Tag Archives: Public Policy Polling

Senate Sleepers in Minnesota
and South Carolina

By Jim Ellis

Are incumbents Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in re-election trouble?

Sept. 8, 2020 — At the beginning of the 2020 election cycle, it appeared that Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were set for re-election. That no longer appears to be the case.

Polling is now consistently showing close races in the two states, and Sen. Smith’s recent comments about the police have seemingly moved her re-election campaign closer to the toss-up category according to a just-released Harper Polling survey.

Looking at the HP data (Aug. 30-Sept. 1; 50 likely Minnesota voters via live interview), Sen. Smith’s ballot test edge has dropped to just 43-41 percent over former US Rep. Jason Lewis (R).

In May, Harper found Sen. Smith posting a 46-35 percent advantage over Lewis. After this release, Public Policy Polling forecast a 48-39 percent split toward the end of July. Lastly, Emerson College published what appears to be precursor data to the latest Harper findings. The Boston-based university poll (Aug. 8-10; 73 likely Minnesota voters) found a three-point split between the two contenders, 48-45 percent, again in Sen. Smith’s favor.

To the southeast of liberal Minnesota, in conservative South Carolina, veteran Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) has also fallen into a competitive contest with former state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison, who had raised an incredible $29 million for his smaller state race through the end of June.

The most recent poll we have seen from the Palmetto State was released at the beginning of August. Quinnipiac University (July 30-Aug. 3; 91 registered South Carolina voters) detected a 44-44 percent tie between Sen. Graham and Harrison. From mid-July through the beginning of August, six surveys were conducted, including the Quinnipiac study, and Sen. Graham’s average lead was only 2.8 percentage points.

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Is Minnesota In Play?

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2020 — The state of Minnesota has been the most loyal of Democratic states in the presidential election since 1972, but the latest survey research data suggests that the northern domain is returning to the competitive realm this year.

Four years ago, President Trump fell just 1.5 percent short of winning Minnesota, thus providing a sign that the electorate was beginning a possible transformation. That was partially underscored in 2018 even when the party lost two suburban Minneapolis districts but gained two back in the rural north and south. The latter two congressional seats were the only ones Republicans converted from Democrats in the whole nation, except for a Pennsylvania seat that flipped to the GOP because of a court-imposed redistricting map that substantially changed the boundaries.

The 2020 Minnesota polls have seesawed. Mason-Dixon Polling and Research was the first to release a statewide poll this year and did so just before the George Floyd killing occurred in Minneapolis. The M-D survey was conducted over the May 18-20 period and yielded former vice president Joe Biden a five-point lead, 49-44 percent. The Morning Consult organization was also in the field during that same relative period, May 17-26, and found a similar spread between Biden and President Trump, with the former posting a seven-point edge.

Within this same period, the Floyd controversy began on May 25. During the next two months, a pair of Minnesota polls were conducted, and Biden’s lead soared into double digits. Gravis Marketing executed a single-day poll on June 19 and found Biden’s lead had grown to 16 percentage points. Fox News followed with their survey a month later, July 19-20, and found a similar 13-point Biden advantage.

The situation began to change when Morning Consult again tested the Minnesota electorate over the July 17-26 period and saw the race closing back into the three-point range. This survey was confirmed with the Trafalgar Group’s numbers derived from their July 23-25 poll that found a similar five-point margin developing between the two candidates.

The next two, however, from Public Policy Polling and David Binder Research, both conducted during the July 22-31 time frame, produced 10 and 18 point spreads in Biden’s favor. The Binder poll, however, utilized a sample size of only 200 respondents, far below what would be typically required for a reliable statewide poll for a domain housing eight congressional districts.

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Another Big Primary Day

By Jim Ellis

Controversial Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) faces a primary challenge today by attorney Antone Melton-Meaux (D).

Aug. 11, 2020 — In addition to the Georgia runoff elections, which we covered yesterday, today we see five states holding their regular state primary. Voters in Connecticut, Minnesota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin are all choosing their nominees for the Fall.


CONNECTICUT

With no Senate or governor’s race on the ballot this year, votes are being cast to select the general election candidates in the Nutmeg State’s five congressional districts. Reps. John Larson (D-Hartford), Joe Courtney (D-Vernon), Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven), and Jim Himes (D-Cos Cob) look safe for re-election as they have each won multiple terms.

Freshman Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Wolcott) in the 5th District is also a heavy favorite for re-election but retired federal prosecutor David X. Sullivan (R) is a credible candidate in a district that could elect a Republican under the right circumstances. This year, however, doesn’t appear to yield such a positive atmosphere for the GOP. Sullivan has raised over $230,000, but that won’t be near enough to run a strong campaign against Rep. Hayes. The first-term congresswoman is the top fundraiser in Connecticut with $1.33 million in receipts through June 30.


MINNESOTA

Former representative Jason Lewis (R) is vying for the opportunity of challenging first-term Sen. Tina Smith (D) and is a likely winner tonight over four lightly regarded Republican opponents. Lewis will be a clear underdog against Sen. Smith, who won a 2018 special election with a 53-42 percent victory over what looked to be a strong challenge from GOP state Sen. Karin Housley. A recent Public Policy Polling survey (July 22-23; 1,218 Minnesota voters) found Sen. Smith leading Lewis, 48-39 percent.

The 1st District congressional race looks to be another hard-fought political battle. Here, we see a re-match between freshman Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) and former Defense Department official Dan Feehan (D). In 2018, this contest was decided by a scant 50.1 – 49.7 percent percentage spread, a margin of just 1,315 votes.

Feehan leads the money chase with $2.3 million raised to the congressman’s $1.66 million through the July 22 pre-primary campaign finance disclosure deadline. Both will easily win re-nomination tonight, but a close finish here is a virtual certainty.

The race that will attract the most attention lies in the Minneapolis-anchored 5th District where the challenger to controversial Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis), attorney Antone Melton-Meaux (D), has raised almost as much money as the incumbent, $4.15 million to $4.28 million, and both had less than $1 million remaining in their accounts at the July 22 reporting deadline.

It is unlikely that Melton-Meaux will deny Rep. Omar re-nomination, but his percentage will be interesting to watch. His main mode of attack, while positioning himself clearly on the ideological left, underscores that Rep. Omar is much more interested in developing a national platform than she is in representing the local district.

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Alaska: Polling Uncertainty

By Jim Ellis

Anchorage, Alaska

July 10, 2020 — Public Policy Polling, the most prolific national pollster of late, just released a new survey of the upcoming Alaska elections from what could be the most difficult state in America to poll.

The PPP data find close races for president, Senate and US House, which isn’t particularly surprising when comparing today’s numbers to the previous Alaska polling ratio. Past actual results, however, reveal a relatively consistent Republican under-poll.

To begin, the PPP survey tested 1,081 “voters” via automated response device during the July 7-8 period. This firm is recently using the “voters” term to describe their sample. It is clear the respondents are not likely voters, but there is no associated definition that clearly identifies the “voters” universe.

The fact that the individuals are not identified as registered voters could mean they are eligible voters, which would translate into adults. Such a sample would substantially increase the polling error rate. Therefore, it is not surprising to see the poll producing some unusual totals.

The presidential race finds President Donald Trump holding a mere 48-45 percent edge over former vice president Joe Biden in a state that he won by 15 points in 2016. Additionally, the spread seems rather inconsistent with the results produced from the favorability questions. The President’s job approval was 46:49 percent positive to negative, which, despite being upside down, is far better than Trump’s national approval average. The more surprising number, however, was Biden’s poor 36:53 percent favorability index. Overlaying these numbers with the ballot test provides a seemingly inconsistent response pattern.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R), standing for his first re-election, holds only a 39-34 percent lead over likely Democratic nominee, surgeon Al Gross. Looking back at the 2014 polling records when Sen. Sullivan was challenging then-incumbent Mark Begich (D), July polling of that year found Begich holding leads of 46-35 percent (CBS News/New York Times), and 44-37 percent (Harstad Strategic Services). Sullivan would then turn the race around and win 48-46 percent in that election year.

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The Senate Barometer

Sen. Cory Gardner Senate campaign attack ads hitting former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper hard (see COLORADO writeup below)


By Jim Ellis

June 18, 2020 — Next to discussion of the presidential race, the political contests attracting the most political attention and debate are the 2020 US Senate campaigns.

As we know, Republicans have a 53-47 Senate majority, meaning the Democrats will have to convert a net three GOP seats if Joe Biden wins the presidency, or four if President Trump is re-elected. Many believe that the winning presidential candidate will also sweep in a Senate majority for his party.

Below is an update of the key races:


• ALABAMA: In many ways, this could be the most important race on the board. Republicans must convert this seat back to their column in order to provide a greater cushion toward protecting their chamber majority. Sen. Doug Jones (D), who scored a fluke special election win in 2017, stands for a full six-year term in November.

Republicans are in a runoff election that will be decided on July 14, postponed from the original March 31 date. In the March 3 primary, retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville placed first over former attorney general and ex-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions within a field of seven total candidates, 33-32 percent.

Runoff polling, however, gives Tuberville a large lead as the contenders enter the last month of the secondary election campaign. The May 26-27 OnMessage survey gave Tuberville a 49-43 percent edge, down considerably, however, from the 55-32% margin the former coach posted in a Cygnal research group poll conducted over the May 7-10 period.

Tuberville, with President Trump’s endorsement and running an ad saying Sessions’ appointment as AG is the president’s top regret since taking office, clearly has the advantage. In the general election, this race is a must-win for the GOP. If converted, the Republican majority expands to 54, which will be critical for their chances to hold.


• ARIZONA: Things continue to break retired astronaut Mark Kelly’s (D) way in the early going opposite appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). Being one of the top national fundraisers with $31 million raised and millions more coming into the state in the form in independent expenditures, Kelly is the favorite to convert the seat in November. He has led in the last 11 publicly released polls, the latest coming from the Civiqs organization, polling for the Daily Kos Elections website (June 13-15), which posts Kelly to a 51-42 percent advantage.


• COLORADO: Sen. Cory Gardner (R) seeks a second term, and with the state’s electorate moving decidedly to the left since the incumbent’s original election in 2014, the Colorado race sets up well for Democratic conversion.

There is some weakness developing, however, surrounding Sen. Gardner’s likely Democratic opponent, former governor and presidential candidate John Hickenlooper. Recently, the Colorado Ethics Commission ruled that Hickenlooper, while governor, twice violated the state’s gift ban, which has caused him negative statewide publicity.

Now, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has launched an ad campaign underscoring the commission finding just as the former governor approaches his June 30 primary election against former state house speaker Andrew Romanoff. Sen. Gardner also is on the air in a new ad highlighting Hickenlooper’s statements during the presidential campaign when he was quoted extensively as saying he didn’t want to be a US senator. Taking this into consideration, more people are looking toward the Democratic primary, in which Romanoff is gaining some momentum. This general election is a must-win for the Democrats.
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Dueling Polls in North Carolina Show Disparity in Candidate Numbers

By Jim Ellis

April 20, 2020 — Within a 10-day period, two statewide polls producing radically different results were conducted of the North Carolina electorate. Rather unsurprisingly, the Republican polling firm turned in better results for the GOP candidates than did the Democratic company.

As has been the political narrative for this entire election cycle, North Carolina is going to be one of the most competitive states in the nation. The presidential, US Senate, and gubernatorial races will all be pivotal within the national context.

Harper Polling, the Republican firm, went into the field during the April 5-7 period and conducted live interviews of 500 likely general election voters. Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh-based Democratic survey research company, conducted a large sample poll of 1,318 North Carolina registered voters through a combination of interactive voice and text messaging response systems.

In both the presidential and US Senate campaigns we see diverse results, and particularly so for the latter, yet for the governor’s race the two firms yielded almost identical numbers.

Harper finds President Trump leading former vice president Joe Biden, 49-42 percent, well beyond the polling margin of error. This result is obviously good news for the president in what is for him a must-win state. Conversely, PPP projects only a 48-47 percent split among the two candidates, and in Biden’s favor. In actuality, the two pollsters, while a net eight points apart on their respective ballot tests, are close – within two points – on the Trump number. They are not even within the same realm, and in fact beyond any polling margin of error, on the Biden posting.

The president’s standing could actually be a bit better in North Carolina than these results, and particularly the PPP totals, indicate. In the 2016 election, he under-polled in the Tar Heel State. In the final three polls before the vote, from three different survey research firms, Hillary Clinton held an average 1.3 percentage point advantage over then-candidate Trump. The end result, however, was a 3.3 percentage point victory for the Republican nominee.

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The Kansas Senate Poll

By Jim Ellis

April 17, 2020 — For weeks, Democratic leaders and strategists have maintained that the open Kansas Senate seat is competitive for them if former secretary of state, Kris Kobach, who lost the 2018 governor’s race as the party nominee, wins the 2020 Republican primary on Aug. 4. Public Policy Polling released a survey a couple days ago that seems to confirm such a premise, at least on the numerical surface.

According to the PPP research (April 13-14; 1,27 registered Kansas voters via interactive response device or text message), consensus Democratic Senate contender Barbara Bollier, a state senator from Mission Hills who is a former Republican legislator, would lead Kobach 44-42 percent in a head-to-head match-up.

Kobach is not the only Republican in the race, however, and his nomination is nowhere near being a foregone conclusion. PPP did not test Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) or Kansas state Senate president, Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), against Sen. Bollier or, if they did, such numbers were not released. Therefore, we don’t have a clear perception of the Democratic candidate’s overall strength before the Kansas electorate.

The underlying numbers would suggest another Republican would fare better against Sen. Bollier. President Trump’s job approval rating according to this poll is 52:43 percent favorable to unfavorable, and the generic partisan question – “ … would you vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate” – is 50-40 percent in favor of an unnamed Republican.

Additionally, after push questions were asked of the respondents that paint Sen. Bollier in a much more positive light than Kobach, particularly that “she is a physician and wants to run for the Senate to help other people,” the numbers don’t change significantly. Post push questions, the secondary ballot test went to only 47-42 percent in Dr. Bollier’s favor.

Considering the nature of the slanted questions, which PPP routinely uses in many of their more ideologically based surveys, one would expect the ballot test to have grown substantially in the favor of the candidate who was painted in the most positive light, in this case Dr. Bollier.

The closeness of the secondary ballot test is even more noticeable when the pollsters asked the respondents which of the two candidates would do a better job handling the coronavirus pandemic. By a 50:18 percent ratio, the respondent universe stated the belief that Dr. Bollier would do an excellent or good job in handling the situation. On the other hand, Kobach’s split was an upside-down 34:44 percent in response to the same question. Yet, the ballot test number did not significantly change.

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