Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
National

Taking the Pulse of Current Polls

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Several presidential polls out this week reflect opinion shifts since the Pennsylvania primary and the controversy over Senator Obama's former pastor. Mark Blumenthal is editor and publisher of Pollster.com and joins us in our studios.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. MARK BLUMENTHAL (Editor and Publisher, Pollster.com): Great to be here.

SIMON: Do the polls this week - I'm thinking the Wall Street Journal-NBC polls, the New York Times-CBS, Pew - show a discernable change in the race for the Democratic nomination?

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: Well, if you sort of match them all up, which is something that we do on my Web site, there is an appreciable drop in Senator Obama's support when matched against Senator Clinton nationally. It's probably worth noting that our big, mashed-up average has Obama at about the low end and Clinton at about the high end of where they've been since early February. So even though it's a bit closer now than it's been, it's not wildly different.

SIMON: What about the perceptions that the public has of candidates on, either on issues or character traits?

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: Well, different surveys ask about these things different ways, but the three you mentioned all had favorable ratings, and they all showed the negative rating for Senator Obama a little bit higher, and you know, that makes sense. It's been a brutal two or three weeks for him in terms of the news story, but I think it's been a change in degree and not necessarily sort of a wholesale shift.

SIMON: And recognizing that we can't forecast events, but does this represent the full impact of the Reverend Wright story?

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: A week ago - I smile because this is so hard to do. I think there's a fallacy we all fall into. We look at these trendlines on the charts, and we assume that we can extend them out into the future and know how they will turn. We've seen twists and turns in this story over the last month.

The national polls at this point, which as of right now show Clinton doing a little bit better against McCain than Obama depending on which poll you look at, if you turn the clock back to 1992, at this point Bill Clinton was trailing by about nine points behind George Herbert Walker Bush, and in three or four weeks after that, he was trailing both Bush and Ross Perot.

And since we all remember that first term of President Perot…

SIMON: President Perot, exactly, yeah.

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: We might want to be a little cautious about reading too much into these snapshots right now when there's a contested Democratic primary nomination not resolved.

SIMON: At the same time, how do you explain the fact that the Republicans, I think it's fair to say, just have brutal polling results at the moment between an incumbent president who's highly unpopular in public ranking and polls on the Republican position and various issues? Nevertheless, John McCain is more than holding his own.

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: Well, we have two findings that are pretty clear across all of these surveys that are out this week and for the last few months. One is that the Republican brand has been damaged, that voters are ready to make a change from the policies they associate with President Bush.

On the other hand, Senator McCain is a known quantity and is at least perceived as having some distance, and clearly over the next six months, whoever the Democratic nominee is is going to challenge that perception, and where that story ends will be the story of this election.

SIMON: What's going to happen in Indiana and North Carolina? Can you tell us?

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: Well, most of the surveys have shown Obama with a lead in North Carolina, and most have shown a closer contest, but Clinton with an advantage so far, in Indiana. I suppose if I were going to wager, I would say we'll have a split decision, but there have been many states where the pre-election polls have been off. Tune in Tuesday night, and we'll find out.

SIMON: Mark Blumenthal, editor and publisher of Pollster.com. Thanks very much.

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Explore all national, state and local returns now.