Category Archives: Polling

Montana Shock Poll

By Jim Ellis

(Left) Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R); Gov. Steve Bullock (D)

May 7, 2020 — Montana State University at Bozeman’s research arm just completed a survey of their state’s electorate (April 10-27; 738 Montana adults, 458 likely Montana voters) and produced a surprising tally in the Senate race.

According to MSU Bozeman, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) has jumped out to a 46-39 percent lead over first-term Sen. Steve Daines (R) even with President Trump posting a 5.6 percentage point advantage over former vice president Joe Biden (46.3 – 39.7 percent) within the same sampling group.

Though Montana is viewed as a Republican state, and it generally performs as such in most federal races, the margins usually aren’t particularly lopsided, and Democrats have done well in statewide contests up until 2016. Except for Gov. Bullock’s 50-46 percent re-election victory that year, Republicans running in the wake of Trump’s 20-point landslide win over Hillary Clinton, swept the other races.

Several notes about this poll: first, the questioning period lasted 18 days, a very long time for a likely voter sample size of 458 individuals. Typically, such surveys are conducted over a three-day period. Such an implementation interval substantially increases the error rate.

Second, though the error factor is stated as 4.6 percent, the chairman of the university’s political science department, Dr. David Parker, stated in a local Helena KTVH television news story, that the Senate race is within the margin of error and in reality too close to call. While his conclusion may well be accurate, the ballot test shows a margin between Bullock and Daines of seven percentage points, meaning that the result is well beyond the polling margin of error. Therefore, Dr. Parker’s comments suggest the methodology actually yields an error factor larger than stated, which is more consistent with the elongated sampling time feature.

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Sen. Loeffler’s Strange Response

Loeffler ad


By Jim Ellis

May 6, 2020 — As we have seen since the COVID-19 quarantines began, appointed Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) has been reeling politically. Her backslide began after news stories showed that she and her husband, New York Stock Exchange chairman Jeffrey Sprecher, made stock transactions of at least $18 million to better position themselves after receiving early Senate briefings about the potential coronavirus effects. She has now launched a $4 million response media buy.

Her ads, however, yield a rather unusual approach. While not mentioning the core attack against her, which is that she took personal financial action in response to receiving alarming policy briefings, the ad script indirectly underscores her extraordinary wealth. This may prove an ill-advised self-defense approach and it is difficult to see how the ad message begins to reverse a negative tide. (See ad at top.)

The Loeffler campaign media buy is divided among three similar television and digital ads, but they all emphasize that Sen. Loeffler is being attacked by liberals, that she has donated $1 million of her own money to COVID-19 hospital operations and is forfeiting her Senate salary for the benefit of coronavirus victims. In two of the ads, the narrator explains that the senator sent her private jet to bring back stranded individuals in foreign countries after quarantine bans were implemented.

Recent polling has projected Sen. Loeffler as being buried within the middle of a field of five significant candidates. In the latest poll, from the Cygnal research group taken during the April 25-27 period, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) holds a 29-12 percent lead over Atlanta businessman Matt Lieberman (D), the son of former Connecticut senator and 2000 vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman. In third place with 10.6 percent preference is Rev. Raphael Warnock, who pastors Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his father once presided. Sen. Loeffler then follows, virtually tying Rev. Warnock at 10.5 percent. Former US Attorney Ed Tarver trails the group with 4 percent.

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Georgia’s Dual Senate Races

By Jim Ellis

May 5, 2020 — Georgia is the only state this year that features two US Senate races, and a new poll suggests that both are interesting.

The Peach State’s politics have garnered more national attention since 2018 as election results suggest that Georgia is moving closer to the ideological center. Still conservative, the 2018 governor’s election that saw Republican Brian Kemp slipping past former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (who has since become a national figure and one of the contenders to be Joe Biden’s vice-presidential running mate) by just over one percentage point. Additionally, the Democrats gained a congressional seat in the Atlanta metro area and came within 419 votes of converting a second.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed businesswoman Kelly Loeffler (R) to the U.S. Senate to succeed retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is leaving office at the end of the year due to health issues.

A substantial increase in the state’s minority population, almost all of which is occurring in the Atlanta metropolitan region, during the past decade (Asian, plus-31 percent; African American, plus-17 percent; Hispanic, plus-14 percent) is the chief reason for the uptick in Democratic candidate support.

With this background, the Cygnal research organization released the results of their most recent Georgia statewide poll (April 25-27; 591 Georgia voters, all but six of whom say they are definitely or probably voting) and their data finds two competitive US Senate races unfolding.

The results reveal one incumbent in serious trouble and the other headed for a potentially competitive re-election battle. In fact, appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) trails not only US Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), who leads the jungle primary field by over 17 points, but actually places fourth in the field behind two Democratic candidates yet close enough to them to become entangled in a statistical tie. Sen. David Perdue (R) maintains just a six-point lead over the only Democrat tested against him, former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff.

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Jersey House Competition

By Jim Ellis

April 27, 2020 — The Monmouth University Polling Institute conducted a statewide poll of the New Jersey electorate (April 16-19; 704 New Jersey adults, 635 registered New Jersey voters, 96 percent of whom said they are certain or likely to vote in November) and while the results returned predictable figures in the presidential and Senate races, an interesting tidbit about the House races came to light.

In the presidential race, former vice president Joe Biden led President Trump 54-38 percent according to Monmouth’s latest New Jersey poll, and Sen. Cory Booker (D) led his strongest potential Republican opponent, 55-32 percent. Both sets of numbers were predictable and consistent with recent Garden State voting history.

New Jersey congressional districts: Districts 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12 are the six safe seats. Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 11 comprise the competitive sector.

Though the Monmouth pollsters didn’t test the individual House races, they did ask the partisan preference question and segmented the congressional districts into two campaign categories, the competitive group and the non-competitive group.

Statewide, 50 percent of the respondents said they would vote for the Democratic candidate for the US House of Representatives as compared to 38 percent who would choose the Republican contender. But when looking at the competitive House category, Republicans look to have a glimmer of hope of potentially recapturing some of the seats they lost in the 2018 election.

In that year, Democrats converted Districts 2, 3, 7, and 11, gaining four seats and leaving the 12-member NJ federal delegation with only one Republican member at the outset, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) in the 4th CD. Since the election, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township/Atlantic City) changed parties after being elected as a Democrat. All of these seats, including District 4, and 5 in northern New Jersey (Rep. Josh Gottheimer-D), comprise the competitive sector. Districts 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12 are the six safe seats.

In the “safe” House category, 56 percent of respondents said they would vote for the Democratic candidate as compared to 31 percent who aligned themselves with the eventual Republican general election candidate. In the competitive districts, however, by a 46-45 percent plurality, the respondents said they would vote for the Republican candidate. Considering that Rep. Gottheimer will not be seriously challenged, the GOP numbers in the truly contested districts should even be stronger. This type of result should continue to make many of the Garden State seats prime 2020 Republican national targets.

The safe seats, with all incumbents seeking re-election, are held by Reps. Donald Norcross (D-Camden City), Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch), Albio Sires (D-West New York), Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), Donald Payne (D-Newark), and Bonnie Coleman Watson (D-Ewing Township).

The competitive seats feature party-switching Rep. Van Drew seeking his first re-election. He looks strong in the Republican primary – a first vote as a party’s new incumbent can be difficult – and will face either college professor Brigid Callahan Harrison or Amy Kennedy, wife of former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), in what should be a competitive general election. With a solid Republican primary victory, Rep. Van Drew will be favored in November.

The 3rd District may be the Democrats’ most vulnerable seat. Freshman Rep. Andy Kim (D-Bordentown) upset then-Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) in 2018, and now faces what should be a strong GOP opponent. Venture capitalist David Richter, who was originally running in the 2nd District until Rep. Van Drew became a Republican, is considered the favorite for the GOP primary, and he appears to be a strong challenger for Rep. Kim but will have less time to develop the campaign. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has moved the state primary from June 2 to July 7.

NJ-3 looks to be the most likely of the New Jersey seats to flip. Until Kim won here two years ago, and except for a one-term lag, Republicans had held this southern New Jersey seat since 1979.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), who was first elected to the House in 1980, looks to face an easier re-election contest this year than he did two years ago. In an election when he was the Republicans’ lone survivor, Rep. Smith scored a 55-43 percent victory.

Freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) will almost assuredly face state Senate Minority Leader and former statewide candidate Tom Kean Jr. Sen. Kean’s father, Tom Kean, served as New Jersey’s governor from 1982-1990. This race promises to be a premier contest in a district that a Republican has represented since 1981 until Malinowski won in the most recent vote.

In northern New Jersey’s 11th District, freshman Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair/Morristown) who won another traditionally strong Republican seat that the party had held since consecutively since 1985, stands for her first re-election. Her challenger is consensus Republican candidate Rosemary Becchi, an attorney and former Capitol Hill committee staff member, who was originally challenging Tom Kean Jr. for the party nod in the 7th District.

Party leaders were able to convince her to run in the 11th CD and helped clear the field. She will be a credible challenger to Rep. Sherrill, but the congresswoman is such a strong fundraiser (already has raised $3.4 million for this election) that the race will be a difficult one for Sherrill despite what should be a favorable district.

With Republicans developing a strong slate of New Jersey US House candidates in places where they have traditionally been successful, the Garden State elections will go a long way toward determining if the GOP has any chance of re-claiming the House majority. If the Democrats stem the tide here, they very likely will retain control.

Polling At Odds

By Jim Ellis

April 24, 2020 — A series of surveys were conducted by several independent pollsters in the most critical states that will likely determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential campaign, and the results are somewhat conflicting.

Largely consistent data comes in polls from three pollsters: Fox News, Ipsos, and Quinnipiac University. They surveyed the electorates in Florida (Quinnipiac), Michigan (Fox News and Ipsos), Pennsylvania (Fox News and Ipsos), and Wisconsin (Ipsos). All of the studies were conducted during the April 15-21 period. The pollsters did not collaborate, each directing their own surveys individually.

The results in all of these states found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump, obviously a strong positive sign for Biden since the candidate carrying the preponderance of these particular states will win the national election.

The Biden advantage in each poll ranges from three percentage points (Ipsos in Wisconsin) to eight (Fox News in both Pennsylvania and Michigan; Ipsos in Michigan).

Florida is one of the core states for President Trump, meaning that it’s one of the five most important places that he must carry to win the election. Here, Quinnipiac finds Biden leading the incumbent, 46-42 percent, which is more exaggerated than most current Sunshine State polls. We must also acknowledge that Republicans have been under-polling in Florida during recent elections by approximately two percentage points. If typical Florida political trends continue through this election, we will see a very close final tally.

The Great Lakes states covered in this Update are all in the swing category, and President Trump will have to at least carry one of them to claim a national victory. Conversely, if the President holds his five core states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas), then Biden would likely be forced to carry all of the Great Lakes’ swings: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Another research entity is also in the picture, however. Change Research, polling for CNBC (April 17-18; 5,787 likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) also tested the critical battleground states just after the other pollsters completed their questioning phase. The CNBC poll, as well, was an independent undertaking and not executed in conjunction with any other research firm.

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This Time in 2016

By Jim Ellis

Does Arizona hold the key in a Trump-Biden candidacy?

April 23, 2020 — It is interesting to revert back to April of 2016 to see just how Donald Trump was faring against Hillary Clinton and compare those results with today’s survey research. Thanks to the Real Clear Politics website and their polling archives, the day-by-day polling data from four years ago is still available so we can track the Trump-Clinton campaign historical progress with the new Trump-Joe Biden impending national contest.

The key point to remember about national presidential polling is that the aggregate ballot test means very little yet is the subject of most political research studies. Knowing what voters think about the campaign in places like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin is much more important when attempting to project a final outcome, but we see far fewer numbers coming from these places than we do nationally.

In 2016, we will remember that almost all analysts and political prognosticators were predicting a Clinton win, and virtually all national polling was revealing an advantage for the former secretary of state, US senator, and First Lady, yet Trump emerged the winner. After the election, most surface analysis reported that the polling was in error, but such was not generally the case. The preponderance of polling, which predicted a narrow Clinton popular vote victory was actually correct; as we will remember, Clinton finished ahead of Trump in a close plurality.

With this background in mind, let’s look at what the various polling firms are projecting this month for the Trump-Biden race and compare it to the available data from 2016.

In April 2016, through the 15th of the month, three national polls had been released from individual or collaborating media entities: CBS News (April 8-12), NBC News/Wall Street Journal (April 10-14), and Fox News (April 11-13). This year, we see a more active April polling month that yields nine studies from eight different pollsters.

In 2016, the three testing entities all predicted Hillary Clinton to be holding the advantage over Donald Trump, by margins of 10 (CBS), 11 (NBC/WSJ), and 7 (Fox) percentage points. A little over six months later, Clinton would carry the national popular vote by 2.1 percentage points but lose the presidency because the key states broke toward Trump, which added up to an Electoral College win.

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Dueling Polls in North Carolina Show Disparity in Candidate Numbers

By Jim Ellis

April 20, 2020 — Within a 10-day period, two statewide polls producing radically different results were conducted of the North Carolina electorate. Rather unsurprisingly, the Republican polling firm turned in better results for the GOP candidates than did the Democratic company.

As has been the political narrative for this entire election cycle, North Carolina is going to be one of the most competitive states in the nation. The presidential, US Senate, and gubernatorial races will all be pivotal within the national context.

Harper Polling, the Republican firm, went into the field during the April 5-7 period and conducted live interviews of 500 likely general election voters. Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh-based Democratic survey research company, conducted a large sample poll of 1,318 North Carolina registered voters through a combination of interactive voice and text messaging response systems.

In both the presidential and US Senate campaigns we see diverse results, and particularly so for the latter, yet for the governor’s race the two firms yielded almost identical numbers.

Harper finds President Trump leading former vice president Joe Biden, 49-42 percent, well beyond the polling margin of error. This result is obviously good news for the president in what is for him a must-win state. Conversely, PPP projects only a 48-47 percent split among the two candidates, and in Biden’s favor. In actuality, the two pollsters, while a net eight points apart on their respective ballot tests, are close – within two points – on the Trump number. They are not even within the same realm, and in fact beyond any polling margin of error, on the Biden posting.

The president’s standing could actually be a bit better in North Carolina than these results, and particularly the PPP totals, indicate. In the 2016 election, he under-polled in the Tar Heel State. In the final three polls before the vote, from three different survey research firms, Hillary Clinton held an average 1.3 percentage point advantage over then-candidate Trump. The end result, however, was a 3.3 percentage point victory for the Republican nominee.

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