A new poll of Kentucky released today shows a very unpopular Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) trailing his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Senate race 42%-40%.
The poll was conducted by the Mellman Group for the Grimes campaign, shows Grimes leading McConnell 42% to 40% with 3% supporting Libertarian David Patterson and 16% undecided. McConnell’s biggest problem remains that voters don’t like him. Sen. McConnell has a 58% negative job approval rating compared to 37% who approve. McConnell’s net is one of the lowest in the country at (-21). Despite a negative ad spending barrage of $40 million against her, Grimes job approval remains in positive territory. 40% approve of her, and 39% disapprove. Given the onslaught of negative ads that she has faced, her net approval rating of (+1) is remarkable.
Grimes gets more of her support from Democrats (75%) than McConnell gets from Republicans (73%). Alison Grimes also leads McConnell with Independents (38%-29%), and moderates (49%-27%). Grimes has a net 25 point lead on the question of who will work to create good jobs, a net 24 point lead on who will work to protect Social Security and Medicare, a 20 point lead on the important question of who cares about people like you, and a 10 point lead on the question of who shares your values.
Usually, internal polls should be taken with a gigantic grain of salt, but this one is important because it has the largest sample size and lowest margin of error of any poll conducted in Kentucky. The poll also surveyed registered voters, not people who consider themselves likely to vote.
The polling has been all over the map during the 2014 election because quite frankly there is a lot of bad polling out there. The NBC/Marist poll gave McConnell an eight-point lead, while a CNN poll had McConnell up by four. The problem is that both of these polls surveyed self-identified likely voters and got their data by randomly dialing phone numbers in the state. (You too could be a pollster if you just started calling people up and asking them if they are planning to vote, and who they are going to vote for.) Needless to say, this is terrible methodology that undergraduate statistics student would be able to spot the potential flaws in. Without a screened representative sample, the data could be unreliable, which is why the polling in the Senate races has been so contradictory.
When a poll is released that shows Mitch McConnell with a positive approval rating or leading with women, those are red flags. McConnell’s job approval has been in negative territory for nearly two years, and he has been unpopular with women for just as long. Thirty-year incumbents don’t suddenly get popular. The problem is that the media and the predictive models treat all polls as being equal, but this is also why they are likely to be wrong.
The reality is that Alison Lundergan Grimes and Mitch McConnell are in a close race. Democrats have more than a puncher’s chance of taking down McConnell. Sen. McConnell is refusing to debate Grimes for a reason. The McConnell campaign knows that the election is close, and they can’t afford to have their candidate share the stage the younger and more energetic Grimes.
McConnell is trying hide behind tens of millions of dollars in negative ads, but the strategy isn’t working. Alison Lundergan Grimes has a real chance to be Kentucky’s next senator.