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HUFFPOLLSTER: Just How Republican Are White Southern Voters?

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A Nate Cohn article about Barack Obama's low support from white voters in the South in 2012 kicks off a debate with political scientists. Different questions about Medicaid expansion in Virginia get very different answers. And New Hampshire lets message-testing pollsters live free again. This is HuffPollster for Friday, April 25, 2014.

HOW LOW WAS OBAMA'S SUPPORT IN THE SOUTH? - Nate Cohn kicked off what has turned into an online debate among political scientists about the true level of Barack Obama's 2012 support among white voters in the South: "From the high plains of West Texas to the Atlantic Coast of Georgia, white voters opposed Mr. Obama’s re-election in overwhelming numbers. In many counties 90 percent of white voters chose Mitt Romney, nearly the reversal of the margin by which black voters supported Mr. Obama. While white Southerners have been voting Republican for decades, the hugeness of the gap was new….It is no exaggeration to suggest that in these states the Democrats have become the party of African Americans and that the Republicans are the party of whites."
[NYT]

Larry Bartels questioned the numbers: "Cohn notes that 'white Southerners have been voting Republican for decades,' but asserts that 'the hugeness of the gap [in 2012] was new.' Oddly, though, there is no indication anywhere in the 1,000-word piece of how many white Southerners voted Republican in 2012 or in any previous election. Reputable surveys such as the American National Election Study and the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project suggest that Barack Obama won 30 to 35 percent of Southern white votes in 2012. That would be roughly consistent with the performance of Democratic candidates in recent presidential elections — and roughly five times the share of the African American vote won by Mitt Romney. [WashPost]

Cohn responded: "In vigorously disagreeing, Mr. Bartels offers a single piece of evidence to the contrary: post-election surveys that show that Mr. Obama received between 30 and 35 percent of the vote in the South. But the exit polls, conducted on Election Day of actual voters rather than post-election, show that Mr. Obama received only 28 percent of the Southern white vote. And the definition of the South in those polls is much larger than the region about which I was writing. The polls include states like Maryland, Florida, Delaware and Virginia — states that were separate from my argument." [NYT]

Michael McDonald notes differences in southern white precincts: "Fortunately for Democrats, Mr. Cohn's analysis of the changing nature of Southern electorates falls short. Starting with the Democrats' embrace of Civil Rights in the 1960s the South drifted from the old Solid South of monolithic Democratic control towards Republican control, reaching a peak in the last decade. Since then states like North Carolina and Virginia have drifted back towards the Democrats….we can easily rate as "false" Mr. Cohn's assertion that Southern Whites' loyalty to the G.O.P. is nearing that of Blacks to Democrats, as political scientist Dr. Bartels took Mr. Cohn to task for. This may be true for some Southern Whites, but not all of them." [HuffPost]

IS THE MEDICAID EXPANSION LOSING POPULARITY IN VIRGINIA? - Christopher Newport University's Wason Center: "Virginians say 53% to 41% that they oppose Medicaid expansion. This is a reversal from the Wason Center survey released February 3, which showed general support for Medicaid expansion, 56% to 38%."' [CNU]

But the question wording is different from the last survey - David Weigel quotes Democratic pollster Geoff Garin: "The result is totally driven by the way the question is framed and the information in the question, rather than a reflection of what voters might be hearing about the issue on their own. Here is the question they asked in this poll:

Democrats propose to subsidize private insurance for 400,000 uninsured and low income Virginians by using federal Medicaid money that would otherwise not come to Virginia. Republicans oppose this expansion because they fear the federal Medicaid money will not come as promised, and also say the current Medicaid program has too much waste and abuse and needs reformed before it is expanded

[Garin:] Of course, that is not how Democrats would describe their position on this. In the previous poll by CNU, they asked the question in a more neutral way and got a much more positive result: 56% support, 38% oppose. I think it is pretty likely that if they asked the question the same way this time they would have gotten a more similar result. Here is the previous wording:

Medicaid is a health care program for families and individuals with low income that is funded by both federal and state tax dollars. Currently, Virginia is faced with a decision about whether to expand the Medicaid program to cover an additional 400,000 mostly working poor Virginians who are uninsured. In general, do you support Medicaid expansion or oppose it?" [Slate]

OBAMACARE GETS 'A (SMALL) BOOST' - Kathy Frankovic: "American opinions of the Affordable Care Act have appeared set in stone – for the last few months Economist/YouGov Polls has tracked respondents who have many more negative than positive things to say about the law, and more wanting it repealed than not. But the high enrollments announced last week have helped create what is either the beginnings of an improvement in evaluations or a one-week blip upwards in support. Although nearly half the public still believes the Affordable Care Act is mostly a failure, in this week’s poll more than ever before, 25%, are willing to say it is mostly a success, capping what has been a clearly rising trend line in positive assessment of the law." [YouGov]

2014-04-25-YouGovObamacareSuccess.png

NEW HAMPSHIRE CLARIFIES POLLING RESTRICTIONS - Howard Fienberg: "Governor Maggie Hassan (D) made New Hampshire safe for polling yesterday by signing a bill into law that eliminates her state’s restrictions on legitimate research….S.B. 196, sponsored by Senators David Pierce (D-Lebanon) and Bradley, redefines a 'push poll' as a call conducted 'for purposes other than bona fide survey and opinion research,' but which is made to seem like a survey and is 'part of a series of like telephone calls that consist of more than 2,000 connected calls that last less than 2 minutes' for a federal election, 'more than 500 connected calls that last less than 2 minutes' in most state or local elections, or 'more than 200 connected calls that last less than 2 minutes in state representative elections.'...For many years, New Hampshire law has required 'any person who engages in push-polling' to disclose the sponsor of the call to the recipient. However, the scope of the term push poll has been so broad as to incorporate most any real poll that asks about a candidate’s 'character, status, or political stance or record.' This included not only real research calls testing negative messages but also more generic polls questioning voters’ opinions on relatively objective or verifiable issues and concerns." [Marketing Research Association]

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

-A Mason-Dixon poll finds Rick Scott and Charlie Crist in a dead heat. [StPetersblog]

-An internal poll for Martha McSally (R) gives her a tiny edge in a rematch with Rep. Ron Barber (R-Ariz.) [Roll Call]

-A Gravis poll for Human Events (R) gives Mitch McConnell a 7-point lead over Alison Lundergan Grimes. [Gravis]

-Harry Enten says Elizabeth Warren polls like John Edwards did before the 2008 campaign. [538]

-House Democrats are much more likely than Senate Democrats to support Obamacare on their campaign websites. [HuffPost]

-Tom Webster examines smartphone ownership by demographics. [Edison Research]

-Sean Trende doesn't think Chris Christie is out of the running for 2016. [RCP]

-Andrew Gelman argues that the GOP is not a blue-collar party. [WashPost]

-Americans rely less on credit cards than in previous years. [Gallup]

-Libby Nelson charts 16 ways college graduates differ from those without degrees. [Vox]

-The Upshot shares 45 names it decided not to use. [NYT]

-Betty White is no longer the most popular public figure among the 100-year-old+ set. [The Hill]

-Mona Chalabi tracks the likely age at which your kids will start cursing. [538]