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PPP sat on poll showing Colorado recall strength

PPP sat on poll showing Colorado recall strength

I’ll have to defer to pollsters as to whether this is consistent with professional polling protocol.

PPP has admitted that it deliberately did not release a poll showing that Colorado State Senator Angela Giron was likely to lose the recall election by a wide margin:

We did a poll last weekend in Colorado Senate District 3 and found that voters intended to recall Angela Giron by a 12 point margin, 54/42. In a district that Barack Obama won by almost 20 points I figured there was no way that could be right and made a rare decision not to release the poll. It turns out we should have had more faith in our numbers becaue she was indeed recalled by 12 points.

What’s interesting about our poll is that it didn’t find the gun control measures that drove the recall election to be that unpopular. Expanded background checks for gun buyers had 68/27 support among voters in the district, reflecting the overwhelming popularity for that we’ve found across the country. And voters were evenly divided on the law limiting high capacity ammunition magazines to 15 bullets, with 47% supporting and 47% opposing it. If voters were really making their recall votes based on those two laws, that doesn’t point to recalling Giron by a 12 point margin.

We did find on the poll though that voters in the district had a favorable opinion of the NRA by a 53/33 margin. And I think when you see the final results what that indicates is they just did a good job of turning the election more broadly into do you support gun rights or are you opposed to them. If voters made their decision based on the actual pretty unobtrusive  laws that Giron helped get passed, she likely would have survived. But the NRA won the messaging game and turned it into something bigger than it was- even if that wasn’t true- and Giron paid the price.

John Hickenlooper won the district overwhelmingly in 2010 but is only tied at 42 with Tom Tancredo in a hypothetical match up there, so it’s something Democrats will have to figure out how to deal with before next year.

PPP has a further explanation here:

If I’d thought we’d pulled a fast one on the world, I certainly wouldn’t have released the poll after the election.

PPP is the pollster for Daily Kos, whose readership invested heavily in the recall elections, contributing more money than the NRA.  On August 26, Markos wrote:

The scuttlebutt from people who have seen the numbers are that Giron is relatively safe (or as much as you can be in a summer special election with an uncertain electorate), but that state Senate President John Morse, the other recall target, lags slightly among likely voters. The NRA certainly smells blood in the water (they have lots of practice with that), and are trying to close strong.

I could find nothing on the website indicating that it was clued into the PPP polling on Giron.  The day of the recall, Markos blandly wrote:

Sen. Angela Giron’s SD-03 is 45.2 percent Dem, 22.9 percent Republican, and 31.9 percent other. President Barack Obama got 59.7 percent of the 2012 two-way vote, and Giron got 55 percent of the vote in 2010. Democrats have a solid advantage in “super voters”, 14K versus 8K Republicans.

Yet word from my sources in the district has been that Morse is in better shape than Giron. Weird, if accurate.

I have an email in to PPP to find out if the polling information it did not release was in any way shared with Daily Kos or anyone involved in the Colorado recalls. (Update – they say no.)

I’ve been suspicious and critical of PPP’s messaging and spinning in the past, although its actual election polling is average.

This strikes me, however, as a no-win for PPP.  A good argument can be made that by keeping Giron’s weakness a secret, it disadvantaged left-wing groups like Kos who might have gone into panic and GOTV efforts more intensively had they known.  If I were Markos, I’d be upset, even if Kos did not commission the poll.

I’ll chalk it up to a bad decision, until further information demonstrates otherwise.


This is turning into a serious fight:

This also doesn’t look good (h/t Sean Davis) — the head of PPP was an expert witness for Democrats in litigation challenging recall petition as to Senate President John Morse:

4. Finally, Grueskin called as a witness Tom Jensen, director of Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, an organization described as ”a “Democratic-leaning” polling company because in its private client work, it conducts polls only for Democratic campaigns and progressive organizations.”

Grueskin attempted to use Jensen’s testimony regarding a PPP poll (commissioned by Grueskin) purporting to show widespread ignorance of the Recall process among voters in Morse’s Senate District 11. PPP’s poll, surveying a random sample of 381 voters in the district, returned results showing that over half of those surveyed (54%) did not understand the process for selecting a replacement in the event of a successful recall vote.

On cross-examination, Jensen admitted that the poll did not tabulate poll survey results with actual petition signers, and thus could not confirm that the survey was reflective of the knowledge of those who actually signed the petitions. As a result, the bearing of the survey as evidence is questionable.

Still waiting for a response to this:

Response received:


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>>”I figured there was no way that could be right and made a rare decision not to release the poll…”

Total, proof-positive admission of biased cognitive dissonance. He and his firm are incapable of professional performance. They should be dismissed forever as a legitimate pollster.

Notice what PPP did there? Ignoring the real dynamics of citizen groups, they basically said it was the NRA, who only contributed $361,000 dollars to the campaign. They also state that the laws passed weren’t unpopular. I have friends in the Colorado Springs area, and they were incensed not only at the laws, once they have had a chance to read the nuts and bolts, but also the way that Morse and Giron shut down debate in a state where there is a long history of anyone who wants to speak to the legistlature gets a chance.

    Subotai Bahadur in reply to J. Locke. | September 11, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Something that those not in the West might not know. The County Sheriff is the highest ranking purely Executive office in County government, and here the County is where most rubber-meets-the-road governing happens. The Sheriff is the chief LEO in the county and has command authority over all local law enforcement in the county. They know something about crime and law enforcement.

    The Colorado Sheriffs Association came to the Legislature to testify on those bills. They were turned away by the Democrats who literally said that they did not want to hear their testimony.

    I talked to my Sheriff that night [We’ve known each other for more than 20 years. We worked together for another law enforcement agency before he was elected Sheriff.], and he was furious. We have 63 Counties in Colorado, and 61 Sheriffs; two are “city and county” and have Safety Managers instead of Sheriffs. At last count, 55 of the 61 are signed on and part of a Federal lawsuit by the Sheriffs against the state over those laws being both unconstitutional and unenforceable.

    You don’t hear much about that in the media, because like PPP’s poll; it is not what the Left wants out there.

    Subotai Bahadur

Here’s where they went wrong:

“What’s interesting about our poll is that it didn’t find the gun control measures that drove the recall election to be that unpopular. Expanded background checks for gun buyers had 68/27 support among voters in the district, reflecting the overwhelming popularity for that we’ve found across the country. And voters were evenly divided on the law limiting high capacity ammunition magazines to 15 bullets, with 47% supporting and 47% opposing it. If voters were really making their recall votes based on those two laws, that doesn’t point to recalling Giron by a 12 point margin.”

If they had asked the voters whether the laws in question would 1) accomplish, and 2) be limited to the results they approved, and also whether the laws in question would overreach or have unintended results, they might have gotten a more comprehensible set of answers.

    Lina Inverse in reply to Valerie. | September 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    My father’s spent a lot of time in that general area, and about those “blue collar Democrats” he said a lot were Hispanics who’ve been there forever and who hunt. He didn’t use the phrase, but obviously a lot of good old boys, the sort you don’t cross without consequences, and she got crushed.

    On the other hand I’m not sure about PPP; holding back a result because you’re really concerned about its correctness is not automatically suspect.

      Lina Inverse in reply to Lina Inverse. | September 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm

      (BTW my above was intended as a top post, but it fits well enough here.)

      I take back what I said about PPP after reading the update and learning they were a player in the intense efforts to kill the recalls.

I’m not sure how much polls actually affect elections. No matter how far behind/ahead the polls say any election is, I still vote in every election and primary. Assuming my sentiment is that of the average voter, releasing a poll that predicts a shellacking surely wouldn’t discourage voters from going to the polls anyway.

(…well, just in case, better sit on that one, eh?)

    snopercod in reply to windbag. | September 11, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    “I’m not sure how much polls actually affect elections.”

    They affect turnout. If the polls say your position doesn’t have a chance, then you might as well stay home. The dems use polls to demoralize the right and convince conservative voters to stay home.

      creeper in reply to snopercod. | September 12, 2013 at 11:42 am

      It’s hard to escape the conclusion that PPP made a calculated decision to stifl this poll based on its potential to affect both the vote and the turnout.

      That they released it later is puzzling, though I suspect it was too well-known to keep it quiet for long.

    Polls can be all over the place. Outliers are usually interesting because once you see why they got a certain result you can normally dismiss their significance. This happened in Australia 🙂 with an outlier that was very wrong about Kevin Rudd.

    Australia just had elections and the polls were in fact reasonably accurate but they made an error about the voting intentions in Western Sydney and in Queensland. The result that we got for our election was expected. The biggest swings were in Tasmania and South Australia. Interesting because they have ALP State governments. There was a big enough swing in Victoria to see at least 3 seats taken from the ALP. The exit polls had the Coalition as winning. The predictions were pretty much spot on.

    At the moment there are seats that remain undecided and the postal votes will be quite important.

    I have been following your polling for a few years, as well as constantly following the Australian polls. I am most familiar with the Roy Morgan Research centre because I have done work for them in the past – that was in the days when I had to knock on doors to get people to answer survey questions. Surveys done over the phone are not nearly as good as the ones that are done door to door.

So what? I think polls are very misleading.

I also think lots of people are beginning to tell people “to mind their own business.” But the pollster would say, “I don’t have a column for that.”

And, then the pollster just checks off “undecided.”

What a fairer system? Make pollsters report on all the “mind your own business” replies that they get.

The reason Giron got recalled is that the voters voted her OUT. We’ve got way too many “professionals” running around. And, some of them just bear rumors. It’s a stinky business. And, it attempts to paralyze people who will vote.

Would they have released a similar poll in an effort to recall a sitting Republican?

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | September 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I read somewhere yesterday that pundits were underestimating how angry some Coloradoans are that companies are leaving the state because of the new laws. So far, a company that manufactures gun sights, another that manufactures magazines, two that supply parts to the magazine manufacturer and another that produces wildlife TV programming have announced they will move all or some of their operations to friendlier states. And those are just the ones I’ve read about.

If any of those businesses are located in or near the districts affected by the recall, then I’m inclined to believe what I read. And it might help explain why it did not show up in PPP’s polling. They didn’t ask the right questions.

Also doesn’t come as much surprise that both Spitzer and Anthony Weiner lost in their quests for political offices.

It’s very possible people make up their minds on how they will vote quite early. While the media entertains on the nightly news … So you can follow the campaigns from hell.

JimMtnViewCaUSA | September 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Perhaps the KOS people should’ve invested in bus tickets? Check out this article on a Colorado law sponsored by Dems that enables illegal voting.
The law allows prospective voters to register through Election Day, which in this case is Tuesday, and to legally cast a ballot as long as they provide a valid address within the district — which could be a temporary residence, including a homeless shelter or hotel room — and swear that they plan to make the district their permanent residence.
[Caldera] called the new law “the wild card” in the outcome of the election.

“It’s my conjecture that when it gets down to it, with the millions that are being spent right now, getting out the vote of registered voters in those districts is one thing, but that’s not enough,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “My guess is whichever campaign has access to the most buses wins under this new horrific law.”

PPP wants credit for the accuracy of their polling after the fact? After they with held the information from the people in the hope of benefiting a politician.

Oh, yeah, I got some credit right here for ya PPP.

PersonFromPorlock | September 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm

New motto for PPP: “Polls That Comfort.”

To be fair, polling has been broken for some time. There were a lot of Conservatives, and conservative polls, who simply could not believe the predictions for the 2012 election. The same was true for the Left in 2004. I liked that one much better.

Shellie Zimmerman is on probation. Why on earth is she contacting the police for anything other than a life or death emergency. Her probation can be revoked even without a conviction.

NC Mountain Girl | September 11, 2013 at 6:04 pm

A polling firm should certainly know that there is a lot more to an election than the position on any single issue. This includes a recall that was driven by a single bill. As Subotai Bahadur noted, the high handed way the new gun laws were enacted infuriated many people. Some of them probably actually supported aspects of the law. Such abuse of process go to issues of trust that may loom large in the voters’ minds.

Glenn Reynolds has noted that we need a waiting period for laws more than for guns because legislation enacted hin haste after such tragedies as Newtown is often hastily drafted and rife with unintended consequences. I suspect some voters yesterday agreed.

From your link below (Anti-gun Colorado state Senate President recalled) on the Colorado recall I noticed this little point. What sources told him Giron is going to be whipped?
As we wait for Colorado recall results, here’s some trivia

by kosFollow
Yet word from my sources in the district has been that Morse is in better shape than Giron. Weird, if accurate.

Someone gets a poll right and they don’t release it. Gee, I wonder why?

A polling firm located in Chapel Hill, NC would not be tolerated unless it was liberal. I’m more than half serious about that – anyone who dares to be Other Than gets protested, personcotted (illegal to say boycotted in Chapel Hill – sexist), bullied, hounded, and ostracized.

PPP’s comments about the 2012 election assume that election wasn’t rigged. The people who throw these elections didn’t bother that much with this one.

I really don’t mind the pleasant surprise. If anything it made the other side complacent. I’m sure they had plenty of “lost” ballots tucked away in reserve. Glad they didn’t think they needed to “find” them.

NC Mountain Girl | September 12, 2013 at 12:06 am

I’ve dig around a little. PPPs detailed questions may have measured the wrong issue. Listen to the sheriff who spearhead opposition to Morse. He’s from the same county and won reelection with 81% of the vote.

Polls are social psychology experiments and social psychology is statistical voodoo.

I should know I was trained in statistics by social psychologists (I am not one, thankfully). They certainly know how to extract every possible inference they can make from the data. They also know how to formulate questions to favor the results they are looking for.

I am delighted at the voters’ affirmation of their fealty to 2nd Amendment rights, if only we could mount the same enthusiasm to support the rest of the Constitution we could safely sit back and laugh at buffoonish candidates like Obama and Hillary.

But there is also a legislative lesson here about process, which in the end may be the downfall of ObamaCare: people don’t like laws that are jammed down their throats, passed using gimmicks or shutting down the usual process to enforce major changes on a narrow vote.

Our entire system was specifically designed to prevent just that. Under the system as designed, it could not happen! Executives wouldn’t push for “big” bills for which they couldn’t attract broad support, the Senate needed 2/3 for cloture, and Senators were appointed by the States to serve the interests of the States.

But then came the ill-advised perversions of the 16th-19th Amendments, from there it was all bound to go straight to hell.

Sure, ideas like direct election of Senators and allowing women to vote sounded good, but the practice has proven the wisdom of the original design.

It would be accurate to say that the recall campaign was driven by opposition to the anti-gun bills which Morse and Giron pushed through the legislature. But this is only the first part of the story. As it turns out, Morse and Giron sealed their fates on March 4, the day that the anti-gun bills were heard in Senate committees. At Morse’s instruction, only 90 minutes of testimony per side were allowed on each of the gun bills. As a result, hundreds of Colorado citizens were prevented from testifying even briefly. Many of them had driven hours to come to the Capitol, traveling from all over the state.

That same day, 30 Sheriffs came to testify. They too were shut out, with only a single Sheriff allowed to testify on any given bill. So while one Sheriff testified, others stood up with him in support.

Admirably, Morse had urged his Committee Chairs to be polite and courteous to all witnesses, and they were. But President Morse did not follow the standard practice of the Colorado legislature, by which any citizen who wishes to testify is allowed to be heard, at least briefly. The patient endurance of Colorado legislative committees which have heard hour upon hour of testimony on bills about gay rights, motorcycle helmets, and other social controversies is a tribute to our republican form of government.

When Morse shut that down, and Chairperson Giron went along, they crossed the double-red line of Colorado government. Had the seven gun control bills (one of which I testified in favor) been heard on March 4-6, instead of being rammed through committees on March 4, the recall might never have happened. It’s one thing to lose; it’s another to thing to lose when you didn’t even have the opportunity to present your reasoning. While the gun control bills were before the Senate in March, President Morse urged his caucus to stop reading emails, to stop reading letters from constituents, to stop listening to voicemails, to vote for the gun bills and ignore the constituents. Giron, presciently following this strategy, had allowed citizens to raise Second Amendment concerns at a single town hall meeting, and thereafter refused to discuss the issue at public fora.

If an 8:1 Bloomberg money advantage can’t buy an election, then elected officials will be more reluctant to support repressive gun bills. As Giron told The New Republic, “”For Mayors Against Illegal Guns, if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up. And they understand that.”

I’m not sure about when polling got started, but I do know that in the late 19th century they must have been very annoying. Heck, they annoyed cattle so much that some herefords won’t even grow horns and to this day are called Polled Herefords. LOL!

[…] poll data showed Giron was in trouble, but they didn’t release the poll, ostensibly because they didn’t believe it. That may […]

[…] the details in the New Republic article and the news that PPP withheld a poll that showed Colorado gun grabbing legislators likely to be recalled, one should question what else […]