Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ted Cites Pseudo-Internal Poll Showing Big 3-Way Lead

Well, we may or may not have some fresh insight into the state of the goobernor's race, but we know that the AFL-CIO gave their endorsement to Ted Kulongoski this week only after putting a finger into the wind, and a poll into the field:
Kulongoski is well ahead of his opponents, posting a 17-percentage point lead over Saxton (42% to 25%). Westlund receives just 5% of the vote and Starrett, Morley and
Keating earn 4% combined. To sum up, Kulongoski is well-liked by a substantial number of Oregon voters, while Saxton struggles to simply garner a net favorable rating from the electorate. Kulongoski has been able to convert his popularity into a strong double-digit lead that will be very hard for his opponents to overcome. And Westlund has a very big hill to climb. Given these results, it appears that Kulongoski is very well-placed to win reelection to the Governor’s office. sayeth Lisa Grove of Grove Insights, a generally Democrat-friendly place. This isn't an internal poll per se, but it's not exactly an independent observance, either.

A couple things to note:

  • I'm in contact with the campaign to get some of these data, but as of yet there's no information on who was polled (were all Oregonians equally likely to be selected, and how did they determine likely voters) and whether results were adjusted to more closely resemble the geopolitical realities of the electorate. That makes validity hard to judge.

  • Note that, despite only 34% of the respondents chose someone else, Kulo is still pulling only 42%, well below the typical 50% safety threshhold for an incumbent. True, he's running against four other candidates, and in a 3-way race between majors, 40% could well make the nut for the winner. But given the fact that all three "outsider" candidates garner less than 10% of the vote, it's hard to give Ted credit for a 3-way outcome. In other words, even this wildly favorable-looking poll echoes what others have found: there are a lot of people still unsure about Ted.

  • Relatedly, note that the figures cited reflect what are called "leaners" in the business--that is, the interviewer presses people who say they don't know, and asks them to say who they're leaning to at the moment. Obviously these folks are a candidates weakest supporters. Further, the question distinguishes between strong and weak support, but the results combine the two. For all we know, Ted has 10% strong support and 30% weak support, meaning his numbers are soft.

  • Still further along those lines, even after accounting for leaners, almost 1/4 of the respondents still have no idea who they're going to vote for. Usually adding in leaners takes the true undecided vote way down; it'd be nice to see what the original "don't know" total was. And for an incumbent, the more sizeable and entrenched the body of uncommitteds is, the worse the news. The candidates' approval ratings are similarly bunched, leaving us in the dark as to the depths of their support.

  • Still--and this assumes a random sample as described above--Kulo indeed appears to be in a favorable position. For a major party candidate like Saxton to be hovering at the 25% mark is disastrous news for their camp, especially given the fact that he's not bleeding points to Westlund or Starrett. And let's note that, contrary to the accepted media wisdom to date, Ted's not bleeding much of anything to Ben at all. Ben could certainly gain on those totals, but they're going to come out of the undecided pool, and not Ted's base. And what's really bad for Ben about that is that even if this poll's respondents are heavily slanted toward Democrats, those are voters Westlund is hoping to poach in great enough numbers--and so far it's not happening.

I'll update this story once I get more information on polling methodology. Ted's not wasting any time touting the poll, and why not--it's easily his best review of the still-young general campaign. Brace yourself for a string of "17 point lead" platitudes from the campaign until the next survey comes out, with Ted's people trying to convince the electorate that voters who oppose him are wasting their time. That's why I'm wary of this poll--it seems a little too conveniently timed. But on the face of it, it's the best news he's had all year.