Wonkblog: Polls

What voters actually care about, in one chart

What voters actually care about, in one chart

In advance of the State of the Union on Tuesday, the Pew Research Center has a handy poll of the public's top policy priorities:

A few things stand out here:

1) Deficit reduction has faded a fair bit in the public's mind. That might be because the deficit is actually shrinking rapidly. But there also seems to be a partisan component here. Republicans and independents are only slightly less likely to think of the federal budget deficit as a top issue. But Democrats are much, much less likely to think so:

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93 percent of hospital executives think Obamacare will make health care better

93 percent of hospital executives think Obamacare will make health care better

Over at Health Affairs, Andrew Steinmetz, Ralph Muller, Steven Altschuler and Ezekiel Emanuel decided to see how health reform looked to hospital executives. They surveyed 74 C-Suite executives from institutions that, on average, employed 8,520 workers and saw annual revenues of $1.5 billion. The survey wasn't scientific by any means, but in a speculative conversation that's proceeding mostly by anecdote, these individuals have a better vantage point on the changes that health reform is making to actual health-care systems than virtually anyone else.

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The uninsured don’t like Obamacare. But seniors didn’t like Medicare Part D -- and signed up anyway

The uninsured don’t like Obamacare. But seniors didn’t like Medicare Part D -- and signed up anyway

Of late, there've been a rash of bad poll results for Obamacare (and also a few good ones). The most interesting comes from a New York Times/CBS poll showing that a majority of the uninsured disapprove of the new health law. That's potentially significant, as it seems logical that the uninsured won't sign up for a program they don't like. Or will they?

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The new Washington Post-ABC News poll has one very bad number for Obama

The new Washington Post-ABC News poll has one very bad number for Obama

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll asked respondents whether they trust Obama or the Republicans in Congress to do a better job "coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years." Forty-one percent said they trusted Obama. Forty-one percent said they trusted Republicans in Congress.

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96 percent of Americans think this Congress is at or below average

Since 1990, the NBC/WSJ poll has occasionally asked Americans whether the current Congress is "one of the best, above average, average, below average, or one of the worst?" Perhaps unsurprisingly a majority of Americans -- a new record -- thinks the current Congress is one of the worst ever:

Only three percent of Americans think this Congress is "one of the best" or even "above average." One percent don't know. That means solidly 96 percent of Americans think this Congress is at or below average.

No, gagging over interracial marriage is not the ‘conventional view’

No, gagging over interracial marriage is not the ‘conventional view’

In his column Tuesday, Richard Cohen explores the more reactionary edge of Iowa's Republican blogosphere. "Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled," he writes, "about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children."

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The budget myth that just won’t die: Americans still think 28 percent of the budget goes to foreign aid

For years, the example budget wonks turn to when they want to underscore the public's ignorance about the budget is the baffling, but persistent, belief that foreign aid is bankrupting the country.

"Foreign aid is the only program that [people] consistently favor cutting," said Bruce Bartlett with a sigh, "perhaps because of grossly overestimating its share of the budget." He went on to list poll after poll showing the public's wildly incorrect opinions about how much the United States spends helping other countries.

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Poll: GOP is more ‘extreme’ but slightly better at running things

Poll: GOP is more ‘extreme’ but slightly better at running things

Republicans have seen a lot of horrible polling lately, so here's one tidbit of relatively good news for them.

A new Pew Research survey finds that the public thinks the Republican Party is more "extreme" and uncompromising than the Democratic Party. But, by slim margins, respondents also said Republicans do a "better job dealing with the economy" and "can better manage the government."

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Another poll shows Republicans losing the budget showdown

Hoo boy. When The Washington Post polled the public on how the Republicans were handling budget negotiations on Sept. 29 -- the eve of the shutdown -- the numbers already looked pretty bad for the GOP: 26 percent approved and 63 percent disapproved.

Now they're even worse: 21 percent approve and 74 percent disapprove. Those numbers are barely even comprehensible in a competitive, two-party political system. I'd say the GOP's numbers can't fall much farther, but then I never thought they could fall this far to begin with.

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The Republicans’ worst poll yet

The Republicans’ worst poll yet

The latest NBC/WSJ poll is just a disaster for the GOP. The highlights:

- By a 22-point margin, the public thinks the Republican Party is more to blame for the shutdown than President Obama. NBC's Mark Murray notes that that's "a wider margin of blame for the GOP than the party received during the poll during the last shutdown in 1995-96."

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Post/ABC News poll: GOP is getting blamed for the shutdown

Post/ABC News poll: GOP is getting blamed for the shutdown

So says the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, anyway:



There's precedent for these numbers. Political scientists who've studied gridlock-driven shutdowns at the state level found much the same thing: The executive benefits and the legislature is punished.

I wrote about this in 2011. Asger Lau Andersen, David Dreyer Lassen and Lasse Holb ll Westh Nielsen tallied up 167 state shutdowns since 1988. But then they went a step further and tried to isolate the fiscal mismanagement they had on the next election. They succeeded. Voters respond to budgetary chaos, and they do so angrily and predictably.

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Airstrikes on Syria are getting much less popular over time

Judging from the latest Pew poll, the White House hasn’t really succeeded in selling the public on military action against Syria. Note the surge of opposition just in the past week:



It’s also interesting to see that most Americans now think Congress should have the final say over Syria decisions:



Why Americans oppose intervention in Syria: “It’s none of our business”

Why Americans oppose intervention in Syria: “It’s none of our business”

Polls tend to show that military action against Syria is unpopular with the broader American public. And the latest Gallup poll is no different: 51 percent of respondents are against the idea; 36 percent are in favor.

Gallup also breaks down the reasons given for opposing military action. The most common reasons are “None of our business” or “Don’t need to be involved in another war”:

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Congress is wildly unpopular. Should anyone actually care?

Congress is wildly unpopular. Should anyone actually care?

Sorry, guys (and yeah, Congress is mostly made up of guys):



Polling about the overwhelming unpopularity of Congress is sometimes batted away with a knowing remark about how the public has been losing faith in most all institutions over the past 30 or 40 years. And there's something to that. But it's also worth being clear that Congress is much, much more unpopular than any institution Gallup has seen fit to poll:

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Here's why the 'scandals' aren't affecting Obama's poll numbers

Here's why the 'scandals' aren't affecting Obama's poll numbers

If you've been reading the newspapers, you know that the Obama administration has had a very tough week.

It was "a bad week for the White House," according to the National Journal. USA Today said it was "one of the most challenging weeks at the White House for the Obama administration." The Washington Examiner went with "Obama's roughest week." Our colleagues at The Fix dissented a bit: They didn't think it was Obama's worst week ever. Just his second-worst week ever.

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How foreign voices influence American wars

Poli-Sci Perspective is a weekly Wonkblog feature in which Georgetown University's Dan Hopkins and George Washington University's Danny Hayes and John Sides offer an empirical perspective on the issues dominating Washington. In this edition, Hayes looks at the way foreign leaders can influence America's foreign policy. For past posts in the series, head here .

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This is the Republican Party's biggest problem

Here's something unusual: Democrats, independents, and Republicans all agree about what's wrong with the Republican Party. In fact, Republicans are, if anything, even more upset about it than Democrats.

The GOP's uniting sin? It won't compromise.

Gallup asked Americans to name their top problem with both the Democrats and the Republicans. They then broke those responses down by party affiliation.

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Obamacare's most popular provisions are its least well known

Obamacare's most popular provisions are its least well known

This poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation tells you almost everything you need to know about the politics of Obamacare:



It is, by now, so well known as to be almost a cliche: Obamacare is unpopular even though most of its major provisions are highly popular. But this Kaiser poll adds to our understanding. What you're seeing in those long blue lines at the bottom is that Obamacare's least popular elements -- the individual mandate, the employer penalty -- are also its best known. And some of its most popular elements -- closing the Medicare Part D "donut hole," creating insurance exchanges, extending tax credits to small businesses -- are its least well known.

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Still true after 40 years: Voters prefer cuts in theory, spending in practice

Still true after 40 years: Voters prefer cuts in theory, spending in practice

In 1967, the political scientists Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantrill wrote that Americans were "ideological conservatives" but "operational liberals." What they meant was that when asked broad questions about how government should work and what it should do, voters responded like conservatives. But when asked operational questions about which programs should be cut and which services should be eliminated, they responded like liberals. Voters like big cuts and smaller government in theory, but they don't want to actually cut anything in practice.

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How the media is killing the death penalty

How the media is killing the death penalty

Poli-Sci Perspective is a weekly Wonkblog feature in which Georgetown University's Dan Hopkins and George Washington University's Danny Hayes and John Sides offer an empirical perspective on the issues dominating Washington. In this edition, Hayes looks at the change in public opinion on the death penalty. For past posts in the series, head here.

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Most Americans approve of foreign drone strikes

Most Americans approve of foreign drone strikes

Poli-Sci Perspective is a weekly Wonkblog feature in which Georgetown University's Dan Hopkins and George Washington University's Danny Hayes and John Sides offer an empirical perspective on the issues dominating Washington. In this edition, Sides looks at the state of public opinion on drones. For past posts in the series, head here.

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No, Wall Street's not sending a 'sharp and unambiguous message' against taxes

No, Wall Street's not sending a 'sharp and unambiguous message' against taxes

I'm a daily reader of the American Action Forum's Daily Dish, which offers a conservative take on the morning's economic news. Wednesday morning's edition particularly caught my eye for the bold claim in the first paragraph:

Counter to what the likes of Paul Krugman has been saying, CNBC notes that "Wall Street is sending a sharp and unambiguous message to Washington: cut spending and solve the deficit problem now and don't do it with more revenue.

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Poll: Actual Republicans don't want to cut or tax anything

Poll: Actual Republicans don't want to cut or tax anything

Peter Suderman of Reason magazine summarizes a new McClatchy-Marist poll that gave voters a suite of options for reducing the deficit. Democrats in the poll support new taxes but oppose spending cuts. As for Republicans? Well, Republicans oppose everything.

Unlike the overall polling sample, a majority of the poll's Republicans do not support raising taxes on the wealthy. But they don't support any of the spending cuts mentioned in the poll either. Not to Medicare or Medicaid, and not to the tax loopholes surveyed either. Republicans, in other words, don't support much of anything except leaving things the way they are now.

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Graph(s) of the day, part II: U.S. birthrate falls to lowest on record

Graph(s) of the day, part II: U.S. birthrate falls to lowest on record

Yes, Dylan already posted a graph of the day. But are you really going to object to another? Particularly when it's this important?

"The U.S. birth rate dipped in 2011 to the lowest ever recorded," 63.2 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, reports the Pew Research Center for Social and Demographic Trends, citing preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics:

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Ruy Texeira: Republicans cant keep playing on the turf theyve been playing on.

Ruy Texeira: Republicans cant keep playing on the turf theyve been playing on.



Ruy Teixeira is a senior fellow at both the Center for American Progress and the Century Foundation. In 2002, he and
The New Republics John Judis wrote The Emerging Democratic Majority,arguing that demographic shifts like the growing black, Asian and Latino populations and the decline of manufacturing and growth of creative industries would redound to Democrats' benefit. Last night arguably proved them right. We spoke on the phone Wednesday morning; a transcript, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.

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My election prediction: The polls will be right and Obama will win with 290 electoral votes

My election prediction: The polls will be right and Obama will win with 290 electoral votes



"Watching the conservative pushback on the polls reminds me of this slender volume I bought in Oct 1972," e-mailed a friend today. "The triumph of hope over analysis is not a new phenomenon."

The "slender volume" is "How McGovern Won the Presidency and Why the Polls Were Wrong." The book, published in advance of the 1972 election, purported to explain why George McGovern, then trailing by a huge margin in the polls, was nevertheless going to win the election. In "Nixonland," his history of the period, Rick Perlstein summarizes the argument:

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Why campaign momentum is usually a bad sign

Why campaign momentum is usually a bad sign

Last week, the big story in the presidential race was Mitt Romney's momentum. "It's momentum vs. the map," wrote Politico on Oct. 22.

Romney was up by 0.4 percentage points in the Real Clear Politics average of head-to-head polls that day, with an average of 47.6 percent of voters saying they favored him against President Obama. The next day, he was up by 1 percentage point, with 48 percent of voters saying they preferred him in the presidential race. That would prove to be his peak.

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Nate Silver and the forecasting consensus, in one chart

I’ll let Brendan Nyhan describe his chart:

“These charts below, for instance, present the estimated probabilities of an Obama victory and current Electoral College forecasts (where available) from the political scientists Jay DeSart and Tom HolbrookStanford’s Simon JackmanEmory’s Drew LinzerSilverPrinceton’s Sam Wang, the British sports book Betfair, and the Intrade futures market (here and here).

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The 2012 Election in Numbers: Monday, Oct. 29

The 2012 Election in Numbers: Monday, Oct. 29

Note – as we near the election, we’re replacing Reconciliation with a roundup of what the day’s polls and model projections say, and what the latest ads are.

Real Clear Politics’ Latest Polls

Race: Romney vs. Obama, National

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Will Romney win the popular vote but lose the presidency?

Will Romney win the popular vote but lose the presidency?

Its time to just say this clearly: A straightforward read of the polls suggests were likely to see Mitt Romney win the popular vote and Barack Obama win the electoral college and, thus, the presidency. But most pollsters dont think that will happen.

The national polling averages are clear: Romney is slightly ahead, and has been for weeks. As of this writing, he leads by 0.9 percent in the Real Clear Politics average and by 0.4 percent in the Pollster.com average.

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Where the 2012 presidential election is right now

Where the 2012 presidential election is right now

National polls: Mitt Romney has held a slight but persistent lead in national polling since the first debate. As of 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, he’s ahead by 0.7 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, and by 0.2 percent in the Pollster.com tracker.

State polls: Barack Obama holds a slight but persistent lead in the battleground states. Real Clear Politics puts him up in Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan — which is more than enough to win the election. Romney is up in Florida, Colorado and North Carolina. Virginia is tied. The Pollster.com list is exactly the same, save for Obama holding slight leads in Colorado and Virginia. Note that in all the polling averages, Obama’s lead in Ohio is larger than Romney’s lead in Florida.

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The 2012 Election in Numbers: Tuesday, Oct. 16

The 2012 Election in Numbers: Tuesday, Oct. 16

Note – as we near the election, we’re replacing Reconciliation with a roundup of what the day’s polls and model projections say, and what the latest ads are.

Real Clear Politics’ Latest Polls

Race: Romney vs. Obama, National

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Obama has successfully lowered debate expectations



If President Obama’s first debate did nothing else, it sure lowered expectations for his performance in the second debate. Cue Pew:

On the eve of Tuesday night’s second presidential debate at Hofstra University, voters are divided as to which candidate they think will do the better job: 41% say Obama will do better, while 37% expect Romney to prevail. This stands in stark contrast to expectations prior to the first presidential debate two weeks ago, which voters expected Obama to win by a 51%-29% margin.

Also worth noting, Biden vs. Ryan was judged a tie. “As many say Biden did the better job (47%) as say Ryan (46%).”

The 2012 Election by the Numbers: Oct. 11, 2012

The 2012 Election by the Numbers: Oct. 11, 2012

Note – as we near the election, we’re replacing Reconciliation with a roundup of what the day’s polls and model projections say, and what the latest ads are.

Real Clear Politics’ Latest Polls

Race: Romney vs. Obama, National

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Poll: Americans are over divided government

Poll: Americans are over divided government

Typically, polls show that Americans prefer divided government to single-party government. As the thinking goes, voters are skeptical of both parties and feel better knowing neither Democrats nor Republicans have that much power. 

At least, that’s what the polls used to show:



We’ll need to see a few more years of data before we can confidently say whether this is a blip or a trend. But given the past year, can you blame voters?

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The poll result that explains the election

Washington has been a bit perplexed by President Obama’s small but persistent lead in the polls. His administration would seem to fail the “Are you better off than you were four years ago” text. And presidents who fail that test lose, right?

But perhaps that’s the wrong question. We focus on the question “Are you better off than you were four years ago” because we assume voters aren’t sophisticated enough to vote based on the right question, which is “are you better off than you would have been if the other party’s candidate had won the presidency four years ago?”

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Democrats, Republicans and independents are hearing very different economic news

Democrats, Republicans and independents are hearing very different economic news



In my New Yorker report exploring how partisans formulate (and change) their opinions, I leaned heavily on research by Vanderbilt’s Larry Bartels, among others, showing that Republicans and Democrats tend to believe the economy is doing better when their team is in power and worse when the other team is in power. A new Pew poll shows this is happening right now:

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Ten takeaways from the new Post/ABC poll

Ten takeaways from the new Post/ABC poll

1) President Obama appears to have received a large post-convention bounce. In the last Post/ABC poll, published Aug. 27, Mitt Romney was leading Obama among registered voters 47 percent to 46 percent. In the newest poll, Obama leads 50 percent to Romney’s 44 percent, a seven point swing.



Among “likely voters,” however, Obama is only up 49 percent to 48 percent. That suggests that race is still very close. (The poll in late August didn’t measure likely voters, so it’s difficult to see how this has shifted.)

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Nine takeaways from the new Post/ABC News poll

1) Obama polls better among “all adults” than “registered voters.”



2) Romney still faces significant empathy/likability gap:



If those numbers were even, would this election still be close?

3) People like Paul Ryan’s budget…



4) …Until they learn more about it.



5) That said, the Ryan pick looks to have been a wash in the polls:



6) Romney actually has fought Obama to a standstill over Medicare:



7) Democrats appear to be winning the broad philosophical arguments over economic policy:



8) More people blame Bush for our economic woes than blame Obama.



9) Most Americans think Obama will win the election.



Full poll results here.

Romney’s tough road to 270

Romney’s tough road to 270

Most of the polls you see in the presidential campaign are national polls. That’s as it should be. This is a national campaign, and the winner will be president of the whole nation.

But the campaigns themselves don’t much care about national polls. They’re focused on 8-12 battleground states. That’s pretty much all they care about. And they have a lot of information on what’s going on in those states. They’re looking at not just polls, but registration numbers, volunteer information — anything that can give them a sense of what will swing Ohio.

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Why is Obama ahead?

Why is Obama ahead?

Time for a moment of accountability. Earlier in the campaign, I wrote that my rule of thumb was simple: If the economy was adding about 150,000 jobs a month, Romney had the edge. If it was 200,000 jobs a month, Obama had the edge. If it was 250,000 jobs a month, Obama had it easy.

Over the last four months, the economy has added, on average, 93,000 jobs a month. If you’d told me that number four months ago, I would have told you Romney would be well ahead today. But I would have been wrong. Obama currently leads in Real Clear Politics’s average of polls by 4.1 percentage points — one of his largest leads thus far in the campaign. That is, in part, why the Romney campaign went with a risky veep pick like Paul Ryan rather than a safer, duller candidate who would keep the focus on Obama’s record.

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Wonkbook: A weirdly stable campaign

Wonkbook: A weirdly stable campaign

Here’s a data point for you: “Only twice in 13 surveys over more than a year has either candidate held a lead exceeding the poll’s margin of sampling error.”

That’s from Dan Balz and Jon Cohen’s write-up of the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, which shows the presidential race tied, 47-47. “The stability persists despite the costliest blitz of early campaign advertising the country has ever seen,” they note. It’s also persisted despite bad jobs numbers, “the private sector is fine,” a Supreme Court ruling on the health-care law, substantial media coverage of Romney’s record at Bain and his unusually creative tax return, financial panic in Europe, and much more.

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Poll: Americans think their own health care is fine, but the rest of the country’s isn’t

Poll: Americans think their own health care is fine, but the rest of the country’s isn’t

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll picks up on a seeming contradiction in how Americans think about health care – underscoring why reform can be a big political lift.

Most Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the national health care system. When asked about their own experience with health care though, they tend to say it’s been pretty good. Take a look:

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Poll: Republicans hate ‘Obamacare,’ but like most of what it does

Poll: Republicans hate ‘Obamacare,’ but like most of what it does

I recently mentioned that there’s yet another poll showing that most of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions are popular, even as the bill itself remained unpopular. That poll was from Reuters/Ipsos, and Greg Sargent smartly asked them for the crosstabs. Digging in, he found that the ironies go even deeper than that. It’s not just that most of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions are popular. It’s that they’re popular with Republicans:

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The Bloomberg poll, reconsidered

The Bloomberg poll, reconsidered

A reader thinks there’s more to Wednesday’s Bloomberg poll than my earlier post suggested:

I completely agree with you that the media’s interpretation of Bloomberg’s recent presidential poll takes its result as being far too close to fact and not enough as an unusual result that is far outside of the expectations set by other recent polls.  It is definitely an outlier in that context.

You state that the polls we see are “very, very wrong” about one out of 20 times, which makes some sense when you consider that their margin of error is typically based on a 95% confidence interval.  I don’t know that I would describe a 5% chance of a random result falling outside of a range as “very, very wrong”, but that’s a different point.  What is still important to consider here is that once a result gets outside of its confidence interval, it is still subject to its distribution.  Not all “very, very wrong” results are created equal.

In fact, if we take the Real Clear Politics average of 0.6% favoring Obama as the mean in a normal distribution with a similar sample size (about 1000, meaning a margin of error of 3.1), we find that the likelihood of getting a random result 12.4 points in either direction is less than 1 in 100 Trillion.   Effectively, it’s zero.  Which means that this poll says something about the national opinion for president.  It calls RCP’s average significantly into question and cannot be written off as a simple outlier.  It’s a pretty big deal.

Put another (shorter) way:

Bloomberg: Obama by 13%

Chances that the REAL national opinion is either lower than 9.9% or higher than 16.1%: 1 in 20

Chances that the REAL national opinion is either lower than 0.6% or higher than 25.4%: <1 in 100 Trillion

It would take an awful lot to get Bloomberg’s result if RCP’s average is really correct or even close to correct.  Something is amiss.

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Pet peeve

There’s a new Bloomberg poll showing President Obama with a 13-point lead over Mitt Romney. That’s a far cry from the 0.6 percent lead Obama held in this morning’s Real Clear Politics average of polls. The poll is pretty clearly an outlier.

The proper way to report this poll is not “Obama Holds Wide Lead Over Romney.” It’s that an outlier poll shows Obama with a wide lead, and it will be interesting to see if any subsequent polls reproduce its findings. We all know, theoretically, that the sampling polls do means that one in every 20 polls or so is very, very wrong. When that poll comes along, we shouldn’t report its findings as a fact about the world.

Also, please get off of my lawn.

Pet peeve

There’s a new Bloomberg poll showing President Obama with a 13-point lead over Mitt Romney. That’s a far cry from the 0.6 percent lead Obama held in this morning’s Real Clear Politics average of polls. The poll is pretty clearly an outlier.

The proper way to report this poll is not “Obama Holds Wide Lead Over Romney.” It’s that an outlier poll shows Obama with a wide lead, and it will be interesting to see if any subsequent polls reproduce its findings. We all know, theoretically, that the sampling polls do means that one in every 20 polls or so is very, very wrong. When that poll comes along, we shouldn’t report its findings as a fact about the world.

Also, please get off of my lawn.

Poll: 68% of Americans want the court to overturn all or part of health care

You can spin the latest New York Times/CBS poll two ways: You could say a large majority of Americans wants the Supreme Court to overturn all or part of the health-care law, or that a majority wants the Supreme Court to leave all or most of the health-care law intact.

Here are the numbers: 41 percent say the Supreme Court should get rid of the whole thing; 27 percent say just overturn the mandate; 24 percent say keep the law; 8 percent don’t know. So 68 percent say either get rid of all of the law or at least the individual mandate, and 51 percent say keep all of the law or everything but the individual mandate.

Bottom line: If you’re Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts, and you want to rule against the individual mandate but you’re worried about a public backlash, this poll calms your fears.

Ignore the polls. Watch the averages.

If you were watching the polls yesterday, you saw a new Gallup tracker showing President Obama trailing Mitt Romney by two points. But then, if you were still paying attention, you saw a new CNN survey showing Obama ahead by nine points. So who’s right?

Probably neither one! Ignore individual polls. Individual polls are usually wrong. Individual polls that show unusual results are almost always wrong. It’s averages of individual polls that are worth paying attention to. Right now, the polling average produced by Real Clear Politics shows Obama ahead by 3.2 percent. Before the CNN poll came out, he was ahead by 2 percent. Ten days ago, he was ahead by 5 percent. Two months ago, he was ahead by 6 percent.

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The 27-point gender gap that could decide the election

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll finds Obama leading Romney 51-44 among registered voters. Here’s why:

A wide gender gap underlies the current state of the race. Romney is up eight percentage points among male voters but trails by 19 among women.

So does this:

So far, Romney has not convinced Americans that he better understands the economic problems they are facing; Obama has a 12-point lead on this question. As in January, more Americans consider unfairness in the economic system a bigger problem than over-regulation interfering with growth and prosperity.

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Gallup: Obama’s favorability lowest of any nominee since Bob Dole

Gallup: Obama’s favorability lowest of any nominee since Bob Dole

The latest Gallup-USA Today poll holds grim news for the White House. While 44 percent of Americans says President Obama’s time in office has been a success, 50 percent say it’s been a failure.

The poll also finds that his favorability rating is 50 percent — presumably that’s the 50 percent that doesn’t think his presidency is a failure. That’s lower than every presidential nominee in the last five contests save for Bob Dole. And Dole lost.

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Romney hemorrhaging independents

Greg Sargent digs into the latest Pew poll:

In November, Romney was beating Obama among [independents], 53-41. Now those numbers are upside down: Obama is beating Romney among them, 51-42. That’s a net 19 point net swing of independents in Obama’s direction in three months.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum is leading in Michigan.

The mounting danger for Romney is that his candidacy will lose its central justification: That he’s the most electable Republican in the field. Readers know I’ve long been bullish on Romney’s prospects, but if Santorum can pull out a win in Michigan, and Romney's numbers keep sliding, it becomes hard to see how he pulls this out.

Why D.C. is so optimistic, cont’d

Yesterday, I wondered over a Gallup poll showing that residents of Washington, D.C., are vastly more optimistic about the economy than residents of any of the 50 states. We’re even more optimistic than North Dakotans, who have a 3.4 percent unemployment rate. Ex-Postie Alec MacGillis sends in a possible answer:

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Bill Clinton: One of the least polarizing presidents ever. But why?

Bill Clinton: One of the least polarizing presidents ever. But why?

As Barack Obama becomes the most polarizing president in recent American history, Bill Clinton is becoming one of the least polarizing. Fox News host Sean Hannity calls him “good old Bill.” Rep. Paul Ryan admits, “I enjoy Bill Clinton.” Sen. Orrin Hatch says “he will go down in history as a better president” than Obama. More than 60 percent of Americans have a positive view of Clinton — more, even, than approve of Ronald Reagan. This month, Esquire interviewed Clinton under the headline: “Bill Clinton: Someone we can all agree on.” Which just goes to show that how polarizing a president is has very little to do with how ideological they were, or are.

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Gallup: Obama’s third-year approval ratings among lowest

President Obama averaged a 44.4 percent approval rating during his third year in office, Gallup reports. That’s among the lowest of any president since Eisenhower — but not by much. Ronald Reagan averaged a 44.9 percent approval rating during his third year in office.

But Gallup’s comparisons mostly shows how little they can really tell you. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan had two of the lowest readings, but two of the strongest reelection bids. George H. W. Bush had one of the best third-year approval ratings — 69 percent — but he lost his reelection campaign. His son, George W. Bush, posted a strong 59 percent approval rating in his second year, but was reelected by one of the slimmest margins of any two-term president in the 20th century.

Note, too, that the strongest orators posted some of the lowest third-year ratings. Clinton, Reagan and Obama all gave good speeches. But speeches don’t get you very far.

Poll: 54 percent blame Bush for economy

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 54 percent of Americans consider George W. Bush primarily responsible for the problems facing the economy, while only 29 percent put the blame on President Obama. Even one in five Republicans blames Bush rather than Obama.

Of course, voters could pin the recession on Bush but still feel Obama hasn’t done enough to speed the recovery. This is largely the argument Mitt Romney makes when he says Obama “made the recession worse.” And the poll provides some support of it: 48 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance — an increase over recent months — but only 45 percent approve of his work on job creation, and 52 percent say Obama, in general, has accomplished “not much” or “little or nothing.”

The Republican primary in one graph

“Romney’s current 37% support is tied for the highest enjoyed by any Republican candidate in Gallup Daily tracking of Republican preferences so far this election cycle, and marks a 13-percentage-point increase in support from his five-day average that ended Jan. 2, just before the Iowa caucuses.” More here from Gallup.

What’s moving Iowa’s caucusgoers, in three graphs

The candidate preferences of likely Iowa caucusgoers have gotten plenty of press in recent days. But how are they developing those preferences? For instance: Are they most worried about finding the candidate able to beat President Obama or finding the candidate who best reflects their ideology?

The CNN-Time-ORC poll (pdf) conducted Dec. 21-27 helps shed some light on this question. The survey asked likely GOP caucusgoers which candidates voters agree with most on the issues, which candidate they think is likeliest to beat President Obama, and which candidate they support. I’ve combined the three questions on this graph:

As you can see, the candidate preferences of likely GOP caucusgoers are much closer to their issue preferences than their estimation of who can beat Obama. Issue agreement, in other words, seems to be driving the caucuses. So then the question becomes: which issues?

This next graph uses the same poll to look at the issues that likely GOP caucusgoers say are “extremely important” to their vote:

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2011 in 11 charts

Last week, we asked an assortment of economists, economic policymakers, and investors to name the most important chart of the year. This week, we turned the question back on ourselves, and chose the 11 charts that do the best job of explaining the political and economic scene in 2011. Here they are:

Here’s what Gallup will be watching in 2012

I tend to talk a lot about the way that economic conditions help determine — and even predict — elections. But I watch polls, too. And so I was interested to see Gallup post a document outlining the “survey-based metrics that matter most” for 2012. Here’s the roundup, with an excerpt of Gallup’s rationale and a look at where the indicator stands today:

Presidential job approval: “Since World War II, presidents who maintained approval ratings above 50% in the election year were easily re-elected. Presidents near or just below 50% tended to be in competitive re-election fights. Presidents with approval ratings well below 50% have generally been defeated for re-election.”

Currently at: 43%.

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The American public and the GOP are moving in the opposite direction on taxes

“Congressional Republicans may have become more anti-tax in the last 30 years, but the American public has made the opposite transition: in March 1982, three-quarters of Americans said spending cuts alone should be used to reduce deficits; today, about the same share say tax increases should be included in any debt-reduction package. Remember, of course, that tax rates were much higher 30 years ago than they are today.” — Catherine Rampell, Economix. Here’s more from Bruce Bartlett.

Poll: 50 percent support legalizing pot

“A record-high 50% of Americans now say the use of marijuana should be made legal, up from 46% last year. Forty-six percent say marijuana use should remain illegal.” — Gallup.

The tea party’s popularity problem

It’s not been an easy month for the tea party. Take the GOP primary: they’re losing it. “The Tea Party movement was fueled by opposition to the Wall Street bailouts, President Obama’s health care reform legislation and out-of-control spending in Washington,” writes Phil Klein at the conservative Washington Examiner. “Yet the current favorite to win the Republican nomination has rejected the Tea Party line on all of these issues.”


(Darren McCollester - GETTY IMAGES)
The movement is also losing some big votes. Only 24 percent of tea party members support free trade agreements, and their opposition to the pacts, according to a year-old NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (pdf), is actually much stronger than that of other voters. But three of them passed yesterday even as Speaker John Boehner refuses to give populist legislation to rap China on the knuckles a vote. As Dana Milbank notes, “for all the talk of populist foment – the tea party on the right and the new Occupy Wall Street movement on the left – business interests remain firmly in control.”

And Senate Democrats are taking pretty direct aim at the tea party. In a meeting with reporters yesterday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who runs messaging for the Senate Dems, previewed the coming campaign. “We are going to be labeling tea party economics. Tea party double-dip recession. Tea party gridlock,” he said. “We think that’s going to have a real effect.” Why would it have a real effect? Because, he continued, the tea party is very, very unpopular.

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Government spending isn’t popular

Government spending isn’t popular. And not just in America. As this chart from the Economist shows, it’s not popular in Europe, either: