Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Bush approval in the 50 states from SurveyUSA
(Click on the figure, and click again for best resolution.)
UPDATED: The graph has been updated to include the April 2006 data released today by SurveyUSA.
An article by Richard Morin in yesterday's Washington Post presented evidence that approval of President Bush has fallen considerably in "red" states. Jay Cost at RealClearPolitics has written a nice critique of the Morin article, pointing out that Morin is aggregating across states rather than looking at individual states and that his sample size is probably quite small in important cases. Both pieces are well worth reading.
The problem for Morin is that we want to know about state level approval but national polls are ill suited to such estimation. Morin uses only the latest Washington Post poll, divides the sample into residents of strong Bush, close Bush, close Kerry and strong Kerry states and presents his results for these categories of state. As Cost points out, some of these categories have few cases in a national sample, and the large margin of error that results makes his conclusions statistically shaky.
But there is an alternative: SurveyUSA has been doing monthly polling in each of the 50 states since May 2005. Each state has 600 respondents each month, making the small "n" problem go away. SurveyUSA uses a conventional sampling frame for random digit dialing, so their initial selection of numbers should be as good as any telephone poll. But SurveyUSA then uses a recorded voice to ask questions and respondents must enter responses by pushing the buttons on their phone. This method is viewed with deep skepticism by the conventional polling industry. To SurveyUSA's credit, they have published response rates on their website and provided analysis that addresses the concern that automated surveys produce such low response rates as to be unreliable. This isn't all there is to the problem of validating their methodology, but SurveyUSA has been more open about the issues, and has provided better data, than virtually all other survey houses, whether conventional or automated calling.
But the bottom line is that if you want to ask what has been happening in the states over the past year, SurveyUSA is the only game in town. The Morin and Cost pieces have pushed me to go with this post a little sooner than I had planned, and I think it is important that we examine the SurveyUSA data closely. However, the data have the advantage of consistent methodology over time and consistent sample size across states. They also pass the "inter-ocular" test-- the low approval states and the high approval states all "look right".
Read the figure from the lower-left to the upper-right to see approval from the lowest to highest. Look at the trends within and across states to see what has been happening over this time.
Some trends are stronger than others. Of the "red" states, the trend is bad news for President Bush in places like KY, NC, SC and NE. Others are quite stable: AL, MS, OK. The trend is down somewhat in more places than not, and that includes some but not all of the "red" states. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to count which states are down and which not.
Be careful of the scale: Nationally over this period, approval has only moved some 10-15%. The gray background grids are divided into 15% intervals, so that gives you a good sense of the scale of the change.
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Data: These data are provided by SurveyUSA on their website here. SurveyUSA deserves thanks for making this information widely available. The sponsors of the survey in the states also deserve acknowledgement, which follows below.
California KABC-TV KPIX-TV KXTV-TV KGTV-TV
Florida WFOR-TV WPTV-TV WFLA-TV WTLV-TV WKRG-TV
Georgia WXIA-TV WTLV-TV
Indiana WXIN-TV WHAS-TV WCPO-TV
Kentucky WHAS-TV WCPO-TV
Maine WCSH-TV WLBZ-TV
Maryland WMAR-TV WUSA-TV
Michigan WDIV-TV WZZM-TV
Minnesota KSTP-TV WDIO-TV KSAX-TV KAAL-TV
New Hampshire WBZ-TV
New Jersey WABC-TV WCAU-TV
New Mexico KOB-TV
New York WABC-TV WNYT-TV WGRZ-TV WHEC-TV
North Carolina WTVD-TV WFMY-TV
North Dakota SurveyUSA
Ohio WKYC-TV WYTV-TV WCPO-TV
Rhode Island WLNE-TV
South Carolina WCSC-TV WLTX-TV
South Dakota SurveyUSA
Texas WOAI-TV KEYE-TV
Virginia WUSA-TV WDBJ-TV
Washington KING-TV KATU-TV
West Virginia WUSA-TV