Category Archives: polls

Leventhal Poll Shows Wide Open Executive Race

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council Member George Leventhal, who is running for County Executive, has released an internal poll from Celinda Lake’s firm showing a wide open race.  The poll surveyed 400 likely voters with a margin of error of 4.9 points.  We reprint the three-page polling memo below and have a few comments following.

 

So what can be gleaned from this?

First, voters aren’t paying attention yet.  No candidate draws more than 11% support in the first run of questions and undecided gets 58%.

Second, the margin of error (4.9 points) matters.  In the first run, that means there is no statistically significant difference between the six candidates.  For example, Bill Frick polls at 2% but, with the margin of error, could be at 6.9%.  Marc Elrich polls at 11% but, with the margin of error, could be at 6.1%.  In effect, no one is leading.

Third, even with the “engaged communications” part of the poll, Leventhal is still within the margin of error against Elrich.  As for the “final ballot” that shows Leventhal blowing out the rest of the field, it appears to depend on giving respondents additional information on Leventhal and not on the other candidates.  It “simulates Leventhal having a resources and communications advantage” that does not exist.  At the moment, he will be fifth in cash on hand once the latest public matching funds are disbursed.

Could Leventhal win?  Sure, it’s possible.  He is a four-term incumbent, a former chair of the county Democratic Party, has a geographically diverse base of small contributions and is working as hard as any candidate in the county.

But the simulations showing Leventhal leading the field right now reek of spin.  Voters aren’t fully engaged yet and no one other than David Blair has started mailing regularly and going on television.  We believe the poll’s real message, which is that no one has wrapped up this election quite yet.

Disclosure: the author is a publicly-listed supporter of Roger Berliner.

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Candidates Ask Supporters to Stuff Online Poll

By Adam Pagnucco.

Back in the days of Maryland Politics Watch, we would occasionally set up online polls for various races.  The polls had no validity, of course.  They could not screen for registered voters, much less those in a particular party or county, and even those that limited each IP address to one vote could be easily gamed through multiple devices and masking software.

But we did it anyway for two reasons.  First, we were greatly entertained by the thought of frenzied candidates snapping the whip over armies of interns and yelling, “Vote faster!  You’re not pushing the vote button fast enough!!”  And second, they got lots of eyeballs, or at least apparent eyeballs.  Your author once scrutinized the traffic coming into one of our better performing online polls and discovered that most of it was coming from a handful of IP addresses.

Eventually, we stopped.  The “polls” added no value to the readers’ understanding of the elections.  And they also turned into a huge waste of time for candidates.  After we posted yet another online poll in 2010, one candidate emailed and said, “I really hate these things.  I have to drop everything and start voting!”  We took that comment to heart.  From that point on, your author determined that it was only worth doing a poll if we could invest it with some kind of methodological validity.  That’s easier said than done with an online poll!

That has not stopped others.  On Wednesday, Bethesda Magazine did an online poll on the Council At-Large race, which it admitted was “not scientific,” with SurveyMaker.  The poll began making the rounds on Facebook and one political insider sent it to your author, breathlessly panting, “Unscientific, but very surprising!”  Then a complete unknown, Steve Solomon, took the lead spot and folks started to understand just how unscientific this poll was.

Solomon’s “win” was not an accident.  He is a sports radio host and he encouraged his listeners to vote for him on both radio and Twitter.

Solomon was not alone.  Neil Greenberger sent out a blast email asking his supporters to stuff the poll.  He told his list that while the poll was unscientific, “It is better to be vaulting in this poll than to be lingering.”  He even said, “You don’t have to be a registered voter or live in Montgomery County vote in this poll. Just let them know who you would like to see come out ahead in the June 26 Democratic primary.”

Now look.  We do not absolutely deplore all online polls.  They can be fun and buzzy, and if folks want to push buttons for kicks, that’s fine.  But it’s absolute cross-eyed tomfoolery to see them as containing any merit.  Candidates, listen up.  If you spend your time pumping worthless ca-ca like this instead of phone banking, door-knocking and raising money, your chances of winning will be about as high as the coyote’s chances of catching the road runner.  Now get back to work!

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Poll Launched in CD6

By Adam Pagnucco.

A poll has been commissioned in Congressional District 6.  Congressman John Delaney currently represents the district, but he is considering a run for Governor and many potential candidates are mulling a run for what would be his open seat.  The pollster called Merry Eisner Heidorn, a former General Assembly staffer and school board candidate, and she kindly provided details of the call.

The call was made by a live caller and lasted twenty minutes.  The first three minutes collected demographic information, including age, gender, zip code, county and party.  This was followed by questions on voting tendency, including whether the respondent understood what primaries were, voted for candidates or only on party label, had voted in gubernatorial as well as presidential elections, intended to vote in the 2018 primary and had voted in past primaries.  Then the caller asked about the respondent’s opinions on Donald Trump, Larry Hogan, the economy and other issues.

Next, the caller asked, “So if John Delaney runs for Governor, would you support his run for Governor?”  This was followed by five to seven minutes of favorability questions on three potential candidates to succeed him – Total Wine co-owner David Trone, State Senator Roger Manno (D-19) and Delegate Bill Frick (D-16).  The caller then zeroed in on Trone, asking about a series of issues pertaining to him and then asking how each impacted the respondent’s favorability towards Trone and the likelihood to vote for him.  The specific issues raised about Trone included the fact that he had never held office, had contributed money on behalf of his business to politicians of both parties, had run for office before and was a “successful businessman from Potomac.”  At the conclusion of the call, the pollster asked, “Now that we have talked about David Trone, has your desire to vote for him changed?”

This is a fairly standard bio- and message-testing poll.  The pollster is attempting to gauge support for a possible run in CD6 both across the entire sample and among a number of key sub-groups.  Trone is known to be considering a run in CD6 and has polled previously on the Montgomery County Executive race.  This poll along with Trone’s establishment of campaign office space will fuel further speculation on what race, if any, he will enter.  The entire Montgomery County political class is watching.

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Washington Post Poll Shows Hogan Vulnerability

By Adam Pagnucco.

Governor Larry Hogan loves to discuss his high approval ratings in polls, which have usually been in the range of 60-70%.  But a new Washington Post poll that examines his reelection prospects shows that they are well below his approval numbers and provides hope to Maryland Democrats.

The Post poll of March 16-19 has sample sizes of 914 adults and 841 registered voters.  The margin of error for those two groups is 4 points, growing to 5.5 points for a half-sample and 6.5 points for the 317 respondents who live in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs.  These margins of error must be kept in mind when reading the poll –  effectively, only large gaps are meaningful for small sub-groups.

With that significant caveat in mind, let’s examine data on Hogan’s reelection prospects.  The Post asked respondents the following question: “Thinking about Maryland’s Governor’s race in 2018… if Larry Hogan ran for re-election as governor, do you think you would vote for him OR for the candidate nominated by the Democratic Party?”  Among adults, 39% said they would vote for Hogan and 36% said they would vote for the Democratic nominee, an advantage of 3 points for the Governor.  Among registered voters, 41% said they would vote for Hogan and 37% said they would vote for the Democrat, a margin of plus 4.  So far, this looks very much like Hogan’s 4-point victory in 2014.

But the sub-group results are more interesting.  We compiled the Post’s sub-group data on this question in the presentation below.

Let’s recall the margin of error estimates above.  Margins of 10-15 points or less for small sub-groups are probably not very meaningful.  That said, many of the Governor’s strengths are predictable.  He does well with Republicans, Conservatives, Whites and rural residents.  He is weak among Democrats, liberals, African Americans and Prince George’s residents.  One item that stands out is his strength with seniors, with whom he has a 17-point advantage.  Seniors are among the most reliable voters in any election.

Now let’s compare the geographic results of this poll with how the Governor actually performed in 2014.

The Governor appears stronger in the poll in Baltimore and the Washington suburbs, but weaker elsewhere than in 2014.  This could be statistical noise due to large margins of error.  But it could also be the result of tax fatigue in some Democratic strongholds, like Montgomery (where voters recently passed term limits by 40 points) and Prince George’s (where the County Executive proposed a 15% increase in property taxes two years ago).  It’s hard to believe that the Governor is actually weaker in Anne Arundel and Howard, both of which have Republican Executives who are strongly favored for reelection.  (And a random question: what pollster combines Baltimore City and County in one estimate?  C’Mon, Man!)

The big takeaway from the poll is this: Larry Hogan will not be coasting to reelection.  Maryland is simply not wired that way.  It has too many Democrats, African Americans, liberals, immigrants and people who are either employed by or do business with government at some level to give any GOP statewide incumbent a blowout win.  From a purely political perspective, the Governor deserves credit for his focused message of tax cuts, job growth and reform (like redistricting) while trying his best to avoid distractions from the right, the left and Washington D.C.  His approach gives him a path to victory in a rather blue state.  But if the Democrats begin preparing now, play smart and field a good candidate for Governor, Larry Hogan can be defeated.

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Clinton Campaign Hires Latino Decisions for Polling

This is a smart decision by the Clinton campaign. Latino Decisions is the gold standard for polling Latinos, whose support will be critical if she hopes to secure the Democratic nomination and the Presidency.

The following is by Stephen A. Nuño:

The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign has hired Latino-owned firm Latino Decisions to join the campaign’s polling team, sources told NBC News Latino Wednesday.

The hiring of Latino Decisions brings aboard significant knowledge to the campaign about Latino voters that will continue to build up the outreach efforts of the Clinton campaign into the Latino community.

The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to emails and a call about the hiring.

The Clinton campaign has gone on an unprecedented hiring spree of Latino outreach specialists, such as Amanda Renteria, their National Political Director, and Lorella Praeli, the campaign’s Latino Outreach Director.

The firm’s co-Principles, Matt Barreto and Gary Segura, bring with them a significant amount of academic heft to their polling operation. Barreto is a professor of political science and Chicano Studies at UCLA and Segura is a professor of political science at Stanford University.

Michael Jones-Correa, a professor of political science at Cornell, welcomed the news about Latino Decisions as a step forward for the Clinton team.

“LD provides essential policy relevant public opinion on Latinos in the US today, reflecting the very highest standards and best practices in the public opinion field,” said Jones-Correa.

The addition of a Latino-owned firm to the campaign comes after findings in a study by PowerPAC+ reported by NBC News which highlighted the significantly small number of minority firms hired by Democrats to work on their campaigns as paid consultants. Even though the vast majority of Latinos and African Americans vote for Democrats, about 98 percent of of the $514 million spent by the three national Democratic Party committees in 2012 went to non-minority consultants.

Much of the advocacy work by Latino Decisions has been with groups with deep ties within the Latino community, such as America’s Voice and National Council of La Raza.

Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America’s Voice, has praised the work of Barreto and Segura.

“Latino Decisions has developed a methodologically-sound, data-driven approach to polling Latino voters. Given that the road to the White House cuts through the Latino community, the Clinton campaign is fortunate – and smart – to have them on board,” said Sharry.

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The Trump and Other Meaningless Polling Moments

Poll: Trump surges to lead in big lead in GOP presidential race” is currently the lead headline trumpeted on the Washington Post website. While I am as big a poll junkie as the next person who follows politics like baseball, this seems a good opportunity to remember how meaningless presidential primary polls are at this point.

Money is Being Raised, Not Spent
While candidates are busy dialing for dollars, they aren’t spending their hoards of cash on media yet. When they do, it will play a major role in defining candidates and today’s leader easily becomes the next one on the garbage heap.

Mitt Romney became the Republican nominee in 2012 by going negative on each new anti-Romney in turn. As the following chart shows, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum each had their 15 minutes during the last go round.

2012-GOP-CHART-570

Election expenditures by Super PACs and others will also shape public opinion. Nearly $3.4 million dollars was spent by “outside groups,” including Super PACs supporting a candidate, attacking Gingrich in Iowa after he took a polling lead. After Gingrich resurfaced in South Carolina–groups favoring him spent $3.0 million there attacking Romney–other groups spent another $9.9 million pulverizing Gingrich into oblivion in Florida.

Media Moment
Most candidates are completely unknown to the American people, including the much smaller primary selectorate. Nothing gets media attention like making outrageous statements. Long before Donald Trump, we had Pat Buchanan closing speeches by calling people to “lock and load” for the conservanut revolution.

Inevitably, going up in the polls is followed by media scrutiny, which leads to either media gaffe or discovery of past embarrassment sure to be featured on all the news and comedy programs. Remember that Herman Cain’s ephemerally popular 9-9-9 plan was followed by “U-beki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan.” Rick Perry couldn’t recall the Cabinet departments he planned to cut but now has new Google glasses designed to help him out this year.

In short, after the media has raised one up by giving red-meat remarks attention and the ripped them to shreds, the public and the cameras move on to the next one.

Ask a Stupid Question, Get a Stupid Answer
Asking people who they plan to support for president this far out from the event makes no sense. They haven’t focused on the election. Excepting Hillary Clinton, they don’t know much about any of the candidates.

When prompted by a question, people usually try to give answer. Doesn’t mean that their response on who they support is a fixed or remotely firm opinion. So just regard polls like the one in today’s Post as something designed to entertain us during the summer, sorta like Donald Trump’s hair, but not to be taken seriously in fall.

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Nate Silver Gives Brown 93% Chance of Victory

FiveThirtyEight has released its gubernatorial forecasts. They say Brown will win by 9.7%–an outcome that would thrill Democrats in an increasingly hot contest.

Nate Silver’s forecast of a solid Brown win is squarely at odds with Charlie Cook’s forecast of a very tight race with an edge for Brown. It’s a great face off between people often regarded as the nation’s top polling aggregator and top political analyst.

We’ll find out who is closer to being right on Tuesday.

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Sun Poll Gives Brown 7 Point Lead

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown leads challenger Larry Hogan by 7 points among likely voters according to the poll conducted for the Baltimore Sun:

The poll by OpinionWorks of Annapolis found Brown leading Hogan 49 percent to 42 percent.

Though Brown has a 7-point lead, the poll found his backers are less solid in their conviction than Hogan supporters. And many in Brown’s camp are younger voters, a bloc that historically is less likely to vote.

“Hogan has a much more engaged, committed base of support right now,” said OpinionWorks President Steve Raabe.

“This is not by any stretch a locked-up race,” Raabe said. “You can still see Brown winning comfortably. But you also can see Hogan winning.”

The poll of 800 likely voters, conducted Oct. 4 to Oct. 8, has a 3.5 percentage-point margin of error.

Unfortunately, the Sun does not provide the crosstabs, so it’s hard to glean any information beyond that presented in the article. Nonetheless, here are a few thoughts on two problems for Brown and one for Hogan:
  • Brown leads by 88-6 among African-American voters. Compared to other polls, there are many fewer black voters left for Brown to consolidate. Among African Americans, he will need to focus on the solid turnout he needs for victory.
  • The age gap persists with Hogan fairing better among older than younger voters. Brown will need to work to make sure that younger voters show up to vote. If he has success here, he may outpace expectations. Problem: the race has not really grasped the State’s attention.
  • Despite real problems, Brown still has a clear lead, so the current dynamic, though unfavorable to Brown,  doesn’t point to a Hogan win.
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