05/14/2013 04:15 pm ET

POLLSTER UPDATE: Will Second Term Scandals Be 'Game Changers'?


Without fresh survey data, pundits turn to political science and prediction to evaluate the impact of the week's new scandals. On Benghazi, Obama gets negative marks, but many remain tuned out. And could Sarah Palin rise again? This is the HuffPost Pollster update for Tuesday, May 14, 2013.

CONDITIONS RIPE FOR SCANDAL STORY - Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan unpacks his research suggesting that "the structural conditions are strongly favorable" for major presidential scandal: "First, I found that new scandals are likely to emerge when the president is unpopular among opposition party identifiers. Obama's approval ratings are quite low among Republicans (10-18% in recent Gallup surveys), which creates pressure on GOP leaders to pursue scandal allegations as well as audience demand for scandal coverage...In addition, I found that media scandals are less likely to emerge as pressure from other news stories increases. Now that the Boston Marathon bombings have faded from the headlines, there are few major stories in the news, especially with gun control and immigration legislation stalled in Congress. The press is therefore likely to devote more resources and airtime/print to covering the IRS and Benghazi stories than they would in a more cluttered news environment. Finally, Obama is in his second term, which is when scandals are most likely to take place. [Washington Monthly, Nyhan]

Washington Monthly's Ed Kilgore: "I'd say @BrendanNyhan wins this year's prize for well-timed political science research." [@ed_kilgore]

Declining trust would matter in 2014 - The Guardian's Harry Enten: "Historically speaking, trust in government has been tied very closely to how people view the state of the economy." But not always. Enten reviews how trust in government fell off as consumer confidence grew or held steady following Watergate, the House banking scandal in 1992, the Whitewater controversy of 1993 and 1994, and in reaction to the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina in the last decade. [T]he question is whether declining trust in the government has historically played a major factor in midterm elections. It turns out that it does. When trust in government falls, the party in the White House tends to do worse in midterm elections." [Guardian]

Nate Silver weighs in - "Political scandals do not lend themselves especially well to data-driven analysis." So Silver answers his own "series of five questions" created "to determine whether a potential scandal 'has legs.' Some of the questions have support in empirical literature, while others are more subjective." His conclusion? "the I.R.S. story scores relatively high, meaning it could have a substantial political impact." [NY Times]

Stu Rothernberg says it's a 'game changer - "The current triple play of Benghazi, the IRS and now the Justice Department's seizure of journalists' phone records has the potential to be a political game changer for 2014. It's hard to overstate the potential significance of the past week. What we are witnessing is nothing less than a dramatic reversal of the nation's political narrative — from how bad the Republican brand is and how President Barack Obama is going to mobilize public opinion against the GOP in the midterm elections to whether the Obama administration has become so arrogant that it believes it can stonewall Congress and the public." [Roll Call]

Alan Abramowitz says 'chill out' - Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz emails Ezra Klein: "Here's why this is very unlikely to be a 'game changer.' The electorate is deeply divided along party lines. These partisan divisions are very deep because they now coincide with other divisions such as race, values and ideology. Therefore, events such as these are very unlikely to cause any large or long-term shift in evaluations of the president let alone party identification or voting intentions." [WaPost]

NET DISAPPROVAL OF OBAMA HANDLING OF BENGHAZI: HuffPost's Emily Swanson: "Americans are more likely to disapprove than approve of the way President Barack Obama has handled the aftermath of last September's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and many think that the administration intentionally misled the American people about the attack, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll...42 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the way it has been handled, while 27 percent said they approve." [HuffPost]

But few are following it closely The HuffPost/YouGov online survey found 50 percent who had "heard a lot" about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya last September. A new Pew Research survey finds a slightly smaller number (44 percent) who say they are very or closely following the congressional hearings on Benghazi and a split on whether the Obama Administration has been honest (37 percent) or dishonest (40 percent) about Benghazi. "Not surprisingly, these reactions divide cleanly along partisan lines." [Pew Research]

PALIN WOULD HAVE SLIGHT EDGE IN ALASKA SENATE RUN HuffPost: "Sarah Palin would have a narrow edge in the GOP primary to challenge Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) in 2014, according to a poll whose sponsors hope to draft her for the race. Palin would take 32 percent of the primary vote, followed closely by Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell at 30 percent, according to the Republican firm Harper Polling. Joe Miller, the Tea Party-backed Republican nominee in 2010, would take 24 percent. The survey was conducted for the Tea Party Leadership Fund, which hopes to see Palin declare her candidacy in the Senate race. ...Treadwell and Miller, both of whom have formed exploratory committees, are far more likely candidates. Without Palin in the mix, Treadwell would lead Miller by 19 points, 45 percent to 26 percent." [HuffPost]

WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUNGER VOTERS IN 2012? - In case you missed it last Friday, two regular HuffPost contributors weighed in on what a recent Census report had to say about turnout among younger voters in 2012. GMU political scientist Michael McDonald:" Turnout rates among the youngest people, for whom the 2012 election was their first election, declined in both the battleground states and the other states, by 6.2 percentage points and 8.8 percentage points, respectively. Conversely, turnout rates for older people actually increased between 2008 and 2012, even more so in the battleground states...The Obama campaign appears to be only marginally successful at counteracting youth disengagement through their mobilization efforts targeted at the youngest people in the battleground states." [HuffPost]

Turnout or how they vote? - Republican pollster Kristen Soltis explores potential explanations for why exit polls that showed the under 30 portion of the electorate increasing in 2012, while the CPS survey that showed it slightly declining, and concludes the debate focuses too much on turnout: "[W]orrying about whether young voters will be 16% or 17% or 19% of the electorate is an interesting game, but the bigger question for Republicans is how they plan to stop losing young voters by such huge margins. [HuffPost]

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

-Fewer than half (44 percent) of Americans say they are very or fairly closely following the congressional hearings on Benghazi. [Pew Research]

-Americans have a net negative opinion of the Supreme Court. [PPP]

-Wisconsin Republicans prefer favorite son Paul Ryan for President in 2016. [Marquette Univ. Law School]

-Support for European economic integration falls across Europe. [Pew Global Attitudes Project]

-Political insiders of both parties think Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Baucus (D-Mont.) are the Senators most likely to change their votes on background-check legislation. [National Journal]

-Voters make more errors when using ballots with a straight-party option, researchers find. [Monkey Cage]

-Fast Company profiles Nate Silver, names him their Most Creative Person of 2013. [Fast Company]

-The American Political Science Association hires two lobbyists "to eliminate restrictions on political science funding through the National Science Foundation. [Monkey Cage]

-RTI's Survey Post blog will ask questions on Twitter during the AAPOR Conference. [SurveyPost]

-Capital Insight, the polling firm set up by the Washington Post polling team, launches a "Poll Watch" app. [WaPost]