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SPRINGFIELD - The idea of Illinoisans turning to pot to treat severe illnesses moved closer to reality Friday after the Illinois Senate approved the medicinal use of marijuana over GOP objections it would encourage more serious drug use.

The Senate's 35-21 vote, which followed an emotional debate that lasted more than an hour, moves the legislation carried by state Sen. William Haine (D-Alton) to Gov. Pat Quinn.

The governor has said he is "open-minded" toward the measure, which if enacted would make Illinois the 19th state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana.

"We are confident a strict, controlled implementation of this for those who suffer pain with the diseases and conditions listed in the act can be well served," Haine said. "Many of us have anecdotal evidence of the value of this. Doctors' groups have endorsed this, nurses.

"It is a substance, which is much more benign than, for example, powerful prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and the rest. The scourge of these drugs is well known. This is not true of the medical use of marijuana," said Haine, a former state's attorney from Downstate Madison County.

Friday's roll call came together on the strength of mostly Democratic votes, though three Republicans joined in supporting Haines' legislation, as well. They were Sens. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry), Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) and Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).

Sun-Times Photo

SPRINGFIELD-With only one in four Illinois voters approving his job performance, Gov. Pat Quinn is the least popular in the country and would lose in head-to-head pairings against two of three Republicans eying his job in 2014, a newly commissioned survey found Thursday.

The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm found that just 25 percent of voters in Illinois approved of the work Quinn is doing, while 64 percent disapprove of his job performance -- a level of support that the company said made him "the most unpopular governor [it] has polled on anywhere in the country this year."

If a general election were held today, Quinn would lose to state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) by a 44- to 37-percent margin and to state Treasurer Dan Rutherford by a 43- to 39-percent margin, the firm reported.

If matched up against U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), another Republican considering a run for governor, Quinn would win narrowly by a 40- to 39-percent spread.

"Quinn's unpopularity puts the Republicans in a position where they could win despite the fact that none of them are very well known," said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling.

An aide to Quinn defended his tenure and acknowledged his efforts at dealing with difficult subjects, like Medicaid reform, facility closures and tax increases, have not been popular -- even if they are in the best interests of state government.

"Gov. Quinn is doing what's right for Illinois and to make our state a better place," Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said. "After decades of fiscal mismanagement and two corrupt governors in a row, Illinois now has no-nonsense ethics laws, a shrinking unemployment rate and less discretionary spending than ever before because of Gov. Quinn.

"He's leading the state in its most difficult moment. What's required right now is a lot of hard decisions and bold leadership, and it's not easy and immediately popular but we're doing what's right," she said.

In a September poll released by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Quinn's approval rating stood at 42 percent, up a notch from a 35.5 percent approval rating recorded by the institute in October 2011.

Beyond measuring how Quinn might match up against potential Republican opponents, the Public Policy Polling survey also showed the governor is vulnerable in a primary, though no Democrat has stepped forward and openly declared he or she is planning to take on Quinn in 2014.

The firm found that Quinn would trail Bill Daley, the ex-U.S. Commerce Secretary and former Mayor Richard M. Daley's brother, by a 37- to 34-percent margin, and the spread would be even wider if Attorney General Lisa Madigan would take on Quinn, the firm said.

In a hypothetical matchup, Quinn would trailer her by a 64- to 20-percent deficit.

The firm also sized up the growing GOP field aiming to unseat Quinn.

Rutherford is on top of the pack with 19 percent of Republican respondents saying he is their first choice. Schock is second with 18 percent, and 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady pulled in 14 percent.

As the list goes on, Dillard has 12 percent; 8 percent favored departing U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and 7 percent chose businessman Bruce Rauner, an investor in Wrapports LLC, the parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times.

PPP Release IL 112912

Nate Silver's mic drop

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Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight (Randy Stewart / Wikipedia)

The below images are electoral forecast maps, the first one posted this past weekend by Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight and, following that, posted by Unskewed Polls on October 28, 2012. Unskewed is, essentially, a conservative-bias imitator (and a pale one, at that) of Silver's blog.



Unskewed Polls


Bit of a difference, no? Unskewed's Dean Chambers gained notoriety for not only criticizing Silver a few days before he posted the above forecast, but for stooping to homophobia to do so.

Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the "Mr. New Castrati" voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program. In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound.

But here we are, the day after the presidential election and, according to the most recent returns, Silver not only correctly predicted the 50%-48% popular vote split for Obama, but correctly picked all 51 Electoral College votes (all 50 states plus Washington, D.C.), including the ultra-close Florida vote. So, yeah, he's good at what he does. And he's $2,000 richer - or at least the Red Cross is - after a bet with political loudmouth pundit Joe Scarborough over who would be right about the election (a bet that caused much hand-wringing only because people have to worry about something). Chambers, meanwhile, picked Romney to take 51% of the popular vote and 275 Electoral College votes. The only discrepancy in Silver's predictions are his total Electoral votes projections which don't match his "chances of winning a state" math, but something that relates to the way Silver weighs different polls and those outcomes are weighed differently.

In the harsh light of a new day, even Chambers is having to admit: Silver was right, I was wrong. And he's not alone. Politico posted a list of which polls were most accurate in projecting the outcome and oft-cited polls like Rasmussen and Gallup were at the bottom while PPP was at the top.

But none were perfect like Silver was. It's unfair to call this Silver's Redemption because the backlash that hit Silver in the final days weeks so wrong-headed and born out of a conservative distaste that he had Obama in the lead. If anything, it was a victory lap for someone who understands the math and models necessary to make accurate prediction. In the last two presidential elections, Silver has accurately predicted 101 out of 102 Electoral votes (99 states and D.C. twice) and twice nailed the popular vote split. His work speaks for itself and the vitriol directed towards him is simply the voice of denial from the right, the same right that wouldn't hesitate to back him if he had correctly picked a Romney win (and one has to assume that, while not based in homophobia, dems would have similarly dismissed Silver's numbers the way they dismissed Chambers).

Silver has earned our respect and earned the right to gloat. But it's best that he didn't; towards the end of the campaign, Silver did let his cool demeanor slip just a bit in defending himself against criticism. Instead, in a tweet that went out shortly after multiple media outlets had called the election for Obama, Silver simply posted a tongue-in-cheek tweet (posted below), perhaps the best mic-drop moment he could have hoped for and one he deserved.

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Two statuettes depicting President Barack Obama, left, and Republican rival Mitt Romney are backdropped by the Stars and Stripes in a shop which sells Christmas nativity figures in Naples, Italy, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, hours ahead of their third and final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida. (AP Photo/Salvatore Laporta)

After a whirlwind three weeks that's seen just about everything we thought we could see in an election, the two major party candidates for President of the United States - Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney - hold their final debate of the election season tonight. Going into the first debate less than three weeks ago in Denver, Obama was poised for a runaway win barring any major speed bumps. But that's what happend in Denver when Obama put forth a listless, lackluster performance by the president plus a new populist approach from Romney turned things around and put the wind at Romney's back, changing the entire course of the race. A testy, fiery Vice President Joe Biden turned up in the VP debate against GOP nominee Paul Ryan. And last week, Romney and Obama engaged in a heated, electrice debate, the candidates stalking the stage, often circling one another as they unleashed attacks on the other.

Tonight's moderator, CBS' Bob Schieffer, has experience with debates, having moderated one in each of the last two presidential election, and has already announced his list of topics for tonight's debate, centered on foreign policy:

  • America's role in the world
  • Our longest war - Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Red Lines - Israel and Iran
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - I
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - II
  • The Rise of China and Tomorrow's World

Tonight should be a lively debate and we've got our best columnists and pundits along to provide live commentary. Below you can find both live video via YouTube of the debate and, below that, the running commentary from the Sun-Times staff. Before we go live at 7:30 p.m. and throughout the debate, take some time to check out some of our other posts about the upcoming election and check out even more coverage at our Election Page.

Bears or Debate? What are you watching?
Roeper: Presidential circus continues
Ghosts of Elections Past: Ohio and Florida
Sifting through presidential endorsements
Googling the next president
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at last week's Alfred E. Smith dinner
Obama campaign rolls out new "Romnesia" stump speech
FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver on The Daily Show


FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics are two sites that have garnered acclaim and traffic during the election season as voters try to get a leg up of the latest prognostications. While we can't know exactly how the election will turn out, these sites have forecasting down to a science. But there's another website that could give us a peek into who will win this year's hotly contested presidential election: Google. The megabeheamoth search engine is actually a source of tremendous - and entertaining - data and some it of can actually correlate with election outcomes as Seth Stephens-Davidowitz explored at the New York Times.

While so much of the information gleaned from the search data is either ridiculous - the popularity of "Paul Ryan shirtless" - or superfluous - how the number of searches of a candidate in a region corresponds to their popularity in said area - there are some useful tidbits to be pulled for the campaigns, particularly in terms of voter turn-out. Says Stephens-Davidowitz:

If search rates for voting information were higher in the first half of October 2008 than in the first half of October 2004, voting rates tended to be higher in 2008 than in 2004. It's true for midterm elections, too. If search rates for voting information were higher in the first half of October 2010 than in the first half of October 2006, voting rates tended to be higher in 2010 than in 2006.

This predictive power was significantly stronger than that of other variables we might use to predict area-level turnout, like changes in registration rates or movement in early voting.

Of course, there's plenty of garbage to sift through as well, as Stephens-Davidowitz notes, including searches about Romney and Mormon underwear as well as Obama and racist epithets. Still, once you look past the noise, there may just be some patterns worth teasing out, adding to the stacks of numbers already being crunched for November 6.

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  • Lynn Sweet report on Mitt Romney tapping Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential pick Saturday morning is HERE
  • Sweet will be reporting live from a Romney-Ryan rally in Manassas, Va. on Saturday afternoon
  • Text of Romney speech is HERE.
  • Text of Rep. Paul Ryan's speech on being tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate is HERE
  • Obama campaign react is HERE.
  • A photo gallery of the day's events HERE
  • Video with actual speech highlights is HERE
  • Video of the announcement flub is HERE

Obama 2012_Newm.jpg

A new CNN/ORC survey shows Barack Obama at a 50 percent favorable rating for the first time since April, while his opponent, Mitt Romney, loses ground to independents, but shores up his support from likely Romney voters.

"Among independent voters, the poll indicates President Obama has a 53%-42% lead," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "The president holds a nine point advantage among women voters and a smaller six point edge among men."

The poll also found that 64 percent of all Americans, and 68 percent of independents, think Romney favors the rich. Romney's reluctance to release his tax returns also is becoming more of an issue, with 63 percent of the public and 67 percent of independents wanting more clarity from the former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capitol CEO.

Furthermore in the bad news department for the Romney camp, at least as far as CNN's poll is concerned, Americans overwhelmingly believe Barack Obama will be re-elected. No matter which candidate they favor, 63 percent say Obama will get his second term.

"That may not translate directly into votes, but it is worth noting that in August of previous election years, the public accurately predicted the winner in 1996, 2000 and 2008, and in 2004 George W. Bush and John Kerry were tied," adds Holland.

UPDATE: While CNN gave Obama a 7-point edge, Fox News paints a slightly worse picture for the Romney camp.

Fox News shows Obama with a 49-40 edge.

"The events of the past two weeks appear to have energized Democratic voters a bit," says Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News poll with Democratic pollster Chris Anderson. "But perhaps more critically, Romney's support among independents has declined. The Obama campaign has -- at least in the short term -- succeeded in raising questions about Romney's fitness to govern and in making this less of a referendum and more of a choice election."

But Nate Silver blogs at FiveThirtyEight that Romney doesn't need to push the panic button just yet. Of course, announcing a running mate after the Olympics closing ceremonies, as Romney has indicated he'll do, would help level those numbers off.

But just how much bounce does a vice presidential nominee announcement get a guy these days?

Polling graphics via Talking Points Memo's Poll Tracker