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POLLSTER UPDATE: Is Mitch McConnell Losing Ground?

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MITCH MCCONNELL 2014
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 21, 2013, following the Republican policy luncheon. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) | AP

PPP poll for Democratic super PAC finds bad news for McConnell, but is there less change here than meets the eye? Another new poll reaffirms everyone’s conventional wisdom on Obamacare. And there's good news for "undecided" in the NYC mayor's race. This is the HuffPost Pollster update for Tuesday, May 28, 2013.

DEM POLL FINDS MCCONNELL, CHALLENGER, IN DEAD HEAT - A new survey of Kentucky voters conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) on behalf of the Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC backing Democratic candidates, finds Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes tied in a hypothetical contest with 45 percent each. PPP: " McConnell’s early positive advertising has done nothing to improve his prospects for reelection and in fact this is the actually the weakest position PPP has found him in yet. In April we found him leading Grimes by 4 points and in December he had a 7 point advantage over her.” [PPP]

Does message testing create a bias? - Via Twitter, Republican pollster Logan Dobson questions whether PPP's automated, interviewer-free methodology, combined with one-sided message testing, might create a bias: "PPP's Kentucky Survey features anti-McConnell message testing, which even though it occurs after the ballot test, biases the result...pro-McConnell respondents more likely to hang up during message tests and thus not be counted among those who completed the survey...If you say you'd vote for McConnell but hang up in frustration at anti-McConnell messaging, you don't get counted in final ballot test #...Because the survey results are only among those who FINISH the survey, not amongst those who made it to each individual question." Dobson adds later: "PPP's more recent KY survey has 7% more nonwhite voters, 4% fewer Republicans than last one. 4% movement on ballot is... unsurprising?" [@LoganDobson]

No it doesn't, says PPP's Jensen - Jensen responds via email: "We weight all of our polls that start off with a basic horse race question to make sure that the pool of people who finishes a survey is representative of the people who start it. That’s probably one of the reasons we were more accurate than other polling companies last year, because Romney supporters who started answering a poll completed them at a higher rate than Obama supporters did, but we accounted for that. Democrats have a 17 point registration advantage in Kentucky, and our sample was D+15, so very reasonable for a poll there." Jensen adds that the weighting he describes was by gender, race and age, but not by party affiliation.

And if you think that's confusing... - Keep in mind that PPP also claims to combine a post-survey random pruning of individual respondents "from demographics that are overrepresented" with "a mathematical weighting scheme that assigns a weight based on each demographic" in order "to achieve relatively accurate demographic breakdowns." And one more thing. They also changed their race question in Kentucky. In an April survey not sponsored by Senate Majority PAC, respondents were instructed, "if you are white, press 1. If other, press 2." The newer poll added a category: "if you are white, press 1. If African-American, press 2. If other, press 3." That change may explain why the combined non-white percentage grew from 8 percent in April to 15 percent in May, and how both could be considered "relatively accurate." [PPP: About Us, April Survey]

NO CHANGE IN OBAMACARE VIEWS - A new CNN/ORC International poll shows no significant change in views on the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"): "43% of the public says it supports the health care law, a figure that's mostly unchanged in CNN polling since the measure was passed in 2010 by a Congress then controlled by Democrats and signed into law by President Barack Obama. Fifty-four percent of those questioned say they oppose the law, also relatively unchanged since 2010. The survey indicates that 35% oppose the health care law because it's too liberal, with 16% saying they oppose the measure because it isn't liberal enough." [CNN]

'Ignore those polls!' - Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein cautions liberals and conservatives about misreading these results: "Conservatives convinced by this poll’s headline number that everyone hates Obamacare are wrong; so are liberals convinced that everyone really loves it are wrong, too. What’s far more likely is that most people simply don’t have strong views of a law that they know little about and that has all sorts of components...In the long run, what will really matter is whether the various programs included in the ACA actually work. If they do, they’ll be impossible to repeal (although fights over, for example, subsidy levels will become standard political fights). If implementation goes badly — if the exchanges are impossible to navigate, or large employers really do suddenly stop offering health insurance as a benefit — then new changes won’t take long. Either way, it won’t really matter what people thought they were going to get in the many long months before the law was fully implemented." [WaPost]

WEINER GAINING IN NYC MAYORAL RACE SINCE HIS ANNOUNCEMENT - Marist: “Former Congressman Anthony Weiner formally declared his candidacy for mayor of New York City last week. In the first poll since his online video announcement, Weiner places second with the support of 19% of the city’s registered Democrats. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn still leads but with only 24% of Democrats’ support, the lowest she has had in this race.” The new survey also finds considerable evidence of a wide open primary: Candidates Bill de Blasio, Bill Thompson, John Liu run not far behind with 12, 11 and 8 percent respectively. Nearly one-in-four voters (24 percent) are totally undecided and another 19 percent say they have a choice but might vote differently on Election Day. Marist]

But Weiner trails in hypothetical runoff match-ups - New York will hold a runoff election if the winner of the primary receives less than 40 percent of the total vote. The Marist poll finds Quinn leading hypothetical runoffs against Weiner (48 to 33 percent), de Blasio (48 to 30 percent), Liu (53 to 25 percent) and Thompson (44 to 34 percent). [ibid]

TUESDAY’S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to more news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

--36 percent of Americans are very concerned about the situation in Syria. [CNN]

-Scott Clement charts the IRS’ drop in approval. [WaPost]

-Charles Franklin sees no movement in Obama approval post-Benghazi hearing. [@PollsAndVotes]

-Micah Cohen examines governor popularity ratings and their implications for 2016. [NYTimes]

-Sean Trende jumps into the Douthat-Cohn debate over the correlates of suicide to make a point about multiple regression. [RealClearPolitics]

-Donald Trump has already spent more than $1 million on electoral research for a potential presidential run in 2016. [NYPost]

-Silicon Valley Republicans question Liberty Works, the proposed "iPhone-like" GOP data platform. [Politico]

-Craig Gilbert explains how partisanship colors views of the economy for Wisconsin voters. [journal Sentinel]

-Stephanie Coontz decries the average. [NYTimes]

-Sam Wang and Sean Trende wish Coontz had mentioned the median. [@SamWangPhD, @SeanTrende]

-The New York Times editorial board defends the Census and the ACS. [NYTimes]

-New York Times data visualization compares effective corporate tax rates by company size and industry. [NYTimes]

-Parents still value printed books for their kids. [Pew Research]

-Unskewed Polls guy insists he was right and the vote was skewed. [Examiner]