The Outliers

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 29, 2016 — Early on debate day, Gravis Marketing made news with the release of their Minnesota poll. But their companion effort in North Carolina is equally noteworthy. Both illustrate trends inconsistent with all other pollsters, meaning the studies may be blazing new territory and they are simply wrong.

The Minnesota survey (Sept. 23; 906 likely Minnesota voters) surprisingly finds Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tied at 43 percent apiece with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson pulling four percentage points. Considering that Minnesota last went Republican in a presidential race 44 years ago (1972; Nixon vs. McGovern), and before then when Dwight Eisenhower was president, it would be hard to conceive of Trump taking the state. Not even Ronald Reagan could win here back in 1984, meaning that Minnesota is the only state that opposed Reagan in both of his elections. (The District of Columbia also opposed Reagan twice, but DC is obviously not a state.) Therefore, a place with such a strong Democratic history is unlikely to switch in 2016.

In contrast, Survey USA for KSTP television in St. Paul reported the results from its Sept. 16-20 poll (625 likely Minnesota voters). Their data produced a 46-39-6 percent Clinton advantage, which is more consistent with previous polls and historical voting trends.

Gravis also surveyed North Carolina, an electorate that may lead the 2016 election cycle in polls taken. Here, Gravis’ numbers are way beyond what other survey research companies are finding in the US Senate race, but in line on the presidential contest. First, their latest data (Sept. 23; 624 likely Minnesota voters) projects Clinton to be leading the state, 44-43 percent with Johnson attracting seven percent support. This is generally in line with other polling, though most of the others forecast Trump with a slight advantage.

The Gravis position in the North Carolina Senate race is way out of line, however. In this contest, they find Democratic former state representative Deborah Ross leading Sen. Richard Burr (R) 48-39 percent, a margin neither candidate has reached in any survey throughout the year. While all other polling finds the race within the polling margin of error, it doesn’t seem realistic that Ross would suddenly be staked to such a healthy lead. In contrast, High Point University Research Center (Sept. 17-22; 404 likely North Carolina voters) finds Burr up 45-43 percent in their poll taken within the same time frame.

Gravis also released Pennsylvania data as well, and their Keystone State poll does seem to coincide with what we are seeing from other firms. Here, Gravis finds Clinton leading Trump by only a small margin, 46-43 percent, which is actually her largest lead when comparing the five surveys conducted through Sept. 25.

Gravis’ Pennsylvania Senate numbers are also in line, but the contest between Sen. Pat Toomey (R) and former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty (D) has been bouncing around for the better part of a month, with the two candidates routinely trading the lead. In this instance, the Gravis findings yield a McGinty 43-39 percent advantage, which does seem reliable.

There is no doubt that the political map is currently changing, so tracking candidate movement makes particular sense right now. The Gravis Marketing Minnesota presidential and North Carolina Senate numbers, however, do seem to be out of balance even when considering the current state of political volatility.

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