Tag Archives: ppp poll alaska

Lies, damned lies, statistics and partisan polls

Two partisan polls from both sides of the aisle were released this week. Both of the polls included Alaska issues, and the U.S. Senate race. Both are more interesting than credible, but perhaps open a window of light into the race that has so far released few numbers.

The first poll was from the left wing firm, Public Policy Polling, commonly called PPP, and was conducted earlier this month. That firm is no stranger to Alaska polling. Following the gun control debate in Congress, the organization released an improbable poll that said that U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s vote against gun control resulted in a decline of support among Alaskans.

In this poll, PPP polled 850 registered voters including 442 Republican primary voters. The firm’s methodology has changed some. Included in the robo calls are opt-in internet surveys. But it still can’t manage to get its demographics right. This one, like the one on guns, over sampled both women and Democrats.

The second is from Harper Polling, a right-wing firm, which surveyed 677 likely voters Jan. 20-22. Harper also uses robo calling and also appears to oversample women and Democrats, and although it has a similar margin of error as the PPP poll, it comes up with very different numbers. The left leaning group has Begich on top and the right leaning polling group has two of the GOP contenders beating Begich. Surprised?

Here’s PPP’s numbers:

  • Begich beats former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan 41 to 37 percent.
  • Begich beats Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell 43 percent to 37 percent
  • Begich beats Joe Miller 45 to 25 percent.
  • In a GOP primary, Sullivan leads with 30 percent to Treadwell’s 25 percent and Joe Miller’s 20 percent.

Harper Polling comes up with the following:

  • Treadwell beats Begich 47 to 41 percent.
  • Sullivan beats Begich 47 to 41 percent.
  • Begich beats Miller 51 to 32 percent.

All of which perhaps proves the adage that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

It’s also worth noting that nobody who’s watching this race believes that the majority of the public at this point can distinguish between Dan Sullivan the Senate candidate and Dan Sullivan, the well-known Anchorage mayor.

Also, local pollster Marc Hellenthal, who knows how to poll this state, has Begich doing pretty well in Alaska, particularly in Anchorage, which had been a problem for him.

Hellenthal wouldn’t release the numbers, but he said that Begich seems to “have solved his Anchorage problem.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Are PPP’s Alaska polls pure propaganda?

lies The Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling, also known as PPP, is once again proving that it values publicity above all else. And in Alaska right now, the interest is the looming race against U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. Throw in an off-the-cuff statement that Sarah Palin made about considering running for Senate, and you’ve got the makings for some screaming headlines, no matter that the numbers buried under the headlines are suspect, at best.

A recent poll that the firm conducted via robo calling shows support for Begich’s job performance at about 42 percent. That might make it sound that Begich is in a little bit of trouble. However, Alaska-based pollster Marc Hellenthal, who actually knows the state and uses real-live people to do his polling, has Begich’s approval rate at about 60 percent in a recent poll.

Hellenthal’s got some other numbers which contradict PPP’s poll, but before we get into all of that, let’s get the elephant out of the room: Palin might have considered running for Senate, in the same way that I have considered taking belly dancing classes. I’m not going to take belly dancing classes. Palin is not going to run for Senate. She would lose.

According to PPP, most Alaskans want Palin to run. That might be true, in the way that dogs think they want that car that they’re chasing. But from the headlines the poll has generated, you would think that Palin is still popular in Alaska. Palin is not popular in Alaska.

In fairness, PPP’s numbers show that she’s got a high disapproval rating here. And the firm can be forgiven for not understanding the intricacies of Alaska’s politics, nor is it responsible for a lazy media. What isn’t forgivable is that the group’s polling methodology stinks. In this particular poll, Democrats are way over represented, as are women and older people. Law dictates that pollsters aren’t allowed to robo-call cell phones, so there goes about 50 percent of the population that use them all the time or most of the time. And those are just a few of the problems with using machines to do the work that humans should.

Alaska, as uber poll cruncher Nate Silver points out, “is perhaps the most difficult state in the country to poll. Its residents are in a strange time zone and keep strange schedules; it has very high rates of cellphone usage; it has highly unusual demographics.” (It should be noted here that Silver himself has used Alaska PPP polls and therefore gotten Alaska horribly wrong in the past).

Couple Alaska’s idiosyncrasies with PPP’s sloppy work, and you might as well throw numbers on a wall.

PPP isn’t a stranger to using such suspect methodology. It conducted an absurd poll in May that showed that Sen. Mark Begich actually lost support in Alaska as a result of voting against Obama’s gun control bill. In that poll, Democrats were over represented by a whopping 9 percent, women were over-represented by 12 percent, and the firm just couldn’t figure out the nonpartisan/Alaska Independent Party thing.

They got it a little better on this one. But the sampling error is still way off. Dems in this poll are over represented by six percent, women by 10 percent, and the ages are all screwy. The numbers show it.

Hellethall’s poll was conducted for a private citizen who is not involved in any of the races.

Here’s a few examples of how Hellenthal’s poll numbers compare with PPP’s:

  • Begich has 60 percent approval and 24 percent disapproval rating. Prior to the gun control vote, Hellenthal had Begich at a 53 percent positive and 35 percent negative. In other words, Begich’s vote helped him enormously, which is in direct contradiction to what PPP reported.
  • Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has a 30 percent positive approval rating, a 16 percent negative rating, 30 percent had never heard of him, and the remaining are neutral about him. PPP reported a 29 percent unfavorable rating.
  • As for unannounced Senate candidate (DNR Commissioner) Dan Sullivan: PPP has his negatives at 28 percent, which is absurdly high for a commissioner. Hellenthal didn’t poll him, but the only thing that could figure is that people are confusing Commish Sullivan with Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.
  • Gov. Sean Parnell’s approval rating is 57percent positive and 26 percent negative.PPP has those numbers at 44 percent and 42 percent respectively.
  • Both Hellenthal’s poll and PPP’s poll show that Democratic Sens. Bill Wielechowski and Hollis French would have a way to go in name recognition if either chooses to run for governor.
  • Rep. Don Young’s wetback comment didn’t seem to hurt him much. He’s got a 56 percent positive and 28 percent negative approval rating. PPP has Young at 47 percent approval 43 percent disapproval rating.

PPP didn’t poll on her, but another interesting finding from Hellenthal is Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s numbers. According to Hellenthal, she is the most liked politician in the state with a whopping 69-24 approval/disapproval rating. This number might just quell the squirrels who are chirping that Murkowski is so unpopular that she’s not going to run again in 2016.

Another pollster in Alaska, Matt Larkin, who has taken over for long-time Republican pollster Dave Dittman, declined to take on the PPP poll, saying that he didn’t want to get into the back and forth of who was a better pollster. He did say that generally bad polls “undermine the integrity of the whole field.”

He also reminded me how wrong PPP got the 2010 Senate race. In the last poll PPP conducted before the vote, it had Scott McAdams tied with Lisa Murkowski. It showed that Miller would take it by 7 points. On election night, Murkowski had 40 percent of the vote. Miller got about 35 percent and McAdams 23 percent.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Should Alaskans trust recent PPP poll on gun control?

I’m a little late on reporting on the PPP poll released last week which shows both U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich having lost support in Alaska because of their opposition to the gun control bill. And if that and other polls about gun control conducted by PPP and paid for by a Democratic group wasn’t continuing to make headlines, I might continue to be late forever.

I’d chalk that poll up, as I have other PPP polls, to the kind of crackpot group that you find on both sides of the political spectrum intent on spreading propaganda and false narratives.

But the media can’t seem to get enough of the PPP gun polls, which have been conducted in at least five states, and are dutifully reported on even as some of the polls’ findings are patently absurd. Get this: according to PPP, only about 35 percent of Alaskans oppose expanded background checks.

Alaska-based Dittman Research, which tends to get these things right, recently conducted a poll for Alaska’s House majority which shows only 23 percent of Alaskans supported Obama’s efforts to tighten gun control laws, with 67 percent approving state legislative actions to oppose those efforts.

Was the PPP poll conducted solely on Homer residents or did it only poll those who live in Rep. Les Gara’s House district? We’ll never know because geographical location is among many things that are left out of the crosstabs.

I don’t know much about the other states that PPP has polled and I haven’t looked much into the crosstabs of the polls from those other states, but if they are as full of sample errors as the poll conducted in Alaska, then not one poll conducted by PPP should be taken seriously, perhaps ever again.

Here’s a few blatant examples of what a botched polling sample looks like, a la PPP:

  • Gender: Alaska is roughly 50 percent male to female, but the firm sampled 56 percent women to 44 percent men.
  • Party affiliation: Of the total registered voters in Alaska, only 14 percent are registered Democrats. About 27 percent are registered Republicans. The sample size that PPP used was 25 percent Democrats and 30 percent Republicans.
  • “Independents/other.” About 53 percent of registered voters are registered “undeclared,” and “nonpartisan.” Then there’s the Alaska Independence Party, which is a whole other breed of people, and the Libertarians.  The two of them make up about 6 percent of voters. The PPP’s sample lumps them all together, calls them “Independent/other,” and only uses a 45 percent sample size.

The errors go on. Let me be clear here: I think that Begich’s voting against his party on gun control was a decision based on political expediency more than principle. Everyone knows that Begich isn’t a gun enthusiast. He likely doesn’t believe that the federal government is going to invade homes of gun owners, or that a foreign force is going to somehow take over the military industrial complex, capture our soldiers and leave the defense of the homeland to those in the Kenai amassing assault weapons.

What Begich does care about and what he’s good at is politics and about getting reelected. His vote against gun control was evidence of that.

The upcoming Senate race is going to be a monster. Joe Miller has announced that he’s running, but the race will likely also draw a handful of good, solid Republicans like Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who’s already in exploratory committee phase, and DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan, who is said to be getting close to making a decision. A vote for gun control would have likely put the end to Begich’s Senate career.

So he had a choice: stand on principle and vote with his party, or lose the race and become the last Democratic senator Alaskans will likely see in this lifetime.

He might lose anyway, but now he stands a chance with the help of some Republicans and independent voters. What he doesn’t need is for some left leaning polling group, a group tied to the party to which Begich belongs, trying to sell a lie, in a state where many think that the left are a bunch of liars anyway.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com