Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Polls: VA and MA are Real

In Polling, Senate on May 17, 2013 at 10:32 am

Mass-VA

Two new polls were released yesterday, one for the looming battle in the Virginia governor’s race and the other in the Massachusetts Senate special election. Both continue to show a high degree of competitiveness.

In the Old Dominion, Quinnipiac University released their new study (May 8-13; 1,286 registered Virginia voters) that contradicts both last week’s Washington Post poll and the one from NBC News/Marist College showing Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli leading Democrat Terry McAuliffe among likely participants. The new Q-Poll gives the former Democratic National Committee chairman a 43-38 percent advantage among registered voters.

To the north, Public Policy Polling (May 13-15; 880 likely June 25 Massachusetts special election participants), surveying for the League of Conservation Voters, shows Democratic Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) expanding his lead over Republican private equity investor Gabriel Gomez to 48-41 percent. PPP’s first post-primary survey projected only a 44-40 percent split in the congressman’s favor.

The Quinnipiac poll may have over-sampled Virginia Democrats, however. Their analysis does not identify the number of individuals questioned by political party segmentation, but the responses suggest that many more Democrats than Republicans were included.

Here’s how we know: According to their statistical report, McAuliffe is winning the Democratic segment 83-5 percent. But Cuccinelli is scoring just about the same margin among Republicans. In fact, he registers an even better 85-3 percent.

Understanding that McAuliffe leads the statewide sample by five points, it would stand to reason that he would then have an edge among Independents, if the two major party segments were roughly equal. In this poll, however, it is actually Cuccinelli who records a slight one-point 38-37 percent margin among self-described Independents. Looking at the three party affiliation segments as a whole, it is obvious that the Democratic group is significantly larger than the Republican sector.

Taking into account recent Virginia voting history, it is reasonable to calculate that there are more Democrats than Republicans in the state. This is particularly true when looking only at registered voters as the Q-Poll does here. Considering the turnout model is radically different in the odd-year elections versus those held in the regular voting year, the likely voter calculation becomes critical in accurately forecasting such a campaign. Therefore, it is likely that the previous Washington Post and NBC News surveys that screened for likely voters is probably more accurate.

The new Massachusetts poll basically shows a net three-point gain for Ed Markey over Gabriel Gomez. Since PPP conducted both surveys, the methodology is the same. In the meantime, Gomez released his internal OnMessage poll results (May 5-7; 800 likely Massachusetts voters) that showed him pulling to within three points of the leader, 46-43 percent.

Let’s discount the Gomez data because it is internal research, and we don’t know if the 46-43 percent tally is the first or second ballot test on the questionnaire. If it’s the second, the respondents could have been influenced by push questions that cast Markey in a negative light while inferring positive information about Gomez.

Keeping the analysis consistent within PPP, the two polls are not particularly far apart as the gain for Markey is only a net three points from the survey taken the day after the primary election. In the meantime, Markey has been spending heavily on the media airwaves and Gomez is only beginning to counter. The Democrats are also harping over several tax transactions Gomez executed involving a historical property that he owns, creating some negative news stories for the Republican.

Considering these factors, and that all polling shows both candidates consistently scoring in the 40s, and understanding the turnout model will be different than in a general election, the Massachusetts special Senatorial campaign is turning into a very real race.

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