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Posts Tagged ‘women voters’



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

Giants Win! Now, the Krusty vs. eMeg Showdown

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

“This is a very important election. It is a battle for the soul of California,” Meg Whitman said at her last full-scale campaign rally in Burbank on Sunday. She got it half right.

This is indeed a very important election. But it’s not a battle for the soul of anything.

It’s a battle for the reins of power in the governor’s office. That will surely have a profound effect on what happens in the next four years: how the state budget will be crafted, who will run massive agencies, who will sit on the bench, who will speak for California, how the Legislature and the executive branch will or will not work together and much more.

But California’s soul — if such a thing can be said to exist at all — is not a subject that can be determined by the ballot box. To the extent that it can be identified, it’s the collective actions of men and women of extraordinary diversity, most of whom who will not vote today, in their daily lives.

The Nicki factor: That Whitman does not understand this became clear on Sept. 29 when her former housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, recounted the events of June 2009 ; it was then that Whitman, upon learning that her employee of nine years was an illegal immigrant, abruptly fired her, doing nothing to help a Mexican national who also is part of the soul of California.

This iconic moment in the campaign — in which Diaz charged Whitman had told her “You don’t know me and I don’t know you” – spoke volumes about the Republican billionaire to Latinos, to women and to working people whom Whitman had been trying to convince that she could be counted on to protect their interests as she led California back to prosperity.

If Whitman loses today, many pundits will point to the Nicky Diaz press conference with attorney Gloria Allred, and eMeg’s shaky response to it, as the crucial turning point in the long campaign.

Jerry Brown, however, rejects that notion.

Calbuzz asked him on Monday, after a spirited rally in Salinas, to what extent he thinks the Diaz story was the defining event of the race.

“I think the first debate and the ads that I was putting on that were pretty positive and communicated a real sense of who I was,” he said. “I think that started turning it and, of course, the subsequent events just intensified the trend that had already started.”

The straightforward ad referenced by Brown, his first TV spot, was made by Joe Trippi. In it,  narrator Peter Coyote said that when Brown was governor in the 1970s and ‘80s:

“He cut waste, got rid of the mansion and the limo; budgets were balanced; four billion in tax cuts; world-class schools and universities; clean energy promoted; one-point nine million new jobs created. California was working.”

Then Brown looked straight into the camera, said, “California needs major changes. We have to live within our means. We have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.”

The takeaway line from Coyote: “Jerry Brown: the knowledge and know-how to get California working again.”

As for the first debate, which came the day before the Diaz-Allred press conference, Whitman came across as well-prepared, smart and somewhat robotic, while Brown, with self-deprecating remarks and humor, seemed more at ease and authentic.

Subsequent polling would find that voters – especially women, Latinos and independents – were seeing Brown as someone who understands problems of people like them, while they were having a hard time finding Whitman likeable.

On Monday in Salinas, Brown offered a good example of the tone and style which recent surveys suggest voters have found more accessible and appealing than Whitman’s corporate branding image.

“I’m really excited about another opportunity and if the people give me that opportunity tomorrow night you can be sure that you’re going to get somebody who on day one knows where all the bodies are buried in Sacramento.

In fact, I buried most of them. And I know where all the skeletons are and what closets they’re in ‘cause I left a few when I left – they’re still there.”

As for eMeg, it was notable that after a long campaign, in which she spent more money than in any previous race in any state in America, most of it on paid advertising, she spent her last day focused on get-out-the-vote operations, the most mundane and humble of political tasks:

We are going to win this because we’re going to turn out the vote.

Today, finally, we’ll find out.



Gov Race Even but eMeg’s Negatives Have Soared

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

The California governor’s race remains essentially a dead heat, according to the latest Field Poll, which finds a slight shift overall in favor of Democrat Jerry Brown at 44% compared to Republican Meg Whitman at 43%. In the last Field Poll in March, Whitman led Brown 46-43%.

But the finding in the survey that jumps out at Calbuzz is this: Whitman’s favorability rating, which was 40-27% positive in March has taken a huge hit. Her unfavorable rating has soared 15 points to 42% while her favorable has not budged one iota and remains at 40%.

In part that’s the effect of the $25 million negative campaign against eMeg by her Republican primary rival Steve Poizner. But it’s also after Whitman herself has spent more than $100 million, including about $2 million a week since the primary was concluded a month ago. Ouch.

Moreover, it looks like the attack ads on Whitman by Brown’s labor allies — including California Working Families 2010 — have had their intended effect: to increase Whitman’s negatives and keep her from pulling away from Brown during the summer, before he can afford to put his own ads on TV.

Meanwhile, Brown’s favorability is only marginally changed from March. It’s 42-40% favorable today, compared to 41-37% favorable before. (Of course, Brown’s favorable was 50-25% back in March of 2009, but that was when he was just the new Attorney General and not a candidate for governor with rivals.)

Whitman has gained some ground with Latinos, among whom Brown now leads 50-39% compared to 54-25% in March. Apparently, eMeg’s spending $600,000 a week on Spanish-language media while Krusty has yet done virtually nothing to reach out to Latinos has had some effect, even though Whitman took some harsh anti-illegal immigration stands during the primary campaign.

Whitman has not done as well as might have been expected with independents. She leads Brown marginally now, 42-39% among non-partisans compared to 50-36% in March. That’s a 3-point lead, down from 14 points. Both candidates are holding their party bases, although Whitman is doing better among Republicans (80-9%) than Brown is doing among Democrats (74-16%).

Whitman is winning about 75% of the conservatives, who make up 36% of the electorate, while Brown is winning about 80% of the liberals who account for 23% of the voters. In the battle for the critical middle-of-the-road voters – who make up about 41% of the electorate — Brown is ahead 49-35%.

Party remains a much stronger pull than gender: according to Field, Brown leads 45-41% among women while Whitman leads 46-42% among men. Democratic women favor Brown 72-14% while Republican women favor Whitman 79-10%.

The Field Poll surveyed 1,005 likely voters, including a random sub-sample of 357 voters, June 22-July 5. The margin of error for questions asked of all voters is +/- 3.2% and for questions asked of the sub-sample (including favorability) it is +/- 5.5%. Calbuzz has been refused the opportunity to subscribe to the Field Poll and has obtained the results elsewhere.

Unlike other polling organizations, the Field Poll chose not to sample a general election population when they fielded their June primary survey and therefore have no data on the Brown-Whitman race from then. Other surveys – by the Public Policy Institute of California and USC/Los Angeles Times – found Brown with a 5-6 point lead over Whitman. And a recent Reuters/Ipsos gave Brown a 6-point lead.

Each of those surveys, however, has a different methodology and sampling techniques and comparing them is considered by polling experts to be problematic. Nevertheless, some analysts create a sort of poll of polls and using that method, one could argue that the current Field Poll suggests a tightening of the race to a dead heat from a slight Brown advantage.

P.S. Calbuzz is not unmindful of the sharp disparity between these numbers and the Reuters/Ipsos survey we reported on just yesterday. Both polling outfits are reputable although in a pinch, we’d have to lean toward the Field Poll which is, by most measures, one of the most accurate, if not THE most accurate, polling firm in the country.

Up next: We’re expecting Field’s numbers on the Barbara Boxer-Carly Fiorina race for the U.S. Senate shortly and will bring our take on the state of that race when we do. We’ve also recently spent some quality time with Babs and will have a full report on our one-on-one interview with her — including a hair-curling look at Boxer’s true feelings about Hurricane Carly’s insult of her ‘do.

Why Gender Won’t Help GOP Women Candidates

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Published jointly today in the Los Angeles Times

The dual nomination of Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina for governor and U.S. Senate in the state Republican primary was an historic event, but the candidates’ gender is unlikely to help them much in the November election.

The two became the first women ever chosen at the top of a GOP ticket in California, and their victories came amid much media discussion nationally about the breakthrough of “Republican feminists” and Sarah Palin’s excited forecast about the ascendancy of conservative “mamma grizzlies.”

However, a look back at California elections involving women candidates suggests that gender  won’t be a major factor in whether Fiorina or Whitman win or lose. Analysis of past voting data shows that:

– Party matters far more than gender in a general election.
– Gender matters most among independent women voters
– Neither Democratic nor independent women voters are likely to favor a candidate who is not pro-choice.

“Party, party, party,” answered Mark DiCamillo, director of the esteemed Field Poll, when asked if a candidates’ gender or partisan identification 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.

Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, the chief strategist for Dianne Feinstein in 1990, when she became the first woman in California to win a major party’s nomination for governor, agreed:

“There’s no doubt that in candidate races the first and most salient factor in who you vote for is what political party do you belong to,” said Carrick, who also managed Feinstein’s historic campaign in 1992, when she and Barbara Boxer became the first female candidates to win a top office in the state, in what was dubbed the “Year of the Woman.”

In a late October Field Poll of the 1990 governor’s race, then-Republican Senator Pete Wilson led Feinstein, the former longtime mayor of San Francisco, by 47-39%, with 14% for others or undecided. At the time, he not only led 48-36% among men, who comprised 48 % of the electorate, but also 46-40% among women, who represented 52% of all voters.

At the time, Feinstein enjoyed relatively modest support within her own party, leading only 62-24% among Democrats. Wilson by contrast, led 76-12% among Republicans.

Days later, Wilson won the election 49-46%, as Feinstein gained considerable ground in the final days of the campaign; while there was no reliable exit poll on the race, it appears that many Democrats (a disproportionate number of whom are women), who had earlier held back, broke for their party’s candidate in the end.

Statistical support for that conclusion may be found in Los Angeles Times exit polling of the governor’s race four years later.

State Treasurer Kathleen Brown – the weakest Democratic candidate for governor in recent history – won 78% of her party’s vote in a bid against incumbent Gov. Pete Wilson, according to the survey. If Brown captured nearly eight in 10 Democrats in winning only 41% of the overall vote in 1994, it’s certain that Feinstein won at least as many with her stronger statewide performance four years earlier.

The 1994 Kathleen Brown-Pete Wilson race and the Feinstein-Michael Huffington Senate race the same year also offer clues about the relationship of party, gender and the abortion issue.

The pro-choice Wilson beat pro-choice Brown statewide by a resounding 55-41%. According to the Times exit poll, Wilson carried men 58-38% and women 52-43%, meaning Brown did somewhat better with women than with men.

But the numbers show that nearly all of the gender difference is explained by party.

Wilson won Republican men and women by 91-6% each and also carried independents: 57-34% among men and 54-39% among women; as she did among Democrats, Brown did somewhat better among independent women than she did with independent men.

Independents represented only about 16% of the electorate in 1994 (they are about 20% today). Brown’s pick-up of overall women voters was based on winning Democrats 78-19%, in a year when Democrats accounted for more than 4 in 10 voters (Democrats are now 44% of registered voters) and the party’s voting ranks included considerably more women than men.

The same year, Feinstein barely beat Huffington, 47-45%. A key difference between Kathleen Brown and Feinstein in 1994, however, was that the Senator attracted larger numbers of independent women and even made some inroads among Republican women,

Like Wilson, Huffington was pro-choice. Feinstein won 83% of Democratic men and 84% of women Democrats, while Huffington carried 83% of GOP men but just 75% of the party’s women. She won independent women, 51-36%, while independent men favored him 44-39%.

So Feinstein ran stronger with women voters than men, both among Republicans and independents – even though both candidates were pro-choice. This shows that it’s possible for a Democratic woman to pull some votes from the opposite party and from independents based on gender, in a race where abortion rights are not a determinative factor.

The 2010 Senate race pits the strongly pro-life Fiorina against the fiercely pro-choice Boxer. Since both are women, gender is likely to play even less of a role than usual. And Fiorina will have a tough battle,  as no pro-life candidate has won at the top of the ticket (president, governor or senator) in California since 1988, when George Bush beat Michael Dukakis.

The Whitman-Brown race is a different matter. “For a socially moderate, pro-choice woman like Meg Whitman, there’s some segment of the electorate that will take a closer look at her than they would if it were a white male with the same positions on the issues,” said political consultant Garry South, who guided Democrat Gray Davis to his gubernatorial victory in 1998 1994.

Running against the pro-choice Jerry Brown, however, Whitman will likely find it difficult to woo Democratic women voters to her side, just as Kathleen Brown could not lure Republican women away from Wilson in 1994. The Feinstein-Huffington race suggests, however, that Whitman’s gender could help her among independent women who are not aligned with Democratic positions on other issues.

The single greatest uncertainty in the governor’s race, however, may not be a function of gender or party, but of money. Said South, noting Whitman’s prediction of how much of her personal fortune she may spend: “There’s no playbook for somebody who’s going to spend $150 million.”

Meg’s Trouble With Women, Jerry’s With Youth

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Your faithful Calbuzz datasluts couldn’t wait to mine last week’s Field Poll crosstabs for the governor’s race, so we could tell you about nuggets like:

While Jerry Brown is beating Meg Whitman 44-32% overall, he’s ahead 48-33% among women who give eMeg a pathetic favorable rating of 19-20%.

Facing numbers like that, Meg’s multi-million-dollar consulting corps must be scrambling to figure out how in the world they can sell their candidate to women voters.

On the other hand, we already noted that eMeg is crushing Commish Steve Poizner in favorability among Republicans – she’s at 34-8% positive and he’s gasping at 18-19%. Down in the crosstabs, however, we find that the former eBay CEO is killing the Insurance Commissioner among the conservative GOP primary voters Poizner is trying to capture by 45-15% and among what Field called “tea party enthusiasts” by 51-12%.

So excuse us if we pay a bit more attention at this stage of the race to a Brown-Whitman match-up than to a Brown-Poizner contest. Which leads us to the fact that although  Brown’s overall favorable rating overall is 44-32% positive, among people most likely to actually vote in November – those age 50 and older – his favorable is 51-34%.

However, the Attorney General’s favorable among those under 50 is just 36-29% and among those under 30 — who can’t even remember when he was governor — it’s just 24-17%. Six in 10 younger voters have no opinion about him.

The good news in this for Crusty the General is that our best estimate – from pollsters we trust – is that about six in 10 voters in November are likely to be 50 and older.

The bad news for Brown is that no matter who emerges as his Republican opponent -– and at this point it sure looks like eMeg with her unlimited self-funded campaign budget — Brown can expect to get hammered on TV starting in about March with ads aimed at younger voters portraying him as old news, over-the-hill status quo.

“Jerry Brown and his entrenched allies will be spending millions to defend failure and the status quo in Sacramento, and Meg is committed to defeating them,” Whitman mouthpiece Sarah Pompei told Contra Costa Timesman Steve Harmon last week, limbering up for some serious trash talk.

And even if, as we hear, Brown’s got $12.5 million in the bank (some of which is restricted for the general election), he’s not likely to have enough to strike back with much force -– at least not in paid media. Which means he’d better have some nifty op-research up his sleeve and hope it’s strong enough to put eMeg on the defensive.

There is an opening for the AG there: Meg’s favorable is just 25-20% overall, so 65% of the voters don’t even have an opinion about her yet. And though she’s doing better in Southern California and the Central Valley, in her own Bay Area back yard her favorable is a negative 27-30%.

Brown’s goal right now is to pre-frame the onslaught against him as an attack by the silk-stockinged, white-gloved, greedy, corporate bastards against his Little Guy Campaign, to wit, his uberpopulist comment last week on KGO radio:

“Her whole theory is that she can buy the mind of California and whoever fights her will be so small, compared to the amount of money that she’s gathered up on Wall Street, that she will pulverize any opposition through the paid takeover of the airwaves of California.”

We noted last week that Brown is beating Whitman 71-15% among Democrats and – importantly – 47-25% among independents, while Meg leads 69-13% among Republicans.

GOP Primary and General Election Match-Ups

But in the crosstabs we also find that while Brown kills Whitman 81-8% among liberals, and Whitman wins handily at 66-18% among conservatives, it’s Jerry who’s got the self-identified “middle of the road” voters at this point, by 47-30%. They represent 46% of the likely voters in the Field Poll’s November projection.

It’s no surprise that Brown leads 59-33% among union households while Whitman leads 51-40% among those with incomes of $100,000 or more.

Brown and Whitman run almost dead even among white voters at 43-42%, but among Asians and Pacific Islanders Brown leads 39-19%, among Latino’s he’s ahead 52-29% and among blacks the AG is ahead 76-7%.

Calbuzz Bottom Line: To get in the game, the Commish  is going to have to go negative on eMeg with something that rings true and can peel away conservatives, otherwise, he’s dead in the water.  As long as Poiz remains irrelevant, eMeg has to boost her status among women and begin to create a Jerry-as-aged-incumbent narrative. Crusty needs to hold the women and independents, make a positive impression on younger voters and prepare for the negative attacks about to come.