Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

24 July Ranking of 2016 GOP Presidential Candidates

Posted Jul 24, 2015 at 9:52 AM by Maurice Berger

Here is PollTrack's 24 July 2015 ranking of announced and presumptive candidates, from most to least likely to prevail:

1. Jeb Bush

2. Marco Rubio

3. Donald Trump

4. Scott Walker

5. Ben Carson

6. John Kasich

7. Rand Paul

8. Mike Huckabee

9. Carly Fiorina

10. Ted Cruz

11. George Pataki

12. Bobby Jindal

13. Rick Santorum

14. Lindsey Graham

15. Chris Christie

16. Rick Perry

PollTrack Coverage of Election 2016!

Posted May 03, 2015 at 10:13 AM by Maurice Berger

As more reliable polling pours in this summer for the primary races for President and US Senate, PollTrack will begin it's coverage of Election 2016. Stay tuned for updates. 

Will The Debate Matter?

Posted Oct 05, 2012 at 9:08 AM by Maurice Berger

While Mitt Romney's debate performance received positive reviews in the media--and the president's quite negative--it may be difficult to discern the long-term implications of the candidates' first dust up. For one, more potential voters watched this debate than the first one in 2008 (58 million in 2012 as opposed to 52.4 million four years earlier." Yet, while PollTrack expects at least a modest improvement in Romney's standing over the next few days, it doubts that the president's overall support will decline substantially.

Historically, however, incumbent president's tend not to do well in their first debate (and most go on to win reelection). Equally significant, few debates have actually altered the overall dynamic of the election cycle: the candidate who is ahead coming into the first debate usually wins (only Al Gore did not, though he did, in fact, win the popular vote). But there are always exceptions. So stay tuned.

DAILY SERIES: Why Obama Won

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.

Last Debate: 56.5 Million Viewers

Posted Oct 17, 2008 at 1:29 AM by Maurice Berger

Viewership of last night's presidential debate was down slightly from the second debate, at 56.5 million according to Nielsen. The first debate had 52.4 million; the second 63.2 million; and the VP debate drew the highest ratings, at an extraordinary 69.9 million viewers.

Nielsen: Last Night's Debate Viewership Down 9%

Posted Oct 16, 2008 at 8:52 AM by Maurice Berger

Nielsen reports that last night's debate viewership declined almost 9% from the previous presidential debate a week ago. While more viewers tuned into last night's event than the first presidential debate, it was far outpaced by the Vice Presidential match up two weeks earlier. PollTrack should have final ratings later today.

63.2 million Watch Second McCain-Obama Debate

Posted Oct 09, 2008 at 3:39 AM by Maurice Berger

According to Nielsen, 63.2 million viewers watched the second McCain-Obama presidential debate. This is 10.8 million more than watched the first debate, but well shy of the nearly 70 million who tuned into the VP debate between Biden and Palin. 

Those Pesky Snap Polls

Posted Oct 08, 2008 at 3:39 AM by Maurice Berger

Another reason to be wary of post-debate snap polls: they are limited to voters who actually watched the debate. And that's where the trouble begins. According to Nielsen, viewers of the first two debates did not exactly reflect the voting population at large: "Both debates drew audiences made up mostly of white viewers with higher levels of income ($100,000+) and education (4+ years of college). Older viewers (age 55+) made up the largest portion of the TV audiences for both debates (42% - 46%).  However, the Biden-Palin V.P. debate (median age: 52) drew a slightly larger portion of younger viewers than the first Obama-McCain debate (median age: 54)." Thus, these flash results--already suspect, since voters are being asked to respond instantaneously to a complicated political event--represent a relatively unrepresentative sample. So even if an instant poll is correctly weighted vis-a-vis party affiliation, it may miss the complexities of race, age and class, enormous factors in the way voters are thinking about this election.

Sarah Palin's Challenge

Posted Oct 02, 2008 at 4:40 AM by Maurice Berger

Another reason for the Republican ticket's lag in recent weeks: the falling popularity of Sarah Palin. Thus, the VP candidate's biggest hurdle in tonight's debate: convincing voters that she is prepared to be president. Monday's ABC News/Washington Post poll had some sobering news for Palin: six in ten voters doubt her qualifications to be president. ABC/WP's analysis continues: "In advance of her debate against Joe Biden tonight, Palin now looks like more of a drag than a boost to the GOP ticket." The number of voters who said that John McCain's choice of Palin made it less likely they would vote for him rose from 19% three weeks ago to 32% this week. 23% said they are more likely to vote for McCain because she is on the ticket, about the same number as in early September, and 45% responded that her presence on the ticket makes no difference.

Bloomberg/LA Times Poll: First Debate Did Little To Alter Race

Posted Sep 29, 2008 at 12:49 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a poll released last night by Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times, last Thursday's presidential debate "changed the preferences of few voters, reinforcing previous perceptions about the candidates' strengths and continuing to give Sen. Barack Obama an advantage over Sen. John McCain. . . .  Obama scored much higher among these voters on the economy, as he did in a national poll last week, and McCain reaffirmed the perception that he is better on national security." Several other polls released on Sunday suggested that voters, by varying margins, gave the debate win to the Democrat. What effect these perceptions will have on the election is unclear.

One Debate Down: Will We Know Who Won?

Posted Sep 27, 2008 at 12:39 AM by Maurice Berger

One debate down. Three to go. PollTrack cautions gainst reading too much into public opinion surveys over the next few days. Momentum over the past week has gone modestly in Obama's direction in a number of battleground states. In the ten days before that, McCain pulled into a small lead nationally and improved his standing in some of these states. In the absence of a startling blooper or knock-out punch--neither of which appears to have happened in last night's debate--the lead may remain with Obama. Still, the political unconscious is a complex and unpredictable part of the formation of voter sentiment. Yes, the next few days of polling may reveal something approximating an early response to the debate. More likely, it will continue to reflect an electorate that is uncertain and anxious, especially in the midst of--and now I quote both candidates--the "worst economic crisis in our lifetime." Right now, this anxiety appears to be benefiting the Democrat. But down the road, the question remains: Did something--a particular answer, a style, a mannerism, psychological quirk, or tick--work its way into unconscious perceptions about the candidates? And could this "something" eventually blow the race open?

The Undecided Factor: Will The Debates Make A Difference?

Posted Sep 26, 2008 at 4:09 AM by Maurice Berger

The presidential debates could matter a lot in this election. No matter who is leading in any individual poll, all surveys report a fairly significant bloc of undecided voters, anywhere from 5% to 18%. PollTrack guesses that voters are pretty confused right now. While each candidate can count on a solid bloc of very committed voters, neither candidate consistently breaks the 50% in PT's national daily and periodic polling averages. The wavering segment in the middle--unaffiliated, independent, and undecided voters--has been fairly fluid the past two months, affording both candidates the lead at one point. One widely quoted article reported this week "the norm is for very little swing in candidate support" in the period immediately following presidential debates. PollTrack cautions against reading too much into voters' initial responses to the candidate's debate performance. Yet, debates have mattered a great deal. But their effect takes time to enter into voter's conscious and unconscious decision making. Most important, debates can affirm or allay doubts already present in the minds of voters: Michael Dukakis's dispassionate answer to a 1988 hypothetical debate question about whether his liberal views on crime and justice would be shaken if his wife were raped went right to voters' concerns about his clinical and unemotional approach to politics and governing. Conversely, Ronald Reagan's adept and reassuring debate performance in 1980 convinced voters that he was not, as many feared, an extremist out of touch with the middle of the country. PollTrack imagines that the debates in this cycle could well have a similar and powerful effect on the electorate.

Is Either Candidate Pulling Ahead?

Posted Sep 13, 2008 at 2:03 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack has received a number of E-mails from Democrats concerned about Obama's chances in November. The short answer: no candidate is decisively ahead and the race is fairly even both in national support and electoral votes. It is clear that McCain came out of his convention stronger than Obama. It is also true that the momentum is now with the Republican. But the race is close enough that either candidate can win. By contrast, President Bush came out of his convention in 2004 with a sizable bounce that he maintained throughout much of September. Strong debate performances by Sen. John Kerry allowed the Democrat to narrow the gap considerably, though not entirely close it.

PollTrack suspects that the debates will be an important factor in this election. Since 1960 in presidential races in which debates were held (1960, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004), the debates were usually decisive. Indeed in contested cycles, where an incumbent did not sail to victory--races that include all but 1984 and 1996--the debates were the decisive factor in most instances. Here are a few debate bloopers and  successes that really made a difference: Nixon's listless appearance and five-o'clock shadow in 1960; Ford's gaffe about Poland in 1976; Dukakis' cold and dispassionate response to a question about whether his liberal views about crime and punishment would be shaken if his own wife were raped; Reagan's ability to convince a skeptical nation that he was not an extremist in 1980; and George H. W. Bush caught on camera glancing at his watch while his opponent, Bill Clinton, was addressing dire economic issues in 1992.

In the short term: watch to see if McCain's bounce translates into improvement in the statewide contest for electoral votes. Right now, the answer is a mixed bag: McCain appears to be benefiting form a sizable bounce in Southern states and smaller but marked improvement in number of western, plains and Rocky Mountain states. Obama's numbers remain very strong in New England (save New Hampshire). Numbers for the mid-west, rust belt, and mid-Atlantic states are unclear at this point, though Obama appears to be loosing a little ground in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. New York and California seem solidly behind the Democrat.