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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Baldassare’



eMeg to Calbuzz: Big Mo Moving Back to Me

Friday, May 21st, 2010

In a stunning and sudden display of accessibility, Republican front-runner Meg Whitman sat down for a 10-minute interview with Calbuzz Thursday, saying she can “feel the momentum” moving back to her campaign for governor despite a new poll showing the race in single digits.

eMeg sat on the edge of a stage in the auditorium of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, where she had just held a town hall meeting with about 75 local residents, and answered questions about the budget, immigration, offshore drilling, taxes and the campaign: fueled by Red Bull and uncertain when we’d get another chance at her, we were talking as fast as we could.

Asked about the new PPIC poll, which shows that GOP rival Steve Poizner has slashed her once massive lead, Whitman laughed at our suggestion that she’s spent an awful lot of dough for a nine-point edge:

“So you’re nine points up – you think you got your money’s worth for $68 million?” Calbuzz asked.

“Well. We are ahead and I knew the polls would close and I can feel the momentum beginning to shift back my way on the campaign trail…”

eMeg’s reaction reflects the campaign’s internal view that, after the race with Poizner got extremely close about 10 days ago, she’s since been pulling back ahead. Strategists say that the 38-29% edge that PPIC pollster Mark Baldassare reported Wednesday that she holds over Poizner is a snapshot of a dynamic situation, and that their latest TV ads pushing back  on attacks by the Commish already have re-established a double digit lead.

“There’ve been a lot of attacks, a lot of stuff,” the candidate said, “but I think I feel the momentum coming back.”

At the end of the interview, our South Central Coast Bureau Chief solemnly presented eMeg with a limited edition copy of the world-famous Calbuzz button, featuring the red-haired guy with his finger in the socket. Closely examining the rare objet d’art, she immediately demonstrated  the financial savvy and eye for the main chance that shaped her career as a successful business executive:

“ I wonder what this would go for on eBay?” she said. “Maybe if you signed it? You sign it, and we’ll put it up on eBay and…put the money in the campaign coffers.”

Now that we got the horse race stuff out of the way, Calbuzz will publish the wonky, issue stuff from our eMeg interview tomorrow, including a few surprises. The post goes up at 12:01 a.m. for those who just can’t wait until morning.

(PS: David K. Yamamoto took that photo for the Ventura County Star, at an event in Camarillo before eMeg’s appearance in Santa Barbara).

Beginning of the end or end of the beginning? The other day we bashed a poll, done by M4 Strategies and sponsored by Joel Fox’s Small Business Action Committee, that showed Meg Whitman 17 points ahead of Steve Poizner, saying the thing would be debunked  if the new PPIC survey showed the Commish within single digits of eMeg.

Lo and behold , PPIC showed exactly that but, far from slinking into his cave, the estimable Fox promptly doubled down on his survey.

Echoing arguments feverishly made by Whitman strategist Mike Murphy, Fox argues the  timing, sample size, margin and results of his SBAC/M4 survey have it all over that produced by polling guru Mark Baldassare.

SBAC/M4 may be measuring a momentum shift in the race.

What strengthens the momentum argument are the daily returns gathered by the M4 poll. Chris St. Hilaire, who oversees the poll for M4 Strategies, points out that Whitman gained strength over the course of the poll. The first day of the poll, Whitman’s lead was the same as what PPIC had at 9-percent. Her lead grew a couple of points the next day and after the two day layoff, when the poll resumed on Sunday, May 16, she gained an additional 5-percent.

We’re not going to get all technical here, but a few points: the number of completed surveys on the second (175) and third (151) night of calling was considerably lower than the first night (274). Moreover, it’s unlikely that each night was its own random sample of the whole GOP voter file. And even if it was, the margins of error for each night individually would be very large.

PPIC didn’t push voters for how they were leaning; M4 did. Meg’s margin in the M4 survey among those who said they were “definitely” voting for her: 9%. That wasn’t good spin, however, so the only number put out was the number that included those who said they would “probably vote” for each candidate and those “leaning” for each contender. That’s where they got the 49-32% with just 17% undecided.

There’s also some problems with the distribution of the sample in the M4 survey. Just a few examples: too few voters in the Central Valley and Inland Empire; too many in the North Coast/Sierra and Bay Area counties.

The M4 poll also found Tom Campbell still ahead of Carly Fiorina (33-28%)  in the U.S. Senate race — another discrepancy with PPIC which had Fiorina with a slight lead.

We could go on, but suffice it to say there are valid reasons why it makes sense to take partisan polls with a grain of salt. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong. In fact, Whitman may indeed have moved up since PPIC finished its survey on Sunday. We’re hearing that from Democratic pollsters, too. But we can bank on the non-partisan, open-source polls and the others — well, you gotta be careful how you use ‘em. (We do give major props to Fox’s pollsters, however, for answering every question we put to them.)

Dudley doomed? Given the volatile political atmosphere of 2010 , reflected most recently by Tuesday’s special elections in Arkansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, making any bets on California’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate is a fool’s errand.

In fact, we could make the case for any of the entrants in the three-way brawl — not least of whom is Chuck DeVore, the only guy who’s showing any movement and who just got a big fist bump from conservative blogstar Erick Erickson calling on Hurricane Carly Fiorina to quit the race  in favor of the Big Fella.

If some Second Amendment purist held a gun to our head, however, we’d have to put our money down on Fiorina, the only one who appears to have enough cash for a TV blitz that could crack the race open in the stretch. Besides the first-I-look-at-the-purse factor, her neck-and-neck rival Tom Campbell looks in danger of being pecked to death by ducks, as he ducks and covers factional attacks from the hard right wing of the GOP, on issues from abortion to taxes.

Latest dis comes from the National Rifle Association, which did a statewide postcard mailing urging its members to vote against Campbell. Sez the By God LAT politics blog:

The bright orange postcard, which went out over the weekend, faults Campbell for favoring gun show regulations, a waiting period for handgun purchases and restrictions on the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons.

As a matter of campaign messaging, we’re not sure what’s worse, that Campbell is trying to explain his positions on these issues with actual facts, complexity and nuance, or that he’s doing it via email. We do know that the desert of California politics is littered with the bleached white bones of those who got blasted by the NRA (see Bradley, Governor Tom).

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Laissez les bons temps rouler!

PPIC Poll: Poizner’s Immigrant Bashing Looks Lame

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

On the high-profile races for governor and U.S. Senate, the survey out Wednesday night from the Public Policy Institute of California breaks little new ground. But, combined with the Field Poll from last week, it does offer some insight into whether it makes any sense at all for Steve Poizner to be using illegal immigration to make himself the preferred candidate for conservatives in the Republican primary against Meg Whitman.

The answer? We don’t get it.

According to PPIC’s polling, 66% of registered voters believe illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. for two years or more should be given a chance to keep their jobs and apply for legal status. And that includes 78% of Democrats, 68% of independents and even 49% of Republicans, compared to 46% of Republicans who say deport ’em.

In other words, this is not a slam-dunk issue with Republicans. Apparently Poizner thinks he can goose the issue a bit (see Pete Wilson, 1994, “They Keep Coming”), feeding off a sentiment PPIC found: that while 64% of Democrats and 52% of independents say immigrants are a benefit to California, 68% of Republicans say they are a burden.

“It’s somewhat fertile ground,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “But it doesn’t have the salience and relevance that it had in earlier downturns . . . That’s not to say it won’t resonate with some of the more conservative voters, but it doesn’t seem like a topic that’s going to attract broad support among Republican voters this time around.”

True, the Field Poll found, illegal immigration is a top-tier issue for Republicans (fourth in importance after the state budget deficit, jobs/economy and taxes) compared to a lower-level issue for voters overall. As Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo noted of Poizner: “He’s singled out an issue that is of greater importance to Republican primary voters. It’s red meat . . . Whether it’s going to make a difference, I don’t know. He’s so far behind.”

Indeed. Poizner is in a huge hole: PPIC found him 50 points behind Whitman at 61-11% — about the same as the Field Poll’s 63-14%. It’s hard to see how he can gain enough ground on Whitman on this issue. On the other hand, maybe the Commish is part of a secret GOP plot to make eMeg look more moderate in the general election: if Poizner comes up short, he will have succeeded in making Whitman look more reasonable to Latino voters in November.

Heavens knows she needs some help on that front: while PPIC has her ahead of Brown 44-39% overall, he’s beating her 45-35% among Latinos (it was 54-25% for Brown in the Field Poll). Even before Brown makes a serious case to Latino voters, as Calbuzz noted the other day.

BTW, in case you missed it, catch Tony Quinn’s bitch-slap of Poizner at Fox & Hounds under the headline “Poizner’s Suicidal Mission” in which he argues:

Facing political collapse, he has resorted to the historic tactic of a political scoundrel, race baiting, in this case making immigrant bashing the central theme of his faltering campaign . . . Poizner has accomplished one thing; he’s made himself unelectable in November, and further damaged his own party.

PPIC, meanwhile, found that Whitman now leads Attorney General Jerry Brown 44-39% among likely November voters. Partisan support moved just a skosh between January and March – Democrats now 65-17% for Brown, were 69-12% for Brown in January; Republicans now 77-10% for Whitman, were 73-10% for Whitman in January.

But independents – those who have no roots in either party and who are most susceptible to Whitman’s TV ad campaign – moved big time. They were 36-28% for Brown in January and by March they had lurched to 43-37% for Whitman – a net 14% shift in two months. In other words, eMeg’s positive ads for herself, her attacks on Poizner and his attacks on Whitman have helped boost Meg with independent voters.

Looking at the electorate by age, Brown runs best – 71-17% — among Democrats age 55 and older, compared to 61-17% among Democrats age 18-54. But Whitman creams Brown among Republicans, 76-8% among Republican age 18-54 and 79-11% among Republicans 55 and older.

All of which suggests Brown’s challenge is to move independents of all ages back into his column and knock Whitman down among the nearly two in 10 Democrats who are currently enamored with her. This is where – if Calbuzz is reading the tea leaves correctly – Brown will use eMeg’s stand against AB32, the pioneering climate change law, to drive her supporters to him.

Other findings, lifted straight out of PPIC’s press release:

Fiorina, Campbell vs Boxer

“The Republican primary race for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat has tightened since January, when Tom Campbell led both Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore among Republican likely voters (27% Campbell, 16% Fiorina, 8% DeVore). Today, Campbell and Fiorina are in a close race (24% Fiorina, 23% Campbell), and DeVore’s level of support is unchanged (8%). In this campaign—which has seen little advertising—the largest percentage of likely voters (44%) is undecided, similar to January (48%).

“In hypothetical November matchups, incumbent Boxer is deadlocked with Campbell (43% to 44%) . . . A plurality of independents support Campbell (48% Campbell, 32% Boxer, 20% undecided). Since January, support for Boxer has dropped 10 points among independents, and Campbell’s support has increased 11 points . . . “Boxer is in a similarly tight race with Fiorina (44% to 43%) . . . Among independents, Fiorina leads Boxer (41% Fiorina, 35% Boxer, 24% undecided).”

First ever: half the voters favor same-sex marriage

“Among all Californians, residents are more likely to favor (50%) than oppose (45%) same-sex marriage for the first time in the PPIC Statewide Surveys. Support among all adults has never surpassed 45 percent since the question was first asked in January 2000. There are clear partisan divisions: majorities of Democrats (64%) and independents (55%) are in favor, and most Republicans (67%) are opposed.

“There is much more consensus on the issue of gays and lesbians in the military. In the wake of Obama’s announcement that he would like to repeal the federal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy passed in 1993, 75 percent of Californians say that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military.”

Why Indie Voters Don’t Make California Purple

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Purple2In recent years, some pollsters, pundits and consultants have pointed to declines in partisan voter registration, along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s two elections, to question California’s reputation as a left-leaning “blue state” and to argue that it is in fact a post-partisan “purple state.”

Exhibit A, for the post-partisan advocates, is the voter roll: Democratic registration stands at 45%, down 12% since 1978; Republican registration is 31%, down 3%, and independents now represent 20% of the voters, up 12%. These data, it is argued, prove that partisanship is waning and California is evolving into a bastion of independence.

Here at the Calbuzz Repository of Analysis and Policy, we’ve never bought the neo-kumbaya thesis. It’s long been our view that while political parties, like other large institutions –- corporations, unions, metro newspapers, etc. –- have become atomized and decentralized in the modern era, political behavior is pretty much like it’s always been.

And the Field Poll’s release of a new study of 30 years of voting patterns last week offers further evidence that advocates for the post-partisan theory  misread our history and attitudes. While Field’s data confirm the long-term trend of voters increasingly bypassing both parties to register as independent declines-to-state, their analysis also shows that these independents reliably think and vote like Democrats most of the time.

Consider, for example, voter attitudes on same-sex marriage – one of the most incendiary issues in California politics. Back in 1977, Democrats were opposed 29-63%, Republicans were opposed 30-65% and independents and others were opposed 38-55%. Three decades later – in 2009 – Republicans have hardened their opposition to 23-68%. But Democrats have flipped their position to 64-30% in favor and so have independents — to 57-38% in favor.

Likewise on abortion rights, another divisive issue. Back in 1975, a narrow majority of California voters approved of abortion rights, with Republicans in favor 50-44%, Democrats at 52-43% and independents at 59-34%. By 2006, 70% of voters overall favored abortion rights and the big movement came among Democrats, now 82-10% on the issue and independents at 73-14%. Republicans’ attitude on the issue moved only slightly, to 55-40% in favor.

As Mark DiCamillo and Merv Field explained in the Field Poll release, public attitudes about death and taxes haven’t moved much, but on social issues like same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia,  “California voters, especially Democrats, have become more socially tolerant” over the past three decades. What’s important in the numbers is that independents – while there are more of them – function for all intents and purposes as if they were unregistered Democrats.

The purple state thesis was stated perhaps most forcefully –- and mistakenly — by GOP consultant and former Schwarzenegger communications director Adam Mendelsohn during last year’s presidential elections, when he predicted in September that John McCain was “exactly the kind of Republican” who would be competitive amid the purple hues of the Golden State.

“Certain Republicans are able to win in California and when you have a Republican , like John McCain who has a proven track record of reaching out to independents, reaching out to disaffected Democrats, this is something he built a career on doing. It’s exactly the kind of Republican who poses a real opportunity for us in California,” Mendelsohn told Fox News in September, adding that “California (is) not a red state, or a blue state, but a purple state.”

Others, like Dave Lesher and Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California have made the case more subtly, arguing that because California’s independents combine strains of social liberals and fiscal conservatives, “their vote is up for grabs.”

“Independents’ attitudes, in contrast to that of Democrats and Republicans, don’t fit neatly into traditional liberal and conservative camps,” the two wrote in a LAT op-ed in 2006, adding that this made for “a surprising degree of uncertainty and volatility.”

In fact, it hasn’t. The analysis of fiscal conservatism is based on a single issue: the long-standing strong support of Proposition 13 by voters of every ideological stripe. But by almost any other measure, the notion that independents have their finger to the wind in every election cycle is, we think, not right.

For starters, the rise of independent registration has not been accompanied by the surfacing of any independent political movement. Setting aside the Superintendent of Public Instruction (a nominally non-partisan office) no one has been elected to a statewide office without partisan identification. Beyond that, independents have sided with Democrats most of the time.

– Democrats have won the state in five of the eight presidential elections since 1978 and have made a clean sweep since 1992, when the move towards independent voters started gaining steam. (And no candidate who opposes abortion rights, on which independents have moved left, has won at the top of the ticket, i.e. for president, governor or senator, since George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis here in 1988.)

– Democrats have dominated every single Legislative session except for the anamolus “Contract with America” election of 1994, when Republicans briefly held a majority.

– Democrats have controlled most of the statewide constitutional offices in the last 30 years, buoyed by independent backing.

The purple staters’ best case is the history of the governor’s office which, since Jerry Brown’s re-election in 1978, has been won only twice by a Democrat, who was tossed out before finishing his second term.

But even in the case of the governor, California independents –- with their Democratic-leaning tendencies on social issues and their centrist outlook on fiscal issues –- have for two decades only rewarded the GOP when they have fielded relative moderates like Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  When the GOP has tried to win statewide with one of their red-meat candidates (see: Dan Lungren, 38%, and Bill Simon, 43%) they have been crushed by their inability to win independents.

It is undeniably true that voters are increasingly declining to declare themselves either Democrat or Republican when they register to vote. But scratch an independent in California and you find a voter who leans Democratic.

If the Republicans were to nominate a fiscally moderate, pro-choice, pro-environment candidate who is not seen as virulently anti-immigrant or anti-gay, that candidate might well attract enough independents (and Democrats) to win at the top of the ticket. But it’s unclear that such a candidate can win a Republican primary without first lurching so far to the right as to be poisoned in a general election (recall that Schwarzenegger never had to run in a contested primary, and that Wilson first won nomination after being drafted from the U.S. Senate by GOP leaders as the party’s best hope of ensuring a competitive reapportionment).

The problem with confusing independent voter registration with independent voting behavior is that it leads to the kind of thinking Schwarzenegger’s former communications director engaged in when he told the SF Chronicle in 2008:  “John McCain will give a Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama a serious run in any purple state like California.”

Calbuzz sez: Purple staters can argue that ’til they’re blue in the face, but they’ll still end up red-faced with embarrassment.

Polling on Offshore Drilling: Energy or Environment?

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

oilrigWhen the Public Policy Institute of California came out last week with its most recent data on public support for offshore oil drilling, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth and some name-calling among certain folks on the environmental left.

PPIC’s poll had found that for the second year in a row, a narrow majority of registered voters (51% in 2008 and 53% in 2009) said they favor allowing oil drilling off the California coast.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, for one, went nuts, attacking PPIC’s poll as worthless and biased, until the attorney general wannabe got hosed down and recalibrated his comments as a critique of the news media.

As we said then, Mark Baldassare of PPIC is an excellent pollster. He’s as unbiased as they come, interested only in gathering data that accurately reflect the public’s outlook on important issues. His survey methodology is first-rate (despite some reservations we have about how he handles cell phones), he has massive resources, a fair-minded approach to public policy research and pristine academic and professional credentials.

Which doesn’t mean his work is flawless. There are some reasons why PPIC’s measure on offshore oil drilling – even if it’s 100% accurate — may not reflect what California voters actually think about offshore oil drilling as an issue in state politics.

With its constellation of questions, PPIC is actually measuring what California voters think about a cluster of policies – asked in a series that is rotated randomly — designed “to address the country’s energy needs and reduce dependence on foreign oil sources.” These include: requiring automakers to significantly improve the fuel efficiency of cars sold in this country; building more nuclear power plants; increasing federal funding to develop wind, solar, and hydrogen technology, and allowing more oil drilling off the California coast.

In other words, offshore oil drilling is being examined primarily, not as an  environmental issue – which, in our view, is how most California voters approach it – but as a function of national energy policy.

Even in that context – and here’s where the enviros have an argument – proposing offshore oil drilling as a way to “address the country’s energy needs and reduce dependence on foreign oil sources” is a dubious proposition.

As Media Matters for America has previously documented, the Energy Department’s Annual Energy Outlook 2007 found “access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017.”

PPIC is not alone in posing offshore oil drilling as a matter of national energy policy. The esteemed Field Poll has done much the same, asking in July 2008, whether “oil companies should be allowed to drill more oil and gas wells in state tidelands along the California coast” as one of the policies for respondents to consider after this introduction:

“I’m going to read some proposals that have been made that attempt to deal with the rising cost of energy. For each, please tell me whether you agree or disagree.”

Interestingly, the Field Poll – which surveys registered voters and includes (at great expense) a large component of respondents who have only cell phones — asked that about the same time PPIC did last summer and came up with a mirrored response: 51% disagreed and 43% agreed – just about an identical flip-flop of the PPIC finding.

It’s unclear why Field and PPIC would have such different results on the offshore oil question. Sampling differences, especially of cell phone-only respondents, the cluster of policies in which offshore oil is included, question order, to name of few factors, could explain the difference. That’s a story for another day.

Despite Nava’s complaint, there’s good reason for both surveys to ask the offshore oil drilling question as they have – in order to track public opinion over time. The shift PPIC has found, for instance, especially among independent voters (since Democrats and Republicans have not changed much) is worth noting when looking at how the issue compares to other policy choices.

But as Baldassare acknowledged, it is possible that the set-up – crafted from national polling questions and designed to measure offshore drilling as a policy option among several others — is problematic in measuring support for offshore oil drilling as a distinctly California political issue.

So what is to be done? We hope that our good friends at PPIC and Field will, in some future poll, ask about offshore oil drilling as an environmental question or as a stand-alone question concerning California public policy to avoid confusion stemming from conflation with attitudes on gas prices or dependence on foreign oil.

Our gut-level suspicion is that a candidate who supports offshore oil drilling in a statewide race does so at his or her own peril. But some hard data would be valuable.