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Posts Tagged ‘Sacramento Press Club’



Party, Gender and How Pollsters Handled Indies

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

“Party, party, party,” Mark DiCamillo, director of the esteemed Field Poll, replied when we asked him back in June if a candidate’s gender or partisan affiliation is more important in a general election.

“If you had to ask just one question that would predict how someone would vote, you’d want to ask their party,” he said.

Despite all the drama some writers, consultants and party activists stirred up around the notion that Meg Whitman could peel away women voters, a crucial part of the Democratic Party base, the results in the governor’s race prove that when push comes to shove, party trumps gender every time.

We’ll walk through the numbers, but there’s one problem: the data we have on the vote by party from the National Election Pool survey by Edison Research is crap.

The NEP survey asked voters leaving the polls to tell them if they think of themselves as Democrats, Republicans, independents or something else. These are not really independent voters as we know them in California – people who “decline to state” a party when they register to vote.

So we have to use data from the most accurate polls – the Field Poll and the USC/LA Times – to understand how actual independents voted when looking at gender and party effects.

Also, understand that Field and USC/LAT used actual voter registration rolls to identify actual voters. And of course, the NEP survey snagged actual voters leaving the polling place. But PPIC asks respondents how they are registered to vote, which means their sample, by party, is a reflection of what respondents say, which may or may not accurately reflect how they are registered. We can demonstrate the hazard in this by comparing the USC/LAT survey which, in addition to using party registration, also asked voters to identify themselves by party.

First, women: According to the NEP exit poll,  men voted for Brown over Whitman 51-45% while women voted for Brown 55-39%. That’s a  6-point margin among men and a 16-point margin  among women.

These numbers were reflected pretty well in pre-election polling, all of which showed Brown winning: Field had it 46-42% for Brown among men (4 points) and 51-35 (16 points) among women; USC/LAT had it 48-45% among men (3 points) and 55-34% among women (21 points); PPIC had it 41-40% among men (1 point) and 47-32% among women (15 points).

Then, party: But look how much stronger the party vote was.

In the Field Poll, Democrats voted for Brown 77-7% and Republicans voted for Whitman 68-16%; in the USC/LAT poll Democrats were for Brown  81-10 and Republicans were for Whitman 77-15%; PPIC found the Democrats 76-7% for Brown and the Republicans 73-11% for Whitman. These margins were from 69% to 71% among Democrats for Brown and from 52% to 62% among Republicans for Whitman. Much stronger effects than polling found for gender.

The NEP exit poll – in which the vote by party was intensified because of how independents were identified – found it 91-7% among Democrats for Brown and 84-11% among Republicans for Whitman.

DTS versus “independents”: As we all know, in California you may choose not to affiliate with a political party when you register to vote. These are “Decline to State” voters or DTS voters, who comprise about 20% of all registered voters. They are a crucial swing-vote block in California elections and identifying them and tracking their preferences is crucial to understanding how public opinion is moving.

Calbuzz will have more on this tomorrow when we deconstruct some of the myths that already have been spun about this election, including some knowing misstatements about how independents voted here.

But since Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll and Mark Baldassare of PPIC are doing their Mark and Mark Show at the Sacramento Press Club today, we thought we’d add a few notes to the discussion.

The Field Poll and USC/LAT — like virtually every political pollster hired by any big campaign or interest group — now uses the voter list to develop a sample of actual registered voters. Most pollsters pre-select the list for past voting behavior, only including in the sample people who have voted before, plus newly registered voters. Calbuzz thinks that’s the best practice to identify likely voters. It’s what all the good private pollsters do and what the poll takers for USC/LAT did. Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll disagrees. He takes a random sample of the voter list and uses past behavior to help select likely voters after interviews are completed. His system works: the Field Poll consistently ranks as one of the most accurate polling operations in the country.

But Mark Baldassare of PPIC asks a scientific random sample of adults: “Some people are registered to vote and others are not. Are you absolutely certain that you are registered to vote in California?” And, “Are you registered as a Democrat, a Republican, another party, or as an independent?” If the person says “independent” he or she is asked, “Do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican Party or Democratic Party?”

That’s the kind of thing you have to do if you’re using random digit dialing instead of working from a voter list. Unfortunately, respondents aren’t always the best sources for knowing how they are registered to vote, no matter how careful the questions are.

The USC/LATimes poll, for example, asked people whether they were Democrats, Republicans or independents and compared their answers to their actual party registration: 22% of those who said they were “independent” were actually registered as Democrats; 34% of “independents” were actually registered Republicans, and just 38% of the self-identified independents were actually DTS voters.

When USC/LAT reported results, they used party registration, not party ID, to describe how people were voting. Which is a good thing, because in their survey, registered DTS voters favored Brown over Whitman 61-24 55-26% (probably too big a margin but at least in the right direction), but self-identified “independents” were favoring Whitman 46-45%.

The NEP exit poll — because it’s a nationwide survey including states with no voter registration — also asked people how they identify themselves. They asked: “No matter how you voted today, do you usually think of yourself as a Democrat, a Republican, an independent or something else.”

Using that definition, the exit poll showed Whitman beating Brown 47-43% among “independents.” It’s exactly the same wrong result PPIC had, when it showed Whitman ahead of Brown 37-36% among “independents.”

Field and USC.LAT did not suffer the same problem because they were polling actual DTS voters. Field had independents 49-34% for Brown and, as we said before, USC/LAT had them 61-24% for Brown.

We can’t say for certain how DTS or independent voters actually split in the governor’s race because we don’t have exit poll data we can rely on. But if you look at the Field Poll as a standard — since they were almost precisely on the numbers everywhere else — and factor in the USC/LAT findings,  it’s likely that independents actually voted for Brown over Whitman by about 15 points.

This is bolstered by the fact that self-identified “moderates,” who comprised 40% of the electorate, voted for Brown over Whitman by 60-35%, according to the NEP exit poll. That compared to liberals who went 86-8% for Brown and conservatives who went 78-17% for Whitman.

One other note on the NEP exit poll: it did a lousy job of creating a sample that reflected how Californians are casting their ballots. Final figures are not available yet, but it’s expected that vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots will account for about 50% of the votes cast. But we understand that NEP/Edison only included 600 mail ballots compared to about 3,300 precinct interviews. The margin of error on those 600 mail ballots is huge compared to the rest of the survey and weighting them up would have required some ugly math — not something a reputable pollster would be proud of. The entire survey was obviously weighted to the final unofficial results — 53-42% for Brown. But whether the individual components of that total are accurate is anyone’s guess.

Tomorrow: Myth busters, including Mike Murphy’s bogus argument

Bad Quote Duel: Brown & Burton Meet eMeg & Ron

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

From  the accounts we’ve seen, GOP state chairman Ron Nehring had it all over Democratic party chief John Burton at their mano-a-mano insult fest at the Sacramento Press Club this week.

That’s not entirely surprising, of course, given that the tightly wound Republican enjoys two, big natural advantages over his unwound rival: 1) Nehring is actually capable of speaking in complete sentences and 2) he’s not battling a heartbreaking case of  Tourette Syndrome.

While Nehring bashed Democrats Barbara Boxer and and Jerry Brown with some pretty good lines — “When Boxer was first elected to Congress in 1982, ‘The A-Team’ was a TV show and not in a movie, and I think Jerry Brown’s registration card was in Roman numerals” — Burton criticized GOP wannabe governor eMeg Whitman for being over-reliant on consultants by proving anew that bad taste costs no more: “I don’t know if she’s alone when she goes to the bathroom.”

Yuk yuk.

And when Nehring, 40, argued that because the diverse Republican statewide ticket looks more like California’s population, “the political jet streams will be in our favor,” in the November election, the 112-year old Burton responded with this gas-bag, head-scratching pronouncement:

Changes of winds and winds of change, who the hell knows where the wind goes. It tends to change. Do you ever watch the weather report? The wind’s coming here, but they go there?

Yeah, well, there is that.

Krunching Krusty: More troubling for Democrats than the latest creaky performance of their, um, grizzled leader, was a stinging comment Nehring made about Brown, which seemed to us to carry considerable political resonance:

Nehring said he’s not surprised Brown is calling for a number of debates.

“If I was Jerry Brown, I’d do anything I could to hit the reset button as often as I could,” Nehring said. “He’s the de facto incumbent. The guy’s gotta do something to change the direction of the campaign. Quirkiness is not a strategy. It’s not working for him so far.”

Indeed.

As if on cue, Brown uncorked a series of oddball utterances that not only underlined the point about the inherent weakness of strategic quirkiness, but also handed eMeg some fresh material with which to attack him as the same old same old and position herself as the agent of change.

In a Tuesday address to the California District Attorney’s Association, Brown, for reasons that remain unclear, portrayed himself as the defender of the status quo, recalling a conversation he had during his first turn as governor with the late, long-serving state senator Randolph Collier:

When I was up there reforming and upsetting the apple cart, he said, “Young man, why do you stir all these things up?”…He said, “Don’t stir things up,” he said “Don’t try to make too many changes”…

I can’t remember his exact words, but it was “Don’t rock the boat,” and you know, there’s a lot of wisdom to that. There is. Now I’ll rock it a little bit because you got to get it on an even keel.

Don’t rock the boat? Really? In a year when veteran politicians are only slightly less popular than rabid skunks,  Mr. New Age Future Lies Ahead wants to run on a platform of “Don’t Rock the Boat”?

Oy.

The Empire struck back within moments of the comment with a volcanic eblast attacking Brown for having “no plans to shake up the status quo.” The eMegs jumped him with the same play Wednesday, when he again left himself wide open to the charge that he’s a status quo insider, as he was pressed in a TV interview for specifics of how he would address the budget mess.

As previously, Brown responded to the line of questioning with nothing but tired bromides about getting all the legislators in a room and going through the budget line by line blah blah blah, ending with this exchange with CNBC’s Jane Wells:

When will we get a specific plan?
Well the plan is to go over each item of the budget.
But when will we…
That is the plan. The plan is the process.

Ah. Yes, it all makes sense now:

The plan is the process.
The process is the plan.
I am the walrus.
Goo goo g’joob.

eMeg plays go fetch: Not to be outdone by any measure, Whitman held up her end of the inane comment sweepstakes, when she was asked at a Roseville event what she would do as governor, after she criticized lawmakers for taking their summer break with the budget unresolved.

Whitman also said all lawmakers should stay in Sacramento during the upcoming July recess and forgo their per diem. Legislative leaders have said they will likely send most legislators home during the break – without per diem – while the budget committee and leaders hash out the budget.

“What I would do is take this Legislature and say, ‘OK, 10 of you go find money here, 10 go find money here, 10 go find money here,’ ” Whitman said.

By golly, our Meg’s got it! We can hear the Democratic leadership already: “We’ll solve the budget crisis by having a treasure hunt! Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Hurrah for Meg!”

Or not.

And don’t call me chief! Senator Barbara Boxer won a procedural victory Wednesday, when her Environment and Public Works Committee moved legislation she favors to remove the liability cap on oil companies that cause spills.

But Republican rival Carly Fiorina’s backers on Capitol Hill were gleefully sending around this excerpt from the hearing, which they see as standing up their argument that Babs is an arrogant, ideologically isolated player who even alienates members of her own party, as evidenced by 1) fellow Democrat and Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus lecturing her with a not very subtle jab for pandering legislation that is more “message” than substance and 2) Herself responding by putting on a most frightful version of her best Don’t-Call-Me-Ma’am frown.