Miller, Murkowski Nearly Tied In Alaska Senate Race

If the polls are to be trusted, Lisa Murkowski’s write-in bid for the Senate is looking like it has a chance of working to her benefit after all:

(CNN) – The wild three-way Senate race in Alaska now appears to be a two-person fight for the top spot, according to a new poll.

A CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday indicates that 38 percent of likely voters in the state support GOP nominee Joe Miller, with 36 percent saying they back Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was narrowly defeated by Miller in last month’s GOP primary.

Murkowski is now running as a write-in candidate in the general election.

According to the poll, 22 percent back Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, the Democratic nominee, with four percent either undecided or not supporting any of the three candidates listed in the survey.

Miller’s two-point advantage over Murkowski is within the survey’s sampling error.

In addition to all the usual caveats about polling in Alaska, it’s worth taking note of Nate Silver’s warnings two weeks ago about the difficulties of polling when there’s a strong write-in candidate:

One recent precedent is that of Shelly Sekula-Gibbs, who ran as a write-in in Texas’ 22nd Congressional District after Republican Tom DeLay, facing ethics allegations, resigned from Congress in 2006. Ms. Sekula-Gibbs received 43 percent of the vote, but lost to the Democrat, Nick Lampson, who got 51 percent in a district that is ordinarily strongly Republican.

The lone poll of that Texas race, from Zogby International, overestimated Ms. Sekula-Gibbs’ standing when she was tested as though she were a conventional Republican candidate who was named on the ballot. The poll had Ms. Sekula-Gibbs winning the race by 13 points; in fact, she lost by eight.

Zogby also tried another, more creative approach in the poll, however. First, voters asked whether they would vote for Mr. Lampson, the Democrat; the Libertarian candidate; or a write-in. If they indicated they wanted to vote for a write-in, they were then given a list of Ms. Sekula-Gibbs and several other names from which to choose. That version of the poll — which arguably better resembled the voting experience — implied that Ms. Sekula-Gibbs would probably lose her race, as she did.

We can expect pollsters to take similarly creative approaches toward this race. It may make for some erratic polling, and it will be important to look past the top-line numbers and see exactly how the survey was conducted.

According to the poll internals, the question was asked this way:

If the election for U.S. Senate were held today and the candidates were Scott McAdams, the Democrat and Joe Miller, the Republican, who would you be more likely to vote for or would you write in the name of Lisa Murkowski, who is also running? (IF UNSURE:) As of today, who do you lean more toward? (RANDOM ORDER)

Whether that captures a true picture of how committed Murkowski’s supporters will be to go into the polls and write in her name on Election Day remains to be seen.

Update: Politico reports on a second poll that shows Murkowski leading in another poll:

A separate poll released by Alaska-based Craciun Research reported Murkowski leading Miller by an 11 percentage point margin—41 percent to 30 percent. McAdams received 19 percent in that poll.

When broken down by party in the Craciun poll, Murkowski finishes second to both nominees, but appears to be pulling enough Republicans away from Miller and Democrats from McAdams to make it a race.

In the Craciun poll, Murkowski took 35 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats while neither McAdams nor Miller carried more than 60 percent of their own party’s voters.

The Craciun survey was based on interviews with 300 registered voters conducted Sept. 24-25 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.

The details on the Craciun poll can be found here.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    Murkowski only scraped in against a Dem last time, so I find the complete collapse of the Dem vote a bit suspect.