Category Archives: Polling

Sen. Lugar Back in Front

A new Magellan Strategies poll (May 1; 400 likely Indiana GOP primary voters) for the Lunch Pail Republicans, an outside group supporting Sen. Richard Lugar, gives the embattled six-term incumbent a 44-42 percent lead over challenger Richard Mourdock, the Indiana state Treasurer. As a cautionary note, this is a one day poll with a small statewide sample, but Magellan had a stellar record in predicting 2010 victories. The good news here for Lugar is that his downward trend over the past several weeks may have ended. The bad news is he is still considerably below 50 percent, the mark that most analysts and politicos use as the benchmark to determine incumbent strength.

It is now becoming almost an accepted fact that Lugar is likely to lose Tuesday’s primary, as his polling numbers have long been lagging and the attacks he and his supporters have launched against Mourdock suggest that the Lugar internal data confirms the public data. But Indiana utilizes an open primary system, meaning Independents and Democrats who request a Republican ballot may vote adding a wild card to Tuesday’s election. The turnout mechanism for both sides is also an unknown factor and could be what determines the final outcome.

The closeness of this race, regardless of whether Lugar or Mourdock wins, now means there will be a serious general election battle against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2). It appears that Tuesday’s primary vote may only prove to sound the starting gun.

Tester, Heller Rebound in Montana and Nevada

Just-released polling data is bringing good news for two western senators. After trailing at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) by 2-3 points consistently since last June, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester has clawed back into the Montana campaign lead according to Public Policy Polling. The survey of 934 Montana voters over the April 26-29 period gives the senator a 48-43 percent advantage over the GOP congressman.

This is obviously a positive result for Tester, a first-term senator who defeated incumbent Conrad Burns (R) by the closest statewide margin in the country six years ago – a difference of 2,847 votes. The timing of the poll compliments a new media push from Tester that features light, humorous commercials designed to promote a positive image. One of the ads plays upon Tester’s habit of bringing his own Montana steaks back with him to Washington. The ad shows Tester sending the steaks through the airport metal detectors and ends with the senator’s wife cooking him a meal in their Montana home. The theme of the ad reinforces Tester’s strategic point that the senator has not “gone Washington.”

It is not uncommon for a series of ads, particularly well-done, positive spots that are unchallenged, to drive polling data. The five-point Tester lead represents a seven-point swing from PPP’s Nov. 28-30 study. Rehberg was ahead 47-45 percent in the previous poll, meaning he has dropped four points while the senator gained three.

Turning to the southwest, in the similarly close Nevada senatorial contest between appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), Rasmussen Reports gives Heller his strongest showing of the cycle, a 51-40 percent spread against Ms. Berkley, as shown in their new April 30 poll (500 likely Nevada voters).

This is the third consecutive poll to show Sen. Heller with the advantage. He was up 46-43 percent in Public Policy Polling’s March 29-April 1 survey and 47-40 percent in Rasmussen’s March 19 study. Prior to March, Heller last led in data recorded in July 2011.

Nevada, unlike Montana, will be a presidential battleground state with an unstable electorate. Despite being the fastest growing state during the last decade (35 percent real growth rate), poor economic conditions have led to somewhat of an exodus from Nevada. How this will affect 2012 politics is open to question. Therefore, the presidential race’s progression and its effect on the turnout drive will have a lot to say about the final Senate results.

In the end, these two small states, Montana and Nevada, could be determining factors in deciding which party controls the Senate come 2013. The two highly competitive races will draw much national attention. The current volleys being traded among the candidates right now are only the beginning.

Is a Surprise Coming in the North Dakota Senate?

Since Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced that he would not seek re-election this year, both Republican and Democratic election analysts forecasted that the GOP would convert the open seat. These rankings even held when a November poll gave Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, the state’s former attorney general and defeated gubernatorial nominee, a five-point lead over at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R) soon after she announced her candidacy. The results of a new just-released survey means the supposed Heitkamp advantage can no longer be dismissed.

DFM Research (April 18-26; 478 registered North Dakota voters), polling for the North Dakota Democratic Party, now stakes Heitkamp to a 49-44 percent lead over Berg. Though the long nine-day sampling period suggests reliability questions, the same polling sample returns a 51-32 percent lead for Mitt Romney over President Obama, thus largely dispelling claims of a Democratic skew. Furthermore, though Berg and the Republicans have reported investing campaign dollars into polling, no public releases have yet been forthcoming. This again suggests that Heitkamp leading is an accurate depiction of where the race stands today.

Much will happen between now and Election Day to alter the outcome of this Senate race, and Berg is still in good position to win when considering the state’s voting history in presidential elections. But, it is now clear that the North Dakota Senate race can no longer be considered an easy Republican win and we can expect a competitive general election campaign.

Questioning the Reliability of Univ. of New Hampshire Polls

Over the years, the University of New Hampshire has released some polls that were later proven unreliable, and it appears they are at it again. The college just released the results of their latest study that shows both of the state’s Republican congressmen trailing their Democratic opponents, but the polling methodology is flawed in at least three different ways.

The results show 1st District freshman Rep. Frank Guinta (R) trailing former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D), the woman he unseated in 2010. According to the UNH data, Shea-Porter leads the first-term incumbent 44-39 percent. In the more Democratic 2nd District, Rep. Charlie Bass (R) trails 2010 opponent Annie Kuster (D) 39-40 percent.

The first methodological error concerns the length of the sampling period, which stretches from April 9-20. Here, UNH uses a 12-day information gathering period when three is usually considered optimum. The longer sampling time frame has proven to skew results.

Second, the respondent universe of 538 “adults” does not appear to even screen for registered voters. Going beyond the normal voting pool always provides different numbers than one would see from those who are qualified and intend to actually participate in the election.

Third, the number of respondents for each congressional district are low (230 adults in District 1, 251 adults in District 2), thus further deteriorating the reliability factor.

Considering all of the methodology flaws, the current UNH poll should be discounted, though the conclusion that both of the state’s House races will be close and very competitive can certainly be accepted.

Lugar Trailing in Indiana

Wenzel Strategies, polling for the Citizens United organization (April 24-25; 601 registered Indiana voters), projects that Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) has fallen behind Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock 39-44 percent in their statewide Republican primary battle. Entering the home stretch, both campaigns and their outside supporters are in high gear. Expect this mode to continue until the May 8 primary.

Lugar predictably criticized the accuracy of the Wenzel poll, but fails to release any countering data of his own. This, in spite of him reporting $74,000 in polling expenditures during the last quarter and a further five-figure investment with the National Research, Inc. company in April. The action suggests that the senator’s own survey research is returning numbers similar to those already in the public domain.

Wenzel Strategies’ president, Fritz Wenzel, while pointing to the fact that Lugar expressed no dissatisfaction with their previous poll that showed the senator leading, publicly retorted that, “It goes without saying that we stand strongly behind our polling in Indiana, as we do with every survey we conduct. [Sen.] Lugar’s denial of the reality these numbers portray is tantamount to denying the voice of Republican voters across Indiana who are certainly indicating they are hungry for a change.”

In addition to both candidates running attack ads against the other, outside organizations are spending heavily, as well. The American Action Network launched negative ads against Mourdock criticizing his investment decisions as state treasurer. The Club for Growth announced a $412,000 media buy that began this week in opposition to the incumbent. The spot ties Lugar to the President as being “Barack Obama’s favorite Republican” and makes the case that the senator has lost touch with Indiana after 35 years of service in Washington.

This campaign has now turned into a major national political affair with another veteran incumbent on the ropes before his own party’s electorate. The final 11 days of the race will very likely be the race determining period.