About That Poll Showing Alison Lundergan Grimes Leading Mitch McConnell

Could Alison Lundergran Grimes be surging? Maybe, but we'll need more evidence to be sure.

Grimes McConnell

In the comment thread of my post yesterday about the tenuous nature of any majority the GOP may win in November, several people made note of a new poll that purports to show that Alison Lundergan Grimes has a small lead over Mitch McConnell in Kentucky:

After two polls in his favor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has slipped behind Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in his re-election bid, according to the latest Bluegrass Poll.

Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, now leads the five-term senator 46 percent to 44 percent among likely voters, the survey found. Libertarian candidate David Patterson had 3 percent support in the poll, while 7 percent of likely voters said they were undecided.

While Grimes’ advantage is within the poll’s margin of error, it represents a 6-point swing to the Democrat since the survey was last conducted in late August.

The latest poll — conducted Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 by SurveyUSA for The Courier-Journal, Louisville’s WHAS-TV, The Lexington Herald Leader and Lexington’s WKYT-TV — was dismissed by McConnell’s campaign.

“After fourteen straight public polls all showing Sen. McConnell with a clear lead, this Bluegrass Poll is obviously an outlier,” spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement. “We’re very comfortable with where this race stands and are confident Sen. McConnell will be re-elected in November.”

But Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said the survey “reflects the overwhelming grassroots enthusiasm Alison and our campaign see everyday across the commonwealth.”

An internal Grimes survey last week by pollster Mark Mellman also showed Grimes with a two-point lead.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said the Bluegrass Poll results either are an anomaly or the first sign of a Grimes trend.

“You’ve got a lot of Kentuckians who say, ‘I don’t want a Democrat who’s going to back Obama but I’m sick and tired of McConnell,’ ” he said. “The question is: How does it balance out on Election Day?”

University of Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss cautioned that the 6-point swing to Grimes may not be real.

“I would take these results with a grain of salt, given that they deviate from everything we’ve seen recently,” Voss said, referring to a number of other polls showing McConnell leading Grimes.

The Bluegrass Poll asked the opinions of 730 registered Kentucky voters, 632 of whom it determined to be likely voters in the Nov. 4 election. The latter group’s responses were used to break down the Senate race, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

While the Louisville Courier-Journal, for whom this poll was conducted, emphasizes the shift in the race as represented by previous polling that it has conducted in the race, the result jumps out even more when you look at all of the polling that has been done in Kentucky for the past four months. Specifically, while the race has remained close, with McConnell generally polling within or just outside the margin of error, the trend during that time period has clearly been in the Senator Minority Leader’s favor. The last poll to show Grimes leading was one conducted by Magellan Strategies that gave her a three point lead. Before that, the only other polls that put Grimes in the lead were two other polls from the Courier-Journal, conducted in May and January respectively. There was also a Rasmussen poll in January that had the race tied. All of these polls, though, were conducted in the middle of or just after a hard-fought Republican primary fight between McDonnell and Matt Bevin, so its not surprising that McConnell’s numbers might have been down during that period.  It’s also worth noting that SurveyUSA ranked near the middle in Nate Silver’s pollster rankings in the wake of the 2012 Presidential election, and has often been the source of poll results that tended to differ significantly from the norm. While this isn’t necessarily evidence that this poll is flawed, it’s certainly another reason why it should be taken with a grain of salt.

The other point this poll raises is that it points out that paying attention to individual polls is not the best way to get picture of what is happening in a particular race. Even if these polls are accurate, they are at best snapshots in time. What is important to look at are the trends, not only within that individual poll, but among all of the polls that have been conducted in an individual race. This is why the sites that do polling averages, such as RealClearPolitics, are the best source to consult when you want to track the course of a race. There are some problems with averaging polls with different methodologies, of course, but as long as the average is calculated using generally liable pollsters rather than throwing in results from pollsters with spotty or unknown reliability, then you’ll get a pretty good picture of what’s happening.

Presently, the RealClearPolitics polling average continues to give McConnell a 4.2 point lead, and the chart continues to indicate that the momentum is on his side:

McConnell Grimes 107

That small uptick you see for Grimes and down tick for McConnell, is solely due to the impact of this one poll on the average. Otherwise, the direction of the race up until now is clear and its hard to say that this new poll indicates anything at all until we get additional polling data. Either those other polls will also show that the race is closing, or they will be consistent with the other polls that have showed McConnell heading to a close but comfortable victory. If I had to guess at this point, I would guess that this poll will prove to be an outlier, but that’s something we won’t know for at least a week or so depending on how many other polls are in the field. Given that, many of the pronouncements I’ve seen in the media, including this morning on Morning Joe where the poll was greeted as news of some significant development in the race, are really just so much nonsense.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Congress, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    Even a slight uptick in voter participation spells doom for any GOP Senate takeover. But such upticks remain unlikely. It’s a shame the GOP is relegated to hoping no one shows up to win elections.

  2. Paul L. says:

    Alison Lundergan Grimes will win due to the upcoming Democratic wave. Thanks to their popular gun control push. Democrats are going to keep the Senate and retake the House due to the 90+% popularity “National Conversation of Guns’ that President Obama is leading with the full support of all Democrats.

    Alison Lundergan Grimes will be suing James O’keefe for his illegal edited dirty trick wiretapping of her staff that is completely not the same as what Mother Jones did to McDonnell .

  3. @Paul L.:

    I am tempted to ask what color the sky is in your world.

  4. JKB says:

    U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is lying about her support for the state’s coal industry according to Kentucky Democrats, including members of her campaign team, who were captured on a hidden camera video.

    Source

    Of course, this wasn’t factored in to the polls….yet.
    She’s already, as many Democrats this election, has been running away, even against Obama.

    So, is she lying to the voters and will be a “good” Democrat after the election, or are the Democrats deluded?

  5. humanoid.panda says:

    @Doug Mataconis: It’s an attempt at irony..

  6. humanoid.panda says:

    @JKB: A Democrat in KY running against Obama! Next, you are going to tell me that a Democrat in West Virginia had once shot “Obama’s Cap and Trade Bill” in a political ad! Such things never happen, and if they do, they mean Obama is dead, dead dead and did not at all win reelection two years later!

  7. JKB says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    The question is, can they still sell it. The failure of the government in the last nearly 6 years has been a failure of the Democratic Party, not just Obama. They had 2 years carte blanche. Then Harry Reid shutdown the Congress after the House went Republican. Obama, who learns of what the Democrats in his Administration are going via the broadcast and print news, is apparently clueless as to what they are doing.

    And as Obama has said, the election will be a referendum on the Democrat policies he has let run riot in his administration.

  8. Paul L. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Just parroting the analysis from the DNC, Balloon Juice, Crooks and Liars and the Young Turks.

  9. anjin-san says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I am tempted to ask what color the sky is in your world.

    It’s whatever color Sean Hannity tells him it is…

  10. anjin-san says:

    @JKB:

    It’s always nice to see conservatives, who are all about responsibility, stand up and be counted.

  11. humanoid.panda says:

    @JKB:

    . Then Harry Reid shutdown the Congress after the House went Republica

    I stopped reading after this line.

  12. @JKB:

    U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is lying about her support for the state’s coal industry

    The truth about coal in Kentucky is that coal costs twice as much as natural gas per BTU generated and that this means the entire coal industry is a deadman walking. If you’re livelihood depends on coal mining, you need to be getting out of it as soon as you can.

    Of course if you tell voters in Kentucky that, they throw a fit, so EVERY politician in the state is lying about their support for the state’s coal industry.

  13. humanoid.panda says:

    @Paul L.: As a matter of record, the DNC is a party organization, so it is job to spin, and the Young Turks hate Obama more than you do. Still, 3 of 5 ain’t so bad.

  14. stonetools says:

    Frankly, I think MConnell will likely win. But MCConnell was considered a can’t-lose and an easy winner a year go. He shouldn’t even be breaking a sweat. Instead he’s being pressed hard.

    Ensuring his victory is going to draw millions of dollars into the race that would otherwise go to Iowa, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana, helping the Democrats in those races,so this is all to the good for Democrats.
    Moreover, a seasoned Grimes will do even better against Rand Paul in 2016.

  15. beth says:

    @humanoid.panda: i stopped after the “2 years of carte blanche” lie. If you’re going to start out with a blatant lie like that, why bother reading the rest?

  16. humanoid.panda says:

    @stonetools: On that one, I am doubtful. Unlike McConell, Paul is genuinely popular in KY.

  17. James Pearce says:

    Given that, many of the pronouncements I’ve seen in the media, including this morning on Morning Joe where the poll was greeted as news of some significant development in the race, are really just so much nonsense.

    In a year where Republicans are expected to make gains, in a country in which the incumbent almost always wins, for such a prominent member of the Senate, the fact that it’s neck and neck is a pretty “significant development.”

  18. beth says:

    @humanoid.panda: Did Rand Paul ever succeed in getting the law changed so he can run for both President and the Senate from his state?

  19. Tyrell says:

    Ms. Grimes is certainly easier on the eyes than McConnell. From what I hear she is also good with a rifle.

  20. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:

    They had 2 years carte blanche.

    Another lie from JKB. Yawn.
    Obama had a filibuster proof (and shakey at that) Senate for 72 days.
    If 72 days is two years then I am really f’ing old. And I’m not that old.
    If you have to lie to make a point…why do you even bother to make the effort? It makes no sense to me.

  21. Paul L. says:

    @humanoid.panda:
    Forgot Media Matters and their CAP allies.

    Democrats will only lose because of RWNJs are preventing the tireless good works of the IRS under progressive hero Lois Lerner with their witchhunt and are now wiretapping her.
    http://therightscoop.com/dude-lois-lerner-tries-to-bust-in-neighbors-home-to-avoid-answering-questions-about-irs-scandal/

  22. PAUL HOOSON says:

    I don’t think that I’ve ever heard of one good reason to vote for McConnell. Even THE DAILY SHOW made a huge comedy routine by viewers adding inappropriate songs to his official campaign video, which was already unintentional comedy in itself. – As Labor Secretary under Bush, McConnell’s Chinese wife attempted to make the terrible economy under Bush not look as bad by attempting to reclassify some 16 year old kid who works at McDonalds who puts together a hamburger as a factory worker who assembles to make it appear that we were not losing so many actual factory jobs to China. – How long did it take McConnell and his wife to come up with that brilliant idea to reclassify teenage kids who work at fast food jobs as the same as skilled factory workers? – Rather than actually solve problems, McConnell only thinks of new ways to sweep dust under a carpet. The problems remain, as does McConnell. Nothing changes….

  23. Just Me says:

    Even republicans aren’t that high on McConnell.

    I think he still wins this election but I almost hope he loses just so the GOP would have to change it’s senate leadership. I think half the problem in the senate are Reid and McConnell.

    There don’t appear to be too many undecideds so the next month is going to be more about the political trenches and who gets their voters to the polls. The KY will likely be a close one and I would love to know which way the undecideds are leaning.

  24. Andre Kenji says:

    @stonetools: McConnell always wins by small margins, and playing dirty.

  25. humanoid.panda says:

    @Paul L.: Dude, endorsing what is, for all sorts and purposes, stalking, tells us everything we need to know about you. If Lerner had a gun, you think she would be justified in standing her ground or anything?

  26. humanoid.panda says:

    @humanoid.panda: As for Lerner herself, her lawyer offered long time ago for her to testify in hearings in exchange for immunity. The fact that the House GOP won’t hear of it indicates that they both know that there is on there there in her testimony AND the extent to which they know people like you will keep on barking on whatever tree they point you at.

  27. humanoid.panda says:

    @Paul L.: @humanoid.panda: And finally, believe me, if Lerner or anyone else were out to get the republicans and hand victory to the Democrats, they’d be doing anything possible to make the formation of Tea Parties groups, because
    a) those groups are by and large scamming people out of money that could have gone to actually promoting candidates
    b) are pushing crazy primary challenges that either nominate unelectable loons, or weaken the eventual winner of the primary
    c) are pushing the Party towards bizzare crusades that either backfire (shutdown) or become so insane and laden with conspiracy theories that they encumber republican efforts to capitalize on Obama’s failures (BENGHAZI!!)
    d) promote the image of the GOP as the party of lunatics.

    Really, the Tea Party and the right wing media from which you draw your list of heroes and villains and talking points and impressive acts of projection (all liberals are deriving their views from MSNBC! how original!) are the best allies Obam had ever had.

  28. Paul L. says:

    @humanoid.panda:
    All

    she would be justified in standing her ground or anything?

    Not a stand your ground law in Maryland home of the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights that truly separate the thug blue line from the serfs.
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/sun-investigates/bs-md-police-report-20141007,0,1199232.story

    Maryland even tried to use the wiretapping law against anyone filming Law enforcement.

    the Tea Party and the right wing media from which you draw your list of heroes and villains and talking points and impressive acts of projection (all liberals are deriving their views from MSNBC! how original!) are the best allies Obam had ever had.

    That is why the Democrats still control the house.

    Of course if Lerner was still in law enforcement, she could have done just that.

  29. Grewgills says:

    @Paul L.:

    Not a stand your ground law in Maryland home of the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights that truly separate the thug blue line from the serfs.

    I know it’s been pointed out to you that almost every state (including notable liberal bastions like Alabama) have Law Enforcement Bills of Rights. Your continued citation of this as a liberal phenomenon further shows the dishonesty of your discourse.

  30. Paul L. says:

    @Grewgills:
    Note the link Maryland ‘s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights goes so overboard in protecting bad cops that the bad PR has politicians thinking of repealing parts of it.

    I noticed that the conservative bastions of Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois all passed unconstitutional wiretapping/eavesdropping laws that banned filming the police.

  31. Grewgills says:

    @Paul L.:
    The point is, virtually all states have them and in virtually all cases they overreach to protect the police at the expense of the rest of us. This isn’t a Right vs Left issue as you are trying to make it out to be. This is a political deference to the police issue that is endemic on the Left and the Right. Trying to turn it into a partisan issue only makes it more difficult to address.