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Coleman Popularity Virtually Unchanged Since Election Day, Despite Recent Poll Headline

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Much has been made of the extremely low favorability ratings Norm Coleman (and Al Franken) are enduring in the wake of numbers released in last week's SurveyUSA poll of Minnesotans conducted after the conclusion of the 2008 U.S. Senate recount process.

The poll found Coleman's favorability numbers dipping to just 38 percent - the second lowest mark during his 6-year stint as U.S. Senator. As such, the results of the poll and the subsequent reporting, suggest that Coleman's image has taken a severe beating as a result of the legal battles that have stemmed from the two-month post-election fight with Franken.

This notion is underscored by the fact that a plurality of Minnesotans in the SurveyUSA poll (49 percent) did not believe Coleman should challenge the recount results (including a majority of independents).

No doubt Coleman is not a highly popular figure in the Gopher State at the moment (and neither is Franken, according to the poll), but the SurveyUSA numbers are misleading regarding the degree to which Coleman has dropped out of favor with Gopher State residents.

· To begin with, the poll offered three response categories to its respondents - favorable, unfavorable, and neutral - whereas the previous 15 public polls conducted during the past 15 months had offered just two responses (favorable and unfavorable). As a result, due to 12 percent of Minnesotans having a 'neutral' view of Coleman, his favorability numbers dipped below 40 percent for the first time in over a year.

However, Coleman's unfavorability numbers in the new SurveyUSA poll (44 percent) were also at their lowest point going back to April 2008 (42 percent, Rasmussen). In fact, Coleman's favorability numbers are actually up 2 points from the last time SurveyUSA asked the three-response option question, back in October 2007 (from 36 percent; though his unfavorability numbers rose by 7 points during that span).

If one distributes the 12 percent of 'neutral' respondents proportionately according to the percentage of favorable, unfavorable, and 'no opinion' nods Coleman received by the other 89 percent of respondents in the new SurveyUSA poll, his favorability rating would increase by 5 points (to 43 percent), his unfavorability rating would increase by 6 points (to 50 percent), and those stating they had 'no opinion' would increase 1 point (to 8 percent). This is basically where Coleman has been for the past 6 polls dating back to mid-September 2008: averaging 52 percent unfavorable and 45 percent favorable.

· Secondly, the SurveyUSA poll was conducted of 500 adults - not registered, likely, or actual voters. The previous 15 statewide polls (all of which had Coleman's favorability numbers well above 40 percent) were each conducted of likely voters. By including non-voters in this sample, the results are likely to find a higher number of respondents having no opinion (as well as those who might have a less than warm view of their elected politicians, regardless of partisan affiliation).

· This was borne out by the poll: 7 percent (35 respondents) of the 500 adults polled by SurveyUSA had neither a favorable, unfavorable, or neutral opinion of Coleman. The last time more poll respondents were undecided or had no opinion in a survey question measuring Coleman's favorability was before he assumed office in D.C. - back in November 2002 (Minnesota Poll). By comparison, the average number of people without an opinion on the issue of Coleman's favorability during the previous 15 public polls was just 3.1 percent.

· Additionally, when looking at Coleman's net favorability in the new SurveyUSA poll (-6 points), it is not elevated when compared with recent polls conducted during the past 3+ months:

October 7, 2008: -11 (Rasmussen)
October 14-15, 2008: -14 (Research 2000)
October 16-17, 2008: -7 (Minnesota Poll)
October 27-29, 2008: -5 (Research 2000)
December 4, 2008: -3 (Rasmussen)
January 7-8, 2008: -6 (SurveyUSA)

Al Franken, on the other hand, tied his worst ever mark for net favorability in the new SurveyUSA poll at -8 points (37 percent favorable and 45 percent favorable), matching his -8 point net rating in an early October Rasmussen poll.

· Lastly, the partisan breakdown of SurveyUSA's poll is a bit curious: 25 percent Republican, 33 percent Democrat, 39 percent independent, and 3 percent other. Of the more than 50 polls conducted by SurveyUSA since May 2005, the number of independents surveyed had only reached or eclipsed 39 percent twice before, and not for over three years (in September and October 2005). Of the 18 polls conducted by SurveyUSA in the Gopher State during the past year, an average of only 23.5 percent of respondents identified themselves as independents. Republicans, meanwhile, averaged 28 percent of SurveyUSA polls conducted during this span.

All things considered, while Coleman is obviously far from the peak popularity he enjoyed during his reelection campaign, his current numbers really have not dovetailed as the SurveyUSA numbers suggest. Coleman's popularity has been basically flat for the past four months - ever since the financial market collapse in September 2008.

Norm Coleman Favorability Ratings, 2007-2008 Election Cycle

Poll
Date
Favor.
Unfavor.
Neut.
No opin.
Net
SurveyUSA
1/7-8/09
38%
44%
12%
7%
-6
Rasmussen
12/4/08
48%
51%
2%
-3
Research 2000
10/27-29/08
46%
51%
7%
-5
MN Poll
10/16-17/08
43%
50%
7%
-7
Research 2000
10/14-15/08
42%
56%
2%
-14
Rasmussen
10/7/08
44%
55%
1%
-11
Rasmussen
9/18/08
48%
50%
2%
-2
Rasmussen
8/13/08
53%
44%
3%
+9
Rasmussen
7/22/08
48%
48%
3%
0
Rasmussen
7/10/08
49%
47%
4%
+2
Rasmussen
6/11/08
51%
45%
3%
+6
Rasmussen
5/22/08
49%
49%
3%
0
Rasmussen
4/22/08
55%
42%
3%
+13
Rasmussen
3/19/08
54%
44%
4%
+10
Rasmussen
2/16/08
55%
42%
3%
+13
Rasmussen
10/31/07
56%
42%
3%
+14
SurveyUSA
10/24-28/07
36%
37%
20%
6%
-1
Rasmussen
9/6/07
54%
46%
1%
+8
MPR
5/7-9/07
43%
25%
29%
3%
+18
Rasmussen
3/7/07
51%
42%
7%
+9



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