Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

Polarizing Presidency?

Posted Jan 28, 2013 at 7:30 AM by Maurice Berger

According to Gallup, "during his fourth year in office, an average of 86% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans approved of the job Barack Obama did as president. That 76-percentage-point gap ties George W. Bush's fourth year as the most polarized years in Gallup records."

Majority Support Major Gun Restrictions

Posted Dec 27, 2012 at 10:23 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new survey by CNN/ORC taken in the days following the tragic Newtown, Connecticut massacre, a narrow majority of Americans--52%--support significant restrictions on owning guns or an outright ban on gun ownership by ordinary citizens. 43% say the shooting makes them more likely to support more gun restrictions. CNN/ORC observes: "All of those numbers are much higher than they were in a CNN poll conducted in January, 2011, indicating that the tragedy in Connecticut may be affecting more Americans more intensely than other recent attacks."

Rasmussen Trys To Explain Itself

Posted Nov 14, 2012 at 8:14 AM by Maurice Berger

Rasmussen Reports had Mitt Romney leading President Obama for most of the last month of the election--and by one-point, in its final tally--and also picked the winner in just three of nine swing states. In an attempt to explain away the problem--only two pollsters out of 30, the other being Gallup, had Romney ahead in their final survey--blamed it on demographics: "A preliminary review indicates that one reason for this is that we underestimated the minority share of the electorate. In 2008, 26% of voters were non-white. We expected that to remain relatively constant. However, in 2012, 28% of voters were non-white. That was exactly the share projected by the Obama campaign. It is not clear at the moment whether minority turnout increased nationally, white turnout decreased, or if it was a combination of both. The increase in minority turnout has a significant impact on the final projections since Romney won nearly 60% of white votes while Obama won an even larger share of the minority vote . . . Another factor may be related to the generation gap. It is interesting to note that the share of seniors who showed up to vote was down slightly from 2008 while the number of young voters was up slightly."

PollTrack wonders why many other pollsters, from the more traditional phone/cellphone poll of ABC News to the online Google Consumer Survey, were far more accurate in assessing the demographic makeup of the electorate, including party affiliation (Both ABC and Google came very close to the actual outcome). Why did so many other pollsters get it right (or at least come close)? If President Obama wins by +3%, as appears to be the case with the inclusion of late ballots from California and Ohio (among other states), then Rasmussen (and Gallup) will have been off by +4% in their prediction of the outcome of election 2012, just hours before Americans began voting. This is a very large miss for two well-respected polling organizations.


Election 2012: Obama Approval Up Slightly

Posted Nov 07, 2011 at 12:35 AM by Maurice Berger

A poll by Reuters/Ipsos reports that President Obama's approval rating is up slightly, now at 49%, with disapproval at 50%. PollTrack's aggregate numbers alas show slight improvement: with his approval rating at 46% (up from 44% last month) and a disapproval number at 50.8%.

Polls That Exclude Cell Phones Skew Republican

Posted Nov 23, 2010 at 1:08 AM by Maurice Berger

A just released survey by Pew Research Center suggests that polling organizations that exclude cell phones from their survey tend to produce results that skew sharply Republican: "The number of Americans who rely solely or mostly on a cell phone has been growing for several years, posing an increasing likelihood that public opinion polls conducted only by landline telephone will be biased. A new analysis of Pew Research Center pre-election surveys conducted this year finds that support for Republican candidates was significantly higher in samples based only on landlines than in dual frame samples that combined landline and cell phone interviews. The difference in the margin among likely voters this year is about twice as large as in 2008. Across three Pew Research polls conducted in fall 2010 -- conducted among 5,216 likely voters, including 1,712 interviewed on cell phones -- the GOP held a lead that was on average 5.1 percentage points larger in the landline sample than in the combined landline and cell phone sample. For Pew's more detailed analysis click here.

Republicans Could Have Serious Problem Come November

Posted May 25, 2010 at 1:25 AM by Maurice Berger

Before Republicans start celebrating what some predict may be a massive victory in November, they may want to take notice of one sobering phenomenon: In Colorado and Arizona, Public Policy Polling reports that Hispanic voters are now swinging dramatically towards Democrats in the wake of Arizona's new immigration law. PPP continues: "Hispanics in the Mountain West are leaning much more strongly toward the Democrats since the Arizona law was passed. The big question then becomes whether there are white voters who are going to go Republican this fall who wouldn't have if that bill hadn't been passed. We don't see any evidence of that happening yet." This trend could easily shift into other states with significant Hispanic populations, effecting very close race in states as disparate as California, Ohio, and Florida, not to mention Colorado and Arizona. Stay tuned. This could be the sleeper phenomenon of the 2010 cycle.

Are Traditional Polling Methodologies Doomed?

Posted Aug 20, 2009 at 1:37 AM by Maurice Berger

At a recent statistical convention, the polling director of SurveyUSA, Jay Leve--one of the most accurate pollsters in recent cycles--had some shocking news for his peers: traditional polling methodologies, as we know them, may soon be doomed. Specifically, he was referring to the standard methodology of reaching potential voters--through landlines (and more recently, cell phones). Concluding his presentation, reports the National Journal Online, Leve summed up the problem:  All phone polling, he said, depends on a set of assumptions: "You're at home; you have a [home] phone; your phone has a hard-coded area code and exchange which means I know where you are; ... you're waiting for your phone to ring; when it rings you'll answer it; it's OK for me to interrupt you; you're happy to talk to me; whatever you're doing is less important than talking to me; and I won't take no for an answer -- I'm going to keep calling back until you talk to me."

Yet, as it now stands, the current reality for pollsters is often much different:

"In fact, you don't have a home phone; your number can ring anywhere in the world; you're not waiting for your phone to ring; nobody calls you on the phone anyway they text you or IM you; when your phone rings you don't answer it -- your time is precious, you have competing interests, you resent calls from strangers, you're on one or more do-not-call lists, and 20 minutes [the length of many pollsters' interviews] is an eternity." Leve then concluded: "If you look at where we are here in 2009 [with phone polling]," he said, "it's over... this is the end. Something else has got to come along."

Conservatives Are The Largest Ideological Group

Posted Jun 17, 2009 at 1:41 AM by Maurice Berger

How do Americans rate themselves on the ideological spectrum. According to a new Gallup poll, those calling themselves "conservative" have a slight edge. Gallup writes: "Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed . . . describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004. The 21% calling themselves liberal is in line with findings throughout this decade, but is up from the 1990s."

Obama's Approval Rating Indicates Widest Partisan Gap In Past Four Decades

Posted Apr 07, 2009 at 1:44 AM by Maurice Berger

President Obama's approval rating--when matched to voters' party affiliation, according to a new Pew Research Survey--suggest as wide partisan gap: "For all of his hopes about bipartisanship, Barack Obama has the most polarized early job approval ratings of any president in the past four decades. The 61-point partisan gap in opinions about Obama's job performance is the result of a combination of high Democratic ratings for the president -- 88% job approval among Democrats -- and relatively low approval ratings among Republicans (27%). By comparison, there was a somewhat smaller 51-point partisan gap in views of George W. Bush's job performance in April 2001, a few months into his first term. At that time, Republican enthusiasm for Bush was comparable to how Democrats feel about Obama today, but there was substantially less criticism from members of the opposition party. Among Democrats, 36% approved of Bush's job performance in April 2001; that compares with a 27% job approval rating for Obama among Republicans today." The longterm implications of this are unclear, PollTrack believes, because the poll does not report the leanings of the all-important independent and unaffiliated voters.

Strong Majority Of Americans Support Alternative Energy

Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 1:30 AM by Maurice Berger

According to an annual energy policy survey by the Gallup organization, a vast majority of Americans "endorse increased government efforts to encourage energy production from alternative sources of energy, but at the same time do not believe the government should reduce its financial support for the production of energy from traditional sources. Only 30% think the government should decrease the monetary support and incentives it provides to producers of energy from oil and gas." These numbers suggest that most Americans approve of the Obama administration's emphasis on renewable and alternative energy sources, but also that most do not want the nation to abandon more traditional energy sources, such as oil and gas.

Gallup continues: "More than three-quarters of Americans say they support increased government financial support and incentives to produce energy from alternative sources, while just 8% say the government should do less in this regard and 13% say it should continue what it is doing. And while Americans are far less likely to favor increased government aid to produce energy from traditional sources -- only 39% hold this view -- another 28% want these efforts maintained. Thus, two in three Americans think government should continue to support energy production from oil and gas at either current or heightened levels. Just 30% call for a reduction in these efforts."

Initial Reaction To Obama Budget Plan Is Modestly Positive

Posted Mar 04, 2009 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new Gallup Poll, "Americans' first reactions to President Barack Obama's new 10-year budget plan are more positive than negative, although a sizable group of Americans say they haven't been following news about the plan and have not yet formed an opinion." 44% say their reaction to the new plan is positive and 26% saying it's negative, with the rest having no opinion. There is a clear partisan divide in opinion: "The poll data clearly show that Americans are sharply divided along party lines in their initial reactions to the budget plan, which includes $3.6 trillion in spending in 2010 and a wide variety of spending plans and tax adjustments in the years thereafter. More than 6 in 10 Republicans say their first reaction is negative and nearly 7 in 10 Democrats say their reaction is positive. Reaction to the plan is more evenly divided among independents, but is generally more positive than negative."

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.

Mike Huckabee Tops List of 2012 Republican Hopefuls

Posted Dec 08, 2008 at 1:40 AM by Maurice Berger

President-elect Barack Obama hasn't even been inaugurated, and CNN/Opinion Research is out with a new poll handicaping the race for the Republican nomination in 2012. In its survey of registered voters, former Arkansas governer Mike Huckabee tops the list at 34%. Sarah Palin, John McCain's nominee for vice-president, comes in second at 32%. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is in third place in the poll, with 28%. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich draws 27%. And former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani comes in fifth at 23%. 

How Accurate Were The Pollsters?

Posted Nov 07, 2008 at 12:34 AM by Maurice Berger

How close did polling organizations come in predicting the outcome of Election 2008? A few were right on the money. A few, such as CBS News/NY Times, Zogby, and Newsweek--each showing Obama with a double digit lead--were way off. Dr. Costas Panagopoulos, Ph.D, of Fordham University's Department of Political Science, undertook a detailed analysis of the results of the top polling organizations. His findings indicate that not all surveys were good at analyzing and reporting the relative strength of the candidates. Professor Panagopoulos writes: "I analyze poll estimates from 23 polling organizations. Four of these polls appear to have overestimated McCain support (indicated with a * below), while most polls (17) overestimated Obama strength. Pre-election projections for two organizations’ final polls—Rasmussen and Pew—were perfectly in agreement with the actual election result (**)." (The list follows below.) One problem with this analysis, though, is that it was completed before final results were in. According to the Associated Press, Obama's final number has inched upward slightly, to nearly 53%, bringing the final total to 52.7% to 46.0%. In this case two other pollsters actually tied for first place: Ipsos/McClathcy and CNN/Opinion Research (both tied at 6th place in the Panagopoulos analysis). The more important conclusion from the Fordham survey, however, is not its top numbers but the idea that most pollsters overestimated the Democrat's support. In the past five cycles, this skewing towards blue has tended to be the case. Why? Perhaps because voters who "refuse" to be interviewed fall into demographic categories that favor Republicans--older, male, white, and rural. In this cycle, one other factor may also be at play: Democrats were FAR more enthusiastic than Republicans and thus were less equivocal, tended to have decided early, and were more willing to share their views with pollsters. Given the tendency of the least accurate pollsters to overestimate Obama support, the so-called "Bradley Effect" may have been operative as well.  For Dr. Panagopoulos's analysis click here.

1. Rasmussen (11/1-3)**
1. Pew (10/29-11/1)**

2. YouGov/Polimetrix (10/18-11/1)
3. Harris Interactive (10/20-27)
4. GWU (Lake/Tarrance) (11/2-3)*
5. Diageo/Hotline (10/31-11/2)*
5. ARG (10/25-27)*
6. CNN (10/30-11/1)
6. Ipsos/McClatchy (10/30-11/1)

7. (D)/Research 2000 (11/1-3)
8. AP/Yahoo/KN (10/17-27)
9. Democracy Corps (D) (10/30-11/2)
10. FOX (11/1-2)
11. Economist/YouGov (10/25-27)
12. IBD/TIPP (11/1-3)
13. NBC/WSJ (11/1-2)
14. ABC/Post (10/30-11/2)
15. Marist College (11/3)
16. CBS (10/31-11/2)
17. Gallup (10/31-11/2)
18. Reuters/ C-SPAN/ Zogby (10/31-11/3)
19. CBS/Times (10/25-29)
20. Newsweek (10/22-23)

Voter Dissatisfaction With Direction of Nation At All Time Low

Posted Oct 08, 2008 at 9:09 AM by Maurice Berger

Gallup reports this afternoon that "only 9% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States -- the lowest such reading in Gallup Poll history. The previous low point for Gallup's measure of satisfaction had been 12%, recorded back in 1979, in the midst of rising prices and gas shortages when Jimmy Carter was president. Gallup has recorded a 14% satisfaction level at several points -- once in the senior Bush's administration in 1992, and several times earlier this year."

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.

Contradictory Polls

Posted Oct 07, 2008 at 5:13 AM by Maurice Berger

With today's Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking polls showing Obama up +9% and +8 respectively and Hotline/FD and CBS News reporting a Democratic advantage of only +2% or +3%, it's clear that national polling is contradictory. The discrepancy might be due to party affiliation weighting or variations in likely voter models. It could be that some polls are picking up a trend others are missing. Whatever the reason, PollTrack will be watching these numbers very carefully.

Is The Race Narrowing Again?

Posted Oct 07, 2008 at 2:33 AM by Maurice Berger

While several tracking and periodic national polls continue to report a healthy lead for Obama (Rasmussen, ABC News/Washington Post, and GW/Battleground), four nationwide polls released over the past 24- hours show the race narrowing dramatically. CBS News: Obama-48%/McCain 45% (+3 DEM), Democracy Corps: Obama-49%/McCain 46% (+3 DEM), Reuters/CSPAN/Zogby: Obama-48%/McCain 45% (+3 DEM), and just released, Hotline/FD: Obama-46%/McCain 44% (+2 DEM). Are we seeing a trend back to the very close race that has held for much of the past month and a half? Significantly, Hotline/FD reports an appreciable tightening of the race in the past 24 hours. Could McCain's negative campaign be working?

Polling: The Cell Phone Question

Posted Sep 25, 2008 at 1:21 AM by Maurice Berger

Do pollsters under-represent younger voters by excluding from their samples voters who use cell phones exclusively? Pew Research seems to think so: After including cell phone-only households in three recent polls, the organization notes "a virtually identical pattern is seen across all three surveys: In each case, including cell phone interviews resulted in slightly more support for Obama and slightly less for McCain, a consistent difference of two-to-three points in the margin." PollTrack wonders: why then did many public opinion surveys during the Democratic primary season routinely OVER estimate Obama's actual support? And to what extent are pollsters' attempts to weight their samples to correct this deficit solving or adding to the problem? Another question: how do we evaluate Pew's reported discrepancy if the election is not until November and there are no hard results against which to gauge their polling estimates?

More Americans Now Think McCain , Not Obama, Will Win

Posted Sep 07, 2008 at 4:30 PM by Maurice Berger

A new Survey USA poll taken after the Republican National Convention reports that more Americans now think McCain, and not Obama, will win in November. McCain leads Obama, 49% to 44%, among respondents who were asked "if you were placing a bet today" who do you think will be elected president? In recent months, most public opinion surveys have indicated that voters believed Obama would win.

If this trend holds, it could prove problematic for Obama, especially at a time when the Republican brand is on the wane and a Democratic win had seemed likely to many voters.

Tomorrow's Map Today UPDATED

Posted Aug 29, 2008 at 9:30 AM by Maurice Berger

In addition to new calls this morning on Today's Map, PollTrack has updated Tomorrow's Map Today to reflect recent polling trends in a number of battleground states.

The Clinton Factor

Posted Aug 21, 2008 at 2:28 AM by Maurice Berger

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll suggests that Hillary Clinton's supporters are sharply divided in their support for Barack Obama. While the poll directors conclude that “Whatever momentum that Obama took into the summer, he really appears to have lost it,” they attribute this erosion to the candidate's failure to unify his party, in contrast to McCain.

More troubling for Obama, perhaps, are the numbers concerning voters who supported Clinton in the primaries and caucuses: according to the survey, 52% now say they will vote for Obama, 21% are backing McCain, and 27% percent are undecided or want to vote for someone else. As the NBC/WSJ points out, voters who supported Clinton in the primaries — but do not now back Obama--"tend to view McCain in a better light than Obama and have more confidence in McCain’s ability to be commander-in-chief."

Though the NBC/WSJ numbers in contrast to other recent polls suggest a somewhat higher percentage of Clinton voters who refuse to support Obama, the implications for him in all of these surveys are dire. Thus, a major question looms about party unity: will the Democratic National Convention be enough--with speeches from both Clintons and a night devoted to women's issues--or must the Obama campaign go one step further and nominate Hillary Clinton for Vice President?

Tightening Race: "Crisis" Management?

Posted Aug 13, 2008 at 6:43 AM by Maurice Berger

As if to underscore the closeness of the national race, a new Pew Research poll, suggests that Obama's national lead over McCain has disappeared. The race is now a statistical tie, with Obama barely edging McCain, 46% to 43%, down from the eight point lead held by Obama in June and a result consistent with most other national polls. According to Pew, the Republican base is getting behind McCain. Another key finding: McCain rates considerably higher than Obama on the question of leadership: In contrast to June polling, "An even greater percentage of voters . . . now see McCain as the candidate who would use the best judgment in a crisis, and an increasing percentage see him as the candidate who can get things done."

The aspect of voter response concerning "crisis management"--in a survey taken over the past few days--begs the following question: Is the military conflagration between Russia and Georgia making voters nervous, and thus less likely to take a chance on a younger candidate with relatively little military and foreign policy experience? Is the McCain campaign's effort to paint Obama as a self-involved "celebrity" contributing to voter perceptions of McCain as the more serious candidate, better able to handle a crisis? To what extend does Obama's race and the perception advanced by some of his critics that he is "different" or even un-American play into voter anxieties about him? Will McCain's recent gaffes and misstatements ultimately undermine his message of stability, good judgment, and leadership?

New Swing State Analysis: FL, IW, MN, MO, OH, PA

Posted Aug 13, 2008 at 3:15 AM by Maurice Berger

Why is it so close? Indeed, since Obama's widely reported overseas trip--and the rush of anti-Obama ads and videos that paint the candidate as elitist and out of touch with most voters--McCain has shown signs of closing the gap further. In a few key swing states, such as Missouri and Florida, McCain is actually pulling ahead by a modest margin. While my polling average for Florida (for the past month) shows the election extremely close (+1.8% REP), the most recent round of polling indicates a modest surge for McCain, thus the state is now "Leaning Republican." In the mother of all swing states, Ohio, McCain has pulled even to an absolute tie (45.3% to 45.3% poll average). And the race has narrowed slightly in Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Minnesota, although the Democrat retains his lead in all three states. The candidates' inability to break the 50% mark in any swing state, suggests that neither is walking away with this race.

Terry Madonna, poll director of the Franklin & Marshall organization, says of the narrowing of the race in Pennsylvania: "[Obama's] on third base, but so far he can't seem to find a way to get home. Look at the underlying trends. The economy is a huge issue. Bush's ratings are terrible. But too many voters are concerned about Obama's experience, and don't yet have enough confidence in his ability to lead."