Category Archives: Polling

King Leading in Maine Poll

A new MassINC Polling Group political survey (June 13-14; 506 likely Maine voters for television station WBUR) gives Independent former governor Angus King a huge 50-23-9 percent lead over newly nominated Republican candidate Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill, respectively.

The Maine Senate race could become nation’s most important, because there are two scenarios where King alone would decide if Republicans or Democrats control the majority in the next Congress, should he be elected. To date, the former governor, though a liberal, has not committed to joining either party. Should President Obama be re-elected and Senate Republicans reach 50, King caucusing with either side would make that party the majority. The same would be true if Mitt Romney unseats the President and the Democrats claim 50 seats.

State Sen. Dill has the most difficult path to victory in the three-way scenario. According to the MassINC data, Democrats choose King 60-17 percent over the now-official Democratic nominee. Interestingly, his mark among Democrats is even better than within the Independent sample cell. Of those claiming to affiliate with neither party, King records 57 percent. Though his margin is strong, it is not insurmountable, particularly in a three-way race. Gov. Paul LePage (R) was elected from a similar configuration two years ago with just 37.6 percent of the vote. If the Senate majority truly reverberates on Maine’s outcome, then expect the race to become heated as Election Day nears.

Arizona’s Special Election Today

The race to fill the congressional seat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8-D) resigned earlier in the year will be decided today. The two major party candidates in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District are Giffords’ former district director, Ron Barber (D) – who was shot along with the congresswoman during the January 2011 rampage that killed six people – and Republican former Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly. Kelly finished just two points behind Giffords as her 2010 general election opponent.

By most accounts tonight’s finish will be close, although Public Policy Polling has just released a survey (June 9-10; 1,058 registered AZ-8 voters via automated interviews) that gives Barber a rather large 53-41 percent advantage. The poll, however, does not accurately reflect the voting populace. The polling sample is comprised of 42 percent Democratic voters, 36 percent Republican, and 22 percent Independent. According to the Arizona 8th District voter registration statistics, Republicans have 37.6 percent of the registered voters, Democrats only 31.5 percent, and Independents 30.2 percent. Therefore, this poll over-represents Democrats by a whopping 10.5 percentage points, understates Republican strength by 1.6 points, and Independents by a large 7.8 percentage deficit. Therefore, the partisan complexion is almost a full 20 points away from the actual totals, making the results suspect.

Tonight’s winner serves the balance of Ms. Giffords’ current term. Both men have filed to run in the new District 2 regular election, and each will face opposition on Aug. 28 in their respective partisan primaries. The eventual nominees will then, obviously, be elected for the new full term on the Nov. 6 national general election voting day.

Exit Polling: Not So Fast

One of the postscripts of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election victory yesterday was the news media’s prodigious reporting of the associated exit polling. Along with coverage of Walker being re-elected was their secondary story that President Obama leads Mitt Romney within this same voting universe, 51-44 percent. But, just how accurate are typical exit poll findings?

As we have seen in many elections, early exit poll reporting has been wrong. Most famously was the networks calling the state of Florida for Al Gore back in 2000, based upon exit polling, and announcing that the then-vice president had defeated George W. Bush. But, there have been many other incorrect predictions based upon this type of electoral polling over the years, just not as famous as in the Bush-Gore contest.

Exit data is sometimes flawed because the polling samples are not randomly selected. This lessens the reliability factor. Survey firms will choose polling places based upon electoral voting history, selecting precincts that accurately reflect the statewide voting patterns. While at the polling stations, it is the voters themselves that volunteer to answer the survey questions instead of the pollsters conducting more random sorting procedures within the sample cell. Therefore, the data found in these polls should not be considered in the same reliability category as benchmark or even tracking surveys that are conducted over a long period of time. That’s not to say exit polling has little value. One simply must take into account that their reliability factor is much lower.

Incumbent Pairing in N.J.’s 9th CD Too Close To Call

One of the nation’s hardest-fought intra-party incumbent campaigns will be decided on June 5 – a fierce battle between New Jersey Democratic Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9). Reapportionment and redistricting have created 13 sets of congressional incumbent pairings, three of which are decided. All but two feature members of the same party opposing each other. New NJ-9 polling data, disputed by one campaign brain trust, suggests a very tight outcome between the two congressmen.

The new 9th District of New Jersey lies to the north and east of Newark, capturing some of the communities directly opposite New York City across the Hudson River including Fort Lee, Secaucus, Englewood, Palisades Park, and Cliffside Park. It’s largest city is Paterson (population: 146,199), where Mr. Pascrell presided as mayor before his election to Congress in 1996. While serving as the city’s chief executive, he simultaneously represented part of Paterson and Passaic counties in the state House of Representatives.

The new 9th will elect a Democrat in the general election, but the party primary is becoming very interesting to say the least. Rothman is from Bergen County, but his home community of Fair Lawn was placed in District 5, where he would have been forced to challenge incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett (R) in a GOP-friendly seat. Rothman represents 54 percent of the new 9th CD constituency versus 43 percent for Pascrell. The remaining three percent comes from Garrett’s current district.

Just two days ago, a Pascrell internal poll was “leaked” to the media showing that Rothman clings to only a one-point, 44-43 percent margin. The Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group poll (May 7-8; 406 likely NJ-9 Democratic primary voters) also indicated that Pascrell leads 46-41 percent under a slightly different turnout model. If the overall share of the Bergen County vote drops to 51 percent or below and the Passaic County voter participation share tops 38 percent, the race flips to Pascrell.

The intriguing part about this poll is not so much its finding, which is assumed accurate since Garin-Hart-Yang is a well-known, credible, Democratic polling firm but, rather, the Rothman campaign’s reaction to the numbers. Actually scoffing at the Pascrell team for leaking their numbers to the press – “winning campaigns do not leak their polls” – and saying the survey is wrong without offering their own countering data, suggests that this race is as close as Pascrell says and either man does have a chance to win the primary.

To differ with the unidentified Rothman spokesman who said that “winning campaigns do not leak their polls,” the exact opposite is true. A clearer sign of a campaign in trouble is one where the managers claim to have strong survey data, as Rothman’s people do, but then refuse to release the numbers.

On paper and in practice, Rep. Rothman has a slight advantage but the 75-year old Pascrell has been tenacious in defense of his redrawn seat. Rothman won the official Democratic Party endorsement in Bergen and Hudson counties, giving him preferential ballot placement in those two localities, which is a major plus in a close election. Though Pascrell has the Passaic County line, several prominent elected officials such as Paterson Mayor Jeff Jones and Passaic City Council President and state Assemblyman Gary Schaer have announced their support of Rothman.

It remains to be seen if Pascrell’s planned public push of an earlier endorsement by former president Bill Clinton changes the electorate in any significant way, but the move certainly won’t hurt his standing among these most loyal of northern New Jersey Democratic voters.

On a major primary night featuring voting in six states, including the 53 House Districts in California under a new election law, one of the most engrossing results will be found in this urban northern New Jersey congressional district. The final week fireworks here will be well worth watching.

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.