POLITICS
05/09/2014 05:15 pm ET Updated May 09, 2014

HUFFPOLLSTER: Who Cares About The Horse Race?

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A new national poll finds a majority of Americans think local volunteerism has a greater impact on their lives than electing a president they agree with. The Georgia Senate race may be close. And don't count on undecided voters "breaking" to challengers. This is HuffPollster for Friday, May 9, 2014.

COMMUNITY TRUMPS NATIONAL POLITICS - A new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll has a unique take on the presidential horse race. Nancy Cook: "Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz? Rand Paul or Joe Biden? It may not matter. The majority of Americans believe that an increase in community activism would have a more significant impact on daily life than the candidate they elect as president...Fifty-six percent of respondents told pollsters that more volunteering in their community would have "a more positive impact on [their] day-to-day life" than electing a president who agrees with them on important issues. Just 39 percent said that the election of a particular president would have a greater impact. Republicans were far more likely than Democrats to place higher value on the importance of whom they elect as president (by 53 to 34 percent). And younger Americans, ages 18 to 29, had the most faith of any group in the impact of community activism—a full 73 percent said more community volunteering would bring about the greatest positive change." [National Journal]

2014-05-09-NationalJournalmoreposimpact.png

But Americans see role for national policy change - Ron Brownstein: "The survey found that most Americans believe they can have the greatest influence over issues in their own neighborhood; that local institutions such as community groups are doing the most to improve life in America; and that lasting change is more likely to emerge from movements led by ordinary citizens than to be imposed by government or business leaders. But the poll also found that while people see significant opportunities to better conditions through local involvement and voluntary action, most believe that improving American life on a broader scale will ultimately require changes in national policies and institutions. Asked what "would do most to make a meaningful and lasting impact on issues you care about," just over half picked "a change in national policy"—far more than the roughly one-sixth who picked changes either in local policies or in the way companies do business. Likewise, a solid majority rejected the idea that the federal government was so broken that it wasn't worth trying to influence or improve it." [National Journal]

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NUNN HAS GEORGIA EDGE? - Greg Bluestein: "An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll that rolls out Saturday finds Democrats in an especially close race for the state’s top offices in November...Michelle Nunn, the Democratic front-runner in the Senate race, has built leads against each of the five top GOP Senate contenders in a potential November matchup, though her lead against businessman David Perdue is particularly narrow." The tease of Saturday's release included no specific numbers. [Journal-Constitution]

Nate Cohn hears more: "AJC/SRBI will show Nunn ahead of 5 possible GOP challengers, but I don't think she's favored unless GOP noms a loon." [@Nate_Cohn]

NEW REPUBLIC POLLSTER ANSWERS CRITIC - Clarity Lab's Tom Bonier (D), who collaborated with Sasha Issenberg and the New Republic to produce an analysis of the 2014 elections and ranking of the Senate contests, replies to criticism from FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten. Part of the problem, Bonier argues, is that their survey for New Republic "was presented in a very different fashion than the sort of data that most journalists have access to, or are accustomed to seeing," and thus produced confusion: "Our survey, a very large sample (3,879 respondents) national survey of registered voters, matched every single respondent back to their voter file....In his May 1st piece, Enten criticized the survey, offering as evidence the fact that Republicans showed such a large lead in the generic congressional ballot test among 'midterm voters.' That’s not precisely the segmentation that our poll used. Issenberg’s New Republic piece relied on a depiction of two broad groups of voters—'reflex' and 'unreliable' voters. In our survey, we tagged any respondent who voted in both 2010 and 2012 as a reflex voter, and any voter who voted in 2012 but not 2010 an 'unreliable' voter. Logic would dictate that some percentage of reflex voters will fail to cast a ballot in 2014, just as some percentage of unreliable voters will show up at the polls." [New Republic, 538: Enten's original critique]

Finds more differences between 2010 and 2012... - Bonior also took issue with an argument Enten made in a second article, that changing minds were more important than shifting demographics in the different outcomes of the 2010 and 2012 elections: "what [Enten's] missing is an understanding of which younger voters cast a ballot in each year. By using vote history and partisan models, we can gain a better sense of this dynamic. For example, in Ohio in 2012, the average modeled partisanship of registered voters under the age of 30 who cast a ballot was 57.3%. The same statistic for that group for 2010 voters was 50.5%." [ibid]

...but doesn't answer to Enten's central criticism - Nate Silver, via Twitter: "What the article was missing: a substantive reply to Harry's criticisms." Enten has focused on the way the New Republic rankings focused on raw counts of voters, rather than percentages, which resulted in smaller states ranking higher as Democratic targets. Bonior's rebuttal did not address that point. More from Silver: "Saying 'our data must be right!' when it's WAY different from [everyone] else's and you can't explain why almost always ends badly." [@NateSilver538 here and here; see also HuffPollster]

Democratic and Republican pollsters agree on one thing.... -

-Alex Lundry (R) "Related: who is the first data journalism outfit to invest in their own voter file?" [@AlexLundry]

-Nick Gourevitch (D): "See no reason why @FiveThirtyEight, @UpshotNYT, and @voxdotcom shouldn't pay up for a voter file subscription? At least to run counts?"
[@NickGourevitch]

Kevin Collins (D): "Official reports of political behavior always trump self reports of political behavior, especially when that behavior is socially desirable." [@kwcollins]

CONNECTICUT GOVERNOR LOOKS VULNERABLE - Quinnipiac: "Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy's handling of the state budget and taxes, including his failed promise to offer $55 tax refunds, are big hurdles as he scores a split 48 - 46 percent job approval rating, with voters saying by a slight 48 - 44 percent margin he does not deserve to be reelected, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Gov. Malloy remains deadlocked 43 - 43 percent in a reelection battle with Republican challenger Tom Foley, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. The incumbent edges State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, 44 - 40 percent, and tops Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton 44 - 39 percent. He leads other little known challengers by margins of 8 to 10 percentage points." [Quinnipiac]

'NO, UNDECIDED VOTERS DON'T BREAK FOR THE CHALLENGER' - Aaron Blake revisits the theory that undecided voters "break for the challenger" between the final poll and Election Day. "According to a Fix study of 25 competitive U.S. Senate races held over the last four elections, undecideds actually appear to break more for the incumbent than for the challenger...Not one challenger who was trailing heading into Election Day was able to pull off the victory -- even as six of them faced an incumbent who was below 50 percent in the polls...
So it appears the old adage doesn't really hold -- at least when it comes to the Senate.
Why does this all matter for 2014? It matters because there's already a huge amount of chatter about various Senate polls and what they really mean. Many early polls have shown Democratic incumbents in tight races but well below 50 percent of the vote -- the most recent being the New York Times/Kasier Family Foundation polls that showed Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) both in the low 40s. Others who have polled below 50 percent include Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and, to a lesser extent, Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)." [WashPost, see also HuffPollsters report from 2012]

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

-Half of Americans think they will have enough money to live comfortably when they retire, the most since 2007. [Gallup]

-Rasmussen Reports find a near tie between Tillis (R) and Hagan (D) in North Carolina. [Rasmussen]

-An internal poll for Karen Handel (R) shows her at second place in Georgia's Republican primary. [Karen Handel]

-A Democratic poll finds Nick Rahall (D) leading. [DFM]

-Mary Landrieu hits a new low in one survey. [SMOR]

-Forget Benghazi, says Brendan Nyhan. Clinton's real problem is Obama fatigue [NYT]

-Robert Blizzard (R) sees a path to 52 Republican seats in the Senate in Barack Obama's current job approval rating. [POS]

-Weirdly shaped congressional districts can be good, says John Sides. [WashPost]

-Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton remain the most admired first ladies of the last 25 years. [WSJ]

-Cards, phone calls and dining out are the top three ways America celebrates Mother's Day [Ipsos]

-FactTank answers five questions about today’s American moms and how they’ve changed over time. [Pew Research]

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