President Obama has recently received criticism by some in his own party for not leading on the same sex marriage issue the way that Governor Cuomo did in New York. President Obama supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. He has said his position on gay marriage is “evolving”.

Supporters of same sex marriage cite the political benefits that Andrew Cuomo has received for his stance. They point to his sky high popularity – a 64 percent job approval rating in the latest Quinnipiac University Poll – and glowing reviews in the press for getting this bill passed, despite a Republican controlled State Senate.

Supporters of same sex marriage are urging President Obama to change his position but the President has a lot more to lose than Governor Cuomo.

As a Democratic politician in a Democratic state, Governor Cuomo’s support of gay marriage wasn’t politically risky. However, if President Obama supports same sex marriage, he could lose key swing states which could cost him the Presidential election.

The Quinnipiac University Poll has just conducted polls in Virginia and New York in which voters were asked their view of same sex marriage. While New York voters support same sex marriage 54-40 percent, Virginia voters oppose it 52-41 percent.

President Obama doesn’t have to worry about losing New York. His approval rating there is 57 percent and in the last election he won 63 percent of the vote. He will carry New York again whether he supports same sex marriage or not. He has to worry about losing key swing states that he won in 2008, like Virginia which had not voted Democrat since 1964. Obama won only 53 percent of the vote in Virginia.

In Virginia, not only do Republicans oppose same sex marriage but so do independents. President Obama will need independents to win Virginia.

His job approval rating in Virginia is only 48 percent. In a close race, it doesn’t take much to tip the election. While the economy and jobs will be the top issue in every state, there will also be some voters who vote on social issues. Politically speaking, same sex marriage doesn’t appear to be a winning issue for President Obama.

President Barack Obama’s small bounce in the May 2011 Quinnipiac University Poll  following the killing of Bin Laden could make a big difference to his reelection chances.

Nobody knows how long President Obama’s bounce in the polls will last, but at least for now he has moved out of “danger territory” and into “safer ground”.

Obama got a 6 percentage point bounce from the killing of Bin Laden. That is not a huge change, but the difference between an incumbent with a 52% approval rating and a 46% approval rating could well be the difference between winning and losing reelection.

Incumbent politicians who have approval ratings above 50% generally are considered in good shape for reelection. Once they fall below 50%…

Of course there are still 18 months to go until the election and a lot can change, but Obama has to be feeling better about being above 50%, a place he has not been for almost two years. His poll numbers had been trending downwards this year as gas prices were rising. In Quinnipiac University’s March 2011 poll he dropped to a low of 42%. These falling poll numbers also generated negative headlines for the President.

The President has recently received very positive headlines because of this national security success – and also rising poll numbers. After being on the defensive for quite some time, President Obama now has some upward momentum.

Even if between now and November 2012 the economy and gas prices drag his numbers back down again, he has taken away a valuable campaign weapon from the Republicans. They won’t be able to accuse him of being a “weak” Commander in Chief. Indeed don’t be surprised to see President Obama mentioning the death of bin Laden often in his campaign.

There are those who will argue that this national security success won’t matter in the end because voters will vote based on pocketbook issues. As James Carville said in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid”. The economy and jobs most certainly will be the top issue for most voters but voters also look at the personal qualities and characteristics when making their choice for President. Obama’s killing of Bin Laden adds to his “stature” as a leader.

Quinnipiac added a new question to it’s April 2011 poll to try to better understand why New Jersey voters feel the way they do toward Governor Chris Christie. 

We asked:

What one word best describes your impression of Christopher Christie?

To illustrate registered voters impression of Christopher Christie responses were entered into Wordle, a website that generates a “word cloud” from text provided by the user. The cloud gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

NOTE: Based on registered voters: Figures show the number of respondents who offered each response: these numbers are not percentages.  This table reports only those words that were mentioned at least five times.

Bully                 140      Obnoxious               7
Arrogant               41      Pompous                 7
Good                   41      Satisfied               7
Aggressive             39      Conservative            6
Strong                 35      Dislike                 6
Tough                  34      Dissatisfied            6
Determined             30      Dynamic                 6
Honest/Honesty         28      Forthright              6
Excellent              27      Awesome                 5
Bold                   16      Blowhard                5
Courageous/Courage     16      Competent               5
Trying                 15      Confident               5
Effective              13      Disappointed            5
Forceful               12      Disappointing           5
Great                  11      Disgust                 5
Fat                    10      Horrible                5
Leader/Leadership      10      Inflexible              5
Terrible               10      Mediocre                5
Okay                    9      Opinionated             5
Capable                 8      Overbearing             5
Fair                    8      Realist/Realistic       5
Tenacious               8      Republican              5
Decisive/Decisiveness   7      Selfish                 5
Disapprove              7      Unfair                  5
Guts/Gutsy              7      Terrific                5
Incompetent             7      DK/NA                  83

Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut state legislature are increasingly out of step with
the public on the issue of the death penalty. Governor Malloy has said that he would sign legislation
to repeal the death penalty and this week the legislature’s judiciary committee passed a repeal bill.

Whether or not it passes in the Senate is an open question but it is pretty clear based
on results from the Quinnipiac University Poll that support for the death penalty in Connecticut has risen
since the Cheshire home invasion murders.

Prior to the murders, a January 2005 Quinnipiac Poll found 59 percent supported the death penalty. In our
February 2011 poll that support had risen to 67 percent.
While it can be argued that support is actually lower with a different question wording, the case can also
be made that support is actually higher with another wording.

Quinnipiac has consistently asked it three different ways. Here are the results ranked
from lowest to highest for support of the death penalty in the February 2011 poll:

Which punishment do you prefer for people convicted of murder, the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole?

Death penalty 48 percent, Life in prison 43 percent

Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?

Favor 67 percent, Oppose 28 percent

Which statement comes closest to your point of view? (A) All persons convicted of murder should get the death penalty.
B) No one convicted of murder should get the death penalty.
C) Whether or not someone convicted of murder gets the death penalty should depend on the circumstances of the case.

All 10 percent, Depends on circumstances 73 percent, No one 16 percent

We can see that even in the question that gets the lowest support for the death penalty, a plurality support it .
When people are given a choice between the death penalty and life in prison for those convicted of murder,
by a 48-43 percent margin voters preferred the death penalty.

Support for the death penalty goes up 19 points when we use the conventional favor/oppose the death penalty wording,
as voters support the death penalty by a 67-28 percent margin.

Support for the death penalty grows even higher when voters are given the option of “it depends on the circumstances”.
Combining those who think everyone convicted of murder should get the death penalty (10 percent) with those who
say it depends on the circumstances (73 percent), a total of 83 percent of Connecticut voters support the
death penalty under certain circumstances.

With only 16 percent saying they oppose the death penalty in every case, there is little moral opposition to using the death penalty in Connecticut.
Voters want to keep the death penalty on the books but want it applied in a case by case approach. In the Cheshire case, for example,
support for the death penalty is 74 percent.

With a sky high 64 percent approval rating, Andrew Cuomo is the most popular governor in the New York tri-state region.   He is also much more popular than several other new big state governors  (see table below). Why is Cuomo enjoying a political honeymoon with the voters, while other governors are sagging in the polls?
The calendar favored Cuomo, whose fiscal year began April 1. Everyone else is still working on a budget starting July 1.    All of the normal tensions accompanying the budget process are affecting all the other governors Quinnipiac polls and Cuomo’s done.  Besides, he did a good job of deflecting criticism on the two big items – Medicaid and school aid.  

Cuomo managed to get a budget done without really alienating anyone.  Cuomo didn’t raise taxes,  which would have angered Republicans.    He also didn’t pick a fight with public employee unions,   which would have upset Democrats.
Cuomo also benefited from his big 30 point election win.  This meant that Cuomo had a real mandate from the voters.  His landslide victory gave him the political clout to strike fear in those state legislators who might have attacked Cuomo’s budget. 
Although Cuomo may have preferred to have the state legislature controlled by the Democrats, having divided government may be a blessing in disguise for Cuomo.  With the Republicans controlling the State Senate, Cuomo knew that it would be very difficult to get a tax increase passed in the state legislature, even if he had wanted one.
Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy didn’t have such luck.  Democrats control the state legislature in Connecticut.  He has put forward a very unpopular tax increase to help balance the state budget, which has resulted in his low job approval rating.  Unlike Cuomo,  Malloy did not start out with much of a cushion in terms of voter support.   Malloy won his race by the narrowest of margins, less than a percentage point.  He has lost the support of many of the people who voted for him, with only 35 percent approving of the job he is doing. 
New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie’s popularity is higher than Malloy’s but lower than Cuomo’s.   Christie’s approval rating is at a decent level, just above 50 percent.   Like New York State,  New Jersey has divided government , as the Democrats control the state legislature.  This may be one of the reasons why Christie hasn’t tried to limit collective bargaining rights for public employees, which is something legislative Democrats would not support.  Had he gone after collective bargaining for public employees, like Governor Kasich in Ohio, perhaps his polling numbers would also have dropped dramatically.

It is ironic that Andrew Cuomo, who could have afforded to take the biggest political risks because of his huge election victory, chose the safest political course, while governors Kasich, Malloy, and Scott, who just barely squeaked out victories and had less room for error have taken bigger risks.   We are now witnessing “voter remorse” in Ohio, Connecticut and Florida as these governors who won their races with only 49 percent of the vote, now have early approval ratings of 35 percent or less.   Malloy is a Democrat, while Kasich and Scott are Republicans but what they have in common are legislatures controlled by their party.  Could this have led these governors to perhaps “overreach” by putting forth proposals popular to their base but not attracting voters from the other party?  If there was divided government in these states, perhaps these governors might have tried harder to reach across party lines.  Such bipartisanship might have given a boost to their political standing.

Most recent approval ratings for Governors in Quinnipiac University Polls

Trump for President – Hired or Fired?

There has been a lot of buzz over the last few days about whether Donald Trump will actually run for President in 2012 and if he does how he would fare in a Republican primary.  But overlooked in the chatter about Trump is that Americans overall don’t really like him that much.  In Quinnipiac’s March 2011 poll, we asked registered voters how they felt about  Donald Trump, as well as several other public figures.   Voters could rate them anywhere between 0 and 100 on our “feeling thermometer”. 

What jumped out about Trump, besides the fact that virtually everyone has an opinion about him, is that more people have a “cold”  or negative feeling about him than a positive feeling.  Forty-three percent rate him below 50, while only 34 percent give him a score above 50.  Sixteen percent give him a neutral score of 50.  Also, there are a lot more people who have a strongly negative feeling about Trump than a  strongly positive feeling.  While 25 percent give Trump the lowest scores  between 0-20, only 8 percent give him the highest scores between 81 and 100.

The other interesting finding is that Trump polled only slightly better among Republicans than the rest of the population.  His mean score among Republicans is 48.5, only slightly higher than among independents who give him a 44.7 mean, with Democrats giving him a 42.4 score.

See table below

6o. How do you feel about Donald Trump?

                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom

 0-20                25%    19%    29%    25%    24%    25%

21-40                17     19     16     18     18     17

41-60                26     27     26     27     24     28

61-80                18     19     16     18     20     16

81-100                8     10      7      7      7      8

DK                    5      4      4      5      6      5

RF                    1      1      2      1      1      1

<50                  43%    40%    47%    45%    43%    44%

50                   16     18     17     15     14     19

>50                  34     38     30     35     36     32

Mean               45.0   48.5   42.4   44.7   45.7   44.4

Americans oppose cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood

Federal funding of Planned Parenthood has emerged today as one of the two sticking points in reaching a budget agreement, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  The Democrats say they can’t agree to a budget deal that includes cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood.  Leaving aside the policy implications, is this good politics?  How will this play with the American people?

In Quinnipiac’s March 2011 national poll, we asked Americans how they would feel about cutting of funding to Planned Parenthood. By a 10 point margin, 53-43 percent, Americans opposed cutting of this funding.

Not only is there a big partisan divide on this issue, but there are big gender, race,  and age gaps, as well.

Democrats, women, blacks, and young people strongly oppose cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood.  While Republicans strongly favor this policy, men, whites and those over the age of 35 are evenly divided.

Table below

30. Do you support or oppose cutting off federal government funding to Planned Parenthood?

                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    Wht    Blk

Support              43%    65%    19%    47%    49%    37%    46%    23%
Oppose               53     30     77     50     46     59     51     68
DK/NA                 5      5      4      4      5      4      4      9

                     AGE IN YRS.......    INCOME.............  POL PHIL.........
                     18-34  35-54  55+    <50    50-100 >100K  Lib    Mod    Con

Support              31%    47%    46%    41%    41%    47%    13%    37%    64%
Oppose               66     50     46     53     58     52     86     60     29
DK/NA                 3      3      8      7      2      1      1      3      7

                            EDUCATION.... WHITE.............
                     Union  NoColl Coll   BrnAgn
                     HsHlds Degree Degree Evngl  Prot   Cath

Support              40%    44%    39%    61%    51%    48%
Oppose               58     50     60     34     44     49
DK/NA                 2      6      2      5      5      2