Interesting details from the Humphrey/MPR poll

Teammate David Brauer did a fine job early this a.m. of passing along the results of the surprising new Humphrey Institute/MPR MN guv race poll, which was very good for Mark Dayton, bad for Tom Emmer and no help to Tom Horner.

My fellow political obsessives may want to read the full report by Larry Jacobs of the Humphrey’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. This link will get you close, but then you have to click for the report of the 9/29 poll, which brings up a Word document. For those who aren’t that motivated, I’ll mention a few of Jacobs’ takeaways below.

Another useful tool, if you don’t know about it: In digesting a new poll, it’s best to consider it in the context of other recent polls, including previous polls by the same organization, which helps screen out methodological differences. Pollster.com and Real Clear Politics both do a fine job of aggregating public polls, race by race. For MN Guv, the Pollster list is here and the RCP is here. Both sites also publish an average of recent polls, which makes me nervous but feel free.

So, invoking my usual recommendation that all polls be consumed with salt, in his long writeup, Jacobs’ three big analysis points were:

  • “Minnesota voters have awoken from their summer slumber. More than 8 out of 10 Minnesotans are interested in the November elections, a substantial increase that is being propelled by the energizing of formerly turned-off Democrats.
  • Horner is crippling Emmer’s campaign, soaking up one-fifth of Republican voters while taking only half as much from Dayton.
  • Dayton is tapping voter frustration and appears better positioned among voters who have not yet declared their support for a candidate.”

Point one is code for “DFLers have awoken.” The previous HHH survey, like many around the country, found that Republicans were much more fired up about the election and therefore gave the kind of poll answers that cause them to score high on the likely voter screen. (Braublog explained how the screen works.) According to Jacobs, since late August when he conducted his previous poll, “Minnesotans who express a great deal or fair amount of interest in the November elections has jumped from 47% to 82%.” The big surge washed away a nine-point enthusiasm edge that Repubs had enjoyed in the previous poll.

Point two is this. Horner gets support from 21 percent of those who consider themselves Republicans but just 10 percent of DFLers. As Doug Grow noted yesterday, DFLers are pounding hard on the theme that Horner is really a Republican. Repubs have tried to argue that Horner is really a liberal and they will probably try harder. On the other hand, following up on my own recent post about the “wasted vote” “strategic voter” theme, this point two finding also means that if Horner’s support declines at the end, which often happens to third-party candidates, it may help Emmer more than Dayton.

Jacobs’ last bullet point, on frustrated voters, is counterintuitive considering all the benefit Repubs across the country are supposedly getting from angry voters. And the numbers in this poll didn’t convince me that Dayton is benefitting much from frustration. For example, Dayton beats Emmer 40-27 among voters who said that Minnesota is on the wrong track. But he also beats Emmer 37-25 among voters who think Minnesota is on the right track. I don’t see the big difference. Perhaps it would be easier to support — and just as surprising — to say that unlike Repubs around the country, Emmer does not seem to be benefitting from voters’ frustration.

The last analysis point, which didn’t make it into Jacobs’ three bullets but strikes me as pretty big, is this:

“Among the 18% of likely voters who are undecided, they are predominantly Democrats (51%) rather than being Republican (25%) or independent (24%).”

The fact that so many Democrats still haven’t decided for Dayton is no compliment to the guy. But since those undecideds are Dems, they are likely torn between Dayton and Horner. It’s hard to see Emmer getting very many of them.

In addition, the undecided voters appear a bit more positively predisposed toward Dayton. Twice as many describe Dayton’s political views as about right compared to Emmer’s. Twenty-two percent also describe Horner’s views as about right. Dayton is also more favorably evaluated for the candidate traits of temperament and caring and is similarly situated as Emmer with regard to strength.

The polls asked several questions about the candidates’ views and personal attributes. Jacobs cross-tabbed those answers with the undecideds and found that they are more favorably disposed toward Dayton than Emmer. For example, more of the undecideds described Dayton as someone who “care about people like me” and even has the “right temperament” for the job.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Brian Simon on 09/29/2010 - 12:52 pm.

    Nice analysis.

    My reaction is mostly that this is what I expected to see, with the exception of Emmer taking less than 30%. That is a big surprise. Of secondary surprise is the party makeup of undecided voters. I expect DFLers / DFL-leaners to hold their noses for Dayton. That will be worth watching in other polls & the next version of this one.

  2. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/29/2010 - 03:38 pm.

    Emmer = toast

    (Other Tom’s too…)

  3. Submitted by Roy Everson on 09/30/2010 - 02:14 am.

    I don’t see how people identify themselves as DFL, live in a state that has not elected a Dem since 1986, and be undecided this late on whether to elect the DFL nominee over 2 Republicans. Doesn’t add up. Reminds me of that outdated term “Reagan Democrat,” that anyone considered “pro-Reagan” nearly 30 years later would still identify as a Democrat.

  4. Submitted by myles spicer on 09/30/2010 - 11:26 am.

    Possibly ALL the polls this year — national and local — are more volitile and fluid than other years. Perhaps the public is extremely conflicted as to what they REALLY want. they may be dissatisfied with the status quo, but not really happy with the alternatives. Emmer’s conservative credentials are not playing well after the results we are experienceing from the Pawlenty years. Curiously, his last ad is an attempt to preempt the education issue from the Dems, which is incredibly disengenuous. Could be an interesting election nationally; and I suspect the predicted demise of the Democratic congressional majorities may be premature.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/30/2010 - 02:50 pm.

    I must concede that Emmer is not as cynical as I thought. I was sure that he’d move to the center after he gained the nomination, but he’s still preaching mainly to the choir (his base, which is well to the right.)

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