Two Intriguing State Polls

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 1, 2016 — While Hillary Clinton was officially accepting the Democratic nomination last week in Philadelphia, a new Pennsylvania poll provided her with some encouraging news even as other data from a reliable Democratic state produced a much different conclusion.

Massachusetts’ Suffolk University surveyed the Pennsylvania electorate (July 25-27; 500 likely Pennsylvania voters) and revealed conclusions not found in previous polling data. While other pollsters have generally determined that Clinton and Donald Trump are running within a few points of each other, this new data suggests a much larger lead for the newly crowned Democratic nominee.

According to the Suffolk results, Clinton leads Trump, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, 46-37-5-2 percent, quite a departure from the Quinnipiac University poll (June 30-July 11; 982 registered Pennsylvania voters), for example, which posted a six-point Trump lead.

In Oregon, however, the tables turn in Trump’s favor. While the Pacific Northwest state has strongly performed for national Democratic nominees since Ronald Reagan last won here for the Republicans in 1984, Clinton and interim Gov. Kate Brown (D) are apparently in tight battles with their respective GOP opponents.

Clout Research (July 9-13, released July 26; 701 likely or somewhat likely Oregon general election voters), projects Clinton’s margin over Trump, Johnson, and Stein to be 43-40-6-3 percent. The contest between Gov. Brown and Dr. Bud Pierce (R) is even tighter at 43-42 percent in the Democrat’s slight favor.

There are some inconsistencies in the Pennsylvania poll, even though the demographic and voter registration statistics accurately reflect the actual state breakdown. The sample size of 500 respondents for a state the size of Pennsylvania is low, though in the modern media age most polls do feature small survey groups. But, in comparison to the Oregon response cell that contains 40 percent more respondents in a state one-third the size of Pennsylvania, the number of individuals questioned in the Keystone State does suggest a higher error factor.

Some of the issue questions did not produce results one would expect considering that the ballot test yielded a nine-point Clinton lead. By a margin of just 49-45 percent, the respondent sample said they agreed with the FBI decision not to push for an indictment of Clinton over her personal email server issue. Regarding Trump suggesting there should be a ban on Muslims and other people from terrorist-infested countries coming into the US, 43 percent of this sample cell agreed with the GOP nominee’s suggestion versus 46 percent who did not. Such strong minority support positions for these largely controversial issues would seemingly portend a closer ballot test.

The other contradiction is Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R) poor performance on the Senate ballot test. According to Suffolk, Democrat Katie McGinty would lead Sen. Toomey, 43-37 percent today, a much different result when compared to the two most recent Quinnipiac University polls that find Toomey leading by nine and 10 points, and Public Policy Polling forecasting a one point edge for the first-term senator.

Like Suffolk’s Pennsylvania poll, the Clout Research Oregon survey correctly reflects the state’s demographic and partisan segments. The self-identified political party division finds the pollsters capturing the correct number of Democrats (just over 40 percent), though it is slightly high on Republicans (32 percent versus the actual 30 percent party registration count), and Independents (27 percent of the polling sample identifying themselves as something other than a Democrat or Republican against the actual combined number of 25 percent).

Pennsylvania, and maybe Oregon if the early polls prove accurate, could become important states as the presidential campaign meanders through toward the general election. We can expect to hear more from both state’s electorates in the coming weeks.

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