POLLSTER UPDATE: New Jersey's Senate Battle Complicated By Frank Lautenberg's Passing

While the political world mourns Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the inevitable succession speculation begins. Barack Obama's job approval has declined since January, but it's still hard to see a significant shift in the last month. And we preview what to expect from Gallup's 2012 review. This is the HuffPost Pollster update for Monday, June 3, 2013.

RIP: FRANK LAUTENBERG - "Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has died at the age of 89 of viral pneumonia, The Bergen Record reported Monday, citing the senator's office...The senator's office confirmed Lautenberg's death in a Monday morning statement: 'United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, the last remaining World War II veteran serving in the Senate, passed away due to complications from viral pneumonia at 4:02 a.m. today at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell.'" [HuffPost]

THE SPECULATION BEGINS - Cook Political's Jennifer Duffy reports that New Jersey law is unclear on the timing of any special election to fill Lautenberg's seat: "Under state law, the timing of Lautenberg’s death complicates when an election might be held to succeed him. The only thing that is clear is that when a U.S. Senate vacancy occurs, New Jersey’s Governor does appoint someone to fill the seat until a successor can be elected. What state law makes complicated is the timing of the election to choose that successor...There are conflicting provisions in New Jersey state law about when an election to fill a vacancy will occur. According to one provision, the law says that if a vacancy occurs more than 70 days before the next regularly scheduled statewide general election, then it will be filled during that general election....[That provision would mean] a special election to be held on November 5 of this year....However, another provision in state law says that a special election will be held in the next regularly scheduled statewide general election (e.g., this November) only if the vacancy occurs more than 70 days before the state’s primary election...[that provision would mean] the vacancy would be filled at the next general election – or November 4, 2014. It should be noted that the Governor does have the discretion to call a special election anytime between now and November 4, 2014, including holding one on November 5 of this year. [Cook Political]

Nate Cohn - “Barring a Booker snub by the state's Democratic Party, the date of the election is unlikely to change the outcome. A later election would give a Republican appointee more time to capitalize on the benefits of incumbency, but it's unlikely that a year and a half in the U.S. Senate will do wonders for a Republican’s popularity in New Jersey. If the election is held in November 2013, Christie’s coattails might help the GOP’s Senate candidate. On the other hand, Democrats tend to benefit from higher turnout, and a general election with two big races might draw more voters than a Senate election would on its own.” [TNR]

Sean Trende - "Oddly enough, there aren’t any clear winners here. Christie likely comes out of this a loser however it plays out. Corey Booker and other Democratic candidates just had their path to the Senate complicated. And whoever gets appointed to the seat will have to face an unfriendly electorate twice in the next 18 months." [RCP]

Harry Enten - "Methodological note: Be careful using the 2012 exits from NJ. Small sample size for an exit combined with post-Sandy temporary migration." [@ForecasterEnten]

Kevin Collins - "Prediction: Christie will call for an early special for US Sen and will appoint a GOP-er with good name id and appeal to Dems, like Whitman." [@KWCollins]

OBAMA APPROVAL TREND REVISITED - In a rare moment of seemingly precise agreement, the Gallup and Rasmussen tracking daily tracking polls of President Barack Obama's job approval rating have both shown a slight decline from roughly 50 percent approve to 47 percent approve over the last week. However, though near the low end, both remain within the low end of the typically day-to-day variation these polls have exhibited over the last few months. That said, the Pollster approval chart, which tracks all available public polls, tracks a long term decline in Obama's approval rating since a post-election/inaugural bump that peaked in January. [Pollster: Obama Job Approval]

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Franklin finds no significant shift - Pollster co-founder and political scientist Charles Franklin has been watching the approval polls closely for "a change in trend or mean since the Benghazi hearing on May 8 and the subsequent IRS and AP revelations," and finds none. From a June 3 update: "As more data are available it is undoubtedly true that there will eventually be some movement from the current trend, either up or down...[yet] A summary of the statistical models finds no statistically significant shift since May 8, either overall or for any partisan group (Dem, Rep or Ind)." [Polls And Votes]


PREVIEWING GALLUP'S MEA CULPA - In case you missed it, we previewed five things you can expect from the "extensive review" of 2012 election polling methods that Gallup will be presenting reporters in Washington on Tuesday. A quick summary: (1) A deep dive into survey methodology. The list of issues examined covers virtually every aspect of Gallup's process. (2) This is just part one. In particular, investigation into Gallup's likely voter model is continuing and conclusions on that subject will await experiments Gallup will conduct in conjunction with gubernatorial elections in November. (3) Don't expect one big thing. The past history of polling snafus suggests a series of small errors all in Romney's favor. (4) Several "small things," uncovered by our own investigation last year, are already know. Finally, (5) Gallup will be raising their bar on transparency, perhaps even releasing respondent level data on their October tracking to scholars. [HuffPost]

The threat of our 'polling addiction?' - Elizabeth Wilner: "Gallup’s mea culpa this week and yet another release of 2016 trial heats reminds us that the biggest threat to the health of public opinion polling may not be shrinking response rates or the rising cost of dialing cellphones, but our growing addiction to its results...Some news organizations are considering using Survey Monkey. These organizations in the past would have scoffed at the idea of doing online or unscientific opinion research. Now, because of their shark-like need to constantly poll or die, they’re talking with a company whose core business is online employee satisfaction surveys." [Cook Political]

MONDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to more news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Sam Wang defends averages. [NYTimes]

-Nate Cohn says Lincoln Chafee's still in hot water. [TNR]

-Nate Silver's not surprised by the decline in Hillary Clinton's favorable rating. [NYTimes]

-Anna_Greenberg and Sean Trende discuss public opinion on marijuana legalization. [@BrookingsGS]

-University of Arizona researchers survey those crossing the Mexican border illegally. [WaPost]

-Quentin Hardy shares six myths about big data. [NYTimes]

-Stephen Few explains what being a "data scientist" really means. [Perceptual Edge]

-Mike Mokrzycki summarizes how he and others used Twitter at the 2013 AAPOR Conference. [Storify]

-Portlandia explains what it really means to be a nerd. [YouTube, via @JoshdelaRosa1]