Category Archives: Polling

It’s Neck and Neck in Massachusetts and Virginia

A Hartstad Research poll conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (May 8-10; 502 likely Massachusetts voters) was just released into the public domain and it again shows a dead heat emerging between Sen. Scott Brown (R) and Harvard Law School professor and Obama Administration consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren (D). The Hartstad results project the two to be tied at 46 percent. In fact, the data reveals that the race is even closer than the final tabulation says. Both candidates have 44 percent support with an additional 2 percent leaning their way.

The results here are almost identical to those in the Virginia Senate race where former senator George Allen (R) and ex-governor Tim Kaine (D) continue to fluctuate only a point or two through multiple polls.

Both of these races are ridiculously close. For example, since March 6, 2011, 18 Massachusetts Senate polls have been publicly released. Brown was forecast to be leading in nine of them, Warren seven, and two – like the Hartstad survey discussed above – returned a tie score.

In Virginia, 24 polls have appeared in the public domain starting from right after the 2010 election to the present. Kaine leads in 12 of those polls and Allen seven, with five ties. Since the end of April, three Virginia polls have been released. One shows Allen ahead 46-45 percent; another has Kaine up 46-45 percent; and a third has the two candidates tied at 46 percent. It doesn’t get any closer!

These two races, probably to be decided by just a handful of votes, could determine which party controls the Senate next January. The recount legal teams are already reserving hotel rooms in Boston and Richmond.

Polls In Sync

We often bring polling inconsistencies to light and analyze why a particular survey may be more accurate than another. Right now, however, four diverse pollsters all are showing virtually the same result in the presidential race. The conclusion: The presidential campaign, in mid-May, between President Obama and Mitt Romney, is a virtual tie.

Our first comparison is between the two polling firms that track the national race on a daily basis: Gallup and Rasmussen Reports. The latest published Gallup numbers (April 15-May 6; 3,050 registered voters grouped in five-day tracking segments) show Obama and Romney with the exact same level of support, 45-45 percent. Rasmussen, which calls 500 people every night and then groups them in three-day tracking segments, arrives at virtually the same conclusion as Gallup, but their data has Romney grabbing the smallest of leads, 46-45 percent.

Next comes TIPP, the regular polling partner of Investor’s Business Daily and the Christian Science Monitor. TIPP is the acronym used for the polling section of the TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence corporation, which claims the mantra of “America’s most accurate pollster” based upon their presidential track record in 2004 and 2008 as compiled by Real Clear Politics. According to their traditional polling interview method conducted during the May 9-16 period of 778 registered voters, the President has a slight 43-40 percent lead, certainly consistent in margin of error terms with the other pollsters just cited.

Finally, Zogby Analytics, which has in the past been criticized for being among the least accurate of pollsters, and in this case polling for the Washington Times, also returns current data that agree with the rest. According to their traditional live interview survey May 11-12 of 800 likely voters, Romney has the one-point lead, 44-43 percent. Zogby also went one step further. They asked this particular sampling segment a second ballot test question that included Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico Republican governor, who will likely be on the general election ballot in many states. When adding Johnson to the mix, the result slightly changed the Romney-Obama split; the returned result showed a consistent 44-43-2 percent division, but this time in the President’s favor.

What this tells us – because the results from four such different pollsters each with their own methodological approach pertaining to sample selection and interview philosophy – is that at the present time, the national race deserves an unequivocal toss-up rating.

Fischer Surges to Win Nebraska Primary

font size=”2″>It seemed like a 20-plus point swing in less than 10 days was too much to possibly be true, but the We Ask America poll that detected Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer moving ahead of Attorney General Jon Bruning in the Republican Senatorial primary proved accurate. Despite leading all the way until the very end of the campaign, Bruning fell to Fischer 41-36 percent, with 19 percent going to state Treasurer Don Stenberg.

The victorious state legislator will now face former senator Bob Kerrey, who won the Democratic primary with 81 percent of the vote. Both will vie for the right to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in November.

Once again, conservative outside groups and individual Super PAC backers were able to bring down a front-runner who they deemed unacceptable. Yet, this election campaign is different. In the 2010 and early 2012 primary elections, in places like Nevada, Colorado, Alaska and Indiana, the incumbent or perceived favored candidate failed because they were to the left of the preferred candidate; but not last night in Nebraska.

Clearly the onslaught of ads aimed at perceived front-runner Bruning, probably totaling over $1 million in a small media market state, took their toll against him. The killer attack point was the charge he gained ownership in companies that he regulated in his official position and, as a result, became personally wealthy. With all sides pounding Bruning, the issue stuck, though he vehemently argued that all of his actions were completely legitimate.

And with Fischer gaining the endorsements of Sarah Palin, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1) and former governor Kay Orr, she got the credibility she needed not only to overcome Bruning, but also Stenberg, as well. Stenberg, a perennial candidate who won a statewide election in 2010, attracted the support of Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, which accounted for more than $700,000 of the outside money infused into the race. The Senate Conservatives goal was to boost Stenberg ahead of Bruning. While we now know that Bruning fell, Stenberg moved little.

Democrats will now make the argument that since the GOP early favorite again failed their party is now in better shape to make a run in the general election. Clearly, with former senator Kerrey as their official nominee, they have a credible candidate. But, in actuality, because the ethical issues dogging Bruning proved lethal to him, the attorney general coming through this campaign, damaged, and limping across the finish line with a close win would have been the least favorable position for Republicans. Now, with the most conservative nominee in this most conservative of states, Kerrey and the Democrats no longer have the issues they had against Bruning.

Oregon and Idaho also held congressional primaries last night, and the results produced no surprises as all incumbents easily won their renomination contests.

A Wild Ending Looms in the Nebraska Senate Race

The Nebraska Republican Senate race, culminating in a primary vote tonight, has exploded in its final days. At issue is whether Attorney General Jon Bruning, the undisputed leader in the race up until this past weekend, will hold on for victory, or will state Sen. Deb Fischer nip him at the finish line. Fischer – aided by endorsements from Sarah Palin, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1), former governor Kay Orr, and an outside expenditure of more than $200,000 from TD Ameritrade founder and Chicago Cubs baseball team owner Joe Ricketts – has forged into the lead according to one political poll. The We Ask America automated survey (May 13; 1,109 likely Nebraska Republican primary voters) shows the state legislator now ahead of Bruning 39-34 percent. Nebraska Treasurer Don Stenberg, despite receiving as much as $700,000 in outside spending from Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, continues to lag behind at 18 percent.

It is hard to know if the poll is reliable. Fischer has moved an aggregate 21 points since May 6, according to consecutive We Ask America polls. This seems like too great a swing in too short a period. Even the WAA published analysis concedes as much. Additionally, this fully automated poll was conducted on the Mother’s Day holiday, further skewing the results. Plus, We Ask America’s recent track record isn’t too strong. A week before the Illinois primary, WAA projected 16th District Rep. Don Manzullo to be holding about a half-point lead (42.6-42.2 percent) over fellow Rep. Adam Kinzinger in their incumbent Republican pairing battle. Kinzinger won going away, 54-46 percent.

It is clear that the Nebraska trends are moving toward Fischer and away from Bruning. Whether or not this break is too late will be answered in just a few hours.

Poll Shows Thompson with Advantage in Wisconsin

The open Wisconsin Senate race has been close ever since incumbent Herb Kohl (D) announced that he would not seek re-election. Now, Rasmussen Reports just released a new survey (May 9; 500 likely Wisconsin voters) showing former four-term governor Tommy Thompson to be holding a substantial advantage for the first time over Madison Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2). According to the RR data, Thompson would lead the general election 50-38 percent if he and the congresswoman win their respective party nominations. Baldwin is the consensus Democratic candidate while Thompson faces three potentially strong Republican opponents. Virtually every other poll has shown the race to be within very small margins.

Pitting Baldwin against the other Republicans, Rasmussen also finds very close spreads. Against former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1), Baldwin trails 42-45 percent. Opposing state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R), the congresswoman leads 45-41 percent.

The Wisconsin race, along with four others, could very well decide which party will control the Senate majority in the next Congress.

A Nebraska Horse Race

Republicans will have a Senatorial nominee to oppose former Sen. Bob Kerrey tomorrow night as Nebraska voters head for the polls. Right now, retiring Sen. Ben Nelson’s seat appears to be the Republicans’ best national conversion opportunity since the North Dakota race shows continued signs of serious competition.

Attorney General Jon Bruning has been leading the Republican side since day one. He is still the decided favorite tomorrow, but the campaign momentum may have swung to state Sen. Deb Fischer who appears to have grabbed second place over state Treasurer Don Stenberg.

A series of polls have detected the Fischer momentum and the fact that Bruning has unleashed a late campaign ad attacking both of his opponents jointly suggests that his own internal data also shows movement away from him.

The two most recent released polls still register leads for the attorney general, but of varying margins. The We Ask America independent survey (May 6; 1,173 Nebraska Republican primary voters; automated calls) posts Bruning to a 42-26-22 percent lead over Fischer and Stenberg, respectively.

The Fischer campaign responded to We Ask America by releasing its own Singularis Group poll, the reliability of which is drawing questions. According to the analysis, the Fischer internal survey was conducted of 400 GOP primary voters on a Sunday night, an unusual night to form a reliable sampling universe and one-night data accumulation is often frowned upon, as well. For whatever they’re worth, the numbers gave Bruning only a 30-26-18 percent lead over Fischer and Stenberg.

The Fischer data is likely skewed. Only spending slightly over $100,000 so far on electronic media voter contact and not much over $300,000 in total, it is improbable that she could be making up so much ground in a short amount of time. For his part, Stenberg agrees that Bruning is falling but the treasurer says it is he, and not Fischer, who is surging. Stenberg is spending in the $600,000-plus range, and Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) Senate Conservatives Fund has dropped an additional $700,000 in advertisements boosting his effort. Bruning has expended more than $1 million on television and well over $2.5 million for his primary campaign.

Low-turnout elections are difficult to predict, but there appears little foundation to support the idea that Bruning has, almost overnight, lost the lead he has held throughout the campaign. We’ll find out for sure tomorrow night.

Conflicting Texas Senate Polls

A Super PAC supporting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s (R) US Senate bid has released its own polling data to counter Public Policy Polling’s latest survey that showed the Texas GOP battle tightening.

According to the Dresner Wickers Barber Sanders polling firm, conducting a survey for the Conservative Republicans for Texas organization, Dewhurst enjoys a 51-16-7-2 percent advantage over former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, Dallas ex-mayor Tom Leppert, and college football ESPN analyst Craig James, respectively. The poll was taken over the April 27-30 period of 400 likely Texas Republican primary voters.

The Public Policy Polling data, as previously released and reported, showed the same candidate order but in a much different numbering sequence. According to their 400-person study (also of likely Texas Republican primary voters) taken a little over a week before, April 19-22, Dewhurst had only a 38-26 percent lead over Cruz with Leppert scoring 8 percent and James 7 percent.

Both polls were taken over a weekend period, though the PPP survey completed more calls during weekdays. Polling results tend to differ when asked of people on a weekend versus during the work week because a different pool of respondents are typically available. Additionally, the Dresner poll was taken after Dewhurst ran some pointed negative ads against his opponent, Cruz, who is seemingly gaining the strongest foothold against the lieutenant governor.

The difference in the two polls suggest a net 23 point swing in Dewhurst’s favor. This is seemingly too large a movement in too short a time with too little action to support such a turn.

Public Policy Polling, known as a Democratic firm but one that now releases regular independent polls from around the country, represents no particular candidate in the Texas Senate race. The Conservative Republicans for Texas back Dewhurst, which leads to questions about methodology and further asks at what point did the questions appear in the interview schedule. In other words, and this is something that we do not know from the available information, were these figures derived from the answers to push questions? If so, then the results should be discounted.

The key question is not whether Dewhurst finishes in first place, because he very likely will. The point the polling cannot definitively determine is whether he can win the nomination outright on May 29, or whether Cruz forces him into a July 31 run-off election. Dewhurst likely will not fare well in a run-off, since the most well-known candidate being forced to a second election – by definition because a majority of the people chose someone else – often leads to defeat. It is this type of an invariably low turnout run-off scenario that scares the Dewhurst people.

Watch Dewhurst make a major outright victory push between now and May 29th, which, if successful, will clinch the Republican nomination. In all practicality, because the Democrats appear weak in the general election, such a victory would also secure the Senate seat itself.

In terms of resolving the conflict between the Public Policy Polling and Dresner surveys, it is more likely that the PPP data comes closer to accurately depicting the actual campaign picture than does the Dewhurst Super PAC prognostication. Their methodological consistency and reliability appears to be superior.