Category Archives: Presidential campaign

The Wild Polling Spectrum

By Jim Ellis

July 27, 2020 — We’ve seen a plethora of presidential state polls released in the past couple of days, and the results seem to swing wildly among the various pollsters. While most studies have shown former vice president Joe Biden at present winning most of the key states, his margins don’t seem particularly secure even while his national numbers appear stronger.

Let’s explore the polling divergence, and remember that sample selection, weighting, size of the respondent universe, and length of time to complete the survey process are all important variables in determining a ballot test result. Also, the huge number of people refusing to answer their phones or not participating in political surveys means that pollsters must further rely on weighting and mathematical supposition to compensate for the lack of live responses.

With that short background, let’s look at some of the key states producing the widest swings:


FLORIDA

• Quinnipiac University – July 16-20 (924 registered voters; live interview)

Biden 51
Trump 38
Biden plus 13

• St. Pete Polls – July 13-14 (3,018 likely voters via automated system)

Biden 50
Trump 44
Biden plus 6

Though Biden is up in both polls, the margin difference is stark. The Q-Poll, brandishing such a wide spread in what is typically a close political state raises reliability questions.


GEORGIA

• Garin Hart Yang Research – July 9-15 (800 likely voters)

Biden 47
Trump 43
Biden plus 4

• Spry Strategies – July 11-16 (701 likely voters; IVR)

Trump 49
Biden 46
Trump plus 3

Here we see two different leaders within two different polling samples within the same virtual period. Republicans tend to under-poll in the southern states, which could certainly be present in at least the GHY poll.


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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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Moving to the General

By Jim Ellis

June 4, 2020 — The June 2nd primary featured 10 states, and now the candidates are set for November. Below is a recap of the races from Tuesday’s primary that project as competitive this fall, and an early prognosis for each.


IN-5:

• St. Sen Victoria Spartz (R) vs. Christina Hale (D)
Trump ’16: 53-41%    |   2018 Congressional: 57-43% R (Brooks)

Ukrainian born state Senator Victoria Spartz topped a field of 15 Republican candidates with 41% on Tuesday night, after a nasty primary that resulted in some of the other contenders running ads touting that they were born in America. Democrat Christina Hale, a former state Representative and 2016 Lt. Governor nominee, had an easier time in her primary, and won with 39% of the vote, which was slightly under pre-election estimates.

Ms. Spartz is the favorite to win in November in a traditionally Republican district, but one that is moving more toward the center. Democrats will see how this race begins to unfold, but this is a seat on their secondary target list. We can expect Spartz to be tested early, and if the numbers suggest an opening, the Democrats will go for an upset win.


IOWA-SENATE:

• Sen. Joni Ernst (R) vs. Theresa Greenfield (D)
Trump ’16: 51-42%    |    2016 US Senate: 60-36% R (Grassley)

Iowa is one of three Republican firewall states to keep the Senate majority, with Montana and Maine being the other two. Sen. Joni Ernst seeks her first re-election and is now paired with Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield. The Democratic establishment backed Greenfield, but she came under attack in the primary and defeated two opponents with 47% of the vote, a bit under pre-election projection.

All races in Iowa are competitive, so we can expect intense political competition here from the presidential race all the way through each of the state’s four House districts. Polling will show the Senate race as close until Election Day, but what should be another Trump victory here will help set the table for the remainder of the races. Sen. Ernst is rated as a slight favorite as the general election now officially begins.


IA-1:

• Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) vs. St. Rep. Ashley Hinson (R)
Trump ’16: 49-45%     |     2018 Congressional: 50-45% D

Freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) defends her seat for the first time and faces a top opponent in Republican state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Cedar Rapids), a former television news anchor. The 1st District looked to be the safest Democratic seat in the state after 2011 redistricting, but the electorate hasn’t voted that way. This will be a top tier Republican challenge race, and one to watch. Rep. Finkenauer certainly begins with the incumbent’s advantage, but the IA-1 campaign is a top national GOP target. If the Republicans are to have any chance of re-taking the House majority, Ms. Hinson will have to win.


IA-2:

• Rita Hart (D) vs. St. Sen. Marianette Miller-Meeks (R)
Trump ’16: 49-45%     |     2018 Congressional: 54-42% D (Loebsack)

The 2nd District, located in Iowa’s southeastern sector, is the district that has played best for Democrats during the decade despite President Trump carrying it in 2016.

Democrats feature former state Senator and 2018 Lt. Governor nominee Rita Hart who was even unopposed in an open seat primary. Republicans counter with first-term state Senator Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), who begins her fourth race for the congressional seat. Ms. Hart is the clear favorite here, and Dr. Miller-Meeks will have to prove her credibility nationally after three losses. If she does not begin the general election in competitive fashion, this race will quickly turn Ms. Hart’s way.
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Ten Primaries Today

By Jim Ellis

June 2, 2020 — Super June is here. During the month, almost half of the country (24 entities) will hold nomination elections, 10 of which have moved their voting days to June from earlier dates. Here’s today’s lineup.


• DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Washington, DC voters will vote in a Democratic presidential primary that still features three individuals who are no longer contenders. Former vice president Joe Biden will defeat Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), along with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), but the question to watch surrounds the strength of his vote percentage. It is arguable that his last two performances in Oregon and Hawaii fell below what a virtually unopposed presumptive nominee typically receives.

DC voters will also nominate candidates for Delegate to the US House of Representatives and for members of the DC City Council.


• IDAHO: The Idaho primary began with in-person voting on May 19, but Gov. Brad Little (R) extended the absentee ballot return deadline to today, June 2. Therefore, no votes will be counted until the mail votes are received today. The presidential primary was held earlier as a stand-alone vote, so this election in the state’s regular primary.

Sen. Jim Risch seeks a third term and is unopposed for re-nomination in the Republican primary. On the Democratic side, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Paulette Jordan, a former state representative, is favored. Reps. Russ Fulcher (R-Meridian) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho Falls) face only minor opposition in their respective primaries. Sen. Risch and both congressmen are all prohibitive favorites in November.


• INDIANA: Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) leads the state ticket this year and is unopposed in the primary, as is Democratic former health commissioner, Woody Myers. Gov. Holcomb appears safe for re-election in the Fall.

With no Senate race in the Hoosier State this year, the US House delegation features two open seats that will attract most of the attention on primary night.

Veteran Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Merrillville/Gary), first elected in 1984, is retiring after serving what will be 18 terms in the House. The Democrats will keep this seat (Clinton ‘16: 54-41 percent) so today’s election will almost assuredly choose the new representative. Of the 14 candidates, only two currently hold elective office, Mayor Tom McDermott of Hammond and state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-Lake County), and both figure to be major contenders.

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Is Biden Under-Performing?

By Jim Ellis

Former vice president and current 2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden (D)

May 28, 2020 — Currently, former vice president Joe Biden is leading in virtually every battleground state poll that has been released into the public domain; but do the survey numbers tell the whole story? Other available data, that derived from actual votes being cast, suggest there may be cracks forming in his political armor.

In terms of battleground states, a new Arizona poll was released Tuesday, in what could become the most important must-win domain for the Trump campaign. There, the Phoenix-based HighGround Public Affairs consulting firm publicized their latest Arizona statewide poll (May 18-22; 400 likely Arizona general election voters), and the ballot test projects Biden holding a tighter 47.0 – 45.3 percent edge over President Trump.

Though Biden leads, the trend is a clear improvement for Trump since the OH Predictive Insights poll (May 9-11; 600 likely Arizona voters) became public during mid-May and posted the former vice president to a 50-43 percent advantage. Redfield & Wilton Strategies followed with their survey release (May 10-14; 946 likely Arizona voters) that yielded a closer 45-41 percent Biden lead.

Tuesday’s HighGround survey also published some interesting secondary questions. In answering whether the respondents felt President Trump job performance was excellent, very good, or OK, the combined positive calculated to 49.5 percent. Among those believing the president’s job performance is poor or failing, the negative totaled to 49.0 percent.

Accordingly, 29.3 percent of the Arizona respondent sample believes President Trump is to blame for the spread of the coronavirus, while 20.3 percent pin the responsibility on China. All other responses: the people, federal government, Democrats, or other unnamed sources each registered less than 10 percentage points. A total of 25.3 percent say they either don’t know or believe no single source is to blame.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, the state of Hawaii hosted its Democratic presidential primary. The unique format is interesting in that there were two votes the participants cast: the first included choosing among all of the names who originally qualified for the Hawaii presidential nomination ballot. The second isolated only Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Just under 35,000 people cast mail votes in the stand-alone presidential primary.

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