Posts Tagged ‘crossstabs’

4 Weeks to Go: True Lies, New Poll, Burton Redux

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Franklin Roosevelt famously said that, “Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.” But then, he didn’t live long enough to see California’s 2010 Republican primary for governor.

Battering each other on the airwaves with one month to go before the election, GOP wannabe govs Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner seem far more determined to prove the wisdom of the words of V.I. Lenin:  “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”

In recent weeks Stevie Wonder has stretched the truth in attacking eMeg on issues from health care to immigration, while she has simply flat-out lied about his budget stewardship at the Department of Insurance budget and distorted his stance on Prop. 13 .

As a political matter, Michael Rothfeld rightly noted in the LAT that the large number of demonstrably untrue charges flying in the race may be traced to the fact that Poizner and Whitman are both basically moderates, furiously reinventing themselves  as hard-core conservatives  (for the record Rothfeld also reported that, “Although both campaigns exaggerate, Whitman’s ads appear to stretch the truth more”).

As a journalistic matter, what’s most intriguing about the fusillades of falsehoods is that neither candidate has suffered sanctions for her or his prevarications – a sad state of affairs just 20 years after California political writers thought they had invented a weapon to overcome such campaign conduct, and to keep the world safe for truth, justice and the American way.

It was in the 1990 Democratic primary for governor that the state’s major newspapers all began to hold campaigns accountable for assertions they made in TV ads, by running some form or other of “truth box” which fact-checked the text and images of ads, especially negative ones, against the record. (The name was always a misnomer: mainstream journalists are trained to report facts, not to determine truth, a much harder challenge.)

Hailed as a breakthrough in campaign reporting by no less a figure than the WashPost’s David Broder, then the unquestioned and widely acclaimed grand poobah of Beltway punditry, the truth box for a short time seemed to hold the promise of raising the level of political advertising; at the very least it required consultants, in those pre-internet days, to fax – fax! – to gimlet-eyed reporters hundreds of pages of supporting documentation each time they rolled out a new spot.

Today, campaigns still go through the motions of citing source material for ad claims, but the rigor of the journalistic exercise has greatly withered away, due not only to the sharp decline in influence of newspapers, but also to huge cutbacks in resources suffered throughout the industry, which have made the serious commitment of reporting hours and news hole space needed to ferret out the complexities of fact and falsity in TV spots something of an unaffordable luxury  in many newsrooms.

In the Whitman-Poizner race, the Sacbee’s substantive and sustained “Ad Watch” effort, thanks largely to the labors of Capitol bureau chief Amy Chance, has been an outlier to this trend.

In the end, whatever moral authority the journalistic truth box might have wielded was always doomed to be overwhelmed by the persuasive powers of repetition and emotional appeal inherent in television advertising. As Democratic media consultant Bill Carrick put it: “Campaigns are all repeat offenders – everybody does it all the time and nobody pays a price for it.”

How Close is that Shave?

We’re not big fans of SurveyUSA because no matter what their alleged record is, it’s a robotic call system with some serious methodological drawbacks that some of the most prestigious pollsters in the country find unacceptable.

But a lot of TV stations use these guys because they’re relatively cheap (and their final results seem magically to come close to the outcome), so their data gets into the political bloodstream. Thus is the latest poll of 548 likely Republican primary voters that shows Meg Whitman ahead of Steve Poizner by just 2 percentage points – 39-37% — with a margin of error of +/- 4.3%.

The poll – commissioned by KABC-TV Los Angeles, KPIX-TV San Francisco, KGTV-TV San Diego and KFSN-TV Fresno – had the race at 22 points just 18 days ago, with Whitman leading 49-27%. Do we think there was a 20-point swing in 18 days? Or do we think the poll is a bit wild? Right.

What we do think is that the trend is what matters. All the polling we’ve seen and heard about shows that the GOP governor’s race has tightened. And if the SurveyUSA crosstabs are to be believed, Poizner has picked up among downscale Palinista Republicans: he leads 42-25% in the Central Valley; 34-32% among voters with incomes under $50,000; he’s got the conservatives 41-38% and the men 41-37%. These are the folks we talked about Monday who just might be affected by Whitman’s connections to Goldman Sachs.

From The Department of Corrections

In our Saturday post about the California Democratic Party’s ad attacking Meg Whitman but masquerading as an “issues ad,” we described the abrupt ending to our conversation with CDP Chairman John Burton. Through his spokesman, Burton on Monday complained that he had been misquoted. Burton says he didn’t say “Fuck you.” His actual words were, “Go fuck yourself.”  Calbuzz regrets the error.

PPIC: Fear, Loathing and Crusty Beating eMeg

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

horseraceYou might expect the campaign obsessed hacks at Calbuzz to jump all over the governor’s horse race numbers in the new PPIC poll out today (this just in: eMeg Whitman is waxing her Republican opponents and Crusty the General Brown is besting her in the fall).

But then you would underestimate our humanity and our sweeping political world view.

The numbers that really jumped out and grabbed us by the throat – numbers that may well drive all politics in the coming year – are these: Half of all adult Californians and nearly six in 10 people with incomes under $40,000 are concerned that they or someone in their family will lose their job in the next year.

Although that’s an 8-point decline from January, it’s accompanied by a 6-point increase in the number of respondents who volunteered to pollsters that their family has already experienced job loss (11%, up from 5%).empty-pockets

Even worse,  65% — nearly 7 in 10 people – say they are concerned about having enough money to pay their rent or mortgage. In Los Angeles, it’s 73%!

Who gives a damn about the governor’s race if you’re worried about paying the rent?

Or, as Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California put it: “Voters have more immediate concerns than who is going to be the next governor.”

The horse race: Then again, who cares about voters? We’re junkies.

First, the GOP contest, where six in 10 Republicans likely to vote either never heard of or have no opinion about former eBay CEO Meg Whitman – the leader of that race.

In fact, undecinjection2ided is the leader with 44% — followed by eMeg at 32%, former Congressman Tom Campbell at 12% and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner at 8%.

Good thing eMeg has spent something like $20 million*, because it’s gotten her favorable all the way up to 22%, compared to a 19% unfavorable rating. Sheesh. Not much better than Campbell’s poor-man’s 16-14% but a lot better than Poizner’s negative 9-18%.

An intriguing question: Voters tell PPIC they’d prefer a candidate to raise money from supporters (49%) rather than using their own money (39%) –- among Republicans it’s 55-38%. Might we witness a bit of cognitive dissonance between voters worried about paying the rent and candidates spending like $100 million of their own money to become governor? Ya think?

Check out this nifty chart:

Which do you view most positively? Party Ideology
A candidate using mostly … Likelies Dem Rep Ind Lib Mod Cons
…his or her own money
to pay for political campaigning? 39% 42 38 29 33 42 41
…money collected from supporters
to pay for political campaigning? 49% 46 55 50 56 45 50

Or, by the time the deal goes down, will voters actually care who paid for what?

jerrymegWho will vote? Calbuzz thinks the PPIC poll, solid as it may be, has a couple problems, most notably one that a public pollster can’t easily address:  the sample of likely voters in the survey is a) inferred from an undisclosed cluster of questions asked of respondents and b) reflects the official statewide distribution of registered voters, not the likely 2010 electorate which — in our view — will be about 60% age 50 and older.

So when we look at PPIC’s November match-up of Jerry Brown versus Meg Whitman — reported at 43-37% — we think it’s likely 2-to-5 percentage points too low for Brown and too high for Whitman. Those numbers seem to us to reflect a sample that’s too young – only 44% age 55 and older — and that gives Brown a 35% favorable and a 36% unfavorable. (Most other surveys we’ve seen are closer to the Field Poll, which had Crusty’s favorable at 44-29%.)

We asked PPIC for some crosstabs by age group and they gladly obliged us, including one that shows Brown beating Whitman 44-34% among likely voters age 55 and older – strengthening  our point.

BTW, the PPIC poll has Brown beating Campbell 46-34% and Poizner 47-31% among all likely voters. They were selected, we’re told, like this: “A respondent is defined as a likely voter based on certain combinations of factors, including citizenship status, voter registration, past voting, intention to vote, and different levels of education and political interest dependent on length of time at their current residence.” Hmm.


What kind of experience matters? So who cares if the general election match-ups are a bit skewed against Crusty? Brown’s fundraising doesn’t depend on early polling at this point and neither does eMeg’s. The only people to whom it matters are Campbell and Poizner — and since Poizner has just committed to spend $15 million, he’s probably not that concerned either.

More interesting is the finding that, in choosing candidates for statewide office like governor or Senator, voters are evenly divided, at 43%, on whether they prefer candidates to have experience in elected office or experience running a business.

Democrats prefer experience in office 60-26% over experience running a business; Republicans, just the opposite, 61% prefer experience running a business and 27% prefer experience in office. Likewise, liberals and conservatives hold opposite views.

Independents — 17% of the likely voters in the survey — prefer experience in business 50-32%. But moderates — who comprise twice as big a chunk of the electorate — lean toward experience in office 44-39%.

The bottom line: All of which may ultimately prove of marginal interest if voters’ economic circumstances don’t improve by November. Slightly more than half the voters think their financial situation will get better in the coming year.

Good thing, because while 63% of those making $80,000 or more say their personal finances are excellent or good, 65% of those making $40,000-80,000 say their financial condition is only fair or poor. A staggering 85% of those making less than $40,000 say their financial situation is fair or poor.

Any candidate for high office not acutely aware of and attuned to how Californians feel about their financial and economic circumstances will clearly be seen as out of touch and irrelevant.

Six in 10 voters say the most important issue facing the people of California is jobs and/or the economy; Gov. Schwarzenegger’s approval rating is 27%, the Legislature’s is 17% and a staggering 75% of the people say the state is going in the wrong direction.

Looks like a “change” election is on the horizon. But what does that mean? Who will define it? Which candidate will personify change and which will be saddled with the status quo?

To find answers to these and life’s other persistent questions, don’t miss a single edition of Calbuzz.

*That’s a guess, of course. Officially, before her expensive radio campaign, eMeg had spent $6.2 million as of June 30.