As you can see, there is a strong, if not overwhelming relationship between these two things: Obama tends to do better where there are more undecideds, and Clinton tends to do better where there are fewer. The relationship is statistically significant at the 95 percent level.
If we trace the regression line such that it crosses the y-axis -- meaning, there are zero undecideds -- we'd project a Clinton win by 16 points.
Is this a valid way to look at the polls? I have no idea. But we can run a gut-check of sorts. The average of these 14 polls is: Clinton 48.3, Obama 40.9, Undecided 10.0. For Clinton to win by 16 points on election day, that would imply results of Clinton 57.5, Obama 41.5, assuming that 1 percent of the vote goes to minor candidates.
In order for that to occur, Clinton would need to pick up 9.2 points from undecided voters, to Obama's 0.6. In other words, she'd have to win nearly every undecided voter. Even when elections break at the end -- they don't break that strongly. Maybe Clinton could win 2 out of 3 undecided voters (which would imply a victory margin of about 10 points), but not 9 out of 10.
So -- I wouldn't take these numbers all that seriously. At the same time, I think there is a case to be made that Clinton has a couple extra points worth of cushion in her Pennsylvania numbers versus what the polling averages currently imply.
In Indiana, SurveyUSA conducted a poll on behalf of the Mike Downs Center (Real Clear Politics lists the poll as "Downs Center", but the field work was done by SurveyUSA, and so that's how we'll list it). John McCain leads Barack Obama by 7 points, and Hillary Clinton by 11. Although Obama could conceivably win Indiana on a good Election Day, its demographics -- amorphous as they are -- probably aren't as favorable to him as other "reach" states like North Carolina or Montana. It does make a token appearance toward the bottom of his Swing State list, however. The more interesting result is on the Democratic primary side, where SurveyUSA now shows Obama with a 5 point lead after having trailed by 16 points just days ago.
SurveyUSA also has a poll out in Washington: Obama +13, Clinton +3. Although the topline number is better for Obama, Clinton goes from being a slight underdog against John McCain to a slight favorite on the strength of this survey.
And briefly: Quinnipiac has Clinton up 12 in her adopted home state of New York; Obama leads by 8. And Rasmussen -- video only at this time -- has Obama up by 3, but Clinton trailing by 14 in Colorado. Each of those surveys serves to correct recent polls that appeared to be outliers in each state (TargetPoint in CO, Marist in NY), but are otherwise fairly consistent with our long-term averages.
But what if instead of comparing McCain to the Democrats, we compare him to another Republican -- George W. Bush. Below is the ratio of funds that McCain has raised thus far in his election campaign to the funds raised by Bush in 2004.
State McCain '08 Bush '04 RatioAfter Arizona (no surprise), where McCain has already raised as many dollars as Bush did in 2004, the preponderance of states on the top of his list are on the East Coast. Five of the top ten states are in New England, and that isn't counting New York, which might as well be. There are a couple of West Coast states scattered throughout McCain's list -- the region where he's generally assumed to have the most advantages -- but nothing overwhelming.
1. Arizona $ 3,506,000 $ 3,260,000 1.08
2. New Hampshire $ 311,000 $ 615,000 0.51
3. New York $ 5,290,000 $12,215,000 0.43
4. Mississippi $ 326,000 $ 899,000 0.36
5. Utah $ 201,000 $ 566,000 0.35
6. Virginia $ 3,075,000 $ 8,780,000 0.35
7. Rhode Island $ 101,000 $ 289,000 0.35
8. Connecticut $ 1,498,000 $ 4,310,000 0.35
9. Idaho $ 128,000 $ 370,000 0.35
10. Maine $ 130,000 $ 378,000 0.34
11. Michigan $ 1,741,000 $ 5,081,000 0.34
12. California $ 6,801,000 $20,865,000 0.33
13. New Jersey $ 1,783,000 $ 6,064,000 0.29
14. Massachusetts $ 1,147,000 $ 4,155,000 0.28
15. Colorado $ 715,000 $ 2,684,000 0.27
46. Alabama $ 284,000 $ 3,126,000 0.09
47. Nebraska $ 79,000 $ 964,000 0.08
48. West Virginia $ 43,000 $ 552,000 0.08
49. Arkansas $ 109,000 $ 1,412,000 0.08
50. Kentucky $ 125,000 $ 2,424,000 0.05
Now, we don't know whether it's a matter of East Coasters tending to have some real affection for John McCain -- or having had some real disaffection for George Bush. But after looking at this list, I'd tend to take at least a little more seriously the prospect that McCain could compete in some East Coast states. Against Obama, the most likely targets are New Jersey (McCain 38% to win), and maybe Massachusetts (24%). Again Clinton, we're likely talking about New Hampshire (75% -- Clinton is actually the underdog here), perhaps Maine (24%) and Connecticut (30%), and perhaps even Delaware (30%), which is not as safely Blue as people assume.
By contrast, McCain's inherently weakest region would seem to be the South. But neither Democrat is quite well positioned enough to take advantage of it, since Clinton will piss off some black voters and Obama will piss off some rural white Democrats. A hypothetical John Edwards nomination might have been interesting in this regard.
Asked to defend the fact that policy didn't come up for the first 40 or so minutes of the debate, Stephanopoulos said:
"We decided to focus at the top on the issues that had been at the center of the debate since the last debate. Everything we brought up in that front section had not come up since the last debate. And they all focused on the same theme -- which candidate would be a stronger Democratic candidate in November.""This is the core question for the campaigns, and a lot of Democratic voters right now. That's why we decided to lead with it."
It's ABC's right to run its debate as it chooses; as I indicted last night, I think Barack Obama's preparation was lacking. However, if this was its rationale for running the debate as it did, it's a poor one.
Edison-Mitofsky, in its exit polls throughout the primaries, has asked the following question on each survey:
Which ONE of these four candidate qualitiesSo voters can pick between electability -- "best chance to win in November" -- and other core attributes like experience. How many voters picked electability? Not very many.
mattered most in deciding how you voted today?
* Can bring about needed CHANGE
* CARES about people like me
* Has the right EXPERIENCE
* Has the BEST CHANCE TO WIN in November
In the 29 states where Edison-Mitofsky asked this question, it finished dead last in 28 of them, and next-to-last in Vermont, where it beat "cares about people like me" by one point. Nor has electability become more of an issue for the voters as the primary season has worn on. In the states that voted in January, an average of 7.4% of voters chose electability. On Super Tuesday, 8.5% did. In the "rest of February" states like Virginia and Wisconsin, 8.3% chose electability. And it was the choice of 8.4% of the voters in states that voted in March.
Voters don't vote on electability because doing so means that you're essentially vetoing your own candidate preference. Essentially, you're saying:
"Sure, *I* think Hillary Clinton is the best candidate. But I don't think OTHER people will vote for Hillary Clinton. So I'm not going to vote for her."This simply isn't how most people behave. They get to cast one ballot for their party's nomination for the Presidency every four years, and they aren't about to let it be dictated based on their guesses about how other people will behave. Arguably, this is a collective action problem. Although, under certain circumstances, voting on electability could become a self-fulfilling prophecy that could actually subvert the popular will.
Superdelegates care about electability. Pundits care about electability. But the average voter would rather see the candidates argue about health care or the war in Iraq.
These are generally, although not uniformly, a poor set of polls for Barack Obama. The ones that are perhaps especially problematic for him are in Virginia and New Mexico, states where SurveyUSA has generally showed him running fairly well. The Ohio result, naturally, is important, although that's consistent with what we've seen in other polling. And SurveyUSA shows a close race for Obama in Massachusetts, as it has all cycle; it would be nice to be able to look at another pollster's numbers on that race.
As you can see, Obama's win percentage against John McCain has declined to its lowest ever number, 41.4%, which leaves him essentially tied with Hillary Clinton, who is presently at 40.2%. When we began this project, the polls indicated that Obama was at a hair over 60% to win an election against John McCain; that number has now fallen by more than 20 points.
But for the Obamaphiles in the crowd who are inclined to panic, a couple of things to keep in mind: Firstly, even in a bad set of surveys, Obama retains some areas of strength. These are, particularly, the Pacific Northwest region and our North Central (e.g. Upper Midwest) region. In Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, as well as in Washington and Oregon, Obama is likely to win fairly easily, whereas all of those states are in play in a Clinton-McCain contest. It's these states, plus neighboring Michigan -- which will not be a slam dunk for Obama but appears to be a better state for him than for Clinton -- that account for why Obama is still at least tied with Clinton overall, in spite of performing worse than her in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
Secondly, notice that the SurveyUSA polls were taken over the weekend, just as the bittergate controversy was hitting the radar. Keep in mind my prediction about bittergate, which is that it would have no real impact on the Democratic primary numbers, but perhaps a couple of points worth of medium-term impact on Obama's general election numbers. So far, that prediction has been pretty well borne out.
The other dynamic in play here is something that I call 'timing bias': pollsters tend to release surveys in the wake of major news events. Consider, for instance, that the last time SurveyUSA released a big set of polls was just as the Jeremiah Wright controversy was breaking. Naturally, pollsters (and the clients they work for) want to gauge the electoral reaction to important events in the news cycle. But really, if you buy one of my fundamental arguments about polling, which is that most bounces are just that -- temporary aberrations in the polling numbers -- these are the very worst times to release polls. And it cuts both ways. If, say, Obama wins Indiana, and essentially concludes the nomination with an 'upset' victory, we'll probably see a lot of polls released in the aftermath of that. Those numbers too, I'm guessing, would likely show a fairly big bounce for Obama -- and that bounce too, I'm guessing, might well prove to be ephemeral. It's helpful to have a pollster like Rasmussen on hand, which releases its polling data in dribs and drabs, rather than in big chunks.
Thirdly, our previous analysis shows that with a unified Democratic party behind him, Obama is likely to have a superior hand to play to Clinton's.
With all that said, there's no doubt that Obama's electability numbers have taken a hit. For one set of advocates, that is precisely the reason to draw the Democratic nomination process to a close, and for the other set, it is precisely the reason to continue it.
p.s. One result I wouldn't worry about for Obama: the TargetPoint poll showing him trailing McCain by 12 points in Colorado. Whatever hit Obama has taken, it does not appear to be in states like Minnesota and Washington, that are similar to Colorado demographically. And TargetPoint surveyed this contest on behalf of a Republican advocacy firm, and over small (~300 voters) sample sizes.
For each day that he spends campaigning in a state in the 30 days in the run-up to the election, Obama can expect to gain about 3.5 points in his margin over Clinton. And for every day that Clinton spends campaigning in that state, Obama can expect to lose about 2.4 points. The relative magnitude of the these two numbers is important: Obama is helped more by his own campaigning than he is harmed by Clinton's campaigning. So when both candidates campaign in a state, Obama can expect to gain overall. That dovetails with the finding that Obama tends to move up sharply in the polls in the several weeks leading up to the election.
1a. I agree with Andrew Sullivan that Obama's demeanor was a problem. If you read a transcript of this debate -- you would probably call it a draw. If you were watching the TV with the sound off -- it would look like Obama was losing. Reality being somewhere in between those two things, the edge goes to Clinton.
1b. However, I sensed that Obama's mood was more one of exasperation than exhaustion. Obama had pivoted rather deftly from the bittergate controversy in recent days -- see for example his speech in front of the American Association of Manufacturers -- precisely because it reminded him of one of the original rationales for his campaign, which was running against the Washington establishment. e.g. "It's the career politicians in Washington who are out of touch, not me", or some variant thereof. However, it was impossible to strike that tone given the nature of the questions, which were more designed for superdelegates than ordinary voters. Obama faced a frontrunner's scrutiny, even though he's behind in Pennsylvania, an inherently difficult position for him not made better by the moderation. But Obama can be faulted, I think, for not gaming out a tonal strategy for this type of debate.
2. With that said, debates are won and lost in the 24-96 hour time period, rather than on the evening of. There weren't really any YouTube moments in this debate, and while the media is likely to focus on things like the Ayers issue --this is the same media that has consistently misread the pulse of the American public over the course of this campaign. The media badly misread where bittergate registered on the Richter Scale; they also badly underestimated how the "pile-on" narrative -- and their own slobbering praise for Obama -- would play out for Hillary Clinton before the New Hampshire primary. There are elements of the media -- see a good example here -- that are still focused on the 1998 model of winning elections. But this is a 2008 universe, and the public is both more battle-weary and far more sophisticated in the way that they consume information. This is arguably the same problem that the Clinton campaign has had for much of the primaries.
3. In terms of Pennsylvania, I think this can most safely be regarded as a missed opportunity for Obama. One thing we haven't mentioned is how few undecideds there are in Pennsylvania -- as few as 5-7 percent in many polls -- and those that have selected candidates are pretty dug in. I would assume that an undecided voter who had doubts about Obama would not have those doubts erased by tonight's performance -- but there are also not a lot of undecideds. It's become a very stubborn electorate.
There have been some very good attempts to predict the outcome of the Pennsylvania primary on a district-by-district basis: see this one, or this one, or this one. That isn't going to stop me from trying to approach the problem on my own, however. The difference is that mine will be done entirely by the numbers: no human intervention, no judgment calls. This is not, by any means, inherently a good thing. But, well, it should be ... fun.
I'd been playing around with some state-by-state data in recent days, sort of trying to recreate my experiment back in February to predict the results of the remaining primaries -- which frankly was something of a failure. Then I realized that if I was going to try and predict things by Congressional District, I had better analyze data on a Congressional District level, and so I pulled up a whole bunch of data from American Fact Finder and away I went.
I looked at the results of all states that have held primaries so far on a CD-by-CD basis, with the exceptions of Louisiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Texas, which don't yet have results available on a Congressional District basis. I did include Florida, but I didn't include Michigan. I didn't include any caucuses -- except New Mexico, which has a caucus in name only -- nor did I include the beauty contest primary in Washington. I did include the District of Columbia.
And then I just went looking about for relationships in the data. There were nine variables, out of about twice as many candidates, that turned out to have a statistically significant relationship with Barack Obama's two-way vote share against Hillary Clinton in my regression model. Those variables are as follows:
1. Partisan Voting Index. Obama does somewhat better, all else being equal, in CDs with more Republicans. It does not seem to matter whether the state has an open or a closed primary; the effect is the same either way.
2. Percentage of Adults with Bachelors' Degrees or higher. Overedumucated folks like Obama!
3. Percentage of Seniors (Age 65+ Adults), out of all Adults. Old folks don't like Obama!
4. Percentage of Young Voters (18-29), out of all Adults. Young folks do like Obama! It proved to be helpful to have both the "seniors" and the "young voters" variables included, because Obama's vote share by age group resembles something of an S-curve. He does significantly better with young voters and significantly worse with older voters, but everything in between is pretty flat: a 34-year-old isn't that much more inclined to support Obama than a 52-year-old, for instance. It's just on the tails of the distrubtion where you see the effects.
5. Percentage of African-American voters. No surprise on this one, and far and away the strongest relationship in the dataset. Once again, I did not find any relationship between Hispanic voters and Obama's vote share. Latinos haven't voted for Obama in big numbers, but it appears that this can be entirely explained by other variables, like education levels.
6. Percentage of Urban Population. Obama actually does slightly worse in urbanized districts, all else being equal, although this is usually obscured by the fact that highly urbanized districts tend to have a lot of African-American voters. What we may be left with here is some of those white ethnics -- including Jewish voters -- that Chris Matthews likes to talk about. The Census Bureau also has a separate category for "urbanized clusters" -- its term for small towns -- and I looked at that too, but it didn't make any difference.
These next two are pretty interesting.
7. Percentage of Women of Working Age in the Active Workforce. I looked at the percentage of women who are employed out of all women aged 18-64 in the district. Obama does better when a higher percentage of women in the district are employed outside the home. This is arguably somewhat counterintuitive, since working women are supposed to be one of Hillary's main cohorts. But it seems like Hillary's real strength is with stay-at-home women, and not working women. Or it could be that areas in which a lot of women tend to work might have different attitudes about gender or other social norms in ways that tend to work to Obama's benefit. Either way, the variable is highly statistically significant.
8. Percentage of Residents who Identify themselves as "American". Recently, the Census Bureau has begin to ask for an ethnic classification in addition to a racial one (e.g. "Cuban", "Lithuanian"). However, about seven percent of Americans decline to check any of the boxes that the Census Bureau provides, and instead write in that they are simply "American". As you can see, this practice tends to be highly concentrated in certain parts of the country, especially the Appalachian/Highlands region:
To be perfectly blunt, this variable seems to serve as a pretty good proxy for folks that a lot of us elitists would usually describe as "rednecks". And for whatever reason, these "American" voters do not like Barack Obama. That is why he's getting killed in the polls in Kentucky and West Virginia, for instance, where there are high concentrations of them.
9. Home-State Variables. The last variables were dummies indicating the home state(s) of Hillary Clinton (she got credit for both New York and Arkansas) and Barack Obama (Illinois; I would also have given him credit for Hawaii but they held a caucus). The model seems to think that a primary candidate can expect about a 20-25 point bonus from campaigning in his home state.
Other variables I looked at but that did not make the cut:
(i) a whole bunch of things related to income, poverty levels and economics, including some broad occupational categories like manufacturing workers and service employees. It appears that education drives the differences in support between Clinton and Obama, rather than economic class or income levels.
(ii) As I mentioned, the Hispanic variable had no significant impact, neither did a variable for Asians.
(iii) The number of college students in the area was not relevant, probably because it's very redundant with out twentysomethings variable.
(iv) Open versus closed primary status appeared to make no difference whatsoever.
Turning back to the case of Pennsylvania, here is what each of those variables look like in the 19 Congressional Districts in the state:
And here is that map again, since I know this is a long post:
And now we can get into numbers. Keep in mind that all of these predictions you see are what my model tells me; I have not fiddled with them in any way.
CD 1: South Philadelphia, and some burbs (7 delegates). A very working class section of Philadelphia -- just 15.5% of adults have advanced degrees -- which otherwise would not be particularly favorable to Obama, but for the high concentration of African Americans. This district will almost certainly be split 4-3 in Obama's favor. Obama 58-42 popular vote, 4-3 delegates.
*CD 2: West Philadelphia, and some burbs (9 delegates). This is sort of that Maryland region of Philadelphia -- pretty much everyone is black or well-educated, and many are both. Obama should get very close to the 72.5% threshold he needs to get 7 delegates, but the model has him falling just a bit short. Obama 71-29 popular vote, 5-2 delegates.
CD 3: Northwest/Erie (5 delegates). Maybe not as bad for Obama as it's been made out to be. It's working class, but the electorate tilts slightly young and slightly Republican, both of which are favorable to Obama. He'll lose, but is not in much danger of a 1-4 split. Clinton 59-41 popular vote, 3-2 delegates.
CD 4: NW Pittsburgh Suburbs (5 delegates). This is actually a highly educated district -- not part of "Pennsyltucky" -- and Obama might even make a run of it, if not for the fact that the district tilts very old; just 15% of the electorate is under age 29. Clinton 59-41 popular vote, 3-2 delegates.
CD 5: North Central -- State College (5 delegates). The extremely high concentration of young voters around Penn State University should hold Clinton to a 3-2 delegate split. Neither an Obama win or a 4-1 split for Clinton are very likely; this is not a swing district. Clinton 57-43 popular vote, 3-2 delegates.
CD 6: Southeast - Burks and Chester Counties (6 delegates). This would be a swing district, except that there are an even number of delegates. It's among the most highly educated districts in the state, but the rest of the demographics tend to favor Clinton. Those two things will roughly balance out. Whoever wins here might get some bragging rights in the exit polls, however. Obama 51-49 popular vote, 3-3 delegate split.
*CD 7: Western Philadelphia Suburbs (7 delegates). This is the Joe Sestak district, and it should be extremely close. It has the highest education levels in the state, and lots of two-income households. But this is counterbalanced by a slightly older electorate, and a lot of white ethnic voters. Clinton 50.3-49.7 popular vote, 4-3 delegates.
CD 8: Southeast -- Bucks County (7 delegates). Slightly more working-class than the other suburban districts, with slightly fewer African-Americans and young voters. All the differences are subtle, but they add up to project a somewhat comfortable win for Clinton. Clinton 55-45 popular vote, 4-3 delegates.
CD 9: South Central -- Altoona (3 delegates). The least educated district in the state and otherwise a mess for Obama. The one saving grace for Obama is that it's also the most Republican district in the state, so Clinton's institutional support will be less effective here. There are just 3 delegates in play; Clinton won't get the huge margins she'd need to win all 3. Clinton 61-39 popular vote, 2-1 delegates.
*CD 10: Northeast -- Susquehanna Valley (4 delegates). The low education levels are a problem for Obama, but it also has some genuinely rural areas, and Obama tends to fare OK among farming and agricultural populations. That's not much for him to hang his hat on, however, and Clinton could conceivably get a 3-1 split here. Clinton 59-41 popular vote, 2-2 delegate split.
CD 11: Northeast -- Scranton (5 delegates). There's not any one thing that really stands out in this district -- it's just that a whole bunch of little things point toward Clinton, including the upbringing she claims in the region. It's a heterogeneous enough area however that Clinton is unlikely to do better than to win 3 out of the 5 delegates. Clinton 63-37 popular vote, 3-2 delegates.
*CD 12: Southwest -- Johnstown (5 delegates). The worst district in the state for Obama, and the one where he does need to be worried about a 4-1 split. Lots of things work out badly for him; it's among the least educated districts in the state, but also has the highest share of seniors. Still, the model says the tall order of a 4-1 split will not quite come through for Clinton. Clinton 67-33 popular vote, 3-2 delegates.
CD 13: Southeast -- Montgomery County (7 delegates). Nearly identical demographically to CD 7 (Bucks County), and we should see a similar result. Clinton 56-44 popular vote, 4-3 delegates.
*CD 14: Pittsburgh, and some suburbs (7 delegates). One very much to watch on election night. Obama will probably win the city of Pittsburgh itself, where the African-American population is high, but the outlying regions convince the model to tip it slightly toward Clinton. Clinton 52-48 popular vote, 4-3 delegates.
CD 15: East -- Allentown (5 delegates). This is basically a prototypical Pennsylvania district, and Obama is liable to lose prototypical Pennsylvania districts when they don't have many black voters. Given the math, will almost certainly be a 3-2 split for Clinton. Clinton 59-41 popular vote, 3-2 delegates.
CD 16: Southeast -- Lancaster (4 delegates). A mixed bag for both candidates: the district tilts somewhat young, but it also has a high percentage of "Americans". It also has a large Amish population, who presumably are tough to get included in surveys. With an even number of delegates, the result is very likely to be a split. Clinton 55-45 popular vote, 2-2 delegate split.
CD 17: East Central -- Harrisburg (4 delegates). Another very typical, if somewhat conservative district. With an even number of delegates, it is not worth a lot of attention. Clinton 56-44 popular vote, 2-2 delegate split.
CD 18: Western Pittsburgh Suburbs (5 delegates). Like the other Pittsburgh suburban district, it should not be mistaken for Hicksville -- the population is quite educated. But also like CD-4, the demographics are otherwise favorable to Clinton. This is almost definitely locked in to a 3-2 split. Clinton 60-40 popular vote, 3-2 delegates.
CD 19: South Central -- York (4 delegates). An interesting mix: the district definitely has some Pennsyltucky regions, but education levels are about average, and it has the state's highest percentage of women in the workforce. Again, the even number of delegates is likely to rob us of any drama. Clinton 53-47 popular vote, 2-2 delegate split.
CD-level total: Clinton 55 delegates, Obama 48 (Clinton +7).
Overall, the model is spitting out some very sensible results: it expects Clinton to win the state by 7-8 percentage points. That would translate to about a 120,000 pickup in popular votes. She also picks up a net of 5 delegates that the statewide level, for a 12-delegate win overall:
How did I get those popular vote figures, you might be wondering? I ran a regression on those numbers too -- it turns out that turnout is really quite predictable (the R-squared on my turnout model is close to .9, whereas it's .8 for the vote share model). While I won't go into too much detail on the specifics just now, one interesting (if intuitive) finding is that turnout depends on how close the polls are. If Pennsylvania does tighten further, we can expect more people to go to the voting booth next Tuesday. These turnout figures might look a little low as compared with Ohio, but keep in mind that Pennsylvania has a closed primary -- which the model thinks may reduce turnout by as much as 30-40% over what it would be otherwise.
Strategic Vision is out with its weekly poll of Pennsylvania. In general election trial heats, McCain leads Hillary Clinton by 3 points and Barack Obama by 10. Strategic Vision has consistently shown a pretty strong house effect, with both Democrats performing notably worse in its surveys than in other polls of the state. With that said, Obama has lost 3 points against McCain, and Clinton 6, from its poll last week. As this is the most recent poll of the state, it's possible that the Democrats' squabbling is having an effect on their general election prospects.
By the way, the way that our polling weightings are now designed -- and I still need to explain this more thoroughly -- the model recognizes that there are diminishing returns from any one pollster. So even though Strategic Vision is surveying 1,200 Pennsylvania general election voters each week -- that's 4,800 since it began surveying the state last month - the model says "OK, we've got an awful lot of Strategic Vision in here; I'm not sure how much more we can learn from it", and discounts its previous results relatively heavily.
Polls for Louisiana, and North and South Dakota, are below the break.
The McGovern Center at Dakota Weslayan University has twin polls out in North and South Dakota. In North Dakota, McCain leads Obama by 6 points, but Hillary by 20. In South Dakota, he leads Obama by 17, and Clinton by 29. I don't know what it is about the Dakotas, but the SurveyUSA polls also showed Obama being much more competitive in NoDa than SoDa. With that said, these results need to be treated with much caution, as the sample sizes are tiny (only about 260 voters in each state), and the poll is somewhat out of date. DWU also polled the South Dakota Democratic primary, and showed Obama leading Clinton 46-34; the same sample size caution applies in interpreting that result.
Finally, a Louisiana poll by Southern Media and Opinion Research -- which I've given the acronym SMOR(e) -- shows Clinton reasonably competitive against McCain, down by 7 points, whereas Obama trails him by 16. This contrasts with last week's Rasmussen poll of that state, which showed Obama faring better. Either way, however, Louisiana is nowhere near a swing state, with both Democrats having win probabilities in the low single digits.
What has changed a little bit is the relative support for the two democrats by region:
NOTE: THIS IS THE CHANGE IN OBAMA's SUPPORT IN EACH REGION, NOT THE LEVEL OF SUPPORT ITSELF.
That's an (ugly) map of the seven regions of Pennsylvania as defined by Quinnipiac. Obama gained 12 points in Philadelphia, and 13 points in Allegheny county, which includes Pittsburgh. He also gained 8 points in the Northwest region (Erie is the largest city there) and 9 points in the Northeast (Scranton), both of which include plenty of white, working-class folks. On the other hand, he lost 9 points in the Philadelphia suburbs (Bucks County, et. al.) and 11 points in the Southeast portion of the state, which includes both some Pittsburgh satellite suburbs and some rural regions. He also lost 5 points in the central portion of the state.
That's not much on which to stake a claim on there that 'bittergate' is hurting Obama among working class Pennsylvanians; if anything the trendlines are slightly favorable for him in industrial towns like Erie and Scranton. It may be hurting him in the 'burbs, however, while helping in the cities.
Also interesting: Clinton leads by just two points (49-47) among voters who are choosing their candidate on "shares values"; that's actually down from last week, when she led that category by a 51-42 margin. Obama did lose ground on "trust", however. It may be that bittergate ultimately goes to making Obama look political (telling Pennsylvania voters one thing and San Franciscans another), but not so much "out of touch".
EDIT: SurveyUSA also has a new poll out, which shows Clinton ahead of Obama by 14. That's actually an improvement for Obama from the previous SurveyUSA survey, which showed Obama trailing by 18; however I would not really point to a favorable trendline since the 18-pointer looked like an outlier. The SurveyUSA poll also has somewhat different regional and demographic findings:
However, the contest remains tight in Southeast Pennsylvania, which includes Philadelphia.
The poll also found that Obama gained ground among Democrats who attend religious services regularly.
In the Pittsburgh and Johnstown areas, Clinton gained ground, while Obama picked up support in the Harrisburg area.
EDIT #2: SurveyUSA also conducted a separate poll of Harrisburg, PA voters. A 51-41 majority of Democrats, as well as a majority of independents, said they agreed with Obama's bitter comments; on the other hand, a 62-32 majority of Republicans disagreed. By a small majority, however, Republicans said were not offended by Obama's comments; that was also the case for a 2:1 majority of Democrats.
EDIT #3: Finally, Rasmussen has a new poll out, showing Hillary with a 9 point lead over Obama in Pennsylvania -- that's a slight improvement from her 5-point margin last week. Meanwhile, however, Obama has opened up a 9 point lead in their national tracking poll.
If we look at all Democratic primary polls that surveyed both pre- and post- the controversy, we get the following:
Agency Area Obama Trend
ARG PA -20
SurveyUSA IN -7
Rasmussen PA -4
PPP NC -1
Quinnipiac* PA 0
Gallup Nat'l +1
SUSA PA +4
Rasmussen Nat'l +6
AVERAGE, with ARG -2.6
AVERAGE, sans ARG -0.1
* Includes some pre-bittergate interviewing.
But what is ARG's business model? What are they trying to sell? Actually, it's anything but obvious; if I were a potential client of ARG's, I would learn very little about them from their website. But apparently, much of their business involves sort of new-agey marketing services to advertising clients:
The American Research Group offers a different approach to understanding consumer behavior that can increase the effectiveness of marketing and advertising efforts.Now, mind you, this is a separate business line; it's hopefully not how ARG conducts its polls! But the point is that this line of business, which so far as I can tell is the way that ARG makes most of its revenue, has nothing to do with the polling business, nor is it even particularly quantitative. So ARG might have less incentive than other pollsters to produce accurate results.
We measure how consumers' out-of-conscious processing systems react and respond to the signals they receive. Not surprisingly, we don't start by asking consumers for the answers. Instead, we measure very reliable, valid, and sensitive signals generated by their out-of-conscious processing systems before learning consumers' conscious responses.
We then make specific recommendations to improve the signals so consumers will not only attend to, but also respond to, those signals.
Is this some kind of a reverberation from the re-vote controversy in Michigan, as I've speculated below? Or is there something about the
Four new polls today, and they're literally and figuratively all over the map.
The most interesting result is perhaps in Florida, where Rasmussen shows a huge difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Clinton leads McCain by 1 point, whereas Obama trails him by 15. This poll was conducted on Thursday, before any effects from the "bittergate" story -- is that bad news for Obama, or good news in a way? -- and so the results probably have more to do with the poor demographics for Obama in that state, and perhaps the fallout over the discussion of the Florida re-vote. Remember, Rasmussen's previous poll in Florida was the only one to show Obama performing better than Clinton in the state.
In Michigan, however, EPIC/MRA -- which polls the state frequently, if not always tremendously effectively -- shows almost the reverse scenario: Obama leads McCain by 2 whereas Hillary trails him by 9. My sense from talking to folks on the ground in Michigan is that while its citizens were disappointed with both Democrats -- note that McCain outfundraised both Democrats in the state -- the fact that Obama's name was not on the ballot made the January primary result manifestly less fair, and Clinton's calls to count its result therefore seem more cravenly opportunistic. EDIT: Of note in the Michigan poll: it showed Ralph Nader garnering 8 percent in the McCain-Obama matchup and 10 percent in the McCain-Clinton matchup. That seems pretty close to prima facie evidence that the re-vote controversy has had some kind of impact.
Temple University has a new general election poll out in Pennsylvania, which shows both Democrats with comfortable leads over McCain: Clinton is +11 and Obama +7. Like the Rasmussen poll last week that showed both Democrats making gains in the Pennsylvania, this poll also was taken before the bittergate controversy; my expectation is that both Democrats might be damaged now that the campaign has turned divisive again.
Finally, in North Carolina, Civitas has McCain leading Obama by 9 points and Clinton by 13 -- perhaps a reality check on Friday's Rasmussen poll that showed Obama having drawn to within a tie of McCain in that state.
Rasmussen, meanwhile, shows Hillary Clinton with a 1-point lead over Obama, the first lead she's held since March 27. However, there are a number of cautious and caveats: (i) Obama's lead had already fallen to 3 points (47-44) in Friday's Rasmussen, before the controversy began; (ii) Obama has generally done slightly worse in Rasmussen polls released over the weekend than those conducted mid-week; (iii) Rasmussen has already begun polling this issue in more detail, and suggests that any trouble will likely be felt among independent and Republican voters, rather than among Democrats:
Rasmussen Reports is surveying voters this weekend for reaction to Obama’s remarks. Preliminary indications from interviews with 400 Likely Voters suggest that the comments are troublesome for Republicans and unaffiliated voters. However, there is less of an impact among Democrats. That tends to confirm the growing consensus that the comments may have more impact on the General Election than the Primaries.
The preliminary data also suggests that Obama was shrewd to try and focus attention on the portion of the comments about people being bitter. That part of the message is well received. The reference to guns, religion, and immigration that creates potential problems.
Indeed, Rasmussen's general election tracker shows a potentially more worrisome trend for Barack Obama, with his now trailing John McCain by 8 points, up from a 4-point margin just a day ago. The thing is, however, that Clinton's numbers have also taken a hit; she also now trails McCain by 8 points. The Democrats have quite often moved in tandem in Rasmussen's national trial heat tracker:
There are a couple of things going on here. Firstly, Obama clearly did seem to be riding a bubble of momentum throughout the middle portion of February, which was right at the time when he was piling up primary and caucus victories virtually every weekend. This was perhaps to be expected; rarely during the course of the campaign has a candidate been able to sort of organically generate favorable media coverage for himself on such a sustained basis.
Since then, however, the two Democrats' numbers have essentially moved in concert with one another. Both Democrats saw a hit to their numbers in the wake of the Jeremiah Wright controversy, and both Democrats appear to be taking a hit now. We should caution that, depending on Rasmussen's methodology, we should probably expect to see some serial correlation in the Democrats' numbers: if Rasmussen dials a Democrat on any given evening, she is most likely to say she supports both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over John McCain, and if Rasmussen dials a Republican, she is most likely to support John McCain over each of the Dems. Nevertheless, there may also be a sense of "there they go again" whenever the Democrats start bickering with one another and the press coverage turns negative.
Indeed, if I may editorialize for a moment, I find the media's handling over "Bittergate" to be a little bit pathetic. Jeremiah Wright's comments were manifestly controversial -- and manifestly wrong to the large majority of Americans. At the very least, they were something that Obama needed to find a way to spin his way out of (or spin his way away from, since the comments were not his). These remarks are much more ambiguous on their surface, with Obama expressing sentiments that a substantial portion of the electorate probably agrees with, especially when the comments are taken in their original context. They are more something that various interested parties -- the Clinton campaign, the media, and to a lesser extent the McCain campaign -- have tried to use to spin their way into a controversy.
My general prediction is that the comments are fairly close to a non-story in terms of their effect on the Democratic primaries: I would expect to see a very short term impact of not more than 1-3 points on Obama's numbers against Clinton -- and virtually no medium-term impact, or perhaps even a slight backlash against Hillary Clinton. The general election numbers I would tend to follow more carefully: perhaps we'll see a modest (1-3 points) medium-term impact there, but probably not any substantial long-term impact. And I think the medium-term impact might be as great on Hillary Clinton's numbers as they are on Barack Obama's.
UPDATE: To back up what I mean by that last claim, see the reaction from The Nation here on Clinton playing the elitism card, and by The New Republic here on Clinton playing the guns card. I don't know whether it would be electorally wise for the Obama campaign to go in this direction, but if they decided to release a memo tomorrow that portrayed Hillary as elitist and out of touch, that memo would somewhat write itself ("$109 million", "NAFTA").
UPDATE #2: Speaking of said memo, Halperin says that the Obama campaign has just released one.