Category Archives: Polling

Mass. Senate Race Still Up for Grabs

Brown | Warren

The widely watched Massachusetts U.S. Senate race continues to be one of the country’s top campaigns and, as polling released this past week reveals, the contest remains too close to call. It has grown ever tighter over the past four months.

Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren is challenging incumbent and first-term Sen. Scott Brown. The Commonwealth, normally considered bedrock blue in a political context, chose Brown in early 2010 during a hard-fought special election campaign after veteran Sen. Ted Kennedy (D) passed away. Brown became a national name after becoming the first elected Republican senator in Massachusetts since 1972.

According to a poll released this past Tuesday from the MassINC research group for WBUR, the Boston National Public Radio station, Warren was shown to be leading with 40 percent support, while Brown registered 38 percent. The study, taken during the July 19-22 period, had a sample size of 503 registered voters. While the survey projects Warren to a two-point advantage, the margin of error factor is 4.4 percent; therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the race remains a dead heat. In June, Public Policy Polling also released a survey putting the two in a virtual tie, with Sen. Brown running well among Independents.

Voters in Massachusetts appear to be warming to both Warren and Brown. This week’s poll reveals that Warren’s favorability rating stands at 47 percent, which is a 13-point jump from the last MassINC poll conducted in April. Brown’s positive index increased, too, reaching 50 percent, which is up from 46 percent as measured three months ago.

One category to watch here is the undecided vote. Historically in Massachusetts, the undecideds tend to move back toward their party’s incumbent as the election draws near. Should the undecided Democrats return to support Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in November, Warren could also benefit. If this current undecided model projection is correct, it will be Warren who has the greater room to grow, mostly because there are so many more Massachusetts Democrats than Republicans.

Sen. Brown is formerly a member of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives (1998-2004), and then the state Senate (2004-2010). He is also a practicing attorney and considered to be a moderate Republican, voting with his party approximately 80 percent of the time. Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, is considered to be an American bankruptcy law expert who provided oversight to the 2008 bailout program and oversaw the establishment of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau.

Both candidates bring unique qualities to the race and, as polling has consistently indicated over a period of months, this battle appears to be too close to call. It is certainly a race to watch over the next 102 days.

Interesting Michigan Polls

With the Michigan primary fast approaching on Aug. 7, some new numbers suggest a tightening of the US Senate race while a separate poll provides a clue as to how a reapportionment-created incumbent pairing might end.

Rasmussen Reports (July 23; 500 likely Michigan voters) delivers findings that are much different from other previously published polls. Incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) has been consistently running substantially ahead of former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2). Looking at four polls conducted since May 1, including an earlier one from Rasmussen, Stabenow has led Hoekstra by an average of 12 points. In the latest RR July survey, her lead has shrunk to just six, 46-40 percent. When paired with Hoekstra’s Republican primary opponent, attorney and charter schools advocate Clark Durant, the senator’s advantage is 47-39 percent.

Durant has been trailing badly in polling but is now making a serious stretch drive effort, spending the more than $2 million he has raised for the race and benefiting from at least one $400,000 Super PAC expenditure. Hoekstra, however, is still the heavy favorite for the party nomination.

Turning to Detroit, two-term Rep. Gary Peters’ (D-MI-9) move to the 14th District in order to challenge his Democratic colleague, freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13), may yet pay dividends. Despite the large African-American population in the 14th, Peters’ strategy of splitting the black vote among several candidates appears to be working. According to an automated 685 likely Democratic voter survey for local Fox 2 News, Peters has a 45-27 percent lead over Clarke, with the three second-tier candidates dividing the remaining votes.

Presidential Popular Vote is Even

President Obama. / Photo: The White House

A series of new presidential election polls reveals a further tightening of the campaign on the national level, though President Obama maintains a lead over Mitt Romney in the most competitive states.

The two daily tracking pollsters, Gallup and Rasmussen Reports, both give the president only a one-point national lead, 46-45 percent and 45-44 percent, respectively. Looking at an actual benchmark survey, Public Policy Polling, conducting their study (July 19-22; 1,000 registered voters) for the Daily Kos national liberal blog and the Service Employees International Union, projects a flat 46-46 percent tie.

The only national poll not showing a dead heat, taken over virtually the same time frame as PPP’s survey with an identical sample size (July 18-22; 1,000 registered voters) from Republican pollster Bill McInturff and his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart, actually stakes the president to a 49-43 percent advantage. Based upon the available data, though the polling methodology appears sound, the McInturff/Hart result appears to be an outlier.

National Public Radio released their poll of the 12 commonly viewed battleground states (conducted by the Resurgent Republic and Democracy Corps organizations, July 7-12; 1,000 voters nationwide with an oversample of 462 from the battleground states) but its aggregate result is of little consequence. Though this poll, too, shows an Obama-Romney tie at 46 percent, such a figure is virtually useless because the combined popular vote in the most hotly contested states doesn’t translate into specific electoral votes.

What is valuable are battleground voters’ perceptions and attitudes about the candidates. As we have seen for months, there is severe polarization between the two major parties. By almost a 9:1 majority, Democrats believe the president has performed well in office. Conversely, the same virtual ratio of Republicans believes he has not. Independents tend to fall more on the Republican side, slightly rating Obama’s job performance more negative than positive. Also, Independents in these states generally oppose the Obama healthcare law and, by a slight margin, believe that the Supreme Court decision upholding the law is incorrect. This could prove significant as the campaign continues to evolve.

One thing that does deviate somewhat from at least the conventional wisdom, the NPR battleground state poll does show that both candidates have a strong base. Especially for Romney, this is a change. Before, most data indicated weakness among Republicans for their presumptive nominee, but the NPR data gives both contenders right around 90 percent support within their own party voter cell sample. This finding is good news for both men.

New individual key state surveys stack up relatively well for the president in the fact that he leads in most, but in no case is his advantage more than mid-level single-digit numbers.

Rasmussen Reports gives the President a six-point, 48-42 percent advantage in Michigan. Survey USA finds a similar five-point, 48-43 percent margin for Obama in all-important Florida; and We Ask America returns similar 49-42 percent and 49-43 percent spreads (in Obama’s favor) in Wisconsin and Nevada, respectively. Magellan Strategies produced a much closer 50-46 percent Nevada model. Quinnipiac University shows a tie in Virginia, and the Civitas Institute projects Romney to a one point, 49-48 percent razor-thin edge in North Carolina. Though it’s not a battleground state, Survey USA detects only a 46-40 percent advantage for the president in liberal Minnesota, which is a surprise.

The cumulative effect of the most recent survey data makes the president and his advisers uncomfortable. These are not the type of results strong incumbents would be seeing at this point in the election cycle. It’s going to be quite a remainder of the year.

Is a Serious Race Developing in PA?

Yesterday, we mentioned two Senate races bridging the gap toward competitiveness, Florida and Ohio, but is a third campaign on the cusp of becoming a serious? A new Rasmussen Reports survey suggests that the Pennsylvania Senate contest, despite incumbent Bob Casey Jr. (D) holding a comfortable lead, is not yet clinched. Though Sen. Casey has had a controversy-free first term, he still does not exceed 50 percent support in various statewide polls. Rasmussen Reports (July 18; 500 likely Pennsylvania voters) gives Casey a 49-38 percent lead over the Republican nominee, businessman Tom Smith.

Casey destroyed former senator Rick Santorum 59-41 percent in 2006, but the 2012 political climate may be different. If this year is anything like 2010, when Republicans captured the other Senate seat, the governorship, gained five congressional seats, and won both houses of the state legislature, the Senate campaign could be headed toward battle status.

With President Obama running ahead in the Keystone State, but lagging behind where most Democrats begin in the state, Smith could become the beneficiary of a hard-fought, polarizing national campaign. Having enough personal money to become relevant, Smith may just seize the opportunity of putting this state in play. The period between now and Sept. 1 is a critical positioning time for the challenger. If he proves his viability during the current segment, then count on a wild finish.

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.