Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

Americans Think Obama Will Make Good On Most Of His Promises

Posted Jan 21, 2009 at 2:05 AM by Maurice Berger

Americans have confidence in Obama's ability to make good on his promises, according a to new Gallup Poll: "Ensuring that all children have health insurance, doubling production of alternative energy and reducing health care costs are the promises Barack Obama have made that most Americans want him to keep . . . There is agreement on the top three across partisan lines although by different margins. Democrats agree on this top three by even higher percentages than the overall public. Independents rate them in the top 60s, and Republicans in the low to mid 50s. As to what Americans believe Obama will be able to accomplish, enacting a big public works program tops the list (80%), followed by increasing U.S. military strength in Afghanistan (68%), ensuring children have health insurance (62%) and lifting restrictions on government funding of stem cell research (61%)."

Obama's Inauguration: Most Watched In US History?

Posted Jan 20, 2009 at 2:07 AM by Maurice Berger

It looks like President-Elect Obama's inauguration may be the most watched in US history. According to a just released poll by Rasmussen Reports, "75% of U.S. voters say they plan to watch at least some of Barack Obama's inauguration live next week, including 28% who plan to watch it all, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. 21% say they will not watch any of the presidential swearing-in ceremony and the activities surrounding it on January 20, and 3% aren't sure."

Americans Expect Great Inauguration Speech

Posted Jan 19, 2009 at 1:47 AM by Maurice Berger

A Gallup/USA Today survey conducted January 9-11 2009 suggests that most Americans expect an extraordinary inauguration speech tomorrow from Barack Obama: "Americans have set a high bar for Obama on his inauguration speech. 56% expect it to be excellent and another 30% expect it to be good. 55% percent had expected George Bush's inaugural to be excellent or good when he took the oath for a second term in 2005." Even more extraodinary are Americans expectations for the Obama presidency: 62% believe Obama will be an outstanding or above-average President, 25% say he will be average and 11% say he will be below average or poor. Obama himself fares better than his cabinet-level appointees. 45% say they are outstanding or above average and 38% say they are average."

Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll: Obama Enjoying Sky High Approval

Posted Jan 16, 2009 at 2:20 AM by Maurice Berger

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reports that with less than a week before taking office, President-Elect Obama  enjoys exceptionally marks on his handling of the transition, with 71% of respondents approving: "On a series of measures -- from being seen as easygoing and likable to being perceived as a good commander-in-chief -- Mr. Obama rated higher than President George W. Bush or former President Bill Clinton did shortly before they took office."

Voters Trust Republicans More On National Security

Posted Jan 14, 2009 at 6:27 AM by Maurice Berger

In what may well be a problem for the incoming Obama administration and the new Democratic Congress, voters by a statistically significant margin trust Republicans more on matters of national security. According to a just released poll, Republicans hold the biggest lead over Democrats on the issue of national security since early September: 48% of voters trust the GOP more to handle national security and the War on Terror, while only 40% trust Democrats more. In December, the GOP held just a four-point lead on the issue. Trust in the Republicans hasn’t been this high since September 6, when they led the Democrats 50% to 40% on the issue." Unaffiliated voters give Republicans a staggering edge on handle national security--51% to 31%.

Obama's America (Part 6): The State Of The Nation--Foreign Affairs

Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 6:27 PM by Maurice Berger

Overall, Americans appear to be happier with the state of US foreign policy--and the state of the world itself--than with the present-day economic situation. American perceptions about the Iraq, for example, improved dramatically in 2008. A USA Today/Gallup poll taken this  summer reported that "nearly half of Americans say the U.S. troop surge in Iraq made the situation there better, up from 40% in February and just 22% a year ago. Accordingly, the percentage believing the surge 'is not making much difference' has declined from 51% a year ago, and 38% in February, to just 32%." In late summer, Americans were split down the middle on the issue of whether the United States should set an explicit timetable or target date for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq -- "when it is made clear that withdrawal is a given in either circumstance." Americans view the Arab-Israeli conflict with surprising optimism (despite the recent confligration in Gaza): "52% now believe it is possible for Israel and the Palestinians to live in peace, but just 35% think Obama is likely to help end the conflict during his presidency. Only 12% say Obama is Very Likely to help bring the two sides together, while 23% say it is not at likely." As for Americans view of terrorism: despite warnings of a possible attack during the early months of the new administration, a poll this fall found that "while a new bipartisan report concludes that the United States remains 'dangerously vulnerable' to terrorist attacks, most Americans do not fear being directly affected. Only 38% are very or somewhat worried that they or a family member will become a victim of terrorism. This is down from 47% last July, and from a high of 59% in October 2001, but is still short of a post-9/11 low of 28% in January 2004."

Obama's America (Part 5): The State Of The Nation--Military Morale

Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 7:34 PM by Maurice Berger

One important factor in an incoming president's foreign policy and defense profile is his relationship to the military. Some presidents have assumed office with strong backing from military personal and leaders (Ronald Regan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush). Others have had a more difficult time, most notably Bill Clinton, especially after his attempt (in the first days of his new administration) to allow gays to serve the the military, through the still controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. It looks like service members view president-elect Obama as a negative rather than positive force according to a Military Times poll of active-duty service members. Six out of 10 respondents say they are uncertain or pessimistic about Obama as commander in chief, , according to a Military Times survey: "In follow-up interviews, respondents expressed concerns about Obama’s lack of military service and experience leading men and women in uniform. . . . Underlying much of the uncertainty is Obama’s stated 16-month timetable for pulling combat troops out of Iraq, as well as his calls to end the 'don’t ask, don’t tell' policy to allow gays to serve openly in the military, according to survey responses and interviews. Most active service members still trust George W. Bush more than the incoming president: When asked who has their best interests at heart — Obama or Bush — a higher percentage of respondents picked Bush, though Bush has lost ground over time. About half of the respondents said Bush has their best interests at heart this year, the same percentage as last year but a decline from 69 percent in 2004." Obama's support increases significantly among African-American service members--eight out of 10 said they are optimistic about their incoming boss. One important caveat: The responses are unrepresentative of the the military as a whole, undercounting minorities, women and junior enlisted service members. Still, these numbers suggest that Obama may have a bumpy road ahead in his role as commander in chief.

Obama's America (Part 4): The State Of The Nation--Political Expectations

Posted Jan 08, 2009 at 5:52 PM by Maurice Berger

In what may be a plus (but also potentially a hindrance), Barack Obama begins his presidency with an exceptionally high approval rating--now hovering around 70%. Even more remarkable, according to a recent national poll of adults, 32% of Americans choose Barack Obama as the "man they most admire living anywhere in the world today, putting him in the No. 1 position on Gallup's annual Most Admired Man list." To put Obama's standing in perspective: Obama is the first president-elect since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 to top the list. And he has done it with a runaway high figure. For comparison, as president-elect in December 2000, George W. Bush was mentioned by just 5% of Americans, ranking him fourth. In December 1992, president-elect Bill Clinton ranked second behind outgoing president George H.W. Bush, with 15%. And in 1988, then president-elect Bush achieved third place, with 9%." Almost as important for the incoming administration:  Hillary Clinton earns the top spot for Most Admired Woman, named by 20%." Clinton's numbers are significant given the highly public and important role she will play in the White House. Obama's numbers suggests that the president-elect is coming into office with a good deal of political capital--an electorate that both admires and respects him. Indeed, a recent CNN/Opinion Research survey reported that 76% of Americans believe Obama is a strong and decisive leader. (By contrast, just 60% of voters felt the same way about George W. Bush when he took office in 2001.) "That's the best number an incoming president has gotten on that dimension since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "The public's rating of his leadership skills is already as high as George W. Bush's was after 9/11 and easily beats the numbers that both Bush and Bill Clinton got at the start of their first terms in office." And what do Americans expect Obama to actually achieve. According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, it's quite a bit: 70% of Americans expect Obama to improve the U.S. image abroad; 68% expect him to bring about health care reform; 67% say he will implement policies to deal with global warming; 64% believe he will end U.S. involvement in Iraq; and 46% percent believe he will improve the economy." The the issue of the economy is significant in this poll, out because it is the only one of these goals in which a majority (52%) don't believe Obama will succeed. In the end, high hopes sometimes lead to dashed expectations if the public perceives a new president's initiatives as failed, problematic, or counterproductive. PollTrack will closely watch these numbers over the next few months to see if this extraidinary public goodwill continues and flourishes.

Obama's America (Part 3): The State Of The Nation--A Sobered Opposition

Posted Jan 07, 2009 at 5:59 PM by Maurice Berger

Will president-elect Obama make good on his promise to end partisan bickering in Washington? The answer may well determine the relative success or failure of his new iniatives, especially his effort to pass a comprehensive economic stimulous package. With little less than two weeks to go until the new president takes office, recent opinion polls suggest that Obama has made remarkable inroads with self-described "conservative" Americans: "The extent to which Barack Obama is experiencing a post-election wave of good will from Americans is born out by his base of supprt among these espondents: "close to half of political conservatives -- 45% -- say they are confident in Obama's ability to be a good president. About the same percentage (46%) disagree." The 45% who say they are confident in Obama contrasts with the mere 23% of this group who supported him over John McCain in the election. In the end, "this relatively strong endorsement from conservatives boosts overall confidence in Obama well beyond the 53% of the national vote he received on Election Day." Overall, upawards of 65% to 70% of Americans now say they are confident Obama will be a good president, while only 27% are not confident and 8% are unsure. PollTrack suggests that the higher Obama's approval numbers with conservatives (and Republican voters of all stripes), the easier it may be for him to garner cross-over support in congress for a range of initiatives. This support may well tunr out to be the political cover right-of-center politicians will need to support Obama's programs.

Obama's America (Part 2): The State Of The Nation--Energy

Posted Jan 06, 2009 at 5:44 PM by Maurice Berger

With just a few weeks until Obama's inauguration, Americans remain worried and cautious about the state of energy and the nation's dependence on gasoline and other fossil fules. Nearly two in three Americans (64%)--according to a recent Gallup survey--report adjusting their driving habits in significant ways in response to surging gas prices earlier this year, but only 12% have reverted to their old habits as prices at the pump have plunged. Even as the price of a gallon of gas has fallen below $2 in most areas, 52% of Americans say they have not gone back to their old driving habits." These numbers suggest that Americans are reacting not only to the gravity of the energy crisis, but also are anxious about the economy and the effect of high energy and oil prices on their pocketbooks. As Gallup concludes: "the plunge in gas prices is similar to distributing a huge tax rebate by how much individuals drive. Like the tax rebate from earlier this year, lower-income Americans tend to be most likely to spend the rebate, but all Americans are likely to save a large portion of any tax rebate. In part, it may be that most Americans have not gone back to their old driving habits for fear that pump prices will surge once more in the future. Just as likely, however, particularly for upper-income Americans, returning to old driving habits may be a lot like spending money -- something left for better times." It will be interesting to see the public response to energy use if oil prices begin to climb, the response of the White House and Congress, and the effect of both on the public's accessment of the Obama administration in the coming year.

Obama's America (Part 1): The State Of The Nation--The Economy

Posted Jan 05, 2009 at 10:42 PM by Maurice Berger

Over the next week, PollTrack will publish a daily, six-part series--Obama's America: The State Of The Nation--that will examine public opinion and the attitudes of American voters about a range of issues facing the new president, from the economy and energy to voter expectations about the new administration. Collectively the series will offer a comprehensive look at the state of the nation through public opinion on the ground as Obama takes office. Today's topic: The Economy. Public reaction and response to the economic crisis has been mixed in recent weeks. For one, voters remain pessimistic about the economy: Nationally, only 9% of adults rate the economy as either good or excellent. 61% disagree and say the economy is in poor condition. Voters tend to support president-elect Obama's proposal for a comprehensive and massive stilumlous package: 56% of respondents say they favor the stimulus package that President-elect Barack Obama is proposing; 42% were opposed.The poll concludes: "Two-thirds of the public thinks the stimulus package will do just that, with 17% saying it will help the economy a lot and another 50% feeling that it will help the economy somewhat. 21% percent say the stimulus package won't help the economy very much and 10% say it won't help at all." Yet,  the recent economic crisis had led led "mixed feelings" about government intervention: 70% of respondents say a free market is better than one managed by the government. Just 15% prefer a government-managed economy. 15% remain undecided. Still, a majority of voters--a healthy 52%--also believe there is a need for more government regulation of big business, although 35% disagree. 13% are unsure. These numbers suggest a highly vulnerable electorate, uncertain of the best way to handle the present economic crisis, unsure of how much government can do, but generally confident in the new president's ability to handle the situation.


Liberals Love Obama, Republicans Gaining In Enthusiasm

Posted Jan 05, 2009 at 12:53 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new Gallup poll, liberal Democrats remain confident in president-elect Obama: support for Obama among liberal Democrats is holding steady at 93% "despite news reports that his core supporters are disappointed with some of his cabinet appointments and other decisions. Meanwhile, in recent weeks, Obama's ratings have improved among conservative Republicans, up from 23% to 29% . . . Now, a slim majority of moderate and liberal Republicans, 51%, say they are confident Obama will be a good president, up from 44% in November. Conservative Republicans remain largely skeptical of Obama's abilities, but in recent weeks his stock has risen slightly among this group, from 23% to 29%."

Coming Next Tuesday: OBAMA'S AMERICA: The State Of The Nation

Posted Jan 02, 2009 at 4:06 PM by Maurice Berger

Starting next Tuesday, PollTrack will publish a daily, six-part series--Obama's America: The State Of The Nation--that will examine public opinion and the attitudes of American voters about a range of issues facing the new president, from the economy and energy to voter expectations about the new administration. Collectively the series will offer a comprehensive look at the state of the nation through public opinion on the ground as Obama takes office.

Americans See A Better 2009, Despite Fears About Economy

Posted Jan 02, 2009 at 3:23 AM by Maurice Berger

Americans remain optimistic about 2009, but still fear the effects of a recession most believe will be long-term. According to a new poll, Americans have a bit more confidence in 2009 than in the year that just passed, but 50% of adults believe the country will still be in a recession this time next year. 24% say 2008 was a good or excellent year, and 3% say it was the best year ever . . .  38% rate 2008 as poor. 32% expect 2009 to be good or excellent, with 5% more predicting it will be the best ever. 23% say it’s going to be a poor year." By contrast, a year ago 54% rated 2007 as either good, excellent or one of the best years ever for them personally. Only 20% gave it poor marks. 68% expected 2008 to be excellent, good or the best, with just 7% predicting poor.


Rasmussen: Consumer Confidence Up Slightly

Posted Dec 31, 2008 at 12:53 AM by Maurice Berger

Are Americans getting a bit more optimistic about the ailing economy during this holiday seasn. A new Rasmusen Consumer Index survey suggests that consumers are less anxious than they were even a week or two ago: The Consumer Index, which measures the "economic confidence of consumers on a daily basis, rose a point on Monday to 61.9, its highest reading since December 12. Today's index is up two points from last week, but is down two points from the first reading of the month." Any improvement in Americans perception of the economy will be helpful to presisdent-elect Obama, whose first priority is to restore confidence in a public (and business community) that as grown increasingly pessimistic about the future. 

Voters Mixed In Their Views Of Government Economic Regulation

Posted Dec 30, 2008 at 1:57 AM by Maurice Berger

American voters have mixed feelings about government's role in managing the economy, according to a new Rasmussen Reports survey. 70% of respondents say a free market is better than one managed by the government. Just 15% prefer a government-managed economy. 15% remain undecided. But as Rasmussen notes, the recent economic crisis had led led "mixed feelings" about government intervention: a majority of voters--a healthy 52%--also believe there is a need for more government regulation of big business, although 35% disagree. 13% are unsure.The survey concludes that voters overall "are more ambivalent about the federal government’s role in the current economic crisis. 48% worry the government will do too much, while 41% fear it will do too little. 11% are not sure which is a greater concern. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of voters agree, however, that government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors. Only 15% of voters don’t believe that is true, and 20% are undecided." This ambivalence suggests a very tricky political landscape for the incoming president who must balance the need for federal regulation with broadly held views about American capitalism and economic freedom and self-determination. 

Most Americans Support Obama Stimulous Package

Posted Dec 28, 2008 at 5:25 PM by Maurice Berger

According to a new CNN/Opinion Research survey, 56% of respondents say they favor the stimulus package that President-elect Barack Obama is proposing; 42% were opposed.The poll concludes: "Two-thirds of the public thinks the stimulus package will do just that, with 17% saying it will help the economy a lot and another 50% feeling that it will help the economy somewhat. 21% percent say the stimulus package won't help the economy very much and 10% say it won't help at all. Yet, respondents appear to be split on the issue of government regulation of business and industry, with "39% saying there's too much government regulation and an equal amount saying too little. 20% said the amount of government involvement is just right."

Voters Continue To Oppose Auto Bailout

Posted Dec 24, 2008 at 1:43 AM by Maurice Berger

A new national poll reports that nearly half of U.S. voters (49%) "oppose President Bush’s decision to extend $17.4 billion in emergency taxpayer-backed loans to the failing U.S. auto industry, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. 38% are in favor of the president’s decision, which he announced Friday, while 13% are undecided. The day before, Bush acknowledged that he has been forced to turn his back on many of the free-market principles he believes in because of the severity of the country’s economic situation." President-elect Obama also supports the auto bailout.

43% of Americans Think Obama Transition Did Nothing Wrong In Blagojevich Scandal

Posted Dec 22, 2008 at 7:05 AM by Maurice Berger


A new CNN/Opinion Research survey indicates Americans are split on whether aides to President-elect Barack Obama did something inappropriate in their contacts with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich: 12% of those questioned say Obama aides did something illegal, with another 36% feeling Obama aides didn't act illegally but did do something unethical.43% say no Obama aides did anything seriously wrong."

Voter Confidence In Obama Remains High

Posted Dec 22, 2008 at 1:03 AM by Maurice Berger

According to the new Rasmussen Reports Presidential Approval Index 41% of the nation’s voters now Strongly Approve of the way Barack Obama handling the role of President-elect while 16% Strongly Disapprove.These numbers suggest a stability in public perceptions of the new president. The number who strongly approve of Obama’s performance has changed little since the election. "The number who Strongly Disapprove, however, has fallen in half—from 32% immediately after the election to 16% today." As PollTrack has noted before, Obama's approval rating is one of the highest for an incoming president. Indeed, a just released ABC News/Washington Post survey indicates that voter expectations for the president-elect are riding extremely high: "77% believe he’ll be able to improve the United States’ image abroad, and 64% to 68% think he’ll be able to end U.S. involvement in Iraq, implement global warming policies and make significant improvements in the health care system." Yet, as the survey's authors note, there may be a down side to such high expectations: "The danger to Obama is that unmet expectations can produce a negative response. At the same time, expectations are highest among his core supporters, Democrats, who are less likely to turn against him. Republicans are far more skeptical."

Marist Poll: American's Very Impressed With Obama Transition

Posted Dec 18, 2008 at 6:56 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new Marist poll of registered voters, Americans are very impressed with president-elect Obama and his transition: "A considerable majority of registered voters in the United States are giving President-elect Barack Obama high marks for the job he’s doing during his transition into office.  63% say they approve of his performance while just 10% of voters disapprove.  27% are on the fence, reporting they are unsure about how the president-elect is doing.  In the wake of this year’s bitter campaign battle, prominent partisan differences linger.  86% of Democrats approve of President-elect Obama’s job performance.  36% of Republicans agree while a large proportion of the GOP -- 42% -- is unsure about how the future president is doing.  Independent voters align with the Democrats.  61% give President-elect Obama a thumbs-up for how he is handling the transition period." Additionally, the Democrat exceeds the expectations of many Americans: '83% of registered voters in the United States say the president-elect is doing better than or about what they expected him to do during the transition.  This includes 56% who say Obama is meeting their expectations, and 27% who feel Obama is doing better than they anticipated.  Democrats are more likely than other voters to think the President-elect Obama is doing better than they thought he would." These numbers are by-and-large extraordinary for an in-coming president.


Concerns About The Economy Are Highest in Three Decades

Posted Dec 18, 2008 at 1:18 AM by Maurice Berger

Voter concerns about the econony are as high as they've been in three decades, since the fiscal meltdown of the mid-1970s. According to a new ABC News/Washington Post survey, "job insecurity is its worst in 33 years of polls; holiday spending plans, their worst in data back 23 years. Americans report cuts in work hours and pay, and concerns about making the rent or mortgage, heating the house, paying for retirement. In all it’s an extraordinary loss of confidence – with repercussions in families across economic and political lines. . . 63% now think the country is in a 'long-term economic decline,' up from 49% 10 months ago; just a third say the economic system is still “basically pretty solid.” And while economic distress tends to be greatest among lower-income Americans, the biggest increase in views of a long-term decline has been among the better-off, hammered by the stock market." In a separate barometer of the nation's economic health, Separately, the weekly ABC News Consumer Comfort Index is in "the midst of its worst stretch since it began 23 years ago: Just 7% of Americans say the economy’s in
good shape, 22% call it a good time to spend money and fewer than half, 44%, rate their personal finances positively."

THE OBAMA PROJECT: Call For Submissions

Posted Dec 17, 2008 at 5:17 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack has just come off a very successful campaign season, tracking the most exciting presidential election in a generation (along with more than 20 US Senate races). With more than 220,000 visitors in the first two-and-half months of our launch we had visitors from every state in the union and 108 nations. One feature of the site, VOICES ON THE GROUND, invited contributions from artists, writers, observers, scholars, students, and others who helped us track the election from the perspective of where it mattered the most: with voters on the ground.
As we approach the inauguration of President-Elect Obama, VOICES launches The Obama Project--an online forum for commentary, analysis, poetry, photographs, and YouTube content that explores the following questions: What Does The Election of Barack Obama Mean To You? And What Does it Mean for The Nation?
We ask you to submit texts (from a single line to 2,000 words), photographs, or content you've posted on YouTube. We will be uploading content on an ongoing basis through the inauguration and beyond. You are also welcome to submit materials that relate to Election 2008 but do not fall within the purview of The Obama Project.
To submit texts or images, go to the "Participate" tab on the yellow tool bar in the lower right of the VOICES page. You may also send texts (and photo attachments) directly to However you submit materials, PLEASE: include your full name and your city and state or location (if outside the US)
We very much look forward to hearing your voices on PollTrack.

Voters To Obama: Withdraw From Iraq

Posted Dec 17, 2008 at 2:07 AM by Maurice Berger

While voters are generally optimistic about the future of Iraq--and the relative success of the US military involvement in the nation--they are growing increasingly eager to see the US withdraw from the conflagration. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll reports: 56% rate the US military "surge" a success, agreeing that the United States is making "'significant progress' restoring civil order in Iraq, up from 40% in April. (The rest may be reflecting on the ongoing, if less numerous, car-bomb attacks there.) Even more, 65%, are now optimistic about Iraq’s prospects in the year ahead, up 19 points from last year to a new high since 2004. Some of that stems from better ratings of security there; some, instead, from greater optimism among Democrats and Democratic-leaning
independents encouraged by Barack Obama’s election. In any case it’s in the broader analysis, beyond the situation on the ground – the cost in lives and dollars vs. perceived benefits – that nearly two-thirds continue to call the war not worth fighting. And as that view is unchanged, so is its intensity: Fifty percent feel 'strongly' that the Iraq war was not worth it. Fewer than half as many, 21%, strongly feel the opposite – tying the all-time low in strong support for the war. Such views put some heat on Obama; not only do 70% say he should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, but, among many high expectations for the incoming president, 64% think in fact he will end the U.S. involvement there."

Nationally Voters Suspect Obama Team Involvement in Blagojevich Scandal

Posted Dec 16, 2008 at 5:13 AM by Maurice Berger

If voters in Illinois are willing to give the Obama team the benefit of the dount vis-a-vis the Blagojevich scandal, nationally the president-elect is not doing as well. According to a Rasmussen Reports poll of registered voters, 45% "say it is likely President-elect Obama or one of his top campaign aides was involved in the unfolding Blagojevich scandal in Illinois, including 23% who say it is Very Likely. Just 11% say it is not at all likely, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken Thursday and Friday nights." A new ABC News/Washington Post poll reports that a "tepid 51% say Obama’s done enough to explain any discussions his representatives may have had with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who’s accused of seeking bribes in his selection of Obama’s successor. The rest either say Obama’s not done enough (34%) or are unsure (14% more)."

Illinois Voters Are Uncertain About Obama's Involvement In The Blagojevich Scandal

Posted Dec 16, 2008 at 1:13 AM by Maurice Berger

The voters of President-Elect Obama's homestate of Illinois remain uncertain about his relationship to embattled Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich: According to a new statewide survey of registered voters, 32% say there is no way that the incoming president was involved in the Blagojevich corruption case, even as questions mount over whether an Obama adviser discussed the president-elect’s vacant Senate seat with the Illinois governor or his staff. "Only 13% say it is Very Likely that the president-elect was involved, with another 13% saying it is Somewhat Likely, according to a Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Illinois voters on Wednesday night. Thirty-seven percent (37%) say it’s Not Very Likely, with six percent (6%) undecided." 

Despite Sky-High Approval of Obama, Democrats Are Growing Wary Of The Nation's Futrure

Posted Dec 15, 2008 at 4:47 AM by Maurice Berger

Despite record high approval ratings for President-Elect Obama, party members are growing increasingly pessimistic about the nation's future. According to a new Rasmussen survey, "just 22% of Democrats now say the nation is heading in the right direction, down from an average of 27% for the full month of November." The poll also found that just 15% of Republicans and 13% of unaffiliated voters say the nation is heading in the right direction. Overall, a staggering 79% of Republicans, 69% of Democrats and 80% of unaffiliated voters now say America is heading down the wrong track.

Voter Confidence In President-Elect Obama Remains High

Posted Dec 15, 2008 at 2:17 AM by Maurice Berger

Despite the withering economy and a scandal brewing in Illinois, voters continue to give very high markes to the transition of President-Elect Obama. Voter confidence in the incoming president hovers near seventy percent--69% expressing confidence, 23% disagreeing according to the latest Gallaup poll. Rasmussen adds an additional level of qualification, now reporting that 43% of the nation's voters now Strongly Approve of the way Barack Obama is handling the role of President-elect while 16% Strongly Disapprove. Overall, 67% of voters somewhat or strongly approve of Obama’s performance so far while 30% disapprove, results similar to Gallup but with a slight uptick in voters who disaaprove of the new president. 

Despite Obama's Support Voters Wary Of Auto Bailout

Posted Dec 12, 2008 at 5:11 AM by Maurice Berger

Despite the support of president-elect Obama and the current president, George W. Bush--and passage by the US House of Representatives--registered voters remain wary of the auto-industry bailout, according to a new Marist Poll: "With action on the legislation expected in the U.S. Senate as early as today, 48% of U.S. residents nationwide disapprove of Congress providing federal loans to the automakers while 41% approve of the federal assistance. Looking at registered voters in the United States, the numbers are similar. 48% of registered voters nationwide disapprove of the plan compared with 43% who support the action. There is a partisan divide on the issue. A majority of Democrats -- 53% -- approve of the measure while a majority of Republicans -- 61% -- disapprove of the plan. Independents are more in line with Republicans. 51% of these voters disapprove of providing federal loans to automakers compared with 40% who approve of the idea." Indeed, this divide is reflected in the Senate's inability to piece together a coalition in support of the bill.

Obama Enjoying Wide Popularity

Posted Dec 11, 2008 at 8:54 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, president-elect Barack Obama is enjoying unprecidented popularity during his transition: "Obama is enjoying a bigger honeymoon than his recent predecessors ever did. Just consider these numbers in the latest NBC/WSJ poll: 67% say they're pleased with Obama's early appointments, 75% believe that the level of his involvement in making policy has been exactly right, and his fav/unfav rating is 67%-16%. By comparison, a month after their initial presidential victories, Bush's rating was 48%-35% and Clinton's was 60%-19%. These scores -- combined with the fact that nearly 80% believe Obama will face bigger challenges than other recent presidents have, and 90% who say the nation's economy has gotten worse over the past 12 months -- seem to have given Obama some leeway with the American public. "We're seeing a president who has been given a longer leash by the American public," says NBC/WSJ co-pollster Bill McInturff (R). 'This is not a traditional start of a presidency where people give you just a couple of months.'"

Americans Remain Optimistic About The New President

Posted Dec 11, 2008 at 12:56 AM by Maurice Berger

Some voters are "proud" of Obama's historuc victory; others are "afraid." But overall, Americans remain optimistic about the president-elect, according to a new survey by the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg: "Americans are hopeful, optimistic and proud of Barack Obama winning the most historic presidential election this country has seen, according to a new Los Angeles Times/ Bloomberg poll. About three-quarters of all Americans have mentioned a positive adjective in describing their feeling about Obama winning the election. Although it is a small sample of blacks, more than two out of five of all blacks said they were proud, while whites are more evenly split between hopeful and optimistic. Just 8% of whites said proud. Interestingly, 29% of Republicans and 31% of conservative Republicans said they are afraid of an Obama administration (perhaps still feeling animosity after the brutal negative campaigning against Obama). Yet, there is a reservoir of good will surrounding him and the team he is assembling, although many think he won’t be able to fulfill all of his campaign promises."

Obama's Approval Rating "Sky High"

Posted Dec 09, 2008 at 4:07 AM by Maurice Berger

With the kind of approval rating usually recorded for a president as the nation rallies behind him in a natuural disaster or terorist attack, president-elect Barack Obama is riding high in the polls. A new CNN/Opinion Research survey reports: "79% approve of Obama's performance so far during transition, with 18% disapproving. Obama's approval rating is 14 points higher than the approval rating for President-elect George Bush in 2001 and 17 points higher than President-elect Clinton's rating in 1992, CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. Obama's current approval rating is also more than 50 points higher than President Bush's current approval rating, which now stands at 28 percent --- with 71 percent disapproving of the way Bush is handling his job as president."

Americans Afraid Of Terror Attack In New Obama Presidency

Posted Dec 09, 2008 at 2:16 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new Rasmussen Reports poll, a hefty majority of Americans fear a terror attack during the first year of Obama's presidemcy. (Indeed, major terror attacks on US soil occured in 1993 and 2001, during the first year of the Clinton and Bush administrations respectively.) The breakdown id as follows: "59% say a terrorist attack in the United States like the one last week in India is at least somewhat likely in the next year. 23% say it is Very Likely. Just 5% say such an attack is not at all likely to occur here in the next 12 months."

Black Voters Twice As Confident As Whites About Country's Future

Posted Dec 08, 2008 at 5:39 AM by Maurice Berger

The election of Barack Obama as the nation's first black president has had one immediate effect on the attitudes of African-American voters according to a new Rasmussen Reports survey: "38% of black voters believe the nation is heading in the right direction, while just 16% of white voters agree. Rasmussen Reports national telephone surveys found that 53% of black voters say America is headed down the wrong track, along with 77% of white voters." this represents an increase in black voter's optimism from pre-election numbers, one that can be ascribed to Obama's historic victory: "During the week prior to Election Day, just 10% of black voters said America was heading in the right direction . . . confidence about the nation’s future bounced among black voters the week after Election Day, when 40% said the nation was moving in the right direction . . .  just 19% of whites agreed at that time."

Obama's Illinois Senate Seat Replacement: Voters Want Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.

Posted Dec 05, 2008 at 5:08 AM by Maurice Berger

Who will replace Barack Obama as Illinois' Juinior Senator? The task will be left to Rod Blagojevich, Illinois’ Democratic governor whose own approval numbers remain among the lowest of state chief executives in the country. According to a new survey of Illinois voters, "Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. is the clear favorite . . . . among the party’s top five candidates to succeed Barack Obama as the state’s junior U.S. senator." Rasmussen Reports hancaps the hypothetical race as follows: Jackson, a "Chicago congressman who has been openly campaigning for the job has the support of 36% of Illinois Democrats . . . Tammy Duckworth, director of Illinois’ Department of Veterans Affairs, is next with the backing of 29%, followed by state Attorney General Lisa Madigan with 17%. Another congressman mentioned for the post, Rep. Jan Schakowksy, has eight percent (8%) support, with Emil Jones, president of the Illinois Senate, at two percent (2%). Just seven percent (7%) of Democrats are not sure which candidate they prefer." Blagojevich has promised to appoint Obama’s successor during the Christmas holidays.

Obama Fundraising: A $400 Record Setting Million Advantage Over Mccain

Posted Dec 05, 2008 at 1:25 AM by Maurice Berger

ABC News reports that the final fundraising figures for Election 2008 are staggering and historic: "President-elect Obama campaign raised roughly $745 million for his 2008 presidential campaign. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., raised roughly $320 million, including the $84 million from entering into the public financing system." ABC News reports that this total excludes funds from the Democratic and Republican National Committees: "When those numbers are taken into account, we expect the Democrats to have raised closer to one billion dollars, compared to roughly $630 million for the Republicans. Which means the President-elect had, roughly, a $400 million advantage."

Obama Transition Effort Highly Regarded By Public

Posted Dec 03, 2008 at 4:12 AM by Maurice Berger

American voters like what they're seeing with regard to President-Elect Obama's transition efforts. According to a new  USA Today/Gallup Poll, Obama gets soaring marks for his handling of the transition and his choices for the Cabinet . . . even at a time the public is downbeat over the economy. More than three of four Americans, including a majority of Republicans, approve of the job Obama has done so far — broad-based support he'll need as he faces tough decisions ahead." The public also has a very positive opinion of the new president's cabinet appointments--by 69%-25%, they approve of his pick of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State; by an even wider margin, 80%-14%, they approve of his decision to reappoint President Bush's Pentagon chief, Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Rasmussen: 55% of Voters Are Confident That Obama Will Solve Economic Crisis

Posted Dec 03, 2008 at 2:01 AM by Maurice Berger

A new poll out from Rasmussen reports that a majority of voters are confident that Obama--and his economic team--can solve the nation's economic woes: "55% of Americans are at least somewhat confident that Barack Obama's economic team can lead the country out of its current economic problems. 25% are very confident. Only 13% are not at all confident in the new team, and 5% are undecided." Interestingly, investors are less enthusiastic about the Obama economic team, with 48% somewhat confident in the president-elect’s choices, including 20% who are very confident. 63% of non-investors are somewhar confident, while 32% are very confident. 16% of investors are not at all confident in the new economic team, compared to 10% of non-investors.

Obama Victory Not Tied To Voter Surge

Posted Dec 02, 2008 at 4:22 AM by Maurice Berger

While Obama was able to count on an increase in intensity of support and turnout among African-American, Hispanic, and young voters, his victory was not built on a surge of voters (as his campaign had hoped). According to Bloomberg News: The Democrats "bet on an unprecedented surge of new voters to carry him to victory last month . . . but [Obama] won without the record turnout . . .  About 130 million Americans voted, up from 122 million four years ago. Still, turnout fell short of the 140 million voters many experts had forecast. With a little more than 61 percent of eligible voters casting ballots, the 2008 results also didn't match the record 63.8 percent turnout rate that helped propel President John F. Kennedy to victory in 1960."The reasons for this shortfall were complex and varied: "Many disaffected Republicans stayed home. Young voters, particularly those without college degrees, didn’t turn out in the numbers that the Obama campaign projected. In states where the presidential race wasn’t in doubt -- such as Obama strongholds in California and New York, or reliably Republican outposts such as Oklahoma and Utah -- turnout was lower than in 2004."

Bloomberg News: How Much Did Race Matter In Election 2008?

Posted Dec 01, 2008 at 5:03 AM by Maurice Berger

A just published Bloomberg News analysis examines the subject of race and whether the racial breakdown of election 2008 represented a new Democrat-tilting realignment. His conclusion: the republicans may be in trouble, yet if the racial and generational composition on Nov. 4 had been identical to four years ago, John McCain may well have won: "A deeper look at the changing shape of the electorate suggests more fundamental problems for Republicans. Their core constituencies are shrinking, and the wedge issues that used to plague Democrats are now more divisive for Republicans. . . . Non-whites comprised 26 percent of the electorate, up from 23 percent in 2004. Obama carried 80 percent of these voters. African-Americans turned out in record numbers, and almost all of them voted for the first black president. Republicans once hoped to score well among Hispanics, the fastest-growing slice of the population. They were 9 percent of the electorate last month, with almost three times as many Latino voters as just 16 years ago. Obama carried Hispanics, 67 percent to 31 percent, according to exit polls. That gave him a cushion in heavily Hispanic-populated states like New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado -- all of which were in the Republican column four years before -- and in places like Iowa and North Carolina, which have growing Latino populations."

Obama Well-Regarded By Most Voters

Posted Dec 01, 2008 at 1:35 AM by Maurice Berger

A new Rasmussen Reports survey suggests that President-Elect Obama is in a very strong honeymoon phase with voters: "42% of the nation’s voters now strongly approve of the way Obama is performing his role as President-elect while 19% Strongly Disapprove. Overall, 63% of voters somewhat or strongly approve of Obama’s performance so far while 34% disapprove." These numbers compare very favorably with recent presidents.

Most Americans Think Obama Is Politically "Liberal"

Posted Nov 28, 2008 at 3:44 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a just released survey Rasmussen Reports, most Americans see President-Elect Barack Obama as politically "liberal": "68% of American voters see [Obama] as politically liberal, including 41% who say he is very liberal. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 24% say the President-elect is politically moderate while 4% see him as conservative. These results are little changed from the fall campaign, despite the fact that some on the political left see Obama's early appointments tilting to the right."

Election 2008: Voters Were Often Fickle And Wavering

Posted Nov 28, 2008 at 1:52 AM by Maurice Berger

A post-election analysis by Associated Press/Yahoo reports that voters often wavered in the choice for president, flip-flopping from Obama to McCain and vice versa a number of times throughout the 2008 campaign: "Inch by inch, voter by voter, Barack Obama and John McCain labored for more than a year to lock down supporters and woo defectors. It turns out, though, that the nation's voters were a lot more fickle than commonly expected, and far more prone to switch allegiances. An Associated Press-Yahoo News poll that tracked the same group of about 2,000 adults throughout the long campaign reveals a lively churning beneath the surface as people shifted their loyalties - some more than once. Over the long haul, 17% of those who eventually voted for Obama had expressed support for McCain at least once in a series of 10 AP-Yahoo News polls conducted since November 2007, before the party primaries began. And 11 percent of McCain's eventual supporters had backed Obama at least once . . . Election polls that showed only gradual shifts in support for Obama and McCain were masking a much more volatile electorate. Few voters made unwavering, long-term commitments to either candidate . . . Just 28 percent of those saying they voted for Democrat Obama, and 27 percent saying they backed Republican McCain on Election Day, said they would vote for that party's candidate in all 10 AP-Yahoo News polls."

ABC NEWS Poll: Americans Skeptical About Obama's Ability to Repair Economy

Posted Nov 26, 2008 at 4:40 AM by Maurice Berger

Despite relatively high marks for the Obama transition effort, American voters remain pessimistic about the new president's ability to manage the economy. As a new ABC News survey reports: "Expectations of Obama’s economic performance are highly partisan. Just 16% of Republicans expect him to be able to accomplish a 'great deal' or 'good amount' to improve the economy, essentially unchanged from election eve. At the same time, that expectation has declined among Democrats and independents alike (by 9 and 10 points, respectively), suggesting a more sober post-election assessment in these groups. Obama himself, in introducing his economic team today, pledged fast work
but also said the economy 'is likely to get worse before it gets better.'” The ABC News analysis continues: "Given the larger forces at work, relatively few Americans, 24 percent overall, expect the incoming president to be able to do 'a great deal' to improve the economy. That’s even though it was the single most dominant issue of the campaign, and Obama’s ability to connect with the public’s economic concerns that lifted him to his Nov. 4 victory."

Obama's New Majority: The "Race" Factor

Posted Nov 26, 2008 at 2:00 AM by Maurice Berger

One thing is certain about Election 2008: if Obama had depended on white voters for victory, McCain would now be president. Indeed, the Democrat did no better than most presidential candidates of his party with white voters. The final racial breakdown of the election is sobering: among white voters, McCain received a whopping 55% of the vote, Obama did not better than 43%. An important article in the Miami Herald, puts Obama victory in perspective: he won because many white people stayed home and minorities voted in record numbers for the Democrat: "Barack Obama's 8.5 million-vote margin over John McCain was fueled by a more than 20 percent surge in minority voting, a new analysis of exit polling data suggests. While Obama won a lopsided number of electoral votes, his popular-vote margin was increased by an outpouring of minority balloting as the number of whites who cast ballots declined overall. The analysis estimated that about 5.8 million more minorities voted in this year's presidential election than in 2004 while nearly 1.2 million fewer whites went to the polls. Separate opinion polls and election results themselves indicate that an overwhelming majority of African-Americans and Latinos backed Obama . . . Based on exit polling data, Project Vote estimated that the nationwide African-American vote rose by 2.88 million, to 16.3 million, accounting for 13 percent of the ballots compared with 11 percent in 2004. The Latino turnout increased by 1.5 million to 11.3 million, accounting for 9 percent of the total ballots, up from 8 percent, the group said." For the full article click here.


The Democrat's (Not So) Secret Weapon: "Millennial" Voters

Posted Nov 25, 2008 at 3:01 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a recently published analysis of Election 2008, some of the credit for Obama's victory should go to the newest generation of young voters. Aided (and prodded) by new technologies of communications--from cell phones and computers to text messaging--and aligned into an active political community by social networks such as MySpace and FaceBook, young voters are helping to alter the content and processes of American politics. As Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais write: "Senator Barack Obama’s success in the 2008 presidential campaign marks more than an historical turning point in American politics. It also signals the beginning of a new era for American society, one dominated by the attitudes and behaviors of the largest generation in American history. Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, now comprise almost one-third of the U.S. population and without their overwhelming support for his candidacy, Barack Obama would not have been able to win his party’s nomination, let alone been elected President of the United States. This new, “civic” generation is dramatically different than the boomers who have dominated our society since the 1960s and understanding this shift is critical to comprehending the changes that America will experience over the next forty years."


Election 2008: A Political Realignment or A Cry For Change

Posted Nov 25, 2008 at 1:08 AM by Maurice Berger

Was Election 2008 a sign of a radical political realignment or just an election driven by a desire for change and discontent with the party in power. This debate is now underway, as pollsters attempt to grasp the bigger picture. As the Washington Post reports, "conservative analysts have insisted that although the Democrats achieved a sweeping victory, it does not indicate a fundamental change. "America is still a center-right country," as Rep. John A. Boehner (R-OH), the House Republican leader, insisted soon after the votes were counted. Liberals call that argument nonsense. The election, wrote John B. Judis in the New Republic, heralds the arrival of "America the liberal," provided that the Democrats play their strong new hand effectively. This election was "the culmination of a Democratic realignment that began in the 1990s, was delayed by September 11, and resumed with the 2006 election." PollTrack thinks the answer will not be apparent for a while, given the dramatic imperative for change at the heart of many voter's decision making process. Indeed, as Andrew Kohut, one of the deans of American pollsters notes, "There's no indication that ideology drove this election. It was driven by discontent with the status quo" -- a pollster's formulation of the venerable slogan 'Throw the bums out.'"

Obama Gets High Marks For Transition

Posted Nov 24, 2008 at 9:04 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new ABC News survey, 67% of Americans approve of President-elect Obama's work on the transition so far: "Approval of Obama's handling of the transition is slightly better than Bill Clinton's 62% in mid-November 1992. Clinton improved from there, to 72% in mid-December and 81% just before his inauguration in mid-January 1993. . . . George W. Bush's grade late in his transition also was high, albeit not as high as Clinton's -- 72% in mid-January 2001."

Rasmussen: Consumer Confidence Drops To Near Record Low

Posted Nov 24, 2008 at 2:00 AM by Maurice Berger

One daunting problem facing the new president: consumers lagging confidence in the economy. According to a new survey--The Rasmussen Consumer Index, which measures the economic confidence of consumers on a daily basis--this level has dropped another point on Monday and is now less than a point above its all-time low. At 61.0, the Consumer Index is little changed from a week ago, down eight points from a month ago, and down thirty-eight points from the beginning of the year."

Rasmussen: Some Voters Fear Too Much Change In Obama Administration

Posted Nov 19, 2008 at 2:20 AM by Maurice Berger

Registered GOP and independent voters are concerned about the pace and depth of change in the new Obama administration, according to a  new Rasumssen survey: "Changing the way government works may have been the winning message on Election Day, but three out of four Republicans (75%) are worried that Barack Obama will change things too much as president. Half of unaffiliated voters (49%) share that concern . . . Democrats take the opposite view, with 52% worried that the new president won't change things enough. Just 19% fear he'll go too far. Overall, 46% of voters are worried Obama will change too much, while 32% say he will change too little. Another 22% are undecided.

Electoral College Stands Tentatively At Obama-365 to McCain-173

Posted Nov 19, 2008 at 1:47 AM by Maurice Berger

With the Associated Press calling Nebraska's Second Congressional District for Obama (the state and Maine are the only two not winner take all) and NBC calling Missouri for Obama, the tentative electoral count for the 2008 presidential cycle is 365 to 173. When the Missouri tally is made final by the state, PollTrack with enter the final on the Election Day Map and archive it (and the blog). we will continue to have updates on the election and its aftermath over the next month.

Gallup: Obama Approval Rating at 64%

Posted Nov 18, 2008 at 7:15 AM by Maurice Berger

According To Gallup, Barack Obama's approval rating among registered voters is at 64% (to 25% unfavorable). Gallup also reports that "most Americans (83%) are closely tuned in to news about Obama’s presidential transition. However, fewer (48%) are following the transition “very closely” than say they followed the election as intensely (68%)."

Wny Obama Won: The Palin Factor (That Cuts Both Ways)

Posted Nov 14, 2008 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

The Palin factor was a big one in this election. McCain nomination of the Alaska governor as his running mate would prove a blessing and a curse for the Republican ticket. There is no question that the devout, Evangelical governor helped McCain ignite the Republican Party base, heretofore very slow to warm to the Arizona Senator. Indeed, on Election Day, McCain owed many of his 57 million votes to Palin, who helped excite and galvanized the party. But critically, she slowly began to turn off independents, especially women. As the campaign wore on, Palin's standing with voters wore down. As PollTrack observed on 14 October: "Rasmussen reports that Delaware Senator Joseph Biden is now viewed more favorably than the Republican VP candidate: "Palin continues to be an emotional lightning rod for voters. 56% now have a favorable view of Biden, including 25% who say that view is Very Favorable . . . 53% view Palin favorably, but 35% say their opinion of her is Very Favorable. 47% have an unfavorable view of the first-term Alaska governor, compared to 41% who say that of Biden.' In a survey released September 24, nearly a month after they were nominated, Palin was viewed more favorably than Biden, 54% to 49%." By Election Day, a clear majority of voters believed that Palin was not qualified to be commander in chief. While it is true that vice-presidential picks rarely impact on the eventual outcome of a presidential cycle--voters after all are mainly endorsing or rejecting the candidate at the top of the ticket--on the whole, Palin's lack of traction with voters in the middle was a decided plus for the Obama-Biden ticket.

Exit Polls: Hillary Clinton Would Have Won By A Wider Margin

Posted Nov 13, 2008 at 2:15 AM by Maurice Berger

CBS News Election and Survey Unit's analysis of exit polls in last weeks elections concludes that Hillary Clinton would have beaten McCain by a wider margin than Obama: "As voters left the polls on Election Day, many were asked how they would have voted if the election match-up were between Hillary Clinton and John McCain rather than Barack Obama and McCain. 52 percent said they would have backed the former Democratic candidate; 41 percent would have voted for McCain, wider than Obama’s 7-point margin over McCain. Interestingly, 16 percent of McCain voters said they would have voted for Clinton, the Democrat, if she had been her party’s nominee." While this conclusion is, of course, hypothetical--it's hard to predict how any candidate would do in the heat of a hard fought campaign--the piece examines the makeup of voters who now say thay would have supported Clinton instead of the Republican candidate.

Why Obama Won: The Failed Republican Brand

Posted Nov 13, 2008 at 12:50 AM by Maurice Berger

One important advantage that Obama held in Election 2008 was the poor standing of the Republican brand. The incumbent president dropped to the lowest approval rating in history during this cycle. Voters routinely blamed the Republicans--and pointed to a perceived sense of incompetence or mismanagement on the part of the party--for the Wall Street Crisis and subsequent economic meltdown. As much as John McCain attempted to distance himself from the George W. Bush and his own party, the devastation of the Republican brand made it very difficult for him to break the wave of advantage that Obama rode for all but three weeks of the cycle. Even so, McCain was able to pull ahead of Obama after the conventions, a sign that the Democrat's victory was not inevitable and that the damaged Republican brand had not entirely hamstrung the Arizona Senator, who positioned himself as a maverick and an independent. Still, the president's low approval had a profound effect on the outcome of the election. MSNBC reports: "With the single exception of Missouri (which barely went for McCain after a delayed call from NBC News), Obama won every state where Bush’s approval rating was below 35% in the exit polls, and he lost every state where Bush’s approval rating was over 35%. The state with the highest Bush rating? Utah, at 47%, which supported McCain by a 29-point margin. The place with the lowest? Washington DC, at 8%, where McCain got just 7% of the vote." It's hard to imagine a more inhospitable political environment for a party in power.

Why Obama Won: The Clinton Factor

Posted Nov 12, 2008 at 1:14 AM by Maurice Berger

During the closely fought Democratic primaries and caucuses, a growing and thunderous chorus of Obama supporters (mostly male, by PollTrack's count) called for Hillary Clinton to withdraw from the race. One problem: throughout the latter races, Clinton trailed Obama by just a few hundred delegates at most. And, so, the contest continued to the bitter end, early June. At the time, many Obama supporters felt the hard fought contest would hurt Obama in the fall. In the end, it turned out to be a great asset, allowing him to insulate himself against potential negatives, such as the candidate's association with the Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, and others. Once aired, and adeptly handled by the Obama campaign, these factors were neutralized to a certain extent for the fall campaign. More important, the long primary season allowed the Obama campaign to build deep and formidable on-the-ground operations in virtually all of the battleground states. As contributions flowed in--indeed, the heated match between the two Democratic challengers fired up their respective bases--Obama built a powerful fund raising and voter turnout database. The icing on the cake: after the "bruising" primary fight ended, Obama was able to attract the lion's share of Clinton supporters on 4 November. Obama pollster Joel Benenson, in Time magazine, notes the campaign never believed it would have trouble winning back supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton. Said Benenson: "The notion that voters who supported Senator Clinton would vote Republican in the general election was never supported by what we saw in our polling. At the beginning of June, going into the general election, Obama had a double-digit lead in our battleground poll against McCain among women. He was competitive among Catholics and led 2 to 1 among Latinos. The press corps had focused on all these groups in the last three months of the primary and was convinced that they would pose problems for us in the general. But that just wasn't true, and we recognized that early on. As a result, we were able to focus on swing voters instead of worrying about parts of the base that were already with us. We looked at groups where Obama could make gains and at places where he could broaden the map."

Why Obama Won: The Life Of The Party

Posted Nov 11, 2008 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

In terms of the percentage of eligible voters who actually turned out in 2008, the numbers are not much different from 2004. The issue in this election was not an increase in the overall numbers of voters, but a decrease in Republican participation and a significant jump in Democratic voter enthusiasm and participation. Obama's victory was due in large part to "a substantial electoral shift toward the Democratic Party and by winning a number of key groups in the middle of the electorate," according to a Pew Research Center analysis of exit polls. As recently as 2004, voters were evenly divided among Republicans and Democrats. In this election, however, 39 percent identify themselves as Democrats compared to 32 percent for the Republicans. (In this regard, Rasmussen came closest of any pollster to predicting the actual "party weighting" of the electorate in 2008.) This balance was more skewed than in either of the last two Democratic presidential victories when Bill Clinton ran in 1992 and 1996. The biggest of the gains for the Democratic ticket among demographic groups since 2004--groups that would prove instrumental in Obama's decisive victory--were Hispanics (+13%), 18 to 29 year olds (+12%), urban voters (+9%), voters making over $100,000 a year (+8%) and African Americans (+7%). The Pew study also reports that Obama did better with voters in the ideological center than most Democrats: "While moderates have favored the Democratic candidate in each of the past five elections, Barack Obama gained the support of more voters in the ideological "middle" than did either John Kerry or Al Gore before him. He won at least half the votes of independents (52% vs. 49% for Kerry), suburban voters (50% vs. 47% for Kerry), Catholics (54% vs. 47% for Kerry), and other key swing groups in the electorate."

Obama Wins North Carolina

Posted Nov 06, 2008 at 4:54 AM by Maurice Berger

AP's analysis of vote tabulations in North Carolina concludes that Obama has won the state by less than one-half of a percentage point. Polltrack will now call its final outstanding state in the presidential race for the Democrat. The state has not gone Democratic in a presidential cycle since 1976, when Georgia native Jimmy Carter won the state over incumbent Republican president Gerald R. Ford.

Why Obama Won: "The Fundamentals Of The Economy Are Strong"

Posted Nov 06, 2008 at 1:45 AM by Maurice Berger

On 18 September 2008, PollTrack's tally of electoral votes was starting to suggest that McCain was beginning to pull ahead of Obama: McCain-216 Obama-202 Too Close To Call-120. In the following weeks these numbers would steadily reverse in the wake of a comment made by the Republican nominee just days before the harrowing dimensions of the Wall Street Crisis and subsequent economic meltdown would be known: "The fundamentals of the economy are strong." When the history of the extraordinary 2008 campaign is written, it is this sentence that will read as one of the greatest game changers of the race. The remark, in and of itself, may not have been fatal for another candidate. For McCain, however, it achieved one of the most damaging results in politics--affirming the electorate's underlying anxiety or fears about a candidate. Earlier in the primary season, McCain admitted that the economy was not his strong suit. A nation on the brink of economic disaster is a frightened nation; the gnawing sense that the Republican candidate--not to mention a Republican party widely blamed by voters for the economic mess--was not competent on the economy transformed McCain into the risker choice. Yet, public opinion on the subject changed relatively slowly. On September 20th, PollTrack observed the following: "Gallup reports a slight--but only slight--benefit for Obama in the voters' candidate preferences, vis-a-vis the current economic crisis--'Even though Americans divide evenly as to which candidate can better handle the Wall Street crisis, Barack Obama seems to benefit politically, as slightly more voters say it increases their likelihood of voting for him (29%) than say it makes them more likely to vote for John McCain (23%)'" As time passed, however, and voters became more worried, they took notice of Obama's cool, steady, and authoritative demeanor. If voters approached the first debate demoralized and frightened by the economic news that resonated around them, they also approached the event with a sense of longing--desire for problem solving and intelligent, wise leadership and action. In the end, many voters felt safe with the Democrat, unnerved by the Republican, and desirous of change.


Posted Nov 05, 2008 at 3:00 AM by Maurice Berger

In the next ten days, PollTrack will issue a daily report methodically examining the outcome of the 2008 presidential cycle. Today's post isolates a major turning point in the race: the first debate. In the wake of this event, the Democrat's numbers not only improved, they remained relatively stable until Election Day. As has been discussed before in this blog, the 2008 race was very similar to the 1980 race between incumbent (and politically battered) Democratic president Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan. Like Obama, pundits (and many Americans) viewed Reagan as too out of touch with the middle of the nation, a far-right Cold Warrior with domestic politics to match. In other words, he did not fit the expectations of what many believed an electable candidate. In order to win, he needed to allay these fears, proving he had the temperament to be commander-in-chief. In Barack Obama's case, his relative youth, modest experience on the national stage, left-of-center politics, and, most important, his race made him a somewhat unlikely candidate for president in a center-right country with a long history of problematic race relations and racism. The remarkable thing about debates is that they are like a great equalizer. Placing two candidates side-by-side, they allow the country to size them up, both individually and relative to each other. PollTrack believes the first debate was a crucial turning point for the Democrat, not surprising as this blog has often noted: in every competitive cycle in which debates were held since 1960, they proved to be a consequential if not determining factor in the outcome. As PollTrack wrote about the power of these debates (in this case, the Reagan-Carter match): "Indeed, it was not until the last week of the 1980 campaign, another trying economic time, that Ronald Reagan wrapped up the election, having convinced millions of voters through calming and commanding debate performance that he was not the right-wing extremist some feared. The present-day economic meltdown, and the anxiety it engenders in voters, has created an opening for Obama." Indeed, it is PollTrack's belief that Obama's steady, calm, and authoritative performance in the first debate afforded him a game-changing opportunity to seal the deal with a wary, but also economically and politically demoralized electorate eager for CHANGE, the code word of the entire election cycle as it turns out.


Posted Nov 04, 2008 at 3:02 PM by Maurice Berger

With California's 55 electoral votes, Barack Obama is now president-elect of the United States.