Category Archives: Polling

Kentucky Gubernatorial Race
Challengers Emerging

By Jim Ellis

Unpopular Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R)

Jan. 9, 2019 — Blue Grass State politics are beginning to boil, all centered around the 2019 governor’s race. With the candidate filing deadline fast approaching on Jan. 29 for the May 21 statewide primary, several individuals are announcing that they will challenge unpopular Gov. Matt Bevin (R), including a Republican state legislator who is expected to make his formal declaration today.

Though the governor has said he intends to seek a second term, and did so again a week before Christmas, the fact that he has yet to file a 2019 campaign committee has fueled speculation that he may decide to retire. Bevin was elected in 2015 with a relatively substantial 52.5 – 43.8 percent victory over then-Attorney General Jack Conway (D) after upsetting then-agriculture commissioner and now US congressman, James Comer (R-Tompkinsville), by just 83 votes in a May Republican primary that drew almost 215,000 voters.

Bevin’s popularity ratings, however, have largely been upside-down throughout his tenure in office. According to the Morning Consult quarterly national gubernatorial approval rankings that were released just before the November elections in mid-October, Gov. Bevin ranked 46th on the nationwide list, with a 30:55 percent positive to negative ratio.

None of those finishing below the Kentucky governor on that particular scale in October remains in office. The least popular, according to the survey, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), was ineligible to seek a third term last November. Republican Kevin Stitt replaced her. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) did not seek a third term and Democrat Ned Lamont held the office. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) was defeated for re-election, and Alaska Independent Gov. Bill Walker withdrew before the election because his political situation was hopeless.

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Biden Up Twice

By Jim Ellis

Former vice president and ex-Delaware senator Joe Biden

Dec. 18, 2018 — A pair of Democratic presidential primary polls were just released — one with a national respondent universe, and the other for the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucus. In both, former vice president and ex-Delaware senator Joe Biden is staked to a lead. The most disappointing performer appears to be Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who settles into middle-of-the-pack status in both surveys.

CNN conducted the national poll (conducted by the SSRS firm; Dec. 6-9; 463 Democrats and independent-leaning Democrats). For two reasons, this survey is of little statistical relevance. First, the national sample of only 463 individuals is very low, thus leading to a huge error factor. Second, as we know, the presidential nomination process is decided by winning delegate support in every state and territory, thus monitoring a candidate’s national standing, while being of media interest, actually provides little in the way of tangible political value.

The Des Moines Register/CNN Mediacom Iowa poll (conducted by Selzer & Company; Dec. 10-13; 455 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders) is the more relevant of the two studies since it previews the Iowa Caucus, which is responsible for apportioning the state’s nominating delegates and tentatively scheduled for Feb. 3, 2020.

In the national poll, Biden places first with 30 percent preference followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) who posts 14 percent. These are the only two potential candidates in double figures.

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Senators’ Approvals vs. Votes

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 13, 2018 — Reviewing documentation from the 2018 US Senate races, it appears there is at least a tangential correlation between an incumbent senator’s pre-campaign approval rating and the vote percentage garnered on Election Day.

(Click on image to go to full story at Morning Consult.)

The Morning Consult public affairs firm routinely surveys senators and governors to produce approval indexes for every member. Their 3rd Quarter 2018 sampling was publicly released on Oct. 10, one month before the election and just at the beginning of prime time campaigning.

Looking at the 32 incumbent senators who were on the ballot in November, the mean average increase from the individual’s approval score to the final vote percentage is 9.6 points when using the Morning Consult favorability index as our constant and the median is nine points.

The senator dropping the furthest from approval to vote percentage, down five points, was Maine Sen. Angus King (I), but the number is a bit deceiving. King scored a 58 percent positive approval rating in mid-October, but only received 53 percent in the election. Because the senator is an Independent and the Democrats with whom he caucuses did file their own candidate, the next closest opponent scored 35 percent. Therefore, his political standing still proved strong.

On the other end of the spectrum, the senator who improved the most from an upside-down favorability index rating to the vote was New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D). While his October index was a poor 31:46 percent favorable to unfavorable, the worst by far among the 32 senators standing for re-election, he was successfully re-elected, 54-43 percent, over retired pharmaceutical company CEO Bob Hugin (R).

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Analyzing the 2018 Vote

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 5, 2018 — The Pew Research Center recently released a series of reports about the 2018 electoral patterns that allow us to better understand what happened in last month’s voting.

Clearly, the election produced mixed results: Republicans gained two seats in the Senate; Democrats reached near-wave proportions in the House; Democrats converted a net seven governorships, yet only scored new majorities in six legislative chambers and produced at least temporary redistricting control in just one state (Colorado).

But, why did these unusual results happen? The Pew findings provide us clues.

Among college-educated women, according to the Pew research, 59 percent voted Democratic for the House of Representatives as compared to only 39 percent choosing the respective Republican candidate. College-educated men broke 51-47 percent for the Republican congressional candidate. Compared to other years, college-educated women, who normally break Democratic, did so to a greater degree in 2018, whereas college-educated men failed to reach Republican margins typically found.

Therefore, Democratic strategists, who heavily weighted the highly educated segment believing a turnout surge within this sector would occur, proved correct.

Perhaps indicative of how the Republicans performed, the Pew study uncovered a segment of voters that showed that only 10 percent of Republican voters mentioned economic policies in explaining their vote motivation with only two percent citing the “good economy.”

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Yet Another Election

By Jim Ellis

Appointed Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), left, and Democrat challenger Mike Espy

Nov. 27, 2018 — The 2018 election cycle’s final contest comes today in Mississippi. The special run-off campaign between appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi congressman, Mike Espy (D), will decide if the 116th Congress will feature a Senate that brandishes a 53-47 Republican majority or a lesser 52-48.

The run-off occurs because no candidate received an absolute majority in the Nov. 6 special jungle primary. The special election is necessary because Sen. Thad Cochran (R) resigned for health reasons in the middle of his final term in office, thus necessitating an appointed replacement and this confirming electoral vote for the winner to serve the balance of the term. Whether Sen. Hyde-Smith or Espy wins today, there will be another election in the regular 2020 cycle for the full six-year term.

In the first vote, Sen. Hyde-Smith placed first, but barely, with a 41.5 percent plurality compared to Espy’s 40.6 percent, a difference of 8,284 votes from more than 883,600 ballots cast. The third-place finisher, Tea Party activist state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), captured the remaining 16.4 percent with Independent Tobey Bartee picking up the final 1.4 percent. Once the run-off began, Sen. McDaniel announced his support of Sen. Hyde-Smith, which should go a long way toward unifying her Republican base.

Controversy in this run-off campaign arose when Hyde-Smith made several unforced errors. Making statements about wanting to be present at a lynching, visiting a Confederate Museum where she donned a uniform, and now under attack for attending what was commonly referred to as a “segregation academy” for high school has put the appointed senator clearly on the defensive.

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The Final Outlook

2018-elections-open-seatsBy Jim Ellis

Nov. 6, 2018 — Election Day has arrived, but it is likely that a majority of those planning to vote have already done so. Early voting totals are way up in most of the 37 states that employ a pre-election ballot casting procedure in comparison to the 2014 midterm election.

According to the University of Florida’s United States Elections Project, 25 of the 37 states report receiving more early votes than they did four years ago. None, however, is larger than Texas where early voting has already exceeded that grand total votes cast in 2014. The same also has occurred in Nevada, but it’s less surprising since the last midterm aggregate turnout there was unusually low.

In Texas, just under 4.9 million votes already have been received. In 2014, the aggregate early and Election Day vote was 4.72 million. In 2014, 44 percent of the total vote was cast early. If this same pattern occurs, the current election total turnout will exceed the 2016 presidential level participation figure of 8.96 million votes, however it is unlikely that will happen. How the increased turnout will affect the election outcome is undetermined at this point, but the high number of first-time voters suggest that Democrats could improve their typical standing.

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Senate: The Latest Polling Numbers

1200px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Senate.svgBy Jim Ellis

Nov. 5, 2018 — The pollsters are publishing their final pre-election studies, and here’s were the tightest, top Senate races stand:


ARIZONA

Rep. Martha McSally (R) vs. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D)
• Fox News (Oct. 27-29; 643 likely Arizona voters)
McSally 46; Sinema 46
• SSRS for CNN (Oct. 24-29; 702 likely Arizona voters)
Sinema 51; McSally 47
• OH Predictive Insights for ABC Channel 15 (Oct. 22-23; 600 likely Arizona voters)
McSally 52; Sinema 45


FLORIDA

Sen. Bill Nelson (D) vs. Gov. Rick Scott (R)
• Cygnal (Oct. 27-29; 495 likely Florida voters)
Nelson 50; Scott 48
• SSRS for CNN (Oct. 24-29; 781 likely Florida voters)
Nelson 49; Scott 47
• St. Pete Polls (Oct. 30-31; 2,470 likely Florida voters, automated)
Nelson 49; Scott 47
• Trafalgar Group (Oct. 29-30; 2,543 likely Florida voters, automated)
Nelson 49; Scott 47


INDIANA

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) vs. Mike Braun (R)
• Fox News (Oct. 27-30; 722 likely Indiana voters)
Donnelly 45; Braun 38
• NBC News/Marist College (Oct. 24-28; 496 likely Indiana voters)
Donnelly 43; Braun 40
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“Blue Wave” Absent in Arizona Races

By Jim Ellis

L-R -- Arizona Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) and Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

From left to right, Arizona Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) and Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Nov. 2, 2018 — It was always believed that the Grand Canyon State’s open Senate race between Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) and Martha McSally (R-Tucson) would be one of the best campaigns in the country, and no one should be disappointed.

As we approach Election Day, differing indicators have presented themselves regarding who might win this toss-up campaign. Five polls have been released covering the period between Oct. 23-29. Three of the five give Rep. Sinema a slight lead, while one projects a tie.

YouGov/CBS News (Oct. 23-26; 972 likely Arizona voters) and Marist College/NBC News (Oct. 23-27; 506 likely Arizona voters) both post the Democratic nominee to identical 47-44 percent leads. CNN/SSRS (Oct. 24-29; 702 likely Arizona voters) finds Sinema’s edge to be 51-47 percent. But HighGround Public Affairs (Oct. 26-28; 400 likely Arizona voters) sees Rep. McSally ahead, 47-45 percent. Fox News (Oct. 27-29; 643 likely Arizona voters) came to a third conclusion, a 46-46 percent tie.

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Ohio: Contrasting Polls

By Jim Ellis

state-of-ohio-mapNov. 1, 2018 — The Buckeye State of Ohio is viewed as one of the country’s quintessential swing states. In 2016, however, the state exceeded polling and even Republican expectations in their presidential vote, as President Trump won a decisive 52-44 percent victory over Hillary Clinton.

Some suggested the Trump vote was an indication that the state could be moving more definitively to the political right, but new surveys suggest the Buckeye electorate is returning to its previous swing vote history.

Still, Ohio proves a reliable national political barometer. In both 2008 and 2012, the electorate here voted for President Obama after twice after backing President George W. Bush in his two elections. The state previously favored President Bill Clinton in his two successful national campaigns. In fact, the last time Ohioans failed to vote for the winning presidential candidate came in 1960 when the state awarded its electoral votes to Republican Richard Nixon in his national losing effort against John F. Kennedy.

Two new polls were released this week that paint different pictures of the Ohio electorate’s current state. Some of the results are curious to the point of questioning the polling reliability or not being able to adequately determine how the governor’s race will end and failing to understand the wide discrepancy in US Senate polling projections.

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A Polling Trifecta in 3 Key Races:
Indiana, Florida, Arizona

By Jim Ellis

CBS-YouGov-polling-senate-racesOct. 30, 2018 — CBS News/YouGov just published new numbers from three key Senate races, all conducted late last week during the Oct. 23-26 period, that largely confirm recent trends.

The Indiana race has seemingly turned toward Republican challenger Mike Braun in recent days, and the CBS/YouGov poll confirms the new direction. According to their poll (975 likely voters, online), Braun holds a 46-43 percent lead over Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). This is wholly consistent with other polling conducted since Oct. 14.

As we reported last week, Mason Strategies (Oct. 15-20; 600 likely Indiana voters) finds Braun up by an almost identical 47-43 percent margin, while American Viewpoint in polling for the Braun campaign (Oct. 14-17; 800 likely Indiana voters) sees a 44-40 percent spread.

CBS/YouGov then surveyed, as so many others have done recently, the Florida Senate race. After Sen. Bill Nelson (D) went ahead beyond the margin of error over Gov. Rick Scott (R) in a pair of polls, two more studies turned in the latter man’s favor. Then, St. Leo University (Oct. 16-22; 698 likely Florida voters), Strategic Research Associates (Oct. 16-23; 800 likely Florida voters), and Gravis Marketing (Oct. 22-23; 773 likely Florida voters) all saw Sen. Nelson rebounding with an advantage of nine, one, and four points, respectively.

But, CBS/YouGov finds the race returning to parity. Their results, from a pool of 991 randomly selected and weighted online respondents, peg the race as a flat tie, at 46 percent apiece.

The national media/polling partnership also tested the tight Arizona Senate race. Here, CBS/YouGov (972 likely voters) finds US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) re-claiming an edge over Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) by a 47-44 percent clip.

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The Governors’ Races & Veto Power

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185Oct. 29, 2018 — The 2018 election cycle features 36 gubernatorial campaigns, 26 of which have federal redistricting ramifications. The ones that don’t are at-large congressional district states (Alaska, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming) or will be after the next reapportionment (Rhode Island), those that employ redistricting commissions (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho), or the multi-district state where the governor is only awarded a two-year term (New Hampshire).

Here is a breakdown of where things stand in the upcoming election in the 26 states where the governor will have redistricting veto power:


PURE TOSS UPS

FLORIDA: Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) vs. Ex-US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R)
• Most Recent Polls: Gravis Marketing (Oct. 22-23): Gillum 51 percent, DeSantis 46 percent
   Gray/Strategic Research (Oct. 16-23): DeSantis 48 percent; Gillum 45 percent

GEORGIA: Sec/State Brian Kemp (R) vs. Ex-state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D)
• Most Recent Poll: NBC News/Marist (Oct. 14-18): Kemp 49 percent; Abrams 47 percent

IOWA: Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) vs. Businessman Fred Hubbell (D)
• Most Recent Poll: Selzer & Co (Sept. 17-20): Hubbell 43 percent; Reynolds 41 percent

KANSAS: Sec of State Kris Kobach (R) vs. State Rep. Laura Kelly (D) & Greg Orman (I)
• Recent Poll: Public Policy Polling (Oct. 19-20): Kobach 41 percent; Kelly 41 percent; Orman 10 percent

NEVADA: Attorney Gen Adam Laxalt (R) vs. Commissioner Steve Sisolak (D)
• Most Recent Poll: Emerson College (Oct. 10-12): Laxalt 46 percent; Sisolak 41 percent

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With Media Focused on O’Rourke, Cruz Maintains Consistent Edge

By Jim Ellis

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) | Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) | Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso)

Oct. 25, 2018 — The Texas Senate race has become the premier political contest of this midterm election. With Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) becoming a national celebrity due to constant media attention, and now with record fundraising, this election has stretched beyond Texas and evolved into a national campaign.

Though the media continually promotes O’Rourke, extensive polling has only put him ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz (R) just once during the entire election cycle. Despite O’Rourke raising an eye-popping $38 million during the last quarter, an all-time record for any Senate race, Cruz’s margins are actually growing.

During this calendar year, 35 polls have been conducted of the Texas Senate race from 19 different polling firms. In only one, an online survey from Ipsos Reuters in early to mid-September (Sept. 6-14; 992 Texas respondents), did Rep. O’Rourke score an advantage over Sen. Cruz. In that poll, the El Paso congressman led 47-45 percent.

While Sen. Cruz held an advantage in the other 34 polls, his margin was typically small. His average support factor is 45.6 percent. He hits 50 percent or more in only 13 of the surveys. Rep. O’Rourke records an average of 41.1 percent and reaches 50 percent in one survey. While these numbers and margins clearly show weakness for an incumbent, as we pointed out when covering Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) in similar columns earlier this week, Sen. Cruz is demonstrating growth as the early voting period begins and Election Day draws nearer in contrast to the others who appear to be losing momentum.

In the last 10 polls, covering the Oct. 1-21 period from 10 different pollsters, Sen. Cruz averages 50.2 percent preference and posts majority support in seven of the 10 studies. Rep. O’Rourke averages 45.2 percent, leads in none, and obviously never reaches 50 percent. While Cruz maintains a consistent edge, O’Rourke remains in position if not to score an upset, at least to record the best Democratic statewide percentage since 1990, which was the last time a Democratic candidate won a Texas statewide office.

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Is Donnelly Faltering in Indiana?

By Jim Ellis

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)

Oct. 25, 2018 — With only four 2018 Indiana Senate polls conducted before September, this campaign was the least surveyed toss-up race in the country, but that is changing. We now see a plethora of polling being released in October. In what appeared to be a contest trending toward Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) the results now appear to be turning.

In mid to late September, Ipsos Reuters (Sept. 12-20; 1,181 Indiana voters; online) and Fox News (Sept. 29-Oct. 2; 695 likely Indiana voters) found Sen. Donnelly leading former state representative and international businessman Mike Braun (R), 46-43 and 43-41 percent, respectively.

An early October survey from American Viewpoint (Oct. 7-10; 800 likely Indiana voters) reversed the trend, posting Braun to a 44-40 percent lead. After that, a series of three surveys from a trio of independent polling firms, all conducted between October 12-16, found Sen. Donnelly regaining the lead.

In consecutive order, Gravis Marketing (377 likely Indiana voters), Survey USA (816 likely Indiana voters), and Vox Populi (783 likely Indiana voters) posted Donnelly to leads of four (44-40 percent), one (41-40 percent), and eight (44-36 percent) percentage points, respectively.

The two latest surveys, again from American Viewpoint (Oct. 14-17; 800 likely Indiana voters) and a new one from Mason Strategies (Oct. 15-20; 600 likely Indiana voters), find Braun seesawing back into the lead. American Viewpoint yields the Republican a 44-40 percent advantage, while Mason Strategies sees Braun up 47-43 percent.

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Florida Polling: Inconsistent Results

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 23, 2018 — Four statewide Florida polls were just released, and we continue to see conflicting results across the board two weeks prior to Election Day. As usual, the Sunshine State political situation appears too close to call from a place that seems to specialize in razor-thin elections.

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

During the period of Oct. 17-21, St. Pete Polls, Survey USA, Quinnipiac University, and the Democratic polling firm of Schroth, Eldon & Associates all conducted Florida surveys.

In the Senate race, two of the surveys find incumbent Bill Nelson (D) putting some distance between he and his opponent, Gov. Rick Scott (R), while the other two project to give Scott a slight edge. In the governor’s race, three of these firms released numbers (Quinnipiac did not, but will likely do so today), and Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, holds a varying lead over former US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R).

There is quite a difference in the Senate margins, and this is largely due to how the female vote is being recorded. Both Survey USA (Oct. 18-21; 1,050 Florida adults, 859 registered Florida voters, 665 likely Florida voters) and Quinnipiac (Oct. 17-21; 1,161 registered Florida voters) find Sen. Nelson holding full-sample leads beyond the polling margin of error, 49-41 percent (S-USA) and 52-46 percent (Quinnipiac). They see females breaking for Nelson, 49-37 percent (S-USA) and 59-39 percent (Quinnipiac). Men are going the opposite way, favoring Scott, 49-46 percent (S-USA) and 54-44 percent (Quinnipiac).

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Feinstein Still Weak; Gas Tax Polling

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

Oct. 18, 2018 — Survey USA released a poll of the California electorate, one more political study that finds Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) failing to establish command in her race against fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles state senator.

The S-USA data (Oct. 12-14; 1,200 California adults; 964 registered California voters; 762 likely California voters) sees Feinstein again locked at 40 percent support versus 26 percent for de Leon. This is the sixth survey from four different pollsters that finds the Senator in the mid to low 40s since the June 5th jungle primary. But de Leon fares much worse, failing to break 30 percent in any of the half-dozen ballot test questions.

While all of the research suggests that Sen. Feinstein is politically weak, she will not lose this race. Though she brought in only $982,000 for the third quarter — a low number when campaigning in a state the size of California and understanding that many Democratic House candidates have brought in millions during the same period — de Leon raised just $254,000 and has a mere $309,000 cash-on-hand for the period ending Sept. 30. This is a low figure for a congressional race, let alone for a place that’s 53 times as large as a single CD.

California Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

California Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

The other feature potentially making the California Senate race a wild-card contest is the vote drop-off that we will see when comparing turnout for this office to the rest of the statewide ballot.

In 2016, when two Democrats were competing for an open Senate seat — the now-Sen. Kamala Harris vs. then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) — fewer votes were cast for that contest than in any other statewide election, including all of the ballot propositions. In fact, over 1.9 million more people voted in the presidential race than in the Senate race, and 1.3 million more chose to decide the last ballot initiative that banned single-use plastic bottles.

What occurred was a plethora of Republican voters simply skipping the Senate race rather than supporting one of the two Democrats. With de Leon running to the ideological left of Feinstein the Republican vote will likely drop even further, which becomes an interesting factor.

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