Obama, Romney looking angry

Image Credit: Associated Press

According to the poll released yesterday by Fox News, President Obama is currently leading challenger Mitt Romney by a 9-point margin. The poll shows Obama taking 49 percent of the vote, while Romney would only take 40 percent if the election were held today.

 

This is a significant increase from Fox News’ June horse-race poll, which showed Obama at 45 percent and Romney at 41 percent.

 

Obama’s advantage in this latest poll is mostly a result of increased support from independent voters, who now favor him over Romney by an 11-point margin. 30 percent of independents remain undecided.

 

54 percent of those polled said that they had a favorable view of the candidate, his highest favorability rating in this poll in over a year. According to the poll, this is nearly as high as the 59 percent approval rating reported shortly after the 2008 election.

 

CNN’s Thursday presidential poll has also shown strong support for the president, with 52 percent of registered voters indicating that they would choose President Obama, while 45 percent said they would vote for Romney if the election were held today.

 

The CNN poll also showed that Obama’s approval rating is staying relatively constant at 50 percent. 47 percent of those polled disapproved of the President’s job performance.

 

56 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the President in the CNN poll, while only 42 percent were unfavorable. These numbers did not look as good for Romney, who had a 47 percent favorability rating and a 48 percent unfavorable rating.

 

These poll results seem to indicate that the President is making inroads with independent voters. The percentage of voters that would pick Obama over Romney has steadily increased over the last month.

 

RealClearPolitics now shows an Obama lead of 4.4 points in its polling average. This estimate includes the CNN and Fox polls.

The FiveThirtyEight estimate is now showing that Obama has a 73.3 percent chance of winning the general election, up significantly from a month ago.

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Support for Amendment 64, Legalizing Marijuana, in the August 8 Public Policy Poll

Colorado support for Amendment 64 compared to general support for legalizing marijuana.

According to today’s Public Policy Poll of Colorado, support for Amendment 64 has grown since the June poll. The amendment, which will be on the Colorado ballot in November, proposes to legalize and regulate growth, possession, and usage of marijuana.

Support has grown by five points to 47-38 from 46-42 in June this year. Independents now support the amendment 58-28, up thirty points from support of 49-40 in June. Democrats favor it 59-22 while Republicans support it 26-61.

15% of voters are undecided on Amendment 64, up from 12% in the June poll.

The poll also posed a more general question, asking whether marijuana should be legal or illegal. Respondents were somewhat more in favor in this situation, supporting legalization 50-42 with 8% undecided. That’s a 2-point increase from June, when respondents supported legalization 49-43.

Support for Amendment 64 and legalized marijuana by political affiliation.

Support for Amendment 64 and legalized marijuana by political affiliation.

The 5-point swing in favor of legalization suggests that Colorado voters are becoming more comfortable with the idea of legalizing marijuana and taxing it in a manner similar to alcohol. This could be a result of the recent pro-legalization ad campaign.

It’s also possible that a lot of this change is a result of statistical noise. The margin of error on both polls was +/-3.5%, so much of the shift could be accounted for by sampling error.

However, the 30-point shift in independent support for the amendment is suggestive. The margin of error for independents is larger than for the overall poll, due to the lower number of independents, but a shift of this magnitude likely represents increasing support in this group.

In addition, little has been heard from groups opposed to Amendment 64. The group Smart Colorado, founded by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, opposes the amendment but has only raised $16,000 as of the latest update.

Groups in favor of Amendment 64, including the Colorado Democratic Party and the state medical marijuana industry, have raised well over $2 million.

It is still early. The election is still three months away, and the outcome can easily change during that time. California’s latest legalization attempt, Proposition 19, was leading in polls until late September 2010. It was defeated in the 2010 midterm elections 53.5% to 46.5%.

If support for Amendment 64 continues to grow, it may become law in November. But supporters of the amendment will need to be wary of a co-ordinated opposition by special interest groups. Such opposition has defeated similar measures in Colorado and California in the past.

A recent Fox News poll of 912 registered voters conducted  on June 24-26, before the Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling, shows President Barack Obama leading challenger Mitt Romney 45-40, with 10% undecided.

In addition, the poll found that 47% of respondents thought Obama “will do a better job looking out for you and your family during tough economic times,” compared to only 36% who felt that way about Romney.

Obama also lead Romney by a 14-point (41-27) margin when asked which candidate had a clear plan to improve the economy.

The poll also showed a presidential approval rating of 48% and a disapproval rating of 43% with 9% undecided.

Finally, the poll found that 54% of respondents favored the Obama administration’s recent decision to stop deportation and grant work permits to undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought here as children. Only 36% opposed this decision.

The poll was conducted among randomly selected landline and cellular phones and had a 3-point margin of error.

I’ve mentioned before that I find national presidential polling to be somewhat pointless. However, I always find it interesting when Fox News releases a poll that shows Obama with a wider lead than the averages of respected poll aggregators like Real Clear Politics (3.6-point lead) or the Huffington Post (1.5-point lead).

Amendment 64, legalizing and regulating marijuana, has overwhelming support among ColoradansThe recent June 9 Rasmussen Reports poll, released four months before the election, shows that 61% of likely voters in Colorado support Amendment 64, also known as the Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act of 2012. Only 27% of Colorado likely voters are opposed, while 12% are undecided.

To put this in perspective, a poll conducted in California four months before the 2010 election found that only 44% of Californians supported legalization, 48% were opposed, and 8% were undecided. The California amendment, Proposition 19, was defeated 53.5% to 46.5% on Election Day.

In Colorado, as in California, a major factor in the eventual success or failure of the marijuana legislation is the groups that are for or against it. Amendment 64 is supported by the Colorado Democratic Party, the state medical marijuana industry, and a variety of activist groups. According to the Denver Post, supporters of Amendment 64 have raised approximately $2 million, all but $16,500 of which is from out of state.

Opposition to Amendment 64 remains light, with State Senator Steve King and the group Smart Colorado, run by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, as the only major opposition thus far. The Denver Post reports that Smart Colorado has raised $15,000, $10,000 of which is from outside Colorado.

Opponents of Amendment 64, like Robert Sherman of CRL Associates, argue Amendment 64 is “bad for business as far as employers are concerned and it impacts how employers deal with their employees. We’re talking about huge ramifications on our children, on our state, and just the whole impacts on health and education.”

Supporters of this amendment, such as Tony Ryan, a former Denver police officer, argue, “Keeping marijuana illegal doesn’t do anything to reduce marijuana use, but it does benefit the gangs and cartels who currently control the illegal marijuana trade.” It will also provide much-needed tax revenue.

A similar measure from 2006, Amendment 44, sought to legalize marijuana but did not seek to regulate it in the same fashion as alcohol and tobacco. A poll conducted 40 days* before the election showed 29% of likely voters supported this amendment, 36% were opposed, and 35% were undecided.

Amendment 44 was defeated 59 to 41 with about $200,000 raised in favor and $1 million** raised by opposition groups. It is a fair assumption that many of the same groups that opposed this legislation in 2006 will oppose Amendment 64 in 2012.

However, a fundraising advantage does not necessarily indicate which side will be more successful. Approximately $4 million was raised in support of Proposition 19 in California, while only $320,000 was raised by the opposition. As mentioned above, that measure was defeated by a 7-point margin.

Nationally, it appears public opinion is shifting toward legalizing and regulating the sale of small amounts of marijuana. A nationwide poll released on May 17, 2012 by Rasmussen Reports showed 56% of likely voters supported legalizing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, while only 36% were opposed.

Barring any significant shifts in public opinion or massive increases in opposition fundraising, it appears Amendment 64, to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, is well on its way to becoming law.

Update: The Public Policy Poll of registered voters released today shows 49% in favor of legalization and 43% against with 8% undecided. Independents support legalization 49-40, young people favor it 58-33, and voters over 65 oppose it 58-33. It appears the fate of this amendment will likely be determined by voter turnout in these two groups. Young voters historically have higher turnout during presidential election years, an advantage Prop 19 didn’t have in 2010.

 

*It’s somewhat problematic to compare a poll conducted four months before an election to a poll conducted 40 days before an election, but I was unable to locate any other polling for Amendment 44.

**Some of the committees that opposed Amendment 44 also opposed other measures on the Colorado ballot, so it is impossible to determine how much of this $1 million was spent solely against Amendment 44.

The Gallup annual environmental survey, released March 29, 2012, shows that 49% of Americans prioritize economic growth over environmental protection, while 41% of Americans value protection over growth. That’s an 8-point margin in favor of growth, down from last year’s 18-point margin.

During times of economic hardship it’s understandable that people, especially those that are having trouble paying their bills or are in danger of losing their jobs, would prioritize economic growth over protection of the environment.

But there’s something funny going on with this poll. Let’s take a look at the question:

With which one of these statements about the environment and the economy do you most agree – [ROTATED: protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth (or) economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent]?

This question strikes me as a little misleading. They seem to suggest that environmental protection and economic growth cannot occur simultaneously. Perhaps the phrasing of the question is a reflection of the common misconception that environmental protection comes at the cost of economic growth.

So what this poll has actually discovered is that 49% of Americans favor the economy over the environment when protecting the environment curbs economic growth.

Economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive; economic growth can spur innovation in renewable energy and energy efficient technologies, and investment in such technologies can promote economic growth.

As Robert and Edward Ayres report in Crossing the Energy Divide, American steelmaker ArcelorMittal has a program called “cokenergy”, where excess heat from blast furnaces is used to generate electricity and heat their facilities. The program generates enough electricity to power their entire Chicago plant, at about half the cost of electricity from the local utility. This saves ArcelorMittal money that can then be used elsewhere, like hiring workers, buying equipment, or R&D.

Some estimates say the US gained over 9 million jobs in the renewable and energy efficiency industry in 2007 alone. This might be an optimistic estimate, but even if only a fraction of that number of jobs have been created, implying that environmental protection cannot occur at the same time as economic growth is simply incorrect.

And then there are all the jobs from natural gas development. Granted, natural gas isn’t as environmentally friendly as solar or wind, but I think an argument can be made that the expansion in natural gas exploration (and subsequent job creation) was at least partly influenced by the push toward lower-carbon energy sources.

But I digress. The point is that the wording of the question above from Gallup’s annual environmental survey appears somewhat misleading, which may affect the results of the survey.

That’s not to say that Gallup’s results are invalid, just that the results may not accurately reflect Americans’ attitudes toward the importance of environmental protection. It’s possible that, if the phrases “even at the risk of curbing economic growth” and “even if the environment suffers to some extent” were removed from the survey, the results would reflect a different trend among Americans.

That doesn’t mean that changing the language would necessarily show that more Americans are concerned about the environment. Maybe environmentalists would be more willing to choose the economic development option if they didn’t think it reduced environmental protections. Or maybe others would be more inclined to promote environmental protection if it wasn’t portrayed as reducing economic growth.

There is no doubt that the pollsters at Gallup are very careful to write questions that are unbiased. It’s possible that they’ve considered all of this already, and have decided that the effects are negligible.

One last thing. The chart below shows a decent correlation between the recessions in ’81,’90,’01, and ’07 and a narrowing of the gap between those who support environmental protection and those who support economic growth.

Image Credit: Gallup

Image Credit: Project New America

According to the May 29 Project New America/Keating poll, the latest presidential polling done in Colorado, President Obama currently has a 4-point lead over Mitt Romney in Colorado. Based on the 4% margin of error, this is a statistical tie.

The most surprising aspect of the poll was that the significant lead the President has among independent voters. The poll showed that 57% of registered independents support Obama, while only 30% support Romney, leaving 13% of independents undecided.

The gender gap continues to be an asset for the Obama campaign in Colorado; women support the President 51-40, according to the poll.

Finally, the poll showed a significant 43-point Obama lead among Hispanic voters, who support him 67-24. Hispanics are Colorado’s fastest growing demographic group and have been hit especially hard by the recession. This may indicate that “Romney’s economic message is not resonating” among these voters, according to Jason León, PNA’s Director of National Outreach.

The support of these groups will likely determine the outcome of the election in Colorado, which is one of the few swing states in play for the 2012 presidential elections.

The poll surveyed 601 likely voters in Colorado from May 21-24 and had a margin of error of +/- 4%.

Image Credit Gage Skidmore

In the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted May 10-May 13, 55% of respondents say that the economy will be better in a year if Mitt Romney is elected president, compared to 46% who say the economy will be better if President Obama is reelected.

These results are far from surprising. Nearly every poll since Romney became the presumptive Republican nominee has shown that Americans rate Romney better on the economy than Obama.

Just like Mitt Romney said in his April 24 speech, “it’s still about the economy, and we’re not stupid.”

But what has Romney done to prove that he would have handled the economy better than the President?

Over the next few posts, I’ll examine three of Romney’s most notable positions on the economy.

By the way, anyone who’s hoping to see another article about how Romney ruined companies and fired workers while he was CEO at Bain Capital will be sorely disappointed. This post isn’t about Romney’s record in the private sector. It’s about his record and statements on the economy and on the current state of economic stagnation.

Part 1: Foreclosures

In interviews and in the Republican presidential debates, Romney frequently said that the best thing for the government to do was stop intervening in the housing market with programs such as HAMP and HARP. According to him, the government should just let the foreclosure process run its course.

He said, “Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it [the housing market] turn around and come back up. … The Obama administration has slow walked the foreclosure process … that has long existed and as a result we still have a foreclosure overhang.”

Sounds good, right? He is correct that there is a “foreclosure overhang” in this country. A foreclosure overhang happens when so many borrowers are behind on their mortgages that banks just can’t keep up. The problem is, Romney’s plan would have made the foreclosure overhang much worse than it is.

Let me explain how.

If the government had allowed the foreclosure process to run its course, many of the estimated 14.7 million underwater homeowners would have been thrown out of their homes.

Ignore, for a moment, the immense human suffering this plan would have caused. Foreclosures on such an immense scale would have resulted in an even greater supply of distressed properties on the market and would have added to the already significant foreclosure backlog.

It would also have further depressed property values, making more homeowners underwater, and it would have made the road to recovery even longer and more treacherous than it already is.

The Obama administration’s HAMP and HARP programs, on the other hand, have kept borrowers in their homes and kept them paying their mortgages, thereby reducing banks’ foreclosure backlogs. Borrowers that aren’t being foreclosed upon or evicted are also more likely to spend money on “luxury” items (items not crucial for survival), which helps support the economy.

In other words, Romney’s plan would have added to the “foreclosure overhang”, while President Obama’s has reduced it by reducing the number of people who are behind on their loans.

Where did Romney think investors and aspiring homeowners would get the money to buy all those foreclosed properties, anyway? Banks have become extraordinarily risk-averse since the housing market collapsed, making it exceedingly difficult for even the most creditworthy borrowers to get loans.

Even with government intervention through programs like HAMP and HARP, US home prices are just beginning to stabilize (maybe). How much longer would it have taken if Mitt Romney had been President during the housing crisis?

Of course, Romney changed his mind later at a campaign stop in Florida, saying that banks should “move on and start over away from those debts”.

Mr. Romney, we’ve seen your record on foreclosures, “and we’re not stupid”.

Come back tomorrow evening for a discussion on the effect Romney’s Detroit bankruptcy plan would have had on the economy.