Monday, August 29, 2016

Historical Presidential Nominee Favorability Ratings

A Monmouth University Poll released today (http://monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/) underscored the historically high level of negative attitudes toward both major party nominees for president. 
The number of voters who cannot bring themselves to voice a favorable opinion of either major party nominee is unlike anything witnessed in past elections.  Only 2% have a favorable opinion of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump while one-third (35%) do not have a favorable opinion of either candidate.  These results are unprecedented according to polling data going back more than 30 years.
The number of voters in elections going back to 1984 who had a favorable opinion of both candidates was never lower than 5% – in fact registering as high as 19% in 2000.  Conversely, the number of voters who did not have a favorable opinion of either nominee was never higher than 9% – a fraction of what is being seen in the current election.

Among the 1-in-3 voters in the current poll who do not have a favorable opinion of either nominee, 21% say they have an unfavorable opinion of both candidates, 7% have an unfavorable view of Clinton while expressing “no opinion” of Trump, and 8% have an unfavorable view of Trump while expressing “no opinion” of Clinton.  Even taking into account differences in question wording and methodology compared to past election polls, the number of voters who hold negative views of both candidates is indisputably a record high.
Monmouth combined the data from its four national polls conducted this summer to get a better sense of these disapproving voters.  Based on this four-poll average, those with an unfavorable opinion of both nominees are dividing their support almost evenly among Trump (24%), Clinton (21%), and Johnson (22%), with Stein at 8%.  Among those who hold a negative view of one nominee and no opinion of the other candidate, however, the vast majority are voting for the candidate of whom they have no personal opinion.  This includes 77% of the “unfavorable Clinton/no opinion Trump” group who are voting for Trump and 75% of the “unfavorable Trump/no opinion Clinton” group who are voting for Clinton.
This is not surprising because the vast majority of “no opinion on Clinton voters” lean Democrat and the vast majority of “no opinion on Trump” voters lean Republican.  It just seems that they can’t bring themselves to admitting to a favorable opinion of the person they are grudgingly supporting.
It’s also worth noting that there are more Republicans than Democrats among voters who have an unfavorable opinion of both candidates and this negative group is also much more likely to be college educated.  The demographic composition of each voter group is below.
Among those who have an unfavorable opinion of Trump but no opinion of Clinton:
·         44% describe themselves as Democrats and 33% are independents who lean Democrat
·         51% are white, 21% are black, 23% are Hispanic, and 6% are Asian or other race
·         42% are under age 35, 26% are 35-49, 21% are 50-64, and 10% are 65 and older
·         41% are men and 59% are women
·         39% have a college degree
Among those who have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton but no opinion of Trump:
·         45% describe themselves as Republicans and 29% are independents who lean Republican
·         84% are white, 3% are black, 7% are Hispanic, and 7% are Asian or other race
·         23% are under age 35, 18% are 35-49, 33% are 50-64, and 25% are 65 and older
·         58% are men and 42% are women
·         46% have a college degree
Among those who have an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton:
·         29% are Republicans and 21% lean Republican, 13% are Democrats and 20% lean Democrat, and 18% are self-described independents who do not lean toward either party.
·         80% are white, 6% are black, 10% are Hispanic, and 4% are Asian or other race
·         36% are under age 35, 24% are 35-49, 26% are 50-64, and 15% are 65 and older
·         54% are men and 46% are women
·         56% have a college degree
It’s also worth noting that nearly 1-in-4 of those voters who do not have a favorable opinion of either candidate are considered to be unlikely to turn out to vote this November.  This compares to less than 1-in-10 with a favorable opinion of one of the candidates who are considered to be unlikely voters.
For the record, among those who have a favorable opinion of Clinton only:
·         72% describe themselves as Democrats and 19% are independents who lean Democrat
·         58% are white, 24% are black, 12% are Hispanic, and 5% are Asian or other race
·         22% are under age 35, 26% are 35-49, 28% are 50-64, and 24% are 65 and older
·         35% are men and 65% are women
·         53% have a college degree
·         93% are voting for Clinton
Among those who have a favorable opinion of Trump only:
·         62% describe themselves as Republicans and 25% are independents who lean Republican
·         89% are white, 2% are black, 7% are Hispanic, and 2% are Asian or other race
·         16% are under age 35, 27% are 35-49, 31% are 50-64, and 26% are 65 and older
·         57% are men and 43% are women
·         42% have a college degree
·         94% are voting for Trump
Another historical note: the difference between the two candidates’ favorability ratings correlates extremely closely with the actual margin of victory.  For example, Barack Obama had a 6 point advantage over Mitt Romney in candidate favorability in 2012 and ended up winning the popular vote in that election by 4 points.  Ronald Reagan had a 17 point favorability advantage over Walter Mondale in 1984 and won that election by 18 points.  Even in the razor thin election of 2000, Al Gore had a one point favorability edge over George W. Bush and won the national popular vote by half a percentage point despite losing the Electoral College.  The same is true in 2004 (favor +5R; vote +3R), 1996 (favor +6D; vote +8D), 1992 (favor +5D; vote +6D), and 1988 (favor +8R; vote +7R).  According to the average of recent polls reported by HuffPost Pollster, Clinton has about a 6 point advantage on this metric.
There are also intriguing down-ballot implications.  Some pundits point to the 1996 election when the GOP tried to disconnect the Congressional races from its presidential nominee who was trailing in the polls.  In that year, however, opinion of Bob Dole was fairly positive, with 50% of voters holding a favorable opinion of him.  This year, the top of ticket nominees in both party are largely negative, with Trump doing significantly worse among his fellow Republicans than Clinton is doing among her fellow Democrats.  This suggests that the GOP could have a bigger problem holding its base in down ballot races where their nominee is seen as aligned too closely with Trump.


Monday, August 8, 2016

A Poll Sample's Party Composition

A note on party composition in polling samples.

Some commenters have noted that the Democratic advantage in the latest Monmouth University Poll is larger than in our poll taken just prior to the two parties' conventions . Specifically, voters in the current poll self-identify their party leanings as 35% Democrat, 26% Republican, and 39% independent or other.  In the July poll it was 33% Democrat, 28% Republican, and 39% independent or other.

Contrary to some misperceptions - largely by those unhappy with the overall results of the latest poll - Monmouth did not "choose" the sample to look this way.  Party identification is a self-reported attitude based on where people see themselves fitting in the current political environment.

It is not the same as party registration or partisan voting behavior (e.g. consistently voting in one party's primaries), which is a more stable metric. I wrote about these differences in more detail a few years ago (Party ID Apples and Oranges).  While the data in that analysis were drawn from New Jersey voter files and poll samples, the underlying message is the same.  Party self-identification can move with the political climate, while party registration is more stable.

Monmouth's 2016 presidential polling uses a combination of voter lists and random digit dialing. The voter list includes data on voter registration and past primary voting.  According to this metric, 34% of the Monmouth sample are registered or active Democrats, 34% are Republicans, and 32% are independents or something else.

In other words, the Monmouth sample is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to registration and past voting behavior.  Yet when asked how they see themselves politically, these same voters are 9 points more likely to call themselves Democrats rather than Republicans.

The question you should be asking yourself, in light of events over the past few weeks, is why that might be so.





Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Case for Including 3rd Party Candidates in Presidential Polls

by Ashley Medina
Monmouth University Polling Institute graduate assistant


As it becomes increasingly likely that the American public is now looking at their two major party candidates for the 2016 election, pollsters will begin to test the head to head matchup between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump with more frequency. However, what many of these pollsters may fail to account for are the number of voters who may be looking for another option come election day.

A recent NBC News/Survey Monkey poll found 16% of voters nationwide say they would vote for a generic “3rd party” candidate rather than vote for either Clinton or Trump. These numbers suggest that a substantial number of U.S. voters may be seeking another option this November. While the U.S. electorate has expressed similar sentiments in the past, a single third party candidate has received that large of a vote share only once before. 

In 1992, self-funded Reform Party candidate Ross Perot won nearly 19% of the total 20% of votes earned by independent and third party candidates. The next largest showing for a single independent or 3rd party candidate came in the 1968 presidential election when American Independent Party candidate George Wallace earned nearly all 14% of the third-party candidate votes that year. Perot ran again in 1996, but this time, earned just 8% of the 10% total vote that independent and 3rd party candidates received. The 1996 election marked just the third time since 1948 that third party and independent candidates combined received at least double digit support. 

If current polling remains consistent, the third party gains in this upcoming presidential election could reach double digits. However, there are some caveats facing third party candidates during this cycle. For one, there will likely be several candidates vying for independent and third party votes. Additionally, many of them are largely unknown to most Americans and are likely to remain unknown unless they can make it to the debate stage. In order to do so, these candidates must appear on enough state ballots to mathematically earn an Electoral College victory as well as average at least 15% in national polls. Without the opportunity to participate in presidential debates, they will struggle to increase their name recognition. 

However, only three polls to date have included individual third party candidates. The first of these, a national Monmouth University Poll taken in March, found that in a match-up between the two front runners, Hillary Clinton held a ten point lead over Donald Trump. When Libertarian third party candidate Gary Johnson was added to the mix, both Clinton's and Trump’s numbers fell as Johnson pulled in 11% of the vote. This pattern was mirrored in a similar national Public Policy Poll where Clinton held a 6 point lead over Trump, but Clinton’s lead shrunk to 4 points when two third party candidates were added to the mock ballot, with Johnson at 4% and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 2%. In a more recent national Fox News Poll, results were consistent with these third party findings. In this poll, when respondents were asked to choose first between Clinton and Trump, Trump led Clinton by 3 points, but when given the option of choosing between Clinton, Trump, and Johnson, Trump’s and Clinton’s vote share dropped 3 points each as Gary Johnson garnered 10% of the vote.

Given high voter discontent, it is likely that the third party vote will be higher than average this year, but we will not know just how high unless other polls include third party candidates in their surveys. As the rules stand, including these third party candidates in more polls is necessary if they are to have a chance at participating in the presidential debates.

The national polling requirements for third party candidates are rather unrealistic given the fact that a third party candidate was only once able to cross the 15% margin in the past 70 years. A look at Wallace’s regional appeal in 1968 suggests that this requirement may be unfair, as Wallace was able to earn enough Electoral College votes to impact the final outcome. More recently, in 2000, it is possible Ralph Nader’s 3% share of the vote was a contributing factor in that year’s race.

With this in mind, it is clear that even five percentage points in the polls can reflect the mood and preferences of significant segments of the U.S. voting base and as such, the voices of third party supporters should be represented on the presidential debate stage. It is for this reason that more pollsters should use methodologically sound ways to include these candidates in their polls. 

WATCH: Monmouth Poll Director discusses these issueshttp://bit.ly/1OLGHS6