Instant Poll Roundup

09/09/2009 10:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Mark Blumenthal Mark Blumenthal is the Head of Election Polling at SurveyMonkey.

Earlier today I posted a primer on the instant polls typically released after a major presidential address like the one from Barack Obama tonight. If you have not read it yet, I'd recommend you start there. If you're in a hurry, the short version is that instant response polls measure only speech-watchers, the audience is usually skewed toward the President's fans and historically, presidential addresses rarely move their approval numbers. If nothing else, do not compare the results from these instant measures to any number you see on previously released poll of all adults or likely voters.

That said, I want to provide some links and initial results here.

The first on my radar screen comes from CNN of a survey of people who watched the speech (update: full results now posted). Candy Crowley says, not surprisingly, that the sample "skews heavily Democratic, we think that the Democratic sample in this flash poll is 8 to 10 points higher than in the general population."

  • 72% say yes, Obama clearly stated his health care goals, 26% say no.
  • 56% had a very positive reaction, 21% somewhat positive, 21% negative
  • Support for Obama's health care plans jumped 14 points among speech viewers: from 53% in favor to 67%

More from the just posted full results:

  • "18% of the respondents who participated in tonight's survey identified themselves as Republicans, 45% identified themselves as Democrats, and 37% identified themselves as Independents.
  • The percentage who "think the policies proposed by Barack Obama will move the country in the right direction" rose from 60% pre-speech to 70% post speech.

By comparison, CNN's most recent poll reported that 52% say Obama's policies will move the country in the right direction, which tends to confirm Crowley's point about the Democratic skew of the audience.

To put these results into some perspective, consider two tables I created for a post just before President Bush's 2006 state of the union speech. Two of the questions noted above, those rating the speech as positive or negative and assessing whether the president's policies move the country in the right or wrong direction, were asked by the then CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll on instant response polls since the mid-1990s. Here are the results through 2005 for both questions:

2009-09-09_SOTU_reactions.jpg 20-09-09_right_dir.jpg  

In 2006, 75% had a positive reaction to the SOTU on the Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll, including 48% who said "very positive." The percentage who said Bush's policies will move the country in the right direction increased from 52% before the speech to 68% after.   

So what does this all mean? In terms of these "instant reactions," this speech falls within the range of previous addresses. Depending on the measure it's better than some, worse than others. But keep in mind that none of these positive reactions translated into meaningful changes in presidential approval. Will the speech lead to lasting change in perceptions of health reform? To know that, we will need more surveys of the general population and, mostly, more time.

Final update: I see nothing from CBS, so I am assuming this is all we have for tonight.

Belated update (9/10):  Not sure how I missed this, but the Democracy Corps project of Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg conducted a dial-test focus group last night.