Articles and Analysis


From the Eye of the Storm

Topics: Bounce , Bump , Daytime interviewing , John McCain , Mike Murphy , Sarah Palin

From a pollster's perspective, we are in something of the eye of the storm. As Gallup's Frank Newport puts it, "a huge influx of election-related news [is] swirling around these days." The convention speeches garner giant audiences; 38.4 million for Barack Obama's acceptance speech last week, 37.2 million for Sarah Palin last night. And history tells us that the convention period can often alter vote preferences in ways that persist through election day.

So something about public perceptions of the candidates is changing, but the real-world limitations of telephone survey interviewing leaves us uncertain about exactly what. At this hour, if you're willing to play what Mark Mellman calls "pick-a-poll," you can make whatever case you want. Three surveys conducted over the last three nights -- from Gallup, Rasmussen Reports and the Democratic Party affiliated Democracy Corps -- all show "no dent" in the Obama advantage gained after the Democratic convention. However, one new survey conducted over the same three-day period from CBS News shows McCain closing an eight point gap since the weekend.

Of course, virtually all of the interviews for those surveys were conducted before Sarah Palin spoke last night. Given the huge audience, and the precedent for convention bounces, future surveys will likely yield a different result.

Some of you may have seen a survey conducted by SurveyUSA today that shows 60% of the voters surveyed giving Palin's speech an "A." But please note the fine print: The interviews were conducted earlier today and released by SurveyUSA at 4:55 Eastern time (according to the email release we received). That means they used their automated methodology to interview whomever happened to be at home during the day today. Do you think that might be a source of some bias in the results, even after weighting by age, gender and race? I'd say that is a very good possibility.

The bigger problem with this sort of survey is that it asks voters to react like pundits. How did Palin perform? Is she an "asset or a liability" to the Republican ticket? Does the selection "reflect well" or poorly on McCain? Only the last question begins to get at what matters, which is whether Palin's selection or speech has changed voter preferences or their underlying judgements about McCain or Obama.

The focus groups conducted last night by Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg for the Women's Voices Women Vote Action fund found results that are essentially consistent with grades that SurveyUSA's respondents gave the speech: Palin's speech "connected with these voters in a way that made her seem authentic, independent and strong," and her post speech favorability scores were improved. On the other hand, the groups showed no net gain for McCain in terms of vote preference. And as always, these were non-projective focus groups of just 22 voters.

Thus, it's still premature to conclude much about the electoral impact of last night's speech by Sarah Palin, and obviously we have not yet heard (as of this writing) from John McCain himself.

My own hunch -- and for the moment it is nothing more than that -- is that Republican consultant Mike Murphy is right. He likes Palin and had no complaints about her speech, but takes issue with the "politics of the choice:"

What I don't like is the effect I think Palin will ultimately have on the ticket. With all her charm, she is still a pick aimed squarely at the Republican base. In a high turnout Presidential year, I am not worried about turning out the base. I'm worried about everybody else we need to win and I fear that among those voters, Sarah Palin will be a dud.

I know, I know, she's a "hockey mom" and through the magic of identity politics she is going to make female voters swarm across party lines in numbers that Gerry Ferraro never dreamed of since this identity politics hokum is only a good idea that is certain to work when, um, we Republicans try to do it.

Instead, I think she'll ultimately be a polarizer. After last night's smash, Republicans are in deep love. Nothing thrills 'em like a good "us vs. them" speech. But I'd guess that most Democrats had the opposite reaction. In a year where the Democrat generic numbers are 10+ points better than the Republican, I don't like the math of a strategy that just polarized the election along party base lines. Among the vital sliver of voters in the middle, I think Palin's rock solid social conservatism will be a turn off. And while voters may value vision over experience, Palin's inexperience is a weakness, denying McCain an argument that has been helping him against Obama.

The survey data that will interest me most, once the dust settles next week, is that which attempts to test Murphy's argument. Does net effect of this Republican convention help move voters in the middle?



Another issue with the SurveyUSA findings, possibly as big as the timing issues, is the fact that only those that watched were included in the grading, and Republicans were 30% more likely to be included in the grading than the Democrats. The poll also showed party ID of all those surveyed (watchers and non-watchers) to be 36% (R), 33% (D), and 26% (I). Of those that were graded, it became 40% (R), 29% (D), and 27% (I).

So certainly, there was absolutely no expectation of anything but great grades for a red meat speech to a largely Republican polling group.



Everyone is always talking about the votes Palin can bring home. But what about those Dems who are/were open to McCain. Folks like me - social liberal but foreign policy conservative - would never vote for an evangelist, ever.



Mark is right. Palin is a polarizer. McCain had done a good job making Obama the issue. Now, it's all about Palin. She has become the issue and by default McCain's judgment.

I know a very fiscally conservative Independent who leans Republican but whose religiosity is very low. He now believes as I do that McCain has just handed the Dems this election barring some miracle in the debates. He's so upset by the pick and so against Obama that he's declaring he'll vote for Barr.

I wonder if there is any reliable polling that might show a Barr bounce? It doesn't seem like too many pollsters are taking an interest in his campaign.



And I wonder how appealing a self-professed "pit bull with lipstick Hockey Mom" is going to be? The implication is that she's one of those parent shouting at refs, kids on rival tems, and other parents at her kids sports games. Lot's of people know this sort of parent...and they don't secretly admire them.



Have there been independent tests of hypothetical McCain/Lieberman vs. Obama/Biden?

Or of McCain/Palin vs. Obama/Biden vs. "none of the above"?


Gary Kilbride:

Oh come on. There are better Palin quotes available from Mike Murphy.



I have already exhausted myself with the anecdotal quotes from my non-political ladies who might have gone for McCain but are repulsed by Palin particularly after Wednesday nights performance.

Defining herself as a PitBull (bitch) with lip stick, in front of that size of national TV audience, may have been the tipping moment of the entire Presidential Campaign.

She looks to breach the "do no harm" principle with the out-spoken attacks -some of which seem completely unjustified to the normal American on Obama. That's before we get into her rigid fundamentalism.

Having a young opponent and a youthful running mate and McCain suddenly looks even older. We all know people don't normally vote on the VP, ergo I don't think they are going to vote against. But goodness me this person is a 72 year old's heart beat away from the Presidency.

I think Palin, who has dominated this convention, fired it up and brought enthusiasm to the activist base, makes it far more difficult for McCain to pick up enough of the independent and disaffected Democratic vote to overcome the Democratic in-built generic advantage. Notwithstanding in addition A Democratic ground game that appears to be a very well set up in the 18 battleground states. The polls I don't think are reflecting that effort quite yet!



@"The bigger problem with this sort of survey is that it asks voters to react like pundits. How did Palin perform? Is she an "asset or a liability"

oh the transparency of mark's obamite fervor!
with this kind of non-biased reportage is it any wonder that he rallies the usual bloggers to sound off?

for one thing MARK, every voter is a pundit. look at your blog and tell me if they are saying anything different than the blowhards on either side we tune into every day?

a voter sifts the facts and sound bytes as superficially as the paid chatterboxes but sometimes they indicate trends far earlier and reactions that you folks out there would love to get a jump on to earn your pay check.

so discounting questions like you have just done is remarkably dense but to be expected.

any subtle questioning that reveals tendencies in any polls is a valid one. that's what cross tabs are for.

as for palin: it's CAT FIGHT time. feminists per se have their claws out because they are just simply jealous. they werent with hillary, they either identified or felt badly for her and her ability, make that necessity, to compartmentalize in order to march on with a hubby who couldn't keep it zipped.

it's the same as high school, girls will be girls which might have a lot to do with why they just cant penetrate the glass ceiling. they are competing in a man's world and hate the talented charmer. okay, they use eachother but hate each other until they realize that this one or that one cant steal their man or diminish them.

BUT...this is just the first blush of familiarity with Palin. there is time and what she brings to the party in independents despite all the pundits' predictions, is the male independent vote.

cnn and the rest of them were caught with their pants down making hay with obama and figuring on the usual short list for mccain. no wonder they lit into her! they were furious the 'most reliable' news source screwed up.

in a like fashion they all think that the big hillary vote is all female...well IT AINT! watch the men turn to mccain because of palin even young ones.

as for fundamentalism,,, liberals are fundamentalists too. 'fundamental' means sticking to the dogma of your group. need i say more?

what sarah palin is not, is a blow hard like they are. she may believe in pro life but she is not ranting about it. it was not mentione din her speech, correct?

it is merely a personal choice. remember ridge and lieberman, mccains' two good buddies are pro choice? maybe you should be more open minded too. or maybe you agree with everything damn thing obama says in which case you are more a fundamentalist than mccain!

take a look at Plain's governership. where did she foist her views on anyone other than her own family?

right now: it's all about education (vouchers and free choice which all parents prefer), the same idea for health care where the individual chooses and gets a check to help with the deductible, and energy.

face is, energy talk has already brought prices to its knees. if you dont think that isnt the key to helping the poor, the middle class and yourselves then , jeez, go back to sleep.




judging by the time on your post you are still in london. cnn runs there as does the new york times with the herald tribune. you have virtually no access to other un-controlled media.

but you are clearly out of touch with mainstream america.

mothers ARE pit bulls. we take pride in it! we like being called that because we are fierce and protective and smart. if your ladies are taking umbrage with that, then i wonder how old your friends are, who they are and whether any of them have children in soccer age range.

my guess is your impromptu polling of ladies who are repulsed is that they are british. if they are american, they are atypical living as they must be abroad and thereby more of the 'high brow' elite crowd.

if they live here, the same holds true. you are clearly not typical of these kinds of people across america.

your polling talents should be discounted and totally ignored. and i encourage you to try and get your news from other sources, though i know it is virtually impossible:>))


Mark Lindeman:

@boskop: at the risk of belaboring the obvious (to most), grading a speech is different than assessing whether it influenced one's vote intention -- never mind measuring its actual influence. 26% of self-identified Democrats gave Palin's speech an A: what does that mean? More information is required. That's all. No need to invoke "obamite fervor."




I can understand how independent (or any) men might like very much to watch Palin (or do other things to her), but what is the rationale behind your prediction that independent men would vote for her?



Here's your deficit as a percentage of GDP graph:


Hopefully the conclusions from this are obvious to ALL.



Sorry, wrong thread. Didn't mean to continue this discussion.


Joseph Marshall:

Marc, I apologise for moving off topic, but could you possibly comment on the recent movements of your trendline? Given the current circumstances Obama's sharp rise makes sense to me, but what appears to be a sharp McCain drop does not. I would have expected his gradual upward trend to continue at a slope lower than Obama's, both slowly eroding the number of undecided voters, until McCain's own convention bounce kicked in.

Is what we're seeing here mere noise, a weird statistical artifact of some sort, or something actually happening among the electorate?



At the very onset of this campaign, when McCain's campaign was pretty much dead in the water, I was very interested in Obama.

He was a fresh face. He claimed to have new ideas.

So, I tried to do my own homework about his track record and his accomplishments before he came to Washington. I listened to him speak, unfiltered, on video clips.

I can not find one, single, quantifiable accomplishment that he can point to. Not one. Before he came to DC, from what I have been able to find, he was very good at giving speech, talking the talk, finding money for projects, but there was never any follow-up or accountability -- the "redevelopment" of a strip of land near the highway which cost the taxpayers over $100,000 in grant/seed money, but with no demonstratable results -- seems to be indicative of the "Obama effect".

Listening to him speech, and his "plan", I feel his hand in my pocketbook while he excoriates my family for working hard, saving and not spending while demanding that I hand over the fruits of my labor to those not so motivated or prudent.

Furthermore, I am quite concerned about the legacy of voter fraud, deception and deceit.
In my independent research, there is much controversy over how he won election in IL -- the Chicago Trib stated he was a "bare knuckle" thug. This has been engendered a great deal of discussion and concern amongst the gals in my lunch group. The last thing we need to do is to elect a stereotypical Chicago machine pol to the White House. Obama has still refused to address these concerns.

Another concern that my friends have is the suppression of dissent, under the illusion of "managing the message". Even the most innocuous disagreement is purged. I, for one, am among the other that have a great deal of distaste for Obama's decision to co-opt the non-partisan name, "Blue Star Families" for political gain. I know first-hand of many people, myself included, who have complained and find it offensive. The Obama campaign told me there have be "no" complaints (untrue) and any complaints on pro-Obama websites are removed and sanitized. There is an effort to deceitful give the impression of a massive groundswell of support for Obama from military families -- again, not true. There is even a word for the manufacturing of such delusion of a "grassroots" response -- "astroturfing" -- and Obama seems to have mastered it.

Unfortunately for Obama, it is backfiring.
In the beginnning, I was open and curious.
Now, like many, I am tired of his deceit and even hearing his voice. I don't wish him ill will, I just want him to go away.

And I am very angry and disappointed in the Demcratic party that this is all they could come up with the challenge McCain.


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