Senate race: Two polls, different results, many cautions

So you probably heard by now, Jesse (The Ego) Ventura is not running for the Senate (although, given the number of times he told poor, confused Larry King that he could still change his mind if he hears from God before the filing deadline [but he won’t because he’s not religious enough], I wouldn’t close the book on it till 5 p.m.). (And by the way, happy 57th birthday to the former governor.)

But assuming no divine intervention, two polls released Monday gave very different portrayals of where the race stands if it’s just Norm Coleman vs. Al Franken.

SurveyUSA has Coleman leading 52-39 percent. Rasmussen Reports has it Franken 44, Coleman 42.

In other words, based on these two data points, no one knows anything. There’s reason to be cautious about both polls.

Rasmussen completed its poll Thursday with 500 likely voters. SUSA reached 641 registered voters Friday-Sunday.  Both companies use robotic interviews. The last poll to use human-to-human interviews (Quinnipiac University for the Washington Post) had it Coleman 51, Franken 41 three weeks ago.

In both polls, Coleman does better among Democrats than Franken does among Republicans, which has been a consistent problem for Franken. But Rasmussen, which doesn’t release full cross-tabs to non-members like me, suggests that Coleman’s share of Democrats has declined from 20 to 10 percent and that this may be the factor that cost him the lead he held a month ago.

Little change
SUSA has shown little change since its previous poll on the race a month earlier. The most suspicious thing to me about SUSA’s current poll is that the Minnesota sample consisted of 33 percent Democrats and 32 percent Republicans.  Most polls (including the previous SUSA poll in Minnesota) find that Democrats outnumber Republicans by 10-plus percentage points. The poll scholars on whom I rely for guidance tend to have a higher general opinion of SUSA than Rasmussen (and not too high an opinion of any robo-dialers). But if you’re looking for a reason to disbelieve this one, with its large and sturdy Coleman lead, the partisan makeup of the sample is suspicious.

Still, within the partisan, ideological and demographic categories, there plenty of trouble spots for Franken in the SUSA poll. Coleman leads among both genders, all age groups and all regions of the state. Coleman carries Repubs by 94-6, compared with Franken’s 77-15 among Dems (with 8 percent of Dems undecided). Coleman carries self-identified independents by 45-39 percent and “moderates” by a narrow 48-44 percent. Coleman also does better among conservatives (84 percent) than Franken does among liberals (79).

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Jason Walker on 07/15/2008 - 11:31 am.

    For a couple of reasons, I think these polls are completely skewed. For one, if pollsters call land lines, that’s shutting out a huge segment of the population – young people – who likely only have cell phones. I am 28 and haven’t had a land line since 1999. If they’re only talking to older-leaning voters, then there’s a good chance the poll will lean Republican. And if the pollsters do call cell phones as well, does anyone pick up? If I get an incoming call of a strange number, I don’t answer.
    Second, who listens to a robotic voice? I’m guessing the people here are even older. If I hear a robotic voice on an incoming call, I’m hanging up. Won’t only the old and lonely listen long enough to vote? I know that’s an extremely broad generalization, but I just put little stock in phone polls in the cell-phone era.

  2. Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 07/15/2008 - 02:36 pm.

    There is a wonderful bit of video from Norm’s last campaign that is included in the documentary Wellstone, by Hard Working Pictures. In it Norm stands with his arm around George Bush and says “When we sing ‘God Bless America’ that’s a prayer and this man is the answer to our prayers.”
    I haven’t been impressed with Franken’s ads or speeches but his campaign organization is turning our a lot of people to canvass at summer events. It shouldn’t be hard to exceed the Norm if people pay attention to his lack of principles and opportunism.

Leave a Reply