Tag Archives: Public Policy Polling

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Challenge

By Jim Ellis

Is incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in re-election trouble?

Sept. 18, 2020 — Quinnipiac University surveyed the South Carolina political situation as part of their three-state polling series, which again produces some eyebrow-raising data. The results help identify why Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from a Republican state, finds himself languishing in a competitive contest.

The poll (Sept. 10-14; 969 likely South Carolina voters, live interview conducted by the RDD firm for Quinnipiac) tested both the presidential and Senate campaigns. President Trump leads former vice president Joe Biden 51-45 percent in a ballot test that seems to be an under-count when looking at the survey’s supporting numbers. Sen. Graham, however, falls into a tie with opponent Jaime Harrison, at 48-48 percent, in a result that the underlying responses do seem to support.

President Trump’s six-point lead appears low because he tops Biden on virtually every personal and issue question. The Trump favorability index is 51:45 percent positive to negative, but the Biden ratio is much worse at 43:50 percent. The generic Republican-Democrat number falls 52-44 percent in favor of the GOP label.

Despite poor coronavirus management numbers for the president nationally, this South Carolina survey returns a 49:48 percent approval number on his handling of the issue. Furthermore, the respondents, in a 50-46 percent break, believe President Trump would do a better job handling coronavirus in the future than Biden. Not a particularly strong performance in this issue area, but better for the President than in almost any other place.

Trump also scores better in his handling of the economy (55-40 percent), the military (54-42 percent), and “keeping your family safe” (52-43 percent). Biden is favored, and only barely, 48-46 percent, on just one issue: racial equality.

Most importantly, the issue matrix sets up perfectly for Trump. The top two issues, according to these respondents, are the ones upon which the president is basing his campaign, law and order (23 percent) and bringing back the economy (22 percent). The Biden key issues rate rather poorly: coronavirus (12 percent), racial equality (12 percent), and healthcare (10 percent).

All of these underlying numbers suggest the Trump ballot test margin should be stronger than six points, which could be a signal that there is a “shy Trump voter factor” even in what is typically a safe Republican state. The “shy Trump voter” is the phrase now used to describe the individual who only secretly favors the president.

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Senate Sleepers in Minnesota
and South Carolina

By Jim Ellis

Are incumbents Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in re-election trouble?

Sept. 8, 2020 — At the beginning of the 2020 election cycle, it appeared that Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were set for re-election. That no longer appears to be the case.

Polling is now consistently showing close races in the two states, and Sen. Smith’s recent comments about the police have seemingly moved her re-election campaign closer to the toss-up category according to a just-released Harper Polling survey.

Looking at the HP data (Aug. 30-Sept. 1; 50 likely Minnesota voters via live interview), Sen. Smith’s ballot test edge has dropped to just 43-41 percent over former US Rep. Jason Lewis (R).

In May, Harper found Sen. Smith posting a 46-35 percent advantage over Lewis. After this release, Public Policy Polling forecast a 48-39 percent split toward the end of July. Lastly, Emerson College published what appears to be precursor data to the latest Harper findings. The Boston-based university poll (Aug. 8-10; 73 likely Minnesota voters) found a three-point split between the two contenders, 48-45 percent, again in Sen. Smith’s favor.

To the southeast of liberal Minnesota, in conservative South Carolina, veteran Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) has also fallen into a competitive contest with former state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison, who had raised an incredible $29 million for his smaller state race through the end of June.

The most recent poll we have seen from the Palmetto State was released at the beginning of August. Quinnipiac University (July 30-Aug. 3; 91 registered South Carolina voters) detected a 44-44 percent tie between Sen. Graham and Harrison. From mid-July through the beginning of August, six surveys were conducted, including the Quinnipiac study, and Sen. Graham’s average lead was only 2.8 percentage points.

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Is Minnesota In Play?

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2020 — The state of Minnesota has been the most loyal of Democratic states in the presidential election since 1972, but the latest survey research data suggests that the northern domain is returning to the competitive realm this year.

Four years ago, President Trump fell just 1.5 percent short of winning Minnesota, thus providing a sign that the electorate was beginning a possible transformation. That was partially underscored in 2018 even when the party lost two suburban Minneapolis districts but gained two back in the rural north and south. The latter two congressional seats were the only ones Republicans converted from Democrats in the whole nation, except for a Pennsylvania seat that flipped to the GOP because of a court-imposed redistricting map that substantially changed the boundaries.

The 2020 Minnesota polls have seesawed. Mason-Dixon Polling and Research was the first to release a statewide poll this year and did so just before the George Floyd killing occurred in Minneapolis. The M-D survey was conducted over the May 18-20 period and yielded former vice president Joe Biden a five-point lead, 49-44 percent. The Morning Consult organization was also in the field during that same relative period, May 17-26, and found a similar spread between Biden and President Trump, with the former posting a seven-point edge.

Within this same period, the Floyd controversy began on May 25. During the next two months, a pair of Minnesota polls were conducted, and Biden’s lead soared into double digits. Gravis Marketing executed a single-day poll on June 19 and found Biden’s lead had grown to 16 percentage points. Fox News followed with their survey a month later, July 19-20, and found a similar 13-point Biden advantage.

The situation began to change when Morning Consult again tested the Minnesota electorate over the July 17-26 period and saw the race closing back into the three-point range. This survey was confirmed with the Trafalgar Group’s numbers derived from their July 23-25 poll that found a similar five-point margin developing between the two candidates.

The next two, however, from Public Policy Polling and David Binder Research, both conducted during the July 22-31 time frame, produced 10 and 18 point spreads in Biden’s favor. The Binder poll, however, utilized a sample size of only 200 respondents, far below what would be typically required for a reliable statewide poll for a domain housing eight congressional districts.

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Another Big Primary Day

By Jim Ellis

Controversial Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) faces a primary challenge today by attorney Antone Melton-Meaux (D).

Aug. 11, 2020 — In addition to the Georgia runoff elections, which we covered yesterday, today we see five states holding their regular state primary. Voters in Connecticut, Minnesota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin are all choosing their nominees for the Fall.


CONNECTICUT

With no Senate or governor’s race on the ballot this year, votes are being cast to select the general election candidates in the Nutmeg State’s five congressional districts. Reps. John Larson (D-Hartford), Joe Courtney (D-Vernon), Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven), and Jim Himes (D-Cos Cob) look safe for re-election as they have each won multiple terms.

Freshman Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Wolcott) in the 5th District is also a heavy favorite for re-election but retired federal prosecutor David X. Sullivan (R) is a credible candidate in a district that could elect a Republican under the right circumstances. This year, however, doesn’t appear to yield such a positive atmosphere for the GOP. Sullivan has raised over $230,000, but that won’t be near enough to run a strong campaign against Rep. Hayes. The first-term congresswoman is the top fundraiser in Connecticut with $1.33 million in receipts through June 30.


MINNESOTA

Former representative Jason Lewis (R) is vying for the opportunity of challenging first-term Sen. Tina Smith (D) and is a likely winner tonight over four lightly regarded Republican opponents. Lewis will be a clear underdog against Sen. Smith, who won a 2018 special election with a 53-42 percent victory over what looked to be a strong challenge from GOP state Sen. Karin Housley. A recent Public Policy Polling survey (July 22-23; 1,218 Minnesota voters) found Sen. Smith leading Lewis, 48-39 percent.

The 1st District congressional race looks to be another hard-fought political battle. Here, we see a re-match between freshman Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) and former Defense Department official Dan Feehan (D). In 2018, this contest was decided by a scant 50.1 – 49.7 percent percentage spread, a margin of just 1,315 votes.

Feehan leads the money chase with $2.3 million raised to the congressman’s $1.66 million through the July 22 pre-primary campaign finance disclosure deadline. Both will easily win re-nomination tonight, but a close finish here is a virtual certainty.

The race that will attract the most attention lies in the Minneapolis-anchored 5th District where the challenger to controversial Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis), attorney Antone Melton-Meaux (D), has raised almost as much money as the incumbent, $4.15 million to $4.28 million, and both had less than $1 million remaining in their accounts at the July 22 reporting deadline.

It is unlikely that Melton-Meaux will deny Rep. Omar re-nomination, but his percentage will be interesting to watch. His main mode of attack, while positioning himself clearly on the ideological left, underscores that Rep. Omar is much more interested in developing a national platform than she is in representing the local district.

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Alaska: Polling Uncertainty

By Jim Ellis

Anchorage, Alaska

July 10, 2020 — Public Policy Polling, the most prolific national pollster of late, just released a new survey of the upcoming Alaska elections from what could be the most difficult state in America to poll.

The PPP data find close races for president, Senate and US House, which isn’t particularly surprising when comparing today’s numbers to the previous Alaska polling ratio. Past actual results, however, reveal a relatively consistent Republican under-poll.

To begin, the PPP survey tested 1,081 “voters” via automated response device during the July 7-8 period. This firm is recently using the “voters” term to describe their sample. It is clear the respondents are not likely voters, but there is no associated definition that clearly identifies the “voters” universe.

The fact that the individuals are not identified as registered voters could mean they are eligible voters, which would translate into adults. Such a sample would substantially increase the polling error rate. Therefore, it is not surprising to see the poll producing some unusual totals.

The presidential race finds President Donald Trump holding a mere 48-45 percent edge over former vice president Joe Biden in a state that he won by 15 points in 2016. Additionally, the spread seems rather inconsistent with the results produced from the favorability questions. The President’s job approval was 46:49 percent positive to negative, which, despite being upside down, is far better than Trump’s national approval average. The more surprising number, however, was Biden’s poor 36:53 percent favorability index. Overlaying these numbers with the ballot test provides a seemingly inconsistent response pattern.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R), standing for his first re-election, holds only a 39-34 percent lead over likely Democratic nominee, surgeon Al Gross. Looking back at the 2014 polling records when Sen. Sullivan was challenging then-incumbent Mark Begich (D), July polling of that year found Begich holding leads of 46-35 percent (CBS News/New York Times), and 44-37 percent (Harstad Strategic Services). Sullivan would then turn the race around and win 48-46 percent in that election year.

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