Pollster.com

Margie Omero

The Gallup Poll's Bouncing "Generic" Ball

Topics: 2010 Election , Gallup , Generic House Vote , Interpreting polls

Anyone following campaigns closely has seen the numbers and read the stories. Democrats are in trouble. One particularly salient point: last week's Gallup tracking poll showing a +10 advantage for Republicans in the generic ballot test. It's the largest Republican advantage in the history of Gallup asking the question. Some calculated what a +10 advantage would mean as far as seat pickup. Others simply rejoiced.

But hold on! Yesterday Gallup released its latest generic ballot test. It's evenly split between Dems and Republicans. We're coming back! Obama's address on Iraq had an effect! Glenn Beck's rally had an effect! Sound the other alarm now! Huh, I guess I missed those stories.

To be sure, Democrats are in trouble. To be sure, according to pollster.com's tracking, the generic ballot is trending Republican when you aggregate all polling outlets. But why is one poll (+10) covered so extensively, while another (+0) hardly at all? Why is the former considered important, and the second, perhaps an outlier? This new data point is receiving far less coverage. (Media Matters has a very good summary of the difference in coverage here.)

It's hard to know exactly what is causing the fluctuation--whether it's simple poll fluctuation, or "real" movement. But looking at Gallup's breakout of the generic by party, we see most of the movement comes from Democrats consolidating the base. In the current poll, 93% of self-identified Democrats say they are voting for the Democratic candidate, up from 88% in the previous wave. Republican support for the Republican candidate dropped just slightly (96% to 93%). The difference in base consolidation is now even, for the first time in a month. The chart below shows this metric since Gallup began nightly tracking in March.

Generic Ballot

That remaining Democratic holdouts would begin to come home as we head into the final stretch is not a surprise. Will this pattern hold, and how it translates into actual House seats, remains to be seen. But for those following campaign twists and turns, the latest Gallup poll is a twist worth a bigger mention.


The skinny on obesity polling

Topics: GQR , Michelle Obama , Obesity

Obesity is of course frequently in the news, particularly with the First Lady's work.  And with anywhere between 60% to 80% of Americans overweight or obese, one doesn't have to follow the news to know it's a big issue.  But only recently are public polls--and Congress--exploring some of the potential policy remedies.  Below is a summary of recent public findings.

Americans view obesity, particularly among children, as a huge problem worthy of government investment.  A recent GQR survey for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found nearly three-fourths (73%) cite childhood obesity as an important government priority.  It's not just a problem, but something that deserves real attention and "investment" (i.e., spending).   Half said we should invest more in the problem right now, with only 37% arguing "we should wait until the economy improves."

And voters welcome tighter restrictions on companies & school nutrition.  The GQR survey showed clear support for a wide range of tighter restrictions on companies to help combat childhood obesity.  Posting calorie counts in fast food stores is unsurprisingly popular (73% favor).  And clear majorities favor higher nutrition standards for school lunches and vending machines (69% strong favor).  But even limits on advertising unhealthy food to children (66% favor) receive strong support from half of voters.   

But "taxes" on one's own food fall flat.  A CBS survey from earlier this year found a "special tax on junk food" to be quite unpopular (60% oppose).   NPR conducted a survey even more recently and found similar results.  This mirrors what we see a lot in policy polling--restrictions on others are more tolerable on than restrictions on oneself.

Perhaps because people tend to feel obesity is within someone's individual control.  Despite rising obesity rates, and increases in the percentage of people who say they are trying to lose weight, Americans overwhelmingly (89%) believe obesity "is something people can control."  And this poll for the University of Georgia shows few fault marketers for these trends. 

And when it comes to personal assessment, there are inconsistencies.  Far fewer parents describe their children as overweight or obese than we see in the actual population.  Specifically, the GQR poll showed even parents who volunteer their children's height and weight underreported whether they also view them as overweight or obese.  Similarly, this McClatchy-Ipsos poll shows far fewer reporting a personal obesity issue or one in their own family than is actually true among the population. 

With a child nutrition bill passing in the House and under debate in the Senate, Congress is taking some needed steps forward.  But we look forward to seeing more polling on other proposed ideas, such as  changing farm subsidies to reward growing healthy food, restricting what food stamps can purchase, minimizing food deserts, limiting ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, or giving health insurance breaks to people who lose weight and develop healthy habits.   The public seems ready for action.


Walmart Moms: Politically Swing, Economically Anxious

Topics: Democraphics , Economic Issues , Generic House Vote , Walmart

This week my firm, along with Republican pollsters Neil Newhouse & Alex Bratty from Public Opinion Strategies, released a survey of women overall, and Walmart moms. The survey, commissioned by Walmart, was conducted online May 20-27 using the EMIl online panel. We surveyed 1250 women, and 380 Walmart moms, defined as women with children under 18, who have also shopped at the store in the last month. (The full presentation, along with more methodological info, can be found here. Some coverage of the results can be found here and here.)

Both motherhood itself and the unique economic pressures mothers face are also at work in these results. Of the women we surveyed, 35% were moms, and 86% of those moms shop at Walmart at least once a month. Below are some key findings about these Walmart moms:

They are younger than women overall, but with similar incomes and education. These women are younger, naturally, because they have young children. And they are less white (67%) than women overall (75%). But they are very similar along economic and educational lines.

They are true swing voters--they support Obama and an involved government, but lean Republican in the Congressional ballot. Like women overall, they lean Democratic (+4 Dem advantage), they voted for Obama (+7), and they are currently favorable toward Obama (+6). However, unlike women overall, they lean slightly toward voting Republican in the upcoming Congressional election (-3). These advantages are small--this group could go either way in November.

They see an active role for government. Six in ten (60%) agree with the statement "government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people." While they oppose the recent health care reform (-14), it's unlikely to be a vote driver this November when compared to the economy. Two-thirds (63%) say the economy and jobs are their first or second priority, compared to just a third (35%) for health care. In fact, Walmart moms who support health care reform are actually more interested in health care as an issue (40%) than are Walmart moms who oppose health care (31%).

They are middle of the road on social issues, although they support gay rights more than the Tea Party. Nearly half of Walmart moms are moderates (46%). As such, they are in the middle of the road on social issues. They are more likely to support "the Gay Rights movement" (51%) than the "Tea Party movement" (46%). They are also nearly evenly divided on whether they support "conservative religious groups" (51%).

These moms are also feeling a real personal squeeze across the board. To be sure, given that large numbers of the moms surveyed also shop at Walmart, motherhood itself seems to covary with both more swing political views and personal economic pressures. In this recent Gallup poll (and in the slightly older studies in this Pew report), mothers report more stress, less time, and less rest than fathers. Our findings below about personal economic insecurity and household task division are consistent with this.

While these moms may be similar to women we surveyed in income and education, yet they feel economic pressures more acutely. Unlike women overall, they are both affected by the current economic downturn, and dissatisfied with their personal economic situation. They are also more likely to identify as working class (or lower), and are more likely to feel anxious about slipping out of that class. In fact, middle- or upper-class Walmart moms are even more likely to feel that anxiety, a pattern not found among women overall. In this swing group, anxiety extends across social strata.

We dug a little deeper to examine what specifically were women's top economic concerns. Daily expenses top the list for these moms, with three-fourths rating them an 8,9, or 10 on a 0-10 scale. But concerns about the future also loomed large, with majorities concerned about their retirement or future job loss. Nearly half expressed strong concern about their credit card debt, and a third say they use their credit cards to get by during this crisis. Taking all concerns together, about half (47%) of Walmart moms rated most of these items as top concerns, compared to only a third of women overall. And candidates should take note that those Walmart moms with more interest in the election are even more likely to have multiple strong concerns. 

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Economic challenges beget personal and family challenges. This economic insecurity leads to personal and household strain. Over four in ten Walmart moms (42%) said the economic crisis has put strain on their relationship with their spouse or partner, and younger women even more so. It's not surprising given how many cost-cutting actions these women are taking. When read a list of activities one might do to deal with the economic crisis, two-thirds of Walmart moms (66%) said they had done most or all of them. A majority even said they have put off getting health care. 

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Along with these daily economic challenges, Walmart moms feel even more of a burden when it comes to household tasks. Nearly four in ten Walmart moms say they alone are responsible for nearly every item from a series of tasks like "doing laundry" or "cooking at home." Even married Walmart moms were more likely to do most of these tasks (31%) than married women overall (26%). 

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Swing moms view the political climate through a personal, economic lens.

What we began to do in this survey is something we don't see much of--an exploration of both women's personal and family concerns along with their political views. Personal financial insecurity, broader economic concerns, and swing political views are all related. In order to better talk to women, swing moms, Walmart moms, or however we define them, it's crucial to understand the link between the personal and the political. Other advice includes the following:


  • Acknowledge the continued tough economic climate, and that more work needs to be done.

  • Personalize a candidate's own narrative and personal journey, to demonstrate relatability, and an understanding of hard times and sacrifices.

  • Remember this group is likely not following the daily squabbles of Washington, as they are preoccupied with concerns about daily expenses and family life.

  • Focus more on the economy and jobs, less on divisive social issues.

  • Put policy positions in the context of how they would affect women and families. Something I've written about here, and elsewhere.


Arizona's immigration bill: Not enough national polling yet

Topics: Arizona , Gallup , immigration , Rasmussen

A week and a half ago, Arizona Governor Brewer signed the nation's toughest--and most
controversial--immigration law. The law, recently revised, has generated daily news and analysis. But the public surveys emerging do not yet provide a complete picture of public opinion. (For a comprehensive, but clearly-worded summary of the bill, the National Conference of State Legislatures has one here.)

This Rasmussen survey drastically summarizes the Arizona law to only one of its provisions, and finds clear majority support (60%). Nate Silver critiqued it further here. Last week's Gallup survey doesn't even describe the bill at all. It shows voters who self-report reading or hearing something about the bill supported it more (51% favor/39% oppose) than those who had not heard or read anything (39% favor/30% oppose/31% don't know). Without a bill description in the question, voters are responding to what they think they think the bill contains, and so likely have widely divergent perceptions of it. Chuck Todd and Media Matters criticized that survey over the weekend. Despite their flaws, both polls have informed subsequentmedia coverage.

This online Angus Reid poll does examine some of the individual components of the Arizona bill. Putting aside potential objections to online methodology, these questions at least describe the bill in some detail. However, it lacks a single question on the entire Arizona bill, and leaves out some key provisions, like making it easier to sue the state for insufficient enforcement. Despite these differences, the Angus Reid poll shows widespread support for tougher restrictions on immigration, much like the Rasmussen and Gallup surveys.

But to get a full picture of national attitudes, a survey should test supporting and opposing arguments to the bill, and see how, if at all, the arguments change voters' opinions. The goal should be to explore how a protracted national debate on immigration policy might affect voters' views, as well as measure the importance of questionnaire wording and policy details. For example, how do voters evaluate the costs of implementation? What about questions about racial profiling, or judgments based on clothing or shoes? How would support for Arizona's bill compare to support for moderate, yet comprehensive, federal legislation? As Tom Schaller wonders here, do poll respondents simply react to something sweeping being done?

These are all important research questions as we continue the national conversation
on immigration. As always, it's important for media outlets, bloggers and pundits to examine questionnaire language before taking a poll's results at face value. To describe national attitudes based only on the post-Arizona polling so far would be a mistake.

CORRECTION: The original version of the post incorrectly identified results from the Gallup poll collected among all adults as representing those who had not heard about the bill.


Bump Watch

Topics: Gallup , Generic House Vote , Health Care Reform , Obama , Washington Post

A watched pot never boils, so the saying goes. But in Washington, it can seem like every watched pot boils. Casual remarks and minor poll movements are overanalyzed and overinterpreted. It can be easy to forget that voters are typically not as sensitive as DC pundits might have us believe. But the data typically show broader political attitudes unlikely to swerve with every debate.

And so it's been in the wake of Health Care Reform's passage (HCR). Many have jumped into the debate. Does it help or hurt Democrats? Has it given Democrats back their "mojo"? Has it done nothing whatsoever?

But if we look at pollster.com's tracking of key political measures, we don't see a whole lot of movement beyond those specific to health care (and even then, the movement is gradual).

Let's start with Obama's approval from March 1st till now (HCR passed on March 21st). This chart, to me, could not say "no movement" more clearly. (We see a bit more movement on Obama's ratings on health care, as his approval ratings have increased just slightly.)

Much has been made about Republicans overtaking Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot in this recent Gallup survey. But even in Gallup's own writeup, the change is within the margin of error. It's too soon to tell whether this represents a new pattern, or simply usual variance. The current pollster.com average shows Republicans leading by less than two points, as illustrated in this chart.

This is not to say that voters' views can't be volatile. The average of favor/oppose HCR does in fact move quite a bit, although not very dramatically in the weeks before and after passage. And, of course, views toward Obama and Democrats have softened considerably since the 2008 election. But these movements are generally slower, rather than the quick, dramatic lurches suggested by poll-watchers.

Finally, it's worth putting recent numbers in the context of long-time tracking. While attitudes indeed fluctuate, some things hold true over the long haul. The Washington Post tracks favorable and unfavorable impressions of the two parties (using not only their own polling but some older data from Gallup and CBS News/NYT). The chart below illustrates net favorable (favorable minus unfavorable) for each party. Two things jump out. First, the Democratic Party is always net favorable, while Republicans are sometimes not. Second, the gap in favorability is much larger now, in Democrats' favor, than in 1994. The oft-floated premise that HCR has damaged the Democratic party is just not borne out by the data.

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A referendum on Obama & health care? The polls are as divided as the voters.

Topics: Exit Polls , Health Care Reform , Martha Coakley , Massachusetts

Washington-watchers continue sort through the rubble of data from the Massachusetts special election.  As I posted yesterday, some consensus has emerged that Coakley underperformed consistently, within her own base as well as with independents.  And the consensus on cable news suggested opposition to both Obama and health care reform drove the election.  But the data this week was far from consistent on this latter point.  Before we use the recent election to inform the health care debate and 2010 campaign strategy, it's worth examining the data more closely.

Some polls show "sending a message" or "stopping" Obama not the most powerful driver

Democratic polling firm Hart Research conducted an election day survey that showed stopping Obama to not be front-and-center.   They found fewer than half (42%) of voters felt "sending a message" about Obama going too far was either the single most or a very important quality they looked for in a Senator, far behind strengthening the economy and "controlling health care costs and covering the uninsured."  Further, as the memo points out, "Even Brown voters were more are more concerned about a lack of change (50%) than about trying to make too many changes too quickly (43%)."  Further, by a margin of 2-to-1, voters said they were voting "for the best candidate" instead of "to send a message to Washington." 

Many polls show voters turning out to support health care

This election night poll by Coakley's pollster Celinda Lake asked specifically about whether one's vote was to show support for health care or to show opposition.  A plurality (46%) said it was to show support.  The Hart survey also said those who knew Brown's position on health care were just as likely to vote against him because of it (39%) as vote for him (41%).

And the Hart poll, this Rasmussen poll, and the Lake poll, all showed that voters who named health care as their top concern were more likely to support Coakley.  And all three of these polls showed voters for whom the economy was most salient gave Brown the advantage. 

One Republican poll, however, disagrees on both points

Republican pollster Fabrizio also conducted an election night survey, and as noted here, differed from his colleagues as to what drove the vote.  His poll shows Brown voters responding in an open-end that health care was the single biggest factor in their vote.  For Coakley voters, health care came in after a more vague "I'm a Democrat."   He also finds a plurality (46%) of Brown voters saying their vote was to "send a message to Washington," with about as many (43%) claiming it was "for Brown."  But interestingly, more Democratic and independent Brown voters claim their vote was to send a message (50% and 52%, respectively), while a majority of Republicans (56%) were voting "for Brown."

A progressive-sponsored poll looked at different questions altogether

A consortium of progressive groups (PCCC, MoveOn, and Democracy for America) also commissioned an election night survey, conducted by Research 2000.  Their survey had a unique methodology; they surveyed Obama voters who stayed home, and Obama voters who voted for Brown.  They found a plurality of Obama/Brown voters feel Democrats are not "fighting hard enough to challenge the Republican policies of the Bush years."  And like many of the surveys above, they found these Obama/Brown voters, across all parties, to say the economy was more important to their vote than health care.

And while the poll shows a plurality of Obama/Brown voters oppose health care reform (48% oppose), more of those who oppose think it doesn't go far enough (18% of all Obama/Brown voters) than think it goes too far (11% of all Obama/Brown voters).  However, even more health care opponents aren't sure whether it goes too far or not far enough (20% of all Obama/Brown voters).

So what are the lessons from Tuesday?

Here are some takeaways from the post-election polling this week.

Exit polls make it easier to form a consensus about what happened.  For all the perennial complaints about the shortcomings of exit polls, the fact is they do provide us with an unbiased source of data to help distill meaning from election results.  In their absence, we are left with competing claims from surveys conducted by mostly partisan pollsters.  In this case, the claim that opposition to health care defeated Coakley, while widely adopted, is not a consistent finding in public post-election polling.

Protecting health care was important to Coakley voters.  Whether it was the most or second-most important issue to Coakley voters, it's clear across surveys that it was indeed important.  So attitudes toward health care motivated both Coakley and Brown voters.  It's a data point that might have helped Howard Dean in this debate with Chris Matthews this week.

Many things motivated Brown voters. Brown voters were motivated by a myriad of factors.  While pollsters disagree as to how much health care or "sending a message" drove Brown voters, there is consensus that he was simply more popular than Coakley.  The Hart and Rasmussen surveys both found Brown to be substantially more popular than Coakley.  Brown also consistently had the advantage over Coakley among voters concerned about the economy.

Confusion about health care begets opposition.  The Research 2000 survey shows those opposed to health care are not quite sure why they are opposed.  

Question wording on health care continues to evolve.  The Fabrizio survey used open-ended questions to determine what the most important factors to the vote.  This may produce different responses than the closed-ended questions in the Hart, Rasmussen, Lake, and Research 2000 polls.  And maybe Washington shorthands like "going too far" and "not going far enough" have different meanings to voters still sorting through health care reform's specifics.

UPDATE: This newly released Washington Post/Kaiser/Harvard poll, conducted after the election is consistent with some of the findings discussed above.  First, it shows opposition to Obama was not the biggest motivator for Brown voters.  Over half (52%) said "Obama was not a factor" compared to 43% who said their vote was "to express opposition to Obama."  Brown voters are also evenly divided between whether Brown should work with Democrats on health care reform (48%) or stop changes to health care from happening (50%).  Also worth noting, a full 37% of Brown voters said they are dissatisfied or angry about the "policies offered by the Republicans in Congress."  hardly a national mandate for Republican takeover. 

This new poll also shows health care to be salient to both Coakley and Brown voters.  In fact, it appears that health care is the singularly most dominant issue with Coakley voters (compared to the economy, "the way Washington is working," candidate personal qualities, government handling of banks, and others), while Brown voters are a bit more divided amongst their top-tier of issues. 



Massachusetts Not Ready for a Woman?

Topics: Exit Polls , gender , Martha Coakley , Massachusetts , New Jersey 2009 , Virginia

Some consensus has emerged from Tuesday's Special Election. First, Coakley underperformed consistently. Absent consortium exit polls, but with no shortage of post-game analyses, we see Coakley underperformed not just with independents, but with the Democratic base. This debunks a common explanation for her loss--that Massachusetts simply isn't ready for a woman Senator (or Governor).

First, Coakley had the same gender gap as Obama did in Massachusetts in 2008. According to 2008 exit polls, there was a 20-point difference between Obama's advantage with women (+32) and his advantage with men (+12). Similarly, according to a post-election survey and analysis by Coakley's pollster, Coakley led by four points with women, but trailed by 16 points with men. So Coakley ran behind Obama by the same margin with both women and men.

Second, Coakley underperformed dramatically among liberal-leaning groups of women. The Lake poll shows her having a 17-point advantage with unmarried women. Nationally, Obama had a 41-point advantage with this group. According to the Lake analysis, Corzine had a larger advantage with this group, while the really underperforming Deeds had a smaller advantage. Another liberal-leaning group, college-educated women, were divided evenly between Coakley and Brown (50% for each). While there aren't public numbers for Obama among Massachusetts voters, nationally in 2008 he led by 27 points among white college-educated voters of both genders.

These figures suggest that Massachusetts sexism did not hold Coakley back, unless that sexism is as prevalent in liberal women as it is with other groups. That seems unlikely. Coakely underperformed consistently, throughout the state, and across the demographic spectrum. Campaign tactics, the mercurial nature of a special election, a volatile national climate, and the mobilization of the Republican base were sufficient to yield a Republican upset.


Omero: Remember the Women (in the HC debate)

Topics: gender , health care , Health Care Reform , Young Voters

Right now the health care debate has shifted--perhaps temporarily--from the public option to abortion and mammograms. This makes it a good moment to remember the importance of women voters to national support for health care reform.

Women are disproportionately affected by poor health care coverage

Because of gender differences in work patterns, women are less likely to have employee coverage, and more likely to have less efficient individual coverage. Compared to men, women report being more likely to delay needed care, and more likely to spend over 10% of their income on health care.

The White House, driven by the First Lady, has made some effort to bring women into the health care debate. But until just recently, those efforts seemed less successful, at least in generating interest.

Women, particularly younger women, are paying less attention to the debate

Thanks to the kind folks at Pew, we were able to get crosstabs from recent surveys about attention paid to various issues in the news. They found women to be paying less attention to the health care debate than men up until their October survey.

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Examining gender by age, younger women were substantially less likely to be following the debate. In early September, this group was largely divided between following the debate closely (53%) and not closely (48%). At least two-thirds of other gender/age groupings were following the debate closely. In the most recent survey, younger women have begun to catch up with younger men in extent of interest.

Women, particularly younger women, are more supportive of health care reform

While they might not be paying as close attention, polls suggest younger women make up a strong base of support for reform. Gallup has shown more women would advise their Member of Congress to support health care reform, while men would advise their representative to vote against it.

There's actually quite a large difference between older and younger women on this, but little age difference among men. Younger women are one of the demographic groups most likely to advise their representative to vote for health care reform. Older women, however, are evenly divided.

Open Republican hostility to women's health care provides a real opportunity to gain support for reform

Supporters of health care reform should talk to younger women about more than Stupak and abortion. There is plenty of material with which to draw a contrast with reform opponents. See, for example, Senator Kyl's (R-AZ) sneering hostility to maternity care, or Representative Session's (R-TX) likening coverage for woman-specific treatments to coverage for smokers. The very same Senator Enzi (R-WY) who introduced legislation to allow companies to deny coverage of mammograms is now incorrectly using the recent mammogram recommendations as an attack on health care reform. Left unchecked, insurance companies are calling rape and domestic violence pre-existing conditions.

Right now supporters have a good opportunity to make women's health care central to the national conversation. Supporters should remind women which party has been consistently hostile to women's health, and which has not. Politicization of mammograms, and perhaps even the revival of Sarah Palin, threaten to cede some ground among women voters. But women, especially younger women, are ready for our message on reform.

UPDATE:  Thanks to the person who alerted me to this 2006 vote, in which ten Senate Republicans voted against coverage to victims of domestic violence.  The link also has some other important facts about women and health care reform, such as a C-section frequently being considered a pre-existing condition.


Omero: Turnout Expectations in NJ & VA


One lesson many wanted to learn about last week's Gubernatorial elections was "the Obama coalition" of young voters and black voters didn't materialize this time around.  Some speculated higher turnout among these voters would prove to be a one-time phenomenon.   Some on the left seem to think the lack of a single-payer health care plan could be to blame for a lack of high turnout among the Dem base.  Whatever the perspective, most commentators began with the assumption that the Democratic campaigns had it within their power to replicate the turnout patterns of the 2008 general election.

With even a casual examination of past turnout data, this seems to be an unbelievably high standard by which to define turnout success.  An odd-year election simply cannot hold a candle to a record turnout presidential year.  Voting groups who turnout less frequently--like minority groups and younger voters--are not going to be solely responsible for the dropoff.   The charts below show turnout since 1978.  In both states, not one time has either odd year or mid-term turnout surpassed presidential year turnout from that cycle.  In fact, only once (in Virginia) does mid-term turnout appear to just surpass presidential turnout from a different cycle.

 

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Thumbnail image for New Jersey Turnout.jpgFurthermore, black and younger voters turnout as a percentage of the 2009 vote is actually not that different from the percentage in previous midterm elections.  Midterm elections don't have the same turnout pattern as presidential elections, whether pre-Obama or post-Obama.  The table below shows the percentage of in the last four elections who are under 29 year old, or African-American.  Unfortunately there are no public 2005 exit polls for us to truly compare apples to apples. 

nj and va table.JPGThis is not to argue that there aren't lessons for Democrats from these elections.  Or that efforts to turnout first-time voters from 2008 are futile, or even that exploring changes in turnout can't be an interesting exercise.  But to lay the drop-off in turnout from 2008 to 2009 squarely on the feet of younger and black voters is both unfair and misguided.

 


Omero: Virginia update

Topics: gender , Virginia

I just wanted to post this brief update in the interest of full disclosure: After, and partly because of, the work I did for this post, I am now part of a group called "Working Women for Virginia" that is raising money to educate voters about Republican candidate Bob McDonnell's extreme views.  We have a video up here.


Omero: Even on Mad Men women are in the workplace (unsolicited advice for Creigh Deeds)

Topics: gender , Virginia

The Virginia Governor's race is coming to a slow boil in the post-thesis environment.  Polls show Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds narrowing the gap, in part because Deeds's television ads have begun to focus on McDonnell's problematic law school thesis, in full here, and written about here and here.  But how have Virginians' attitudes toward the McDonnell's blueprint affected their views of the two candidates?  And how can Deeds best capitalize on McDonnell's out-of-the-mainstream views?

Many have yet to learn about the thesis contents, and learning about it is good for Deeds

Recent polling shows about half of voters haven't heard about the controversy surrounding McDonnell's thesis.  The Clarus research group poll showed 48% hadn't heard about the thesis, but those who had were more likely to feel unfavorable than favorable toward McDonnell as a result.  This recent Washington Post poll showed over half (54%) to know "just some" or "hardly anything" about the thesis.  And when read some about the thesis, they too become more unfavorable toward McDonnell.  Further, this strong Washington Post analysis of the poll shows awareness of the thesis is even lower among younger women--who are particularly likely to find the contents objectionable.  There is clearly more room for growth on the thesis argument, and those who hear about the thesis seem to move away from McDonnell.

McDonnell wrote about the scourge of working women--a far out of the mainstream view

McDonnell's thesis included a wide range of extreme views on everything from abortion, homosexuals, birth control for married couples, an unusual use of the word "fornicator," and the opposition of working women.  This last point--his views toward working women, represents a huge departure from attitudes toward and the reality of work and gender.

But don't take my word for it.  In his own words, McDonnell calls working women, "detrimental to the family."  He ridicules "some women's" desire for "individual self-actualization," "workplace equality," and "the private choices of individuals to increase their family income."   He laments, "Must government subsidize the choices of a generation of with an increased appetite for the materialistic components of American society?"   By singling out women at fault, McDonnell implies that when men try to increase their family income, it is not materialistic. 

It is obvious to most, of course, that many women have no choice but to work.  Some are widows, or unmarried or never married, are caretakers for parents, or have husbands or partners who have lost their jobs.  But also, many women simply would prefer to work.  A 2007 Gallup poll showed more women would prefer to work rather than stay at home if they were free to do either.  And recent labor statistics confirm  what we know to be true; women, mothers or not, participate in the workforce in huge numbers.   More than 70% of women aged 35 to 44 are employed.  These findings highlight how out of touch McDonnell is with how women live their lives. 

It's also important here to stress that McDonnell wrote of working women, not just working mothers.  Not that working mothers are necessarily controversial, although some debate the costs and benefits for one's personal circumstances.  But as we've written elsewhere, voters want to see more help to working mothers, not less.

But this particular extreme view needs more exposure

Public polling on the race doesn't quite capture voters' attitudes toward the full panoply of McDonnell's extreme views.  The Washington Post poll described the thesis this way:  "In his thesis, McDonnell criticized working mothers and homosexuals as detrimental to families and urged the promotion of traditional values through government.  McDonnell calls this not in-line with his current views while Deeds says this shows McDonnell's real positions on these issues. "  This description lacks some precision by replacing "working women" with "working mothers," and it does not measure reactions to McDonnell's extreme view that women do not have the right to workplace equality, or to increase their family's income. 

Of Deeds two recent televised ads on the thesis, only one mentions, briefly, the thesis's points on working women.  (There is an excellent video on his website, however, which you can view here.)  Instead, much of Deeds's advertising ties McDonnell's position in the thesis on birth control and abortion, to his sponsoring 35 bills restricting a woman's right to choose. 

I understand the need to attach McDonnell's thesis to his votes in office.  The large number of sponsored bills shows the thesis was more than an "academic exercise" as McDonnell claims, but an actual "blueprint" for his political career.  But McDonnell also voted against getting tough on gender discrimination at the workplace, and against improvements to day care that would help working women.  And while McDonnell is certainly to the right of most Virginians when he opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest, abortion is still the more controversial topic. 

McDonnell's thesis response ad further belies his views toward women.  In his own defense, he touts his work cracking down on child predators and domestic violence.  While those are undoubtedly important, as his only legislative defense, it suggests McDonnell views women chiefly needing to protection from physical danger, rather than from economic inequities.  The Deeds campaign should keep McDonnell defending his thesis all the way through November; they might well be preparing to shift to the working women argument in the remaining weeks.

Even on the hit show Mad Men, set in a 1960s New York ad agency where blackface is accepted and homosexuality is not, women have entered the workforce.   If 1963 is too modern by Bob McDonnell's politics, then what does that say about his plan for Virginia's future? 

Update (10/15) and subsequent interests disclosed: Partly because of the work I did for this post, I am now part of a group called "Working Women for Virginia" that is raising money to educate voters about Republican candidate Bob McDonnell's extreme views.  We have a video up here.


Omero: More are concerned about the deficit?

Topics: NBC/Wall Street Journal , Obama

A question from the NBC/WSJ poll released this week made some news this week, and risks framing the upcoming health care debate.  A majority (58%) agreed with the statement "The President and the Congress should worry more about keeping the budget deficit down, even though it may mean it will take longer for the economy to recover."  Only a third (35%) agreed with this statement: "The President and the Congress should worry more about boosting the economy even though it may mean larger budget deficits now and in the future."

News outlets reported this as "people are more concerned about the deficit than the economy."  But in fact, when asked that question, respondents were quite clear that they were more concerned about the economy.  More said "job creation and economic growth" (31%) should be the top priority for the federal government than said "the deficit and government spending" (19%).  Similarly, more said unemployment was the most important economic issue (35%) than the deficit (24%).

So why does the longer question show an inflated emphasis on the deficit?  One hypothesis is the wording of the question.  The "focus on the deficit" answer category ends on a positive note--the implication is the economy will eventually recover.  The other answer category ends on a negative note--the potential for deficits down the road.  I don't know if this explains the results to the question, and, for the record, I don't doubt the balanced intentions of the researchers (Hart/McInturff).  But the difference between this question's results and the rest of the survey warrant discussion.

This single result is framing the current debate in terms of "voters are concerned about Obama's spending," as in the first sentence here. But not only does a recent NYT analysis show the deficit is hardly caused by Obama, Americans don't blame Obama either.  Nearly half (46%) in the NBC/WSJ survey blame former President Bush, and only 6% blame Obama. A good reminder as we enter a debate over the cost of health care reform.


Omero: Fitting the narrative

Topics: Bloomberg , Cheney , New York Times , Rush Limbaugh , USAToday Gallup

Two polls made news this week with their somewhat overzealous reactions.  Even if you believe the narrative into which they fit, a slightly more thorough polling analysis is still required.  Not only that, in these two cases, additional news angles might be uncovered.

First, the New York Times this week released a poll showing Mayor Michael Bloomberg vulnerable, and attitudes toward the city worsening.  According to the story, "the majority of New Yorkers say important aspects of city life, including affordable housing and crime, have either deteriorated or stayed the same since Mr. Bloomberg took office."  But in fact the chart in the print edition, and the toplines released here show that more feel crime has decreased.  A decrease in crime is certainly different from a deterioration in crime.  A good reminder that it's worth being thorough in polling analysis.  While the story stands on its own even with that change, that more New Yorkers feel crime has decreased than increased could've been a story in itself.

The second example dominated the news yesterday.  A USA-Today/Gallup poll showed a majority of Republicans can't name "the main person" who speaks for Republicans, in an open-ended question.  But as noticed by the Politico and the Fix, a 2001 poll showed very similar results--among Democrats.  It's not surprising that the party out of power lacks an obvious "main person."  And, to my mind, an open-ended question about political spokespeople seems quite likely to evoke a high "don't know," no matter what the circumstances.  What is the real story here, which holds up when you compare the two polls, is that the leading Republican spokespeople (Limbaugh and Cheney) are decidedly unpopular nationally.  The same can't be said about, for example, one common response in the 2001 survey, former Senator Tom Daschle.  Further, among Republicans, the 2008 Presidential nominee, John McCain, came in only 4th.  And you know who had zero percent?  George W. Bush.  So I agree that Republicans have a spokesperson problem.  But that high don't know is not the only evidence.


Omero: Update on Sotomayor polling; the gender gap pervades

Topics: Barack Obama , Gallup , gender , Quinnipiac , Supreme Court

Yesterday I posted on some Gallup data on voter reactions to Sotomayor.  Quinnipiac released new data today, and both Gallup and Quinnipiac were nice enough to share party by gender crosstabs.  These data continue to show that women, particularly Republican women, respond strongly to Sotomayor's nomination.

Quinnipiac shows Sotomayor with stronger ratings than Roberts, and a dramatic gender gap

The Gallup poll showed a higher gender gap in support for Sotomayor than for past nominees, although she was overall about as well-received as Roberts.  But according to today's Quinnipiac poll, many more voters approve of Sotomayor (+30 "approve" minus "disapprove") than approved of either Roberts (+17) or Alito (+14) at the time of their nominations.  And women are responsible for the difference.  Sotomayor receives similar ratings from men (+17) as the previous successful nominees (+21 Roberts, +16 Alito).  But women approve of her nomination in much larger numbers (+41) when compared to Roberts (+15) or Alito (+11). 

Both polls show a very large gender gap among Republicans

In the Gallup poll, both Democratic and Republican women are more supportive of Sotomayor than their Democratic counterparts.  The difference is more modest among Democrats (men: +46 "excellent/good pick" minus "only fair/poor" pick; women: +54).  Among Republicans the difference is sizable (men: -44; women: -11). 

The Quinnipiac poll is consistent.  There is no difference in the ratings of Democratic men (+74 "approve" minus "disapprove") and Democratic women (+76).  But Republican women are almost evenly divided on Sotomayor's nomination (-9), while Republican men are more decidedly disapproving (-39).

Republican strategy?

There is much public discussion of Republicans' internal strategy (or lack thereof) when it comes to Sotomayor and race.  On the one hand, Republicans rightly worry about their lack of appeal to Hispanic voters, particularly when dealing with an obviously qualified candidate.  On the other, well, there's Congressman Tancredo (among others).  But add this to the list of growing Republican concerns:  Do Republicans really want to antagonize the first Supreme Court nominee in a while to galvanize women?  Before you answer, note the latest outrageously tone-deaf sexist attack.

UPDATE: Below is a table of the party by gender crosstabs provided by Quinnipiac & Gallup.


Sotomayor2.png


Omero: Preferences for a woman nominee?

Topics: gender , Obama , Supreme Court

In the days leading up to Obama's announcement of his Supreme Court nominee, polling suggested voters were not very focused on the potential candidate's gender or race.  According to a CNN poll released over a week ago, very few said it was important to have a Hispanic or black nominee.  And almost as many women (58%) as men (65%) said it was not important for Obama to pick a woman.  A Gallup poll from around the same time showed similar results.

But, now that Sonia Sotomayor has been named, a new Gallup poll shows a gender gap has emerged.  Of the last four nominees, she has the largest gender gap in support.  There isn't male animosity toward Sotomayor, as they are evenly divided on her nomination.  However, women are overwhelmingly supportive (54% excellent/good idea, 25% only fair/poor), with three times as many finding her an "excellent" pick as a "poor" one.

Gallup suggests this gap could stem from gender differences in party identification.  But the gender gap in party identification has been consistent for some time, yet only Alito also evoked a gender gap (a smaller one, in the opposite direction).  And it is not simply the nomination of any woman that spurs a gap, as Harriet Miers was not any more popular with women.  It is likely the combination of both the nomination of a woman, and women's Democratic proclivities that produce the gap.  

But something else strikes me as important.  Despite voters' claims that a nominee's gender or race is irrelevant, Sotomayor's gender does seem to improve her standing with women.  This suggests voters may be unwilling, or unable, to report preferences they may have for a candidate of a specific race or gender.  It reminds me of this 2007 Washington Post survey, in which more voters said they would be less likely to vote for a smoker than less likely to vote for a black candidate or woman candidate.  These questions frequently measure socially acceptable attitudes about such preferences, rather than the preferences themselves.


Omero: Obama & Dems Close National Security Gap

Topics: Cheney , Democracy Corps , Democrats , National Security , Obama , Republicans

Bad news continues for Republicans.  Not only is the national party identification gap widening, as I posted a few weeks ago, support for progressive views on social issues is increasing.  Now a recent Democracy Corps survey piles on.  For the first time in Democracy Corps' research, voters are now evenly divided on which party is doing the better job on national security (41% Democrats, 43% Republicans).  In 2003, for example, more than twice as many voters felt Republicans did a better job (54%) than said Democrats were doing the better job (25%). 

 

Further, Democrats were at or better than parity on many other foreign policy issues, such as "improving global respect for America" (+36 Dem advantage), "foreign policy" (+17), "the situation in Iraq" (+10), "immigration" (+2), and "the war on terrorism" (+0). 

 

Obama's own job approval ratings on national security are even stronger.  Nearly two-thirds (64%) approve of the job Obama is doing on national security (31% disapprove).  These numbers are actually stronger than Obama's overall approval rating (58% approve, 33% disapprove).

 

Further, despite former Vice-President Cheney's claims, a majority (55%) feels Obama's policies have increased our national security (37% undermine). By contrast, a majority (51%) feels President Bush's policies undermined our national security (44% increased). 

 

What these data (along with other recent polling) show is how pervasive are recent Democratic gains.  We've moved far beyond "it's the economy, stupid" to the once-unthinkable--movement on gay marriage, immigration, and national security.  Across issues, across demographics, Democrats have consolidated their support.

 

We'll see if anything changes after today's national security speeches by both the President and Cheney.  But it seems highly unlikely it could reverse this trend. 


Omero: Gathering data on progressive issues

Topics: Gay marriage , immigration , Quinnipiac , Washington Post

A Washington Post article last week noticed national movement to the left on issues like gay marriage, illegal immigration, and the legalization of marijuana.  The conventional wisdom in Washington says social and cultural issues may continue to galvanize the Republican base, but most voters are thinking about the economy, or to a lesser extent, the war.  But in fact, these recent poll findings show voters have moved to the left not just on the economy, or the war, but also on social issues.

Gay marriage, in particular, shows the most movement.   Looking at past Washington Post/ABC-News polling on the issue, support for legalizing gay marriage is now at a record high (49% support, 46% oppose).  It is the first time that fewer than half oppose gay marriage.  Importantly, much of this change has come from an increase in "strong" support for gay marriage.  Almost as many strongly support gay marriage (31%) as strongly oppose it (39%).  In 2006, the last public data point, twice as many reported strong opposition (51%) as strong support (24%). 

As Josh Marshall at TPM notes, other public polling also shows recent shift in support for gay marriage.  But he notes little change in a recent Quinnipiac poll, perhaps because of a question wording change in which respondents were asked about "a law in your state" rather than a more broad, "should it be legal or illegal" for gay couples to marry that we see in the WP/ABC poll.  That is a good hypothesis.  I would also look to the rest of the Quinnipiac survey for evidence that national views toward gay rights are softening.  A majority disagree (58%) that gay marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage.  And majorities support other rights, such as adoption and serving in the military.

There is also real leftward movement in views on legalizing "a small amount of marijuana for personal use."  Almost as many favor legalization (46%) as oppose (52%).  In the 1985, the WP/ABC-News poll showed nearly three-fourths (72%) opposing.

When it comes to illegal immigration, voters seem to make a distinction between border security and illegal immigrants currently in the country.  Views on whether "the US is or is not doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from coming in the country" have been, surprisingly, relatively stable since 2005 (from when public data are first available).  This recent poll continues to be consistent with past results.  But more voters than ever before (61%) support giving illegal immigrants now living in the US the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and "meet other requirements."

Gun control is a bit of an exception to this pattern.  Voters are evenly divided between supporting "stricter gun laws in this country" and opposing it (51% support, 48% oppose).  Prior to 2008, most polls showed net support for stricter gun control at 60% or higher.  However, gun ownership appears mostly stable (41%), if not in slight decline (46% in 1999).

This overall pattern suggests there are more opportunities for candidates to be on the more liberal side of these issues.   However, with the economy still dominating voters' concerns, social issues will likely take a back seat for most voters, at least in the near term.


Omero: (Obama's) Policies Before Bipartisanship

Topics: Approval Ratings , Barack Obama

Today's NYT/CBS poll has made news by suggesting bipartisanship may take a back seat to policies.  At least, if those policies are those of President Obama.  A majority (56%) want to see Obama work on "the policies he promised he would during the campaign."  Fewer said he should work in a bipartisan way with Congressional Republicans.

 

By contrast, Republicans are strongly urged to work in a bipartisan way with President Obama.  Eight in ten (79%) say they should work with their Democratic colleagues and the President.  Only 17% felt they should "stick to Republican policies."

 

This suggests voters prefer policies over process.  If voters agree with the policies, the specifics of the process may matter less.  And with Obama at 63% approval rating, while Republicans in Congress suffer from a 56% disapproval rating, voters seem to be making some early decisions about who has their best interests at heart.  Something to remember in the debate after Obama's speech tonight before Congress.


Omero: Women's Issues In The Post-Ledbetter Era

Topics: Gender

This week I went to the fem2.0 conference here in DC. It was a great place to hear traditional feminist groups interact with bloggers and younger activists about the future of the women's movement.  In particular, there was widespread excitement over President Obama's recent signing of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. And at the end of the day, there was a spirited discussion about reaching out to a broader audience by demonstrating the relevance of "women's issues" to women (and men) across partisan, ideological, and demographic lines.

 

Fair pay, access to child care, and flexible work are all popular, across gender

 

Well before Lily Ledbetter became a progressive icon, there was already public debate over stronger equal pay laws.  I personally have tested equal pay on my candidate surveys for nearly a decade. It has been consistently a strong topic, and a top message among both men and women, for male candidates and female candidates, and in both Democratic- and Republican-leaning districts. 

 

National pollsters have tested equal pay as well, and found similar results.  Back in 2000, Gallup found 79% of adults supported "increased enforcement of equal pay laws relating to women in the workplace."  In fact, that question even included a price tag ($27 million), yet still enjoyed wide support. 

 

Other national polling suggests even more issues of interest.  A 2008 National Women's Law Center poll conducted by Hart Research showed clear majorities of both men and women agreeing "we need to do more to help families balance work and family."  Specifically, majorities of both genders support government funding to expand access to quality affordable child care and early education, and also expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act to make all workers eligible.  Like with the price tag above, when a question includes the phrase "increasing government funding" and still garners majority support from both men and women, then you know you've found a popular issue. 

 

And even as the economy struggles, the issue of work-family balance remains salient.  A November 2008 Rockefeller Family Fund poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, showed as many working parents (across gender) worry about work and family responsibilities as worry about the economy.

 

"Fairness" resonates more than "feminist"

 

Returning to one of the debates at the fem2.0 conference, how do we reach out to women beyond a traditional definition of the women's movement?  The need to do so is striking.  Identification as a "feminist" continues to decline.  In the early 1990s, Gallup found about a third of adults considered themselves feminists.  Gallup has shown that number continue to slip through 2001, when a quarter identified with the phrase.  A November 2008 poll for The Daily Beast, conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland, revealed only 14% of adults consider themselves feminists. 

 

However, despite attitudes toward the word "feminist," support for gender equality and desire for a strong women's movement is widespread.  The same Daily Beast poll showed both men and women feel women are not treated equally in the workplace.  Two-thirds (68%) of women and half of men in the NWLC survey said there was still a need for a women's movement.   And this 2005 CBS Poll revealed that more women than ever before say the women's movement has made their life better.  That poll also shows identification as a feminist more than doubled when the following definition was given: "someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes."

 

Successful language is optimistic, inclusive

 

These polls suggest reaching out beyond the women's movement means adopting optimistic language about how far women have come, while acknowledging that more work needs to be done.  This includes a focus on equality and fairness, particularly in the workplace.  More specifically, reminding voters that better access to child care and flexible work schedules are not simply fair, but help people (not just women) juggle workplace and family demands.

 

Of course, women are concerned about other issues besides child care and flexible work time.  And the women's movement is both diverse, and committed to many other causes.  But we have an opportunity to build on the success of the Fair Pay Act, a popular new President, and a new generation of younger women's activists, to make real progress on these already well-received issues.  Or, as one fem2.0 participant tweeted in response to a presentation from a BlogHer co-founder, "gosh, if everyone saw women's issues as things that can unite us, instead of divide us..."


Omero: The Palin Effect--Its Rise & Fall


One of the big topics from September was the Palin Effect, and how it improved McCain's standing with white voters, particularly white women.  While most commentators agreed the Palin Effect didn't move Hillary Clinton's primary base, there was some unique movement among white women overall.  And while it's tough to isolate the effect of campaign events after Labor Day (especially given the economic crisis), the post-Palin bounce has been declared over.  We can indeed track its rise and fall.

 

This has been a full team effort.  Mark collected data from 56 different national surveys.  (A spreadsheet with all the datapoints can be found here: White Women.xls.)  And as part of pollster.com's continued upgrade, and Charles Franklin's mighty-fine chart-making, we can look at the presidential vote among white voters, across gender.  There are two charts below; the second is more sensitive to outliers.  But both tell the same story. 

  

 

whitewomen.png

 

moresensitivewhitewomen.pngFirst, it's worth pointing out that much more attention has focused on the Palin Effect on white women than on white men, or really any other group.  Naturally, that's largely due to Palin's gender.  But it's also because white women are a swing group.  Some polls show Obama leading with this group, but our chart shows, on average, McCain leads.  White men have given McCain an advantage in every poll we were able to obtain that broke out results by race and gender.  Gary Langer at ABC discussed the greater variability in white women's vote here, and our spreadsheet shows a larger standard deviation for white women, across all the surveys examined.

 

But despite lopsided attention to and increased variability among white women, there are more similarities than differences in the post-Palin pattern among white men and women.  Among both groups, support for Obama fell.  And with both groups, support for Obama has rebounded.  The difference is in the depth of the fall, and the extent of the rebound.

 

Our charts show white voters across gender moved from Obama, and substantially, in the early days of the Palin bounce (around September 7).  But white women did have a steeper drop.  Our sensitive chart shows white women giving McCain a double-digit lead for a few days (approximately September 8-14), before rebounding to pre-Palin levels.  By contrast, white men had been gradually moving away from Obama for months, and the post-Palin drop was much less steep.  Now Obama's support among white men has rebounded above pre-Palin levels.

 

The race, particularly among white women, will likely continue to be volatile.  But the Palin bounce, and bounce-back, seems to have been replaced by other campaign events.

 


Omero: Roll Call, don't SurveyUSA


Roll Call newspaper has recently teamed with SurveyUSA to conduct polls in a variety of competitive house races.  The surveys generated some Roll Call stories, local stories in the different districts, some online backlash in another, and a new Roll Call story noting the controversy. 

 

Disclosure & the backstory

 

But, before I wade any further in this topic, let me clearly note my own conflicts.  I am the pollster of record in two of the eight districts in which RC/SUSA polled (PA-10 and MO-9), which also happen to be two of the four districts where the RC/SUSA poll came in significantly more Republican than (our own) internal campaign polls.  So I have an obvious interest in challenging the RC/SUSA results.  But hear me out before you dismiss this post.  (Also, in further disclosure, many years ago I was a Roll Call intern.)

 

SurveyUSA uses an automated methodology rather than live callers for their interviews.  This methodology has stirred some controversy in the past.  Some DC media outlets do not report on SUSA polls.  Others, like Chris Cilizza at the Washington Post, express some skepticism. Here at pollster.com, Mark Blumenthal cautions against a reflexive opposition to SUSA's methodology, and their polls are reported on.  Carl Bialik at the WSJ wrote of a warming toward SUSA and their methodology here and here.  Nate Silver's accuracy ratings build on several cycles of polling, and put SUSA near the top, and Joel Bloom's 2002 paper also explores SUSA's accuracy in statewide surveys.  But the topic of survey accuracy and pollster report cards is itself is a large discussion, and Mark discusses SUSA's own report card here.

 

RC/SUSA discrepancies with public polling

 

But whatever one makes of SUSA's methodology, or national accuracy reports or ratings, there have been very clear discrepancies between the RC/SUSA surveys in Congressional races and other public polling.  Below is a table showing the RC/USA results compared to other public results.  In five of the eight races, the RC/SUSA results differ greatly from other public results. 

 

District

Firm

Firm type

Dates

Dem Cand

GOP Cand

Dem adv

AL2

M & A

GOP

7/21-7/22

39

41

-2

AL2

Anz L

Dem

8/3-8/6

50

40

10

AL2

AEA/Cap

indep

8/6-8/7

47

37

10

AL2

SUSA

indep

8/26-8/28

39

56

-17

MN3

SUSA

indep

8/26-8/28

41

44

-3

FL21

Hill

GOP

6/19-6/22

36

48

-12

FL21

SUSA

indep

8/24-8/26

48

46

2

CO4

BPN

Dem

5/13-5/15

43

36

7

CO4

SUSA

indep

8/22-8/24

50

43

7

KS2

Anz L

Dem

5/12-5/15

57

27

30

KS2

SUSA

indep

8/19-8/21

50

43

7

MO9

MA

Dem

8/12-8/14

41

39

2

MO9

SUSA

indep

9/1-9/2

38

50

-12

PA10

MA

Dem

8/19-8/21

54

27

27

PA10

SUSA

indep

8/23-8/25

49

45

4

NM1

GQR

Dem

6/29-7/2

47

44

3

NM1

POS

GOP

7/22-7/23

41

47

-6

NM1

SUSA

indep

8/26-8/28

51

46

5

 

When I look closely at some of the races with differences, I see a lack of attention to detail in the RC/SUSA surveys.  The PA-10 survey misspells the Republican candidate's name wrong throughout.  The MO-9 survey butchers the spelling of the Republican Gubernatorial candidate (and current MO-9 Congressman).  The MN-3 methodology and report makes no mention of how same-day registrants are accounted for, even though they can be as much as 20% of turnout in a presidential year.  And then there is the drastic underrepresentation of black voters in the AL-2 survey, leading Roll Call to ask SUSA to reweight their data.

 

Lack of campaign context & common-sense

 

Further, the Roll Call coverage accepted their poll findings as decisive fact, with bold headlines that ignored any campaign context.  "[Democratic candidate Bobby] Bright Anything But" (AL-2) and "Missouri 9th May Be Waste of Democrats' Efforts" are two such examples.  These stories, and other RC stories, reported on the poll findings, but ignored campaign context. 

 

For example, although it wasn't mentioned in the story, the MO-9 survey was conducted during the Republican convention, quite possibly boosting Republican participation.  (I'd also like to know what percent of the RC/SUSA sample is from Boone County, the largest county in the district, which Democratic candidate Judy Baker currently represents in the legislature.)  The PA-10 survey was conducted at a time when Democratic Congressman Carney had been on the air with positive television for the previous four weeks, and Republican challenger Chris Hackett had been largely off the air for months.  Does it make sense that the two have nearly identical name ID?  After the MN-3 survey, Roll Call marveled at the finding that younger voters give the McCain and the Republican Congressional candidate the advantage, while older voters prefer Obama and the Democratic Congressional candidate in his early 30s.  Does that seem right, given everything we know about young voters?

 

The fallout

 

Now Roll Call seems to have backed away some from their earlier reporting.  In this week's story, they write: "It appears it's also possible to get a poll to say just about anything." And also this: "some of the conclusions were universal and inescapable"--such as low Bush ratings, low Congressional approval ratings, and a concern about the economy.  These new observations are a far cry from calling a specific campaign a "waste of efforts."  But local coverage reacting to the initial Roll Call stories is unlikely to be taken back.

 

And a few words in defense of our own in-house accuracy.  Our polling correctly predicted a Baker win in the MO-9 primary. And our polling correctly predicted Carney's upset of former PA-10 Congressman Don Sherwood in 2006.  In fact, every single one of our seven Congressional candidates won their primaries (or ran unopposed).  Here at pollster.com Mark has pointed out that everyone can have an off poll.  But not all internal polls are off.

 

I think there are a few lessons from this incident.  First, there's more to judging survey quality than whether it was conducted internally or by an independent third party.  But second, and perhaps more important, Congressional handicappers should rely on more than a single poll's results to judge a race's viability. 


Omero: The Palin Effect, more base-rallying & fewer gender differences


As we continue to discuss the Palin Effect, more data have emerged.  An ABC News poll released today shows that partisanship, as opposed to gender, is a far greater predictor than of attitudes toward Governor Palin.

 

Across nearly every dimension, Republicans have rallied behind McCain's VP pick, with Democrats and independents more ambivalent.  A full 80% of Republicans say the pick makes them more confident in McCain, compared to 59% of Democrats feeling less confident (independents are more divided, 44% more confident, 37% less confident).

 

And charges that the press have treated Palin unfairly resonate with Republicans more than they resonate with women.  More than half (57%) of Republicans say she has been treated unfairly, with less than half as many Democrats (27%) agreeing.  The difference between men (55% treated fairly) and women (46%) is smaller, with women more likely to be undecided than men.

 

When we ask the ultimate question--how does each candidate's VP pick affect one's vote--we see Palin moving the Republican base, but not others.  Two-thirds (67%) say Obama's selection of Senator Joe Biden has no difference on their vote, while fewer (55%) say the same about Palin.  But Palin elicits more saying they are "less likely" to vote for McCain (19%) than say the Biden pick makes them less likely to vote for Obama (10%). 

 

Further, as the report notes, Palin runs up the score among Republicans and evangelicals (+37, +32 more minus less likely to vote for McCain, respectively).  But moderates say Obama's pick of Biden makes them more to vote for Obama (+12 more minus less), with Palin having neither a positive or negative net affect for McCain.

 

These findings build upon earlier results I wrote about this week.  It seems increasingly unlikely that former Hillary Clinton supporters will move to McCain because of Sarah Palin.  But during the heat of the Republican convention, the Republican base is indeed energized. 


Omero: The Palin Effect, Preliminary Results


It's a little too early to tell the full effect of Senator McCain's selection of Governor Palin as his running mate.  In particular, Palin's biography has created numerous side dialogues--chiefly among women--about working mothers, teen pregnancy, abstinence-only education and raising children with special needs.  Surveys on these topics will take a little time, and some care and nuance.

 

But until then, we do have good preliminary data about the Palin Effect across gender and party.  But bare in mind that the timing of both conventions and the Palin pick announcement (not to mention Labor Day and Hurricane Gustav) make it difficult to identify exactly which bounces are working where.

 

The Palin Effect has rallied white Republican women; Obama gains with other groups

 

A Gallup release today demonstrated that compared to an August average, McCain's support post-Palin has increased with white Republican women (+5 change in McCain).  There has been no movement with Republican men (+1).

 

By contrast, Democrats and independents across gender lines move toward Obama post-Palin.  This movement has mostly been larger than McCain's movement among Republican women (independent men: +7 Obama; independent women: +5; Democratic men and women: +8 each).  In fact, Obama now leads with white independent women (46% Obama, 39% McCain).

 

Among women, Obama-Biden now have the advantage in "experience"

 

According to a new EMILY's List Women's Monitor survey of women (conducted 8/31 to 9/1), the Obama-Biden ticket now has the advantage on "experience."  In their last Women's Monitor from early August, half (51%) of women said "having the experience, background, and knowledge to be President" described McCain better, compared to 16% saying it described Obama better. 

 

In this current survey, the numbers are now almost reversed.  Over half (52%) say the Obama-Biden ticket has more experience, while only 37% say McCain-Palin is more experienced.  Not only did the Palin pick negate McCain's experience "argument," as many commented, but it actually completely erased McCain's advantage, among women, in just a few short weeks.

 

(Disclosure: EMILY's List is an organization helping pro-choice Democratic women.  It is also a Momentum Analysis client, but we do not work on Women's Monitor.) 

 

Women do not just use candidate gender to decide who represents them

 

During the Democratic primaries I noted that Hillary Clinton voters were even more likely to weigh the issues when making their choice.  The Women's Monitor results confirm this pattern--gender alone won't move women voters to McCain-Palin.  (At least among non-Republicans.)

 

Majorities of women said Palin's positions on issues such as abortion, education, and stem-cell research made them more unfavorable toward her (56%, 55%, and 52%, respectively).  In fact, a majority of women (53%) say Obama-Biden is more in touch with the issues that affect women than is McCain-Palin (35%).

 

The McCain campaign recently proffered "this campaign is not about issues."  Indeed, Palin's speech last Friday attempted to attract Hillary Clinton supporters, offering an identical gender as opposed to a similar platform. These results, however, show that issues do matter to women voters. 


Omero: Young women optimistic, yet uncertain


EMILY's List released their Women's Monitor survey this week comparing women across four different age cohorts: Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and seniors.  While their findings on the Presidential race are interesting and worth reading, I'd like to focus more on attitudes toward the role of women.  (Disclosure: EMILY's List is a Momentum Analysis client, but we had nothing to do with this survey.)

 

Overall, women across age groupings agree on many topics.  But the survey finds younger, Gen X or Gen Y women consistently more optimistic than their older counterparts, especially when it comes to changing women's roles.  Boomers and senior women are more likely to strongly agree that "sexism is still a serious problem for women in our society today" and "there is still a need for a woman's movement that has a strong political voice in America."  They are also more likely to strongly disagree with:  "women today have equal opportunities and equal treatment in the workplace."

 

While hardly anyone uses words such as "satisfied" or "proud" to describe how the country is headed, younger voters are the least pessimistic about the future.  And while majorities across age groups disagree with the statement "this is a good time in America's history to be a young person just starting out in life," youngest women disagree with it least often.

 

However, despite being generally more optimistic, younger women are at the same time the most uncertain about the future.  They are not as likely as Boomer women to agree that "because they have so many more options and choices available to them, young women today are better off than their mothers' generation."  And when asked to identify what word describes the direction of the country, they are more than twice as likely as older women to say "uncertain," and are far less likely to say "dissatisfied."

 

Uncertainty could have many causes.  First, the study shows younger women less engaged in politics, and less likely to follow the news.  Second, the survey also suggests younger women are more concerned than older women about issues affecting them personally, such as pocketbook issues, rising gas prices, issues affecting children, and college affordability.  Third, age itself could be a factor, where women with more life experience are less likely to be unsure of the future.

 

Given younger women's optimism, with uncertainty, it is not surprising that they prefer a candidate who is also optimistic, but provides clarity.  Younger women are more interested in a presidential candidate who can provide "hope and optimism," while older women are more likely to crave "safety and security" or both equally. Younger women are also more likely to prefer a candidate with a "vision for the future," and older women are disproportionately more likely to seek a candidate who can "get things done."

 

Below are some of the responses across age groupings.  I calculated net agree/disagree, and a 4-point mean score, where 4 means "strongly agree," and not sure is omitted.  Other results, methodology, and some question wording are available here and here.

 

 

strng agree

smwt agree

smwt disgr

strng disgr

mean

net agree

net disgr

B/C so many options & choices, yng wmn better off than mothers' generation

Gen Y

42

42

10

4

3.24

84

14

Gen X

46

34

11

5

3.26

80

16

Boomers

51

30

13

3

3.33

81

16

Seniors

45

30

9

10

3.17

75

19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All other things equal, better of more women elected to important offices

Gen Y

48

35

11

3

3.32

83

14

Gen X

42

36

11

5

3.22

78

16

Boomers

48

29

11

4

3.32

77

15

Seniors

46

29

10

7

3.24

75

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexism is still a serious problem for women

Gen Y

36

41

19

3

3.11

77

22

Gen X

34

41

15

6

3.07

75

21

Boomers

46

33

12

5

3.25

79

17

Seniors

43

29

14

9

3.12

72

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still a need for a women's movement with a strong political voice

Gen Y

34

44

14

5

3.10

78

19

Gen X

36

37

13

7

3.10

73

20

Boomers

42

28

16

8

3.11

70

24

Seniors

45

26

14

9

3.14

71

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women should stay home w/infants & toddlers, even if means sacrifice

Gen Y

12

28

28

28

2.25

40

56

Gen X

20

28

26

21

2.49

48

47

Boomers

23

22

24

20

2.54

45

44

Seniors

33

27

17

13

2.89

60

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good time in US history to be a young person starting out

Gen Y

14

33

31

20

2.42

47

51

Gen X

10

28

33

25

2.24

38

58

Boomers

14

20

31

29

2.20

34

60

Seniors

20

19

25

29

2.32

39

54

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women today have equal opportunities w/men in workplace

Gen Y

11

38

33

17

2.43

49

50

Gen X

11

30

29

28

2.24

41

57

Boomers

10

20

32

37

2.03

30

69

Seniors

17

15

25

36

2.14

32

61

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For woman to be truly fulfilled, she needs to be married/have kids

Gen Y

6

12

29

52

1.72

18

81

Gen X

5

8

27

57

1.60

13

84

Boomers

4

5

24

62

1.48

9

86

Seniors

8

11

28

47

1.79

19

75

 


Omero: Are Women "Up For Grabs"?


A bipartisan Lifetime poll released this week made the rounds for showing women "up for grabs."  Obama's 11-point lead among women was called "lackluster" since it fell short (by a point) of majority.  To me, this sounds much like the "Obama can't close the deal" Republican talking point.  In this critique, Obama should be performing as well as an incumbent, in an open seat, and if he's not then he must be somehow weaker than McCain, even if McCain is trailing.  It strains credulity. 

 

In fact, Obama's lead among women is comparable to past elections, looking at national exit polls in the graph below (for this purpose, 1996 Dole and Perot support are combined).  If Obama's support is lower, it's because, with 10% undecided, and presumably 3% voting for a third party candidate (the polling release is unclear), the sub-total of 87% is lower than the 100% in exit polls.  If, as the Republican pollster said, Obama is underperforming with 49% (compared to 54% in 2000), then McCain is also underperforming with 38% as opposed to 43%.

 

dem adv among women.jpg 

 

A gender gap update

 

As I wrote last week, Obama's gender gap is currently at the high end of what we've seen in past elections.  As one commenter correctly noted, Obama's 10-point gender gap from July 21-27 indeed had increased dramatically since June, and was reaching historic highs.  But I didn't express alarm because I wasn't convinced the increase would continue.  Indeed, an update to our Gallup gender gap graph shows that to be true.

 

 

gender gap now.jpg 

Another commenter wondered what was causing the fluctuation in Obama's gender gap--Obama's support among women or men.  The chart below shows both Obama and McCain's support by gender.  And, in fact, Obama's support among women is (slightly) the most volatile.

 

pres vote by gender.jpg 

 

However, by volatile, I mean a fluctuation of four points, compared to a fluctuation of two or three points for the other groupings.  Now, four points obviously can mean a lot on election day, but this far out, in a national survey (as opposed to battleground state analysis) "slightly more volatile" is as far as I'm willing to go when talking about Obama's support among women.  "Lackluster" it is most certainly not.


The Marriage & Gender Gaps


Some of the press interest in targeting women voters appears to have died down some in the weeks since Hillary Clinton's exit from the race.  It's worth checking in to see how the overall gender patterns in Obama's vote compare to previous Democratic nominees. 

 

The Marriage Gap

 

Last week Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund came out with a survey of unmarried women in battleground states (WVWV is a non-partisan organization; their surveys are typically conducted by Democratic polling firms).  As we've noted before, "unmarried" people can be in many varied stages of life--the single and college-aged, co-habitating couples in their late 20s, single parents, gay couples in a committed relationship, divorced baby boomers, older widows and widowers.  Such diversity makes me wonder about studying "unmarried" voters as a group.  Is the implication that non-marriage is somehow unifying?  Or does non-marriage frequently (but not always) co-vary with more dominant characteristics when it comes to predicting voting behavior, such as being younger, downscale, or more transient?  If it's the latter, then maybe we should be studying those other demographic variables instead.

 

I've written before here and here about the "marriage gap in turnout" that, despite the lopsided press coverage, is actually larger among men than among women.  I continue to worry about singling out a "marriage gap" in Democratic performance among women, leading some to think it a uniquely female phenomenon.  For one, it sends a message that women form their political views based on their relationships to others.  The "Soccer Moms" of yesteryear have given way to the "Carrie" voters of today; we are led to believe the presence or absence of husbands and/or children changes the way women (rather than men) view their worlds.  One blogger immediately seized on the recent poll results with: "why is it that women change their party registration with their marriage license?"

 

Second, and most importantly, the marriage gap is actually not uniquely female.  Recent Gallup research on the presidential race shows a marriage gap across gender, in the chart below.  For both men and women, unmarried voters are more Democratic than are their married counterparts.  In fact, as the chart below shows, the marriage gap in Democratic performance has frequently been larger for men than for women.  (We used a definition of the marriage gap that is consistent with the definition of the gender gap.  Here, it is the difference between unmarried and married voters' support for Obama.)

 

 

  post bo marriage gap.jpg 

 

Further, Obama's marriage gap, even across gender, is consistent with past elections.  WVWV's own materials show a similar pattern in the 2004 presidential race and 2006 midterm elections.  The table below averages the marriage gap from the Gallup poll and compares it to past exit polls. 

 

marriage gap/men

marriage gap/wmn

2004 exit polls

14

18

2006 exit polls

15

18

2008 gallup (average)

16

14

 

So the marriage gap is not a female-specific phenomenon.  Further, Obama's marriage gap is consistent with what we've seen in the past.

 

The Gender Gap

 

Gallup's weekly tracking also allows us to monitor the overall gender gap.  Since June, Obama's gender gap has widened slightly. 

 

 

post bo gender gap.jpg 

 

But either at its low end or high end, Obama's gender gap falls in the range established in recent elections.  The chart below shows the gender gap from every presidential race since 1980, plus the 2006 midterm elections (using national exit polls). 

 

  post gender gap old.jpg 

 

 We obviously still have a ways to go until November.  But what strikes me about Obama's marriage gap, the gender gap, and this post on Obama's performance with white women, is how similar they all are to previous elections.  Despite this election being historic, a pure open seat, and during both wartime and economic crisis, Obama's performance in many ways resembles the typical, contested elections of recent years.

 


Omero: The Right Words for Your Numbers

Topics: 2008 , Margie Omero , Pollster.com , Rasmussen

[Margie Omero is President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

Wednesday, Politico told the story of a single poll number getting mistakenly pushed around through blogs and talking points. Republican talkers from Rep. Putnam to Matt Drudge to Freedom Watch announced a "single-digit" congressional approval rating. Their proof was a Rasmussen poll that asked respondents to rate Congress using 4-point job scale: excellent, good, fair, or poor. Typically, one would call this a "job rating" and combine excellent/good to be "positive" and the fair/poor to be "negative." In this particular poll, Congress did receive a nine (9%) positive rating.

What Congress did not receive in that poll was a single-digit "approval rating." That is a different type of standard question altogether. An approval question usually reads "do you approve or disapprove of the job Congress [or whomever else] is doing?" While some use a 4-way approval rating, collapsed into two categories, most have only two categories (besides an "unsure" option). And all use the word "approval" as opposed to an entirely different set of words. Even the most cursory scan of public results demonstrates that a collapsed 4-point job rating scale will typically yield a smaller positive rating than will an either a 4-way collapsed or 2-way approval question.

It's not that one type of question is better than the other. But the shorthands that have emerged for particular questions mean something to pollsters and poll-watchers. To avoid confusion, it's best to just make sure you're comparing apples to apples, and using the clearest terms available.

Just as some reminders, here are some common other wording specifics to be on the lookout for when comparing across polls. (If you haven't already, also check out the pollster.com FAQ.)

Party ID vs. party registration: Definitely not the same thing. Identification is self-reported, and subject to national trends, local press, and respondent whims. Party registration requires some interaction with the state, and varies massively from state-to-state. In many states, voter declares party affiliation when registering to vote. In some states, like Ohio, "registration" refers to which party's primary ballot was recently pulled, rather than requiring a voter to declare their party in advance. Other states, like Missouri, have no party registration at all. In national polls, "party" means identification. But in state or Congressional district polls, the pollster should specify.

The "Re-elect:" Many pollsters ask a "re-elect" question about an incumbent, which includes only the incumbent and no challenger names. An example, "Would you vote to re-elect Mystery Pollster, would you consider someone else, or would you vote to replace Mystery Pollster?" The question wording varies (such as the SC public poll here), and some pollsters use a 2-way question (re-elect or not). Many just look at the response for re-elect and ignore the rest. But the "replace" can also be a useful figure, as we note in our own poll for Congressional candidate Victoria Wulsin (OH-2), which shows the Republican incumbent's "replace" as high as her re-elect.

Leaners: Typically respondents initially undecided in a vote are asked a follow-up, something like, "Well, if the election were held today and you had to decide, toward which candidate do you lean?" Net support for each candidate would then include leaners. But it doesn't have to. Leaners can be included in the undecided. A good polling memo or story should simply specify.

Public disclosure of calling methodology and weighting schemes are of course important, particularly with the closely followed national media polls. But that information is not always available, or easy for the average poll reader to decipher. In many cases, paying attention to wording differences, and asking pollsters for their question language can minimize reporting gaffes.


Infidelity & Tolerance

Topics: ABC , CNN , Gallup , NBC News , USAToday Gallup , Zogby

A common pattern in polling is to see greater tolerance for issues in one's personal sphere than outside it. Voters like their own Member of Congress more than they like "Congress." Voters are more open to public spending helping their own community than to help others'. Call it, perhaps, a reverse NIMBY phenomenon. Interestingly, we see the same pattern when it comes to infidelity and sex scandals; Americans seem more tolerant personally than they are of elected officials.

At some level I'm hesitant to discuss this topic. Does it feed into our baser instincts? Are sex scandals even relevant? However you answer those questions, though, the fact remains that sex scandals are very relevant in the campaigns in which they occur, and show no sign of abating. We might as well try to understand voters' views.

Initially, Americans attitudes toward infidelity are quite dramatic. According to Gallup, nearly all Americans (91%) feel "married men and women having an affair" is morally wrong. This makes it less acceptable than cloning humans (86% morally wrong), and as unacceptable as polygamy (90%).

But ultimately, Americans turn out to be more forgiving. For one, according to ABC News, more report their own infidelity (16%) than I'm assuming would admit to human cloning or polygamy. Further, according to USA Today/Gallup reports of "knowing anyone" who has been unfaithful are much higher (54%).

Perceived pervasiveness could lead to potential forgiveness. Over a third (33%) say they would "probably" or "definitely" forgive their spouse's infidelity. A similar number (36%) suspect that if they were married to a philandering political spouse, they would "stand beside" the spouse during a press conference announcing the infidelity. In fact, far from a consistent pattern, only 55% of married adults say they would leave their spouse if they found out about an affair.

Politicians implicated in recent sex scandals, however, are generally not let off the hook so easily:

  • A Marist Poll pre-resignation (so, admittedly, an overnight poll) showed 70% of New York voters wanted to see Eliot Spitzer resign.
  • In September 2007, a CNN/Opinion Research poll also showed majority of Americans (52%) felt Dennis Hastert should have resigned because of his handling of the Mark Foley incident.
  • In a NBC News/Zogby poll, More than eight in ten (84%) were dissatisfied with Gary Condit's explanations about his relationship with Chandra Levy, and 81% said they wouldn't re-elect him if he was their Congressman.

Only former Governor Jim McGreevey fared a bit better than his ignominious peers. Just half (48%) of New Jersey voters said it was necessary for him to resign, compared to 42% who wanted him to stay.

Admittedly, most of these scandals, to varying degrees, involved a bit more than adultery. And the hypocrisy of private behavior differing from public stances also affects voters' attitudes. But we still seem to see reverse NIMBY writ large; people tend to be more judgmental of others than of themselves. Politicians should beware what might be one of the oldest political biases.


Obama v. McCain (and v. Clinton): Beneath the Surface

Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , CNN , Hillary Clinton , John McCain , National Journal , SurveyUSA , USAToday Gallup

Much like the Dow is but one measure of the nation's economy, Presidential horserace numbers are just one measurement of how a race is evolving. And like the Dow's prominent appearance in newscasts and newspapers, horserace numbers are usually the only Presidential polling numbers to appear regularly in political coverage.

But this far out from Election Day, horserace numbers are, ultimately, close to meaningless, especially without an incumbent. We look at many other indicators of campaign health, frequently referred to in pollster parlance as "beneath the surface." Two recent public polls from USA Today/Gallup and from CNN/Opinion Research (before Obama's race speech) show that despite the coverage of Obama's slippage in the general election matchup, he remains stronger than McCain on most dimensions. In many ways, Obama is also stronger than Clinton.

The polls cited here are quite similar, their dates are identical, and both the structure of the survey instructions and the individual rating items are quite similar (full results for the CNN poll appear in National Journal's 3/18/08 Hotline, available by subscription). Respondents hear a series of descriptions three times-once for each candidate-and report whether they feel each item describes each candidate. I like this methodology because respondents are not forced to evaluate multiple candidates in a single question. (The last three columns show the differences between the candidates; "BO-JM" is Obama's advantage over McCain, for example. The tables are also ranked by Obama's advantage over McCain.)

mo032008.png

On Most Dimensions, Obama is Stronger Than McCain

Obama is most likely to best McCain on measures of empathy, such as "cares about people like you," or understands problems Americans face in their daily lives." He also does very well on being "someone you would be proud to have as President." McCain's weakest dimension is "generally agrees with you on the issues" and both Obama and Clinton have a clear advantage over McCain here.

Obama does less well on items related to experience, such as "is a strong and decisive leader" and "has the right experience to be President." However, despite these disadvantages, more items from both surveys are seen as describing Obama than McCain.

Obama Is Also Stronger Than Clinton

In both surveys, Obama is described by more traits than is Clinton. Once again, his strengths are on empathy, but he also exceeds Clinton on "would work with both parties to get things done." Obama trails Clinton on experience and decisiveness, as he trailed McCain, but it's important to note that Clinton also trails McCain on these measures (although by not nearly as much).

McCain is strongest on "honest and trustworthy," and Obama is close to even with him on that measure. But it is Clinton's weakest dimension on the USA Today/Gallup poll (it wasn't asked in the CNN/OR poll). In fact, Gallup has tracking that shows Clinton to be the weakest she's ever been on this measure since 1994.

The Obama campaign has had a difficult few weeks (pre-speech); no doubt the fluctuation in the horserace reflects those events and missteps. But beneath the surface, a more complex picture of Obama's strength emerges. Just as economic indicators (like home foreclosures) can reveal more about the economy than the Dow, horserace numbers are necessary, but not sufficient, to understand the Presidential race.


White Men With Obama Since The Beginning

Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , Exit Polls , Hillary Clinton

Much was made this week of Obama's performance among white men in Virginia. Indeed, his support with white men was seen as both the key to Obama's Potomac Primary victories, as well as a sign of broadening support to include those formerly in Clinton's base. Others are skeptical, even worrying that while male superdelegates might tip the scale toward Clinton.

In fact, Virginia was neither the first state (nor even first Southern state) where Obama bested Clinton among white men. Nor was it the state where he won this group by the largest margin. Obama has been doing well with this group since the beginning of primary season.

Below is a table of the Clinton/Obama vote among white men, from exit poll data from every contest thus far. The table is ranked in descending order, with the state showing the largest Obama margin at the top.

mo215.png

Compared to Virginia, Obama did even better with white men in Utah, New Mexico, and California (setting his home state of Illinois aside). This pattern is also not a function of election type or overall outcome. Obama led with white men in states with primaries and states with caucuses, and in states that he won and states that Clinton won.

Further, the country doesn't exactly fall into an obvious North/South divide. While Obama tends to do less well with white men in the South, he still led with the group in Georgia (in addition to Virginia), and trailed with the group in New Jersey and Missouri.

Finally, it's also worth reminding ourselves about the contest that started it all - the Iowa caucuses. Among white men in Iowa, Obama garnered a 10-point lead over Clinton, and an 8-point lead over Edwards.

** (Thanks to Joe Lenski for correcting the original graph by sending the official numbers from Iowa.)


Two Ways of Looking At Hirshman's 16 Ways

Topics: 2008 , Hillary Clinton , John Edwards , The 2008 Race

It's worth checking out Linda Hirshman's piece in the NYT Magazine this weekend, in which she makes 16 different observations about women voters. Hirshman (best known for her "Get To Work" manifesto) makes many strong points here-such as the overemphasizing of voter gender in press coverage of the Democratic primary, and the underemphasizing of socioeconomic and other demographic differences. Indeed, these are topics I've also covered here and here. Her takes on gender differences in news consumption and political knowledge, while beyond the scope of pollster.com, are also worth reading.

But two of the 16 "ways" also relate to some of our work here, and so merit a little further discussion.

Clinton's presence is driving women's turnout?

First, "Way 11" says "Sisterhood is Power," by showing that women's participation in the Democratic primaries has increased since 2004. Last week I wrote that women's participation has been mixed when compared to 2000, but we did not look at 2004, since with an incumbent in office it was a less comparable election. Below is a table that includes the 2004 exit polls to which Hirshman refers.

1mo24.png

Indeed, she is right-women's participation has increased since 2004. But since the 2000 percentages were as high or higher, that makes me think it is perhaps not Clinton's presence on the ballot alone that is increasing women's participation. Of course, there are other factors at work. There is record turnout this year in the Democratic primaries. Perhaps new surges of all kinds of voters (younger, African-Americans, women) render the percentage exercise not particularly useful for the Democratic primaries. At any rate, I'll include the 2004 numbers in all future discussions of this topic.

How do we measure the influence of unmarried women?

Second, "Way 15" says "The Political is Personal," and in passing uses a quote suggesting that a swing in the vote among unmarried women from Iowa to New Hampshire shows how influential this group could be. While I'm not arguing that unmarried women are not or could not be influential as a voting bloc, I don't think that particular finding is sufficient evidence. It would leave us in an awkward position of declaring unmarried women unimportant if their vote was consistent, or comparable to married women's vote. The table below shows exit poll results among married and unmarried women for each of the states for which data are available (Edwards is included since they are also states where he did well).

2mo24.png

It seems like Iowa was an anomaly. It is the only state where the two groups of women disagreed on the winner. In every other state, Clinton's margin over Obama (or Obama's over Clinton) is not that different across that marital status/gender grouping. Given what we know about younger voters trending toward Obama, I would imagine that older, divorced women vote differently than younger, never married women. Since they are all "unmarried women" it's harder to identify exactly what is happening. If we want to argue the importance of unmarried women's contribution, it should be based on general election predictions or turnout numbers, not the primary vote (or else separate the unmarrieds by age).

But these are both fairly minor points. To me, the more ways people are looking at the women's vote, the better.


Missing: Republican Women Primary Voters

Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton , The 2008 Race

Although it hasn't stopped folks from trying, it's a little too early to tell how people will vote in the November general election. But primary turnout so far suggests that the gender gap is poised to increase.

The gender gap, which is the difference across gender in the vote for the winner, has existed in every presidential race since 1980. It was a high of 11 points in 1996, and a low of 4 points in 1992 (when Ross Perot was a viable 3rd party candidate). A good one-pager on the gender gap is here.

So far, in every single primary, women made up a much higher percentage of Democratic primary voters than Republican primary voters. As the table below shows, in South Carolina, 61% of Democratic primary voters were women. In the early Democratic contests, women were 57%.

mo0130.png

By comparison, only in South Carolina (where apparently women love to vote!) did women make up about half of the Republican primary electorate. In most contests, women were clearly a smaller part of their process.

Further, I don't think this simply reflects Clinton encouraging new women voters (although that may be happening). For example, Florida, which is a closed primary state, showed one of the biggest dropoffs on the Republican side. Also, South Carolina, a state that Obama won decisively, had the highest female turnout of all the Democratic contests.

What should really concern Republicans is that in nearly every contest, the percentage of women participating in the primary dropped from 2000, the last time no incumbent was running. We don't have as many 2000 figures for the Democratic contests, but a trend seems to be emerging on the Republican side. Women are becoming even less likely to vote in Republican primary contests.

Does this mean that women will be even more likely to vote Democratic this November? Perhaps too early to say, but certainly turning out in a Democratic primary, or sitting out the Republican contest, are good first steps. We'll keep track of this metric, and report back if things change.


The Gender Gap Vanishing Act

Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton , Pew Research Center , The 2008 Race

The recent Pew poll of Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters nationwide finally provides us with some crosstabs of the Democratic presidential primary of gender by other demographic variables. We can now observe what I hypothesized last week from exit polls-the gender gap in the Clinton vs. Obama race can be substantially explained by other demographic variables. Age, socioeconomic status, and ideology may be driving the Democratic primary more than gender.

Overall, the Pew study shows that among Democrats, Clinton has a larger lead over Obama with women (+21) than she does with men (+5). The gender gap, defined as the gender difference in support for the winning candidate, is 8 points. The demographic breakouts are in the table below. (Pew surveyed 1515 adults, including 621 Democrats. We have no additional subgroup size information, nor have we performed significance testing.)

mo0117.png

The gender gap almost disappears with older voters. Clinton has nearly the same large lead with older women (+26) as with older men (+21). However, among younger voters, she leads with women (+17) but trails with men (-9).

Socioeconomic status is a larger cleavage. The race is exactly the same with women in households earning over $50,000 as with their male cohorts (41% Clinton, 36% Obama). Clinton trails with college educated voters, regardless of gender (women: -3; men: -11).

But the most dramatic gender difference is along ideological fault lines. Obama leads with liberal women (+5 Obama), but trails with liberal men (+15 Clinton). Clinton has a strong lead with non-liberal women (+37 Clinton), but ties with non-liberal men.

These data suggest a few possibilities. First, ideology, socioeconomic status, and age are likely all more important drivers of the vote than gender. Second, there appears to be an interaction with ideology and gender. Of all the demographic groups of women examined, Obama does best with liberal women, and worst with non-liberal women.

This is not to say that the issue of Clinton's gender isn't important. But its importance is external; voters say others may respond differently to Clinton's gender. The same Pew study also shows more Democrats say Clinton's gender will hurt her if she is the nominee (34%) than say Obama's race will hurt him (29%). Similarly, more Democrats say Obama's race has not been a factor so far (57%) than say the same about Clinton's gender (38%).

I have been arguing this point here for a while. While the press continues to assume voters view Clinton through the lens of their own gender, perhaps it is the press's own lens that is clouded. At a minimum, we should recognize that gender patterns in the Democratic primary are more nuanced than the simplistic "Women Support Hillary" frame.


Women Non-Working For Hillary

Topics: General , Hillary Clinton

[Margie Omero is President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

The big news this week is that women, who voted for Obama in Iowa, put Hillary Clinton over the edge in New Hampshire. But rather than treat women as a monolithic group, it's worth examining the exit polls closely to look at the role of work status, parental status, and marital status in the New Hampshire vote. Despite the increasing focus on women's marital status, in addition to the usual focus on parental status (such as the "security moms" and "soccer moms" of yore), it is actually women not working full-time who are most likely to vote for Clinton.

Exit polls from the Democratic primary helpfully include breakouts by marital status by gender, by parental status by gender, as well as breakouts among married women with children, and women who work full-time. I extrapolated the rest (identified with an asterisk), and include it all in the table below.

(Note: The exit polls defines "parents" as the presence of children under 18 in one's home, and unmarried is not broken out further. And probably because of different versions of the exit poll questionnaire, Obama receives 32% of the vote from both married and unmarried women, but receives 34% from women overall.)

mo0110.png

A few patterns emerge:

  • There is no real difference in Obama's edge between men with kids at home and men without kids at home.
  • But among men, there is a sizable difference by marital status. Obama has a much larger lead with unmarried men than with married men.**
  • Among women, kids at home makes more of a difference than marital status. Those without kids at home are more likely to support Clinton than those with kids at home, across marital status groups. Unmarried women without kids at home are most likely to support Clinton, while married women with kids at home are least so.
  • All groups of women we can examine with the exit polls give Clinton an edge.

But the most salient difference by gender is among women not working full-time. Clinton receives a strong 25-point lead with this group, compared to her 3-point lead among those who do work full-time. And while this could be partly due to older retired women being in the non-working group, it's likely socioeconomic status plays a large role, too.

In fact, aside from voters without a high school diploma, no other demographic group gave Clinton such a large margin. (I'm not counting "favorable toward Clinton" or prioritizing "right experience" as demographic groups.) Clinton also had a stronger lead with voters earning under $50,000 a year, with those who feel the country's economy is poor, and with those who say the economy is the most important issue. The table below shows her standing with voters at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

mo01102.png

Because without a dataset-or even crosstabs-we can't discern causation from the exit polls, it's worth considering the different options. Much has been made about the role of gender in the New Hampshire primary. Everything from the "diner sob" to aggrieved women fed up with sexism to Gloria Steinem's NYT op-ed piece has been credited. But perhaps causality went the other direction. Maybe a long-standing Clinton infrastructure in New Hampshire grounded her base with lower socioeconomic folks, who happen to be more likely to be women. She has done well with this group for some time, and did best (+17 over Obama) with voters who decided earlier than a month ago.

Why is it because women gave Clinton the edge, we assume it's because they had an emotional reaction to Clinton (and her gender) personally? Clinton did better with those who said the "candidate's position on issues" was most important (39% Clinton, 34% Obama) than with those who said the "candidate's leadership/personal qualities" were most important (37% Clinton, 45% Obama). It might be that Clinton's female support may have been actually considering issues like the economy, rather than listening to their emotions.

** typo corrected.


Iowa: Romney's Women Trouble and More

Topics: Iowa

[Margie Omero is President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

Gender played a huge role in the Iowa caucuses yesterday...on the Republican side. Mike Huckabee's sizable lead over Mitt Romney came largely from women. According to exit polls from both the Democratic and Republican caucuses, 40% of women voted for Huckabee and 24% for Romney. Among men, Huckabee and Romney are nearly tied (29% and 26%, respectively). The full breakdown is below, with the difference between the candidates' share across gender in the right-most column (results from the exit poll may differ from final delegate totals):

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In the Democratic caucus, the pattern is far less dramatic. Yes, Clinton does fare better with women than she does with men. This is likely because of turnout efforts by EMILY's List and the Clinton campaign to bring more women to caucus for the first time. She fared much better than Edwards among first-time caucus goers, although not as well as Obama, who also fought to increase new turnout (among first-timers: 41% Obama, 29% Clinton, 18% Edwards). Ultimately, Obama bested Clinton across gender. Below is the full breakdown from the Democratic caucus:

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One pattern emerges in both parties' caucuses: men are more likely to vote for second-tier candidates than are women. In the Democratic caucus, 19% of men and 13% of women voted for someone other than Obama, Edwards and Clinton. In the Republican caucus, 55% of men and 64% of women voted for Huckabee or Romney. Even when we control for this pattern, there is still a larger gender gap on the Republican side than on the Democratic side, as in the table below:

3mo0104.png

These results suggest that on the Democratic side, voters are more complicated than pundits predicted. They've been quick to assume that women will automatically vote for Clinton, and men will automatically vote against her. On the Republican side, the gender gap could reflect other differences between Romney's and Huckabee's base of support-religiosity, dissatisfaction with Bush, and socio-economic status are all viable hypotheses. But Iowa also confirms that women have the ability to decide an election, even if both candidates turn out to be men.


Men Won't "Stand by Hillary?"

Topics: General , Hillary Clinton

[Margie Omero is President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

A Washington Post story on Thursday declared men unwilling to support Hillary Clinton. But much like stories in Slate's compendium of easily-debunked trend pieces across topics, this story uses thin analysis and anecdotal quotes to support its claim. Selected quotes from male voters and opponents' pollsters and a quick wave over some polling data not only leave the question "Will Enough Men Stand By This Woman?" unanswered, I'm left asking, "Why was this question asked?" (Disclosure: I do not currently work for any of the Presidential candidates. Call me!)

Yes, in the Democratic primaries, Clinton does better with women than with men. But does this mean that men don't like her because of her gender? Or could it be that women like her more because of her gender or are moved by her potential First Woman President status? A recent ABC-News/Washington Post poll of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters shows women are twice as likely as men to say Clinton's historic run makes them more likely to vote for her.

Alternatively, Clinton could fare worse among men for an entirely different reason, related more to partisanship than gender. The article alludes to Clinton's popularity among men in the general election, and quotes an independent man going to hear Mitt Romney speak. Given the gender gap in partisan identification (Clinton aside), it is important to compare genders within each party. Naturally Republican-leaning men are going to like Clinton less than do Democratic-leaning women, meaning sexism or a "pushy" personality aren't automatically to blame, as the article implies.

The story also claims that men dislike Clinton because "half of men say she's not willing to say what she really thinks. Large majorities say that Obama and John Edwards are." It's true that in both Iowa and New Hampshire, clear majorities of Democratic Primary voters feel Obama and Edwards are "willing enough to say what they really think about the issues" (78% and 76% for Obama in New Hampshire and Iowa, 71% and 73% for Edwards). Clinton's numbers on this measure are indeed weaker (55% and 50% in New Hampshire and Iowa). Now, we haven't been able to track down the results to this question by gender. But given how much lower her overall numbers are on this question relative to her opponents, it seems to me that Clinton doesn't have a "male problem" as much as a "not seen as saying what she thinks" problem. Whether this is a problem that will translate into votes will be revealed in the next few weeks.


Why Women (Are Assumed to) "Fail to Vote"

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

[Today's Guest Pollster's column comes from Margie Omero, President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

Women's turnout may prove crucial to victory in the upcoming Democratic primaries and caucuses. All the leading campaigns have strong female surrogates, be it Oprah, Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Edwards, or Hillary Clinton's mother, daughter, and of course, there's Hillary herself. Every candidate has a "women for __" committee, and Clinton even has a "Moms for Hillary" group. It makes sense for the campaigns to focus on the issues of interest to women voters. But do women voters require woman-specific tactics to encourage them to actually vote? EMILY's List, the pro-choice women's organization that is the largest PAC in the country, is encouraging women to caucus for Clinton through "You Go Girl," and while aimed at women specifically, it relies on the basics of GOTV: encouraging people to bring someone with them, and explaining the perhaps unfamiliar process of caucusing in Iowa. EMILY's List seems to know something the press has not yet figured out: there are not obstacles to voting that are unique to women.

In previous posts, I used Census data to establish that women are in fact voting more frequently than men, across age and education lines, and also among non-married adults, despite the "Single Anxious Female" moniker. Women have been voting at a higher rate than men in every presidential election since 1980, and in every midterm election since 1986.

But for years, there has been a lopsided amount of coverage about why women, in particular, aren't voting. Some stories cite studies of women only, but make conclusions about women-specific motivations for voting. Some use no data at all. Without comparing both genders' voting behavior, these conclusions are poorly drawn, and reflect biases of their own. Below are three common myths about women's turnout, followed by the facts that bust them.

Myth #1: Women find voting confusing

This story asked why "millions of women still fail to cast ballots." Many women-specific reasons are tossed about-nursing home abuse of "frail women," difficulty changing one's name after marriage, and the worry of domestic violence victims to have their address publicly available. While these are all unfortunate obstacles, they surely can't account for the 36% of adults who did not vote in the last presidential election. And what about that bothersome detail-that women are actually voting at a higher rate than men?

This often-cited finding from a 2006 study of unmarried adults concluded that "Many women on their own find elections complicated." Yet the toplines showed men and women similarly unconfused about the registration and voting process.

Even as far back as 1997, Knight-Ridder ran a story called "Many women don't vote because they lack the time, the information, and the belief elections are relevant to them" (link not available). That story concluded "many women have trouble with even the most basic steps in political participation," citing a poll conducted by pollsters Linda DiVall (R) and Celinda Lake (D). The poll, however, just surveyed women, making it impossible to know whether it is women alone who have trouble with these "basic steps," or non-voters as a whole.

Myth #2: Women find politics confusing

Others claim it is politics that confuses women, not just the voting process, and this confusion leads women to sit out elections. In 2004, an organization called Women Against Bush garnered national press through a "cocktail campaign" and yoga parties to organize the non-voting single woman, who allegedly believe "they have to be an expert to offer an opinion-something that has never stopped men"

Even studies that do show some women to find politics confusing still don't confirm this translates into a difference in turnout. The same 2006 study of unmarried adults noted above showed unmarried women more likely than unmarried men to agree that "Sometimes politics and elections seem so complicated I cannot really understand what's going on" (70% of unmarried women; 59% of unmarried men). However, the women in this survey were also far more likely to report having voted in 2004 (82% women, 76% men), in 2002 (66% women, 59% men), and said they were certain to vote in 2006 (53% women, 45% men).

Myth #3: Politics is a turn-off for women

Another assumption made about women and politics is that they find it too distasteful to participate, or feel so alienated from it that they simply can't relate. In 2004, the daughters of both the Republican and Democratic candidates for President and Vice President came together for a discussion called "The Missing Vote" to lament young women's lack of participation (never mind that they vote at a higher rate than younger men). One of the daughters hypothesized about the missing vote, "I think that women feel less secure in their economic status."

Another story pointed to a few anecdotal quotes in this Los Angeles Times story to show that "scores" (doesn't a score = twenty?) of women "are so turned off by politics that they are failing to vote." And this study concluded that unmarried women to have "a deep-seated level of cynicism towards the government and political system."

Fact #1: There Are Few Gender Differences In Reasons For Not Registering Or Voting

Thankfully, the Census can help clear these myths up. It turns out that there are hardly any differences across gender in apathy or disinterest in voting. The table below shows reasons for not registering and for not voting (among those who are registered), broken out by gender.

reasonsfornotregistering.png

For starters, there are not many large gender differences in any of the reasons for not registering or voting, aside from women being more likely to report illness or disability, and men more likely be too busy or out of town. But the most common reason for not registering, "not interested in the election or not involved in politics," is just as common among men (46.7%) as among women (46.5%). When it comes to political excuses (highlighted in yellow), such as lack of interest, and feeling one's vote would not make a difference, there are actually no sizable gender differences. The slight (1.4) difference between men and women reporting that they did not know how to register to vote surely does not justify over a decade of hand-wringing about women not knowing "the basic steps" of participation.

Fact #2: Women Are More Positive Than Men About Politics And Government

The research is also fairly consistent in showing women to feel less negative about their government than men. Pew has shown women just as likely as men to show interest in following local politics. And in 1999, Pew also showed women more likely than men to say "voting gives me a say in how my government is run," and "most elected officials care what I think."

Even some of the same studies that perpetuate these myths about women's (particularly unmarried women's) turnout also confirm Fact #2. This study showed unmarried women more likely than their male counterparts to be proud to be an American, and slightly more optimistic about whether the government represents them. Similarly, this study showed unmarried men somewhat more likely to say their vote didn't matter.

So before we declare women unable or uninterested in voting, we should look at the facts. It's not that there aren't women who find voting or politics confusing or off-putting; but the evidence that women feel this way more than men is inconsistent, at best. It's unclear to me why it helps women to suggest they are uniquely challenged by voting. Crying wolf cycle after cycle has made the press very quick to write the "women don't like politics" story, as pointed out here. Candidates (at least on the Democratic side) are putting a lot of thought into how to talk to women voters. Pollsters, pundits, and journalists should put as much thought into talking about women voters.


The Gender Gap In Turnout Likely To Widen

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

[Today's Guest Pollster's column comes from Margie Omero, President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

I posted last week about the "Single Anxious Female" moniker, and how coverage of this demographic group largely trivializes women. In fact, not only are women across marital status groups voting at a higher rate than men, this gender gap in turnout has existed for years, and is poised to widen further.

Census data here and here [2006 data found with this program] show that women have been turning out at higher rates than men in every Presidential election since 1980, and in every mid-term election since 1986. Not just raw numbers (there are more women than men, so even a lower turnout rate among women could still mean more women voters), but the percentage of adults who report voting. The graph below shows the difference between women and men's turnout rates (abbreviated as "women - men"). Note that the gap is more dramatic in Presidential years.

1turnoutrate.png

This pattern is not surprising. Not only have women been making societal gains in political influence, but women's educational attainment also increased dramatically during the same period. Again using census data, in the last mid-term election, for the first time more women than men had some college education (among adults 25 and older). This bodes well for a continued increase in women's turnout.

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And despite the attention on young and/or single women not voting, it is younger women who comprise this gender gap in turnout. The table below shows 2004 turnout by age and gender. It is only among the oldest voters that men vote at a higher rate than women.

3percentofmen.png

Naturally age and education are related. Younger women are more likely to have some college education than their male counterparts; the reverse is true among older men and women. But even within each education level (with one small exception), younger women are voting at a higher rate than younger men.

4womenmen.png

Looking at these numbers, I see a positive story not being told. The data suggest women's turnout will continue to increase, particularly in a Presidential year. And the gender gap in turnout is particularly large among younger voters, regardless of their level of education. But while women are becoming increasingly influential in elections, they are being told by the media their voting behavior is just another thing that requires improving. Surely there is a way to mobilize women and make their issues heard without hyperbole and finger-pointing. In a future post, I'll look at some of the assumptions made about why women aren't voting, and what the data really show.


Anxious about "Single Anxious Women"

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

[Today's Guest Pollster's column comes from Margie Omero, President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

It's almost official. Single women are poised to be the "Security Mom" or "Soccer Mom" of the 2008 election. They even have their own easy to remember moniker: the "Single Anxious Female." At first blush, it seems like a good thing for women. A woman top-tier candidate, a focus on women's issues and women's voters - it must be a good thing, right?

Actually, much of what you read about single women and voting is not borne out by the data. There is indeed a "Marriage Gap" among women. Married people vote at a higher rate than non-married people. But the marriage gap is actually larger among men. According to Census reports from the 2004 election, married men are as likely to vote (63% turnout) as married women (65%). But unmarried men (which includes single, divorced, separated, and widowed) are substantially less likely to vote (46%) than unmarried women (55%). The marriage gap is 10 points among women, and is nearly twice that (18 points) among men.

If you look specifically at single, never-married adults, this pattern holds. A majority of single women voted in 2004 (52%), compared to fewer single men (43%). This is even true with 18 to 24 year-olds (47% of single women in that group vote, compared to 40% of single men). The table below shows the turnout rate by gender and marital status. [Note: at the time of this post, the Census table contained an error, in that Row 88 (widowed men 18-24) should be blank, and all data currently in Rows 88-91 should be moved down one row. The error was corrected by email from the Census, but has not yet been updated on the site.]

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You would never know about women's higher turnout by examining the press coverage. A CNN piece this month called single women, particularly younger single women, "notoriously difficult to get to the polling booth." An entire organization is devoted to closing the marriage gap among women . And women's advocates hypothesize about why single women don't turn out, making their own gender-based assumptions about women not recognizing their power.

More disturbingly, however, is what this focus on single women has wrought. Dubbed "Single Anxious Female," that cringe-inducing name has stuck, and has generated a sizable amount of press devoted to the caricature of the single woman. This group has become defined not by political views, but by their lack of gravitas. Several have called them the "Sex in the City voter". Feminist icon Naomi Wolf says they are more like Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl," as compared to Hillary's Sigourney Weaver. The CNN piece said this group is "more interested in showing off than in true political activism" and cited others who called single women "slutty" or "stupid." Advocacy has begotten dismissiveness.

Now, encouraging non-voters to vote is obviously important, and the point here is not to object to women-specific voting programs. And certainly campaigns should continue to reach out to women. But we need to change tactics. First, let's use the data correctly. Women vote at a higher rate than men. Unmarried women, however defined, vote at a higher rate than unmarried men. And this pattern holds across age groups. Second, it does not further the cause to allow women to be called anxious, show-offs, bubbly, stupid, or confused. These characterizations only perpetuate stereotypes about women, rather than work to improve our status.


 

MAP - US, AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY, PR