Category Archives: Polling

Longshot Candidate Close
In Open Tennessee Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

July 23, 2020 — The open Tennessee Senate race has not gotten much national attention, but we now seem to have a close race brewing in the final days leading up to the state’s Aug. 6 primary. The Volunteer State is the only one to host a Thursday primary.

Dr. Manny Sethi, original long-shot candidate and noted Nashville orthopedic surgeon, has become a viable contender in the Tennessee Senate Republican Primary race.

Once most of the state’s well-known politicos took their names out of consideration after three-term incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) announced his retirement at the end of 2018, former US ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty looked to be the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination. These days in Tennessee, becoming the GOP standard bearer is virtually tantamount to winning a general election.

As the candidates make a dash for the political finish line, original long-shot candidate Manny Sethi, a noted Nashville orthopedic surgeon, has become a viable contender. Three separate polls released last week all found the two candidates within two to four points of each other, with Hagerty, armed with President Trump’s endorsement, clinging to a dwindling lead.

Late Tuesday, JMC Analytics & Polling released their new independent Tennessee survey (July 18-19; 600 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters), which projects Hagerty to be holding a 36-32 percent edge over Dr. Sethi. Last week, both the Trafalgar Group (July 6-8; 1,062 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters) and Victory Phones, the latter for the Sethi campaign (June 30-July 1; 800 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters), released survey results.

Continue reading

An Inexplicable Michigan Poll

By Jim Ellis

Jen Richardson, Michigan’s MI-6 Democratic candidate for Congress

July 22, 2020 — Late last night, the Jen Richardson for Congress campaign in Michigan released a Gravis Marketing survey (July 16; 604 MI-6 likely general election voters via interactive voice response system) that defies credibility. According to Gravis, Democratic candidate Richardson leads 17-term incumbent Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) by 20 percentage points, 56-36 percent.

It is difficult to know even where to begin with the analysis. Let’s first point out that Richardson, who has raised just over $57,000 according to her June 30 Federal Election Commission disclosure report, is a big underdog in the Democratic primary let alone against Rep. Upton if paired in the general election.

Richardson is a teacher from Kalamazoo, running, as she describes, to be a voice for the middle class. Her Democratic opponent, however, in the intra-party election that will be decided Aug. 4, is three-term state Representative Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), who is ineligible to seek re-election under the Michigan term limits law. In contrast to Richardson’s meager fundraising, Hoadley has attracted over $1.3 million and is the heavy favorite to face Rep. Upton in the fall campaign.

Perhaps the most glaring flaw in the Gravis poll – a survey firm that normally works for Republican candidates and often finds themselves posting better numbers for GOP contenders than other pollsters surveying the same races, e.g., Arizona president and Senate races at the end of June – is with their follow-up question.

Any established credibility ends totally when they report the generic ballot test question results, i.e., “if the election for Michigan District 6 were today and the candidates were a generic Democrat vs. a Republican, who would you vote for?” The same sampling universe that favors Richardson over Upton by 20 points chooses the generic Republican in a 46-43 percent margin.

Therefore, this poll’s results tell us that their interactive voice response system, which allows people to listen to an automated survey and then answer the questions by choosing a related number on their telephone, expects us to believe a conclusion that gives the Republican Party a three-point edge in this district, but their 34-year incumbent who has won 17 consecutive general elections in the southwestern Michigan region is 20 points behind someone who has little to no name identification?

Continue reading

The Wild Kansas Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

July 21, 2020 — As we approach the Aug. 4 primaries, it’s clear that the Kansas Senate Republican primary will be the top attraction of that election day. An intra-party nomination clash in what should be a relatively safe open-seat campaign has devolved into a mixed-message political brawl.

Embattled Kansas Senate Republican candidate Kris Kobach

Just in the past month we’ve seen Democratic money coming into the Sunflower State in an attempt to influence the Republican primary, and national Republican money making an appearance trying to destroy the former GOP gubernatorial nominee. Furthermore, a well-healed third Republican candidate was being described as a multi-million dollar plumber who contributes more to Democrats. And, yesterday we saw a new ad with a candidate saying that it’s really “a badge of honor” that the Democrats are now attacking him because they’re afraid to face him in the general election.

When veteran Sen. Pat Roberts (R) announced his retirement last year, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, fresh from running the disastrous Presidential Commission on Election Integrity that yielded no results before being disbanded, jumped into the Senate race. Because Kobach ran such a poor gubernatorial campaign and virtually handed the office to then-Democratic state senator Laura Kelly two years ago, Republican leaders were fearful of him becoming the Senate nominee. Democrats were also seeing early polling numbers indicating that they could beat Kobach while other Republicans were faring much better in general election ballot test pairings.

Continue reading

Alabama Runoff Today

By Jim Ellis

Former US attorney general and Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions (R), faces off today against retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

July 14, 2020 — The long-awaited Alabama US Senate Republican runoff between retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville and former US attorney general and ex-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions will be decided today, and polls are suggesting we will see a clear winner relatively early tonight.

The primary election was held way back on March 3 with the original runoff scheduled for March 31. Shortly after the primary, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) postponed the runoff in response to COVID-19 suggested precautions. The primary election ended with Sessions trailing Tuberville, 33.4 – 31.6 percent, a spread of 12,528 votes from over 717,000 ballots cast.

Originally, it appeared the four-month voting delay might be a break for Sessions, giving him time to rebound from a rather poor performance in the primary election. It doesn’t appear he has been able to turn the tide. Since the primary, nine polls have been conducted and released from six different pollsters. Eight of the surveys post Tuberville to a lead, while one showed the race a tie.

The latest survey, conducted over the July 2-9 period from Auburn University at Montgomery, finds Tuberville expanding his lead to 47-31 percent. The polling methodology poses questions, however. The Auburn pollsters list 558 respondents, but this is their general election sample. They do not indicate how many people comprised the Republican runoff likely voter cell, so it is difficult to judge reliability.

It is possible, however, that Tuberville holds such a large lead heading into the election because he is averaging a 12.3 percent advantage in the eight other polls conducted during the post-primary period. In two of the polls, both taken in May by independent pollsters, the Tuberville advantage expanded to 22 and 23 points, respectively.

Sessions’ political problems took hold when he resigned as attorney general under a barrage of criticism from President Trump. Tuberville capitalized with a wave of advertising featuring a commercial that began with a NBC interview clip between Trump and Chuck Todd where the president said his biggest regret since taking office was appointing Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

Continue reading

Texas Runoff Tomorrow

By Jim Ellis

Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R)

July 13, 2020 — The general election is finally getting underway in Texas. The long-awaited Lone Star State runoff elections are tomorrow, postponed from May 26. At the federal level, 16 nominations will be decided, one for the Senate and 15 more in US House races.

In Texas, if no candidate secures a 50 percent majority in the primary, which, in 2020, was all the way back on Super Tuesday, March 3, a runoff election between the top two finishers is then conducted within 12 weeks. Because of COVID-19 precautions, the extended runoff cycle has consumed 19 weeks.

Sen. John Cornyn (R) will learn the identity of his general election opponent tomorrow night, and the incumbent’s campaign has seemingly involved itself in the Democratic runoff. The Cornyn team released a poll at the end of last week that contained ballot test results for the Democratic runoff, a race that seemingly favored original first-place finisher M.J. Hegar, but closer examination leads one to believe that the Cornyn forces would prefer to run against state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas).

The TargetPoint survey identified Hegar as a 33-29 percent leader but points out that among those respondents who claim to have already voted, the two candidates were tied at 50 percent apiece. They further used the poll to identify Sen. West as the most “liberal” candidate in the race as an apparent way to influence Democratic voters that he is closer to them than Hegar.

We have seen this type of tactic used in other states. In New Mexico, the EMILY’s List organization was running ads against former state Rep. Yvette Herrell, saying she was the “true Trump candidate” in the Republican primary. This was done to convince Republican voters to support Herrell, a candidate the progressive left organization, and many others, believed to be the weaker opponent for incumbent Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces).

Regardless of who wins the Texas Senate Democratic runoff tomorrow night, Sen. Cornyn will be a clear favorite for re-election on Nov. 3.

In the House, six districts host runoffs in seats that will result in a substantial incumbent victory this Fall. Therefore, runoff winners in the 3rd (Rep. Van Taylor-R), 15th (Rep. Vicente Gonzalez-D), 16th (Rep. Veronica Escobar-D), 18th (Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee-D), 20th (Rep. Joaquin Castro-D), and 35th Districts (Rep. Lloyd Doggett-D) will become largely inconsequential in November.

The 2nd District originally was advancing to a secondary election, but candidate Elisa Cardnell barely qualified for the Democratic runoff and decided to concede the race to attorney and former Beto O’Rourke advisor Sima Ladjevardian. Therefore, Ladjevardian became the party nominee against freshman Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) without having to face a second election. The congressman is a strong favorite for re-election, but Ladjevardian had already raised will over $1 million for just her primary election.

Continue reading

Alaska: Polling Uncertainty

By Jim Ellis

Anchorage, Alaska

July 10, 2020 — Public Policy Polling, the most prolific national pollster of late, just released a new survey of the upcoming Alaska elections from what could be the most difficult state in America to poll.

The PPP data find close races for president, Senate and US House, which isn’t particularly surprising when comparing today’s numbers to the previous Alaska polling ratio. Past actual results, however, reveal a relatively consistent Republican under-poll.

To begin, the PPP survey tested 1,081 “voters” via automated response device during the July 7-8 period. This firm is recently using the “voters” term to describe their sample. It is clear the respondents are not likely voters, but there is no associated definition that clearly identifies the “voters” universe.

The fact that the individuals are not identified as registered voters could mean they are eligible voters, which would translate into adults. Such a sample would substantially increase the polling error rate. Therefore, it is not surprising to see the poll producing some unusual totals.

The presidential race finds President Donald Trump holding a mere 48-45 percent edge over former vice president Joe Biden in a state that he won by 15 points in 2016. Additionally, the spread seems rather inconsistent with the results produced from the favorability questions. The President’s job approval was 46:49 percent positive to negative, which, despite being upside down, is far better than Trump’s national approval average. The more surprising number, however, was Biden’s poor 36:53 percent favorability index. Overlaying these numbers with the ballot test provides a seemingly inconsistent response pattern.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R), standing for his first re-election, holds only a 39-34 percent lead over likely Democratic nominee, surgeon Al Gross. Looking back at the 2014 polling records when Sen. Sullivan was challenging then-incumbent Mark Begich (D), July polling of that year found Begich holding leads of 46-35 percent (CBS News/New York Times), and 44-37 percent (Harstad Strategic Services). Sullivan would then turn the race around and win 48-46 percent in that election year.

Continue reading

Maine’s Ranked Choice Primary

By Jim Ellis

Maine Congressional Districts

July 9, 2020 — It is likely we are going to soon see another Maine congressional race decided through the controversial Ranked Choice Voting system. A new Fair Vote commissioned Survey USA poll, from this group that supports Ranked Choice Voting, finds the three 2nd District Republican congressional candidates in a relatively close battle, but with no one realistically nearing the majority support necessary to win the party nomination.

According to the S-USA poll (June 30-July 6; 604 likely ME-2 Republican primary voters), former state representative Dale Crafts would lead ex-gubernatorial aide and former journalist Adrienne Bennett and ex-state senator and 2018 Republican US Senate nominee Eric Brakey, 37-25-19 percent. While Crafts seems to have a comfortable lead even though the three are bunched relatively close together, the fact that no one is likely to reach the 50 percent threshold means that some voters’ alternative choices would next be counted.

The Ranked Choice Voting system was adopted by the Maine electorate in 2016 and first used two years later. Though former US representative Bruce Poliquin (R) had enough votes to place first in the 2018 race, which would have normally awarded him the election, he lost in the Ranked Choice rounds. Poliquin attempted to overturn the system in a federal court challenge but failed to advance it beyond the district level.

The RCV, or “instant runoff,” system, is designed to produce a majority winner after multiple rounds of voting. Maine is the only state that employs the concept. Other domains, mainly in the South, who want party nominees to win a primary with over 50 percent support, hold a secondary election on a future day. In the RCV system, the initial primary and runoffs are conducted on the same ballot.

In the 2nd District Republican primary this coming Tuesday, since there are only three candidates, voters will mark their ballots from 1 to 3, thus clarifying their preferences beyond the individual they initially choose from the field. After the first round of voting, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and election officials then comb through all of the cast ballots to find those where the last place candidate was the first choice. These ballots are then added back into the pool with their second choice added to the aggregate vote. If no candidate receives a majority after the second round, a third begins sans the new last place candidate if there are more than two contenders remaining.

Continue reading