Author Archives: Jim Ellis

New Pollster Ratings

By Jim Ellis

March 30, 2021 — The FiveThirtyEight statistical organization released their latest political pollsters’ accuracy ranking chart toward the end of last week — a study that included 592 survey research firms.

Grades from A+ to C/D were assigned to the firms based upon four criteria:

  1. Their 2020 election cycle precision
  2. The predictive category that suggests how successful the firm will be in the future
  3. The number of polls analyzed in this most recent cyccle, and
  4. hat the FiveThirtyEight team terms as the company’s “mean-reverted bias” factor.

Four polling entities earned the top A+ rating. They are:

  • the Iowa-based Selzer & Company
  • ABC News/Washington Post
  • Siena College/New York Times
  • IDB/TIPP

Another six received A ratings:

  • Survey USA
  • Landmark Communications
  • Research & Polling
  • AtlasIntel
  • Monmouth University
  • Marist College
  • Fox News

Seven more posted A- rankings:

  • The Trafalgar Group
  • Public Opinion Strategies
  • CBS News/New York Times
  • Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy
  • Public Policy Polling
  • Emerson College
  • Quinnipiac University

On the other end of the spectrum, 18 firms were at the bottom of the list but a dozen from this group conducted less than 10 surveys. Of those featuring more than 10 polls, the lowest ranked of the group were Nielsen Brothers Polling, the Humphrey Institute, FM3 Research, Opinion Research Associates, McLaughlin & Associates, and Brown University.

Selzer & Company has long been recognized as one of the country’s better pollsters based upon its strong record predicting the Iowa Caucus presidential results and other races most often from the Hawkeye State.

In 2020, 12 of 19 published polls projected Iowa Democrat Theresa Greenfield as leading Sen. Joni Ernst (R). Approaching Election Day, only two pollsters posted the incumbent ahead four or more percentage points: Selzer & Company and Insider Advantage. Sen. Ernst’s final victory margin was 6.6 percentage points. The IA firm came closest to the end result (Ernst, plus-6; actual, 6.6 percent). Surveying for the Des Moines Register newspaper, Selzer & Company again landed within the accuracy realm (Ernst plus-4).

The ratings also included the polling firms’ partisan bias factor. The bias swing in favor of one party or the other ranged from 4.7 points toward the Democrats (Survey Monkey) to a 3.1 sway for Republicans (MRG Research). The overwhelming majority of pollsters with the highest bias rating favored the Democrats. Of the 28 firms that registered a 2.0 or greater partisan bias factor, 26 favored Democratic candidates.

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Analyzing the 2020 Turnout Increase

By Jim Ellis

March 29, 2021 — As we know, election year 2020 produced the largest voter participation level in history, including a substantial increase from the last presidential turnout in 2016. Now that all states have reported finalized election numbers, we know that a total of 158,507,137 individuals cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election, a number that shattered even the highest pre-election turnout predictions.

The figure also represents a 15.9 percent turnout increase when compared with 2016, which, at that time also set a record for raw number voter participation. Attempting to explain the large jump, the proponents of the election system overhaul legislative package in Congress, HR-1/S.1, credit the rise to the heightened use of early and mail voting, and therefore want to make permanent most of the court ordered COVID-19 pandemic response procedural changes. Digging deeper, however, we find that there are other factors present that help explain the voting uptick.

While all but five states (Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi, Missouri, and New Hampshire) employed some form of early voting, another five conducted their elections only through the mail. The usual all-mail states of Colorado, Oregon, and Washington were joined by Hawaii and Utah according to the Ballotpedia election statistics organization that regularly publishes related data.

All five of these latter states saw turnout growth rates that exceeded the national average, including the state posting the highest increase, the Aloha State of Hawaii, which saw a whopping 32.5 percent rise in voting.

As stated earlier, the national average turnout increase when comparing the 2020 figures with 2016 is 15.9 percent. Eighteen states saw an increase greater than the national mean average, while 32 states and the District of Columbia fell below that number. All 51 entities, however, reported an upsurge in voting from 2016. The median average calculated to an increase of 12.8 percent.

Let’s concentrate on the 10 states with the highest increase from 2016. They are:

STATE        PERCENT INCREASE
Hawaii 32.5%
Arizona 31.6%
Utah 31.5%
Texas 26.2%
Idaho 25.8%
Nevada 24.9%
California 23.4%
Washington 23.2%
Tennessee 21.8%
Georgia 21.5%

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One Down, 4 Special Elections to Go

By Jim Ellis

March 26, 2021 — Though Rep-Elect Julia Letlow’s (R) victory in Louisiana last Saturday completed one special congressional election, four others are still in-cycle and fresh ballot test data was just released from the Texas seat.

Next up on the schedule is the LA-2 double-Democratic runoff between state Sens. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) and Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) on April 24. Next, on May 1, voters in Texas’ 6th District will go to the polls to begin the replacement process for the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington). Replacing Biden cabinet members and ex-Reps. Deb Haaland and Marcia Fudge will occur on June 1 and Nov. 2, respectively, in New Mexico and Ohio.

As in Louisiana, the Texas race features the late incumbent’s widow running, but a new poll suggests that Susan Wright’s support is not as deep as Letlow’s in neighboring Louisiana. On Saturday, Letlow, whose late husband, Luke Letlow, passed away three weeks after he won the December 2020 runoff election, scored a landslide 65 percent outright victory over 11 opponents.

In the North Texas race, the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group recently surveyed the 6th District electorate for their client, candidate Lydia Bean (D), during the March 11-16 period and interviewed 500 likely special election voters.

While the results found Wright leading the pack of 23 candidates, she reached only 18 percent support but that was nine percentage points better than her closest opponent, 2018 Democratic congressional nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez.

Freshman state representative and 2018 Republican congressional candidate, Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie), the only sitting elected official in the massive candidate field, followed closely behind with eight percent support. Bean, a non-profit organization founder, and former George W. Bush White House aide Brian Harrison were next, posting six percent apiece.

The results suggest that Wright has a clear lead, her advantage is by no means insurmountable and, at this point in the special election cycle, the data is certainly pointing to a pair of candidates advancing into a runoff election.

Under Texas special election procedure, the governor does not schedule the secondary election until it is clear that the runoff is necessary, and the participants chosen. In this case, we won’t know the date of the next election after May 1. It is presumed, however, that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will schedule the runoff in mid to late July.

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Scandal-Tainted Ex-Gov. Eric Greitens Declares for Senate in 2022

By Jim Ellis

Ex-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R)

March 25, 2021 — Former Gov. Eric Greitens, originally threatening to challenge Sen. Roy Blunt in the 2022 Missouri Republican primary, launched his US Senate campaign Tuesday for what is now an open seat. Sen. Blunt’s decision to not seek re-election obviously drastically changes the Missouri political landscape and opens the door for what could be a nasty GOP primary with a potential ending that could jeopardize what should be a relatively safe Republican seat.

Greitens first ran for office as a conservative retired Navy SEAL and author in 2016, coming from behind to win the Republican nomination for Missouri governor against a crowded field.

Cast as an underdog in that year’s general election to then-Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, polls suggested he would lose from beginning to end. On election night, however, Greitens scored a 51-46 percent upset victory simultaneously with Donald Trump winning the presidency and Sen. Blunt being re-elected in a close fight.

After attaining the governorship, events turned against the fledgling politician. Reports began surfacing that he, as a married man, was having an affair with his hairdresser. Allegations then came forward that he had briefly held her against her will, taking pictures of her in compromising positions and blackmailing her with threats to make the photos public.

Soon after, Greitens was indicted, and largely due to poor relations with legislative leaders in his own party who were even beginning to prepare impeachment articles, it became evident that a year and several months into his term a forthcoming resignation appeared inevitable. He left office on June 1, 2018.

Later, the charges against him were dropped mostly due to prosecutorial misconduct matters that forced the government to forfeit its case. Despite never being convicted, the sordid affair situation can certainly reappear in a new political campaign. Early analysis suggests that a Greitens victory in the Republican primary could cause the party to potentially lose the seat in the 2022 general election.

The primary situation could be exacerbated if the GOP field becomes crowded as is usually the case in an open race for a seat under the party’s control. Those reported to be considering the Senate race are state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and US Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin/St. Louis County) and Jason Smith (R-Salem), among others. Such a split field could allow Greitens to again win the party nomination with only a plurality.

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2022: Three More House Retirements

By Jim Ellis

March 24, 2021 — A trio of veteran House members announced Monday that they won’t seek re-election in 2022. Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Filemon Vela (D-TX) will retire, while Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) declared his candidacy for the Georgia Secretary of State position.


Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Tom Reed was first elected in 2010 and, at the time of his initial campaign, took a six-term limit pledge. The next election brings him to the end of his originally promised congressional service calendar. Earlier in the year, however, Rep. Reed had been making overtures about running for governor, especially when incumbent Andrew Cuomo (D) began running into political trouble. Rep. Reed even went so far as to begin hiring statewide campaign staff.

Late last week, however, accusations of him being drunk in public and becoming inappropriate with a female lobbyist several years ago began to surface. Originally, Rep. Reed said such accusations were false, but yesterday accompanied his retirement message with an apology for his past behavior.

The Reed retirement decision is likely good news for neighboring GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford). You will remember that she defeated former Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) by just 109 votes in the November election, a race that consumed more than three months to determine the final outcome. She originally won the 22nd District in 2016, but lost to Brindisi, then a state assemblyman, in 2018.

New York looks to lose at least one seat in reapportionment, and the Reed and Tenney districts rank 27th and 26th in population, respectively, among the 27 New York congressional seats. With Reed departing, the upstate map becomes much easier to draw in that his seat can be collapsed into hers, presenting Tenney with a larger but very likely more Republican district from which she could seek re-election.

Under this scenario, should it occur as described, her most serious competition would very likely come in the Republican primary instead of the general election. Securing local party support in her new counties would become Tenney’s first step in securing the GOP nomination under such a redistricting projection.


Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX)

Rep. Vela’s retirement announcement after what will be five complete terms in the House comes as a surprise. He did, however, experience his tightest election of his five victories in November, but still won with a 55-42 percent majority. President Biden, however, only carried the 34th District, anchored in Brownsville on the Texas-Mexico border, with a 52-48 percent margin, down from 59-38 percent victory spread Hillary Clinton recorded in 2016.

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