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HUFFPOLLSTER: Voters Are Disillusioned With Congress, Unexcited About Midterms

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CAPITOL DOME
The U.S. Capitol is seen in early morning light in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. A two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome has begun inside the dome, with exterior scaffolding expected in the spring of 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

A new initiative could bring more transparency to the polling world. Americans remain unenthusiastic about the midterms. And researchers share their method for thwarting teenage polling "mischief." This is HuffPollster for Thursday, May 22, 2014.

AMERICANS DEEPLY DISILLUSIONED WITH GOVERNMENT… - Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus: "A mere 5 percent of voters think most members of Congress have done a good enough job to deserve re-election, according to a CBS News Poll released Wednesday. While this number has been low historically, 5 percent is the lowest ever recorded in CBS News polls; nearly nine in 10 say it's time to give new people a chance….Less than six months until this year's midterm elections, and voters now are not especially enthusiastic about voting; more than four in 10 are less enthusiastic about voting this year compared to previous congressional elections. There is also a partisan enthusiasm gap: 44 percent of Republicans say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year, compared to 36 percent of Democrats. Independents' level of enthusiasm is similar to that of Democrats. Looking ahead to November, Republicans and Democrats are nearly even in the generic national vote for the House of Representatives, which asks registered voters whether they would cast their vote for the Democrat or Republican in their own district." [CBS]

FEW CARE WHICH PARTY CONTROLS CONGRESS… - Connie Cass and Jennifer Agiesta: "Who cares which party controls Congress? Only about half of Americans. The other 46 percent, not so much, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. Ask people whom they would rather see in charge on Capitol Hill, and Republicans finish in a dead heat with 'doesn't matter.' Democrats fare only a little better: 37 percent would prefer their leadership, compared with 31 percent each for the GOP and whatever….Nationally, Democrats have gained a modest edge since the previous AP-GfK poll in March, but it's not because people are liking them more. Support for Democratic leadership stayed essentially unchanged in the new poll, while Republicans lost some ground to the idea that it makes no difference who wins this November." [AP]

...but there's a divide on whether one party should hold both House and Senate - Jeffrey M. Jones: "Roughly as many U.S. registered voters say it is better for the country to have divided-party control of Congress as say it is better to have one party in control of both the House and Senate. The remainder say it makes no difference or have no opinion….Congress' approval ratings have been historically low in recent years, as is trust in the legislative branch of the federal government. Americans who are critical of Congress commonly mention "gridlock," "partisanship," or lack of action as reasons why they disapprove. Also, "dissatisfaction with government" has ranked among the top issues in recent years when Gallup has asked Americans to name the most important problem facing the country.Nevertheless, Americans do not appear to see one-party control of Congress as a solution to those ills or a desirable situation in general. Americans' views on the matter do not appear to be based on strategic responses by partisan voters." [Gallup]

AAPOR'S TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE NEARS LAUNCH - Four years after announcing plans for a "Transparency Initiative" to help counter "a sea of undocumented data," the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) announced last week at its annual conference that the project will be "open for business" by the summer of 2014.

The Initiative, first proposed by then-AAPOR President Peter Miller in 2010, was a response to the proliferation of what he described as new and sometimes "untrustworthy" data, as well as allegations of outright fraud leveled at pollsters like Strategic Vision LLC. "People can simply fabricate data and put it out there and claim that it's real," Miller said in 2010. AAPOR's previous efforts had been too punitive, he argued, proposing a new approach that would be "less stick and more carrot" by giving AAPOR's "seal of approval" to organizations that agreed to participate. [National Journal]

In the four years that followed, the initiative was delayed by at least one serious false start. Pilot testing conducted in early 2012 revealed problems with Miller's initial vision of an AAPOR-sponsored archive into which survey organizations would routinely deposit methodological information. "Some of our strongest supporters found some of the information we were seeking from them to be burdensome and unrealistic," former AAPOR President Paul Lavrakas said last week. "While the perception among some might be that it’s taken a long time to get here," he added, "it's been a tremendously complex issue."

Timothy Johnson, who chairs AAPOR's Transparency Initiative Coordinating Committee, explained that after "some rethinking and reconceptualizing" and a second round of pilot tests, the organization settled on a different approach. Under the new plan, participating organizations will complete a certification agreement in which they pledge to abide by AAPOR's Standards for Minimal Disclosure and have relevant employees review a series of "online education modules" explaining how to comply. Each pollster will also provide documentation from two recent surveys for review by the coordinating committee. If the documentation includes adequate disclosure, the organization is approved and will be given permission to display AAPOR's new Transparency Initiative logo on its website. [AAPOR's Disclosure Standards and TI Information Modules]

Johnson said that, based on their pilot tests, they don't expect all of the submitted documentation to meet AAPOR's standards, "but the idea and the philosophy of the Transparency Initiative is that our focus is on education and we will work proactively and positively with each organization to bring their documentation...up to snuff." In successive years, Johnson added, organizations would be asked "to reconfirm their commitment on an annual basis to the principles of transparency." AAPOR would also review complaints from the public, and could revoke organizations' certification in response.

In the future, Johnson said, both the application process and annual recommitment would also involve a yet-to-be-determined fee meant to cover the project's administrative costs. He stressed that AAPOR wants the Transparency Initiative to be "cost neutral" -- it is not intended as a money-maker -- and has chosen to waive any fees for the first year of the project in order to "to remove all possible barriers to participation."

Johnson said AAPOR would begin accepting applications for transparency certification from pollsters and other survey organizations "sometime between July 1 and September 1" this year.

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

-Martha Coakley leads primary challengers, but potential Republican opponents are gaining on her in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race. [WBUR, MassINC

-Californians would rather use the state budget surplus to pay down debt than to restore funding for services. [PPIC]

-Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has a "modest but meaningful lead" over his main challenger in the Democratic primary. [NYTimes, Siena]

-Rangel does even better when NY-13 primary voters are asked to predict a winner, a measure that may be a better predictor of his chances. [NYTimes]

-Alan Abramowitz argues that "the increasing nationalization of U.S. Senate elections" hurts Democrats efforts to win Senate seats in Kentucky and Georgia. [Sabato]

-Scott Conroy says that while the GOP establishment is winning, upstart Democratic challengers are shaking up primaries. [RCP]

-Jacob Harris describes six ways to make mistakes with data. [Source]

-Scott Clement notes that Gov. Scott Walker's losses in Wisconsin are concentrated among likely non-voters. [WashPost]

-Allison Kopicki reviews the challenges of polling Hispanics. [NYTimes]

-"The sexiest corner of data driven media is in TV." [MediaPost via @alexlundry]

-How researchers detect "mischievous responders" on teen surveys, aka "kids who skew the results by making stuff up for a giggle." [NPR]

-Which country's drinking habits most resemble yours? [Time]

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that AAPOR will waive an application fee for its Transparency Initiative for five months. It will waive the the fee for 12 months.

 
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