The Campaign Spot

A Second Look at Those PPP Numbers in California and New Hampshire

I have gotten to the point where when I see good news for a Democrat candidate in the PPP poll, I figure it’s probably just a shift in the partisan divide in their polling sample.

One of my regular correspondents, Number Cruncher, checks in on their latest numbers in New Hampshire:

They blame Palin for the reason why Kelly Ayotte, has lost, four of her seven point lead over Paul Hodes. However, in reading the poll I think a more obvious answer can be deduced once you read the cross-tabs.

First, I checked the “Who did you vote for last time”, I always find this one interesting, because about 6% of people forgot they voted for Obama. This cross-tab is the one I read for my own amusement.

So next we go to Obama personal approvals: While Obama is slipping nationwide, somehow he has made a remarkable turnaround if you trust PPP’s latest poll. In fact his Approve/Disapprove is at a far more respectable 49-47 (+2); in the prior poll it was 47-48 (-1). Could all those polls across the country be wrong? We have a three point turnaround to the positive — hurray the recession is over! I wonder how that would play into Ayotte losing 4 points over April?

Next stops are Party ID and Political Philosophy, both trending more favorably for Democrats and Liberals since the April poll.

PPP Party ID in July: 35% Democrat, 29% Republican, 36% Other (D+6).

PPP Party ID in April: 32% Democrat, 30% Republican, 38% Independent (D+2).

That alone should pretty much tells you why Ayotte lost 4 points. For the record, the exits in 2008 indicated party ID to be Democrat 29%, Republican 27%, and Independent 45%. (D+2).

Next stop: What is your political Philosophy?

In April: 37% Conservative, 20% Liberal, and 43% Moderate

In July: 30% Conservative, 23% Liberal, and 47% Moderate.

So let me get this straight: Liberals have gained 3% and Conservatives lost 7% since April? For the record, the exits in 2008 showed 26% Liberal, 28%, Conservative, and 46% Moderate. In 2004 the exits indicated 30% Conservative, 21% Liberal, and 49% Moderate. Even if PPP argues that their more recent poll is more in line with past elections, it doesn’t change the fact that the reason Ayotte’s polling numbers decreased is that PPP samples 7% less Conservatives and 3% more Liberals. Simply put, its not Palin who caused Ayotte’s polling numbers to go down, rather it’s that PPP sampled more liberals and Democrats this time around than they did in April.

I guess when you’re a partisan pollster you can take a poll and tell whatever story you want. PPP is a Democrat pollster. That being said: I find it interesting that a Democrat pollster is so interested in discrediting Palin from endorsing candidates. If she is truly so polarizing and thus a drain on Republican candidates, why not just keep your mouth shut?

PPP also has a new poll out in California, showing Democrat Jerry Brown leading Republican Meg Whitman in the governor’s race, 46 percent to 40 percent, and Democrat Barbara Boxer leading Republican Carly Fiorina, 49 percent to 40 percent.

Their sample splits 46 percent Democrat, 34 percent Republican, 19 percent independent. The CNN exit poll of the state in 2008 was 42 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican, 28 percent independent.

An electorate with fewer independents in it would normally be plausible as you change from a presidential election year to a midterm. But more voters are identifying as independents this year, and the economic hard times might mitigate the regular drop-off. It’s not impossible that the California electorate will be more Democratic this year than it was in 2008, but I am skeptical.

UPDATE: A Republican operative well-versed in California politics emails in to contend that there’s a good chance PPP oversampled voters in two groups more likely to favor Democrats in its California poll: Hispanics and African-Americans: “In 2008, Latinos comprised 18 percent of those voting, but 20 percent of those surveyed by PPP were Hispanic. CNN’s exit numbers did show that 10 percent of California voters in 2008 were African-American, but without Barack Obama on the ballot, there’s a good chance that PPP’s 8 percent number could be off, too.”

This individual says that the proportion of Hispanic, and African-American, voters is expected by many California political operatives to be lower than does PPP. I think that interpretation makes sense, but I’m not going to go nuts over a 2 percent shift. I think the party ID is the more troublesome factor in this sample.

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