By Jim Ellis
Aug. 19, 2016 — Monmouth University (Aug. 13-16; 403 likely Indiana voters; 351 drawn from registered voters list; 52 random digit dial cell phone responses) released their new Indiana voter survey and the results report varying degrees of Republican improvement, though the polling sample may skew slightly toward the GOP.
Indiana is a very important 2016 political state. Among the 23 states that appear to be bedrock Republican for the presidential race — and must all vote for Donald Trump if he is to have any chance of winning the national election — Indiana is the only one to stray away from the party nominee in this century. In 2008, Hoosier State voters chose Barack Obama over John McCain by a 50-49 percent margin.
Therefore, with Indiana being a must-win Republican state for Trump, it likely factored into Trump’s decision to choose its governor, Mike Pence, as his vice presidential running mate.
We continue to see strong evidence that the Democratic move to replace former Rep. Baron Hill (D-Bloomington) for ex-senator and governor Evan Bayh, just hours before the ballot finalization deadline, has made the state pivotal in determining which party controls the new Senate majority. Prior to the Bayh move, it appeared that Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington) was cruising to a general election victory, thus keeping retiring Sen. Dan Coats’ (R) seat in the GOP column.
The Monmouth results report a relatively positive overall GOP trend. Trump leads Hillary Clinton and Libertarian Gary Johnson, 47-36-10 percent in the presidential contest. Conversely, the same polling sample chooses former Sen. Bayh over Rep. Young with a 48-41 percent mark, but even this result is a Republican improvement.
The most favorable GOP result, however, may be in the governor’s contest. Here, newly appointed nominee Eric Holcomb, the state’s interim lieutenant governor who succeeded Pence when the latter left the governor’s race to join the national ticket, has overcome his late start and crept into a scant 42-41 percent lead over Democratic nominee John Gregg. The latter man is the former state House Speaker and 2012 gubernatorial candidate who lost a close three-point race to Pence.
The presidential results are a needed plus for the reeling Trump campaign. Though besieged by several unforced errors in the last two weeks, his national polling standing is improving slightly and still remains only mid-single digits away from Clinton despite media coverage suggesting the race is virtually over.
Though Young is reportedly down seven points, the Monmouth data is the best ballot test result the Republicans have seen since former Sen. Bayh entered the campaign. Previously, Garin Hart Yang Research Group polling for the Democratic Party found Bayh ahead 54-33 percent. A non-published Bayh internal poll apparently yielded the former senator a 26-point margin over Rep. Young.
The Monmouth error factor of plus or minus 4.9 percent with a 95 percent confidence rating is high because the sample size of just 403 statewide respondents is low. The sample appears to have a slight Republican skew because the self-identified party respondents break 39-26 percent in the GOP’s favor.
Indiana does not register voters by political party, so the overall registration division is not possible to calculate. Supporting the Monmouth partisan split, 1.1 million voters filed into the Republican presidential primary versus only 638,000 for the Democrats earlier in the year. The party holds the governor’s office and one senator, maintains a 7-2 split in the congressional delegation, and controls both houses of the state legislature. The move to Obama in 2008 marked just the first time Indiana presidential race voters went Democratic since 1964.
On the other hand, Democrat Joe Donnelly won the 2012 Senate campaign with a 50-44 percent margin after Republican nominee Richard Mourdock politically collapsed in the closing days of the campaign, and Gregg ran surprisingly strong against Pence in the governor’s race.