Category Archives: Polling

“As Goes North Carolina,
So Goes the Senate”

First-term Sen. Thom Tillis’s campaign ad branding opponent Cal Cunningham as not trustworthy.

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 22, 2020 — It looked like North Carolina Democratic US Senate nominee Cal Cunningham was building a strong lead over first-term Sen. Thom Tillis (R) as the two candidates headed into October after what had already been a long campaign. Though the revelations coming forth at that time about extra-marital affairs that Cunningham was having didn’t immediately affect the campaign’s course to a great degree, we are now seeing significant movement in Tillis’ direction.

Since the end of September until last week, 18 polls were conducted of the Tar Heel State Senate race and Cunningham was averaging a lead of just under six percentage points. This included a range of a 13-point spread in one survey (Hart Research Associates; Sept. 24-27; 400 likely North Carolina voters, live interview — Cunningham, 54 percent; Tillis 41 percent) all the way to Tillis’s one-point edge (East Carolina University; Oct. 2-4; 1,232 likely North Carolina voters, interactive voice response system & an online panel — Tillis 47 percent; Cunningham 46 percent).

A new series of four polls, from a quartet of individual survey research entities, find the Cunningham lead being cut by almost two-thirds, down to just over two points. The most recent survey, from Ipsos/Reuters (Oct. 14-20; 660 likely North Carolina voters, online interview) projects that the two candidates are tied at 47 percent apiece.

Much of the reasoning behind the movement back toward Tillis’ direction is associated with the Cunningham affairs and how the two campaigns have handled the scandal. Cunningham has stopped holding virtual events and refuses to answer questions about whether there are more women than the two situations that have been already identified. In the one news availability that he held for reporters since the extra-marital scandal broke, Charlotte television reporters stressed several times that the candidate refused to answer four separate times whether he is involved with more women.

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Rep. Collins Makes His Move in
Georgia’s Special Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville)

Oct. 21, 2020 — Georgia Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) began the 2020 special Senate election campaign as the early leader, enjoying an advantage over appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), Atlanta businessman Matt Lieberman, the son of former Connecticut US senator and 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, and Baptist pastor Raphael Warnock (D), who now ministers the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father once pastored.

The race, however, has changed significantly since those early days.

Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R)

By taking advantage of her huge personal wealth and being cleared of wrongdoing over controversial stock transactions that she and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, made just after she received early COVID senatorial briefings, Loeffler eventually moved past Rep. Collins in the political standings.

Once Democrats began to coalesce around Rev. Warnock, the race again changed. The pastor began securing first place in multiple statewide polls after receiving many key national endorsements. This left Rep. Collins and Sen. Loeffler, the two Republicans, fighting each other for second place.

Baptist pastor Raphael Warnock (D)

The congressman, knowing he couldn’t compete with Sen. Loeffler’s wealth, or even the Democrats institutional money once the party establishment began to support Rev. Warnock in earnest, held a large portion of his resources for a strong late finish after raising $6 million for the race through Sept. 30.

Rep. Collins’ campaign strategy may be paying dividends. A new Emerson College survey (Oct. 17-19; 506 likely Georgia voters, interactive voice response system and online responses) finds another change in this rather uneven special election campaign. According to their data, Rep. Collins has now tied Rev. Warnock for first place in the jungle primary with 27 percent apiece. Sen. Loeffler trails with 20 percent and Lieberman, who had dropped well into single digits in many other polls, also rebounded to 12 percent support.

This poll conflicts somewhat with a recent Survey USA study (Oct. 8-12; 677 likely Georgia voters, online) that found Rev. Warnock at 30 percent, Sen. Loeffler posting 26 percent, Rep. Collins attracting 20 percent support, and Lieberman back in single digits with eight percent preference. Previous polls returned similar numbers to that of S-USA, but with larger percentages for Rev. Warnock.

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Iowa: Questioning the Polls

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 19, 2020 — Every political observer remembers that the cumulative polling community incorrectly predicted the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the 2016 Trump-Clinton presidential race, but further research finds additional significant misses in succeeding elections.

Political research reveals that two of those campaigns came in Iowa during the 2016 presidential race and the hotly contested governor’s race two years later. Today, we look at the Hawkeye State numbers with the goal of potentially ascertaining if there is a common polling pattern or consistent error factor.

In October, four polls have been released for the 2020 contest from a like number of different pollsters, two from left of center organizations while the other two are independent entities. The research organizations are Data for Progress, Civiqs for the Daily Kos Elections webpage, YouGov, and Quinnipiac University. Each has conducted one October Iowa survey.

In the presidential race, the polls yield former vice president Joe Biden an average lead of just over one percentage point. The cumulative ballot test mode then finds Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield (D) topping Sen. Joni Ernst (R) with a margin of four percentage points.

How do these numbers compare to recent polling vs. results electoral history, and is there an inherent Republican under-poll present?

In 2016, the Real Clear Politics polling average from Nov. 1-4 found then-candidate Donald Trump leading former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a mean average of three percentage points derived from three polls and three different polling firms. On Election Day, Nov. 4, 2016, Trump carried the state by a much larger 9.5-point margin.

Overall, 26 Iowa polls were released during the 2016 election cycle, with Trump recording a cumulative average lead of under half of one percentage point. According to the Real Clear Politics polling archives, 12 firms combined to reach the grand total, including Public Policy Polling (5 surveys), NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College (5), Loras College (3), Quinnipiac University (3), Emerson College (2), and Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register (2). The widest spread came from Loras College (Clinton plus-14) at the end of June. The Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register poll produced the most accurate finding, Trump plus-7, at the very end of the election cycle (Nov. 1-4, 2016).

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Georgia Polling Dichotomy

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 16, 2020 — An October polling plethora has been released in Georgia, which is becoming one of the most important 2020 election cycle states both in terms of the presidential and US Senate outcomes. As the only state featuring two US Senate races, Georgia has attracted more than its share of polling universe attention.

Quinnipiac University released new data yesterday that either is detecting a new trend or is an outlier. Their results give Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and US Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock big leads in their respective races, something no other survey research firm is reporting.

The Quinnipiac poll (Oct. 8-12; 1,040 likely Georgia voters, live interview) finds Biden posting a 51-44 percent lead over President Trump, Ossoff claiming a similar 51-45 percent advantage over Sen. David Perdue (R), and Rev. Warnock outpacing both Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) and appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) by 19 and 21 percentage points (41-22-20 percent).

Six other pollsters, also surveying in October, largely see things much differently.

Polling within the same period as Quinnipiac are Survey USA, Data for Progress, and Morning Consult.

Survey USA chose exactly the same sampling period as Quinnipiac, Oct. 8-12. With a sample size of 877 likely Georgia voters also in live interviews, they see a dissimilar political landscape. While they find Biden leading in the presidential race, his margin is only two points, 48-46 percent.

The two pollsters’ Senate numbers are starkly different. S-USA finds Sen. Perdue leading Ossoff, 46-43 percent, a net nine-point variance when directly compared with Quinnipiac. The jungle primary special election race is even more disparate. While Quinnipiac projects one of the biggest leads for Warnock during the entire election cycle, S-USA finds only a four-point difference between he and Sen. Loeffler, 30-26 percent, a far cry from the Q-Poll’s 41-20 percent.

The two pollsters even see a different ballot test order. While the Q-Poll finds a Warnock-Collins-Loeffler split, Survey USA projects a virtual three-way battle among Warnock, Loeffler, and Collins. The latter poll posts Rep. Collins’ statewide support at 20 percent.

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The Trafalgar Effect

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 15, 2020 — The Trafalgar Group is the polling firm that came to national political notoriety four years ago when they correctly predicted a Donald Trump victory in both Michigan and Pennsylvania and were the only survey research firm to do so. Since that time, they have forecast at least four other wins when the active polling community was arriving at opposite conclusions.

Yesterday, Trafalgar released its latest Pennsylvania data (Oct. 10-12; 1,034 likely Pennsylvania voters) and finds former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump 47.4 – 45.1 percent — just over a two-point spread. In October, not counting the Trafalgar number, we see 12 other pollsters returning Pennsylvania data and they average a pro-Biden forecast of just under seven points.

Routinely, Trafalgar’s data shows President Trump in better position than most pollsters because they attempt to quantify what is termed the “shy Trump voter,” i.e., those who are actually voting for the incumbent but won’t admit it to a pollster. In most cases, the Trafalgar calculations, derived from a proprietary algorithmic formula, have been reliably accurate.

From 2016, we remember that, generally, the polling community missed badly in the Trump-Clinton presidential race. While their national count was accurate – predicting a tight plurality for Hillary Clinton (final result: 48.2 – 46.1 percent) – many state projections were off, particularly those in the Great Lakes region.

In the previous presidential election cycle, a total of 62 surveys were conducted in the state of Pennsylvania, and only three found a lead for President Trump, including the Trafalgar pre-election survey. In Michigan, 45 polls were publicly released, and Trump led in just two, one of which was Trafalgar’s final 2016 study. In Wisconsin, 33 polls were taken, and none found President Trump running ahead. Yet, in all three cases, he won the state.

The Great Lakes/Mid-Atlantic region was not the only area where 2016 polling missed the mark. In North Carolina, the margin average looked to be dead even heading into the election, but President Trump won with a 3.6 percent spread. The cumulative polling missed Arizona by two points, and Florida by 1.2 percent. In all of these instances, the Republican voted was under-estimated.

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