Category Archives: Polls

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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Ohio Poll: Obama Iffy, Sen. Brown Stronger

Quinnipiac University released the results of their latest large-sample Ohio poll (March 15-21; 1,384 registered Ohio voters) and found that Pres. Barack Obama receives mixed ratings. The Buckeye State will again be a key battleground region in the 2012 presidential election, and is a place Republicans must win if they are to have any realistic chance of unseating Obama. When asked if they approve of the job Obama is doing, the cell sample split virtually evenly, with 47 percent answering positively while 48 percent provided a negative response. Commenting on whether the president deserves re-election, 45 percent of this Ohio sample believes that he does, but 46 percent disagreed. Paired with a generic Republican placebo, Obama is the choice of 41 percent versus the unnamed Republican’s 34 percent share. The overall numbers show some weakness in Obama’s Ohio political outlook because break-even polling scenarios almost always trend against the incumbent in an actual vote. It the above trend continues, the Republican chances to win Ohio will improve.

Conversely, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who must stand for his first re-election next year, is gaining political strength. While polls at the end of last year showed a potential Senate race to be in the toss-up range, more recent surveys, like this Q-Poll, indicate that Brown’s political position is becoming much stronger. His job approval score is 43:27 percent positive to negative. By a margin of 45-30 percent, the respondents believe the senator deserves re-election and a similar 45-29 percent split indicates they would vote for Brown over a generic Republican candidate.
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New Polling Shows Interesting Results in Montana, Conn., W.Va.

Three pollsters released a trio of different polls yesterday, all in races of note.

Montana: Mason-Dixon Polling & Research surveyed the Montana electorate (March 14-16; 625 registered Montana voters) for the Lee Newspaper chain and found Sen. Jon Tester (D) to be in a dead heat with at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) in the 2012 Senatorial race. The senator clung to a one-point 46-45 percent lead over his future GOP opponent. Tester received 94 percent support from Democrats compared to Rehberg’s 89 percent among Republicans. Independents broke 49-37 percent for the incumbent. Among men, Rehberg held a 53-40 percent advantage; Tester led 51-38 percent among female respondents.

Montana probably will support the Republican presidential nominee against Pres. Barack Obama, though the latter performed well here in 2008. John McCain managed to carry the state by a razor-thin 49-47 percent margin, but Obama led here during most of the ’08 presidential campaign. Assuming an improved Republican performance, Rehberg could get a slight bounce from the presidential race. The strong union presence in Montana, however, could prove to be a counter-balance in Tester’s favor. Union workers are likely to be highly energized due to the collective bargaining controversies happening in several states, which should provide positive synergy for Tester. Thus, the 2012 Montana Senate race will be a difficult campaign for both men. Count on the Tester-Rehberg race to be in toss-up mode all the way to the general election.

Connecticut: Public Policy Polling (March 17-20; 400 Connecticut registered self-identifying Democratic voters), for the Daily Kos national liberal blog, shows a very tight Connecticut Democratic Senatorial primary between Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. The eventual Democratic winner will have the inside track to replace the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman. According to PPP, Murphy leads Bysiewicz 40-38 percent. The congressman has a favorability index of 51:14 percent positive to negative; Bysiewicz is not quite as strong, scoring 45:27 percent.

In a general election match-up, tested from an enlarged sample of 822 registered Connecticut voters, Democrats win every pairing against well-known GOP potential contenders. The Republicans’ best ballot test featured former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2). He pulled to within 39-42 percent of Bysiewicz and 34-49 percent against Murphy. The Democrats perform much better against every other tested Republican.

West Virginia: Greenberg Quinlan Rosner conducted a study for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, one of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates running in West Virginia’s May 14 special primary election. According to this data (March 10-15; 400 registered West Virginia Democratic voters), Tennant has a reasonable chance of denying acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin the Democratic nomination. Tomblin leads Tennant 31-27 percent within the at-large sample but, among respondents who know both individuals, Tennant scores a 34-31 percent advantage. State Treasurer John Perdue follows the leaders with 14 percent; state House Speaker Rick Thompson, who was just recently endorsed by some of West Virginia’s most powerful labor unions, and state Senate President Jeff Kessler each receive 5 percent.

The winner of the May 14 primary will face a Republican nominee in the Oct. 4 special election. The next governor will only serve through next year, but is eligible to run for a full four-year term when the position comes up for regular election in November of 2012. The state house became vacant when then-Gov. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was elected to the U.S. Senate, replacing the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV). Manchin, too, will run for a full six-year Senatorial term in the next regular general election, as the 2010 special election was only for the balance of the existing term. With a long May-October special general cycle, it is clear that anything can happen in what promises to be an exciting governor’s race.
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Sen. Scott Brown Cruising in Mass.

A new Western New England College Institute poll (March 6-10; survey sample size not disclosed) puts Sen. Scott Brown (R) in a very favorable position for his first re-election next year.

Brown won a special election in Massachusetts in 2010, replacing the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D), who passed away before his final term was complete. Originally, a host of Democratic leaders were being mentioned as possible opponents for Sen. Brown, but as he continues to post strong numbers, they are peeling away one-by-one. It is likely that one of the 10 Democratic Congressmen eventually will run, especially with the state losing a seat in reapportionment. The man most often mentioned as a likely Senate candidate, Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA-8), still isn’t announcing, however, and this new poll suggests he would fare poorly. According to the Western NE College data, Brown would defeat Capuano 51-38%. When paired with Elizabeth Warren, the assistant to the president and special advisor to the treasury secretary on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Brown leads 51-34%.

But it’s in the favorability ratings where the senator’s strength is underscored, particularly when remembering he is a Republican from Massachusetts. His personal approval is 53:27% and his job approval, surprisingly, is even higher at 57:24%. In comparison, Sen. John Kerry scores 57:34%.

A Republican winning in this most loyal of Democratic states is uncommon, but it’s not unprecedented. Since 1980, Brown is actually the seventh Massachusetts Republican to win a statewide race. Ronald Reagan twice carried the Bay State in his presidential bids, and three gubernatorial candidates won four consecutive elections prior to Brown’s special election victory last year.

Already one pre-2012 election prediction has been proven wrong: we now know the Massachusetts Senate race won’t be an easy Democratic conversion as previously thought.
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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 Polling Results

More data is now available pertaining to the attitudes of people in Wisconsin — and within America — regarding the Badger State’s highly publicized budget stand-off. Both sides remain intransigent in their positions. Polls are breaking relatively even in terms of support for Gov. Scott Walker (R) or the public employee unions. Walker’s backing has waned a bit after the unions said they would accept the governor’s financial terms in exchange for the bargaining organizations continuing to possess their current status and privileges. Walker rejected the compromise.

Three recent polls on the subject were entered into the public domain. The Wisconsin Reporter conducted a poll through Pulse Opinion Research, a company owned by Rasmussen Reports. The survey (Feb. 21; 500 “likely” Wisconsin voters) showed a virtual dead heat as to the respondents’ opinion of Gov. Walker’s performance. By a margin of 49-48%, the respondents were favorable toward Walker. Additionally, on a 71-22% count, those participating in the Reporter poll believe that the governor’s fiscal requirements placed upon the unions are fair, but a 56% majority also say that public employees should have the right to collectively bargain. With Wisconsin’s history of being a strong union state, breaking even is actually good news for Walker.

Public Policy Polling went into the field Feb. 24-27, interviewing 768 Wisconsin voters, and found Walker’s numbers to be weakening. PPP shows Walker’s job approval rating turning slightly upside down, now 46:52% favorable to unfavorable. The numbers actually might be a bit better for the governor than one might notice at first glance, however. Though Walker won the November election 52-46%, PPP reports a dead heat among the cell sample when asked gubernatorial preference from November. The governor received 47% of the group’s votes and Democratic nominee Tom Barrett garnered an equal percentage. By a 52-47% margin the respondents would vote in Barrett’s favor if the election were held today. In terms of recalling the governor, an equal number would sign a petition to place the question on the ballot (48%) as those who would not.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press also conducted a national survey on the Wisconsin situation through Princeton Data Source, under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The poll questioned 1,009 adults from around the country (678 via landline, 331 on cell phones) during the same Feb. 24-27 period as PPP. They found 41% of the respondents supported the union position and 32% back Gov. Walker. The key difference here is that Pew surveyed “adults,” not screening for likely or even registered voters. Such samples tend to skew more liberal. Thus their results, which slightly but decidedly favor the unions, are predictable.

The data assessing the political fall-out in Wisconsin show that Gov. Walker has more staying power than others who have proposed similar cuts in other places during previous times. The trend suggests that the pro-Walker forces must continue to reinforce the reasons for the governor’s actions as the union arguments are certainly gaining some steam, especially when considering whether or not the general population favors collective bargaining rights for public employees. It appears Walker needs to provide a stronger foundation to support his argument for wanting to change the current union representation system.
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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.