Tag Archives: Public Opinion Strategies

The Tennessee Backtrack

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)

Feb. 20, 2018 — In late September, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) announced that he would not seek a third term in 2018, saying he wanted to work “thoughtfully and independently” for the months remaining in his senatorial tenure. For the past several days, it has been widely reported that he is in a period of reconsideration, however.

At one time, Sen. Corker was considered as a potential nominee for secretary of state, and had a strong relationship with President Trump. In the succeeding months, their friendship cratered into an abyss. Understanding that the president is still highly popular within the Volunteer State Republican voting base, Corker is beginning to make overtures toward making amends with the president, thus signaling that he is at least contemplating running again, after all.

If Sen. Corker is listening to individuals telling him that leading GOP senatorial candidate Marsha Blackburn could be vulnerable in either a primary or the general election, empirical data suggests that such counsel is erroneous. In fact, polling and fundraising data should lead any observer to conclude that the congresswoman is actually one of the strongest Republican statewide candidates not only for Tennessee, but also across the national political spectrum.

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Gillespie vs. Northam: New Polling

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2017 — It’s hard to believe, but already we are not particularly far from a series of new election campaigns taking center stage. In addition to the five special congressional elections, the significant regular 2017 contests include the governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia, along with the New York City mayor’s race.

At the end of last week, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) filed paperwork to run for governor, as expected, but is rather strangely refusing to confirm that she will actually become a candidate. Rumors are swirling that Hillary Clinton is considering challenging Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, but little realistic chance exists that such a race will materialize.

Late this week, polling surfaced in the Virginia governor’s race, a contest that may well become the flagship campaign on the 2017 political calendar. A group called Conservatives for Clean Energy contracted with reliable Republican pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies (POS) to survey the candidates vying for the Commonwealth’s top position.

Though the poll was conducted in December (Dec. 11-13; 500 likely Virginia voters), the results are similar to those found in a corresponding Quinnipiac University survey (Dec. 6-11; 1,098 registered Virginia voters). Normally, such outdated studies would provide us very little usable data, but with the Christmas holidays occupying a great deal of the time between the polling and release dates, the data has remained salient because little has changed politically in the intervening time period.

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Bera and Issa

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 7, 2016 — Competitive action is occurring in several California House districts, but new data has just emerged suggesting that two House incumbents are headed for a tough finish.

Back in 2014, the race between Sacramento County Congressman Ami Bera (D) and former US Rep. Doug Ose (R) became the most expensive race in the country as the two candidates combined for $10 million in spending, not counting independent expenditures.

Now facing Sacramento County Sheriff Doug Jones (R), a new Public Opinion Strategies poll (Oct. 1-3; 400 likely CA-7 voters) is forcing this contest up the National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) challenger target list. According to the new POS data, Jones has taken a 47-42 percent lead over the two-term incumbent suggesting that the candidates will be making a mad dash for the political finish line in the campaign’s closing weeks.

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Senate: Critical States, Critical Polls

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2016 — New polls were just released in states that will define which party controls the Senate in the next Congress.

Five polls, four from Quinnipiac University, are now in the public domain from Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. If these latest polls prove correct, the Senate majority would be decided in Nevada and New Hampshire, two toss-up states that were not included in the released data.

Florida

The first Q-Poll gives further evidence that Sen. Marco Rubio (R) is expanding his slight lead over Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter). According to the data from Quinnipiac’s September Florida statewide poll (Aug. 31-Sept. 7; 601 likely Florida voters), Sen. Rubio has extended beyond the polling margin of error and now records a 50-43 percent advantage.

Any problem he had with Republicans based upon his poor Florida performance against Donald Trump in the March 15 presidential primary appears to be resolved. This Q-Poll finds him attracting 89 percent of Republicans as opposed to losing just six percent of them. This brings him to partisan parity with Rep. Murphy, who captures the Democratic vote with a similar 91-7 percent. Rubio is doing very well among Independents, taking this group 53-37 percent.

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Clinton Up 10 Points, Or One?

By Jim Ellis

June 28, 2016 — Two new national media polls were released over the weekend, and even though they were conducted over the same sampling period their conclusions are quite different.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll (June 20-23; 1,001 adults — undisclosed number of registered voters, 650 certain voters) finds Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump and Gary Johnson, 47-37-7 percent. But, the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey (June 19-23; 1,000 registered voters) finds only a one-point Clinton edge, 39-38-10 percent, over Trump and Johnson, respectively.

In both cases, Clinton’s lead is stronger without Johnson included. The fact that the Johnson-Weld Libertarian Party ticket will be on the ballot in all 50 states makes the third party inclusion more accurate. Without Johnson, WaPo/ABC finds a 51-39 percent Clinton spread; NBC/WSJ sees a 46-41 percent margin.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein was also added to the mutli-candidate question in both surveys. She scored three percent on the WaPo/ABC study, and six percent from NBC/WSJ. It is unlikely, however, that she will gain 50-state ballot standing. Therefore, her national poll position is largely irrelevant at this time.

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Looking Beyond Tomorrow’s Final Primaries

MA-6

Last week we wrote about the Massachusetts 6th Congressional District Democratic primary where Rep. John Tierney faces a formidable opponent in ex-Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton. According to a new poll, the challenger has the critical momentum and is pulling to within three points of the congressman, holding him below 50 percent.

The Emerson College Polling Society (Sept. 2-4; 343 likely MA-6 Democratic primary voters) finds Rep. Tierney clinging to a 47-44 percent lead over Moulton, hardly a comforting margin for a nine-term incumbent. Clearly, the late trends are riding with Moulton; the only question is will they be enough to carry him over the political finish line tomorrow. The Society conducted two other polls of this race, one in April and the other in June. Tierney held leads in those studies of 64-11 percent and 59-17 percent, respectively.

The Emerson College Polling Society is comprised of a group of students at the named educational institution. They came to fame shortly after the 2013 Virginia governor’s race when all of the professional Continue reading >

Lankford Surging in Oklahoma Senate Race

The Oklahoma special Senate election to replace resigning Sen. Tom Coburn (R) has witnessed topsy-turvy polling. When the candidates announced in January, Rep. James Lankford (R-OK-5) enjoyed major leads over former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon. In April, Shannon then gained momentum and overtook Lankford, capturing the lead 42-32 percent according to a Public Opinion Strategies survey (April 21-22; 500 likely Oklahoma Republican primary voters). Now in May, the third consecutive poll projects that Rep. Lankford has re-assumed the advantage.

According to a new American Viewpoint poll, conducted for the Foundation for Economic Prosperity (May 27-29; 500 likely Oklahoma Republican primary voters), Lankford now has re-established a commanding lead, 48-26 percent, over Shannon. Earlier in May, the Tarrance Group (May 12-14; 501 likely Oklahoma Republican primary voters) gave the congressman a slight 43-40 percent edge. The Sooner Poll (May 5-10; 580 likely Oklahoma Republican primary voters) found a similar 34-32 percent Lankford edge.

Geographically, the data shows Lankford  Continue reading >

A Quick Check-in on the Nebraska, West Vriginia and Oklahoma Primaries

Voters in two more states visit their polling places tomorrow, as Republican and Democratic primaries are taking place in Nebraska and West Virginia. A total of 29 states are voting in May and June.

Nebraska

The Republican primary is key in the Cornhusker State, as the GOP nominees for governor and senator will be heavy favorites to win in November.

In the governor’s race, six Republican candidates vie for the nomination but the campaign is evolving into a contest among three. Attorney General Jon Bruning, who lost the 2012 US Senate Republican primary to now-Sen. Deb Fischer, appears to be the favorite going into Election Day. He was just recently endorsed by popular outgoing Gov. Dave Heineman (R), who is ineligible to seek a third term. Former US Senate nominee Pete Ricketts, part of the Ricketts family who founded the Ameritrade national investment house and own the Chicago Cubs baseball club, and State Auditor Mike Foley are also viable candidates. With no run-off election system, the candidate  Continue reading >

Virginia’s “Firehouse” Primary Tomorrow; Other Primary Developments

A congressional nomination will be decided tomorrow in the Washington, DC suburbs of Northern Virginia. Expectations suggest a limited number of Republican voters will participate in what is termed a “firehouse” primary.

The characteristics of such a voting event are unique. First, only 11 polling places will be open throughout the entire district: just one apiece in Clarke, Frederick, and Prince William Counties, and in the cities of Manassas, Manassas Park, and Winchester. Fairfax County will feature two polling locations, and Loudoun County, a locality housing more than 350,000 residents, will have only three. Instead of voting in one’s own neighborhood as is normally the case, individuals will have to travel, in some instances more than 20 miles, and stand in what could be a long line because there are so few polling places. Thus, participating in this election will take a much greater commitment from every voter than in normal primaries.
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Oklahoma in Flux

A new poll commissioned for a 527 organization supporting former Oklahoma House Speaker T. W. Shannon (R) shows him overtaking Rep. James Lankford (R-OK-5) in the state’s open Republican Senate campaign. Sen. Tom Coburn (R) is resigning at the end of this year, thus adding another senatorial election to the 2014 political calendar. The winner will be eligible to stand for a full six-year term in 2016.

The Oklahomans for a Conservative Future organization’s poll (Public Opinion Strategies, April 21-22; 500 likely Oklahoma Republican primary voters) gives Shannon a 10-point, 42-32 percent lead over Rep. Lankford, representing an incredible swing of 45 points since the first POS poll was taken in February (Lankford then leading Shannon, 51-16 percent).

The survey was fielded after OCF spent $400,000 in media and mail promoting Shannon and depicting Lankford as not being conservative enough for the Oklahoma Republican electorate. As House Republican Policy chairman, the congressman is part of the GOP leadership, a group held in generally low esteem by the  Continue reading >

GOP Senate Momentum Has Stalled

The Indiana Democratic Senate campaign of Rep. Joe Donnelly released its internal Global Strategy Group poll (Oct. 28-30; 600 likely Indiana voters) that posts their man to a 43-36-9 percent advantage over Republican Richard Mourdock. The latter number is going to Libertarian Party candidate Andrew Horning. Mourdock countered by making his internal data public, a poll that claims his deficit is only one point. But even this latter margin is a reduction in support for the reeling Republican as a rape-related abortion comment in the final candidates’ debate could prove to be the deciding factor.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Mike Pence probably confirms Donnelly’s lead with his latest actions. Though releasing positive numbers for his own campaign and that of the presidential contest, the Pence team remained mum on the Senate race, leading to speculation that their internal data also shows Donnelly leading.

Taking Indiana would be a huge boon to the Democrats and will go a long way toward achieving their goal of holding the Senate majority.

In two western states, however, the GOP trend may be improving.

The National Mining Association, through their continuing Count on Coal campaign, launched an attack against Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. The group goes so far as to say that Tester has joined Pres. Barack Obama’s “war on coal” for not supporting the coalition efforts and for his backing of federal regulations that have largely undermined the state’s coal production operations. Along with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Tester has refused to sign onto the Montana coal petition that pledges to protect the industry. Despite being a place of just under one million inhabitants, Montana ranks fifth in the nation in coal production, producing slightly under 45 million tons in its apex year of 2010.

Republican Denny Rehberg signed the pledge, as have most other candidates throughout the state, and the coal group is trying to make this issue the deciding factor of the campaign. In a race that has polled even for months, one coalition group heavily promoting a critical issue position could have a major effect. Energy issues are making an impact in races across the country, especially in the West.

Conflicting polls are now coming from New Mexico. Rep. Martin Heinrich, the Democratic nominee, released his internal GBA Strategy numbers (Oct. 27-29; 600 likely New Mexico voters) that again places him 10 points ahead of former Republican congresswoman Heather Wilson. But, earlier this week, Wilson countered with her own Public Opinion Strategies survey (Oct. 21-22; 500 likely New Mexico voters) that showed her topping Heinrich, 44-43 percent in this case, for the first time in the campaign.

Heinrich’s numbers have held for most of the election cycle, and he has been in stronger position than one would have guessed running against a Republican former representative who proved she could win repeatedly in Democratic regions. If her earlier POS data is correct, it might signal that her campaign could be peaking at the right time and become the Republican sleeper race that many people suggested it might be earlier in the year.

Overall, however, the Democrats look to be in the more favorable position than Republicans in Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The GOP is likely to convert Nebraska, and is trending more positively in North Dakota. With the likely loss of the Maine seat to Independent Angus King, the Republicans could be trading two of their current seats for two others, but this still leaves them four short of majority status.

If Indiana and Montana cancel each other from a party division perspective, and Elizabeth Warren unseats Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the Democrats could actually end the night breaking even, or losing fewer than the four seats than the GOP needs to snatch away the majority. Democrats are protecting 23 seats in this cycle as compared to the Republicans’ 10, thus giving the GOP many offensive opportunities. But their early positive momentum has definitely stalled.

Rep. Jim Matheson

Matheson Gets No Love

Rep. Jim Matheson

A new internal Public Opinion Strategies poll for Utah congressional candidate Mia Love shows the challenger opening up a huge lead over six-term incumbent Jim Matheson (D-UT-2). The two contenders are running for the state’s new 4th Congressional District, a seat awarded the state in the 2010 reapportionment formula. The new UT-4 stretches from the southern Salt Lake City suburbs to the center of the state and includes such communities as South Salt Lake City, Millcreek, West Jordan and South Jordan, and Love’s home town of Saratoga Springs. Matheson only represents 33 percent of the new district, but it does contain the most Democrats of the state’s four congressional seats. Still, President Obama could only register 41 percent support here in 2008 and figures to do worse this time with semi-favorite son Mitt Romney leading the Republican ticket.

The new POS data for the Love campaign (Sept. 10-11; 400 likely UT-4 voters) gives the Republican a whopping 51-36 percent lead over Rep. Matheson. Though the congressman still has a positive image (57:33 percent favorable to unfavorable), a full 50 percent of those questioned now say they want a new representative.

Mia Love, 36, born of Haitian parents and elected to the city council and now mayor of her home town, received a prime speaking position at the Republican National Convention and scored rave reviews for her message and performance. The address jump-started her campaign and this new poll evidences that she is one of the country’s top Republican challengers. Expect to see a Matheson counter poll released shortly. Failure to do so will silently confirm the POS results.

The Conflicting Trends

Though we spend a great deal of time writing about and analyzing polls, it is important to remember that even though individual ballot test data is helpful and allows us to gauge campaign trends, the isolated individual polls themselves can be misleading. Today’s examples coming from Nevada and Ohio are a case in point. In both states, polls conducted during the same sampling period are producing considerably different results.

In Nevada, Public Policy Polling (Sept. 18-20; 501 likely Nevada voters) and Public Opinion Strategies (Sept. 19-20; 500 likely Nevada voters) can’t even agree on which Senatorial candidate is leading the race. A similar range conflict is found in the Ohio Senate race between Gravis Marketing (Sept. 21-22; 594 likely Ohio voters) and the Washington Post (Sept. 19-23; 759 likely Ohio voters), though the incumbent, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), leads in both studies.

Looking at the Silver State, PPP projects Democrat Shelley Berkley to have a 48-44 percent lead over appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R). But POS is posting Heller to the opposite position, as they show the Senator topping Berkley 44-39 percent. Among the Buckeye State likely voters (the Washington Post poll provides separate results for their larger sampling universe of 934 registered voters and the whittled down cell segment of 759 likely voters), the WP Poll gives Sen. Brown a substantial 51-43 percent advantage, while Gravis sees only a one-point difference (Brown over state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) 44-43 percent) between the two candidates.

Examining the aggregate for all four polls, the net swing in Nevada is D minus 7 points from PPP to POS, while both show the same level of support for Republican Heller (44%). Interestingly, the Gravis and Washington Post Ohio polls reveal a similar effect. While Democrat Brown swings seven points between the two surveys, Republican Mandel scores the same level of support in both, 43 percent.

The presidential numbers in both states also show similar divisions. PPP gives President Obama a 52-43 percent lead over Mitt Romney in Nevada, while POS shows the two candidates tied at 46 percent. In this case, PPP is six points higher for the Democratic candidate and three points lower for the Republican for a net swing of nine points. In Ohio, the Washington Post gives Mr. Obama a 52-44 percent edge among likely voters while Gravis Marketing projects only a one-point 45-44 percent margin in the President’s favor. Again, the two polls detect the same level of support for the Republican candidate, but vary rather substantially (once more, a difference of seven points) for the Democratic contender.

All four of these polls are live interview surveys, as compared to those using the Interactive Voice Response method, so these studies are all in the “apples to apples” comparison category. All are making their own unpublished determination as to what they define as a “likely voter.” The pollsters weight the responses to mirror the state’s population and voter registration and preference history but don’t reveal their particular weighting equations. And, clearly, this distinction is key in relation to the Democratic scale because the Republican numbers among these various studies remains constant, or virtually constant (GOP presidential number in Nevada is different).

What does this tell us? Again, looking beyond the original ballot test numbers, we are seeing clear variance, particularly on the Democratic side. This is more than likely the result of the particular pollster’s sample selection, weighting equation, and likely voter determination while, of course remembering that all polls are a mere snap shot in time of a very small group of people. This is why contrasting multiple polls to obtain a picture of a particular campaign is so important, because the comparison tells a much different story than looking at any one of these polls individually.

Throughout this election cycle, pollsters have been detecting an electorate that is inconsistent and can abruptly swing. The polls we compare today certainly continue to show such characteristics. This means, to a large extent, that we are flying blind into Election Day, and that the final determining factors either haven’t yet happened or are not fully cemented.

Several Stunning Polls

Across the nation, some eye-opening new polls have cast several races in a different light. Except for the Missouri debacle involving Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) and his quest for the US Senate seat, which has blown up on the Republicans over their candidate’s rape-related abortion comments, some other recently released data is decidedly breaking the GOP’s way.

In Florida, Foster McCollum White & Associates, in conjunction with the public affairs firm Douglas Fulmer & Associates, surveyed 1,503 registered Florida voters on Aug. 17 and found not only Mitt Romney leading President Obama by a heretofore unheard of 54-40 percent count, but Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14), fresh from his strong Aug. 14 Republican primary victory, also jumped out to a 51-43 percent advantage over his opponent, two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D). Mack has proved to be a stronger than anticipated candidate, thus paving the way for what is becoming a highly competitive campaign. This is the Republicans’ best Florida poll to date.

From an internal campaign survey taken over a month ago (OnMessage; July 16-17; 400 registered Colorado 7th District voters) for candidate Joe Coors Jr. (R) but just released now, the Republican challenger leads veteran Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D) 45-36 percent. No data has shown anything close to this margin so far and the spread here doesn’t fit the district’s normal voting patterns. More data showing a similar trend will have to be released before such a result is confirmed as being accurate. Expect the Perlmutter campaign to shortly counter with a different set of numbers.

In Nevada’s new 4th District, another seat created via reapportionment, Public Opinion Strategies (Aug. 7-9; 400 likely NV-4 voters) polling for the American Action Network, gives GOP nominee Danny Tarkanian a 46-35 percent lead over state House Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D). Like the set of numbers mentioned above in Colorado, these numbers seem to paint a more rosy Republican picture than how the region normally votes. A Democrat candidate should have the advantage in this northern Las Vegas area CD, so more will have to be learned before such a result is fully accepted.

Finally, countering last week’s internal campaign poll from New York GOP nominee Chris Collins, which showed the Republican jumping out to a double-digit lead, Siena College (Aug. 12-14; 628 registered NY-27 voters) finds the former Erie County Executive to be leading freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) 47-45 percent. Since the new 27th CD is the safest Republican seat in New York, it is plausible that the Democrat incumbent would be trailing here. This race is a hotly competitive campaign and a must-win for New York Republicans.

Rep. Connie Mack IV

Several Races Tighten: Fla., Ohio, Calif.

Rep. Connie Mack IV

Four new polls were released on Friday and each showed developing races that are becoming close. In yet another study that depicts Rep. Connie Mack IV
(R-FL-14) performing very well against two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D), Survey USA produces numbers reflecting a hot Florida Senate race. According to S-USA (July 17-19; 647 likely Florida voters), Mack actually leads the incumbent Democrat 48-42 percent. The same sample gives President Obama a 48-43 percent lead over Mitt Romney, telling us there is no Republican skew in the respondent sample.

Since May 1, eight public polls of this Florida race have been released from six different pollsters (Quinnipiac University conducted three of the surveys as part of their monthly polling program). In five of the eight Nelson leads. In the other three, challenger Mack has the advantage. The swing goes all the way from 49-36 percent in the senator’s favor (Public Policy Polling; May 31-June 3) to Mack leading 46-37 percent (Rasmussen Reports, July 9). This provides us a net curve of 22 points. Such a large polling variance often reveals an extremely volatile campaign with an electorate willing to change course on a dime. There has been enough polling to tell us that the Florida Senate race features true competition and the thought that Sen. Nelson would have a relatively easy ride to re-election has now been firmly dispelled.

Staying in the Senate, Rasmussen Reports (July 18; 500 likely Ohio voters) projects that the Ohio race is continuing upon a competitive path. The latest RR data gives first-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) a 46-42 percent lead over GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel. The senator has maintained at least a small lead for most of the previous 12-month period. In the presidential race, this Rasmussen sample returned a 47-46 percent spread in the president’s favor.

Other polls have shown much stronger leads for Sen. Brown. Seven surveys have been taken of the Ohio Senate race since the beginning of May, from four different pollsters. All show Brown ahead. His advantage ranges from the four-point lead in the current Rasmussen poll all the way to sixteen (50-34 percent; Quinnipiac University, June 19-25).

Polling also indicates that two southern California congressional campaigns are very close. In the new 24th Congressional District, in what appears to be a pure 50/50 toss-up seat for incumbent Rep. Lois Capps (D), Public Opinion Strategies, polling for Republican Abel Maldonado’s campaign (June 26-28; 400 registered CA-24 voters just now released), projects a two-point race with the incumbent leading 48-46 percent. In the jungle primary, Capps received 46.4 percent, Maldonado obtained 29.7 percent, and Republican Chris Mitchum, son of late actor Robert Mitchum, garnered 21.5 percent. With the combined Republican primary vote exceeding a majority of the ballots cast (51.2 percent), the general election battle is clearly becoming a toss-up.

To the southeast in Long Beach, another survey indicates a close race developing in a newly created open seat, numbered District 47. Here, Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal and Republican Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong qualified for the general election with the former scoring 33.8 percent to the latter’s 29.4 percent in a field of eight candidates.

Though this district sets up well for the Democrats, a Probolsky Research survey for the DeLong campaign (June 28-July 3, 400 registered CA-47 voters – released just now) gives Lowenthal only a 44-41 percent advantage as the general election campaign begins in earnest.

This race merits attention and should be considered a lower-level upset opportunity for Republicans. Lowenthal has been underwhelming on the fundraising front, raising just over $511,000, which pales in comparison to DeLong’s $862,908. Gov. Jerry Brown carried this seat 50-41 percent; Sen. Barbara Boxer won it 49-41 percent; and Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris lost the district 39-45 percent. The Democrats’ voter registration advantage is a little over 10 percent more than Republicans. This campaign carries a Lean Democratic rating with movement toward the toss-up column.