POLITICS
06/05/2013 04:49 pm ET

POLLSTER UPDATE: New Polls A Mixed Bag For Obama

AP

New national polls find good and bad news for Obama. Stu Rothenberg takes Lake Research to the woodshed. And where else can you find a debate about poll aggregators? This is the HuffPost Pollster update for Wednesday, June 5, 2013.

NBC/WSJ POLL FINDS GOOD AND BAD NEWS FOR OBAMA - The good news? His overall job and favorable ratings are stable. NBC'S First Read: "According to our new NBC/WSJ poll, President Obama has absorbed the political punch from the trio of controversies (IRS/Benghazi/leak investigations) that have hit his administration in the last few weeks. His overall job-approval rating stands at 48%, up 1 point since April, and his fav/unfav rating is at 47%--40%, which is essentially unchanged since that last poll." [First Read]

The bad news? - NBC's Mark Murray: "But just 46 percent give him high marks for having strong leadership qualities (down from 53 percent in January); only 42 percent give him high marks for being honest and straightforward (down from 47 percent); and just 21 percent give him high marks for changing business as usual in Washington (down from 28 percent)." [NBC]

Also mixed view of Obama's role - The Wall Street Journal's Patrick O'Connor and Rebecca Ballhaus: "A majority of poll respondents, some 55%, said IRS scrutiny of conservative groups raised some level of doubt about the administration's 'overall honesty and integrity.' Similar shares said the same about the Justice Department's subpoena of reporter phone records and about the administration's handling of the deadly terrorist attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya...Americans at this point don't hold the president personally responsible for any of the three major controversies that have dominated Washington since early May, the Journal/NBC poll found. In each case, the share saying Mr. Obama isn't responsible or only slightly responsible was larger than those who say he is mainly or totally responsible.” [WSJ]

BLOOMBERG POLL FINDS JOB APPROVAL DROP, IRS SKEPTICISM - Bloomberg's Mike Dorning: “Almost half of Americans say President Barack Obama isn’t telling the truth when he says he didn’t know the Internal Revenue Service was giving extra scrutiny to the applications of small government groups seeking tax-exempt status. Forty-seven percent of Americans say they don’t believe Obama compared with 40 percent who say he is being truthful, according to a Bloomberg National Poll of 1,002 adults conducted May 31 through June 3...Obama’s job approval rating declined six percentage points since the last Bloomberg poll in February, to 49 percent from 55 percent, returning to its lowest level since last September....The president’s personal popularity has been more resilient. Fifty-three percent of Americans say they have a favorable impression of him, down from 56 percent who said so in February.” [Bloomberg]

Do the two polls conflict? Keep in mind that the Bloomberg had not polled since mid-February, while NBC/WSJ tracks presidential approval on a monthly basis. Since February, Bloomberg shows a six percentage point decline while NBC/WSJ shows a two-point drop (from 50 to 48 percent). Not surprisingly, the Pollster chart, which incorporates all national polls measuring Obama's approval rating, shows a trend that falls somewhere in between, falling almost three points since February 12 (from 50.4 to 47.7 percent as of this writing), and roughly one percentage point (from 48.7 percent) since May 4. [Pollster]

ROTHENBERG SAYS POLLSTER CROSSED A LINE - Election handicapper Stu Rothenberg questions whether the Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners crossed an ethical line in seeking to "discredit" a May USC Price/Los Angeles Times survey that they claimed understated the standing of their client,Wendy Greuel, in the L.A. mayor's race she lost to Eric Garcetti. The poll proved to be accurate. "Clearly, the five Lake Research members were implying that the Times poll was little more than a thinly veiled effort to help the candidate preferred by the newspaper’s editorial page. Accusing the Times of being involved in a conspiracy to use a bogus poll to help Garcetti was nothing short of a rash, unsubstantiated accusation of bias and fraud...The charge — and the entire memo — was all the more head-scratching because Lake Research Partners never referred to its own survey. It cited other polls, but never its own data, which seemed like an obvious omission. If it had the data to contradict the Times survey, why didn’t Lake present it? That’s normally what campaigns and pollsters do. In fact, the firm didn’t have recent polling." [Roll Call, see also our review of the L.A. polling]

Rothenberg talks to Lake Research - More: "[Lake Research pollster Bob] Meadow pointed out that the memo I’ve cited was not distributed to the media but was meant primarily for Greuel’s supporters and contributors, both of whom might be deflated by the news of the LA Times poll. It sought to remind supporters that 'polls come and go' and reassure them that 'they shouldn’t panic.'" According to Rothenberg, Meadow also questioned the timing of the poll and argued that in addition to providing data to a campaign, a pollster "should also support its campaigns 'where possible.'" Rothenberg: "While I agree with Meadow that consultants can try to help their campaigns 'where possible,' I would argue that pollsters have an obligation to make certain that campaigns don’t misuse their survey data and that they, themselves, don’t become little more than spin doctors for their campaigns. Professional pollsters ought to protect their reputations first, even ahead of promoting their candidates." [ibid]

WEIGHTING TO AVERAGES? - Elizabeth Wilner's meditation on "polling addiction" that we linked to on Monday included worries about "poll aggregators," such as Pollster, RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight: "[Poll Aggregators] argue that averaging together individual trial-heat results allows sound surveys to compensate for sketchier ones. Some even take pains to try and address the issue of tracking-poll volume. Their case is backed up by the relative accuracy of their averages. But their work diminishes the value of the individual sound surveys....What if some pollsters start weighting their results so they are more in line with the aggregators’ averages? As a rule, pollsters don’t want to be outliers—look at what Gallup has gone through. Over the years, we’ve seen certain pollsters produce trial heats that are outliers at first, then magically fall in line with the majority of other polls shortly before a vote. [Cook Political]

Diminishes value? - Political scientist and statistician Drew Linzer, who aggregated polls during the 2012 election at the site Votamatic.org, took to Twitter to respond: "Fair worries here, but poll aggregators 'diminish the value of individual sound surveys'? No...Also inaccurate: aggregators 'argue that averaging together trial-heat results allows sound surveys to compensate for sketchier ones.' Poll aggregation is mainly about canceling out sampling error, pure and simple. If we...can erase some house effects, that's a bonus. Even the 'high quality' polls have sampling error. Obviously, would prefer only high quality polls, but this is the world we live in. And if you think I'm not concerned about herding or other bad practices, read me fretting here. High quality polling will always have value. If anything, aggregation helps judge which pollsters are good/bad." [Tweets via Storify by @DrewLinzer]

WEDNESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to more news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Gallup's U.S. Job creation index increased in May to the highest score since 2008. [Gallup]

--72 percent of Americans recognize Chris Christie, and both Democrats and Republicans rate him favorably. [http://www.gallup.com/poll/162911/new-jersey-gov-christie-broad-cross-party-appeal.aspx]

-Andrew Cuomo's job approval now at 53 percent, down from 74 percent in December. [Quinnipiac]

-The 2016 Republican presidential race is wide open. [YouGov]

-Google has a higher favorable rating than Apple or Facebook. [WaPost]

-Sean Trende explains why Chris Christie's handling of a Senate vacancy might be a sign of "political genius." [RCP]

-David Hill says Republicans should target "The Resentfuls" in 2014: recent college graduates who can't find jobs and are underwater on student loans. [The Hill]

-Mark Mellman says partisanship is the real advantage of incumbency. [The Hill]

-Seth Masket maps the states with the most ideologically extreme legislators. [Mischiefs of Factions]

-Ross Schulman responds to Quentin Hardy: "Nobody said Big Data is truth." [DisCo]

-Ninety-one percent of American adults own cellphones, and for the first time, a majority are smartphones. [Pew]

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