Detecting a Senate Swing

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 19, 2016 — During the past few days a series of new independent polls were released in key Senate states and, for the most part, the results portend a clear shift toward Republican candidates. These results transforming into a cumulative anomaly remain a possibility, but it is too early to tell if what we’re seeing is just a quirky blip or the beginning of a sustaining trend.

The CNN/ORC Florida poll (Sept. 7-12; 788 likely Florida voters) projects a major swing in favor of Sen. Marco Rubio (R), 54-43 percent over Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter).

CNN/ORC also surveyed Ohio (Sept. 7-12; 769 likely Ohio voters) and detected a similar push in favor of Sen. Rob Portman, except larger: 58-37 percent. The Bloomberg/Selzer poll (Sept. 9-12; 802 likely Ohio voters) active during the same sampling period echoes the latter survey. Their Portman margin is 53-36 percent. Former Gov. Ted Strickland is Sen. Portman’s Democratic opponent.

Suffolk University (Sept. 12-14; 500 likely Ohio voters) conducted their own Ohio poll and they, too, see Sen. Portman leading but by a lesser 39-31 percent margin. The high undecided factor only found here, and considering that this sample size is much lower than the CNN and Bloomberg studies, suggests that the Suffolk results contain a greater error factor.

Monmouth University (Sept. 12-14; 404 likely Iowa voters) is currently returning some of the best numbers Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) has seen since the campaign began. Though the sample size is small, its ratio is actually better than the Suffolk Ohio survey (404 divided among four congressional districts as compared to 500 respondents coming from 16 CDs). According to Monmouth, the Grassley spread is expanding to 56-39 percent over former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D). The senator’s average lead had been closer to 10 percentage points in recent weeks.

Finally, the Emerson College Polling Society (ECPS) released the results of their just-completed four-state survey series, a polling project that included simultaneous sampling in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, and Missouri. All of the response gathering occurred during the Sept. 9-13 period, which queried 600 people each from the four states.

Largely, the ECPS polls follow the GOP trends discussed above with one exception. Despite finding Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by 13 points in Missouri, the Emerson data projects Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander running ahead of Sen. Roy Blunt (R), 42-40 percent.

In Arkansas, a race that features no other released polling data, Sen. John Boozman (R) maintains a 44-30 percent lead over former US Attorney Conner Eldridge (D). The same sampling group gives Donald Trump a 57-29 percent advantage over Hillary Clinton in what was once her home state.

Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) Georgia numbers are returning to form after at least one early poll showed challenger Jim Barksdale (D) moving into competitive range. The Emerson September survey finds Sen. Isakson’s advantage to be 48-32 percent with Trump leading Clinton 45-39 percent. Opinion Savvy, polling for Fox-5 in Atlanta (Sept. 14; 568 likely Georgia voters), arrives at a similar 47-34 percent Isakson split. This sample finds Trump’s lead over Clinton to be 46-42 percent, again in similar range to that of the Emerson findings.

The Colorado Senate race, already virtually conceded to Sen. Michael Bennet (D), is another poll that gives challenger Darryl Glenn (R) a fighting chance. Here, Emerson projects Sen. Bennet’s lead at 46-39 percent. This margin may be skewed Republican, however, as the same sample posts Trump to a Colorado lead (42-38 percent). Such data is not evidenced in other such Centennial State polling.

The Missouri poll features some blatant inconsistencies. Trump holding a 47-34 percent advantage in the same poll where the sample group finds Sen. Blunt two points down appears flawed. The ballot test is even more glaring when seeing that the Senator’s favorability index is actually better than Kander’s. Additionally, Kander does better than Blunt with men, and Blunt exceeds Kander’s support level with women. Neither of those findings appears credible.

If the trends developing from these polls continue, Republicans would have a strong chance of holding the Senate majority.

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