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The new Rasmussen poll and the Horner factor

The new Rasmussen poll and the Horner factor
By Eric Black

The most recent poll in the Minnesota guv race hasn’t gotten much attention. It was mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Glean. In case you missed it, it was a Rasmussen poll and it came out:

  • Dayton: 40
  • Emmer: 38
  • Horner: 15.

Compared to the two most recent polls by the Strib (Dayton ahead by 9) and the Humphrey Institute (Dayton by 11), it shows Emmer moving closer. But we are often warned against comparing across polling organizations with different methodologies.

Compared to the previous Rasmussen poll in Minnesota (Emmer up by 2), the new one shows Dayton moving ahead, but just barely and well within the margin for error. Still, the previous Rasmussen poll was the only public poll in the race since June that showed Emmer with any lead at all over Dayton. So the four organizations that are polling the race are all now in agreement about who is ahead. Not for attribution, Republican sources confirm that their internal polling shows Emmer trailing, although not by as much as the Strib and the Humphrey found. But this result has been steady for a long time and, with three weeks to Election Day, Repubs are plenty nervous.

Rasmussen’s sample of the Minnesota likely electorate (38 percent Repub; 37 percent Dem; 26 percent unaffiliated) is significantly better for the Repubs than the Strib or Humphrey Institute found.

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For Horner, the new Rasmussen poll, whether compared to the previous Rasmussen or to the other polls, shows movement in the wrong direction.  Because of the nature of third-party candidacy, Horner desperately needs to show upward movement to overcome the wasted vote syndrome.

With this poll, Rasmussen completes a controversy that began with his previous poll, which I wrote about at the time.  And it was resolved in a way that is a weird sort of backhanded compliment to Horner and the Minnesota Independence Party.

As I wrote in the previous Rasmussen post, the Rasmussen organization — which is controversial in many ways —  has an unusual polling technique in which voters who favor a candidate the first time they are asked are then pressed to say whether they are sure they will vote for that candidate. Those that say they aren’t sure are then given a chance to change their minds. (Bear in mind, this is all happening in a relative few minutes in an interaction between a potential voter and a robotic voice.) Over time, Rasmussen claims, this technique has been able to anticipate the likely late drop in support for third-party candidates as their more tepid supporters decide to vote for one of the top two candidates in the race.

In the previous poll, Rasmussen found that 18 percent of likely voters expressed a preference for Horner when first asked, but that his support dropped to 9 percent when voters were given a chance to change their minds. I’m skeptical of this unusual procedure, but Scott Rasmussen says it has worked in previous cycles and he has used in all polls after Labor Day.

With this poll, Rasmussen decided to make an exception for Minnesota. Horner has not been dropping like other third-party candidates and Rasmussen has decided to treat Minnesota differently.

As of this most recent poll, Rasmussen also found Horner drawing more support from self-described Dems than from Repubs, although most Horner voters come from the group that describes itself as affiliated with neither the Dems nor the Repubs.