By Jim EllisMay 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.