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Election 2004 Summary

Third Party Support?: Just over a week ago, Rasmussen Reports issued a poll showing that a third party Presidential candidate emphasizing enforcement would attract 30% support across the nation--essentially tied with a generic Democrat and ahead of a generic Republican. The most significant aspect of that poll, from our view, was the fact that the immigration candidate drew support in roughly equal measure from both Republicans and Democrats. At the time, we noted that, "This result probably reflects unhappiness with both parties on the immigration issue rather than a true opportunity for a third party. Historically, issues that drive third party candidates get co-opted by one of the major parties as they demonstrate popular appeal."

While many cited the survey to show the power of the immigration issue, one pundit suggested that it wasn't really about immigration. Rather, our survey reflected a generic desire for a third party. We tested this theory by running a similar poll using the issue of universal health care.

The results are intriguing. As in the first survey, Democrats hold a large advantage on the generic ballot question (42% to 34% in the most recent survey). Also, like the first survey, the third party gets big support (28% for the universal health care candidate).

However, unlike the immigration survey, the universal health care candidate took support overwhelmingly from one party--the Democrats. With this third party option, support for the generic Democrat fell from 42% to 24%. The overall results show the Democrats slipping from an 8-point advantage to a 4-point deficit, trailing both Republicans and the third party candidate (see Data).

What does it all mean? Yes, it's true that loyalty to the two major parties is weak enough that many people yearn for a Third Party option. But, practical and legal barriers make it unlikely that a true third party will arise.

However, the clear and significant implication is that the dynamics of the immigration issue offer more potential for changing the nation's partisan balance than other issues. That's because the divisions exist within both parties rather than between the parties. It is the only major issue on the national scene today that offers such internal differences within both major parties

Bush Job Approval: One of the major methodological disputes among public opinion pollsters involves weighting data by Political Party. All agree that partisan affiliation is one of the best indicators of voting intentions and perceptions of the President. However, some believe that party affiliation changes on a regular basis. At Rasmussen Reports, we do not. We believe party affiliation is generally stable as people switch their allegiance only rarely. Most of those partisan changes take place along the imaginary line between weak allegiance to a party and unaffiliated status.

This view is derived from data. Our own polling of 15,000 people per month showed only modest changes in month-by-month party affiliation over the past two plus years.  The percentage of Americans who consider themselves Republicans has ranged from 33.8% to 37.1%. Democrats from 35.9% to 38.8%. Exit polls from the last three Presidential elections confirm this view and also show very little change in Party Affiliation.

In addition to data, this view is confirmed by common sense and anecdotal evidence--how many people do you know that switch political parties on a regular basis?

Because there is so little change in partisan affiliation, we believe it is important to hold partisan affiliation constant in our surveys. Otherwise, random sampling variation could imply change that is not really there. For example, if one survey had 5% more Republicans, it would appear to show a bounce for the GOP. If another had 5% more Democrats, it would show a bounce in the opposite direction. In reality, of course, there are no such day-to-day swings in partisan affiliation and such numbers report changes in public opinion that are not really there.

The challenge for a pollster is how to maintain a steady measure of ongoing trends while also keeping up with whatever actual changes do take place in the general public. This is a challenge we continue to address and will continue to explore. For now, we will adjust our partisan targets every month based upon actual survey data from the prior three months. This will provide the needed stability for day to day tracking, but also adjust for longer term trends. The immediate impact is to reduce the President's Job Approval ratings by a point or two.

For context, the table below shows the President's Job Approval month-by-month using this revised approach. Numbers for April 2006 will be released tomorrow. Also, starting tomorrow, month-by-month demographic breakdowns will be provided for Premium Members.

 

Month Approve Disapprove Str. App Some App Some Dis Str. Dis
Mar-06 41% 57% 20% 21% 15% 42%
Feb-06 45% 54% 23% 22% 16% 38%
Jan-06 44% 54% 23% 22% 16% 38%
Dec-05 45% 54% 24% 21% 15% 39%
Nov-05 43% 56% 22% 21% 15% 40%
Oct-05 43% 56% 21% 22% 15% 40%
Sep-05 46% 53% 24% 22% 14% 39%
Aug-05 46% 53% 23% 23% 15% 37%
Jul-05 49% 50% 25% 23% 15% 35%
Jun-05 48% 50% 25% 24% 15% 35%
May-05 48% 51% 24% 23% 16% 35%
Apr-05 48% 51% 25% 23% 15% 35%
Mar-05 50% 49% 27% 22% 15% 34%
Feb-05 51% 48% 28% 22% 15% 33%

 

Generic Ballot: Democrats have a 10-point edge on the Generic Congressional Ballot, 46% to 36%. Pro-enforcement candidates on immigration have a nine-point edge. See Data. See Story.

Connecticut Senate: Senator Joe Lieberman (D) faces a serious challenge from Ned Lamont in the Democratic Primary election. Lamont, virtually unknown a few months ago, is now the choice for 31% of the state's Democrats. Lieberman still has a 20-point lead, but a 51% level of support for an incumbent in a Primary is decidedly unhealthy. Senator Lieberman might take solace, however, in other aspects of the poll which show him winning regardless of whether he runs as an Independent or a Democrat. See Data.

Colorado Governor: The race for Governor in Colorado remains a toss-up between

Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter and the strongest Republican candidate, Representative Bob Beauprez. Former University of Denver President Marc Holtzman trails Ritter by nine percentage points. See Data. The rolling average of our last three polls in Colorado shows Ritter leading Beauprez by 2 and leading Hotzman by 9.

Iowa Governor: In the race for Iowa governor, Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver (D) has eked out a six-point advantage over Republican Congressman Jim Nussle. Culver now leads 46% to 40%, having gained slightly against Nussle for three polls in a row. Nussle is roughly even with Democrat Michael Blouin, leading 43% to 41% after a seven-point gain for Blouin since our previous poll. Democratic state legislator Ed Fallon has also gained a few points, but still trails Nussle 36% to 44%. See Data

Georgia Governor: Cathy Cox is within six points of Sonny Perdue. She trailed by eight a month ago and by double digits before that. See Data.

Arizona: In Arizona, the incumbents remain in good shape. Senator Jon Kyl (R) leads Jim Pederson (D) 51% to 35%. Governor Janet Napolitano (D) continues to hold leads of more than 20 points against potential Republican challengers. 59% of the state's voters are following the immigration debate very closely. 67% say it makes no sense to debate new immigration rules until we first control our borders. 54% say our national policy goal should be to welcome all immigrants except for national security threats, criminals, and those who would live off our welfare system. See Data.

Dems Gain on Immigration: But those who care the most still favor the GOP. See Data. See earlier results for comparison. See Scott's Page comments.

Maryland Senate: Michael Steele (R) now trails both Democrats competing for the right to represent Maryland in the U.S. Senate. He trails Ben Cardin by 10 percentage points and Kweisi Mfume by 4. See Data. He has consistently trailed Cardin, but was up by a single point over Mfume in our previous poll.

Pennsylvania: Rick Santorum (R) continues in his role as the nation's most vulnerable incumbent. After pulling to within nine points of Bob Casey (D) in previous PA poll, he now trails by 13 points.

In the race for Governor, Lynn Swann (R) now holds a 3-point "lead" after trailing in recent polls. However, when Russ Diamond (I) is mentioned as a third option, Ed Rendell (D) opens a 4-point lead. See Data.

Ohio: Senator Mike DeWine (R) is still clinging to a very modest "lead" over Sherrod Brown (D), 43% to 41%. In the race for Governor, Democrat Ted Strickland has a solid and growing lead. See Data.

Illinois Governor: Republican Judy Baar Topinka has opened a modest lead over incumbent Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) in Illinois. See Data. While Topinka holds a 6-point edge in the current poll, the three poll rolling average has the candidates in a virtual tie (Topinka 41% Blagojevich 40%). See Data.

War on Terror: Just 32% of Americans give President Bush good or excellent marks for handling the situation in Iraq. That's down from 35% a month ago. Just 39% of Americans believe the U.S. and its allies are winning the War on Terror (down from 41% a month ago). 49% believe our mission in Iraq will ultimately be considered a failure. That's down from 52% a month ago. See Data.

April 25, 2006--Nebraska Primaries--On May 9, the Republican Primary will determine Nebraska's next Governor and Ben Nelson's challenger in the Senate race. Both races are producing unexpected results.

A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows the Governor's race is too close to call. Governor Dave Heineman nominally leads former Nebraska football coach and Congressman Tom Osborne 44% to 43%. A third candidate, David Nabity, collects only 5% support.

Early on many expected that Heineman, an "accidental governor" who had held the job for only a few months when he began campaigning to win the office in his own right, would be easily trumped by the popular Osborne.

The pundits also got it wrong on the GOP's Senate primary race, with the early conventional wisdom dubbing former State Attorney General Don Stenberg the favorite. However, former Ameritrade CEO Pete Ricketts now leads Stenberg 52% to 26%. The race is just slightly closer among those most certain to vote in the Primary. Ricketts, who used his personal wealth to quickly make his name widely known early in the campaign, is also the most competitive candidate against Senator Nelson.

April 24, 2006--Immigration: Before the immigration debate exploded on the national scene, Americans were evenly divided as to which political party they trusted on the issue. After the earliest rounds of the debate, the GOP gained ground and were favored by a 37% to 31% margin. Since then, Democrats have focused more attention on the enforcement side of the debate (Howard Dean even issued a statement that enforcement of the border is the party's top priority, attempting to get to the right of President Bush). Dean's party may have won round two among the general public--42% now trust Democrats more on this issue to 35% who trust the GOP.

Democrats have gained ground primarily by solidifying their base--77% of Democrats now trust their party more on the issue than Republicans, up from 60% earlier. Democrats have also made gains among unaffiliated Americans. Despite talk of a GOP split, Republicans trust their party more on this issue by a 70% to 12% margin.

However, while Democrats have gained ground, they still trail among the 53% of Americans who say that immigration is very important in terms of how they will vote this November. Among this group, 43% trust the GOP more and 33% trust the Democrats. To the degree that intensity matters, that's good news for Bill Frist and his colleagues in the Senate.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Americans favor building a barrier along the Mexican border (a number that jumps to 73% among those who consider the issue very important).

As mentioned in earlier comments, it is far from clear how this issue will ultimately play out. Just 26% of Americans have a favorable opinion of those who have marched and protested for immigrant rights. Fifty-four percent (54%) have an unfavorable view. More protests are anticipated and the GOP will be happy to promote any possible links between the protestors and leading Democrats. At the same time, some Democrats may fear that ignoring the protestors will create other problems for the party.

See Data. See earlier results for comparison.

Election 2008: In a generic match-up for 2008, 44% of Americans say they will vote for the Democrat in 2008 while just 32% opt for the GOP... Even more stunning, if a third party candidate ran who promised to make enforcement of borders a top priority, 31% would vote for the Democrat, 30% for the immigration enforcement candidate, and 21% for the Republican... The immigration hawk would receive 35% of conservative votes and 32% of moderate votes along with 19% of liberal votes. See Data.

Wisconsin: Little change in the Wisconsin Governor's race. Governor Doyle (D) clings to a 4 point lead over Mark Green. If Tommy Thompson were to throw his hat in the ring, he would lead Doyle by 2. While some in the GOP hope Thompson enters either the race for Governor or Senator this year, both possibilities are considered a long shot at best. See Data.

Immigration Update... April 20, 2004... Initially, many observers assumed the immigration issue would benefit Democrats... Just over a week ago, however, Rasmussen Reports released data showing the Democrats had lost ground during the Congressional debate over immigration... The public, especially those who viewed immigration as a very important issue, generally favored a much greater emphasis on border control... Yesterday, DNC Chairman Howard Dean stated "The first thing we want is tough border control." It remains to be seen how this issue will play out in Election 2006... and beyond.

Maryland Governor: Governor Ehrlich (R) trails both men who want his job... He trails Martin O'Malley (D) by 9 and Doug Duncan (D) by 2. See Data.

Florida Governor: Charlie Crist (R) has an 11-point lead over Democrat Jim Davis in the race to be Florida's next Governor. It's Crist 44% and Davis 33%. That's the biggest lead Crist has enjoyed in our polls during Election 2006. Tom Gallagher also hopes to be the Republican nominee in the Governor's race and he leads Davis by a single point. See Data.

The rolling average of our last three polls shows Crist leading Davis 41% to 35%. Gallagher leads 40% to 36%. Crist has gained ground in each poll we've conducted this year.

Last month, Crist enjoyed a double-digit lead over Gallagher in the GOP Primary competition. We will be polling on that match-up again next month.

Rod Smith (D) is a longshot for his party's nomination and trails both Republicans by more than Davis. See Data.

Virginia Senate: Senator George Allen (R) remains at the 50% level of support and leads both Democrats challenging him by nearly 20 percentage points. See Data.

Texas Governor: In a 4-way race, Governor Rick Perry (R) continues to attract support from 40% of Texas voters. None of the other 3 candidates reach 20%. Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Republican running as an Independent, has fallen from the 30% range in previous polls to 19% in April. See Data.

California Governor: In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has opened the first significant lead of the campaign. He now leads Phil Angelides (D) 49% to 36% and Steve Westly 48%-40%. The incumbent trailed both challengers by a single point in our previous California poll. This is the first time the Republican has been anywhere close to the 50% mark in terms of voter support.

Both Democrats are a bit weaker among their own party than they were a week ago and Schwarzenegger has improved his standing among the unaffiliated.

Several possible factors could account for the change. First, of course, the immigration issue has exploded on to the scene. Second, the two Democrats have been busy attacking each other for the right to challenge Schwarzenegger. Third, Angelides has been talking about tax increases in a state where only 26% of voters believe tax hikes are good for the economy.

The Schwarzengger-Angelides match-up has been a virtual tie in all of our previous polls dating back to last year. With Westly, the match-up numbers have been a bit more volatile, but the rolling average of the previous three polls showed the race essentially tied.

New Jersey Senate: No such dramatic shift in New Jersey, although Republican Tom Kean, Jr. made a little progress and now leads Robert Menendez (D) 43% to 36%. In our previous Garden State survey, Kean led 41% to 39%. While Kean has a modest edge in the poll, Menendez has three times as much cash in the bank and will benefit from the state's traditional Democratic leaning. With one-in-five voters undecided at this point, much can change between now and November.

Taxes or the Dentist Chair?: Americans are evenly divided as to which is worse, filling out income tax forms or going to the dentist. However, a quarter of a century after Ronald Reagan rode the tax revolt to the White House, Americans still tend to see tax cuts as good for the economy and tax hikes as bad. See Data. See Story.

Easter: As Christians around the world celebrate Easter 2006, 83% of Americans believe the person known to history as Jesus Christ actually walked the earth. 78% believe he was the son of God who came to earth to die for our sins. 75% believe he rose from the dead. See Data. Fifty-seven percent (57%) say they will attend Church this weekend, but 74% will have an Easter meal with the family. See Data.

Florida, Montana, Alabama, Arkansas: In Florida, Katherine Harris (R) and her imploding campaign now trail Senator Nelson by 30 percentage points, 57% to 27%. Nelson must simply be hoping that Harris stands by her commitment to remain in the race. See Data. See Story.

In Montana, embattled incumbent Conrad Burns (R) may be bouncing back a bit. He now leads Jon Tester by 3 and trails John Morrison by just 2. Both represent an improvement over our previous polling. At the very least, it appears that Burns has stopped falling. See Story.

In Alabama, Governor Riley's (R) lead over Lucy Baxley (D) is back to single digits, 47% to 40%. In Arkansas, Mike Beebe (D) leads Asa Hutchinson (R) 47% to 36%.

Massachusetts Governor: The Democrats' edge in this very blue state has declined a bit. Former Republican, now Independent candidate for governor, Christy Mihos continues to attract about a fifth of the vote. If anything, though, his presence seems to help the GOP candidate, Kerry Healey. Healey is within single digits of the leading Democrats as she seeks to keep this statehouse in the Republican column. See Data. See Story.

Washington Senate: In Washington, challenger Mike McGavick (R) has moved within single digits of Senator Maria Cantwell (D). Cantwell, who now leads 48% to 40%, has slipped a point in each of our last three monthly polls (and in four of the last five). She has now been below 50% in consecutive surveys, a sign of potential vulnerability for any incumbent.

This is the first time McGavick has reached 40%, reflecting the fact that he is solidifying support among Republicans. However, he trails by 15 points among those not affiliated with either major party. See Data.

Missouri Senate: In Missouri, there is no movement. Claire McCaskill (D) "leads" Senator Jim Talent (R) 42% to 41% in the latest Rasmussen Reports survey. However, the three poll rolling average shows the candidates tied at 42%. They were tied in the 3-poll average last month and the month before. See Data.

Immigration: Legislation on immigration reform has died in the Senate and their is no consensus in the nation. We asked about a proposal to let illegal aliens get on a path towards citizenship if they "pay a fine for entering the country illegally, pay al back taxes, and learn to speak English." Forty-one percent (41%) are in favor, 42% opposed.

The GOP has gained a bit of ground on the issue. Thirty-seven percent (37%) now trust Republicans more on the issue, 31% Democrats. See Data. At the end of March, the two parties were even on this topic.

Among those who are following the debate in Congress closely, 46% trust Republicans more while 31% prefer Democrats.

Partisan Trends: Rasmussen Reports conducts completed interviews with 15,000 adults each month as part of our tracking survey program. Among other things, this allows us to measure changes in partisan allegiance of the general public on a month-to-month basis. You can now review the data from January 2004 through March 2006 here. Comments on the data can be found on Scott's Page.

Tom DeLay: Just 20% nationally have a favorable opinion of DeLay, 45% unfavorable. That's a very high level of name recognition for a Member of Congress. Still, 57% say that DeLay is at least as ethical as most politicians. See Data. See Story.

Kansas Governor: Our latest survey in Kansas shows Incumbent Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) moving above 50% for the first time in Election 2006. As a Democrat in a very "Red" state, Sebelius can take nothing for granted, but is well positioned at this time. See Data.

More on Immigration... We asked survey respondents to choose between two candidates... One candidate favors building a barrier along the Mexican border and forcing illegal aliens to leave the United States. The other candidate favors expanding the ways that foreign workers can legally get jobs in the United States. The candidate who would force illegal aliens to leave is favored by a 46% to 38% margin.

Just 36% believe children born to illegal aliens should automatically receive U.S. citizenship. See Data. See Story.

Maine Governor: Governor Baldacci (D) continues to struggle and now trails Emery (R) by 3 points. Mills (R) is up by a point over the Governor. Baldacci, however, leads the third Republican, Chandler Woodcock by 7 points. Please note that we changed the favorables question in this state. We previously asked just favorable or unfavorable. Now we ask very, somewhat favorable or unfavorable and will continue to do so through the election. This approach yields higher fav and unfav numbers for most candidates... (we have fewer not sures this way, and a large number with a somewhat favorable or unfavorable opinion). See Data.

Iowa: The race between Nussle and Culver for Governor of Iowa remains too close to call. See Data.

April 7, 2006--Party Affiliation: A look at our month-by-month party affiliation data yields several observations and one big question for Election 2006. First, the observations.

1) Party allegiances tend to be quite stable over time. Despite the enormous news and political events of the past 27 months, the gap between Republicans and Democrats has never varied by more than 3.4 percentage points from highest to lowest. On a quarterly basis, the gap barely tops 2 percentage points.

2) Democrats have some gained ground since Election 2004. On Election Day, among all adults, the D's had a one-and-a-half percentage point advantage in allegiance. That shrunk to less than a point in early 2005 and has grown to nearly 3 points today.

3) Republicans gained ground during the 2004 campaign season... from a low of a four point disadvantage in March to a point-and-a-half in October and November.

Here's the big question for 2006... which of the trends is more relevant? If the post-Election trend continues, that's good news for the Democrats. However, if the Republicans once again gain ground during the election year, hopes of a Democratic takeover will disappear.

Naturally, there's a theory to support each side of the argument. For Democrats, it's pretty straightforward. Americans have had it with President Bush, the culture of corruption, and Republican governance in general. The tide has turned.

For Republicans, one analyst believes that the GOP always gains ground during election years and loses it in the off years. Why? In his view, the media favors Democrats which explains the GOP decline during off years. However, during a campaign season, as candidates and their campaigns become more vocal and visible, the campaigns actually diminish the impact of the media. This, he believes, is why the GOP will gain ground in Election 2006.

For the record, the Democrats had a 3.4 percentage point advantage over the GOP in the first quarter of 2004. They have a 2.4 percentage point advantage today.

Michigan, Arizona, Maryland, Pennsylvania: In the Michigan Senate race, incumbent Debbie Stabenow (D) still leads three likely challengers by decent margins. But, her lead is shrinking a bit, perhaps being dragged down a bit by the Michigan economy. In Arizona, it looks like both Governor Napolitano (D) and Senator Kyl (R) are heading for a fairly comfortable re-election. In the Maryland Senate race, Ben Cardin (D) leads Michael Steele (R). However, Steele leads Kweisi Mfume (D) and has gained a bit of ground on Cardin. In Pennsylvania, Casey (D) still leads incumbent Senator Santorum (R). However, we asked a follow-up question noting that the National Organization for Women is concerned about Casey on the abortion issue and is endorsing another candidate in the primary. With this information, voters favor Santorum 46% to 41%. While Santorum is still in trouble, the lack of voter knowledge about Casey gives the incumbent a chance if he can successfully define his challenger.

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Immigration: New immigration data suggests two points of common ground in the debate. First, two-thirds of voters believe that it is possible to reduce illegal immigration. Second, a similar number believes it makes no sense to debate new rules until we can control our borders and enforce existing laws. Just over half favor letting in any immigrants who are not a national security threat, a criminal, or planning to live off our welfare system. But, the data suggests those seeking compromises may underestimate the level of anger that the situation has gotten this far out of hand. When informed that 11 million illegal aliens live in this country, and that half of them have lived here for more than five years, 40% still favor forcibly requiring all 11 million illegal immigrants to leave the country. Just 44% are opposed.

Those who live in the Southwestern border states share similar views to the rest of the county. They are a bit less optimistic about our ability to reduce illegal immigration, but just as willing to forcibly require all illegal aliens to leave the country. See Data.

Colorado: The Governor's race in Colorado is now a toss-up. Democrat Bill Ritter now leads Republican Bob Beauprez by just a single percentage point, 41% to 40%. See Data. A month ago, Ritter was ahead by 7 points (see story from month ago)... Our previous poll was conducted at a time when Ritter was enjoying the momentum of clearing the Primary field and emerging as the undisputed Democratic nominee.

Immigration: We've posted some new data on the immigration issue... and will be adding more over the weekend. At this early stage in the debate, it's clear that neither side has figured out the nuances required to move forward in a positive manner. See Data. See Story. More immigration data coming this weekend.

New Jersey Senate: Republican Tom Kean, Jr. has a 41% to 39% edge over appointed Senator Robert Menendez (D). The Democrat had a 3-point edge in our previous poll (39% to 36%), but has yet to crack the 40% barrier. The three-poll rolling average also shows Kean up by two points, 40% to 38%.

Governor Jon Corzine's Approval has plummeted 11 points in a month to 49%. The President's Approval is at 38% in the Garden State. See Data.

Ohio: In the Senate race, incumbent Mike DeWine's (R) lead has been cut to three percentage points, 45% to 42%. A month ago, he had a nine point advantage over Sherrod Brown (D). That last survey was conducted shortly after Paul Hackett (D) had withdrawn from the race and some Democrats were withholding support from Brown. However, that episode is now behind Brown and his support among Democrats has bounced back. See Data.

In the Governor's race, Ted Strickland (D) has a solid lead over both Republican challengers. See Data.

Michigan Governor: The economic woes of Michigan and the auto industry continue to drag down Governor Jennifer Granholm's (D) chances for re-election. Last month, our polling showed that Granholm's lead disappeared. Our latest poll in the state confirms that finding--Granholm and DeVos are now tied at 44% each. See Data. Granholm's favorables are steady, but below 50%. DeVos is still relatively unknown but his numbers are improving.

Illinois: Following the Primary season, the Illinois Governor's race starts out even. Neither incumbent Rod Blagojevich (D) or challenger Judy Baar Topinka (R) has even wrapped up solid support within their own party. Favorables for both are less than what they would like and the Governor's Approval rating is at 39%. This could shape up to be a lot like last year's race in New Jersey where both candidates are seen as less than desirable by large segments of the voting population. See Data.

Montana: The filing deadline has passed in Montana and the more popular Republicans ended up passing on the race. Senator Conrad Burns (R) is essentially tied with Jon Tester and trails John Morrison by 5. Those numbers are little changed from earlier polls. This is the first survey to include Republican Bob Keenan as an option. He, too, is tied with Tester and trails Morrison. See Data.

Pennsylvania: In Pennsylvania, the race for Governor remains a toss-up with Rendell (D) continuing to hold a modest edge. See Data. In the Senate race, Bob Casey (D) has lost a bit of support but continues to hold a 10-point edge over incumbent Rick Santorum (R). It is likely that challenges from the left on the abortion issue has softened support for Casey.

Wisconsin: Governor Jim Doyle (D) is clinging to a modest lead in his bid for re-election. However, he's well below the 50% mark and his lead is shrinking. One troubling detail for the incumbent in the crosstabs--there are hardly any undecideds among Democrats (1% or 2% depending upon the match-up). Nine percent (9%) of Republicans are undecided along with 18% of those not affiliated with either party. See Data.

Virginia Senate: Senator George Allen (R) appears to be in solid shape once again, topping the 50% mark against both potential challengers. Last month, Allen's numbers suffered a temporary decline, perhaps stemming from the launch of two campaigns against him. But, now, his numbers against both Miller and Webb suggest the Senator can anticipate a fairly comfortable election night. The only downside for the incumbent is the fact that election night is still many months away. See Data.

Allies and Enemies: Just 18% of Americans believe France is our ally in the War on Terror. The United Nations does a bit better while Great Britain is seen by most as an ally. See Story. 80% believe bin Laden is alive, but just 37% believe we'd be safer if he is captured or killed. See Story. See Data.

Georgia Governor: The race for Governor of Georgia may be getting a bit more competitive. Incumbent Sonny Perdue (R) now leads Secretary of State Cathy Cox 49% to 41%. He leads Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor 51% to 41%. That's the closest the race has been in any of our three Georgia polls this year. The three-poll rolling average shows Perdue over Cox 51% to 38% and Perdue leading Taylor 53% to 35%. See Data.

All three polls matching Perdue and Cox are within the margin of error for the three poll average. This means that while it is possible Cox has gained ground in the latest poll, it is also possible that the gains are nothing more than statistical noise. We will have to wait and see the result of next month's poll to know which interpretation is correct.

As for Taylor, his jump to 41% is a significant improvement over earlier polls in which he received 33% and 32% of the vote. This suggests that he has made some actual gains in the race. Next month's survey will give us an indication of how solid those gains really are.

In any case, the overall sense of the race is that Perdue remains the solid favorite, but is not in a position to take things for granted.

California Governor: Governor Schwarzenegger (R) is in a dead heat with two Democrats who want his job. See Data. In both match-ups, the incumbent trails 45% to 44%. The rolling average of our last three polls shows Schwarzenegger tied with Angelides at 42% each. Against Westley, the 3-poll average shows Schwarzenegger ahead 41% to 40%. All in all, this looks to be a very competitive race.

Censure: 38% of Americans believe President Bush should be censured. 45% disagree. So far, the issue appears to be good for Senator Feingold but not as good for his party. See Data.

Florida Governor: In the Primary Election battles Charley Crist leads on the Republican side. Jim Davis has a large lead among Democrats. See Data.

Massachusetts Governor: Businessman Christy Mihos (I) has bolted the GOP and is running for Governor as an Independent. He attracts nearly 20% of the vote, but doesn't change the bottom line--Democrats still lead. The last Democrat to serve as Governor in this very blue state was Michael Dukakis. See Data

South Dakota: Governor Mike Rounds (R) signed legislation that bans abortion except when the life of the mother is at risk. Forty-five percent (45%) of South Dakota voters favor the legislation and 45% are opposed. Rounds has strong Job Approval and Favorability ratings and no opponent in his 2006 election bid. But, he trails Senator Tim Johnson (D) in a hypothetical 2008 match-up. Stephanie Herseth (D), after two close campaigns in 2004, will coast easily to re-election in 2006. See Data.

Dubai Ports Update: A week-and-a-half after our first poll showed how damaging the Dubai Ports issue is to President Bush and the GOP, the numbers haven't budged. Just 19% now favor the Dubai Ports deal, little different than the 17% who supported it in our initial poll. Democrats in Congress still retain a one-point advantage over the President on national security issues. See Data.

February 9, 2006: Fundamental Change in Political Landscape: Heading into Election 2006, there has been a fundamental change in the political landscape.

The previous two election cycles were all about National Security debated in the context of Iraq. We saw evidence of this running through all of our polling data. Even Consumer and Investor Confidence was driven more by international events than by economic news. When there was good news from Iraq, confidence in the economy went up. Bad news from Iraq sent confidence heading in the opposite direction. In fact, the highest levels of economic confidence measured since 9/11 were found in the immediate afterglow of capturing Saddam Hussein.

Consider this... on Election Day 2002, just 23% of Americans rated the economy as good or excellent. Despite that dismal assessment, the President's party re-gained control of the U.S. Senate in the election.

On Election Day 2004, 51% thought the U.S. and its allies were winning the War on Terror. Not coincidentally, the President's Job Approval was at 51% and he received 51% of the vote.

In 2006, however, things are different. The economy has emerged as a more important issue than the situation in Iraq. When we asked a national sample this question directly, 54% said the economy was more important and 33% picked the situation in Iraq. We see evidence of this in other data as well. In particular, our economic confidence data is no longer driven primarily by international events. Economic data once again drives perceptions of the economy. On the political front, gas prices have had a bigger impact on the President's Job Approval than news from Iraq.

The shifting political landscape clearly benefits Democrats. When the debate is about national security, Republicans have a built-in advantage that the Democrats cannot overcome in the near-term. However, on economic matters, Democrats are much more competitive and currently have a modest advantage among American voters.

It is possible that perceptions of the parties on economic issues will shift during 2006... and that could go in either direction. It is also possible that something will happen on the security front to bring that issue front and center once again. But, for now, the playing field is friendlier to Democrats than it has been at any point since the world changed on September 11, 2001.

February 3, 2006: We asked 1,000 adults basic questions about Iraq and the economy on Monday and Tuesday night. We repeated the questions on Wednesday and Thursday, following the President's Address. As you can see from the summary below, the speech had virtually no impact on public opinion.

State of the Union Survey Data Monday-Tuesday Wednesday-Thursday
Trust More to Manage Economy    
  Bush 40% 41%
  Democrats in Congress 44% 46%
Trust More on Situation in Iraq    
  Bush 44% 46%
  Democrats in Congress 43% 43%
Over Six Months, Will Iraq Get    
  Better 32% 32%
  Worse 44% 46%
  Stay About the Same 17% 14%

You can review the raw data here.

We also ran a separate survey of Likely Voters on Wednesday night and found broad support for the President's themes concerning development of alternative energy sources, his position on the Palestinian Government, and other topics. But, 53% still believe gas prices will be higher in six months and an identical number say it's somewhat or very likely we will be at war with Iran in the next year. These perceptions generally cut across partisan and ideological lines.

Just 22% of Americans believe most American soldiers will be out of Iraq by the end of 2006. Forty-six percent (46%) say that outcome's not very likely, 29% say it's not at all likely.

January 27, 2006: We've been comparing perceptions of Hillary Clinton to the political center for nearly a year. Today, we released data measuring similar perceptions of George Bush, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani.

As reported twice a month since last April, Senator Clinton is typically perceived as 50-60 points left of the political center. George W. Bush, on the other hand, is currently seen as 32 points to the right of center (See table below).

  Bush Clinton Giuliani McCain Public
Conservative 59 10 25 22 35
Liberal 10 46 16 14 18
Net 49 -36 9 8 17
Distance from Center

Right

32

Left

53

Left

8

Left

9

0

As shown above, McCain and Giuliani are perceived to be much closer to the political center than either Bush or Clinton. However, the table also highlights the difficulty faced by both men within the Republican Party. Both are perceived as politically left of center while seeking the nomination of a party that leans to the right of center.

In fact, McCain and Giuliani are closer to the political center of the Democrats than they are to the Republican center. (Our latest polling found Democrats across the nation to be 28 points left of center... Republicans are 42 points right of center).

January 11, 2006--Abramoff: Our Montana poll released today offers the first tangible evidence that the Abramoff scandal could topple incumbent politicians. Senator Burns was leading by double digits and staying above the 50% mark in polling last fall. Now, his lead is gone and Burns is several points below 50%--always a troubling sign for an incumbent.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of Montana voters say the Abramoff scandal will be somewhat or very important in determining their vote this November. Clearly, people are paying attention.

At the same time, the data suggests that it may be difficult for Democrats to translate this issue from specific campaigns to an overall them. Even in Montana, where the incumbent has given back over $100,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff, two-thirds of the state's voters say that Burns is as ethical or more ethical than most politicians. In other words, when it comes to ethics, voters continue to grade politicians on a curve.

It's not that voters like what they hear about Abramoff's money. In fact, all evidence shows they are disgusted by stories like this. But, it's what voters expect of politicians. That's why, despite the various revelations about Abramoff, Senator Burns is still tied in his bid for re-election. It's also why corruption is a difficult campaign theme for the out-party to run on.

January 9, 2006--Texas Governor: Until recently, the race for Governor of Texas seemed pretty straightforward. The Republican incumbent, Rick Perry, held a steady lead over Carole Strayhorn in the GOP Primary. Despite the serious challenge from within his own party, Perry was then poised to move on and win the General Election.

But, Strayhorn changed all that when she decided to skip the Republican Primary and challenge Perry in the General Election as an Independent. Now, there's a four-way race (including a Democrat and another Independent candidate). Rick Perry gets just 40% of the vote, but it's enough for a double digit lead in the crowded field. Still, the fact that more people are planning to vote against Perry than for him should be enough to make any incumbent nervous.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. One key to watch will be the shifting support for the anybody-but-Perry candidates.

January 4, 2006--Bush Coattails? The first Election Polls conducted in 2006 suggest that the President's modest comeback in Job Approval ratings has not translated into gains for GOP Senate candidates. In Missouri, Republican incumbent Jim Talent now trails by 3 points in his bid for re-election. Two months ago, he trailed by 2. In Washington State, incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell continues to hold a 15-point lead in her re-election campaign.

In Washington, Cantwell attracts 89% of the vote among Democrats. Her challenger, Mike McGavick, earns just 77% of the Republican vote. Cantwell also holds a 19-point edge among unaffiliated voters.

Security vs. Liberty: The early political impact of the NSA story appears to be minimal. Just 33% of Americans believe President Bush broke the law and just 26% believe he is the first President to authorize such a program. Those figures suggest that the NSA story has struck a chord with opponents of the President, but has not yet resonated with anyone beyond the anti-Bush base.

These figures (along with trends in the President's Job Approval rating) are probably the best gauge of public reaction to the NSA story. As a result, we will watch them closely in the coming weeks and months.