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Ellison’s Election Tip Sheet: Battleground Polls

The latest polls from three ‘toss up’ races

Ellison Barber election tip sheet
• September 26, 2014 12:00 pm

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SENATE: ALASKA

There are two new polls out of Alaska this week, and Republicans have the lead in both of them.

Any poll that places a candidate ahead is going to be seen as a positive by their supporters, but polls aren’t always right so it’s never wise to hold a single poll in high esteem. However, it obviously matters when multiple polls suggest a lead.

What makes these two particularly significant is that they’re results from well respected polling firms (Rasmussen Reports and Public Policy Polling), they were released and conducted around the same times, and they both found Republican Dan Sullivan ahead.

Rasmussen, places Sullivan five points ahead of incumbent Sen. Mark Begich (D.), and PPP has Sullivan ahead by two.

Rasmussen:

The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Alaska Voters finds Sullivan with 48 percent support to Begich’s 43 percent. Five percent prefer some other candidate, and four percent are undecided.

PPP:

Dan Sullivan leads Mark Begich 43/41 for the Senate, with minor candidates combining for 5 percent. […]

Sullivan has gained 6 points since our last poll in early August, while Begich has dropped 2. Sullivan's gain has come largely due to consolidating his support among Republican leaning voters since winning the primary last month. He now leads 75/9 among folks who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, compared to 70/11 on the last survey. Sullivan's seen significant improvement in his image as conservative voters have rallied around him too- his net favorability is up 10 points from -8 at 35/43 last month to now +2 at 44/42. Begich's approval is a 42/51 spread.

SENATE: NORTH CAROLINA

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has been doing particularly well in polling the past month. In early September, two polls were released finding Hagan ahead. I thought the significance of those findings were not monumental, because even with those polls, the overall average only had Hagan up slightly above one point.

The race is still close as we head into October, but in the past couple of weeks, Hagan has consistently been coming out ahead in the polls.

There have been at least three additional polls since then, and Hagan has lead in all of them. According to the Real Clear Politicsaverage, Hagan now leads by 3.6 points.

In one month there are at least eight polls, and Hagan leads in all but one. That alone is significant, but what should worry Republicans even more is that Hagan is doing well among older voters—a demographic that usually turns out in midterms and Republicans rely on.

The New York Times explains:

The polls suggest that Ms. Hagan has compensated for her turnout problem by faring well among voters who are 65 and older. The polls showing Ms. Hagan ahead that have released results by age show the two candidates tied among such voters, with both Ms. Hagan and Mr. Tillis at 44 percent of the vote. That’s better than Ms. Hagan’s performance six years ago, when she lost those voters by eight percentage points.

Hagan was considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents this cycle, but right now it looks like she’s holding stronger than most expected. 

SENATE: ARKANSAS

Republican Rep. Tom Cotton is holding his lead in Arkansas, with the latest PPP poll placing him five points ahead of Sen. Mark Pyror, a three-point improvement from their August findings.

PPP notes:

PPP's newest Arkansas poll finds Republicans leading across the board in the state's key races for this year, led by Tom Cotton with a 43/38 advantage over Mark Pryor and Asa Hutchinson with a 44/38 lead over Mike Ross at the top of the ticket.

[…] Both candidates are receiving 77 percent of the vote from within their own party but Cotton has a substantial advantage with independents, getting 53 percent of their vote to 20 percent for Pryor.

Republicans need to turn a seat like Pyror’s—Pryor has a consistently low approval rating (which is noted in this poll) and Cotton is a strong candidate. If PPP’s survey is correct, Republicans are still well position to flip the seat. 

On average, Cotton leads this race by three points and a recent NBC/Marist poll found him ahead by five.