Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Questionable Polls Dot Political Surface

There seems to be a spate of recently released flawed surveys gaining media attention. Three methodologically deficient polls involve the Republican race for president, while another covers the Virginia US Senate campaign. All should be looked at with a skeptical eye.

Last week we covered the Wall Street Journal/NBC national poll that showed real estate magnate Donald Trump tied for second place with Mike Huckabee and only one point behind leader Mitt Romney. But this study is seriously inadequate. The survey sample included 1,000 adults without even screening for registered voters, and the self-identified number of Republicans answering the presidential preference question totaled only 238. This number is seriously below a proper national sample cell size, which should exceed 1,000 respondents.

Yesterday, CNN/Opinion Research released a new survey that places Trump and Huckabee tied for the lead with 19 percent apiece, followed by Sarah Palin at 12 percent, and Newt Gingrich and Romney closely trailing with an 11 percent tally. Though the sample size is 864 likely voters, the number of self-identified Republicans responding to the presidential ballot test that produced the aforementioned results was only 385 people. The methodology of this poll is better than the WSJ/NBC effort but is still not in the range of reliability for a national survey of likely Republican primary voters.

Also last week, Fox News released their national poll of 914 registered voters yielding similar results, though Trump and Gingrich did not show nearly as well. According to Fox, in data produced jointly by the Democratic firm of Anderson/Robbins Research and the Republicans’ Shaw & Company Research, Huckabee (15 percent) and Romney (14 percent) are virtually tied, with Palin following at 12 percent and Trump scoring 11 percent. Gingrich falls all the way to 7 percent. But here, too, the number of self-identified Republicans actually answering the questions is only 344.

The fact that all polling shows the race to be close with no clear leader and is verified by both methodologically sound and unsound studies does provide sufficient support for the supposition that the race is already extremely close, and that no candidate has a particular advantage. But, even if these conclusions prove to be spot-on, they are of little consequence. National polls for a political campaign decided by individual state contests are not very useful. The data helps to paint a simple story for the media to tell, but the findings are largely irrelevant in relation to the actual presidential horse race.

Roanoke College just released another questionable poll, but this one pertains to the Virginia Senate race. It shows former senator and governor George Allen (R) jumping out to a large lead over ex-Democratic National Committee chair and governor Tim Kaine (47-32 percent). This poll conflicts with every other piece of data showing the race to be in toss-up range. The results are even more curious when considering that Kaine just officially announced his candidacy, which normally provides a polling bump, not a decline.

The flaw in this poll concerns not so much the sample size (though 437 registered voters is low for a state the size of Virginia), but rather the length of the interview period, not screening for registered voters, and excluding respondents using cell phones.

The questions were asked from March 17-30, a 14-day period, when three days is usually considered the norm. Using only residents of Virginia who maintain land lines and not asking if they are registered voters badly under-represents the actual universe of people who will be casting votes in November of 2012.

Considering the aforementioned factors, the Roanoke College poll provides conclusions about the upcoming Senate campaign that are highly questionable and should not be considered as reliable information.
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Sen. Ed Case Will Run in Hawaii – Again

Every state has omnipresent candidates, and former Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) certainly meets that description in Hawaii. Becoming an official contender for the 13th time this past weekend (record: 7 wins and 5 losses), Mr. Case is the first entrant in the 2012 race to replace the retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D).

After losing two campaigns for state legislature in the 80’s, he came back to win four times in the 90s. He lost a primary for lieutenant governor in 2002, but won a series of special congressional elections later that year to succeed Rep. Pasty Mink (D-HI-2) after she died just before voting began. Case was re-elected to the House in the 2004 regular election.

Two years later, things began to unravel. The ambitious Case made the dubious decision to challenge Sen. Akaka in the Democratic primary, which ended in his very predictable defeat. He next tried to win the 2010 1st district special congressional election when Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) resigned to run for governor. Case placed third in that election and indirectly helped Republican Charles Djou win the seat by splitting the Democratic vote. (Djou held the seat for six months before losing to Colleen Hanabusa in the November general election.) Thus, he again ignited animosity within the Hawaii Democratic Party just as he had by challenging Akaka.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOGXqm8uX8U&feature=related]

Now with a series of burnt political bridges remaining in his wake, Ed Case is again a candidate, announcing via video for the open Senate seat. Ironically, had he not gone after Akaka in the primary, a sitting representative Case would probably begin this political battle as the leading candidate. Now, he has the potential of falling all the way to “also-ran” status. A very crowded and highly competitive Democratic primary is expected here, as the Akaka retirement creates the first open Hawaii Senate seat in 36 years. Being the first to announce his candidacy, Case has fired the starting pistol.
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Florida Looking Shaky for Obama

Quinnipiac University just completed one of their large-sample polls for Florida (March 29 – April 4; 1,499 registered Florida voters) and it shows that even an unnamed Republican candidate could beat the president here if the election were today. As we know, since the turn of the 21st century, Florida has become the quintessential swing state. Candidates from either party can win and the elections are always close.

Though the 2008 national presidential election result of 365-173 electoral votes in favor of Barack Obama was a landslide by any analysis, by factoring the new reapportionment into the Electoral College calculations, we see that it will now take a swing of just six states to change the outcome of the 2012 contest. Florida, naturally with its inflated 29 electoral votes, is one of the six. The others are, in order of importance from a Republican challenger perspective, Indiana (11 votes), North Carolina (15 votes), Virginia (13 votes), Ohio (18 votes), and any other state the president previously carried.

This model also assumes that the one electoral vote Pres. Obama won in Nebraska returns to the Republican column. The Cornhusker State is one of two places, Maine being the other, that allows a split in their electoral vote distribution. Obama won the 2nd congressional district in 2008, meaning one vote in the Electoral College. There is a move in Nebraska to change their system to winner-take-all, like 48 other states, and with redistricting added to the mix, NE-2 is likely to become more Republican. Either way, it should be considered a virtual given that Nebraska will unify its vote in 2012, and most probably in the Republican candidate’s favor.

According to this latest Q-Poll, Pres. Obama is upside down on his job approval ratings in Florida. By a margin of 44-52 percent, respondents disapprove of the job he is doing as the nation’s chief executive. While the surveyed Democrats and Republicans answered as one would expect, the president scores poorly among Florida Independents. The subset only scored him 39:55 percent positive to negative on the job performance scale. The president also has quite a gender gap. Men disapprove of his job performance by a full 20 points, 38:58 percent, while women actually approve of his work, 49:46 percent.

The re-elect questions are likely more disconcerting to the Obama camp than the aforementioned data. Asked whether the individuals comprising the polling sample would vote for the president in the next election or whomever the Republicans eventually choose as their nominee, the respondents preferred the unknown GOP candidate by a margin of 41-38 percent. In response to the question of whether or not the polling universe felt Mr. Obama deserves re-election, by a margin of 42-51 percent, those questioned believe he does not.

The Q-Poll study does not reveal uniformly positive Republican results, however. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, also facing voters in 2012, scores a respectable 47:26 percent job approval rating. Newly elected Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has an almost identical 47:23 percent rating. Nelson versus an unnamed Republican Senatorial candidate gets a 43-39 percent favorable nod. His “deserves re-election” score is 43-35 percent.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who won a razor-thin 49-48 percent victory last November, is not popular after three months in office. By a margin of 34-48 percent, the sampled individuals disapprove of his job performance.

Maybe the most surprising finding is the acceptance of increased off-shore oil drilling, which is a change from historical polls. By a strong 60-35 percent majority, the respondents favor expanding the level of off-shore drilling on Florida’s coast. This is led by an 82 percent favorable response from the Republicans polled and 58 percent of Independents. Conversely, the entire sampling universe’s support for building new nuclear power plants is only a tepid 48-47 percent.

Expect Florida to be another hotbed of political activity during the 2012 election cycle.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.

Wisconsin Supreme Court: Prosser Now Leads, No End In Sight

More craziness is coming from the Badger State of Wisconsin. The state Supreme Court election held Tuesday, which will likely decide the constitutionality of Gov. Scott Walker’s new public collective bargaining law, has taken a crazy turn. Yesterday, JoAnne Kloppenburg, the state’s assistant attorney general, declared victory by just 204 votes of almost 1.8 million ballots cast. Today, however, a much different story is unfolding. Now the official count has incumbent Justice David Prosser ahead by 40 votes statewide, as the tabulations in Winnebago County were apparently mis-reported by the Associated Press.

Judges in Wisconsin run in non-partisan elections, but it is clear that Prosser is part of the state Supreme Court’s 4-3 conservative majority and Kloppenburg would join the liberal wing to give them the advantage.

Another county clerk also is reporting further discrepancies as the canvass of votes continues. It appears that Prosser will add a large number of votes from Waukesha County. Kloppenburg is getting a boost from some rural counties. The big story, however, may be not counting an entire locality. The town of Brookfield in Waukesha County, was apparently missed altogether. Thus, the Waukesha County under-count could exceed 14,000, no small number especially when dealing with such minuscule differences between the two candidates. If the canvass verifies this mistake, estimates predict that Prosser’s lead will grow to about 7,000 votes.

It is clear that the final result here won’t be determined for weeks, as litigation is sure to follow from the candidate who ends up a few votes short in the final certified tally. The election was cast as a battle between the public employee unions and Gov. Walker’s support groups. The fact that this battle was fought to a virtual draw, with a turnout almost double that of their normal odd-year election (and two-thirds of the total number of those casting ballots in the 2010 general election) must be viewed as a victory for Walker. The unions are energized, have superior organizational ability and resources, and should have finished in the low 50s for this election, particularly in a union-friendly state such as Wisconsin.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.

A Wisconsin Majority: 50.007 Percent to 49.993 Percent

Normally, a spring election that features only a state Supreme Court justice running for re-election is not a major political story, but everything emanating from Wisconsin these days is bigger than life.

Such is the story of Supreme Court Justice David Prosser who, in running for a second 10-year term, appears to have lost by just 204 votes of more than 1.48 million ballots cast. Because Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial new budget law that severely restricts public employee collective bargaining will likely go before the Wisconsin Supreme Court to test its constitutionality, this race became highly significant.

The non-partisan Supreme Court is perceived to have a 4-3 conservative bent and Prosser is part of the majority. Therefore, the campaign posed a test for both union and conservative activists who took to the streets in order to flex their respective political muscle. The results suggest that the two sides fought to a draw. At this writing, union-backed Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg has declared victory, but absentee ballots remain to be tabulated and we can expect a lengthy recount process whatever the actual final result.

The voter turnout was extremely high, thus affirming the polarized state of Wisconsin politics. In the 2010 general election, just over 2.1 million people voted. In the normally sleepy April election held yesterday, more than 68 percent of those voting last November returned. In the 2009 Supreme Court election, less than 800,000 people participated, proving the motivating effect of this public employee union issue upon the electorate.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.