10/07/2006 10:14 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

SurveyUSA Tracks Views on Hastert

Last night, Josh Marshall linked to a new national automated poll from SurveyUSA asking whether House Speaker Dennis Hastert should resign:

Based on what you know right now, do you think Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert should remain in his position as Speaker of the House? Do you think he should resign as Speaker of the House but remain a member of Congress? Or do you think he should completely resign from Congress?

27% Remain Speaker

20% Resign leadership

43% Resign from Congress

10% Not sure

MP readers may want to note that the results above, from a one-night sampling of 1,000 adults conducted Thursday night, were actually the second of a two-night tracking poll.  From the SurveyUSA release:

Though Thursday night's polling data is not good news for Hastert, the data is an improvement from SurveyUSA interviews conducted 24 hours prior, on Wednesday night. Then, 49% of Americans said Hastert should resign from Congress, 17% said he should remain as Speaker, and 23% said he should resign his Leadership post but remain a member of Congress. Though the day-to-day movement is small, and some of it is within the survey's 3.2% margin of sampling error, the movement is consistent across the board and therefore worthy of comment.

There are inherent limitations to surveys with short field periods; however, when a news story is changing hour-by-hour, nightly tracking studies can provide a valuable "freeze-frame" snapshot of what Americans were thinking at a moment in time.

As part of their "interactive crosstabs" for this poll, SurveyUSA provides a time series chart that allows users to plot trends for each of the key subgroups (via the pull-down menu that appears in the upper left corner of the data table). 

Now I have no idea whether SurveyUSA intends to continue tracking this question going forward.  They are obviously a lot busier now than when they tracked the response to Hurricane Katrina for 24 days in September 2005.  But if these results intrigue you, it's probably worth checking the SurveyUSA Breaking News page for further updates.

Update: Rasmussen Reports, the other big automated pollster, also conducted a survey on whether Hastert should resign. Their results offer a lesson on the challenges of writing this sort of question:

Should Dennis Hastert Resign from His Position as House Speaker?

36% Yes

27% No

37% Not sure

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Dennis Hastert?

10% Very Favorable

14% Somewhat favorable

19% Somewhat unfavorable

16% Very unfavorable

41% Not sure

The number who say Hastert should resign as speaker is much higher on the Rasmussen survey (36%) than on the SurveyUSA poll (20%), but Survey USA reports a much higher number (63%) who say Hastert should resign either as speaker or from Congress. Offering three choices rather than two appears to make a big difference. And the fact that 41% on the Rasmussen survey say they do not know Hastert well enough to rate him helps explain why the question format and language make such a big difference.

The timing also differed: The Rasmussen survey was conducted over the last two nights (Thursday and Friday) while SurveyUSA tracked on Wednesday and Thursday nights.