US Senate: 13 Telling Polls

By Jim Ellis

capitolJuly 12, 2018 — The Survey Monkey organization polling for the Axios Media news and information website went into the field during the June 11 – July 2 period to test US Senate campaigns in 13 different states. All of the most competitive races were studied, including the 10 Trump states where a Democratic senator is standing for re-election this year.

The cumulative result actually brings some good news to both parties, but Republicans fare better because the representative predictive models suggest the GOP is in position for a net gain of at least one seat even while falling behind in their two key defense states of Arizona and Nevada.

Though the survey sampling period is long, the three-week time frame is the period consumed to survey all 13 states. Survey Monkey begins with a regular sampling universe of 3,000,000 individuals who have agreed to participate in their polls. For this project, 12,677 registered voters participated from a high of 1,280 in Arizona to a low of 457 from North Dakota. The sample size in the largest state tested, Florida, was 1,080. All of the surveys were weighted to reflect the demographic and political trend history for each state. The polling error factor for each place ranged between 4.5 and 5.5 for all states but North Dakota. In the latter, the error factor was 7.5.

There are several bright spots for both parties. Democrats fare better on the question of voter enthusiasm, which is consistent with data results recorded in virtually every poll conducted over the past year. Regarding intent to vote across the board in these Survey Monkey polls, however, both parties record about equal numbers. Overall, President Trump’s job approval scores have greatly improved. Looking at the combined 13-state universe, the president scored a 50:49 percent job approval ratio, going from a high of 60:39 percent in Tennessee to a low of 44:55 percent in Pennsylvania. But, even his lowest rating is an improvement from where he stood earlier in the election cycle.

According to the SM numbers, Democrats are in position to convert both the Arizona and Nevada races. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) leads all three individuals competing in the Republican primary. Her strongest opponent, unsurprisingly, is US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson). In the various modeling scenarios, Sinema posts leads of between one and six percentage points over Rep. McSally and far greater margins over the other two GOP candidates.

In Nevada, Sen. Dean Heller (R) again slightly trails US Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) in a range of one to five points under all turnout models. Both the Arizona and Nevada spreads fall within the margin of polling error under most scenarios.

The bright spots for Republicans occur against three Democratic incumbents in North Dakota, Florida, and Indiana. In these three states, the Republican challengers lead Democratic senators Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Bill Nelson (FL), and Joe Donnelly (IN) under all turnout scenarios.

Tennessee also produced very favorable Republican numbers and is a change from previous polling. While looking to be a competitive early race, and some studies even project Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen to be leading the contest, the Survey Monkey poll finds Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) leading well beyond the polling margin of error under all voting scenarios. Her advantage ranges from a low of 14 percentage points to a high of 19 points.

For Democrats, the biggest positive change comes in West Virginia where incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin is staked to leads ranging from 11 to 16 percentage points over Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R).

The Democratic incumbent senators in Michigan (Debbie Stabenow), Montana (Jon Tester), Pennsylvania (Bob Casey Jr.), and Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin) all have strong leads. The polls find each trending ahead by no fewer than nine percentage points (Stabenow, Tester, Casey) or 11 points as in Sen. Baldwin’s match-up against Republican Kevin Nicholson.

Only two states produce differing results based upon the most favorable Democratic and Republican turnout scenarios. The range spectrum is greatest in Missouri, where the turnout models suggest that both Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) could win by as many as five percentage points.

Though the Ohio results are generally consistent for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), and his current spread among registered voters equals the most favorable Democratic turnout model of eight percentage points, there is one scenario — under the most favorable Republican turnout model — where Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) scores a one percentage point upset.

In the remaining 11 states the same individual leads under all turnout scenarios.

The numbers:

• Arizona: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) vs. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)
Most likely voters: Sinema 51-45
Most favorable Dem Result: D+6
Most favorable Repub Result: D+1
2014 model: Sinema 49-47
2016 model: Sinema 47-46

• Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) vs. Gov. Rick Scott (R)
Most likely voters: Scott 52-46
Most favorable Dem Result: R+3
Most favorable Repub Result: R+9
2014 model: Scott 53-44
2016 model: Scott 51-46

• Indiana: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) vs. Ex-state Rep. Mike Braun (R)
Most likely voters: Braun 49-48
Most favorable Dem Result: R+1
Most favorable Repub Result: R+8
2014 model: Braun 51-46
2016 model: Braun 51-46

• Michigan: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) vs. Sandy Pensler (R)
Most likely voters: Stabenow 54-43
Most favorable Dem Result: D+12
Most favorable Repub Result: D+9
2014 model: Stabenow 53-42
2016 model: Stabenow 53-43

• Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) vs. AG Josh Hawley (R)
Most likely voters: McCaskill 52-47
Most favorable Dem Result: D+5
Most favorable Repub Result: R+5
2014 model: Hawley 51-46
2016 model: Hawley 50-47

• Montana: Sen. Jon Tester (D) vs. Auditor Matt Rosendale (R)
Most likely voters: Tester 54-44
Most favorable Dem Result: D+13
Most favorable Repub Result: D+9
2014 model: Tester 54-44
2016 model: Tester 54-44

• Nevada: Sen. Dean Heller (R) vs. Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson)
Most likely voters: Rosen 51-46
Most favorable Dem Result: D+5
Most favorable Repub Result: D+1
2014 model: Rosen 51-46
2016 model: Rosen 51-46

• North Dakota: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck)
Most likely voters: Cramer 53-46
Most favorable Dem Result: R+5
Most favorable Repub Result: R+10
2014 model: Cramer 54-44
2016 model: Cramer 53-46

• Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) vs. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth)
Most likely voters: Brown 50-47
Most favorable Dem Result: D+8
Most favorable Repub Result: R+1
2014 model: 48-48, Even
2016 model: Brown 49-47

• Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) vs. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton)
Most likely voters: Casey 55-44
Most favorable Dem Result: D+9
Most favorable Repub Result: D+15
2014 model: Casey 54-43
2016 model: Casey 53-43

• Tennessee: Ex-Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) vs. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R)
Most likely voters: Blackburn 57-40
Most favorable Dem Result: R+14
Most favorable Repub Result: R+19
2014 model: Blackburn 58-39
2016 model: Blackburn 58-39

• West Virginia: Sen. Joe Manchin (D) vs. AG Patrick Morrisey (R)
Most likely voters: Manchin 53-42
Most favorable Dem Result: D+16
Most favorable Repub Result: D+11
2014 model: Manchin 54-40
2016 model: Manchin 54-41

• Wisconsin: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) vs. St. Sen. Leah Vukmir (R)
Most likely voters: Baldwin 58-40
Most favorable Dem Result: D+18
Most favorable Repub Result: D+13
2014 model: Baldwin 55-4
2016 model: Baldwin 56-42

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