05/19/2014 05:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

HUFFPOLLSTER: Polls Show McConnell Headed For A Primary Win


Mitch McConnell holds a wide lead over a Republican challenger on the eve of the Kentucky primary. Another poll shows a challenging political environment for Democrats in the most contested U.S. House districts. And experience matters in presidential elections, except when it doesn't. This is HuffPollster for Monday, May 19, 2014.

MCCONNELL LEADS BY WIDE MARGIN IN KENTUCKY... - Polling on the Kentucky Republican primary contest shows incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell leading challenger Matt Bevin by consistently huge, double-digit margins. A final Courier-Journal/SurveyUSA poll released over the weekend gave McConnell a 20 percentage point (55 to 35 percent) lead over Bevin. [Courier-Journal, SurveyUSA]

...but one KY poll is not like the others... - Automated polls conducted by Gravis Marketing and sponsored by the conservative web site Human Events have consistently shown a closer margin. Their most recent survey, conducted on May 12, puts McConnell ahead by 14 points (48 to 34 percent), still a big lead but the only one of 13 public polls on the race to give McConnell less than 50 percent of the vote. The Bevin campaign characterized those results as showing their candidate "within reach" of McConnell. [MattBevin.com, @AlexPappas, Pollster chart]

...because it failed to screen for Republicans - According to Gravis Research Managing Partner Doug Kaplan, his firm called and interviewed 629 voters sampled from official voter lists with a history of voting in Republican primaries but did not ask respondents "how likely they are to vote" in the Republican primary. Also, while the GOP primary in Kentucky is limited to Republican registrants, unlike SurveyUSA, Gravis did not screen for Republicans. Just over half of their completed interviews were with self-identified Democrats (33 percent) and independents (17 percent) in a primary limited to Republican registrants. Not surprisingly, McConnell's lead among Republicans is much wider (60 to 25 percent) than his 14-point margin among all respondents. Without the Gravis polls included, the Pollster chart would put McConnell ahead by 26 percentage points (56.8 to 31.2 percent) [h/t @phillipmbailey, Pollster chart without Gravis polls]]

MORE ON KENTUCKY AND TUESDAY'S OTHER PRIMARIES - Amanda Terkel and Samantha Lachman: "Tuesday marks a big day for primary elections around the country, with races testing the tea party's strength, the power of the Clintons and whether a politically incorrect biker can make inroads in a gubernatorial contest. Six states have elections in what's being dubbed a mini-Super Tuesday: Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon and Pennsylvania. The Senate races with the potential for the biggest surprises are Georgia and Kentucky, where Republicans will be choosing between tea party candidates and ones with stronger backing from the establishment. Democrats are particularly divided in Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District, with the four primary candidates trying to tout their progressive credentials." [HuffPost]

MORE ON GALLUP'S EFFORT TO FIX LIKELY VOTER MODEL - Steven Shepard: "Eighteen months after the Gallup Organization incorrectly showed Mitt Romney leading President Barack Obama on the eve of the 2012 presidential election, the legendary but embattled polling firm unveiled additional research aimed at fine-tuning their methodology before the 2016 campaign….Gallup’s likely-voter model is largely based on self-reporting. Respondents tell interviewers whether they are registered to vote, whether they have voted in past elections, whether they intend to vote this year and how interested they are in the election. To that end, Gallup and researchers at Michigan designed two experiments to reduce the degree of over-reporting – people saying they voted in the past when they haven’t, for example. By asking questions aimed at source monitoring – prompting New Jersey and Virginia voters to think about specific details about whether they had voted in the last gubernatorial election in 2009 – researchers found that reduced the number of voters who said they had cast ballots by between five and seven percentage points. Similarly, prompting voters to think about things that might prevent them from voting, such as an illness on Election Day, reduced the percentage who said they intended to vote immediately prior to the 2013 election….[Frank] Newport, Gallup’s editor-in-chief, demurred when asked if the firm had specific plans to commission further research in preparation for 2016."

POLL OF CONTESTED DISTRICTS SPELLS TROUBLE FOR DEMS - Alexander Burns: "President Barack Obama’s job approval slump and voters’ entrenched wariness of his health care law are dogging Democrats ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, and Republicans have captured a lead in the areas home to the year’s most competitive races, according to a new POLITICO poll. In the congressional districts and states where the 2014 elections will actually be decided, likely voters said they would prefer to vote for a Republican over a Democrat by 7 points, 41 percent to 34 percent. A quarter of voters said they were unsure of their preference. Among these critical voters, Obama’s job approval is a perilous 40 percent, and nearly half say they favor outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act….The poll reveals that voters — even in the more conservative midterm states like Georgia and Arkansas, and tossup House districts in states such as Illinois, West Virginia and California — still lean in a liberal direction on several issues Democrats have championed this year, including immigration reform, pay equity for men and women and background checks for gun purchasers. But none of those issues comes close to approaching health care as a major concern for midterm voters." [Politico]

WASHINGTON EXPERIENCE NOT A 2016 ADVANTAGE - Pew Research: "As the 2016 presidential campaign begins to take shape, Washington experience has become less of a potential asset for those seeking the White House. A new national survey testing candidate traits finds that 30% would be less likely to support a candidate with 'many years' of experience as an elected official in Washington, while 19% would be more likely to support such a candidate. About half (48%) say it would not matter if a candidate had long Washington experience. By contrast, early in the 2008 presidential campaign, more than twice as many saw lengthy Washington experience as a positive than negative trait for a presidential candidate (35% more likely vs. 15% less likely)." [Pew]

But does it matter? - Jonathan Bernstein: "I can guarantee that if Democrats wind up nominating Hillary Clinton in 2016, half the country will suddenly say that service as secretary of state is the best preparation for the presidency. If Republicans nominate Marco Rubio, the other half of the country is going to claim that time in the state legislature followed by a short stint in the U.S. Senate is the best grooming for the Oval Office -- never mind that it will be the polar opposite half of the nation from those who expressed that belief in 2008, when Barack Obama was the Democratic candidate. At this point of the presidential cycle, it’s possible this kind of question might yield a bit of insight, even if it's just about the default answer people give. But it’s unlikely that those answers reflect deeply held beliefs, and it's even less likely that the answers will have any predictive value for nomination politics. And it's utterly implausible that such findings will tell us anything about the general election." [Bloomberg]

POLLSTER BILL MCINTURFF (R) CLARIFIES ACA REMARKS - Friday's HuffPollster included an excerpt of a New York Times/Upshot item that quoted Republican pollster Bill McInturff saying that after the primary elections, he would "expect a shift in Republican candidates’ rhetoric against Obamacare." McInturff wrote HuffPollster to clarify his remarks, saying in an email, "Republican candidates will continue to support the repeal of Obama care, but I do think the way this is expressed in the general election could sound different than the way it sounds today in the primaries. For example, I expect there to be more precise examples of what Republicans want to repeal. I also expect there'll be more first-person testimonials from those hurt by the law."

More from the AAPOR Conference -

-Republican consultant Patrick Ruffini compiles what he could glean from Twitter from the AAPOR conference. [Storify]

-Market Research blogger Annie Pettit (aka @LoveStats) posted thoughts on what she liked and hated about the AAPOR conference. [LoveStats love, hate]

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MONDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Muhlenberg College's final Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary poll gives Tom Wolf a 23-point lead over his nearest rival. [Morning Call]

-Dan Balz and Phillip Rucker sit down with a focus group of Iowa activists. [WashPost]

-Asian-Americans have shifted more toward the Democrats than any other racial or ethnic group. [NYT]

-Americans are more likely to say they attend religious services when they're talking to an interviewer rather than taking an online survey. [PRRI]

-One Indian polling firm, Today’s Chanakya, called the election correctly. [NYT]