The sound-bytes and the headlines about political polling can be quite titillating. But to really understand what’s happening in a race, you need to dig deep into the details found in a poll’s cross tabs.
Let’s compare PPP’s February poll of the US Senate race vs. the March survey. PPP – a Democrat aligned firm — spins their March survey as good news for Kay Hagan, the Democrat incumbent in the race. Really? Her approval / disapproval rating didn’t budge from February to March. I GUESS you can say that’s good — relatively speaking.
In February, PPP had the GOP race ranked like this: Tillis 20%, Brannon 13%, Grant 13%, Alexander 10%, Harris 8%, and Kryn at 2 percent. That leaves 34 percent as undecided or favoring someone else.
The March survey had the pack ranked like this: Brannon 14%, Tillis 14%, Grant 11%, Alexander 7%, Harris 7%, Bradshaw 6%, Snyder 4% and Kryn 1%. That leaves 36 percent as undecided or favoring someone else.
In one month, everyone lost support – except for Greg Brannon.
Let’s look at the favorable / unfavorable / undecided split for each candidate. (These findings give you clues about voter enthusiasm regarding each candidate. It gives you a hint about who folks are gung-ho about getting out and voting for or against.) Kay Hagan was at 41-50-9 in February AND March. Ted Alexander was at 8-19-74 in February AND March. Heather Grant was at 8-19-73 in February but at 10-17-73 in March.
Mark Harris was at 10-18-73 in February. In March, he was at 11-16-73. In February, Greg Brannon was at 10-17-73. In March, after a rough month of news coverage, he was at 10-19-71. The folks that were with him in February didn’t go anywhere in March. It looks like SOME undecideds soured on Brannon, though.
Thom Tillis, in February, was at 15-29-56. In March, after $300,000-plus in TV advertising, was polling at 18-37-46. He gained 3 points on the favorable side, but also gained 8 points on the unfavorable side.
Grant, with her low-budget no frills campaign, appears to be turning heads, winning friends and influencing people.
The fav-unfav numbers indicate that the whole GOP field has a lot of work to do in terms of raising their own name ID with voters. Tillis has been trying to do that with his soft “paper boy” bio ad. His favorable numbers bumped up a little, but his unfavorable numbers went up significantly while his undecideds went down. You REALLY want those favorable numbers to be bigger than your unfavorable numbers. The larger the undecided number is — the greater the opportunity your opponents have to take you down. It’s up to the candidates to turn those undecideds into favorables before their opponents turn them from undecideds into unfavorables.
Let’s look at the head-to-head matchups in February and March. Harris led Hagan 42-40 in February’s survey, but was tied at 43 with her in March. Brannon was leading Hagan 43-40 in February, but was tied with Hagan at 43 in March. Alexander led 45-38 over Hagan in February, but his lead fell to 45-43 in March. Grant led Hagan 41-39 in February, but was down 43-42 to Hagan in March.
In February, Tillis led Hagan 42-40. In March, he was down to Hagan by 45-43.
In terms of the head-to-heads, Alexander, Snyder and Brannon should be the happiest. Alexander and Snyder are the only Republicans showing a lead — albeit within the margin of error — against Hagan in the March poll. Given Greg Brannon’s nightmarish PR situation during February, he should be counting his blessings that his head-to-head numbers aren’t worse. There is an interesting 43 percent pattern that keeps showing itself for senator Hagan.