08/27/2014 06:15 pm ET Updated Aug 27, 2014

HUFFPOLLSTER: Polls Show Close Races In Iowa, Wisconsin


Two new polls confirm highly competitive races for governor in Wisconsin and U.S. Senate in Iowa. Republicans say they are paying more attention to the midterms than Democrats. And not everyone is downbeat on the polling industry's future. This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, August 27, 2014.

WISCONSIN GUBERNATORIAL RACE REMAINS CLOSE - HuffPollster: "A new poll from Marquette Law School finds Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) narrowly trailing his Democratic opponent, Mary Burke. Forty-nine percent of individuals considered likely to vote in November said they would support Burke, compared to 47 percent who plan to vote for Walker. These results are virtually unchanged from the results of Marquette Law School's July poll, when Burke led Walker among likely voters by a margin of 47 percent to 46 percent. Burke's name recognition has gone up markedly since July, when 49 percent of respondents said they had no opinion of her. In the new poll, only 35 percent said they have no opinion of Burke. Another 33 percent of respondents said they have a favorable opinion of her, while 32 percent said they have an unfavorable opinion. Opinions of Walker are divided, with 48 percent expressing a positive opinion of him and another 48 percent expressing a negative opinion." [HuffPost]

The Democrat does better among likely voters? The Marquette poll gave Republican Walker a slight edge among all registered voters (48 to 44 percent), but Burke an even smaller advantage among those who say they are certain to vote (49 to 47 percent). The modest shift in the Democrat's direction as the sample narrowed to "likely voters" raised eyebrows among poll watchers, since the usual pattern is in the opposite direction. HuffPollster offers two reasons to be cautious about making too much of that difference: First, all but 25 percent of the registered voters interviewed say they are "absolutely certain" to vote. Second, while Democrats were more likely to express such certainty (82 percent) in this survey than Republicans (68 percent), the difference does not appear to be statistically significant. [Marquette]

Either way, it's close - "The main message should be this is a very tight race and no one can credibly claim to be ahead over the past three months," Marquette University Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin tells HuffPollster via email. "But among those RVs who are NOT 'Certain to vote' 61% are Don’t Know on Mary Burke Fav/unfav. They give Walker a 50-31 vote advantage even though they give him just a 47% approve, same as among LVs. So lack of knowledge of Burke among the 'less-likely' voters is surely playing an important part." [Further discussion on the Marquette blog]

IOWA SENATE RACE DEADLOCKED - Susan Page: "The Senate race in Iowa, one of a handful likely to determine whether Republicans can seize unified control of Congress in November, is deadlocked. Literally. A USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll of 500 likely Iowa voters, taken Saturday through Tuesday, finds 201 [respondents] supporting Democrat Bruce Braley and 200 supporting Republican Joni Ernst in a contest in which Democrats initially were favored. Ernst has made it a too-close-to-call race thanks in part to a sly TV ad about her skill in castrating pigs and some Braley verbal gaffes. The statewide politics in the middle of the country has been nationalized: One in four say their congressional ballot is intended as a vote against President Obama, and one in four say it is a vote for him. Six in 10 say the question of which party will control Congress is a factor in how they will cast their ballot." [USA Today]

POLL FINDS GREATER GOP ATTENTION TO MIDTERMS - Jeffrey M. Jones: "One in three Americans (33%) say they have given 'quite a lot' or 'some' thought to the 2014 midterm election, up from 26% in April. Importantly, Republicans (42%) are much more engaged than Democrats (27%) in the election at this point….The question about the thought Americans are giving to the election is one that Gallup uses to identify those Americans most inclined to vote in a coming election. Consistent with their usually higher voter turnout, typically more Republicans than Democrats say they have given thought to the election….Overall, the changes in the election thought gap by party in the final months before previous elections suggest that the gap in late summer or early fall is by no means what will be in place on Election Day. If there is no significant narrowing of the Republican-Democratic thought gap between now and Election Day, the Republican advantage in turnout could surpass that on Election Day 2010. One difference, though, is that registered voters were more likely to say they were going to vote for Republican candidates in 2010 than they are now." [Gallup]
Previously: Pew Research found Republicans more optimistic than Democrats about their chances this year. [HuffPost]

IN DEFENSE OF NATIONAL POLLING - Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement: "Fivethirtyeight founder Nate Silver posed a provocative question on Monday: Is the polling industry in stasis or in crisis? In a nutshell, Silver argues that polls today are largely accurate in general elections, but that 'dismal' response rates are making polls increasingly reliant on demographic adjustments to make samples representative….Over the period from 1998 and 2012 -- as poll response rates have declined dramatically and many non-standard methodologies such as automated and Internet-sampled surveys have sprung up -- poll election accuracy has not declined. Analyses by the National Council on Public Polls -- a consortium of national pollsters -- have also found that most final pre-election polls from 2000 to 2012 have been quite accurate, historically speaking….So, yes, the polling industry is in a time of change. But, there's more reason for optimism than you might think….What's often ignored amid the response rate panic is that lower participation rates have generally proven to be poor predictors of survey errors in random sample polls….Far from 'stasis,' major polling innovations on how to properly include cellular phones in the past decade has helped such surveys maintain accuracy. This is good news for election watchers, and one that helps explain the paradox of declining response rates but stable election poll accuracy." [WashPost]

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

-Gallup releases state-by-state data on key political, economic and cultural metrics. [Gallup]

-Americans are more worried about ISIS than al Qaeda. [YouGov]

-Sixty-eight percent of New Yorkers say there is no excuse for New York police killing Eric Garner. [Quinnipiac]

-SurveyUSA finds Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) trailing Paul Davis (D) by 8 points, while a new Brownback internal finds him ahead by just 1 point. [SurveyUSA, Kansas City Star]

-Gallup finds self-identified Democrats and Republicans are almost even in number in North Carolina. [Gallup]

-Derek Willis finds Obamacare is getting significantly less political attention this year. [NY Times]

-Glen Bolger (R) says voters want to see aggressive action on the economy. [WSJ]

-Landmark Communications President Mark Rountree defends their recent poll of Georgia. [Facebook]

-Annie Petit reports on what people who participate in marketing research surveys say they like about taking surveys. [LinkedIn]

-Online polling company CivicScience explains why we should care a lot about online polling. [CivicScience]