Two Stunning Polls

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 27, 2017 — A pair of eyebrow-raising polls were released mid-week, one for the 2018 North Dakota Senate race and the other for the impending Virginia gubernatorial campaign.

North Dakota Senate

Poll results show Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) trailing for first time.

Poll results show Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) trailing for first time.

The 1892 polling firm, which has a record of surveying North Dakota statewide races, went into the field for Republican senatorial candidate Tom Campbell, a state senator and agri-businessman from Grafton, ND.

The survey (Oct. 11-12; 500 registered North Dakota voters; 400 additional Republican primary voters) finds Sen. Campbell leading in a hypothetical GOP primary, and in rather astonishing fashion for this early in the election cycle, actually trending ahead of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), 44-41 percent.

Sen. Campbell has a healthy lead among Republicans, topping former US Rep. Rick Berg, 32-24 percent, among others. Ex-Rep. Berg admits to be considering the race, but has not given tangible indications that he is beginning to construct a campaign. The poll did not test current US Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck), however, who says he will decide about running sometime next year.

Needless to say, this is the first poll of any kind that finds Sen. Heitkamp trailing. Confirming data is needed to give better statistical foundation for this particular survey.

Virginia Governor

Also released yesterday is a poll from Hampton University’s Center for Public Policy (Oct. 18-22; 750 registered Virginia voters who self-identify as likely to participate in the upcoming Nov. 7th statewide election) providing the latest numbers for the Virginia governor’s race as we begin the closing period.

The data certainly confirms that Republican Ed Gillespie has developed momentum as the two candidates turn into the home stretch. The size of the GOP nominee’s margin, however, is surprisingly large.

According to Hampton’s CPP results, Gillespie has a 41-33 percent advantage over Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. The only other survey giving Gillespie any type of lead came last week from Monmouth University and the margin was only 48-47 percent.

It has been clear that Gillespie’s crime-related ads featuring the MS-13 gang controversy (see above video) were scoring points. Obviously, the Gillespie internals were showing a positive response to the ads, hence the increased intensity of their airing. Surprisingly, Northam has not directly responded, but continues the same ad campaign he has been running for weeks. Now that the Hampton U poll is brandishing numbers never seen before, it is very likely that we will see an immediate strategic change in the Northam campaign’s approach.

The Hampton poll appears methodologically sound, and the regional segmentation is very strong. The 750 sampling pool is adequate for a state the size of Virginia, and respondents coming from 105 different counties and cities give us proper regional sampling. The results also show a significant gender gap, and one that also makes sense: women voting for Northam, 35-30 percent, while men back Gillespie in a ratio of 47:34 percent. For Gillespie, 48 percent of his support comes from white voters, a lower than expected number, while 57 percent of Northam’s coalition is African American. This latter number is in line with what one would normally expect from the Virginia electorate.

The eight-point Gillespie spread is surprising, considering the Virginia voting patterns that have developed since 2006. But, with the information presented, it is difficult to say the Hampton University poll possesses any major flaw.

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