Articles and Analysis


Comparing Pollsters in Pennsylvania

Topics: 2008 , ARG , Barack Obama , Insider Advantage , PPP , Quinnipiac , Rasmussen , SurveyUSA , Susquehanna Polling

I know the question just about everyone following the Pennsylvania primary contest is asking today is what polls are showing regarding the impact of the "bitterness" flap involving comments made at a fundraiser by Barack Obama last week. We have two new surveys released so far today, one from ARG conducted as the "bitter" story broke over the weekend (4/11-13) and one from Susequehanna Polling and Research University completed earlier (4/6-10). We will have more clarity on this story's impact as more polls are released, but in the meantime -- thanks to Charles Franklin -- here is a chart that can help put these new results into context (click on the image to pop-up a full-size version).

The chart plots the Clinton margin (Clinton minus Obama) separately for each pollster that has released two or more Pennsylvania surveys since February 1 (except Susquehanna -- Charles ran this chart just before we received that release). We have also plotted our "standard estimate," the margin based on the standard regression trend lines that we plot in our Pennsylvania chart.

A few notes about the data, although as always, your interpretation may differ:

First, every pollster showed some decline in Clinton's margin between mid- and late March, as reflected in the black trend line which shows that margin shrinking from roughly 13 to roughly 7 points.

Second, several pollsters (SurveyUSA, PPP, Insider Advantage and ARG) have shown upticks in the Clinton margin since April 1. These findings affect the trend line by flattening out its slope. But the margins reported by the four pollsters are scattered from well below to well above the trend line, making their effect on the overall estimate less powerful than it would be if they all agreed on the level of support for each candidate.

[Update: Also notice that surveys by Quinnipiac, Strategic Vision and the last ARG showed a down tick, and Rasmussen was flat, just a day or so before the three others reported an up-tick up].

Third, the black trend line continues to show Clinton's margin declining because the regression model that generates it gives greater weight to the larger number of polls conducted earlier showing a decline. The new ARG survey is so different from other polls that, with a more sensitive estimator, the line would move quite a bit in its direction, producing an upward spike. Our more conservative estimator is pulled up by ARG, but it is designed to resist the influence of single poll that falls far from the rest. If other new polls are consistent with ARG, then the trend estimator will move sharply in that direction. But if new results look like other recent polls, then the trend will remain about where it is.

[Charles Franklin updates with much more on the sensitivity of the Pennsylvania estimates].

All of which is a long way of saying that for the moment, your judgement about where the trend is headed depends on what you make of the ARG poll.

Fourth, the Pennsylvania surveys from PPP have been something of an outlier in terms of their sheer volatility. They produced the biggest Clinton margin (by far) in mid-March (in a survey conducted entirely on March 16, on the eve of Obama's speech on race) and the one result showing a slight Obama lead on April 1. Again, only time will tell whether ARG has produced a similarly outlying trend or is the harbinger of comparable results yet to come.

Beyond that, we can only stare at the chart and speculate. So far at least, the two national tracking surveys are not showing evidence in a significant shift since Friday in Obama-Clinton vote preference. As Josh Marshall noted, however, "coverage of this story in Pennsylvania has likely been as intense as anywhere in the country." So we will have to wait and see what other Pennsylvania polls have to say.

On that note: Quinnipiac University has distributed a media advisory that will be releasing their latest survey tomorrow morning. So stay tuned.



sorry for bringing this post forward but i am certain that it will provoke discussion as usual especially given the lack of data on the 'bitter' comment so far.

this week looks ugly for obama and mostly his own doing. i would suggest that under pressure, you'll begin to see the 'mean' obama many of us had suspected was well tamped down behind a broad and boyish smile that the media has celebrated thus far. i also suspect the media is growing a bit weary of protecting him and are not running defense for him as much as before.

1.The Florida Poll. as i said in a previous post, tracking back on florida and michigan will the most important tool the DNC has to assess robust general election power. that obama trails mccain at the same ratio that he trailed clinton in the un-primary and that clinton smites mccain suggests that the gap is even broader, that the primary contained some reliable data.

2. coupled with the florida data as long as it is not an outlier, comes the true obama striking back to cover his 'bitter' gaff. what you see already is his tendency to hit low rather than high. he strikes back with ad- homonyms, comments that belittle in haughty tone and content another person's personal traits.

god forbid hillary or mccain dared do that. there's a politically correct shield that forbids the rest of the world from doing the same to him. we just can't, he's black. and he's coasting on it.

look at his recent mockery of hillary's photo op that she was 'throwing a shot back' with a camera crew on hand. he delivered this while cracking up that hers was a desperate act. oh really?

how many different ways can he parse, re state, and re- mix his words like a legal sleight of hand to come out with something wonderful about desperate people running to religion and hugging their guns?

well, you know, he's desperate too. everyone is desperate out there trying to win a close election. a shot of whiskey after a hard day, or a bowling ball thrown in the gutter under whirring cameras. same thing. he also threw back a beer with his new old pal, casey at the bowling alley.

so, for a man who has really had it pretty easy all things considered, it will be very enlightening at this particular juncture to see what he's really made of. can he stick to his enlightened prattle or will he stoop to conquer and stoop to his repressed true natural low.

i bet he'll show his real grudges, the ones that had him in lock step with wright. i think he'll crack especially with these florida stats and if more bad news comes in from PA. his grudges are there. the charisma meter is running down.



Oh please.

lsmakc writes: "god forbid hillary or mccain dared do that" -- "that" being what s/he calls "ad- homonyms, comments that belittle in haughty tone and content another person's personal traits."

Aside from the misspellings and poor grasp of written English, the point has to be made -- do you really believe that HRC *hasn't* indulged in these sorts of attacks? Of course she has. Constantly. Even more than McCain (but give the codger time).

Obama's "bitter" comment was true. HRC's comments that got her in trouble were lies (Bosnia, etc.) Perhaps "bitter" isn't the mot juste, and Obama himself has said as much, but whether one calls it bitter or angry or whatever, the fact is that this sentiment exists out there, both in rural and urban communities. Obama was making the point -- which many have made before him -- that crass right-wing politics influence these voters to vote against their own economic self-interest in favor of wedge issues like guns, gays, and religion. One problem with this (among many) is that once the election is over, the issues rarely come up again. Republicans -- and dare I say HRC, since she talks like one more and more every day -- push these hot-button issues in a crass attempt to garner votes, then once they're elected spend all their time rewarding their fatcat buddies and closing factories and never return to these issues again.

That's what Obama was talking about, however inartfully. Anyone who denies the truth of this sort of wedge-issue politics just hasn't been paying attention.

Regardless of what happens in PA, Obama is going to be the nominee. Get used to it. He's an amazing talent and a leader who has an active, vital, positive vision for our nation's future. If that doesn't appeal to you, well, you may as well just stay home on election day.




I will change my wording that I started at first - it says be civil - first of all I am independent - so not a dog in the race so to speak.

HOWEVER, Obama addressed the comment of bitter but not the issue that you even brought up of the clinging to guns and religion and the gay part - its rude and should not be coming from any potential Presidents mouth -



Someone really should tell Obama that while his supporters may approve of his sarcastic and snide tones in reference to HRC, it comes across as extremely none presidential and unmanly.


KS Rose:


Sorry, but how sexist is THAT?

Anyway, I really wanted to comment on the media's part in all of this. It's time we realized that they DO have a dog in this race. And that's whoever is most likely to keep this going the longest. Gone are the days when there was some ethical common sense running news programs. Now, if it will sell a commercial they will push it. Some folks will buy into it, but I think that the people will get fatigued by all this long before they vote.


I am very happy that Obama is showing his true colors. Too bad his supporters are brainwashed into thinking whatever he says is incredible and earth shattering no matter who it hurts. I just love how everyone is saying he is this great leader and he will do so much for us and HRC is this mean person but I am pretty sure Obama has been mud slinging as well. I am just happy that now the media is getting on him for it. Its been too long waiting for this day. I don't care if you want to bring out all the bad crap on HRC and McCain but you better do the same for Obama. He has been skating by and getting away with things for too long. I personally think Obama would make an excellent used car salesman he has certainly sold this country and load of crap and most of them have bought it.


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