Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

The September Reset

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 6, 2016
— Labor Day is always viewed as the traditional general election initiation benchmark for presidential campaigns, so it is important to see where the candidates stand now that we have reached this point in time.

During the Aug. 24-30 period, five national polling entities surveyed the national electorate. The five: USA Today/Suffolk University, Rasmussen Reports, Fox News, Reuters/Ipsos, and The Economist/YouGov find a margin range of Hillary Clinton topping Donald Trump by seven percentage points (USA/Suffolk: Aug. 24-29, 1,000 US likely voters, 42-35-7-4 percent, including Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein) to the Republican going up by a single point (Rasmussen Reports; Aug. 29-30: 1,000 US likely voters, 40-39-7-3 percent).

Together, the five polls produce a net average Clinton edge of 3.0 percentage points with neither candidate exceeding 42 percent support nor dropping below 35 percent.

Turning to a historical comparison, where have other presidential campaigns stood on Sept. 1, and how can previous patterns help us project what may happen in this current election?

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The Historical Perspective

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 31, 2016 — Everyday we see new polls that measure Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s national standing and their status in some states, but how does the 2016 race compare to the others from the past 40 years during this same time point in the election cycle?

The Gallup organization is the only consistent national pollster from the mid-20th Century through the 2012 election. After missing the final result four years ago in which they predicted a Mitt Romney popular vote victory, Gallup now confines their research work to issues and not head-to-head ballot test questions. Therefore, they are not polling the Clinton-Trump race.

Since Aug. 20, seven polls from a combination of professional national pollsters, media outlets, and universities have been publicly released. Six of the seven find Clinton holding the lead. One, the Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California’s continual panel-back tracking program, says Trump is carrying a two-point advantage. Factoring in these recent seven results, Clinton’s average advantage is 3.4 percentage points, usually in the span of 42-38 percent.

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Predicting the Presidential Outcome

At long last the election is finally here, but we still can’t predict the presidential outcome with any confidence. Recognizing that there have been many conflicting national polling factors present for the past several weeks, now at the end of the campaign it appears that all of the major pollsters are projecting just about the same final national popular vote result – a virtual tie.

Seven polls were released on Thursday through Saturday, and four of them (Ipsos/Reuters, Rasmussen Reports, UPI/C-Voter, and Zogby for the Washington Times) produced a high-40s deadlock between Pres. Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Two (Purple Strategies and Public Policy Polling) forecast a one-point lead for Obama. One, the ABC/Washington Post poll, showed Romney with that same single-point advantage. Simply put, the national election doesn’t get any closer.

Good news actually exists for both candidates in these final surveys. First, bringing the candidates back into a tie is positive for the president, who had been starting to drop behind. On the other hand, and an argument in Romney’s favor, an incumbent tied going into the election is rarely a good sign, because challengers typically under-poll to at least a small degree.

On the state front, Ohio still appears to be the deciding factor. There are some favorable indications that Romney will win close victories in North Carolina and Florida, which are his top priority conversion states. He also is trending upward in Virginia, but the all-important Buckeye State remains a mystery. The president has a slight edge in several polls, but not in others.

Looking at the secondary states, though Nevada and possibly Iowa look to remain in the president’s column, Romney is getting strong positive signs from Colorado. Should he be successful in taking Virginia and Ohio, Colorado would clinch a victory for the challenger.

Polling

There has been a great deal of analyses done about the myriad of polls conducted over the past months, and the conflicting nature between the ones that have projected the 2012 vote using a turnout model based upon 2008 voting patterns. Many have said that using such base data explains the polling discrepancies because the 2012 electorate is much different than that of four years ago. Therefore, using the 2008 model may skew too heavily Democratic.

Mike Barbera, a Washington lobbyist and guest columnist for our reports, has studied this situation, and offers the following perspective: Given all available evidence, the idea that the 2012 electorate will be as Democratic as 2008 is implausible – and the notion that it will be even more Democratic is to be completely rejected.

The 2008 election cycle featured the following:

  • A highly motivated Democratic base, enthused by the historic candidacy of Barack Obama and still seething with animus toward George W. Bush
  • A dispirited Republican base (although the Palin vice presidential selection remedied this to a certain degree)
  • A historically-unpopular outgoing Republican president
  • A huge funding disparity, which allowed the Obama campaign to dramatically outspend the McCain forces on the airwaves and in the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts
  • An economic meltdown a month before Election Day

That is a recipe for what a great Democratic year looks like – and indeed the Democrats in 2008 had a great year. They elected a president as well as super-majorities in both the House and Senate.

To put it mildly, 2012 looks nothing like 2008. By any measure, Republican enthusiasm is much higher than in 2008. Obama’s favorability ratings are significantly lower than they were in 2008. His job approval ratings are dismal. Romney and his GOP allies are at financial parity with the Obama campaign and the Democrats – so the Republican GOTV efforts are vastly improved from the threadbare McCain operation of 2008. Romney is doing very well among independents – John McCain lost them by a substantial margin.

Early Voting

States are reporting the number of ballots already returned through the various early voting processes. While all of the partisan numbers, i.e. the ballots returned from registered Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters, are better for Romney and the Republicans than the ratios from four years ago, it is unclear if they are a precursor to a Romney victory performance.

The Romney camp compares the current early voting trends to that of 2008 GOP nominee John McCain and illustrates what they believe is their candidate’s improvement over his showing. While there seems no doubt that the already returned ballots will yield better results for the Republican, as the Obama campaign points out, Romney must exceed the president’s vote total, not just that of McCain, and in every state but Colorado (that releases early voting partisan registration data) more Democratic ballots have been returned than Republican. All totaled, almost 30 million people have already voted in this election.

The Senate

Democratic trends in the statewide contests are better than for Republicans. It now appears likely that the Democrats will retain control of the Senate and do so with about the same level of strength they currently maintain: a seat up or down from the current 53D-47R margin.

The House

While the Senate races appear to be trending Democratic, the Republicans are pulling away in the House. The GOP majority is secure, and their original majority margin, based upon 242 seats, could even increase by as many as three or four seats when analyzing the final individual race trends.

Conclusion

This election is very close, and could be following one of two election models. The first would be that of 1980, where Ronald Reagan was running close to incumbent President Jimmy Carter, only to catch a wave at the very end and go onto a major landslide victory. The second potential precursor is the 2004 election, where a relatively unpopular incumbent President, George W. Bush, won a close victory that basically came down to the state of Ohio becoming the deciding factor. Determining the actual result is now merely hours away.

Obama Approval Ratings Reach Historic Lows

While the attention of most political observers and pundits has been on the extremely volatile multi-candidate contest for the Republican presidential nomination, little attention has been paid to the standing of the certain Democratic standard-bearer, President Barack Obama.

Polling by the Gallup organization, which has been tracking presidential approval ratings since the administration of Harry S. Truman, suggests that President Obama’s approval rating is lower than each of his eleven most recent predecessors at a comparable time in their presidencies. This statistic includes: Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, who were either not reelected or, in the case of Ford, never elected.

For the week ending Dec. 4, Obama’s approval rating stood at 42 percent, down one percent from his historically low November rating of 43 percent. The President’s disapproval rating currently stands at 50 percent, up one point from last week’s number. Again, all of these numbers are according to Gallup. Obama will need to improve his approval rating considerably during the rest of December in order to avoid numbers that are sure to initiate jitters among congressional Democrats and others sharing the ballot with him in 11 months.

The following chart provides an illustration of the presidential approval rates at the commensurate time in office (December of third year in office):

President      Year     Average approval
Eisenhower      1955                     75
Nixon                1971                      50
Carter                1979                     53
Reagan              1983                     54
Bush ’41            1991                      51
Clinton              1995                     51
Bush ’43            2003                    54
Obama              2011                      42 (through December 6)

As you can see, public approval ratings at the end of the third year of an incumbent’s presidency does not necessarily dictate his re-election result. For example, Presidents Carter (53 percent) and Reagan (54 percent) had virtually identical numbers at the end of their third year in office, but their election results one year later, as we all know, were starkly different. The same was true for Presidents Bush and Clinton, who both scored an identical 51 percent in the December preceding the election. But, Obama’s anemic 42 percent positive rating is far below any of his predecessors. It is too early to tell, however, whether or not this number will prove to be a precursor to defeat.

Gallup Poll: Satisfaction with Government at All-time Low

The Gallup organization has been studying the American attitude toward the federal government for the past 40 years, yet their latest poll results have entered a new realm. In looking at data dating back all the way to 1971, at no time has the distrust of governmental institutions and elected leaders been lower than it is today.

According to their September 2011 survey, 81 percent of those sampled (Sept. 8-11; 1,017 adults; released Sept. 26) say they are dissatisfied with the way they are being governed, a record high for the 40 years that they have been testing such feelings and attitudes. Only 19 percent responded favorably to this question. The numbers began this seriously downward trend at the beginning of 2007 when the ratio was 31:67 percent positive to negative. Right after the 2010 election, the results improved to 44:56 percent, but then retreated soon after.

The only other era in modern political history when the trust numbers even approached the current levels was during Watergate and the Nixon resignation back in 1974. But, even then, the macro ratings were still better than they are today. At that time, 26 percent of the survey respondents reported being satisfied with the way they were being governed versus 66 percent who were dissatisfied.

Beginning in 1982, the negativity of the Watergate era dissipated and the number of respondents expressing confidence in the federal government reached parity with those who were dissatisfied. By the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s second term in 1984, the trust factor ventured into strongly positive territory (55:37 percent) and continued this consistent pattern all through the Reagan (second term), Bush, and Clinton presidencies, all the way to the conclusion of George W. Bush’s first term, and never varied by more than a few percentage points.

By the middle of the second Bush term, however, the public attitude toward government deteriorated and the trust factor has yet to rebound. In fact, now three-quarters of the way through President Obama’s first term, public trust in government has cratered to an almost unanimous negative impression.

Congress’ job approval has normally been below 50 percent since 1971 except for the period between 1998-2003 – streaming to an 84 percent positive impression right after the Sept. 11 attacks. Now, it too is reaching a record modern era low, spiraling down to the range of the 13th percentile.

From 1972 all the way through 2008, Americans said they had either a “great deal” or at least a fair amount of confidence in the men and women who held public office. After the beginning of the Obama Administration, however, these numbers, too, have trended seriously downward. Being no worse than 54:44 percent positive to negative during the entire aforementioned 36-year period, the public official confidence factor has now tumbled all the way to 31:69 percent, with the latter figure representing those saying they have “not very much” or no trust and confidence in elected office holders.

The Gallup results are codified by the results of the last three elections. The voting results in 2006, ’08, and ’10 represent the first time that Americans have expressed anti-incumbent sentiment at the polls during three consecutive elections. As the confidence factor continues to deteriorate, another anti-establishment wave could again emerge in 2012.