Category Archives: Polling

Job Approval: A Poor Indicator

By Jim Ellis — Monday, May 8, 2023

President

Polling Numbers: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly — The Gallup organization last week released their historical comparison of commensurate modern-era presidential job approval ratings, and it appears that a high positive score is not necessarily a prerequisite for winning re-election; nor is a poor one a precursor for defeat.

Gallup listed the presidents from Joe Biden back through Dwight Eisenhower and captured their mean average job approval ratings from the period between January 20 and April 19 of the year prior to them seeking re-election. Presidents Gerald Ford, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson are not included because they were either not in office during the sampled period (Ford) or did not seek re-election (Kennedy because he was assassinated, while Johnson chose not to run for a second full term).

Looking at the Gallup number for each tested president (the posted figure representing the average polling result for the number of surveys conducted during the aforementioned testing period), President Biden is the worst performer at 38.7 percent favorable; George H.W. Bush, at 82.7 percent, was rated the best.

As you can see solely from that data point, even having the best job performance rating in the early part of the year prior to re-election is no guarantee of winning. While Bush had one of the highest positive ratings on record, he would then post the lowest popular vote percentage (37.5) and the second-lowest electoral vote total (168) of the nine presidents who ran for re-election after 1950.

The reverse is true, as well. The second-worst job approval rating at a commensurate period in his presidency is Ronald Reagan’s 38.8 percent positive score. Reagan would then rebound to the point of recording the strongest re-election electoral vote total (525 of the 538 available votes) in modern political history, and the second-highest popular vote score at 58.8 percent. The only president who outperformed Reagan in terms of a percentage of aggregate votes recorded was Richard Nixon’s 60.7 percent in 1972. Less than two years later, however, Nixon would be forced to resign in disgrace over the Watergate scandal.

Of the nine presidents since 1950 who ran for a second term, six were re-elected (Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama). Three were defeated (Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Donald Trump).

In terms of those defeated, Carter’s job approval rating during the tested period was 41.2 percent, Bushes, as cited above, was 82.7 percent, while Trump’s was 46.8 percent.

Interestingly, both Bush’s significantly under-performed in their re-elections. George H.W. Bush dropped 45.2 points from his job approval score in the first quarter of the year before re-election compared to his popular vote total. His son, George W. Bush, was second in this category. While winning a second term with 50.7 percent of the vote, he dropped 12.6 points from his average first quarter 2003 job approval score of 63.3 percent. President Carter came the closest between early job approval, 41.2 percent, and his re-election popular vote total, 41.0 percent. His 49 electoral vote total in 1980, however, was by far the worst among the tested presidents.

Among those 10 presidents, including Biden, the average approval rating is 51.8 percent positive, while the average succeeding popular vote total was 50.3 percent (54.6 percent among the six winning presidents; 41.8 percent among the three losing chief executives).

While it is obviously better to be in a stronger job approval position heading into an election, having an upside-down ratio is not always disastrous. Conversely, as we’ve seen from the Bushes, posting high approval ratings the year prior to re-election is also no guarantee of success at the ballot box.

The fact that President Biden is on the low end of the approval rating index at this point in his presidency is not necessarily a cause for panic for Democrats, nor is it an ironclad prediction factor that he will lose the 2024 election. It is an indication, however, that he will have to pick up the pace of creating a better image and improving his perceived success rate regarding the handling of key issues.

Allred Announces Senate Bid in Texas; No Top-Two Primary in Montana; Justice Leads in WVa.; Maloney Accepts Ambassador Appointment

By Jim Ellis — Friday, May 5, 2023

Senate

Texas: Rep. Allred Announces for Senate — As reported earlier in the week, US Rep. Colin
Allred (D-Dallas) was expected to announce a US Senate bid this week, and on Wednesday he released an announcement video to that effect. While Rep. Allred is likely the strongest Democrat the party leaders could recruit to oppose Sen. Ted Cruz (R), scoring an upset win in a Republican stronghold like Texas in a presidential election year will still be a major challenge.

Expect polling throughout the cycle to be closer than the actual ending result. Sen. Cruz has been expecting a tough challenge and is ready for a fight. Several months ago, he took himself out of presidential contention to concentrate fully on his re-election campaign. While Democrats have scored a recruitment victory here, and Texas is likely to now be their top conversion opportunity, Sen. Cruz still must be favored to win re-election.

Montana: No Top-Two Primary — Republican efforts to use the 2024 Montana Senate race as a test case for changing the state’s primary system to an all-party top-two jungle structure have failed. The legislature adjourned with the bill not moving from the state House of Representatives. The measure had previously passed the state Senate, but then was tabled in a state House committee. Another committee attempted to revive the bill, but that effort failed, and the session ended. Therefore, we will see a traditional Montana Senate primary next year.

An enacted bill would have changed next year’s Senate primary structure and only two candidates, presumably Sen. Jon Tester (D) and a Republican nominee, would have advanced into the general election.

From a partisan perspective, the idea was to eliminate the Libertarian Party from the ballot. Typically, these nominees attract about three percent of the vote, most of which is drawn from a Republican nominee. Considering Sen. Tester won the 2018 election with just a three-point margin, the Libertarian vote total did, and could again, prove significant.

West Virginia: Gov. Justice Leads in First Post-Announcement Poll — The co/efficient Republican polling firm tested the West Virginia electorate soon after Gov. Jim Justice (R) formally announced his senatorial campaign. The survey (April 24-25; 974 likely West Virginia general election voters; 753 likely West Virginia Republican primary voters; online) posts Gov. Justice as the leading candidate in the Republican primary, the general election, and in personal approval ratings.

Opposite GOP Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town), Gov. Justice would lead 45-17 percent. Advancing to the general election, the two-term state chief executive would top incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D), 43-29 percent. If Rep. Mooney were the Republican nominee, he would trail Sen. Manchin 30-36 percent.

Additionally, Gov. Justice is the only one of the three with a positive favorability index of 49:29 percent. This compares with a poor 27:47 percent favorable to unfavorable rating for Sen. Manchin, and 21:34 percent for Rep. Mooney.

House

NY-17: Ex-Rep. Maloney Accepts Appointment — President Biden announced that he is appointing defeated New York Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D) as the US Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is headquartered in Paris, France. The OECD is comprised of representatives from 38 countries to develop common economic platforms and initiatives.

Maloney, even as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), was defeated for re-election in 2022. There was some talk that he was considering returning for a re-match with freshman Rep. Mike Lawler (R-Pearl River), but this international appointment would seemingly remove him from a political run in 2024. This makes it even more likely that former Rep. Mondaire Jones (D) will declare his candidacy in the 17th District.

We can expect this campaign to become a national congressional battle and one of the keys to determining the next House majority.

NY, NC House News; Polls Flipped in Mississippi; Robinson Leads in NC Poll

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, May 4, 2023

House

Former US Rep. Mondaire Jones (D)

NY-17: Ex-Rep. Jones Moving Forward — Former US Rep. Mondaire Jones (D) appears intent on attempting to re-claim the Westchester County Congressional seat he abandoned in an unsuccessful attempt to win a newly created New York City open district last year. Reports from the state say Jones has dismissed any thought of challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary to focus on a return to the 17th District.

Driving Jones’ decision to find a new seat in 2020 was then-Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D) plan to run in the 17th. Maloney being defeated in the general election at the hands of freshman Rep. Mike Lawler (R-Pearl River) in the D+7 rated district according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization makes this 2024 campaign a prime Democratic conversion opportunity.

Though Jones may return, he will face Democratic primary competition from at least one announced candidate: Katonah-Lewisboro School Board Trustee Liz Gereghty, the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

NC-8: Rep. Dan Bishop Testing the AG Waters — Reports are surfacing from the Tar Heel State that Charlotte US Rep. Dan Bishop may be looking to run for the state’s open attorney general’s post. Rep. Bishop looks to have the inside track to the Republican nomination if he chooses to run. Western North Carolina District Attorney Andrew Murray is interested in in the statewide post but suggests he will step aside for Rep. Bishop if the congressman decides to enter the race.

Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte) is a potential Democratic AG candidate, looking to succeed incumbent Josh Stein (D) who is running for governor. Rep. Jackson appears as the potential top target in what is expected to be a new redistricting plan coming from the legislature as a direct result of the state Supreme Court’s recent redistricting and voter ID rulings.

Governor

Mississippi: Conflicting Polling Data Reported — Earlier this week, we reported about a Siena College poll (April 16-20; 783 registered Mississippi voters; live interview & online) that posted Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to an expanding 49-38 percent lead over Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D). Countering that result, Presley’s campaign yesterday released their own internal data (Impact Research; April 24-27; 600 likely Mississippi voters) the results of which portend a much different conclusion. IR finds its candidate, Presley, actually leading Gov. Reeves, 47-44 percent. Ths 2023 Magnolia State general election campaign promises to be much more competitive than in years past.

North Carolina: New GOP Primary Poll — Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has opened a huge lead in the open Republican gubernatorial primary according to a new Survey USA Poll. The study (April 25-29; 707 likely Republican North Carolina primary voters; live interview & online) projects Robinson to a whopping 43-9-8-4 percent lead over former Congressman Mark Walker, North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, and state Treasurer Dale Folwell, respectively.

The GOP winner will likely face Attorney General Josh Stein (D) in the general election. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term. The North Carolina primary is scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 5, 2024.

Alaska Moves to Repeal Ranked Choice Voting; Ranked Choice Voting Killed in Montana; NC Redistricting News; Reeves Increases Lead in Miss.

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, May 2, 2023

States

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)

Alaska: Move to Repeal Ranked Choice Voting — In 2020, Alaska voters with only a 50.5 percent victory margin approved a top-four/Ranked Choice Voting election change that has had a major effect upon the state’s elections. Under the system, all candidates are placed on the same ballot with the top four finishers, regardless of party affiliation, advancing into the general election. In the regular vote, if no candidate receives majority support, the Ranked Choice process takes effect.

Supporters of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) were active in getting the measure passed correctly believing that the system would help her. A top-four structure would guarantee the senator advancing to the general election, thus bypassing what had proven to be her main point of vulnerability: a partisan Republican primary.

Now, conservative activists backed by Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor, and 2022 US Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka are mounting a signature campaign for a ballot initiative that would repeal the current system. The legislature is also considering legislation to do the same. Proponents of the repeal initiative must submit 26,705 valid registered voter signatures to qualify the measure. The group has already recruited the mandatory 100 petition sponsors and received initial approval from the lieutenant governor, meaning the initiative is officially qualified for signature gathering. The group’s goal is to place the measure on the 2024 general election ballot.

Montana: Top-Two Primary Could Return, Ranked Choice Voting Killed — Late last week, Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation to prohibit the Ranked Choice Voting system from being instituted in the state of Montana, joining several other states that have taken similar action.

Reports also suggest that proponents of legislation to use the 2024 US Senate race as a test case for the all-party jungle primary system that would qualify the top two finishing candidates for advancement into the general election may still be revived in the state House of Representatives before the current legislative session adjourns. The measure has already passed the state Senate but was tabled in a House policy committee. It is possible another committee could consider the measure and pass it to the floor for a vote in the session’s final days.

North Carolina: State Supreme Court Nullifies Previous Redistricting Ruling — In the 2022 election, Republicans converted two Democratic seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court, which gave the GOP a 5-2 majority. In the post-election session, the outgoing Democratic panel ruled that the state Senate boundaries were unconstitutional as was the North Carolina voter ID law. The congressional and state House maps are court-drawn. The new Republican court decided to reconsider these previous court rulings and on Friday reversed the directives.

This means the legislature can redraw all of the district maps and their chance of being upheld in this state Supreme Court is high. The new court and the legislature’s majority members are much closer in the way they view redistricting law and procedure. Therefore, we can soon count on seeing a new congressional plan that will likely break the 7R-7D current delegation’s partisan division. The new draw will inevitably add Republican seats to the congressional delegation at the likely expense of some of the less senior Democratic members.

The high court’s action could also lead to a moot ruling on a similar case currently before the US Supreme Court. If the federal justices take such action on the Moore vs. Harper political gerrymandering and judicial authority case, then we will not see a sweeping Supreme Court directive pertaining to political gerrymandering. This would, at least for the short term, continue the practice of awarding the final redistricting judicial authority to the 50 state Supreme Courts.

Governor

Mississippi: Gov. Reeves Increases Lead — A new Siena College poll of the Mississippi electorate (April 16-20; 783 registered Mississippi voters; live interview & online) projects Gov. Tate Reeves (R) expanding what was a closer lead over Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D). The ballot test yields Gov. Reeves a 49-38 percent advantage. In early March, Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy found the governor holding a 46-39 percent edge.

While the Siena College poll revealed the governor’s job approval index at 53:46 percent favorable to unfavorable, his personal popularity remains upside down. This latest data projects for him only a 42:45 percent positive to negative ratio. Gov. Reeves faces only minor competition in the Aug. 8 Republican primary and Commissioner Presley is unopposed on the Democratic side. Therefore, it is clear the two will face each other in the Nov. 7 general election.

Battleground Polling

By Jim Ellis — Monday, May 1, 2023

President

Battleground States: A Look Inside the Numbers — The key 2024 presidential campaign battleground states are already known, and a national polling firm just completed a study covering five of these critical domains.

Public Opinion Strategies (POS) conducted a series of 500-sample general election polls in the important battleground states during the April 11-20 period, and all of the surveys produced very close results while highlighting a familiar pattern. This research gives us an early indication that we will again see a tight general election campaign.

POS tested both former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis individually against President Joe Biden in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In every instance, we see DeSantis running better when paired against Biden than does Trump.

First, in Arizona, President Biden would lead Trump by a single point, 45-44 percent, while DeSantis would record a six-point advantage over the Democratic incumbent, 48-42 percent.

For Republicans, Arizona is one of the most critical states on the board. Unless the eventual GOP nominee can capture Arizona and Georgia — the Peach State was not included in the POS battleground state study – the chances of attaining national victory are almost nil. Together, these two states account for 27 of the 35 conversion electoral votes a Republican candidate will need to win the White House.

Michigan, based upon the 2022 election results, is now viewed as leaning decidedly toward the Democrats, so the Wolverine State will likely not be as heavily emphasized on the Republican target list as some of the others covered in the POS multi-state study. Still, the current polling results put the Republicans within early victory range.

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Battleground Polling in Key States; Landry Leads in Louisiana Poll; Another California Candidate

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, April 27, 2023

President

Battleground Polling: New Surveys in Key States —As reported Tuesday, on the four-year anniversary of announcing his victorious candidacy in 2019, President Joe Biden officially declared for re-election.

At his current age of 80, Biden is already the oldest individual to occupy his office; curiously, he plans to adopt the theme of ‘needing more time to finish the job’ building upon the goals he originally outlined when embarking upon his 2020 national campaign.

Public Opinion Strategies (POS) conducted five 500-sample general election polls in five battleground states during the April 11-20 period, and all of the surveys produced very close results while highlighting a familiar pattern. This research gives us an early indication that we will again see a very close general election campaign.

In Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, POS tested both former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis individually against President Biden. In every instance, we see DeSantis running better when paired against Biden than does Trump.

First, in Arizona, President Biden would lead Trump by a single point, while Gov. DeSantis would record a six-point advantage over the Democratic incumbent. The Michigan numbers produced a similar pattern, with the president running two points ahead of Trump but trailing the Florida governor by three. Almost the same pattern occurred in the Silver State of Nevada: Biden up one over Trump but down three to DeSantis. Pennsylvania yields virtually the same result: Biden plus-4 over Trump; DeSantis plus-3 over Biden. And, just about the same was projected for Wisconsin: Biden leading Trump by three percentage points while drawing even opposite Gov. DeSantis.

Governor

Louisiana: AG Landry Leads in Open Seat Poll — WPA Intelligence, polling for the Club for Growth organization (April 11-13; 500 likely Louisiana primary voters; live interview), projects Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry to be opening a large lead over his open race gubernatorial opponents. The ballot test results yield a 36-18 percent lead over Democratic former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson. No other candidate reaches double-digits, with state Treasurer John Schroder (R) topping the also-rans with six percent support.

The all-party jungle primary is scheduled for Oct. 14, 2023. If no one reaches 50 percent, the top two finishers will then face each other in a runoff election on Nov. 18. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

California: Second 2026 Candidate Announces — Yesterday, we covered the story that California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D) already formally announced her 2026 campaign for governor. Following suit, former state Treasurer Betty Yee (D) made a public statement saying that she, too, will be competing in what will be an open California governor’s race with Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ineligible to seek a third term.

It is highly unusual to see candidates announce for a race almost four years in advance of the election. In a state the size of California, however, and considering the expense of a statewide campaign, time becomes as important a resource as money. Therefore, multi-cycle campaigns could be the beginning of a future Golden State trend.

RFK Jr. Formally Announces Run for President; Trump Leads in NH, SC Polls; New Entry in Ohio Senate Race;
House Candidate Activity

By Jim Ellis — Friday, April 21, 2023

President

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Formally Announces — The son of former US Attorney General and New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy officially entered the Democratic presidential primary yesterday. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. gained national attention for his anti-vaccination stance but is unlikely to be a serious threat to President Biden. He could, however, do some damage in New Hampshire and Georgia if the two states don’t adhere to the Democratic National Committee primary schedule, thus likely forcing the president to skip those primaries.

The adjusted DNC schedule bounces New Hampshire from the first primary position and adds Georgia to the pre-Super Tuesday calendar, among other changes. New Hampshire will not easily relinquish its traditional position — and doesn’t have to, because the individual states, and not the political parties, control their own primary election schedule. The Georgia legislature and governor may not approve the schedule because doing so would force the state to finance two primaries, since the Republicans are not adding the Peach State to the pre-Super Tuesday schedule.

New Hampshire: Trump Leading in New Poll — A new University of New Hampshire Granite State poll (April 13-17; 818 likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters; online) sees former President Donald Trump continuing to lead the proposed Republican presidential primary field, while home state Gov. Chris Sununu breaks into double-digits ascending to third place. Trump would lead Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Gov. Sununu, 42-22-12 percent. No other potential candidate reaches five percent support. On the Republican side, New Hampshire will remain as the first-in-the-nation primary.

South Carolina: Trump Leads Home State Opponents — The recently released National Public Affairs survey (April 11-14; 538 registered South Carolina voters likely to vote in the Republican primary; online & text) finds former President Trump again topping the Palmetto State field with 40 percent of the vote, a full 20 points ahead of DeSantis.

South Carolina candidates Nikki Haley (the state’s former governor), and Sen. Tim Scott, who has filed a presidential exploratory committee, would command 18 and 16 percent, respectively. Though the two still trail badly in their home state, the NPA ballot test posts the South Carolina pair to their strongest showing to date.

Senate

Ohio: Businessman Moreno Joins GOP Race — Buckeye State businessman Bernie Moreno (R), who for a short time was in the 2022 Senate race but dropped out before the first ballots were cast, announced that he will join the 2024 Republican primary with the hope of challenging Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in the general election. While a candidate in the previous campaign, Moreno spent $4 million of his personal fortune on his political effort.

Currently in the race is state senator and 2022 US Senate candidate Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) who has already invested $3 million of his own money into the ’24 Senate race. Thus, it appears we have two major self-funders set to battle each other for what should be a valuable GOP nomination in what portends to be one of the hottest general election Senate races in the country.

House

IL-7: Exploratory Committee Filed: — Veteran Illinois Congressman Danny Davis (D-Chicago) was first elected to the US House in 1996 after serving both as a Cook County Commissioner and on the Chicago City Council. Though his district is heavily Democratic and safe from a Republican opponent, Rep. Davis did have a relatively close call in the 2022 Democratic primary when he defeated community organizer Kina Collins by a 52-45 percent count. In 2020, he defeated the same opponent with a 60-13 percent victory margin.

At the age of 81, he is considered a retirement prospect for the 2024 election. That being the case, Chicago City treasurer and former state Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin (D) formed a congressional exploratory committee for the 7th District. This is a March 2024 Democratic primary campaign to watch.

IN-3: Former Rep. Stutzman Launches Comeback — Indiana Republican Marlin Stutzman, who served three terms in the US House before losing the 2016 US Senate Republican primary to then-Congressman Todd Young, announced yesterday that he will attempt to reclaim the seat he vacated eight years ago. The race, however, will be no “gimme” for the former congressman and ex-state legislator. Already announced as candidates are state Sen. Andy Zay (R-Huntington) and former Circuit Judge Wendy Davis, among others.

In a district that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates R+34, the successor to Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City), who is now running for Senate, will be decided in the May 2024 Republican primary.

MI-10: Another Democrat Surfaces to Challenge Rep. James — A third Democratic candidate came forward to compete for the party nomination to challenge Michigan freshman US Rep. John James (R-Farmington Hills). Emily Busch, a gun control activist and defeated state representative candidate, said she will run for Congress next year. Already in the Democratic primary are attorney Brian Jaye and financial consultant and ex-state representative candidate Diane Young.

It is likely that 2022 nominee and former judge and prosecutor Carl Marlinga will return for a re-match. He will be heavily favored in the Democratic primary, having lost to James by just a half-percentage point. The 10th District 2024 campaign again promises to be highly competitive and is a national Democratic congressional target.