Friday, January 30, 2009

Momentum Watch: '08 Gallup Polls Shade NH Solid Blue

An analysis of Gallup Poll Daily tracking data from 2008 finds that 49 percent of New Hampshire voters affiliate with the Democratic Party, compared to 36 percent who identify with or lean toward the GOP. That 13 percentage point gap places New Hampshire among 29 other states ranked "solidly" Democratic by the Gallup organization, with six states "leaning" blue. Only four states -- Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah -- were ranked solidly Republican in 2008, with one state (Nebraska) leaning. The remaining states -- all of which were carried by McCain in the November election -- are considered "competitive," with the partisan advantage to either party under 5 points.

While Gallup reports that results from the state-level analysis are consistent with national polls finding that a majority of Americans affiliated with any political party leaned toward or identified as Dems in 2008, election results suggest a robust population of Democratic sympathizers is not enough to guarantee that a state will actually vote for Democratic candidates. As the report explains,

Given that most states had a Democratic advantage in party affiliation last year, to some degree it can be argued that Barack Obama could have won many more electoral votes than he did. In fact, Obama won 28 states (plus the District of Columbia) to John McCain's 22 in the 2008 election.

There are several reasons for possible disparities between the party affiliation data and the voting outcomes in a given state. First, turnout has typically been an equalizer in U.S. electoral politics because Democrats almost always have an advantage in identification, but Republicans have been competitive in national and state elections over the last three decades because Republicans are usually more likely than Democrats to vote. Second, one's partisan leaning is not a perfect predictor of voting in a presidential election, in which candidate-specific characteristics can influence a voter's choice. (Emphasis added.)

More momentum: Americans (heart) Democrats!
A report published today by Pew Research finds that the Democratic Party has a "vast favorability advantage" over the GOP among the American public. Overall, 62 percent of U.S. adults who took the January 11-15 survey rated the Democratic Party favorably, compared to 40 percent who held a favorable opinion of the Republican camp. Almost every demographic group reported feeling more favorable toward Dems -- including white evangelic Christians, who were more like to favor the Democratic Party by 2 percentage points. The latest numbers reflect the highest overall favorability rating of either party in 20 years.

Further parsing of the survey data shows that Americans believe historically excluded & ignored constituencies -- including African Americans, the poor, children, women, gays & lesbians, environmentalists, union leaders, and ordinary folks ("people like yourself") -- will gain significantly more political clout under President Obama's administration compared to the last eight years. The biggest losers in the influence department, Americans predict, will be business corporations, conservative Christians, Washington lobbyists, and "the wealthy." (How do you spell, "it's about damn time"?)

Another high note from the Pew study: in January 2009, 70 percent of Americans surveyed approved of the way President Obama explains his policies and plans. Opinion was sharply divided along partisan lines, however, with Democrats (92 percent) and Independent voters (67 percent) giving Obama a higher approval rating than Republicans (44 percent). Over 80 percent of Americans have heard "a lot" (33 percent) or "a little" about President Obama's economic recovery plan, and a majority -- 57 percent -- think the proposal is a good idea.

There's plenty more enlightening fodder for Democratic data geeks in the full report.