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Morning Update: Good News for Murray in Washington?

Topics: 2010 , Dino Rossi , Patty Murray , Washington

Today's new Senate survey of interest comes from Washington, where the state's Elway Poll shows Democratic Senator Patty Murray leading Republican challenger Dino Rossi by a nine point margin (50% to 41%). The result is much better news for Murray than three other surveys conducted in late August and nudges Murray ahead of Rossi on our trend estimate by 3.7 percentage points (49.4% to 45.7%).

Does the new poll mean that Murray has gained ground in recent weeks, following a post August 17 primary "bump" for Rossi, (as our chart implies)? Not necessarily. What may be going on is a combination of timing and wide variation among pollsters that we have seen elsewhere this year: The most recent polls conducted using live interviewers show Murray doing better than those using an automated, recorded voice methodology.

2010-09-14-Blumenthal-WaPollsDefault.png

Specifically, two automated polls conducted in late August by SurveyUSA and Rasmussen Reports show Rossi leading by 7 and 3 points respectively, while live interview polls conducted by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and by Elway show Murray leading by 5 and 9 points.

2010-09-14-Blumenthal-RecentWaPolls.png

Less obvious from the table is that the variation in the recent polling is far greater for challenger Rossi's support (a 9 point range varying between 41% and 52%) than incumbent Murray's (a 5 point range varying between 45% and 50%). That pattern is similar to what we saw in last year's New Jersey governor's race, where surveys showed much less variation in support for incumbent Jon Corzine than challenger Chris Cristie, but where Christie's number was consistently higher on automated surveys. In New Jersey, the automated polls were closer to the final result.

In this case, the new Elway poll puts far more voters in the "other" and undecided categories (9% total) than the recent automated surveys (3%). That's a typical pattern, and hints that a harder push of the undecided may work against a Democratic incumbent like Murray, at least for now.

We will have to wait and see whether these pollster "house effects" persist into October, although it is also possible that the two automated surveys late August were an anomaly. Automated surveys earlier in the summer by Rasmussen and Public Policy Polling (PPP) showed Murray leading by a margin of 2 to 4 points that is more consistent with the 2.2 percentage point Murray margin we get (48.7% to 46.5%) when we use our chart's "smoothing" tool to pay less attention to recent variation and plot a smoother line.

2010-09-14-Blumenthal-WAPollsLowSens.png

Either way, the Murray-Rossi race is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in the nation, so we will be watching it closely.

And this just in: Just as I'm about to post this update, my email inbox tells me that Quinnipiac University has released a new poll on the Connecticut Senate race showing Democrat Richard Blumenthal (no relation) leading Republican Linda McMahon by just six points. That margin is slightly closer than other recent polls in Connecticut.

[Cross-posted to the Huffington Post].

 

Comments
Aaron:

While the set up between IVR and live interviewers is interesting, what about how pollsters draw their sample and weigh the final results? Couldn't a pollster with a better understanding of what the electorate is best determine the outcome? In other words, I think when PPP was interviewed on their relative 'success' at predicting outcome, the ability to draw the sample and predict who was going to turn out was more important than IVR vs. live interviewers. Or something.

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tjampel:

Where a poll is clearly defective on its face why give it any credence?

SUSA didn't come close to emulating the actual primary results, which (depending on how minor candidate votes break) seemed to show a slight Murray lead or a dead heat. SUSA showed Rossi with a comfortable lead, which he clearly didn't have in the actual primary voting.

SUSA's post primary poll showed another comfortable Rossi lead yet famously had the two tied in King CO. This should disqualify SUSA based on the actual primary results there (Murray got 59% in King even with other marginal Dems in the mix). The % of voters in King is large enough that SUSA can't blame this on a small sample size.

Without SUSA this is a 3-4 point race. Based on the primary results that looks about right to me.

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s.b.:

Really all this and the other polls show is that this race is close enough for turnout and voter enthusiasm to decide the race.

So if Dem enthusiasm goes up and they turn out Murray will probably win, as she normally would in Washington.

If Dems don't show and have low enthusiasm, which it's still looking like as of now, Rossi will win.

Primaries this year have consistently shown historic turnout numbers for Republicans.

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s.b.:

If I'm not mistaken, Washington Dems are at a particular disadvantage because voting starts in early Oct. in Washington as they are all mail in ballots.

So any general increased enthusiasm or mojo in Dem voting has to happen soon for it to have much effect there.

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Farleftandproud:

I guess Dino Rossi is going to have to start promoting his "drill baby drill" stuff. I mean I could understand states like OK, CA, TX, LA, and a few places in coal country talking about drilling, but I have my doubts about major oil reserves in the Great lakes; I think Ron Johnson, and Pat Toomey are full of crap when they talk about these endless oil reserves in the great lakes. I think it is just a effort to slam liberals on drilling policy. If they want to put their money where their mouth is they should prove there is actual oil and send deep sea divers.

Pretty soon, they will start saying there is oil in Vermont, or the guy running against Deval Patrick in Mass, will say there are oil reserves underneat Boston. They will stop at nothing with misinformation.

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Lary Coppola:

The only problem with this poll is that it's been said before that Elway couldn't poll himself accurately. And just as Rasmussan always favors the Republicans, his results almost always lean to the Democratic side as well. I take it with a grain of salt.

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