Category Archives: Polling

The VP Debate and a Changing Map

The vice presidential candidates took center stage for one night last evening, and at least the in the CNN poll (conducted by Opinion Research Council of 381 debate watchers via post-event telephone interviews), results suggested that Paul Ryan fared better than Vice President Joe Biden.

A 48-44 percent pro-Ryan division relating to winner perception was recorded, though a slight over-sampling of Republicans was present in the CNN respondent universe. Ryan scored more favorably on two critical perception points, being more likable (53-43 percent) and better expressing himself (50-41 percent). Of those sampled, 28 percent said they are now more likely to vote for Mitt Romney because of this debate, versus 21 percent who made similar comments in relation to Pres. Barack Obama.

Thus, the debate ended with neither candidate scoring a knock-out blow or inflicting serious damage upon their own campaign effort. It is likely the after-effects from this forum will be short-lived, which likely helps Romney because he has the current momentum.

Last night, Real Clear Politics also released their version of the new electoral map. According to them, based upon all polling data to which they have access, the president has a safe/likely/lean count of 201 electoral votes from 16 states and the District of Columbia, while Romney’s commensurate total is 181 from 22 states. Curiously, RCP lists Missouri in the Undecided/Uncommitted column. Based upon complete voting history since 2000, inclusive, and the fact that Romney has led in virtually every Show Me State poll, it is more than plausible to add their 10 Electoral Votes to the Romney column. If so, the challenger would pull within 10 votes of the president, leaving 146 votes in 11 states as uncommitted.

Among the states moving into the Undecided/Uncommitted category are two places with a clear Democratic history in presidential elections, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Once the votes are completely counted, it is more than likely that both of these domains will remain in the president’s column but the fact that he is having to fight so hard to keep them is indicative of his weakening national standing.

The remaining nine states: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada are the ones we have been analyzing for some time. It is clear that some combination of these states will make the final electoral determination in early November.

Assuming the moving of Missouri to Romney and Michigan and Pennsylvania to Obama prove correct, then the Republican would need 79 Electoral Votes to win the Presidency and Obama 33. Of the Undecided/Uncommitted states on the current board, the Republican’s easiest path to victory would include Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nevada. This would give Romney a bare 270-268 victory and send him to the White House.

While originally it was thought that a challenger would have to carry Florida, Ohio, and Virginia to defeat Obama, it is now possible to win with taking Florida and only one of the latter two. With more states firmly in play, the Romney campaign now has several options to possibly cobble together a winning coalition of states in order to reach the magic 270 electoral vote plateau.

Getting through last night’s VP debate with both sides intact, means the stakes for the remaining two debates grows even higher. Pressure will continue to mount upon both candidates and what remains true is that the final defining events for this particular presidential election have yet to occur.

Pollster Projects Romney Win in Fla., N.C., & Va.

Suffolk University’s David Paleologos

On Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” Suffolk University polling director David Paleologos rather surprisingly announced that his institution would no longer conduct presidential surveys in the core swing states of Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. He says that Republican challenger Mitt Romney will carry the trio, representing a combined 57 Electoral Votes. If true, this would have a stunning effect on the national election.

Paleologos has several reasons supporting his decision to project the three states, all of which voted for President Obama in 2008. First, he says, in Florida, 12 candidates are on the ballot. When questioning the respondents who say they are supporting someone other than Obama or Romney, the overwhelming majority cited the Republican nominee as their second choice. He reasons that most people pledging for a minor candidate will move to one of the two major party contenders when they actually cast their ballots instead of wasting their vote on someone who cannot win.

Paleologos also cited the absentee ballot request forms in Florida as another fundamental reason that Romney will win the Sunshine State. He argues that of those people officially requesting ballots, 43.4 percent are registered Republicans versus 39 percent who identify as Democrats. Of those already returning their voting envelope, 45.5 percent are Republican as compared to 38 percent Democratic. In North Carolina, 52 percent of the absentee ballot requests are from Republicans with just 27 percent coming from Democrats. He is less specific about his reasoning for including Virginia in this group of states.

Though some of the support points for Suffolk’s decision are sound, it is way too early, and the margins too close, to begin projecting such states for either candidate. Just look at the major swings occurring within the last two weeks, yielding trends that no one predicted. Much will continue to happen in the next month to determine the actual winner. Suffolk’s polling withdrawal decision is quite premature.

Romney Strikes Back

Just before the Oct. 3 presidential debate, conventional wisdom held that the national race had effectively ended and President Obama was on the threshold of clinching re-election. He was consistently ahead in all nationwide polls, and in every key swing state. Oh, what a difference a week makes.

With his debate performance as the catalyst propelling Republican nominee Mitt Romney back into contention, a series of new polls now shows a complete race reversal.

Eight national surveys were released yesterday and, for the first time, it is Romney who leads or is tied in the preponderance of them. Gallup, the American Research Group (ARG), Public Policy Polling, and the Investors Business Daily’s TIPP poll all post Romney to a lead of one or two points. Two studies, Ipsos/Reuters and Rasmussen Reports, project a tie between the two candidates, while UPI/CVoter and Zogby Research for The Washington Times still find the President leading by a lone percentage point.

But the national data tells only part of the story. In the most important core and secondary states of North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada, Romney has gained strong momentum and leads in several polls.

North Carolina, by all accounts a critical core conversion state, yields to a Gravis Marketing study (Oct. 6-8; 1,325 likely North Carolina voters) that projects Romney to a major 50-41 percent lead, obviously his biggest margin of the campaign in the Tar Heel State. Along with Florida, Ohio and Virginia, North Carolina is in virtual must-win status for the Romney campaign.

Ohio, another of the four core states, features trends that are mixed in declaring a leader, but all polls show significant movement for Romney. The American Research Group (Oct. 5-8; 600 likely Ohio voters) gives the challenger a one-point 48-47 percent edge. Survey USA (Oct. 5-8; 808 likely and actual Ohio voters) also finds a one point difference between the candidates, but their data still has the President in front, by a scant 45-44 percent margin. Finally, in better news for Obama, the CNN/ORC survey (Oct. 5-8; 888 likely voters) gives the president a 51-47 percent lead.

In the secondary states, the places Romney would need to win should he fail to carry all four of the core states, are also turning in favorable numbers for the GOP challenger. Colorado, a state trending blue in 2008 and electing a Democratic senator in the Republican landslide year of 2010, has been showing signs of returning to the GOP column. The latest ARG poll (Oct. 5-8; 600 likely Colorado voters) gives Romney his first Centennial State lead, 50-46 percent, after following closely behind Obama even in the days when the president was beginning to break away in other places.

Staying out west in Nevada, another state showing signs of returning to the Republican fold after four years of relatively consistent Democratic voting patterns, Rasmussen Reports (Oct. 8; 500 likely Nevada voters) projects the two candidates being tied at 47 percent.

The latest swing toward Romney is actually quite consistent with voter behavior throughout this election cycle. The electorate has often moved both quickly and wildly in responding to late-breaking events. Such is the case with the Romney debate performance. It remains to be seen if this direction holds or if voters will soon snap back toward the president.

The next two presidential debates have now assumed an aura of much greater importance in determining the final outcome of this hotly contested race. Will Romney again be dominant? Will the president rebound? Is the swing toward Romney the beginning of a trend, or a mere blip? Time will soon bring us the answers.

Romney’s Debate Win Has Legs

Mitt Romney

The Gallup organization projects Mitt Romney to be the most decisive debate winner in the history of the presidential debates. According to a cell sample of 749 debate watchers questioned over a two-day period following the Oct. 3 forum, Romney was viewed to have won by a 72-20 percent margin, the largest-ever spread. But, does a debate win really carry over into the presidential campaign itself? At least in the short-term, apparently so. Gallup shows the race closing to 48-46 percent in favor of President Obama from the previous 50-45 percent, and the post-debate track reveals a dead even 47-47 percent result.

The Pew Research Center was also in the field during this same time period (Oct. 4-7), recording the responses of 1,112 likely voters from a polling universe of 1,511 adults. Though a few more Republicans were polled than Democrats (403-396), all the aggregate answers were weighted to bring the sampling universe in line with the actual national totals. The weighted responses gave Romney a similar 66-20 percent split in terms of perceiving the debate winner.

Pew also found Romney gaining in some other key areas. In terms of answering which of the two candidate has new ideas, it is now the Republican who is perceived to have them by a 47-40 percent margin, and he’s pulled even with Obama (47-47 percent) as to who is the stronger leader. Romney also is favored to be more successful in reducing the federal budget deficit (51-36 percent), improving the job situation (49-41 percent), and in handling tax policy (47-43 percent). The president is still perceived as the better person to handle Medicare (51-38 percent), health care (47-44 percent, though that margin swung a net 10 points in Romney’s favor since their Sept. 12-16 poll), and in making wise foreign policy decisions (47-43 percent).

The next presidential debates, scheduled for Oct. 16 and 22 will take on a whole new aura and meaning, after what happened in the first meeting. If Romney has accomplished anything, he has put national debating on center stage.

Two Long Shot Races Turning

A pair of under-the-radar Senate races are now becoming competitive, recent polls indicate. In Arizona and Pennsylvania new publicly released surveys put a Democratic and Republican underdog in the national spotlight for the first time.

In the Grand Canyon State for the seat of retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R), polling results from Democratic nominee Richard Carmona, the former U.S. Surgeon General under President George W. Bush, places him in a virtual tie with his favored Republican opponent, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6). Anzalone Liszt Research, polling for the Carmona campaign, surveyed 600 likely voters over Sept. 18-23 period and projected 44-43 percent results. Other recent surveys also put the Arizona seat in play, but their margins still favor Flake beyond the margin of error. Rasmussen Reports publicized a study earlier this week giving the congressman a six-point, 47-41 percent lead, and the international research firm YouGov posted mid-September data that projected the Republican nominee to be enjoying a similar 43-37 percent margin.

Flake, a six-term congressman from Mesa, Ariz., is best known as one of the leaders of the movement to end spending earmarks. Opposed in the late August Republican primary, he easily defeated wealthy businessman Wil Cardon. Many Democratic strategists believe that Dr. Carmona, an Independent-turned-Democrat who President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid encouraged to run, can score an upset win. While current polling is beginning to show serious competition, voting history nonetheless yields a conclusion that the seat will stay red.

In the Keystone State of Pennsylvania, we see another Senate race growing tighter as we inch closer to Election Day. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. has maintained a sizable lead throughout the campaign, however, his challenger, a self-funding former Democrat, appears to be making a move. Recently the seat has moved from “likely” to “lean Democratic” proving that GOP nominee Tom Smith is gaining ground against the incumbent. With President Obama polling well in Pennsylvania, Smith will have to run substantially ahead of his own presidential nominee to record a surprise win, making his uphill task even more difficult.

Tom Smith is a former coal company chief executive officer who handily won the Republican primary with multi-million dollars in personal expenditures. Smith is making a strong issue of his coal background and using recent plant closings as a way to draw a contrast between himself and Casey. Smith will attempt to take advantage of Obama’s Cap & Trade legislative initiative that proved so lethal to Democrats in the 2010 elections. Pennsylvania is the nation’s fourth largest coal producer, providing over 5 percent of the nation’s aggregate total.

Recent polls do suggest positive movement for Smith, leaving the Democrats a bit uneasy. A Quinnipac University poll (1,180 likely voters, +/- 2.9% error factor) released this Wednesday showed Sen. Casey leading the Republican just 49-43 percent, a drop all the way from 55-37 percent (a net swing of 12 points) in late July. Another contemporary Susquehanna Research survey published in the Pittsburgh Review Tribune newspaper also showed a similar split with Casey only leading 46-41 percent.

It’s clear from the political metrics that Smith is making gains, but is it too little, too late? With Obama consistently leading Mitt Romney here and Sen. Casey maintaining at least a small edge over challenger Smith, the patterns still suggest the Pennsylvania Senate seat will remain in the blue column.

The Conflicting Trends

Though we spend a great deal of time writing about and analyzing polls, it is important to remember that even though individual ballot test data is helpful and allows us to gauge campaign trends, the isolated individual polls themselves can be misleading. Today’s examples coming from Nevada and Ohio are a case in point. In both states, polls conducted during the same sampling period are producing considerably different results.

In Nevada, Public Policy Polling (Sept. 18-20; 501 likely Nevada voters) and Public Opinion Strategies (Sept. 19-20; 500 likely Nevada voters) can’t even agree on which Senatorial candidate is leading the race. A similar range conflict is found in the Ohio Senate race between Gravis Marketing (Sept. 21-22; 594 likely Ohio voters) and the Washington Post (Sept. 19-23; 759 likely Ohio voters), though the incumbent, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), leads in both studies.

Looking at the Silver State, PPP projects Democrat Shelley Berkley to have a 48-44 percent lead over appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R). But POS is posting Heller to the opposite position, as they show the Senator topping Berkley 44-39 percent. Among the Buckeye State likely voters (the Washington Post poll provides separate results for their larger sampling universe of 934 registered voters and the whittled down cell segment of 759 likely voters), the WP Poll gives Sen. Brown a substantial 51-43 percent advantage, while Gravis sees only a one-point difference (Brown over state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) 44-43 percent) between the two candidates.

Examining the aggregate for all four polls, the net swing in Nevada is D minus 7 points from PPP to POS, while both show the same level of support for Republican Heller (44%). Interestingly, the Gravis and Washington Post Ohio polls reveal a similar effect. While Democrat Brown swings seven points between the two surveys, Republican Mandel scores the same level of support in both, 43 percent.

The presidential numbers in both states also show similar divisions. PPP gives President Obama a 52-43 percent lead over Mitt Romney in Nevada, while POS shows the two candidates tied at 46 percent. In this case, PPP is six points higher for the Democratic candidate and three points lower for the Republican for a net swing of nine points. In Ohio, the Washington Post gives Mr. Obama a 52-44 percent edge among likely voters while Gravis Marketing projects only a one-point 45-44 percent margin in the President’s favor. Again, the two polls detect the same level of support for the Republican candidate, but vary rather substantially (once more, a difference of seven points) for the Democratic contender.

All four of these polls are live interview surveys, as compared to those using the Interactive Voice Response method, so these studies are all in the “apples to apples” comparison category. All are making their own unpublished determination as to what they define as a “likely voter.” The pollsters weight the responses to mirror the state’s population and voter registration and preference history but don’t reveal their particular weighting equations. And, clearly, this distinction is key in relation to the Democratic scale because the Republican numbers among these various studies remains constant, or virtually constant (GOP presidential number in Nevada is different).

What does this tell us? Again, looking beyond the original ballot test numbers, we are seeing clear variance, particularly on the Democratic side. This is more than likely the result of the particular pollster’s sample selection, weighting equation, and likely voter determination while, of course remembering that all polls are a mere snap shot in time of a very small group of people. This is why contrasting multiple polls to obtain a picture of a particular campaign is so important, because the comparison tells a much different story than looking at any one of these polls individually.

Throughout this election cycle, pollsters have been detecting an electorate that is inconsistent and can abruptly swing. The polls we compare today certainly continue to show such characteristics. This means, to a large extent, that we are flying blind into Election Day, and that the final determining factors either haven’t yet happened or are not fully cemented.

A Senate Shift to the Left? Not Quite

Angus King, Independent

Several surveys were released this week that revealed a leftward polling shift in key Senate races, but new data publicized late yesterday returned to the previous pattern.

With only six-plus weeks left until Election Day, Democratic Senate candidates have made considerable gains, and earlier this week national trends were showing a clear shift in races that are pivotal to a Senate majority.

With 51 seats needed to maintain the Senate majority, a current combination of returning senators and candidates leading in 2012 contests would give the Democrats 48 members. One Independent candidate (Angus King), should he win the open seat three-way race in Maine, is likely to caucus with the Democrats, while another six races where neither candidate has led consistently are considered toss-ups. In three of the too-close-to-call states – Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Virginia – the Democratic candidates appear to have made gains since the national convention period, and early week polls showed a definite change in voter support. But, studies released late yesterday afternoon projected the Republican candidate to now be gaining in all three of those particular places.

In Wisconsin, the battle between former governor Tommy Thompson and Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin continues to make news. Polling completed after the Democratic gathering in Charlotte, N.C., ended showing a major shift in the race. A New York Times/CBS News/Quinnipiac University survey projected Rep. Baldwin to have drawn into a tie with Thompson, after trailing him by six percentage points in August. Additionally, a Marquette University poll, also released Wednesday, revealed Rep. Baldwin catapulting from a nine-point deficit all the way into a nine-point lead. The new CBS/Quinnipiac poll, however, brings the race back to an even footing.

In the Old Dominion, we see another slight shift to the left as two polls give the Democrat, former governor Tim Kaine, leads of four and seven percentage points over Republican ex-senator George Allen. The polls, including one from the Washington Post, found that Kaine has an eight percentage point lead over Allen, 51-43 percent. That’s a significant shift since May when their last poll found the two candidates – both universally known in Virginia politics – tied. The second poll, a Quinnipac University/CBS News/New York Times study released Wednesday found Kaine to hold a seven percentage point lead over Allen, 51-44 percent, but their respondent universe contained a substantial over-sampling of Democrats. Previously, the same partnering organizations’ poll conducted in late July posted Kaine to a smaller, two percentage point lead.

In New England, we see more movement. On Wednesday, a fourth consecutive poll was published putting Democrat Elizabeth Warren ahead of Sen. Scott Brown (R). The incumbent, who recently distanced himself from GOP nominee and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and continues to battle for the opportunity to win a full six-year term in office, must overcome the highest hurdle of adverse political voting history of any Republican candidate in the country.

The Republicans may be coming through their down polling period because of the positive consistency associated with the numbers released yesterday. This tells us it is too soon to tell if a pro-Democratic pattern is beginning to crystallize, or whether the recent upturn was a mere blip in the ebb and flow of the election cycle.

With only 46 days until Election Day it is a certainty that each of the long-term close Senate races will continue to help define which of the two parties will claim majority status when the new Congress convenes in January.