Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Florida Wavering

In Senate on September 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Sen. Bill Nelson

From Florida, the nation’s quintessential swing state, who would expect anything but close political contests? Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Sunshine State Senate race is again rendering new survey data suggesting yet another hotly contested statewide campaign.

Two polls were just released yesterday, each projecting very different results in the US Senate contest, which is also nothing new for this race. Much as we saw in the Hawaii Democratic primary, almost every publicly released survey shows a radically different result when compared with the study released directly before.

Often times, conflicting polls will indicate a very close race because the electorate is volatile. In this case, we have individual polls showing a very different cumulative Senate race result, but consistent patterns within their own particular sampling universes when testing other races and individual approval ratios.

Public Policy Polling (Aug. 31-Sept. 2; 1,548 likely Florida voters) gives Sen. Bill Nelson (D) a 45-38 percent lead over Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14). But Gravis Marketing, on a one-day (Sept. 2) automated survey of 1,288 likely Florida voters, reveals a much tighter race. According to Gravis, Nelson’s lead is only one point, 43-42 percent.

The PPP sample projects a decidedly negative impression of Rep. Mack, suggesting that the adverse attacks against him have taken their toll. By a ratio of 27:45 percent, the respondents voiced an unfavorable impression of the Ft. Myers congressman, who is the son of a popular former Florida senator. But, incumbent Nelson doesn’t fare much better. Asked whether the sampling universe approves or disapproves of the job he’s doing in office, the respondents registered a 35:42 percent overall negative impression.

Gravis didn’t test job or personal approval, but they did assess the presidential race. According to their sampling universe, Mitt Romney leads President Obama 48-47 percent. The firm also tested presidential preference within the two gender groups. The sample stated that Florida men favor Romney 54-42 percent. Women break for the President 51-44 percent. All of these numbers are in range with other polls, though the Romney share of the female vote projection is a bit higher than typically reported from other surveys. The fact that Gravis is consistent with the others on the presidential race and in range on the gender segmentation gives greater credibility to their conclusion suggesting that the Nelson-Mack contest is a dead heat.

The PPP survey did not test the Obama-Romney campaign, but they did ask other questions. Many had to do with former governor Charlie Crist and his impending switch from being an Independent to becoming a Democrat. You will remember Crist was elected governor in 2006 as a Republican and attempted to seek the GOP nomination for Senate in 2010, but when it became evident he could not overtake Marco Rubio for the party nomination, he bolted and ran unsuccessfully as an Independent.

Now, it is likely that Crist will become a Democrat and oppose GOP Gov. Rick Scott in 2014. The survey data pertaining to the party-switching former governor does little to verify PPP’s Senatorial numbers, because voting trends are not relevant with the Crist situation due to the impressions and attitudes expressed about him being personal in nature. Therefore, with the supporting data that is available it is difficult to gauge the PPP Senate ballot test reliability.

Sen. Nelson may very well hold a lead beyond the margin of error against Rep. Mack, but verifiable indications still point to a race that will get much closer before it is finally decided in November.

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