By Jim Ellis
Aug. 31, 2017 — Two new surveys were released this week that verify trends for two in-cycle Republican US senators, one in a positive manner, the other, negative.
Harper Polling released new data (Aug. 24-26; 800 likely Alabama Senate run-off voters) that basically confirms the last poll we saw in the current Alabama Senate run-off campaign between former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange: Voter Surveys & Consulting, Judge Moore leading 45-41 percent. According to HP, the former jurist’s lead is now only 47-45 percent.
Last week, two other polls, from JMC Analytics & Polling – a firm that has been polling not only the Alabama Senate race, but also similar campaign situations in Arizona and Nevada during the past week – and Opinion Savvy came to almost identical conclusions but dramatically different from this week’s data: Moore carrying leads of 19 and 18 percentage points, respectively.
The major dissimilarity prevalent in the Harper poll, when compared to any other current survey in the public domain, is their strongly positive favorability index for Sen. Strange. While the Opinion Savvy result found the appointed incumbent languishing in upside down approval territory among Republicans (40:46 percent positive to negative), the Harper data shows him holding a robust 60:24 percent rating, even better than race leader Moore’s 59:26 percent. President Trump scores well among Alabama Republicans in all the released polls, but most particularly Harper’s (87:10 percent).
Three other interesting HP side notes: by a margin of 50-40 percent, Sen. Strange is viewed as the stronger Trump candidate. This is likely because the President endorsed the appointed Senator just before the original primary election.
Second, those who can correctly identify Sept. 26 as the run-off election day favor Strange by a 50-40 percent margin. Respondents who stated that Aug. 29 was voting day supported Moore, 58-39 percent. The individuals saying they are not sure about which is election day broke for Strange, 51-35 percent.
Finally, in the important Huntsville swing area, a region that both JMC and Opinion Savvy found breaking heavily for Moore, Harper projects the opposite. Accordingly, HP reveals Strange developing the advantage, 45-40 percent. There are slight geographical differences among the pollsters regarding the expanded areas included in the Huntsville domain, thus potentially explaining some of the variance.
Clearly, we need to see more data before getting a clearer picture of where this campaign stands. If the latest two polls are correct, then Judge Moore’s large lead is quickly dissipating, and we are likely headed for a close finish in late September.
Turning westward, a new JMC Analytics & Polling study of the Arizona Republican electorate (Aug. 26-27; 500 completed responses via automated device from likely Republican household respondents) confirms last week’s released HighGround Public Affairs Consulting survey. This information posted former state Sen. Kelli Ward to be leading US Sen. Jeff Flake by a substantial margin in the 2018 Republican primary.
According to the new JMC result, Ward tops Flake by an incredible 47-21 percent spread, which is not far from HighGround’s 42-28 percent, a result many believed was at least partially skewed. The fact that JMC now enters the public debate with even more troubling data for Sen. Flake provides confirmation for the HighGround result and suggests that the incumbent has a highly serious problem within his own party constituency.
Much of Flake’s problem concerns his ongoing public feud with President Trump. The JMC data detects that the polling respondents rate the President 76:21 percent favorable to unfavorable. This contrasts with the same group professing a very poor 22:67 percent ratio for Sen. Flake, which is consistent with last week’s Public Policy Polling survey that also found the incumbent’s negative rating to be over 60% within his own party. The same JMC sampling group gives Ward a 43:23 percent positive index.
Though Flake’s numbers are likely the worst for any current Senate incumbent of either party, he still has a full year to repair the damage. The Arizona primary is not scheduled until Aug. 28, 2018, so much can happen to change the polling and perceptions between now and then.