. Here, via email, is her answer:

I've been a longtime critic of the accuracy of polls and how they're misused by the media, which continue to treat poll results as if Moses just brought them down from the mountaintop. That's why we launched the "Say No to Pollsters" campaign on HuffPost in 2008. And it's why I wanted to work with Mark and Pollster. Since it's clear that polls and polling are not going to go away - indeed, if anything, the media have only gotten more addicted to political coverage dominated by polling - we need to make sure that polls are as accurate as possible and that they are put in the proper larger context. So, though we come at it from different perspectives, Mark and I -- and the rest of the HuffPost team - share the same goal: we are committed to pulling the curtain back on how polls are conducted, and, in the process, make polls more transparent, help the public better understand how polls are created, and clarify polls' place in our political conversation.

2) Aren't you worried about Huffington's partisanship? Or to quote Pollster commenter IWMPB, who is troubled by our move and the greater "partisan division" of the news that it appears to herald: "So much for objectivity...whether or not it's true, perception is reality."

There is no question, given the comments here, in my inbox and elsewhere, that many of you are concerned by the perceived partisan slant at Huffington Post. I have no doubt that these perceptions are the biggest risk we are taking with this move, and represent a huge change from the inside-the-beltway prestige of The National Journal. The questions so many of you are asking are fair. My only hope is that those who have come to value Pollster will judge us on the basis of the work we do going forward and not pre-conceived notions about what this move may or may not mean in the future.

That said, concerns about my objectivity were equally valid when I started blogging six years ago while still actively polling on behalf of Democratic candidates and after more than 20 years as a pollster and campaign staffer for Democrats. Such concerns were equally valid three years ago, when we launched Pollster.com, a venture owned and backed by an Internet research company. I would never claim to be without bias, but I have worked hard from day one to be thorough, accurate and fair. If Pollster has a reputation for straight-shooting commentary and non-partisan poll aggregation, it is because we never took our eyes off those goals.

That's why we have regular contributors who have worked for both Republicans (Kristen Soltis, Steve Lombardo, Bob Moran) and Democrats (myself and Margie Omero) as well as those from academia (Charles Franklin, Brendan Nyhan, Brian Schaffner). That is also why all of these individuals have assured me that will continue to contribute once we launch our new virtual home at Huffington Post.

And one trivial question that keeps coming up:

3) Did this sale make you rich? Sadly...no. Pollster and its assets were purchased from YouGov/Polimetrix, not me, though I am privileged to have a stable new job in the news media doing something I love.

And unfortunately, despite the sale, Pollster.com resulted in a net loss for our former owners. Doug Rivers, the CEO of YouGov/Polimetrix, helped us launch Pollster.com with the hope of doing a service to the survey profession and making a profit. We succeeded, arguably, at the former but not the latter.

Which reminds me that, before ending this post, I need to offer thanks to two important sets of people.

First, to Doug Rivers, who first invested in Pollster.com despite strong advice that a business model would be elusive and who continued to support us long after it was clear he would never see a dime of profit. All along he kept his promise of total editorial independence, never once reaching out to complain if we wrote or linked to something critical of his business. Thanks also to the technology staff at YouGov/Polimetrix who helped keep our site up and running even though that task was far down their daily to-do lists.

Second, thanks to all of my valued friends from National Journal and Atlantic Media (too many to name, but they know who they are) but most of all to Kevin Friedl, Tom Madigan and Deron Lee who for two years took my typo-ridden copy and molded into weekly columns we could all be proud of. I will miss your skilled editing more than you know.

We are going to be moving tomorrow, so time will be limited, but if there are more questions -- and I'm sure there will be -- I will try to answer them in the comments below.


KY: 2011 Gov, McConnell (PPP 6/28-30)

Topics: Kentucky , poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
6/28-30/10; 625 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP: McConnell, 2011 Gov)

Kentucky

2011 Governor
41% Beshear (D), 38% Grayson (R)
40% Farmer (R), 39% Beshear (D)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Sen. McConnell: 34 / 48
Gov. Beshear: 38 / 35
Sen. Bunning: 27 / 44

Favorable / Unfavorable
Trey Grayson: 24 / 21
Richie Farmer: 39 / 14


IL: 40% Giannoulias, 39% Kirk (Rasmussen 7/7)

Topics: Illinois , poll

Rasmussen
7/7/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Illinois

2010 Senate
40% Giannoulias (D), 39% Kirk (R) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Mark Kirk: 39 / 48
Alexi Giannoulias: 43 / 46

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 54 / 46
Gov. Quinn: 44 / 54


US: National Survey (Democracy Corps 6/19-22)


Democracy Corps (D)
6/19-22/10; 1,001 2008 voters, 3.1% margin of error
867 likely 2010 voters, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Democracy Corps release)

National

State of the Country
32% Right Direction, 61% Wrong Track (chart)

Obama Job Approval
46% Approve, 50% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 46 / 50 (chart)
Oil Spill: 43 / 50

Favorable / Unfavorable
Republican Party: 35 / 42
Democratic Party: 38 / 46
Democratic Congress: 34 / 48
Barack Obama: 49 / 40 (chart)
Elena Kagan: 23 / 26

2010 Congress: Generic Ballot
2008 voters: 46% Republican, 43% Democrat
Likely 2010 voters: 48% Republican, 42% Democrat (chart)


KS: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 6/30)

Topics: Kansas , poll

Rasmussen
6/30/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Kansas

2010 Senate
60% Moran (R), 25% Daley (D)
61% Moran (R), 25% Johnston (D)
59% Moran (R), 25% Schollenberger (D)
60% Moran (R), 23% Conroy (D)
58% Tiahrt (R), 27% Haley (D)
57% Tiahrt (R), 29% Johnston (D)
55% Tiahrt (R), 30% Schollenberger (D)
53% Tiahrt (R), 29% Conroy (D)


CA: 47% Boxer, 44% Fiorina (Field 6/22-7/5)

Topics: California , poll

Field Poll
6/22-7/5/10; 1,005 likely voters, 3.2% margin of error
1,390 registered voters, 2.8% margin of error (for Boxer approval)
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Field release)

California

2010 Senate
47% Boxer (D), 44% Fiorina (R) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barbara Boxer: 41 / 52 (chart)
Carly Fiorina: 34 / 29

Job Approval / Disapproval
Sen. Boxer: 42 / 43 (chart)


FL: 36% Rubio, 34% Crist, 15% Meek (Rasmussen 7/6)

Topics: Florida , poll


Rasmussen
7/6/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Florida

2010 Senate
36% Rubio (R), 34% Crist (i), 15% Meek (D) (chart)
37% Rubio (R), 33% Crist (i), 18% Greene (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Charlie Crist: 56 / 42 (chart)
Kendrick Meek: 36 / 40
Marco Rubio: 51 / 41
Jeff Greene: 27 / 51

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 43 / 57 (chart)
Gov. Crist: 53 / 45 (chart)


US: Generic Ballot (Gallup 6/28-7/3)

Topics: National , poll

Gallup
6/28-7/3/10; 1,354 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Gallup release)

National

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


US: National Survey (Resurgent Republic 6/20-23)

Topics: National , poll

Resurgent Republic (R)
6/20-23/10; 1,000 registered voters, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Resurgent Republic release)

National

Obama Job Approval
49% Approve, 48% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 88 / 9 (chart)
Reps: 10 / 87 (chart)
Inds: 44 / 51 (chart)

State of the Country
27% Right Direction, 64% Wrong Track (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Barack Obama: 49 / 45 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 32 / 50
Harry Reid: 19 / 36
Reps in Congress: 36 / 49
Dems in Congress: 40 / 49


US: Generic Ballot (Fox 6/29-30)

Topics: National , poll

Fox News / Opinion Dynamics
6/29-30/10; 900 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Fox News release)

National

2010 Congress: Generic Ballot
42% Republican, 40% Democrat (chart)


Huffington Post Acquires Pollster.com

Topics: Arianna Huffington , Huffington Post , Pollster.com

Yes, it's true. As reported this afternoon by the New York Times' Jeremy Peters, Pollster.com has been acquired by The Huffington Post:

The Huffington Post is venturing into the wonky but increasingly popular territory of opinion poll analysis, purchasing Pollster.com, a widely respected aggregator of poll data that has been a major draw for the website of the National Journal.

The purchase is something of a coup for The Huffington Post, which has been making a more aggressive push into political journalism ahead of the midterm elections in November.

"It's going to beef up our political coverage," said Arianna Huffington, the website's editor in chief and founder. "Polling, whether we like it or not, is a big part of how we communicate about politics. And with this, we'll be able to do it in a deeper way. We'll be able to both aggregate polls, point out the limitations of them, and demand more transparency."

I will have much more to add later, but for now let me just say how excited we are to joining forces with Huffington Post, as the change will ultimately super-charge everything we do. If you are a fan of Pollster.com, I assure you that what you like will stay the same, including our mission, editorial voice and commitment to providing a forum for better understanding poll results, survey methods and the polling controversies of the day. What will improve will be the overall quality of our site, the power of our interactive charting tools and even greater efforts to promote transparency and disclosure of polling methods.


A Lesson in Caveat Emptor

Topics: Daily Kos , Frank Newport , Gary Langer , Markos Moulitsas , Research2000

What is the most important lesson to be learned from the emerging Daily Kos - Research 2000 polling scandal? Two prominent pollsters, Gallup Poll Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport and ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer, both chimed in last week with a similar conclusion: More disclosure is good, but poll sponsors need to do a better job checking and verifying what they publish.

First up was Newport, who is also serving this year as president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research:

I would emphasize the ultimate responsibility which rests with the entity commissioning or releasing poll data, just as a newspaper or broadcast outlet has the ultimate responsibility for what it releases or publishes. The current controversy revolves around a client-contractor relationship between Daily Kos and Research 2000. It is unclear what procedures Daily Kos may or may not have used to verify and check the data it received from the survey research firm it employed (Research 2000) before publishing it. (Daily Kos ultimately, it says, fired the research firm). Nevertheless, in general, a news or web outlet has an obligation to check and verify what it puts out. This is often easier said than done, of course. A number of publications have been burned in recent times when outside contractors or freelance writers have not followed standard journalistic procedures.

Langer, as always, was a bit more direct:

Disclosure, then, as necessary as it is, does not in and of itself assure data quality. That takes another step: The need for those who fund and then promote or disseminate these data first to dig deeply into the bona fides of the product.

Indeed to my mind the delivery of methodological details, including original datasets, should be an initial and ongoing requirement of any polling provider, not a demand only when controversy arises. That points to a more basic lesson of this story: the principle of caveat emptor.

Polling is a complex undertaking that can be produced in many ways - some highly valid and reliable, some less so, some not in the least. Anyone buying it needs to take the trouble to ascertain precisely how it's being carried out - in sampling, questionnaire design, respondent selection, interviewing, quality control, weighting and more - and to assess the appropriateness of these methods for the intended use of the research.

Just so you don't miss the point, Langer published his comments under the headline, "Running With Scissors." Snark aside, I can't quibble with the larger argument. The first and most important step in assuring data quality and integrity rests with the organizations that sponsor it. I suspect that Markos Moulitsas agrees, despite Langer's implied argument that only the "adults" of the media world can be trusted to publish surveys.

Markos has taken his share of lumps in this controversy, but we should also give him credit for taking a stand in a way that will ultimately force every ugly detail into the public domain.** Important lessons have and will be learned that have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with how to be better data consumers, whether we are paying to conduct the polls or just reading about them.

I am glad that both Newport and Langer also underscored their longstanding commitments to better disclosure, including AAPOR's emerging Transparency Initiative. Better disclosure is a critical tool for the rest of us who do not fund polling. New media brands are emerging even faster than new polling technologies, and very few of those organizations have in-house experts who can access things like sampling, questionnaire design, respondent selection, and the rest.

Those of us who are part of "The Crowd" can do our part to help others make sense of polling methodology, but only if the designs are transparent and the underlying data available.

**A semi-related post-script: In my post on Saturday I noted the "the apparent lack of a written contract" between Daily Kos and Research 2000, based on the statement in the Daily Kos complaint that they entered into an agreement "reached orally" to conduct national polls in 2009. Markos Moulitsas subsequently emailed to say that while there was no formal "boilerplate" contract, "we hashed out our agreement via email." To be clear, a legally binding contract between two parties does not require a written document.


NC: 2010 Sen (Rasmussen 7/6)

Topics: North Carolina , Poll , Senate

Rasmussen
7/6/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

North Carolina

2010 Senate
52% Burr (R), 37% Marshall (D) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Richard Burr: 56 / 38 (chart)
Elaine Marshall: 44 / 43

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 41 / 59 (chart)
Gov. Perdue: 46 / 51 (chart)


OK: 2010 Sen, Gov (Rasmussen 6/30)

Topics: Oklahoma , poll

Rasmussen
6/30/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)
Update: Senate

Oklahoma

2010 Senate
62% Coburn (R), 27% Myles (D)
65% Coburn (R), 26% Rogers (D)

2010 Governor
48% Fallin (R), 39% Edmondson (D)
44% Edmonson (D), 31% Hubbard (R)
46% Edmondson (D), 35% Brogden (R)
45% Edmondson (D), 29% Jackson (R)
55% Fallin (R), 32% Askins (D)
47% Brogden (R), 38% Askins (D)
43% Hubbard (R), 38% Askins (D)
42% Jackson (R), 40% Askins (D)


CA: 44% Brown, 43% Whitman (Field 6/22-7/5)

Topics: California , poll

Field Poll
6/22-7/5/10; 1,005 likely voters, 3.2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Field release)

California

2010 Governor
44% Brown (D), 43% Whitman (R) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jerry Brown: 42 / 40
Meg Whitman: 40 / 42


The political version of Green Lanternism

Topics: Barack Obama , midterm

Jon Chait debunks a second species of presidential Green Lanternism at his TNR blog. Rather than asserting that the president's failure to achieve a policy goal is a result of insufficient will, American Prospect co-editor Robert Kuttner suggests on the Huffington Post that Obama's political problems are due to a lack of resolve to pursue a more liberal economic agenda:

Come November, as Republicans break out champagne, the usual commentators will offer the usual alibis and silver linings.Hal-greenlantern

The party of the newly elected president always loses Congressional seats. Not always: viz. Roosevelt, 1934, or Bush II, 2002. The two men shared nothing, except resolve in a crisis. That should tell you something. Where's Obama's resolve?

But as Chait argues, there's little evidence that "resolve" is why FDR and Bush did so well in those elections:

[T]he general trend is that midterm elections are bad for the president's party, and slow income growth is even worse. Ronald Reagan had a lot of "resolve," but he still lost a lot of seats in 1982.

Kuttner cites two notable exceptions to the pattern of the president's party losing midterm election seats. The first is 2002. I think it's pretty clear that the 9/11 attacks had an unusually powerful role here. The second is 1934... Is that another exception? Actually, no. Personal income grew an astronomical 12.7% in 1934.

So we're down to one exception to the rule: 2002. Locating a single exception to a well-established trend is not a good reason to ignore the trend.

What's fascinating is that this brand of Green Lanternism -- like the policy one -- is almost a perfect inverse of what conservatives were saying about George W. Bush just a few years ago, a fact that seems to be lost on the liberals espousing it now. For instance, Jonah Goldberg suggested back in 2006 that Bush would be more popular if he were more conservative on domestic policy:

Perhaps this unnoticed fact [Bush's alleged liberalism on domestic issues] explains part of Bush's falling poll numbers more than most observers are willing to admit. The modern conservative movement, from Goldwater to Reagan, was formed as a backlash against Nixonism. Today, Reaganite conservatives make up a majority of the Republican party. If Bush held the Reaganite line on liberty at home the way he does on liberty abroad, he'd be in a lot better shape. After all, if Bush's own base supported him at their natural level, his job-approval numbers wouldn't be stellar, but they wouldn't have his enemies cackling, either.

These beliefs are a sort of ideological Mad Libs -- if only the president were more ________ [liberal/conservative], he'd _________ [be more popular/enact the agenda I want]. It's apparently a comforting belief, but one that's rarely true.

Update 7/7 12:13 PM: For those who don't know the background, I coined the Green Lantern theory of the presidency as a riff on Matthew Yglesias's Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics. Here's an excerpt from his original post:

As you may know, the Green Lantern Corps is a sort of interstellar peacekeeping force set up by the Guardians of Oa to maintain the peace and defend justice. It recruits members from all sorts of different species and equips them with the most powerful weapon in the universe, the power ring.

The ring is a bit goofy. Basically, it lets its bearer generate streams of green energy that can take on all kinds of shapes. The important point is that, when fully charged what the ring can do is limited only by the stipulation that it create green stuff and by the user's combination of will and imagination. Consequently, the main criterion for becoming a Green Lantern is that you need to be a person capable of "overcoming fear" which allows you to unleash the ring's full capacities. It used to be the case that the rings wouldn't function against yellow objects, but this is now understood to be a consequence of the "Parallax fear anomaly" which, along with all the ring's other limits, can be overcome with sufficient willpower.

Suffice it to say that I think all this makes an okay premise for a comic book. But a lot of people seem to think that American military might is like one of these power rings. They seem to think that, roughly speaking, we can accomplish absolutely anything in the world through the application of sufficient military force. The only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower.

What's more, this theory can't be empirically demonstrated to be wrong. Things that you or I might take as demonstrating the limited utility of military power to accomplish certain kinds of things are, instead, taken as evidence of lack of will.

[Cross-posted to brendan-nyhan.com]


Heat Wave 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

The LA Times summarizes the issues raised by the DailyKos / Research 2000 dispute.

Tom Jensen wonders whether Bill Clinton is less "toxic" than Obama for Democratic campaigns.

Andrew Gelman argues that quantitative analysis can inform qualitative reporting.

The New York Times reviews Pew polling on equal rights for women around the world.

John Sides is appalled at a graph of record temperatures in Washington, D.C.


On Removing Research 2000 Polls From Our Charts

Topics: Charts , Daily Kos , Del Ali , Markos Moulitsas , pollster.com , Research2000

When Markos ("Kos") Moulitsas published the analysis last week that convinced him that the polls produced by Research 2000 were "likely bunk" and announced plans to sue his former pollster for fraud, he also made an unusual request:

I ask that all poll tracking sites remove any Research 2000 polls commissioned by us from their databases.

Given the still unexplained patterns in the results uncovered by Grebner, Weissman and Weissman, and the even more troubling response late last week by Research 2000 President Del Ali (discussed here), we have chosen to honor Kos' request, as least as it pertains to the active charts on Pollster.com that we continue to update (such as favorable ratings and vote preference questions for upcoming elections). As of this writing, we have removed the Daily Kos/Research 2000 results from the national Obama favorable rating and national right direction/wrong track charts. The rest should be removed from active charts by close of business today.

We have left in place, at least for now, Research 2000 poll results in active charts sponsored by others organizations, although we will also remove those if they so request. We may also revisit this decision as further developments warrant.

Finally, we will leave in place the results from prior elections as, for better or worse, we consider our final estimates (and the results upon which they were based) to be part of the public record. That said, we will likely follow Brendan Nyhan's lead and add a footnote about the controversy to our charts from 2008 and 2009 that include Daily Kos/Research 2000 data.


KY: 43% Conway 43% Paul (PPP 6/28-30)

Topics: Kentucky , poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
6/28-30/10; 625 likely voters, 3.9% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

Kentucky

2010 Senate
43% Conway (D), 43% Paul (R) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Jack Conway: 31 / 29
Rand Paul: 34 / 42

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 37 / 58


US: Congress (Marist 6/17-24)

Topics: National , poll

Marist
6/17-24/10; 1,004 adults, 3% margin of error
813 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Marist release)

National

If November's election for congress were held today, would you support your current congress person who represents your district in Washington D.C. or would you vote for someone else?
Registered voters: 42% Current congress person, 43% Someone else

State of the Country
37% Right Direction, 56% Wrong Track (chart)


NC: 38% Burr, 33% Marshall (PPP 6/26-27)

Topics: North Carolina , poll

Public Policy Polling (D)
6/26-27/10; 502 likely voters, 4.4% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(PPP release)

North Carolina

2010 Senate
38% Burr (R). 33% Marshall (D), 10% Beitler (L) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Elaine Marshall: 22 / 20
Michael Beitler: 6 / 11

Job Approval / Disapproval
Sen. Hagan: 33 / 41 (chart)
Sen. Burr: 34 / 39 (chart)


KS: 2010 Gov (Rasmussen 6/30)

Topics: Kansas , poll

Rasmussen
6/30/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Kansas

2010 Governor
59% Brownback (R), 31% Holland (D)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Sam Brownback: 62 / 32
Tom Holland: 31 / 36

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 35 / 64
Gov. Parkinson: 51 / 43


GA: 2010 Gov Primary (InsiderAdvantage 7/1)

Topics: Georgia , poll

InsiderAdvantage
7/1/10; 914 likely Republican primary voters, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(InsiderAdvantage release)

Georgia

2010 Governor: Republican Primary
18% Oxendine, 18% Handel, 12% Deal, 8% Johnson, 6% Chapman, 3% Berry


PA: 49% Corbett, 39% Onorato (Rasmussen 6/29)

Topics: Pennsylvania , poll

Rasmussen
6/29/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Pennsylvania

2010 Governor
49% Corbett (R), 39% Onorato (D) (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Tom Corbett: 61 / 24
Dan Onorato: 48 / 37

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 47 / 53 (chart)


OH: 47% Kasich, 40% Strickland (Rasmussen 6/29)

Topics: Ohio , poll

Rasmussen
6/29/10; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone
(Rasmussen release)

Ohio

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

Favorable / Unfavorable
Ted Strickland: 44 / 49 (chart)
John Kasich: 44 / 32

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 48 / 52 (chart)
Gov. Strickland: 43 / 55 (chart)


Daily Kos & Research 2000: A Troubling Story

Topics: Daily Kos , Del Ali , Fraud , Markos Moulitsas , Research2000

The battle between Daily Kos and pollster Research 2000 went from ugly to surreal last week, as the website and its founder, Markos ("Kos") Moulitsas, filed suit and pollster Del Ali fired back with a lengthy, frequently rambling reply to TPM's Justin Elliot. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent points out that the coming lawsuit could provide an "unprecedented look at the inside of a professional polling operation." I would argue that it already has, although "professional" is not necessarily the adjective I would choose.

Consider what we have learned in just the past few days. From Elliot's reporting, for example, we know that the Olney, Maryland address listed on the Research 2000 website is a post office box and the company "does not appear as incorporated on the state business records database." Ali told Elliott "he incorporated with 'self-proprietorship' in 2000."

That profile fits the description of his business that Ali gave the Baltimore Daily Record in 2006 (h/t Harry Enten). The article described Research 2000 as having just "three part time employees" and being "quite a bit smaller" than Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., where Ali had worked until starting his own business in late 1998. "The actual legwork" of his business, the article said, "is farmed out to professional call banks." Ali also claimed that his firm did considerable non-media work:

Ali said diversification - working with interest groups as well as media - is important for business, and that there is a misconception surrounding polling contracts with large news agencies. We don't make a great deal of money, Ali said. If I were to depend on making ends meet with media polls, then I'd be broke.

Running a mom-and-pop polling business is not incriminating, in and of itself. Many research companies, including my former business, are small shops that depend entirely on third-party call centers to conduct live telephone interviews. But it's important to consider the Research 2000 profile in terms of the sheer volume of work it claims it did for Daily Kos, especially given that Ali told me, as recently as four weeks ago, that his work for Kos and progressive PACs was "less than 15% of our overall business." If that is true, the volume of surveys that Research 2000 farmed out to call centers over the last two years was extraordinary. Several very large call centers would have been involved. Why have we heard nothing from them?

From Yahoo Politics' John Cook we learn that court records show Ali "has been sued numerous times in his home state of Maryland for nonpayment of debt and has been hit with several tax liens," including a $2,360 lien just two months ago. Cook also notes that Ali and his company were sued eight years ago for $5,692 for non-payment to "polling and research company" RT Nielson Company (now known as NSON). Their website confirms that NSON "specializes in telephone data collection" and provides these services "to many market and opinion research consulting companies."

Maryland Court records also show a judgment against Del Ali for $5,714.09 from a suit filed by Zogby International in 2001 (document obtained via search here). So we do have documentation to show that Research 2000 was doing business with research companies and survey call centers, albeit eight to ten years ago.

The Daily Kos complaint, published by Greg Sargent, provides new information on the financial side of the polling partnership from the Daily Kos perspective. Shortly after the 2008 elections, for example, Daily Kos entered into an agreement "reached orally" to conduct 150 polls for the website over the following year, including a weekly national survey and various statewide polls to be conducted "as requested." Kos agreed to make an initial payment in late 2008 and two "lump sum" payments in 2009. The complaint implies (though does not state explicitly) that the parties agreed to either a total amount or a set cost per poll (or both).

The complaint goes on to explain that Kos agreed to advance the second lump sum payment to May 2009 -- right around tax time -- in exchange for an additional 59 polls "to be performed free of charge." Ali requested the advance and offered the free polls in exchange, according to the filing, "claiming it would provide 'immense' help for cash flow reasons."

What the Daily Kos complaint omits is any discussion of the dollar amounts involved. Just how much did they pay for hundreds of thousands of interviews conducted over the last two years? What was the typical cost per interview (especially when we include those 59 free surveys)? The answers to those questions alone will tell us whether Research 2000 could have plausibly conducted live telephone interviewing on such a large scale. As both Patrick Ruffini and Nate Silver have speculated, Ali appears to have been charging absurdly low prices given the likely budget of a site like Daily Kos and the realities of the costs of farming out live interviewing.

Moreover, the financial arrangement described in the complaint -- pre-negotiated lump sums for hundreds of surveys with no written contract -- is also extraordinary. Telephone interviewing costs vary considerably depending on the number of interviews, the length of the questionnaire, the incidence of the target population (how many non-registrants or non-voters need to be screened out) and several other factors. I know of no call center that would agree to field a survey without an advance bid based on precise specification of all of these variables. Given this potential variability and the relatively low profit margins typically involved, pollsters, call centers and their clients are usually careful about nailing down the specifications in advance. The idea that a pollster would propose conducting 59 free polls as a means of obtaining, as Nate Silver puts it, a short-term loan with an "alarmingly high interest rate," is simply unheard of.

While the story told by the Kos filing was strange, the controversy grew even more surreal after Ali "lashed out" at Moulitsas and others in a rambling 1,100-word statement sent via email to TPM's Justin Elliot on Thursday. Ali claims in his statement that the Daily Kos complaint contains "many lies and fabrications," that "every charge against my company and myself are pure lies, plain and simple," and that Kos still owes him a "six figure payment."

Ali promises to "expose" the alleged mistruths "in litigation, not in the media" and says calls by the National Council of Public Polls (NCPP) and others to "just release the data and explain your methodology" indicate a bias toward Kos "and a disregard for the legal process."

Hardly. I am not a lawyer, but I find it difficult to believe that the release of exculpatory evidence now would in any way prejudice Ali's ultimate defense in court. If the surveys were genuine, then raw data files exist somewhere, at least for the most recent surveys. If the cross-tabulations published on Daily Kos are genuine, then statistical software exists somewhere that can replicate the tabulations published on Daily Kos -- including the strange matching odd or even pattern observed by Grebner, Weissman and Weissman. This is not be the stuff of advanced statistical analysis: Either the data and processes exist and can be replicated, or they do not and cannot.

Moreover, if Research 2000 actually conducted the literally hundreds of thousands of live interviews behind the results published on Daily Kos since January 2009 (I count well over 200,000 reported for their national surveys and U.S. Senate surveys alone), a wealth of documentation and eyewitness should be readily available that would be easily understood by mere statistical mortals: Call center invoices, testimony from interviewers, supervisors and the employees that prepared cross-tabulations. That sort of evidence helped send a call center owner to jail in an unrelated Connecticut case in 2006. That sort of evidence could also help vindicate Ali and Research right now -- but only if it exists.

By far the most troubling part of Ali's response comes in these two sentences (left in their original form including typographical errors):

Regardless though. to you so-called polling experts, each sub grouping, gender, race, party ID, etc must equal the top line number or come pretty darn close. Yes we weight heavily and I will, using te margin of error adjust the top line and when adjusted under my discretion as both a pollster and social scientist, therefore all sub groups must be adjusted as well.

"Top line" in this context means the results for the full sample rather than a subgroup, but it still unclear exactly which "top line numbers" Ali is referring to. If he means the results of attitude questions -- vote preference horse-race numbers, favorable ratings, issue questions or possibly even the party identification question -- he comes close to admitting a practice that every pollster I know would consider deceptive and unethical. "Scientific" political surveys are supposed to provide objective measurements of attitudes and preferences. As such pollsters and social scientists never have the "discretion" to simply "adjust" the substantive results of their surveys, within the margin of error or otherwise. As a pollster friend put it in an email he sent me a few minutes after reading Ali's statement: "That's not polling. It's Jeanne Dixon polling."

Pollsters and social scientists do often adjust their top line demographic results, and some will weight on attitude measurements like party identification, to correct for non-response bias (though party weighting continues to be subject of considerable debate in the industry). In either case, however, the adjustment needs to be grounded in prior empirical evidence -- U.S. census demographic estimates or, perhaps, previous surveys of the same population -- and not merely the whim of the researcher.

Because of the apparent lack of a written contract,** the Daily Kos complaint relies in part on the concept of an "implied warranty," the idea grounded in common law that transactions involve certain inherent understandings between a buyer and seller. Most reasonable people would agree that a political poll should be an objective measurement based on survey data that has been "adjusted" only as necessary to correct statistical bias. If Del Ali believes a pollster has the discretion to "adjust" results arbitrarily within the margin of error, he has been selling something very different than the rest of us have been (figuratively) buying.

Greg Sargent was right. The legal process of discovery, if this case gets that far, will provide truly full disclosure. But what we have learned so far is already very troubling.

[Typos corrected]

**Update (7/6): Markos Moulitsas emails to say that while was no formal "boilerplate" contract, "we hashed out our agreement via email." To be clear, a legally binding contract between two parties does not require a written document.


 

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