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HUFFPOLLSTER: Cory Booker's Leading -- But By How Much?

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GLASSBORO, NJ - OCTOBER 9: U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker speaks during his second televised debate with Steve Lonegan at Pfleeger Concert Hall, Wilson Hall, Rowan University, on October 9, 2013 in Glassboro, New Jersey. Voters go to the polls November 5. (Photo by Michael Bryant-Pool/Getty Images) | Getty

Yes, Cory Booker still leads in New Jersey, but two new polls differ on the margin. The Post/ABC poll confirms that on the budget crisis, disapproval ratings are rising far faster for Republicans than for Democrats or President Obama. And you'll need to read all the way to the end to find the very latest in state-of-the-art poll 'unskewing.' This is HuffPollster for Monday, October 14, 2013.

ONE POLL FINDS CORY BOOKER'S LEAD NARROWING SLIGHTLY - Monmouth: "Democrat Cory Booker holds a 10 point lead over Republican Steve Lonegan in the race for U.S. Senate, which is narrower than prior margins in the Monmouth University Poll. Despite being seen as more in step with the views of his fellow New Jerseyans, voters continue to express concern about Booker’s motives in seeking higher office. Booker currently holds a 52% to 42% lead over Lonegan among New Jerseyans likely to vote in Wednesday’s special election. This is down from the 13 point lead he held two weeks ago and the 16 point edge he enjoyed during the summer." [Monmouth]

WHILE ANOTHER FINDS HIM STILL FAR AHEAD - Rutgers-Eagleton: "With just two days to go until the Oct. 16 special U.S. Senate election, Newark Mayor Cory Booker holds a 58 percent to 36 percent lead over former Republican Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan among likely voters, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds. Another 3 percent prefer someone else, and about 3 percent remain undecided." [Eagleton Poll]

Pollster 'puzzled' by the difference - David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers Eagleton poll, reports that he is "puzzled" by the difference between the two polls. After looking at their data "over and over," Redlawsk offers a few theories: Unlike Monmouth, Redlawsk says, their poll shows women and independents far more likely to support Booker, and that Rutgers uses live, rather than automated phone calls, and random digit dialing (RDD) rather than a listed sample. They also use a different likely voter model. Redlawsk: "The upshot is that we report numbers quite different from other recent polls. Are we certain about them? Of course not – there are many reasons we could be way off. But we could also be within the ballpark. In the end, every poll is an estimate and some will be on the mark and some will be off. Take each one with a grain of salt. Looking across all polls, if I had to guess (as opposed to poll), I think Booker will win with a margin in the mid-teens...Finally, we could have simply not released this poll, but we might as well put it out there and see if others can see a problem that we are missing."

Automated calls I: flashback - Poll watchers may be experiencing a sense of deja vu, because four years ago, the automated and live interviewer polls produced a different result in the New Jersey's governor's race. The average of three live interviewer polls showed a near dead heat between incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie, while the average of three automated polls gave Christie a four point lead. The automated polls turned out to be right. Christie prevailed by a little over four percentage points (48.8 to 44.5 percent). []

Automated calls II: Monmouth's test - The methods employed by the Monmouth poll offer two reasons to question whether recorded-voice automation is the critical distinction between the two new surveys. First, unlike most other surveys that contact voters over landline phones using automated methods, the Monmouth poll also contacted voters over mobile phones using live interviewers. More importantly, in his final survey, Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray included a separate sample of 388 likely voters contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone. "The results were nearly identical," Murray tells HuffPollster via email, "which is why I merged the two samples to allow greater power in the sub-group analysis."

Watch the likely voters - The way the polls sampled and modeled the likely electorate is arguably more consequential than the use or lack of automated calls. The Monmouth poll sample voters from a list of registered voters, while the Rutgers poll used a random digit methodology to contact a sample of all adults. The Monmouth poll used the actual "vote history" records for individual voters on the lists to narrow their sample to those who had actually voted "in at least two of the last four general elections." According to Murray, they also screened further, "by asking a vote intent question as well as a question to assess voter awareness that there is an election this week." The Rutgers poll had to rely entirely on self-reported questions about voter registration, past voter history, intent to vote and awareness of the election date. Of the many differences between the two polls, the likely voter selection methods are the ones to watch.

ANOTHER SURVEY SHOWS REPUBLICANS IN HOT WATER - HuffPost: "Nearly three-quarters of Americans disapprove of Republicans' handling of the budget crisis, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll released Monday. Disapproval of the GOP, which has risen steadily since just before the government shutdown began, is now at 74 percent, up 11 points from late September. A majority of Americans are also discontented with Democrats' role in the budget negotiations. But disapproval ratings for Democrats in Congress and for President Barack Obama, both of which started at a lower level than disapproval of Republicans in Congress, have remained largely unchanged in the past two weeks. Sixty-one percent of Americans now dislike congressional Democrats' handling of the crisis, while 53 percent dislike Obama's. Those are rises of only 5 points and 3 points, respectively, from before the shutdown began." [HuffPost, WaPost release, ABC release]

OBAMA DROPS IN APPROVAL ON GALLUP DAILY TRACKING - Public polling since the government shutdown has generally shown little change in the president's approval rating, but over the past few days, the Gallup tracking poll has hinted at some erosion. On the Gallup poll, Obama's approval has declined from a high of 47 percent as measured between October 5--7, and 41 percent over the last three nights. However, Gallup's approval measure routinely varied between 49 and 42 percent over the two month period leading up to the shutdown. Disapproval of Obama's performance registered at 53 percent over the last three days, several points higher than at any point in recent months, though it hit 52 percent in the days just after the shutdown and varied between 42 and 50 percent in the two months before the shutdown. [Gallup]

How lasting? - Again, day to day variation is an inherent part of the daily tracking poll. Is this latest dip part of the usual variation? When we average the Gallup results over 9 day periods, the change before and after the shutdown is still slight. Obama's approval as measured from October 5--13 (43.3 percent) is just over a point lower than it was in the 9 day period just before the shutdown (44.7%). The results from three other recent weekly polls, plus the Rasmussen daily automated tracking poll, show little or no change. It would make sense for Obama's numbers to fall as consumer confidence has plummeted on Gallup's tracking over the last week, but it will take more time to know if the bigger apparent change on their 3-day samples is something that will persist.


-GWU political scientist John Sides: "If this new Gallup approval number is real, it illustrates a possibility I raised several days ago [link]...In general, people are underestimating how much the shutdown could hurt Obama among public....This is not to say that Obama's approval numbers won't improve. Just that too much commentary focuses only on shutdown's damage to GOP. [@MonkeyCageBlog here, here and here]

AMERICANS SUPPORT 'CLEAN CR' - Emily Swanson: "A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents support a temporary extension of the federal budget at current spending levels, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll -- at least until they hear that changes to President Barack Obama's health care law might be part of the deal. The new poll found that 58 percent of Americans would support, and only 26 percent would oppose, 'a temporary budget bill that would reopen the government for 6 weeks at the same spending levels as before the shutdown while Democrats and Republicans negotiate a longer-term budget bill.'" [HuffPost]

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

-47 percent of Americans expect to delay their retirement and 82 percent expect to work while retired. [AP, Toplines]

-Rasmussen Reports has Democrats leading by seven percentage points on the generic House vote. [Rasmussen]

-Nathan Fletcher leads a poll of the San Diego mayoral race. [KPBS]

-Dan Balz reviews how surprising polls from Gallup and NBC/Wall Street Journal led to a "stocktaking" by Republican leaders. [WaPost]

-Seth Masket looks at theories on whether that the shutdown will affect Republicans' 2014 chances. [Pacific Standard]

-Nate Cohn dives deep into gerrymandering and why he believes it is probably not responsible for the shutdown. [New Republic]

-Harry Enten says Ted Cruz proves that polarization stems more from red state voters than gerrymandering. [The Guardian]

-This poll seems skewed. [I Love Charts]