Thursday, May 31, 2012

NBC/Marist Gets It Right

On the heels of last week's NBC News/Marist polls that underpolled Republicans and made it look as though the president was ahead when he really wasn't, today's NBC polls got it pretty much exactly right. That's good news for Obama in Nevada, Colorado, and Iowa.

In Nevada, Obama leads Romney by 48%-46%. The actual voter breakdown is D=42 R=37 I=21. NBC's poll was D=40 R=38 I=21. There was a slight underpolling of Democrats, but that's only better news for Obama.

In Colorado, Obama leads Romney 46%-45%. The actual voter breakdown is D=33 R=35 I=32. NBC's poll was D=31 R=35 I=34. Almost exactly correct. Nice job NBC

In Iowa, Obama and Romney are tied at 44%. The actual voter breakdown is D=34 R=31 I=35. NBC's poll was D=34 R=35 I=31. There was a slight overpolling of Republicans, but otherwise the results seem solid.

There has been a great deal of talk about the polling in the presidential election, but 5+ months out, much of the results are not predictive of what will probably happen in November. Yes, Obama is stuck nationally at around 47%, but his approval numbers are close to 50% and he's leading in most of the states that he needs to win to be reelected. Romney is polling close to the president in the states above and is ahead in Ohio according to a Rasmussen poll out on Thursday.

My sense is that the unemployment numbers for May, out on Friday, will do a great deal to shape the race before the summer. Remember that the June numbers will be released during the July 4 holiday week and July's numbers come out in August when the Olympics will steal the show and, well, it'll be August.

June could also be a make or break month for other reasons, including the Wisconsin recall race, and two Supreme Court decisions on health care and immigration. Right now Obama is still the favorite, but that could change quickly depending on these external events.

Please join the conversation at and on Twitter @rigrundfest 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Your Lyin' Eyes: Why the NBC Marist Poll is Not Good News for the President

Once again, a prestigious polling organization publishes a presidential election poll with provocative top-line numbers, but once again, it's the poll's internal numbers that provide the real news. On Tuesday, it was the Quinnipiac poll showing Mitt Romney with a 6 point lead in Florida that was misleading because it underpolled Democrats. Today, it's the NBC News Marist poll of battleground states showing Obama with a lead. Why are those results suspect? Let's take a look.

In Ohio, according to the poll, Obama has a 48%-42% lead over Romney and NBC reports a
D=37  R=28  I=34 voter identification breakdown.

The problem is that the actual Ohio breakdown is
D=36  R=37  I=27.

Republicans were underpolled by 9%. There's Obama's margin in the poll.

The same is true for Florida. The poll results show Obama leading Romney 48%-44%, with a party breakdown of:
D=43 R=35 I=21

The actual party breakdown in Florida is:
D=36 R=40 I=24

Again, NBC News oversampled Democrats by 7% and undersampled Republicans by 5%. That's why Obama is leading. And even with that much discrepancy, he's only leading by 4%. Not good.

Virginia likewise provides little reassuring news for the president. The poll's party breakdown was:
D=39 R=29 I=39

And the actual  party registration in Virginia is:
D=36 R=39 I=25

Again, Republicans were undersampled to the tune of 10%. So with a 48%-44% lead, that undersampling is Obama's margin.

All three of these states are close and will remain so throughout the campaign. It would be nice if the pollsters were giving us more accurate information.

Please join the conversation at and on Twitter @rigrundfest 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Truth Behind the Florida Poll

The headline number was Romney 47% Obama 41% in the Quinnipiac poll of Florida voters released today. It's too bad that the media can't read a poll effectively or analyze its results.

The search for the relevant numbers requires that you scroll all the way to the bottom of the poll and click on the Demographic Summary link. A Word document will open (and open your mind) and reveal that the pollsters seriously oversampled Independents, and undersampled Democrats. From the survey:

PARTY IDENTIFICATION - Generally speaking, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?

 Republican                 34%     640
 Democrat                   31      493
 Independent                29      507
 Other/DK/NA                 6       82

First of all, I love the "or what" part of the question. Can't Quinnipiac come up with other language, such as "or other political party?" 

Second, the actual voter registration split in Florida is:

As you can see, Democrats were underpolled to the tune of 9%. True, Republicans were also undersampled, but relative to their actual numbers, not by much. If anything, the oversampling of Independents should be of some concern for Obama, since they are probably the difference in the poll.

Usually Quinnipiac is a solid pollster, but on this one they missed the boat.

Please join the conversation at and on Twitter @rigrundfest 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Who Wrote the Book of Face?

My wife has given me permission to gloat a bit after I said this about Facebook, and Wal-Mart, by-the-by, yesterday on this very same blog. The reason? Wall Street had a nice day today, but the 'book fell on its Face, dropping to $34.03, almost $4 from its opening last week. Meanwhile, a real company that makes real products that are really, really popular and, by-the-by, expensive relative to their competition, Apple, climbed 5.8% (%!) to $561.28.

This spells short term trouble for Facebook and other social networking sites considering going public. Perhaps it's just the leftover blahs from the past few weeks. Perhaps it's the lingering blah form the remnants of Recession George. Perhaps this is a blip and the stock will rise commensurate with the hype as the economy improves.

Perhaps, but I don't think so.

Facebook will never be like Apple or Google until they actually have something to sell that doesn't involve people checking the box on a privacy policy that prints out at Moby Dick-like length and, by-the-by doesn't really protect your privacy. They have loads of information, but now have to find a way to sell it in a responsible, green, diversity-friendly way.

I wish them every good luck with that.

Please join the conversation at (for free) and on Twitter @rigrundfest 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Facebook and Wal-Mart: With Friends Like These...

Big business has been in the news recently, and that's not necessarily a good thing. JPMorganChase lost upwards of $3 billion dollars on hedge trades that should not be legal, but that the bank actively lobbied to protect. Hewlett-Packard is laying off 30,000 employees in an attempt to become more competitive, and in a blow to television networks everywhere, Dish Network has developed a DVR that will automatically skip over commercials. Yes, what you just heard was the spinal shiver of a thousand communications executives. From the article:
Ted Harbert, the chairman of NBC Broadcasting, struck a similar note at his network’s presentation on Monday, calling the Dish feature an insult to the television industry. “Just because technology gives you the ability to do something, does that mean you should? Not always,” he said.
An insult? Hardly. Aren't we supposed to honor creativity and problem solving? That's what Mitt Romney says. And he's destroyed leveraged lots of companies.

Two companies stand out at present: Wal-Mart is in the news for nefarious activities (again) and Facebook just went public, but the stock price, which was supposed to soar, didn't even get as high as your average Michigan tree (the right height, you know). Mark Zuckerberg made a bundle. You probably made $1.28. Though to be fair, a problem at Nasdaq might have had something to do with the price, according to this article. We'll have to wait until Monday for confirmation.

It's simply not OK for a company to act as Wal-Mart has acted over the years and expect that simple apologies would wipe away the tainted profits. Wal-Mart denied its employees medical insurance coverage by manipulating hours and schedules. It fought against unionization and continued to pay low wages until protests uncovered its hypocrisy. Some managers even locked in the cleaning staff overnight in an attempt to make sure they squeezed every penny from their labor. Now Wal-Mart is accused of bribery and covering up potential crimes in Mexico (and possible the United States, if this story is correct).

These activities are unacceptable. They were unacceptable when Wal-Mart first practiced them and they are unacceptable now, and any 10-year-old would tell you that people should not treat their employees this way. There is no apology that will sway me otherwise. Yes, Wal-Mart's prices are low, but the store near me in New Jersey is dirty and I get a dirty feeling just walking into its front door. It's as if I'm giving up some of my self-respect just by shopping there. So I don't. I know others who feel the same way.

Facebook is another matter. Now that it's made some people very, very wealthy, it's going to be more of a prime target than it already has been. I won't buy anything from Facebook, I don't take its recommendations when they pop up on my page, and I really don't like the new layout I've been forced to accept. I love my friends, but I don't respond to their requests for birthdays or games or school pages because I find the Facebook notice that comes with these invitations, the one that says "this application will have access to all of my information" much too intrusive. Perhaps I wasn't built for social networking. Perhaps I'm too old to appreciate the ease at which Facebook can improve my life. No matter. Facebook will not see a penny from me.

And that's the real danger isn't it? Haven't we been told that Facebook's value lies in its collected data? Our likes and dislikes, entertainment preferences and group memberships? We have become a world of sharers, but at some point in the not-too-distant future, I can see the backlash. Facebook will go too far (if they haven't already) and use our information for purposes that will go beyond the pale. The reaction will be swift and intense. Public pressure will force Facebook and/or Congress to scale back its data mining. Facebook will lose the ability to track our movements, and thus its ability to make money. It will have billions of users, but its stock price will be stuck at $16.

When I think of all the advertising and public relations these companies pay for, you'd think they would pay closer attention to their actions. Perhaps they will adjust and thrive. They'll just have to do it without my money.

Please join the conversation at (for free) and on Twitter @rigrundfest 

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Campaign Cometh

If anything is clear about the presidential election so far, it's that nothing is very clear at all. We have reached the first phase of the campaign where the key is for both candidates to define themselves and each other in diametrically opposite terms. Where does the race stand so far?

Both men are winning North Carolina, according to the latest polls. This might have something to do with both of their policy pronouncements concerning marriage equality, which seems to be hurting Obama in some polls, but the long term trend in the country points decisively towards more people accepting marriage equality. In the end, if most North Carolinians voted to ban marriage equality and Obama just came out in support of it, that leads me to believe that the state might be out of his reach.

Electoral College projections have been fairly consistent so far, with Obama leading 243-170 in RCP (Wisconsin was just moved from Obama back to toss-up), by 303-235 at and by 284-170 at HuffPost/Pollster. Most of those state polls were taken last month, so let's see what May's data shows. Mitt has seen a bump since the primaries ended and that will probably raise his state profiles a bit.

And what about the issues of the day? That depends on the issue. Obviously the economy is the country's number one concern and my view is that May's jobs numbers, to be released in June, might be his last opportunity to claim that the employment picture is improving sufficiently to show that the economy is moving in a positive direction. Most people will not pay attention in July and August, although if gas prices drop enough, people might feel better about their prospects for the fall.

Word now is that the GOP is going to press the debt battle over the summer and force the president's hand on raising the debt ceiling, which really doesn't need to be done until December. John Boehner believes that this is a winner for his party, but I'm not so sure. Much of this election will also be fought over Medicare and if Obama frames the issue correctly, he can run against any severe cuts the Ryan budget proposes. He can also say that Romney favors the wealthy and the military over health care. If the Supreme Court invalidates the health care law, then Romney will have a freer hand to say he'll keep the most popular parts of the law (both of them) and make responsible additions once he's elected.

If the Republicans really want to lose this election, though, then running anti-Obama ads focusing on Reverend Jeremiah Wright, as reported in Thursday's New York Times, is just the way to do it. As a strategy, this might appeal to the far right wing of the party, but these ads will spark a tremendous backlash against Romney. Americans like Barack Obama, but are not terribly pleased with his policies. Going after him personally is exactly the wrong way to defeat him. Plus, I'm sure there will also be ads aimed at his support for marriage equality. Has the Republican Party gone so far right that they think it would benefit them to run a racist, anti-gay campaign? It's possible, but I'm thinking that cooler heads will prevail and will be able to walk them back from the precipice. Mitt's already come out against the ads. Let's hope that's enough to convince the PAC not to run them.

Please join the conversation at and on Twitter @rigrundfest 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Turning Point In Marriage Equality

Mark this day because it represents a turning point in the fight for equality in the United States. The President of the United States has stated his belief that adults who love each other should share in the same civil rights as other adults who love each other. Suddenly, the president's new campaign slogan, Forward, has new resonance. Under Obama's leadership, we have the opportunity to move forward towards a future where the guarantees of the 14th Amendment: "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws" are applied to all citizens.

North Carolina might have just slammed the door on marriage equality and civil unions, but I have no doubt that ultimately that kind of discrimination and denial of rights will be overturned, and they should be. No state, even under the guise of federalism, should be able to hide behind a referendum when it comes to rights. This is why the Founders (you remember the Founders: This is a country about Founders) created a republic. They recognized the mischief inherent in allowing democratic votes on suspect propositions.

And where is Mitt Romney on the issue? Backwards. Mitt doesn't believe that other people should share in civil rights because he, personally, doesn't think that gays should have marriage equality. Isn't that quaint? What other civil rights is Mitt going to deny people because he, personally doesn't believe in them? I notice that he's leaving caffeine drinkers alone, for now at least. Be thankful.

Of course, the big question is how this is going to affect the presidential race and more specifically, Obama's reelection chances now that he's jumped into the public pool with both feet. (By the way, without civil rights protections, Barack Obama would not have been able to swim in that public pool in North Carolina. Just sayin'.) My sense, and my hope, is that this helps him with the younger people who don't seem quite as threatened by the idea of two loving adults actually being able to get married and share in all its legal bliss.

I could be wrong, but if I am, it will be because too many Americans don't realize that it doesn't matter who you love, just as it doesn't matter what religion, race, gender, or creed you call yourself. The genius of this country is that all citizens are guaranteed equal protection. All. No exceptions. That's something I will gladly fight for.

Please join the conversation at and on Twitter @rigrundfest 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Polling Report: May 6, 2012

Only six more months to go before the election and the polling is just beginning to round into shape. Keep in mind that most people are still not paying attention to the race and any polls are going to fluctuate between now and September when the race will begin in earnest.

Friday's jobs numbers have not yet been integrated into the polling, but I suspect that by Tuesday or Wednesday we'll have a good idea if they've had a significant effect on the race. As I see it, Obama has one more month's worth of data to stake a claim for enough of a recovery that will persuade people the economy is on the right track. If the numbers improve significantly in July and August that will help, but most voters will not pay attention over the summer.

Let's look at the numbers, shall we?

Obama Job Approval

These polls have tightened over the past month, with the aggregate numbers showing Obama with 47.8% approval and 47.7% disapproval. A look at the average indicates that Democracy Corps, Fox and CBS News/NY Times polls are probably outliers. The key numbers here are the ones that show Obama near 50% approval (Gallup and Rasmussen). Remember that in the fall, Obama was polling under 40% in some of the Gallup surveys and in the low 40s in Rasmussen. The improving economy is probably guiding the rise, but I suspect that the president's foreign affairs accomplishments are also helping him.

Head-To-Head Match-Ups

The latest tracking polls, Gallup and Rasmussen, have Obama at +1 and -1, respectively, and every other poll in the RCP average has the president either leading or the race tied.

It's interesting to note that neither campaign has done anything close to laying out a vision for what they're going to do if elected. The president will begin (I think) to do that this week with his campaign kickoff in Ohio and Virginia.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney's campaign has been nothing but reactive and he's in real danger of allowing Obama to define him before he has a chance to introduce himself to American voters. He'll outlive some of the comments he made during the Republican primaries about hanging out with rich people and how Michigan's trees are just the right height. The problem is that these quotes are still part of the discussion and until Romney replaces them with his own slogan or vision for the future, they'll hand around. Attack politics does work, even though both campaigns will decry its use, but you can't win by only attacking your opponent. You have to say something, and neither candidate is doing that.

The Ballots

The latest RCP electoral map is here, and shows Obama with a 253-170 lead over Romney. I'm not as confident that Iowa and Missouri are toss-up states, so I've put them in the GOP column. I think that new polling will show the president to be losing in those two states.

The Huffington Post/Pollster electoral map made its debut on April 25 and shows Obama with a 298-170 lead, giving him Florida and Ohio, but leaving Virginia as a toss-up. That seems to contradict a new Quinnipiac poll that shows Romney ahead by 1 in Florida, and a Washington Post poll showing Obama with a +7 lead in Virginia.

Obama has a slight lead in Ohio, but as this analysis by seems to indicate, the president is not polling as well there as he is nationally, and if Ohio is truly a bellwether, he'll need to improve his numbers.

Election Projection has the president with a 303-235 lead, but I think is somewhat optimistic.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Ballot is tied. Last month the GOP was up by 1.4%. Indiana is now a state of interest for the Democrats since it's likely that Richard Lugar is going to lose the Republican primary battle to Tea Party favorite and Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Democrat Joe Donnelly awaits the winner and could squeak by in an upset with an appeal to Indiana's more moderate voters.

 That's it for now. Watch for updates here, at and on Twitter @rigrundfest