08/07/2014 05:55 pm ET

HUFFPOLLSTER: Reviewing The Tennessee Senate Primary Polls


It's Tennessee voters' turn at the ballot box. Yet another poll finds less-than-glowing ratings for the political establishment. And while Americans largely support legal pot, they'd rather not see people smoking on the sidewalk. This is HuffPollster for Thursday, August 7, 2014.

TENNESSEE GOES TO THE POLLS - AP: "The U.S. Senate primary has brought some of the sharpest duels. Tea party-backed candidate Joe Carr is seeking to upset Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, who appears to have a clear edge but certainly cannot ignore the unexpected tea party gains in other states. In the state's 4th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Scott DesJarlais is seeking to fend off a strong GOP primary challenge after a series of sex scandals….Early voting brought out record numbers. More than 550,000 ballots were cast from July 18 through Aug. 2. The Tennessee Secretary of State's office says that is a new high for the state." [AP]

Little independent polling - While 10 surveys have been released on the Tennessee Senate Republican primary, just one -- from the Middle Tennessee State University -- was conducted by a non-partisan outlet...and that was back in January. Since then, internal polls for Alexander have shown him with a significant, if declining lead: 45 points ahead in February, 42 points in May, and 29 to 32 points July. Automated phone surveys, conducted for a group backing Carr, gave Alexander smaller leads of 24 points in May, and 7 points in July, while an automated survey for a conservative blog found Alexander up 12 points at the end of July. To the extent that the polling provides any takeaway, it's that Alexander remains the favorite, but likely with a narrower lead than at the beginning of the year. [HuffPollster chart]

More on the Tennessee primaries:

-Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann say Tennessee is the tea party's last shot for a Senate primary challenge. [NBC]

-Jessica Taylor is watching how Reps. Scott DesJarlais and Chuck Fleischmann fare. [The Hill]

-Alan Blinder looks at conservatives' push to win state judicial races. [NYT]

-Nicholas P. Fandos finds little explanation for why the state votes on a Thursday. [Politico]

AMERICANS CONTINUE TO DISLIKE PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE IN WASHINGTON - Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus: "Americans' views of both political parties are negative and nearly match historic lows, a new CBS News poll reveals. Just 29 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Republican Party, down four points from May and just one point above the lowest favorability rating for that party recorded in this poll (in June, 2009). While more - 41 percent - have a positive impression of the Democratic Party, this percentage is also just one point above the all-time low for the Democratic Party, reached in November 1994….If the election were held today, the results would look much as they did in June, with Democrats holding a slight edge (41-37 percent). But among those who are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, Republicans have a lead (47-40 percent)." [CBS]

AMERICANS SUPPORT LEGALIZED MARIJUANA, BUT NOT SMOKING IT IN PUBLIC - Emily Swanson: "Americans are largely in support of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows. But the poll shows Americans are even more likely to support legalizing marijuana use by individuals in their own homes, while few want it to be legal to light up in public. According to the new poll, 49 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legalized, while 38 percent said it should not be. Even more -- 55 percent -- said they would support their state 'passing a law making recreational marijuana use legal but taxing marijuana sales, limiting the sale of marijuana only to people 21 years old or older, and making it illegal to take marijuana out of state,' similar to the laws that have been passed in Colorado and Washington….But even among those who are generally supportive of legal weed, there are limits. Only 15 percent of respondents said it should be legal to smoke marijuana on a public sidewalk, while 18 percent said it should be legal to light up in a public park. Twenty-five percent said they supported legal marijuana consumption in bars." [HuffPost]

CHRISTIE'S IMAGE HAS YET TO RECOVER IN NEW JERSEY - HuffPollster: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) continues to struggle with his image in the state months after it was revealed that his aides intentionally created traffic gridlock near the George Washington Bridge to punish a mayor who had not supported Christie's re-election, a new Quinnipiac poll finds. Forty-nine percent of New Jersey voters said they approve of the job Christie is doing as governor, while 47 percent disapprove. Respondents were split along party lines, with 86 percent of Republicans approving of Christie's job performance, compared with 47 percent of independents and only 23 percent of Democrats. Christie's favorability rating is even, with 47 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of him and another 47 percent saying they have an unfavorable opinion. In November, 64 percent of respondents expressed a favorable opinion of Christie, and only 29 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion." [HuffPost]

Another poll gives him slightly better ratings - Rutgers-Eagleton: "Christie’s favorability ratings have climbed slightly since Bridgegate broke, but remain steady over the past few months. Eighty percent of Republicans and 52 percent of independents view the governor favorably, but Christie continues to be viewed negatively by more than half of Democrats. Half of men and women have a positive view of the governor. Minorities and millennial voters are more likely than most to have unfavorable impressions of Christie, while their counterparts are more likely to
have favorable ones." [Rutgers]

SLAVERY SEEN AS BIGGEST MORAL MISTAKE IN AMERICAN HISTORY - From the results of a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll on ethics: "Thirty-eight percent of Americans think that slavery was the biggest ethical misjudgment in American history. Twenty percent said it was the treatment of Native Americans followed by the Vietnam War 13 percent, the Iraq War 11 percent, and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seven percent. There have been a lot of questionable actions and policies in America's history that are hard to defend. But even when they are considered through the prism of time in eras with different moral codes, our treatment of Native Americans and African Americans is indefensible to the majority of Americans." [60 Minutes/Vanity Fair]

The ethics of Santa? - Andrew Prokrop: "This summer, 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair conducted a poll purporting to measure Americans' ethical views. But the poll asked some rather strange questions, and offered some offbeat possible responses for people to choose from — leading to some amusing results…Unsurprisingly, Santa Claus tops the list of what Americans lie to children about. But things quickly start to get dark as 'Why mommy and daddy aren't talking' comes in a strong second with 20 percent, and heavy topics like 'death' and 'God' bring up the rear." [Vox]

IS ALASKA REALLY THAT HARD TO POLL? Josh Katz - "Alaska is notorious for being difficult to poll. It’s a common refrain, common enough that you could be forgiven for not stopping to wonder why. But it’s not entirely clear why the state should pose such difficulties. Sure, it’s a large state — larger than the 22 smallest states combined, with many communities accessible only by boat or plane. But in permanent settlements, telephone service has been ubiquitous for decades. If pollsters supplement their surveys with online panels, Internet penetration in the state is actually above average….To try to get a sense of how pollsters have fared against these challenges, I decided to look at polls from Senate races since 1992 in which at least three pollsters released a poll within three weeks of Election Day….Alaska comes in as the fifth-most error-prone state, ranking behind states like Maine, New York and Maryland. While the state does indeed rank on the higher end of the scale, you rarely read of the inherent risks and error-prone nature of polling in New York." [NYT]

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

-SurveyUSA finds Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) leading by a wide margin in the Oregon Senate race [SurveyUSA]

-Rasmussen gives Thom Tillis (R) a 5-point lead over incumbent Kay Hagan (D). [Rasmussen]

-Kyle Kondik analyzes Republicans' chances of winning 245 seats in the House. [Sabato's Crystal Ball]

-Janet Harris looks at the data on redheads. [HuffPost]