Saturday, September 5, 2009

State of the Race: Virginia Governor (9/5/09)

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How about now?

Have the ideas proffered by Bob McDonnell in his thesis and covered widely this week sunk in among likely voters? More importantly, has it had any impact? The Rasmussen poll that was in the field on the Monday after the news broke showed very little, if any movement away from McDonnell or toward Deeds since the previous survey of the state from the polling firm. The same is true of the Survey USA poll that was released on Friday night (before a holiday weekend!?!).

2009 Virginia Gubernatorial Race Polling
Margin of Error
Survey USA
Sept. 1-3, 2009
+/- 4%
611 likely voters

Since the firm's last poll in the race (in late July), there has essentially been no movement. Sure, it appears as if there has been a slight shift toward Deeds -- the gap has closed in the interim period from 15 to 12 points -- but that movement is within the margin of error.

So the thesis has had no impact?

Well, it looks that way doesn't it? But let's look a bit more closely at the toplines of this poll. What segment of the likely voting population would be expected to be most affected by the news of the thesis. Other than Democrats, the most obvious answer is women (Yes, there is a fairly broad overlap between the two.). The underlying "a woman's place is in the home" theme that peppers the thesis would hypothetically motivate women (on average) to want to vote against Bob McDonnell or say they would.

But what do we see in the latest Survey USA poll? First of all, women in this sample actually prefer McDonnell to Deeds by a margin of seven points. And secondly, that has increased since the firm's last, pre-thesis poll in July. Now, this is a finding that runs counterintuitively to what we know of electoral politics. Typically, women side with the Democratic candidate. That varies from race to race, but more often than not that gender gap is present to some extent. Before we dismiss this poll -- something FHQ wouldn't do anyway -- let's look at some other recent polls and how the samples broke along gender lines.

This isn't an exhaustive examination, but let's look at this trend in the polls conducted during and since August. The polls for which we have data in that period are the Public Policy Polling survey conducted last weekend and the Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll done earlier in August. The Washington Post poll, though it released a ton of data, did not include the gender breakdown and the two Rasmussen polls* are excluded. For good measure, let's throw in that July Survey USA poll and the earlier August poll from PPP.
PPP (early Aug.):
McDonnell: 50
Deeds: 38

SUSA (July):
McDonnell: 49
Deeds: 44

Kos/R2K (Aug.):
McDonnell: 45
Deeds: 46

PPP (Aug.):
McDonnell: 40
Deeds: 49

SUSA (Sept.):
McDonnell: 52
Deeds: 45
Honestly, those results are all over the place; especially those PPP numbers. They represent the two extremes, +12 McDonnell (in the early August poll that showed McCain voters outnumbering Obama voters by 11 points in the sample) to +9 Deeds in their latest poll. Granted across all of these polls, we're talking about subsamples, but on gender; not on something like liberal Republicans who voted for Obama, for example. It's a healthy subsample in other words. If we simply average the spreads in these five polls (not accounting for any kind of decay in the polls' weights over time) we find McDonnell ahead by about 3 points among women. At least that gives us some baseline for comparison. It provides us with enough information to say, "Well, it looks like this recent Survey USA poll shows a but more support for the Republican than average."

The bottom line is that this is still a somewhat striking result given what we know of the gender gap. However, at least we have some context now.

Gender wasn't what Survey USA thought was interesting in this particular poll. To the firm it was about the 2008 vote choice of the respondents in the sample. "Of those who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and who are judged by SurveyUSA to be likely to vote in November 2009, 13% cross-over for McDonnell, twice the number of McCain voters who cross-over for Deeds." Yeah, that catches your eye, too. I'd really like to see those cross-overs isolated (talk about a subsample) just so we can see what the characteristics of a typical Obama-McDonnell or McCain-Deeds respondent are.

That may be asking too much.

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For the moment, though, it looks as if McDonnell has yet to be affected by the thesis revelation. It still feels too early to me for there to have been an effect. [This coming week's polls will be indicative.] That hunch is conditioned by the presence of the story to some extent. If it continues to get play in the media, that obviously increases the chances that it will potentially have an effect (exposure theory). Of course, the more polls released that show no impact, the better for McDonnell. That will serve to shift the narrative away from his previous writings.

*Yeah, I'm still too cheap to pony up for the Rasmussen subscription that would provide me with a more in-depth series of crosstabs for these polls. If you're reading this, have a Rasmussen subscription and would like to share that gender information with our readers, just drop a comment in the comments section below.

Recent Posts:
The 2012 Presidential Candidates on Twitter (Aug. 2009)

State of the Race: Virginia Governor (9/2/09)

State of the Race: New Jersey Governor (9/1/09)


Robert said...

Off-topic I know, but as I was reading Real Change By Newt Gingrich at the pre-race Diamond Rio concert at Atlanta Motor Speedway yesterday afternoon, I had some sudden insight. I am ready to make my prediction that Newt Gingrich will be the Republican nominee in 2012. He will do so by capturing the conservative base and the established moneyed interests. He is currently combining the strengths of the Nixon 1965-68 campaign with the 1973-1980 Reagan push and the 1994 Contract with America.I realize that Gingrich circa 09 has no chance of getting the nomination much less winning the Presidency. Then again, neither did "you won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore" in 1965, the peanut farmer from Plains in 1973, the star of Bedtime for Bonzo in 1977, the long-winded governor of a small southern state in 1989 or the African-American freshly elected Senator in 2005. Despite his limitations, I think that Newt is doing the right things to get the nomination.

Josh, I am sure that you remember that I was the first to proclaim Obama as the probable Democratic nominee in our discussion group in 2007. You probably also recall that I would only concede the McCain nomination until after everyone but Huckabee and Paul withdrew. I have the same feeling about Gingrich that I had about Obama. The twitter campaign is only part of his party-building operation. I highly recommend reading Real Change and following Newt's campaign closely.

BTW, there were not many others in the stands reading Newt's works. The concert was good. So was the race until the M&M Toyota started falling back.

Josh Putnam said...

I don't think your prediction is that far-fetched. First, Gingrich is being mentioned among the possibilities for 2012. You can't go anywhere in the presidential game if you aren't at least being talked about.

The poll numbers haven't been great but they have been consistent. (I still think Romney is the frontrunner, albeit the 2009 frontrunner.) There is some support for him out there and he is a well-respected voice in some corners of the party. And why shouldn't he be? He did spearhead the party's congressional reemergence from the desert in 1994.

And though it was choppy, his talk at the (UGA SPIA) Getzen Lecture back in April had the elements of a broader (presidential) vision for the country.

Robert said...

Good points in the SPIA summary. I see Gingrich using his plan to get the nomination and even getting elected if Obama loses the Independents. Wasn't Obama going to institute real change? I fail to see how Newt is going to really govern. He has the intellect of Obama but not his charisma. His Contract with America was much more successful as an electoral ploy than as a governing strategy.