Thursday, April 9, 2009

Obama Approval, 2010 & 2012 Projections, Recount Updates

Well, we are now 80 days into the administration of President Barack Obama (5.5% of his term for those of us keeping count), so like true political junkies, it's never too early to start looking ahead to the next set of elections. I'll reserve my first scorecard of the President for day 101, but the public's judgement has obviously already begun.

Presidential Approval
In my sample-weighted aggregated average of all non-artisan approval polls (the same methodology that enabled a perfect projection of the national vote last November), President Obama continues to enjoy broad approval. As of today the President has an approve-disapprove of 29.5% in contrast to his margin of victory of 7.2%. Trendwise, his margin, which was an unrealistically high mid-50s immediately following his inauguration, quickly dropped to around 40% and stayed there through the end of February, then has bounced back and forth, but generally declined to it's current margin.
The averages for each month of his administration are as follows:
January: 47.9%
February: 41.1%
March: 35.1%
April-to-Date: 30.9% (29.5% as of today)

Viewed through this prism, the President has been losing about 6% per month throughout his administration, a recognition of the acrimony along the partisan divide right now.

So, what would a theoretical election look like today? President Obama would win big...see the map below.
Does this matter? Not really. President's tend to be popular during their first 100 days and it rarely translates into these kinds of electoral landslides, Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Richard Nixon in 1972 being the notable exceptions (both won 49 states to win their second terms.)

The more relevant comparison at this stage is probably how President Obama stacks up with former President's at the same stage of their time in office. While the quantity of data is not as great in the past (polls have really exploded the past few years), Gallup has a good database that is helpful to draw a comparison.

Obama's Approve vs. Disapprove vs. Post WW2 First Termers:
vs. George W. Bush -- Obama +10%
vs. William J. Clinton -- Obama +10%
vs. George H-W. Bush -- Obama +2%
vs. Ronald Reagan -- Obama equal
vs. Jimmy Carter -- Obama -16%

So, President Obama is more popular at this point in his presidency than George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, both of whom won second terms, is roughly equal to George H-W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, one of whom won a second term, and way behind Jimmy Carter, who got routed in his re-election bid.

So what does all this tell us? That the first 80 days aren't very predictive of ultimate popularity. Four years is a long time. It does give us some indicators as to the sentiment going into mid-term elections.

House Projection 2010
It is extremely difficult projection House races, especially so far. So, my methodology relies on the generic congressional ballot question.

Let me explain -- there are running national polls that ask people which party they plan to vote for in the next congressional elections. History has shown that these polls are pretty accurate in projecting the overall national outcome of House races.

In 2008, going into the election Democrats led by 7% in the generic preference polls. The actual vote totals showed Democrats winning by 10%, leading to their large majorities in congress. This could have been due to poll error or due to the fact that their were more unopposed Democrats than Republicans (obviously, in an unopposed race, one party gets 100% of the vote, regardless of preference.) Looking at the actual margins in each house race and adjusting for the movement in the current polls, we can project potential 2010 shifts.

Presently, the average of generic congressional polls has Democrats at +2%, 5% shy of the 7% they had going into November and 8% shy of their actual 10% margin. Republicans were actually briefly ahead in this polling last month, but this has since reversed.

Based on the actual 2008 results, I project if the election were held today:
Republican Gain of 16 to 20 Seats

This would cut substantially into the Democratic margin but is far shy of the 41 votes that they would need to regain control of the chamber.

The recent special election in NY-20 reinforces this projection. This was a district that was Obama +3%, which means that it was about 4% more conservative than the national vote. The special election is extremely close (in recount), demonstrating that Democrats are still competitive in slightly right-of-center swing districts.

More on NY-20 below in the recount discussion (not a recount yet, but wait.)

Senate
I've made the following changes to my initial projections (see my previous blog):
Connecticut moves from "Safe Democratic Hold" to "Toss-up"
Chris Dodd screws up with AIG and slips in the polls, which currently show the race a dead heat.

Florida moves from "Toss-Up" to "Lean Republican Hold"
Charlie Christ's likely entry tips this one modestly in the GOP's favor. He is still popular in Florida, despite a downbeat economy.

Illinois moves from "Likely Democratic Hold" to "Lean Democratic Hold"
The ongoing saga of Sen. Roland Burris continues to damage Democratic chances there. Illinois is still a true blue state, but this seat is now in play.

Ohio moves from "Safe Republican Hold" to "Toss-up"
Sen. Voinovich is out and this state is trending blue. The field is wide open.

We now have:
8 Safe Democratic Holds
3 Likely Democratic Holds
3 Lean Democratic Holds
4 Toss-ups
4 Lean Republican Holds
6 Likely Republican Holds
7 Safe Republican Holds

We have no actual projected gains by either party and the current control of the toss-ups is split (2 Republicans, 2 Democrats.)

Therefore, I project if the election was held today:
From +2 for Democrats to +2 for Republicans

Absentee Vote Counts and Recounts
The Minnesota drama continues between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. After counting the 387 originally rejected absentee ballots that the court ruled should be included, Al Franken actually widened his lead to 312 votes.

Norm Coleman still intends to appeal the ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court, seeking that more rejected ballots be included. It is not clear, based on the 387 breaking 2:1 for Franken, that those ballots would even help him if included.

Calls for Coleman to concede are increasing in volume and I suspect this one is almost over. The Minnesota Supreme Court would probably be wise to not grant cert and let the ruling stand. Minnesota needs for this one to be over -- it has made Florida 2000 look downright orderly.

In the NY-20 race, Republican Jim Tedisco led Democrat Scott Murphy by 97 votes with absentee votes yet to be counted. A court ruling Monday cleared the way for the counties to begin counting the absentee ballots, even though overseas ballots are not due until April 13th. Those ballots, according to the ruling, will be counted on April 14th, but machine re-checks and counts of the absentee ballots on-hand could begin immediately. As of today, Murphy appears to lead by 8 votes with the absentee ballots partially counted, but it is tough to get an accurate in-progress count and there are, of course, a multitude of challenges on both sides.

If the Franken/Coleman race is any indicator, don't expect a resolution on this one any time soon.

Whew! That's a lot of election news.

Back to some political commentary and my promised perspective on minimum wage laws coming up.

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1 comment:

beavis said...

No doubt the voting system is riged and fraud is increasing dramatically. How else are democrats in Boston getting absentee ballots to this day from voters that passed away decades ago.