Two new surveys highlight Americans' widespread discontent. Chris Christie's home state reputation remains tarnished. And a GOP incumbent survives in Kansas, but by a narrower-than-expected margin. This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, August 6, 2014.
AMERICANS HAVE LITTLE FAITH IN WASHINGTON - Jennifer Agiesta: "Congress has checked out, and the American people have noticed.Three-quarters of Americans doubt the federal government will address the important problems facing the country this year, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. All told, only 28 percent of Americans think the nation is heading in the right direction, the lowest level in August of an election year since 2008. It's about on par with 2006, when Democrats took control of the U.S. House amid a backlash to the Iraq war. This time around, it's not clear whether either party will benefit from the disaffection. One-third say they hope the Republicans take control of Congress outright this fall — which the GOP can accomplish with a net gain of six seats in the U.S. Senate while holding the U.S. House. The same share want to see Democrats lead Congress — a far less likely possibility. The final third? They say it just doesn't matter who takes control of Congress. Overall, just 13 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress overall is handling its job." [AP]
'The summer of our discontent' - Mark Murray: "Two words sum up the mood of the nation: Fed up. Six in 10 Americans are dissatisfied with the state of the U.S. economy, more than 70 percent believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, and nearly 80 percent are down on the country’s political system, according to the latest NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll. The frustration carries over to the nation’s political leaders, with President Barack Obama’s overall approval rating hitting a new low at 40 percent, and a mere 14 percent of the public giving Congress a thumbs up. 'We’re in the summer of our discontent,' said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. 'Americans are cranky, unhappy… It is with everything going on the world.' Yet because this discontent differs – among Democrats, Republicans, and independents – Hart cautions that Americans still aren't likely to be storming the polls on Election Day in November." [NBC]
Not much of a change for president or Congress - The phrase "record low" may obscure the fact that NBC/WSJ (along with our polling average) finds the president's ratings still mired roughly where they've been all year. Obama's 40 percent rating is down just 1 point from NBC/WSJ's June poll, and just below from the 41-to-44 percent range he's fluctuated in this year, while Congress' 14 percent approval is nearly identical to their 13 percent rating in January.
But pessimism is visibly on the rise - Both new surveys find Americans increasingly convinced that the country is "on the wrong track" -- the percentage saying so is up 8 points since June in the NBC/WSJ poll, and up 10 points since May in the AP-GfK survey. That tracks with the Pollster average, which shows negative opinions spiking during last year's government shutdown and quickly leveling off, before beginning to rise again this June. The Pollster model, set to "less smoothing" to capture the movement more clearly, puts belief that things are on the wrong track at nearly 68 percent, just a point or two below where it stood at the height of the shutdown. [HuffPost Pollster chart]
NEW JERSEYANS WOULDN'T VOTE FOR CHRIS CHRISTIE IN 2016 - Quinnipiac: "Despite his favorite son status, New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie trails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 50 - 42 percent in an early look at the 2016 presidential race in the Garden State, measured in a Quinnipiac University Poll released today….New Jersey voters say 55 - 39 percent that Christie would not be a good president. Democrats say no 79 - 16 percent and independent voters agree 55 - 39 percent. Republicans say 72 - 23 percent that Christie would make a good president. Christie should run for president, 46 percent of voters say, while 49 percent say he should stay home." [Quinnipiac]
KANSAS POLLS CALL THE WINNER IN SENATE PRIMARY, OVERSTATE MARGIN - Kyle Cheney and James Hohmann: "The Republican establishment’s latest triumph over tea party activists in a Senate primary this year — Pat Roberts’ narrower-than-expected win over challenger Milton Wolf on Tuesday night — came with a big lift from party headquarters in Washington…Roberts defeated Wolf, 48 percent to 41 percent; a pair of minor candidates combined for the remaining 11 percent of the vote….Roberts’ margin was narrower than expected. Recent polls had showed him crushing Wolf, a radiologist who attacked the incumbent from the right." Polling gave Roberts an average lead of over 15 points, but suggested the race was narrowing. [Politico, Pollster chart]
POLLSTER PREDICTS MORE ONLINE SURVEYS ARE INEVITABLE - Reg Baker, a former American Association for Public Opinion Research Executive Council member, and chair of its recent Non-Probability Sampling Task Force: "Unless you’ve been on vacation the last couple of weeks chances are that you have heard that The New York Times CBS News have begun using the YouGov online panel in the models they use to forecast US election results, part of a change in their longstanding policy of using only data from probability-based samples in their news stories. On Friday, the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) issued a statement essentially condemning the Times (and its polling partner, CBS News) for 'rushing to embrace new approaches without an adequate understanding of the limits of these nascent methodologies' and for a lack of 'a strong framework of transparency, full disclosure, and explicit standards.'...The use of non-probability online panels in electoral polling is hardly 'new' or 'nascent.' We have well over a decade of experience showing that with appropriate adjustments these polls are just as reliable as those relying on probability sampling, which also require adjustment….My own belief is that this is the first shoe to drop. Others are sure to follow. And, I expect, deep down most AAPORites know it. AAPOR is powerless to stop it and I wish they would cease trying….to use a political metaphor, AAPOR has positioned itself on the wrong side of history. Rather than deny the future, I wish they would focus on helping their members, along with the rest of us, transition to it." [The Survey Geek]
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WEDNESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
-A Florida gubernatorial poll finds Gov. Rick Scott (R) edging ahead of Charlie Crist (D). [SurveyUSA]
-A survey of the Virginia Senate race gives incumbent Mark Warner (D) a 25-point lead over Ed Gillespie. [Hampton University]
-PPP (D) looks ahead to Arkansas' 2016 races. [PPP]
-Nate Silver says GOP incumbents' declining vote shares should give them more reason than ever to worry about primary challenges. 
-Hispanic Americans are increasingly positive about their standard of living. [Gallup]
-Americans don't link taxes to patriotism -- except for corporate taxes. [YouGov]
-Mark Mellman (D) shares some thoughts on the origins of happiness. [The Hill]
-Mona Chalabi looks at the numbers on which age is the best.