Democrats might be touting new numbers that show their party leading on the generic congressional ballot, but pollsters point out that Republicans still lead in voter enthusiasm and that could boost GOP turnout in November.
A Gallup poll out Monday showed Democrats leading Republicans in a head-to-head congressional match-up. Even though the lead was only one point, 46 percent to 45 percent, Democrats proclaimed the result as good news.
But the Gallup poll also found that Republicans “remain significantly more likely than Democrats to say they are ‘very’ enthusiastic about voting in this year's midterm elections,” with 47 percent of Republicans very enthusiastic about voting compared with 28 percent of Democrats.
Gallup notes in its analysis: “Given this continuing enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats, even a tie in registered voters' preferences will almost certainly mean the Republicans will garner the most votes on Election Day.”
A McClatchy/Marist poll found similar numbers in the enthusiasm gap: 46 percent of Republicans said they were enthusiastic about voting in November compared to 30 percent of Democrats.
“This is what the campaign strategists are calculating. GOPers want to reinforce the gap in enthusiasm. The White House wants to close it,” Lee Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, told McClatchy. “If it remains this large through the November elections, hold onto your hats when it comes to the makeup of the next Congress.”
Results from a Zogby poll out this week follow the same generic ballot trend: Democrats up by one point, this time 44 percent to 43 percent. It was the first time since mid-May that Zogby found the Democrats in the lead, according to the pollster.
Pollster John Zogby wrote "President Obama's attempts to draw contrasts with the Republicans and raise fears about a Republican takeover of Congress appear to have been successful, especially among Democratic voters."
An ABC/Yahoo! News poll perhaps best summarizes voters’ feelings on Congress. Asked if they’d like their children to grow up to be a candidate for Congress or do some other line of work, 71 percent said “other work.”
Bad news for Democrats in West Virginia…
In individual race polls, Public Policy Polling (PPP), a Democratic-leaning firm, rocked the political world this week with new numbers in the West Virginia Senate race.
Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin was expected to easily take the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D) seat, but the poll found he trailed his GOP opponent John Raese by three points, 46 percent to 43 percent.
The problem could lie in the low approval ratings for Obama and national Democrats.
The president's approval rating stands at 30 percent in West Virginia, and 57 percent of likely voters in that state said they think the national Democratic Party is "too liberal."
PPP’s Tom Jensen writes: “If voters see Manchin as a Washington liberal, he loses. If they see him as a conservative, populist Byrd Democrat, he wins. Right now, Manchin is earning only 59% of the Byrd approvers, with Raese at 30%. But he gets 74% of those who want Byrd's work to go on.”
Jensen continues: “Ours was the first and, so far, only poll to show Raese on top, and it’s well within the margin of error. This could be one of those nail-biters on Election Night, but Manchin can keep this seat on Byrd’s side of the aisle if he reminds voters of the man he is vying to replace, the man they would still clearly like representing them in the upper chamber of Congress.”
Rasmussen Reports, a GOP leaning firm, has moved the West Virginia race from Leans Democrat to Toss Up.
… and in Wisconsin
PPP also showed bad news for Democrats in Wisconsin. A poll the group conducted for the liberal website Daily Kos found Republican candidate Ron Johnson led Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) by 11 points, 52 percent to 41 percent. Only 7 percent said they were undecided.
A CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll out Wednesday also showed Johnson in the lead but by a closer margin, 51 percent to 45 percent. CNN notes in its analysis: “Just two percent of voters are undecided about their vote, leaving Feingold little wiggle room to re-capture a lead.”
Pollster.com also changed its Senate rankings based on the new poll numbers.
Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal wrote Wednesday: “Republican hopes of gaining control of the U.S. Senate brightened yesterday with results pointing to tougher than expected battles shaping up for the Democrats in Wisconsin and West Virginia. The new polls move Wisconsin to our ‘lean Republican’ category and add West Virginia to a list of toss-ups.”
Connecticut becomes a Toss Up
The Cook Political Report has moved the Connecticut Senate race to a toss up, explaining that “the contest between Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon [R] has been gradually closing over the past few months, and is now in single digits, according to some polls. … With seven weeks left to go, McMahon has made this a race and Democrats’ best efforts to stall her candidacy have not worked.”
In Delaware, O’Donnell down 15 … or 25
And in Delaware’s Senate race, a Fox News poll out Tuesday found Republican candidate Christine O’Donnell trails Democrat Chris Coons by 15 points, with Coons at 54 percent to O’Donnell’s 39 percent. Possibly even worse for O’Donnell, only 5 percent of voters said they were undecided.
Meanwhile, the CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll found a similar result with 55 percent of likely voters supporting Coons and 39 percent supporting O'Donnell.
Among the wider pool of registered voters, Coons leads O'Donnell by 25 points.
CNN Polling Director Keating Holland told the network that Republicans help put Coons over the top.
"CNN has conducted polls in nine other Senate races this fall, and the Democratic candidate has never gotten double-digit support among Republicans in any of them," he said. “But 15 percent of Delaware Republicans are choosing Coons. That may not sound like much, but in today's polarized political environment, it's a big advantage that any Democrat would like to have.”
New York Senate all over the map
The three latest polls in Sen. Kristen Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) race show strikingly different results: A Siena poll out Thursday shows her leading Republican challenger Joe DioGuardi by 26 points, 57 percent to 31 percent.
But a SurveyUSA poll shows the race much tighter, with Gillibrand leading by 1 point. And a Quinnipiac poll shows her leading by 6 points. Odds are that the real numbers lie somewhere in between.
Real Clear Politics averages all the polling in the race and finds Gillibrand leads 5.6 percent. It’s worth noting, as of Thursday morning, Real Clear had not factored the Siena poll numbers into that figure.
How to poll with a write-in
Meanwhile, Blumenthal made a good point about polling in Alaska’s Senate race in a Monday blog post on Pollster.com. In writing about Democratic candidate Scott McAdams, Republican Joe Miller and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whose name will have to be written on the ballot, Blumenthal points out that how the three-way match-up question is asked could affect the results. Pollsters can either ask the question totally open-ended, giving the respondents no candidate names; they could name the Republican and Democratic candidates and then offer to let respondents name “another candidate”; or they could name all three candidates.
Blumenthal notes: “Not prompting with [Lisa] Murkowski's name will likely understate her potential support, due to a lack of knowledge of her write-in candidacy or by an implied dismissiveness of it by omission. Prompting that Murkowksi is running as a write-in risks overstating that support, either because such a mention gives that candidacy special emphasis or because some truly undecided respondents sometimes gravitate toward independent candidates on survey questions. … The truth will fall somewhere in the between.”
The only poll out in the Alaska race thus far is one from Rasmussen, which showed Miller with 42 percent, Murkowski with 27 percent and McAdams with 25 percent.
Rasmussen, which does automated polling, wrote of its poll: “Polling for write-in campaigns is always challenging, so results should be interpreted with caution. For this survey, Rasmussen Reports asked respondents about a choice between Miller and McAdams without mentioning Murkowski. That is the choice voters will see when they enter the voting booth. However, when response options were offered to
survey respondents, Murkowski’s name was mentioned.”