Category Archives: Polling

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.

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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.

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Arizona Polling: Whatever You Want


Best wishes for a Happy 4th of July holiday weekend.
Our daily column will return on Tuesday, July 7.


By Jim Ellis

July 2, 2020 — We saw a polling bonanza released yesterday in the swing battleground state of Arizona and, no matter who you support or what you believe, there is survey data for you.

Arizona Senate candidate, retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), and Sen. Martha McSally (R)

Three pollsters released results that tested the presidential race and the Arizona Senate contest between retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) and appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). The three pollsters, all conducting their surveys within the June 26-29 period, gave us starkly different ballot test conclusions.

Two of the pollsters are from out of state, while one is based in Phoenix and specializes in researching the Arizona electorate. One of the pollsters tested six battleground states as part of their national polling series, including Arizona, but did not disclose the size of the Grand Canyon State respondent cell. This makes analyzing very difficult. The other two firms revealed similar sized Arizona likely voter sampling universes.

The three pollsters were Change Research, Data Orbital, and Gravis Marketing. All have done national work and are published regularly in political blogs and websites as well as being frequently quoted in national news stories.

Despite testing the same electorate during the same time period, we see an 11-point swing in the presidential race, and a 13-point spread among the three survey results for the Senate race.

Change Research was the most bullish for the Democratic candidates, posting former vice president Joe Biden to a 51-44 percent advantage, and an even larger 53-44 percent margin in Kelly’s race.

Conversely, Gravis Marketing produced the most Republican results. They find President Trump holding a 49-45 percent lead and Sen. McSally up by the same point margin, 46-42 percent.

In between is Data Orbital, the local pollster. They find Biden ahead 47-45 percent, and Kelly up by a similar, but not as pronounced, margin as Change Research found, 50-43 percent.
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Handicapping the Senate

By Jim Ellis

June 22, 2020 — Senate control in the succeeding Congress is a major discussion point in the 24-hour news media and within political circles, therefore it helps to organize an election scorecard.

As we know, Republicans hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats, but they must risk 23 of their positions in the coming election. Democrats, on the other hand, defend just 12 of their 47 seats. In 2018, the fortunes were reversed as the Dems were forced to protect 26 of the 35 Senate contests in that election year, and the lopsided margin helped Republicans gain two seats and chamber control even in what proved a bad election year for them at the ballot box.

Let’s start with the 2020 safe seats for both parties. To hold the majority with 51 senators, Republicans must win any 21 of the 35 races. We will include those considered as likely winners in this category:

REPUBLICANS:

• Alaska – Dan Sullivan
• Arkansas – Tom Cotton
• Idaho – Jim Risch
• Louisiana – Bill Cassidy
• Mississippi – Cindy Hyde-Smith
• Nebraska – Ben Sasse
• Oklahoma – Jim Inhofe
• South Carolina – Lindsey Graham
• South Dakota – Mike Rounds
• Tennessee – Open Seat (Sen. Lamar Alexander retiring)
• Texas – John Cornyn
• West Virginia – Shelley Moore Capito
• Wyoming – Open Seat (Sen. Mike Enzi retiring)

Total – 13 | Remaining wins needed to reach 51: 8 of 22 contests

Clearly, several incumbents in this category will face competitive races – Lindsey Graham, for example, opposes a Democratic nominee, Jaime Harrison, who has already raised $19 million – but looking at the states’ political trends and incumbent vote history, and considering how the presidential race will affect turnout in each domain, all of the aforementioned GOP officeholders and candidates in the open states will almost assuredly hold in November.

Should any one of these individuals be upset, count on the Democrats winning the majority.

DEMOCRATS:

• Delaware – Chris Coons
• Illinois – Dick Durbin
• Massachusetts – winner of Sen. Ed Markey/Rep. Joe Kennedy Dem primary race
• Minnesota – Tina Smith
• New Hampshire – Jeanne Shaheen
• New Jersey – Cory Booker
• New Mexico – Open Seat (Sen. Tom Udall retiring)
• Oregon – Jeff Merkley
• Rhode Island – Jack Reed
• Virginia – Mark Warner

Total – 10 | Remaining wins needed to reach 51: 6 of 12 competitive contests

MUST-WINS FOR REPUBLICANS:

• Alabama – GOP nominee must defeat Sen. Doug Jones (D)
Most Recent Poll:
Mason-Dixon (Feb. 4-6) Tommy Tuberville 50%; Sen. Jones 42%
Mason-Dixon (Feb. 4-6) Jeff Sessions 54%; Sen. Jones 41%

Total – 14 | remaining GOP wins needed to reach 51: 7 of 11 competitive contests
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NY-16: Poll Finds Rep. Engel Trailing

Jamaal Bowman campaign-financed attack ad example against veteran Rep. Eliot Engel, hitting him for remaining in Maryland during the rise in COVID-19 cases and then only returning to the district when his political position became endangered


By Jim Ellis

June 19, 2020 — An internal poll for New York Congressional District 16 challenger Jamaal Bowman suggests we could see an upset in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

As the race between Bowman, a former middle school principal, and veteran Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) becomes more contentious and competitive, the challenger’s campaign this week publicized the results of their recent Data for Progress survey (released June 17; 525 NY-16 likely Democratic primary voters). The poll projects Bowman as establishing a clear lead over Rep. Engel, who was first elected to the House in 1988 after spending the previous 12 years in the New York state Assembly.

The DfP data shows Bowman holding a 41-31 percent lead over Congressman Engel in the closing days of the Democratic primary. When asked of the 27 percent who responded that they were still undecided, 40 percent of those individuals indicated they were leaning toward Bowman as compared to just 18 percent who said the same of Rep. Engel. Adding leaners to the secondary ballot test produces a substantial 52-36 percent advantage for Bowman.

The Engel campaign questions the accuracy of the Data for Progress survey because the questionnaire only gave respondents the choice of Bowman and Rep. Engel, even though two other candidates are also on the primary ballot.

Looking deeper at the data, Bowman leads Rep. Engel 56-10 percent among African Americans and 37-29 percent among Hispanics. Rep. Engel maintains an advantage with white voters, 52-30 percent. The district’s Citizen Voting Age population segments as 43.1 percent white, 31.2 percent black, and 20.0 percent Hispanic.

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