General Surveys

SP&R’s Post-Election Review Shows We Were First Firm to Show a Close Race for President

Posted on November 27, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News |

SP&R has a solid track record of accurate polling leading up to the recent presidential election, and a review of our polling shows we were perhaps the first firm to show the Presidential race was competitive in Pennsylvania – and long before other firms showed the race tightening in early-to-mid-October.  For instance, in our three main, independent polls conducted in September and October, SP&R showed a close race for president well within striking distance of Obama’s eventual 5-point margin.  In our poll conducted Sept. 18th-20th (on behalf of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review), Obama led Romney by 2 points, or a margin of 47-45. However, according to all other publicly-released polling in September compiled by the polling website, Obama’s average lead in September was 9 points, with some firms showing Obama leading by as many as 12 percentage points. We said at the time in a published story on our blog that a double-digit lead for the President was simply not to be believed, and that it was extremely unlikely the President would carry the Keystone State by a margin anywhere near his 10-point margin in 2008 due to things like a polarized electorate and a struggling economy with continued high unemployment.  So, our early September poll was the first one to show the race competitive, and differed only 3 points from Obama’s eventual 5-point margin.  

Then, our October Statewide Omnibus Poll conducted Oct. 4th-6th on behalf of SP&R subscribers and other corporate sponsors, showed a similar 2-point margin for Obama, thus confirming and validating our September polling.  A second poll commissioned by our client the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania, conducted in early October, showed Romney leading by 4 points (49-45).  Although this was one of the only publicly-released polls to show Romney winning, the fact that he was not over fifty percent in a state as Democratic as Pennsylvania meant Obama could not be counted out.  Plus, the movement towards Romney was entirely consistent with other polls at the time showing significant movement towards Romney after a strong debate performance on Wednesday, October 3rd.  This is because many of these same firms that showed Obama leading by double digits in September now showed margins for Obama only half as big as what they reported earlier.  So, if the race wasn’t really close all along, a position some continue to maintain, then why did both Obama and Romney decide to make a combined $20 Million investment in the state’s major media markets in the last two weeks of the election? Even the average lead for the President according to fell to less than 4 points in late October- which is a lead within the margin of error for most polls and leading many to finally declare the race in Pennsylvania “a tossup”.

Finally, our last independent poll, commissioned by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and conducted October 29-31, showed Obama and Romney tied at 47-47, with the remaining 5% undecided.   This same poll showed U.S. Senate Republican nominee Tom Smith trailing Sen. Bob Casey 46-45, with 10% undecided.  While it is true that the statistical tie for President in this last poll differed by 5 points from Obama’s eventual 52-47 margin, SP&R was perhaps the only firm to accurately peg Romney’s eventual margin (at 47%) and Tom Smith’s (at 45%), a fact seldom reported.  Furthermore, exit polling released on Election Day and conducted nationally now confirms that voters who made up their minds in the last week of the election broke overwhelmingly for Obama and presumably, other Democratic candidates down ballot.  Furthermore, since more than 8 in 10, or 82% of all undecided voters in our last PA poll were Democrats and Independents, it is entirely plausible these undecided voters ultimately broke for both Obama and Casey in their respective races – with Obama over performing by five points (getting 52%) and Casey over performing by eight points (getting 54%).  The fact that these undecided voters broke for the incumbents rather than their Republican challengers is largely viewed as an anomaly, and explains why Obama over performed not only public polling in PA but other states as well.  Plus, if our sampling were in error, this would not explain the fact that our last poll showing the Presidential race tied also showed Democratic Attorney General candidate Kathleen Kane leading her Republican opponent by 11 points (48-37), which turned out to be almost her precise margin of victory.

In the end, Obama won the Keystone State by again racking up a huge margin in Philadelphia (winning by more than 460,000 votes), and running ahead of Romney in the Suburban Philadelphia collar counties where he added an additional 112,000 votes to his column, albeit by smaller margins than 4 years ago.  Although Romney over performed margins former President George Bush received in 2004 in places such as Democratic-leaning Southwestern Pennsylvania and the conservative, rural “T”, it simply wasn’t enough to overcome Obama’s margins in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  Overall, although voter turnout was down from 2008, with approximately 5.5 Million votes cast (compared to 5.9 Million cast in 2008), turnout either held firm or slightly increased for Obama among key constituencies that propelled him to victory 4 years ago.  These included 18-29 year olds (19% of all votes cast), those of Hispanic origin (6% of all votes cast, up from 2008) and black voters (13% of all votes cast).

The final results show that Obama carried the state by only 5 points; not 8, 10 or more points as suggested from polling conducted by other firms in September.  Moreover, Pennsylvania turned out to be only the fifth closest state lost by Romney in the entire country, not far behind losing margins for Romney in other battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Colorado.  This is why respected New York Times bloggers like Nate Silver in a November 25th article entitled PA Could Be Path Forward for GOP, recently discussed how PA – and not other states – was what he called the true “tipping point” that probably cemented Obama’s Electoral College victory.  Anyone reviewing the accuracy of all of SP&R’s presidential polling conducted during the last two months of the election will be happy to know that our polling was, and turned out to be, closer than the other polling firms were stating.

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SP&R analysis of its pre-election polling and post-election outcome

Posted on November 12, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News |

SP&R strives to achieve the most accurate polling whether we are polling for private clients or media-sponsored groups.  In our last statewide poll on behalf of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review showing Obama and Romney tied at 47%-47% (5% undecided), SP&R was the only firm that pegged Romney’s 47% support precisely at his margin on Election Day, whereas according to most other firms showed Romney polling in the low to mid forty percent range.  Plus, most undecided voters in our last poll were Democrats and Independents, and they ultimately broke disproportionately for the incumbent President (based on exit polling).  This was an anomaly since historically undecided voters tend to break for the challenger, which is why Obama over performed our Pitt Trib poll by 5 points on Election Day (getting 52%).  If there was any sampling error in our polling, it was in our basic assumption that turnout among 18-29 year olds would not match 18% of all votes cast like in the last presidential election. This cycle, SP&R polled 18-29 year olds at approximately ten percent of all interviews based on the assumption that 18% turnout in ’08 was a high water mark due to historic popularity for then-candidate Barack Obama.  Exit polling shows 18-29 year olds voted for Obama by a 2:1 margin in 2008 and by a similar margin this year, even despite higher unemployment among this group in comparison to other age groups.   In terms of party affiliation, in all our polls Democrats were sampled at approximately 48%-49% and Republicans at 42% (+6 or +7 point Democrat advantage), whereas initial exit polling shows Democrats with a 45-35 advantage in self party identification.  This small difference was therefore unlikely to have had much of an impact on sampling error.

Lastly, suggestions by some that our polling isn’t to be trusted because we poll mainly for Republican clients is untrue, and conveniently ignores our past record of accurate public polling in past election cycles when Democrats did well.  In 2010, SP&R was the only firm to accurately predict a narrow, 2-point victory margin for now Sen. Toomey against Democratic candidate Joe Sestak in our last poll before the election sponsored by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review showing Toomey leading 48-46.  Most other firms according to showed Toomey with a much bigger lead.  In this same year, SP&R was perhaps the only “Republican” firm with publicly-released polling (again, on behalf of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review) showing then-Democratic candidate Mark Critz with a substantial lead over Republican Tim Burns in the May 2010 special election to fill the vacancy in the 12th Congressional District.  This poll showing Critz with a 7-point lead was widely criticized by top Republican officials at both the Burns campaign and in Washington, DC.  Critz went on to win the special election by 8 points over Tim Burns.

Good polling means all pollsters have to carefully weigh the percentages of interviews being conducted based on varying demographic groups (age, party affiliation, geography, etc.) using not only objective data points like past voting performance and actual voter registration figures, but also more subjective measurements like quantifying enthusiasm levels among various segments of the electorate to predict future voting trends.  This is becoming increasingly more difficult, due to things like non-response error, higher refusal rates and the difficulty of reaching certain segments of the population not easily reached via traditional telephone methods like cell-phone only respondents. Plus, all pollsters generally agree that misreading the way undecided voters will cast ballots means actual vote margins between the candidates in pre-election polling will tend to differ from Election Day-outcomes, as in the case of races for both President and US Senate this year.  SP&R will continue to do the best job it can to carefully weigh all these factors so we can continue to conduct the most accurate polling we can on behalf of all clients in future elections.

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Polls got it right, despite pre-election criticism By Pittsburgh Tribune Review Reporter Mike Wereschagin 11/8/12

Posted on November 8, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News |

After months of partisan criticism, angry dismissals and cries to “unskew” their results, it turns out pollsters know what they’re talking about. Click here to view the rest of the article:

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Trib poll shows presidential race in pennsylvania too close to call By Pittsburgh Tribune Review Reporter Mike Wereschagin 11/3/12

Posted on November 5, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News |

SP&R PA statewide poll conducted for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review showed the race for Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes locked up at 47 percent. Click here to view the article:

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Smith slashes Casey’s lead in Senate contest, poll finds By Pittsburgh Tribune Review Reporter Adam Smeltz 11/3/12

Posted on November 5, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News |

New SP&R PA statewide conducted for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review shows Bob Casey Jr. at 46% and Tom Smith at 45% among likely voters, with 8% undecided. Click here to view the article:

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In Shift, Romney Campaign Approaches Pennsylvania With a New Urgency By New York Times Reporter Jeremy Peters 11/1/12

Posted on November 2, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News |

The Romney campaign has decided to invest its most precious resource, the candidate’s time, in a serious play to win Pennsylvania. Click here to view the article:

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PA pollster calls state “too close to call,” discusses polling bias and criticism By Hot Air Reporter Ed Morrissey 11/1/12

Posted on November 1, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News |

SP&R President and Pollster, Jim Lee, discussing the presidential race in PA and issues between conflicting polling results on with Ed Morrissey. Click here to view the article and listen to the interview:

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Fox News Power Play 10/26/2012

Posted on November 1, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News |

Pollster, Jim Lee, discusses how the presidential race in PA is a tight race on Fox New’s Power Play with Chris Stirewalt. Click here to watch the video:

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Mitt Romney Tops 50 Percent in Florida to Lead President Obama by 5 Clear Points By Sunshine State News Reporter Jim Turner 10/26/12

Posted on October 30, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News |

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pushed above the 50 percent mark in Florida in the poll conducted between Oct. 22 and Oct. 24 by Voter Survey Service (Susquehanna Polling and Research).

Click here to view the article:

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Poll shows Romney leading in blue Pennsylvania By The Washington Examiner 10/18/12

Posted on October 29, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News |

Our most recent PA statewide poll conducted for state party officials shows Romney with a 49 percent to 45 percent lead over President Obama. Click here to view the article:

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