Yesterday was another busy one for statewide polling, including four new surveys in battleground states from the CNN/Time polling partnership, though the most intriguing new numbers come from Alaska, where two new polls show considerable support for the write-in candidacy of incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Both Alaska polls asked about a three-way race between Murkowksi, Republican nominee and Tea Party supporter Joe Miller and Democratic nominee Scott McAdams. A new CNN/Time poll finds a close race, with 38% for Miller, 36% for Murkowski, 22% for McAdams and only 2% undecided. A Craciun Research survey shows Murkowski leading Miller (41% to 30%) with 19% favoring McAdams and 10% undecided. An automated Rasmussen survey conducted last week gave MIller a fifteen-point advantage over Murkowski (42% to 27%).
The two new surveys both prompted respondents with the explicit option of voting for Murkowski. The CNN/Time poll asked respondents if they would vote for Democrat McAdams, Republican Miller "or would you write in the name of Lisa Murkowski, who is also running." The Craciun survey asked respondents if they would vote for Republican Miller, Democrat McAdams or "Lisa Murkowski, write in." The Rasmussen poll mentioned Murkowski only when reading the answer choices, making it more likely that some respondents chose Miller or McAdams before hearing Murkowski's name mentioned.
The challenge here, of course, is that Murkowski's name will not appear on the ballot and so voters will have no such prompt on election day. If Alaska's election were really held today, many voters would likely not know of Murkowski's write-in campaign, so her actual vote total would be lower than the support measured on these surveys.
However, a write-in campaign by a top-of-the-ticket candidate as prominent as Alaska's incumbent senator has little precedent, and under these circumstances, Murkowski's supporters are likely to hear all about the write-in options over the next four weeks. Writing in a name is not a terribly high barrier for voters who arrive at their polling place knowing their options, so the reliability of prompted, three-way vote survey questions should increase as election day nears.
The new polls also had some important differences. The CNN/Time poll had a large sample of likely voters (927) while the Craciun survey sampled only 300 registered voters (a larger portion of whom will not cast ballots this year).
Also, while some initial reports claimed the Craciun survey was sponsored by an interest group, company president Jean Craciun tells us that she paid for the survey herself, "something I do occasionally," adding that "I work for all sides and I am non-partisan." Still, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports this morning that Craciun Research "has ties to Democratic candidates," and a check of FundRace shows Craciun contributed to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008.
In other news polls released in the last 24 hours.
Two new California polls, from CNN/Time and the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) confirm the recent rebound for Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer but report somewhat conflicting results in the race for governor. The CNN/Time and PPIC surveys show Boxer leading Republican challenger Carly Fiorina by 9 and 7 percentage points respectively (though PPIC reports a much bigger undecided percentage). Our trend estimate, which also considers other polls from the second half of September, now puts Boxer ahead by 4.5 points (48.1% to 43.6%).
The CNN/Time poll on the governor's race gives Democrat Jerry Brown his biggest lead to date, nine points (52% to 43%) over Republican Meg Whitman. The PPIC survey, with a much larger undecided (18% vs. 2% for CNN) shows Whitman with a single-point edge (38% to 37%). Our trend estimate shows the race has closed to within a single percentage point (45.1% for Brown, 44.8% for Fiorina).
Two new surveys in Illinois out this week confirm that Democrat Alexi Giannoulias is locked in a tight contest with Republican Mark Kirk to fill the seat once held by President Barack Obama. A new poll from Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling (PPP) gives Kirk a four-point advantage (40% to 36%), while a new CNN/Time survey yesterday has Giannoulias up by a single percentage point (43% to 42%). Although our trend estimate gives Kirk a slight advantage (40.6% to 39.2%), reflecting his nominal leads on five of the seven polls fielded in September, the race remains very much a "toss-up."
Finally, the last 24 hours brings three new Florida Senate race polls from CNN/Time, Rasmussen and Quinnipiac University. All three show Republican Marco Rubio leading with just over 40%, independent Charlie Crist with between 30% and 33% and Democrat Kendrick Meek with between 18% and 23%. While our trend lines show the decline in Crist's support since the August primary, the surveys conducted in September show no real trend. If both Crist and Meek continue to maintain their current support, Marco Rubio has all the support he needs to win.