POLITICS

HUFFPOLLSTER: How Inevitable Is Hillary Clinton?

04/17/2015 08:09 am ET | Updated Apr 17, 2015
MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images

This week the polling analysts were ready to dissect Hillary Clinton's prospects for the White House. Scott Walker's approval rating fell in Wisconsin. And the debate over telephone versus online samples is far from over. This is HuffPollster for Friday, April 17, 2015.

CLINTON NEARLY INEVITABLE AS NOMINEE...Hillary Clinton announced this week that she is running for president. Here is a round-up of the assessments of media polling analysts. - Nate Cohn: "Mrs. Clinton starts in a far better position than she did eight years ago, when she was often described as the “inevitable” Democratic nominee but had clear weaknesses and lost to Senator Barack Obama. She holds approximately 60 percent support among Democratic voters in primary polls, dwarfing the 40 percent she held at this time in the last Democratic cycle. She appears just as strong in the early states, including Iowa, where she already trailed by this point eight years ago....She has conclusively won the so-called invisible primary — the behind-the-scenes competition for elite support that often decides the nomination. Many of Mr. Obama’s earliest supporters from 2008 have already endorsed her candidacy." [NYT]

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Hillary racks up endorsements - The Hill: "Ninety-three lawmakers have endorsed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run for president, locking down nearly 40 percent of all Democrats in Congress, according to a survey by The Hill. Sixty-five House lawmakers, more than one-third of the 188 Democrats in the chamber, as well as 28 senators, more than 60 percent of the upper chamber’s 46 Democrats, are in the former secretary of State’s camp." [The Hill]

The 'de facto Democratic nominee' - Seth Masket: "And as Jonathan Bernstein reminds us, Clinton has already demonstrated considerable political skills in becoming what she is today: the de facto Democratic nominee for president in 2016, more than a year before the convention that will make it official. This is no small feat. No one who is not a sitting president or vice president has ever pulled this off in modern presidential nominations history." [Pacific Standard]

Democrats are satisfied - HuffPollster: "A 57 percent majority of Democrats and independents who lean towards the Democratic Party say Clinton, who announced her candidacy on Sunday, is their preferred 2016 nominee, while just a quarter would rather rally behind someone else [according to a new YouGov poll]. And most expect her to succeed -- 80 percent say it's at least somewhat likely that she'll win the Democratic nomination, and 77 percent think that she'll win the presidency....Eighty-two percent say they'd at least consider voting for her, while 48 percent definitely will. In contrast, a April 2007 ABC/Washington Post poll found just 20 percent of Democrats willing to commit to a relatively unknown Barack Obama. The exact degree of Democrats' excitement about Clinton is varied. Forty-four percent describe themselves as 'enthusiastic,' while 36 percent opt for a less fervent "satisfied." Eleven percent are 'dissatisfied' or 'upset.'" [HuffPost]

....BUT CLINTON JUST A '50/50 PROPOSITION' FOR GENERAL ELECTION - Nate Silver: "The truth is that a general election win by Clinton — she’s very likely to become the Democratic nominee — is roughly a 50/50 proposition. And we’re not likely to learn a lot over the rest of 2015 to change that....Clinton’s chances will be affected by Obama’s popularity as he exits office....However, Obama currently has an approval rating of about 45 percent, and a favorability rating of 48 percent — about average, in other word...the economy will matter a lot to voters, and a better economy will help Clinton, the candidate from the incumbent party....Like Obama’s approval ratings, however, the performance of the American economy has been about average recently... What about that “blue wall” — the supposed advantage that Democrats hold in the Electoral College? Mostly, the “blue wall” was the effect of Obama’s success in 2008 and 2012, not the cause of it....Finally we can look at what the polls say right now. If you’re going to do this, you should take the polls with whole tablespoons full of salt....Hillary Clinton is extremely well-known, but her favorability ratings are now only break-even: 46 percent favorable and 45 percent unfavorable." [538]

Clinton 'stuck running for Obama's third term' - Harry Enten: "Clinton is already tied to Obama and is likely to remain so. Remember when Clinton was Obama’s secretary of state and her favorable ratings ran well ahead of his? That isn’t the case anymore....Clinton’s favorable rating has fallen into line with Obama’s. The latest local regression estimate puts Clinton’s favorable rating at 48.9 percent and Obama’s at 48.5 percent...Now the relationship is even stronger. YouGov breaks down the favorability ratings by age, gender, income, ideology, party identification, race and region. Over the past two weeks, Clinton’s favorable rating in each of these groups mirrors Obama’s...The average absolute difference between Clinton’s and Obama’s favorable ratings for the groups is just 2.6 percentage points; the median is just 2 percentage points. Keep in mind, all these differences are within the margin of error. The correlation between Clinton’s and Obama’s favorable rating in these 23 demographic groups is 0.99. Clinton simply doesn’t seem to have a different base of support from Obama." [538]

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And it may be 'time for a change' - John Sides: "One of the important challenges [Clinton] faces is simple history: it has been difficult for a political party to hold the White House for more than two terms. The political scientist Alan Abramowitz, whose presidential election forecasting model explicitly includes this tendency, calls it the 'time for a change' factor. Now, new research offers an explanation for why a party’s control of the White House so frequently ends after eight years. The research...by University of Texas political scientist Christopher Wlezien...shows that the public tends to move in the opposite ideological direction as the incumbent in the White House....Under Republican presidents, public opinion tends to shift in the liberal direction. Under Democratic presidents, it tends to shift in the conservative direction. As of 2012, public opinion was as conservative as it had been in decades."
[WashPost]

WALKER'S APPROVAL SLIPS IN WISCONSIN - HuffPollster: "Wisconsin voters' opinions of Gov. Scott Walker (R) have slipped since last fall, a new Marquette University Law School survey finds. Forty-one percent now approve of Walker's performance, while 56 percent disapprove. In October, 49 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved. Marquette is the only non-partisan pollster to survey Wisconsin since the 2014 midterms. The results, coming after years of relatively steady ratings for the governor, could represent either a significant outlier from earlier polling or a marked drop in Walker's standing….As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes, Walker, a likely GOP 2016 contender, has spent increasing amounts of his time traveling, both to other states and abroad. Two-thirds of Wisconsin voters, including 69 percent of independents, say it's not possible for a governor to run for president and still handle the duties of their office. Walker also faced controversy from both the left and the right over his proposal for a new basketball arena, which voters overwhelmingly oppose." [HuffPost]

Feingold leads Johnson - Lee Bergquist And Patrick Marley: "The poll also showed Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson distantly trailing former Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold. Johnson had 38%, and Feingold had 54%. Johnson unseated Feingold in 2010. Feingold hasn't announced his plans but is widely expected to run again. Johnson's lag behind Feingold is a sign 'that (Feingold's) not been forgotten, nor has the public seemingly turned against him in his time away from the state,' said Charles Franklin, director of the poll. Franklin added that Johnson's relative anonymity in Wisconsin is not uncommon among first-term members of Congress." An automated survey conducted in early March by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) found similar results, with Feingold leading Johnson 50 to 41 percent. [Journal Sentinel, PPP]

THIS WEEK'S NATIONAL POLLS

-Gallup: uninsured rate drops again - Jenna Levy: "The uninsured rate among U.S. adults declined to 11.9% for the first quarter of 2015 -- down one percentage point from the previous quarter and 5.2 points since the end of 2013, just before the Affordable Care Act went into effect." [Gallup]

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-Pew Research: 'Dramatic shift' on pot legalization - "A new survey finds that 53% favor the legal use of marijuana, while 44% are opposed. As recently as 2006, just 32% supported marijuana legalization, while nearly twice as many (60%) were opposed." [Pew]

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-Pew Research: Support for death penalty declines - A new poll finds support for the death penalty for those convicted of murder falling by six percentage points, from 62 to 56 percent, since 2011. Most of the decline measured by Pew Research since 1995 has come from Democrats. [Pew]

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-YouGov: 'Racial agreement' on SC shooting: Sixty-seven percent of white Americans and 72 percent of black Americans agree with the decision to charge the police officer who shot Walter Scott in South Carolina with murder. [YouGov]

-USA Today/Suffolk: Wide open GOP contest, Dems wish for race - Susan Page: "A 55% majority of Democrats say it's 'very important' to them to see strong challenges to Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination....No GOP candidate scored as high as double digits, a sign of the most wide-open nomination contest in modern times. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was a narrow leader at 9%, followed by former Florida governor Jeb Bush at 8%, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 7% and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 5%." [USA Today, Suffolk]

-Bloomberg: 'Would consider' results highlight GOP 2016 challenges - Michael Bender & Arit John: "Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul may have a problem with women, and Jeb Bush already has been written off by a large share of potential primary voters, according to a new Bloomberg Politics national poll." [Bloomberg]

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-Bloomberg: Improving national mood, but most say inequality growing - Americans given President Obama a net positive rating (49 to 46 percent) for handling the economy "for the first time in more than five years," but 69 percent say the "gap between the rice and everyone else" is "getting bigger." [Bloomberg]

-Monmouth: 'Few see improvements in DC' - "Fewer than 1-in-10 Americans feel that the working relationship between President Obama and Congress has improved since the Republican Party took control of both legislative chambers this year...[and] few are very hopeful this situation will change. At the same time, public approval of both the president and Congress has barely budged over the past few months." [Monmouth]

WHITHER PROBABILITY-BASED SAMPLING? - MassINC pollsters Steve Koczela and Rich Parr: "Since George Gallup pioneered the field of public polling in the 1930s, the underpinning of survey research has been 'probability-based' sampling. A survey can only be said to be representative of a larger population if everyone in that larger population has a chance of being selected to take part...No sooner had Al Gore invented the Internet than surveys began sprouting up online. The primary challenge of online surveys has been consistent: There is no way of even attempting to reach everyone on the Internet like there is with phone, snail mail, or door-to-door surveys. Instead, online surveys rely on a pool of respondents who have 'opted-in' to participate....The truth is, the debate over telephone vs. online is likely irresolvable, since both have virtues and drawbacks. And it doesn’t need to be resolved, since there is clearly room for both and a need for both in today’s media environment. Practitioners of each method are working hard to overcome the challenges they face, whether these are non-responses or the lack of a theoretical foundation." [Commonwealth]

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

-Andrew Kohut says the main themes of the 2016 presidential race are puzzling for now. [Roll Call]

-Amy Walter considers the promise and peril of an improving economy for Democrats. [Cook Political]

-Tom Edsall asks if Obamacare turned Americans against redistributive government policies. [NYT]

-Philip Bump offers a history of Red vs. Blue to explain the color of U.S. presidential maps. [WashPost]

-Mark Mellman (D) explains why low Democratic turnout in Maryland in 2014 didn't elect Republican Larry Hogan. [The Hill]

-DailyKos Politics assesses all of Quinnipiac's final polls for 2012, 2013 & 2014, finds their accuracy "mostly decent." [DailyKos]

-Scott Bland reports on Marco Rubio's data analytics firm. [National Journal]

-Twenty-two national business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urge Congress to preserve the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). [MRA]

-Sixty-seven percent of smartphone owners use their phones for turn-by-turn navigation while driving. [Pew]

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