A report today that  some  Illinois unions had pulled their anti-Bruce Rauner ads from the airwaves because they had “accomplished their goal” caused a bit of stir among hardcore political types. The surprise move led many to speculate that the union brain trust now believes that Mr. Rauner’s numbers are sufficiently high that he cannot be beat in the Primary next week. Still, the Chicago Tribune recently published results from their second poll which led some to believe that Kirk Dillard still has a fighting chance. And Capitol Fax reported that Mr. Dillard has recently received $400,000 from teacher unions.

Is this still a ball game?

Since this is Tracking Tuesday at We Ask America, we decided to not only run our tracker but to also take away voters’ opportunity to say they’re undecided–a move we usually take when we’re within a week of the election.

So, after we asked participants to verify their registration and intent to vote in the Republican Primary, we asked this:

If the Republican Primary Election for governor were held today–and you HAD to choose a candidate–for whom would you vote?

Here are their responses:

Poll type: Automated - Date: 3/11/2014 - Participants: 1,235 Likely GOP Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.90%
 Bill BradyKirk DillardBruce RaunerDan Rutherford
ALL VOTERS18.90%25.76%46.46%8.88%
BY GENDER****************************

We’ll post some more crosstabs on this tomorrow morning.

Clearly, it would take an enormous shift in the political universe’s primordial ooze for anyone in the field to catch Bruce Rauner. The big chunk of cash unions spent against him on negative ads  may have had an effect on his long-term viability, but the Republican voting universe isn’t buying it.

We may take another look this race Sunday. But if we do, it will only be to see how close we can call it.

The Walking Dread

Democratic Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is a survivor. He has had his political obituary written a number of times in his career only to avoid the zombie apocalypse through incredible tenacity, hard work and a bit of luck. But Pat Quinn will face more than just a Republican opponent in the fall election; he has some Democratic family matters to confront. His role in pushing for public pension reforms was not exactly warmly received by state employees and retirees, and his continuous gadfly approach to governing takes its toll. But surely he can count on the full backing of his fellow Democrats when it’s crunch time, right?

Well, maybe. To see how welcome Gov. Quinn will be at the next family picnic, we asked 1,162 likely Democratic voters two questions. Here’s the first:

In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is doing?

Here are the results to that question:

Poll type: Automated - Date: 3/4-5/2014 - Participants: 1,262 Likely Dem. Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.90%

OK…nothing too surprising above. Not great, but OK. Then, we asked them this:

Do you agree, or disagree with the following statement? “I will probably vote to re-elect Pat Quinn as governor no matter who is running against him in the fall.”

Here are those results:


Whoa…a third of likely Democratic voters disagreed with a fairly mildly written re-elect question, and another 16% aren’t so sure. The crosstab below showing those responses to the re-elect question by LOCATION tells the story:

Suburban Cook57.91%29.86%12.23%


Now, political families fight, but when push comes to shove they tend to stick together. Still, having a third of likely Democratic voters say they’re not sure they’ll vote for an incumbent governor is a swift kick in the patootie.

Will those miffed voters come back home in the fall? Probably. But depending on how deep voters’ walking dread goes, some may not vote at all and a handful may vote against Gov. Quinn because they’ve had it with his schtick. Still, it’s likely Quinn will face Bruce Rauner whose attacks on union bosses will make Quinn the lesser of two evils for some.

But Mr. Quinn may want to tend to a bit of family housekeeping sooner than later.

IL GOP Gov Tracker

Tonight we once again release our weekly tracking poll results for the Illinois GOP Primary for governor just 14 days before Election Day. We know these results must be anxiously awaited since just a few minutes after we tweeted that we’re going to publish our findings tonight we received our first complaint arguing about the results…four hours before we asked anyone a question.

At any rate, tonight 1,262 Illinois voters who confirmed their intention to vote in the GOP Primary this simple question: If the Republican Primary Election for governor were held today, for whom would you vote?

Here are their responses:

Poll type: Automated - Date: 3/4/2014 - Participants: 1,262 Likely GOP Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.85%
 Bill BradyKirk DillardBruce RaunerDan RutherfordUndecided
BY GENDER***********************************
BY AGE***********************************
BY LOCATION***********************************
Sub. Cook11.67%18.57%41.14%3.23%25.39%

Click on graph below to enlarge:



As the results show, Bruce Rauner continues to dominate the others by a wide margin. With only two weeks to go, it will be extraordinarily difficult for any contender to close the gap. Absent a Richter-scale scandal or some kind of proof of certain unions’ claim that they can talk their members into pulling GOP ballots for Dillard  (more on that tomorrow), Mr. Rauner’s lead should hold.

We believe that the Fat Lady is clearing her voice.

Von Rauner Express

Here in Illinois there’s been a lot of conjecture the last few days about who is truly the best Republican candidate to challenge the Bruce Rauner Juggernaut. Rauner–a mega-succesful businessman with deep pockets and a campaign staff that, after a bit of a rocky start, seems to firing on all cylinders–has become the pin cushion for the trailing contenders. In addition, union leaders–a main recipient of many of Rauner’s sharp-tongued barbs–have pumped some serious money into an effort to either derail the Von Rauner Express or weaken him for the General Election this fall. Particularly biting is their ad painting an horrific picture of Rauner’s firm’s involvement in nursing home abuses. (Rauner has a good response ad addressing those accusations).

Naturally,  the other GOP gubernatorial candidates are hoping that the slings and arrows aimed at Mr. Rauner will finally derail his steady rise in the polls (see chart, below) and give their bare-cupboard campaigns a  boost. Since State Treasurer Dan Rutherfords hopes have withered on a scandal vine, the other two are elbowing each other to claim to be the top contender.

Last week, State Senator Kirk Dillard called on the election gods to smite Bloomington State Senator Bill Brady and Rutherford to allow him to have free rein against Rauner. While that demand left a lot of pundits scratching their itchy heads, it succeeded in getting Dillard some earned media–which may have been the plan all along. And Dillard has enjoyed a nice boost to his campaign from the endorsement of the powerful Illinois Education Association.

Now, Bill Brady’s minions have been sidling up to reporters and others promising poll results that prove Brady is everyone’s second choice.  If you fail to see the logic of bragging about being the Chosen One…er…Two, then join the club. There’s no Silver Medal in politics.

Still, both Dillard and Brady are counting on an alleged any-minute-now free fall by Rauner. So, tonight we asked 1,178  likely Illinois Republicans this simple  question:

If the Republican Primary Election were held today, for whom would you vote? Here are the results:

Poll type: Automated - Date: 2/25/2014 - Participants: 1,178 Likely GOP Voters - Margin of Error: ± 3%
 Bill BradyKirk DillardBruce RaunerDan RutherfordUndecided
BY GENDER***********************************
BY AGE***********************************
BY LOCATION***********************************
Sub. Cook9.78%16.55%45.47%1.74%26.45%

And here’s our tracking graph starting last May:


Have millions of dollars in negative ads taken a bite out of Rauner? Yeah, but not much (see chart). And Rauner’s bank account remains healthy and open. There isn’t a whole lot of daylight for the others to grab.

Still, lots can happen in Illinois politics…and often does.


Just as the weather in the Land of Lincoln turned unseasonably cold, the Illinois Republican Primary for governor has heated up, thanks largely to the apparent breakout of one candidate: political newcomer Bruce Rauner. Rauner–a highly successful investment executive–has parlayed his own deep pockets and ability to raise contributions from others into an ever-growing war chest.

Although Illinois has regulations about how much can be raised and spent in a political campaign, the law allows a candidate with means to break through the spending cap. The only penalty is that ALL candidates are then allowed to spend beyond the so-called limits. Since Rauner is the the only Republican candidate who has demonstrated the ability to both self fund and raise big bucks from others, political reporters and pundits have been playing a guessing game of When Would Bruce Break The Cap? He did so about two weeks ago with a sizable statewide TV buy. Before that buy, Rauner had spent a fair amount of money moving his name ID from nil to meh. Still the others–State Senator Bill Brady (Bloomington), State Senator Kirk Dillard (Hinsdale) and State Treasurer Dan Rutherford (Pontiac)–haven’t been able to generate campaign funds sufficient to mount their own media campaigns and have instead had to rely on earned media and their high-quality resumes. So, for the past few months, tracking polls showed results based more on name recognition that forethought of voting intentions.

So how would Rauner’s new spending spree affect voters? A recent independent poll by PPP published in Illinois’ preeminent political publication/blog Capitol Fax showed a surprising surge by Rauner, but had a smallish sample. So We Ask America decided to supersize that poll to see if Rauner could have really moved big numbers that quickly. He did:

Poll type: Automated - Date: 11/26/2013 - Participants: 1,233 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.8%
 Bill BradyKirk DillardBruce RaunerDan RutherfordUndecided
BY GENDER***********************************
BY AGE***********************************
BY LOCATION***********************************
Sub. Cook18.70%8.65%31.57%10.69%30.39%

To put this into perspective, here’s a chart showing our tracking of this race since last May:



Any poll numbers that moves up that fast should, by all rights, be considered ethereal.  Still, two separate independent polls now have shown the same thing: Rauner has moved serious numbers. And while both polls might only reflect an increase in name recognition, Bruce Rauner has the wherewithal to keep his foot on the gas well beyond this breakaway. Even if the numbers are in flux, it’s clear that GOP Primary voters are viewing Bruce Rauner as an acceptable messenger. Combine that with big bucks and you have a very tenuous situation for the challengers.

Mr. Rauner should be having a very happy Thanksgiving indeed.

Detroit aftermath

After saying in 2011 that Detroit bankruptcy wasn’t the option, the recent decision by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to allow the City of Detroit to file for Chapter 9 default protection produced the usual array of politically motivated responses. Opponents screamed about his flip-flop, while supporters insisted that the CPA-trained governor simply had explored every other possibility before making the decision. Beyond Michigan’s borders, many are watching how the dramatic aftermath plays out; will this be a sad– but isolated–incident, or will it be a harbinger for other units of government that are drowning in red ink?

Clearly, key to the debate is the ultimate decision about the pension benefits of city workers. Detroit is hardly alone in having horribly underfunded pensions for public workers. At risk is the financial future of thousands, and the eyes of the nation’s government and public-union leaders will be fixed on the drama that will certainly unfold in the near future.

On the evenings of July 23-24, we called Michigan residents to determine, among other things, their views on these questions:

 As you probably know, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder recently decided to go along with the decision to declare Detroit bankrupt. We’d like to know whether you generally APPROVE or DISAPPROVE of that decision.

      • Approve
      • Disapprove
      • Undecided

Does Gov. Snyder’s decision make you MORE LIKELY or LESS LIKELY to support him in next year’s election?

      • More likely
      • Less likely
      • Undecided

Detroit’s bankruptcy could possibly lead to a reduction of city workers’ retirement benefits in the future.  We’d like to know which of the following statements comes closest to your view on the situation.

      • It’s unfortunate, but necessary to cut retirement benefit due to the financial situation.
      • There is no excuse to cut any benefits.
      • Benefits should have been cut even without bankruptcy.
      • None of these

To provide some context, we asked each participant whether or not their household included a public or private-sector union member, and we derived from our calling list if the participant lived in Detroit or not.

Here are the basic weighted poll results:

Poll type: Automated - Date: July 23-24, 2013 - Participants: 1,338 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.9%

Approve or Disapprove of Bankruptcy
Not Sure12%
More or Less Likely to support Gov. Snyder in 2014
More Likely41%
Less Likely42%
Not Sure17%
Bankruptcy Opinion
Unfortunate but Necessary29%
No Excuse39%
Cuts without Bankruptcy15%
None of These17%
Approve Bankruptcy by GENDER
ApproveDisapproveNot Sure
Approve Bankruptcy by PARTY AFFILIATION
ApproveDisapproveNot Sure
Approve Bankruptcy by AGE BRACKET
Approve Bankruptcy by ETHNIC ORIGIN
ApproveDisapproveNot Sure
African American46%44%10%
Approve Bankruptcy by UNION HOUSEHOLD
ApproveDisapproveNot Sure
Public Sector49%39%12%
Non-Public Sector47%45%8%
No Union60%26%14%
Approve Bankruptcy by LOCATION
ApproveDisapproveNot Sure
Rest of State58%30%12%

The results were weighted to adjust for any over-/under-sampling through our proprietary 65 different fields of criteria.

We’ll post the full set of data with other crosstabs soon.

The most interesting result to us was the comparison of those who favored the governor’s decision to proceed with bankruptcy (55%) to those who say it will make them more likely or less likely to support him in future elections (split decision 41% more likely, 42% less likely).  As the twists and turns of the upcoming proceedings unwind, those numbers are bound to change.

And we’re bound to be watching.


Treading Water

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker has been a lighting rod since first being elected in 2010. Walker’s take-no-prisoner persona early in his first term exacerbated the polarizing reforms he promoted and muscled through the state legislature. The subsequent highly charged political atmosphere led to a hard-fought recall election which Walker won handily.  In speeches, Walker continues to  somewhat rue his role in the rhetoric that dominated the period and has become a sought-after speaker for pro-smaller government and business groups around the country. In a recent event in Illinois where Walker was the keynote speaker, the crowd — which was made up of business types who are accustomed to oceans of state government red ink — literally gasped when Walker touted turning Wisconsin’s big deficit into a tidy surplus.

But everyone likes other states’ leaders, and Walker isn’t traveling the nation to talk about the things that aren’t working so well for the state. His opponent will cherry pick statistics that paint a gloomy picture of Wisconsin (for example, employment numbers aren’t great), but Walker’s successes are viewed by many as genuine and he’s good at projecting the glass as half full.

Clearly, the effect of Walker’s reforms and accomplishments will not be fully measured before next year’s election. With Wisconsin’s economy viewed as “treading water” and the discontent from last year’s political wars still fresh in the minds of voters, how will the public view Scott Walker now?

As with all governors in this series of polls, we asked likely Wisconsin voters a straightforward and simply worded question: “Do you approve or disapprove of the job Governor Scott Walker is doing?”

Here are the results:

Poll type: Automated - Date: May 8-9, 2013 - Participants: 1,081 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 3.1%
BY GENDER************
BY PARTY ID************

As we pointed out in yesterday’s initial poll in in this series, these approval ratings are probably as much a measure of voters’ opinion of state government as a guide to re-electability. Gov. Walker’s overall approval rating now is nearly identical to what we saw in July, 2011 although he seems to have lost some mojo among Independents. Yet, Walker survived a nasty recall attempt and has lived to see some positive results from his efforts. Assuming he runs again, he’ll face a Democratic opponent who won’t have President Obama leading the ticket. Still, many Wisconsin voters continue to carry the scars of the uncivil war that broke out after Walker’s ramrod approach to his reforms blew up.

We believe that–once again–Wisconsin will be among the most politically interesting states to watch in 2014.




We Ask America Polls™ kicks off our 2013 public poll offering with a series of surveys focusing on governors who will be up for re-election next year. It’s important to note that this series of polls asks only one main question: Do you approve or disapprove of the job [governor’s name] is doing? To be fair, governors are often viewed by the public as the main symbol of state government, and these polls do not measure or predict how well a particular politician will do against any given opponent. The proof of that may be found in our first offering in our home state of Illinois: Democrat Pat Quinn.

We’ve profiled Gov. Quinn before (Tenacious Gadfly), and not much has changed since then. Illinois continues to struggle under oppressive ($100 billion) public pension debt and multi-billion dollar budget deficits despite a sizable “temporary” state income tax now pumping more into state coffers. Quinn is often portrayed in press and the political blogosphere in terms of being hapless–not a great portrait for someone seeking re-election in tough times. Indeed, rumors continue to swirl of the possibility of fellow Democrats trying to take him out in next year’s Primary. But political coroners have tagged Quinn’s toe a number of times in the past only to be confounded. Will that be the case in 2014? Perhaps, but these approval numbers simply cannot be dismissed easily:

Poll type: Automated - Date: May 8, 2013 - Participants: 1,057 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 3.1%
 ApproveDisapproveNeutral/No opinion
ALL VOTERS27.98%61.69%10.33%
BY GENDER************
BY PARTY ID************
BY LOCATION************
Suburban Cook36.26%51.68%12.06%

It’s problematic for Gov. Quinn that support among Independent voters continues to erode for him. Again, let’s be clear that these approval numbers can’t be viewed as a predictor of doom. Quinn’s dismal approval rating didn’t stop him from winning in 2010.

But we’re sure that some will look at these results and assume that Quinn can best be described as the Walking Dead.

Next up: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R).

Wrap up

We wrap up this season’s polling with a synopsis of our final polls compared to the actual outcome. Despite all the really interesting emails and comments we received along the way, We Ask America’s final regional polling of our Big Ten States came within the margin of error of the final results. Our Senate poll in Missouri failed to pick up the big margin Claire McCaskill would enjoy, and we had the wrong guy on top in the Virginia Senate race–although within the margin of error. And we really nailed the Illinois presidential race–but that’s our home base so we should know the Land of Lincoln fairly well. Following are the final results in those key states rounded to the nearest whole number followed by final poll results in each. We only included states where we polled in the final week, and put Nebraska senate results in as well since we polled that late.  Assume the margin of error in each poll was about ±3%, and remember that rounding to the nearest whole number can produce a result that doesn’t equal 100 percent:

PollCandidatesElection ResultsFinal Poll
3rd Party2%2%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
3rd Party2%3%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
3rd Party1%1%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
3rd Party1%4%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
3rd Party2%4%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
3rd Party2%4%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
3rd Party1%4%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
3rd Party1%3%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
VA - SenateKaine52%50%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
WI - SenateBaldwin51%49%
3rd Party3%5%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
MO - SenateMcCaskill55%49%
3rd Party6%6%
* * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * ** * * * * *
NE - SenateFischer58%59%*

*Note that we allowed “undecided” as an option in the Nebraska poll at the request of a reader, so the Nebraska Senate results above are extrapolated from those poll participants who chose a candidate. The original results can be found here. We dove into that race since there were some remarkably wrong polls being pumped into the mainstream media and we were the only pollster to get the GOP Primary correct (not that there was a lot of competition).

When we released our final Ohio and Wisconsin polls we received an onslaught of nasty-grams from the tin-foil hat bunch who took those results as proof-positive that we were part of the national polling conspiracy. Oddly, we haven’t heard back from them since the election.

We Ask America plans to go national soon (its easier than changing our name to We Ask Parts of America), and have really enjoyed the comments, critiques, suggestions and rants that you’ve been kind or angry enough to share. Continue to watch for us to run public polls on national and state-specific issues.

But for now…sleep!



Hot off the presses-2

We’ve just wrapped up our weighting on three important polls–Wisconsin, Virginia and Ohio–and want to push the top-lines out to you as quickly as possible. All of these polls were conducted from Oct.30-Nov. 1 through automated means. The responses came from likely voters, and the results have been weighted to correct for over-/under-sampling.  We took great care in Ohio and Virginia to make sure we had adequate coverage of regions that are afflicted by Hurricane Sandy outages, and now feel we have the right mix of voters. If and when time permits, we’ll provide background numbers for you, but our data integrity chief has given a thumbs up so we’re pushing them out the door.

STATEResponsesMoE ±Barack ObamaMitt Romney3rd Party

In addition to the presidential numbers in Wisconsin and Virginia, we polled the races for U.S. Senate. In Wisconsin, Democrat Tammy Baldwin is leading Republican Tommy Thompson 48.5% to 46.3% with 5.2% going to third-party candidates–a real tightening in this contentious race. You may remember that Thompson trailed in his primary until close to the end and pulled out a come-from-behind victory. Deja vue? We’ll see.

In a more controversial vein, we stubbornly continue to be contrarians in the Virginia Senate race where we find Republican George Allen with a tight 50.4 to 49.6 lead over Democrat Tim Kaine. Unlike those polls that show a similar Dem/GOP/Ind mix that resembles Virginia’s 2008 results, we’re seeing closer to a 33/33/34 response.

Back to the salt mines…