GOP Prospects In Senate Races Continue To Brighten

In a poll of 13 Battleground U.S. Senate seats conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for American Crossroads, voters made it clear that they are unhappy with the direction that Democrats are taking the country.  Voters in these Battleground Senate seats support the Republican candidates, and are especially sour on the Democratic incumbents.

One big story is that Independents – men and women, young and old – are continuing the trend of recent statewide elections of voting two-to-one for the GOP candidate.  In Virginia, Bob McDonnell won the Governor’s race by racking up a 66{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} win with Independents.  Chris Christie won in New Jersey by a 60{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-30{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} margin.  In Massachusetts, Scott Brown won Independents 64{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}. 

The survey questionnaire was nearly identical to the one used by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research (GQR) for the June NPR survey of House Battleground districts.  Neither GQR nor NPR was involved at all in this Senate Battleground survey.  For more information on the methodology, click here.

The Republican candidate leads on the ballot 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-39{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} across the 13 Battleground Senate states. The lead is 45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in the Republican states, and 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in Democratic states.

This is NOT the same as a generic ballot.  We tested the specific candidates by name and party in every state but Colorado (where there are no clear primary frontrunners) in which case we tested “Republican” versus “Democratic” candidate.  In Florida, we included Charlie Crist as an Independent.

Independents
Key findings in the crosstabs among Independents include:

  • Independents are voting Republican by a two-to-one margin (47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} GOP/25{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Dem) across the Battleground states.  The margin is 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-19{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in the GOP seats.
  • While women evenly split on the ballot, it is because Democratic women outnumber Republican women.  Republican candidates need to target Independent women – in the Battleground states Independent women are voting GOP by a 46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-19{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} margin.
  • Further evidence of the problems Democrats have with Independents is that younger  Independents, who went for Barack Obama overwhelmingly in 2008, are voting GOP by a 50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-24{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} margin.

Other Key Crosstabs
Other key crosstab findings:

  • In the four states John McCain won in 2008, the GOPer leads 46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.  In the nine states Barack Obama won, the GOPer still leads 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}, including 50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-38{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in the five states Obama won with less than 55{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}, and 43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in the four Obama 55{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}+ states. 
  • Suburban voters break 50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} GOP/34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Dem, which is better than the 49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-38{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} lead among rural voters.  Urban voters opt against the GOP.
  • As implied above, there is a 21 point gender gap.  Men are voting GOP 52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-33{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}, while women split 42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} GOP/44{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Dem.
  • As seen nearly everywhere else, the Democratic candidates face an enthusiasm gap.  The GOPer trails 31{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} among the least interested voters (those who rate their interest as a 1-7 on a scale of 1-10), but leads 52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} among high interest voters (8-10s).   (More on this in a later blog post).
  • Wrong track voters plan to take out their frustrations and disappointments on Democratic Senate candidates.  Among the 61{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} who say the country is off on the wrong track, 70{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} vote GOP for Senate, while 15{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} back the Democrat.  The 33{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} who say the country is going in the right direction go the opposite way – 10{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} vote GOP/78{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} vote Dem.
  • Voters who say they voted for McCain in 2008 opt for the GOPer 83{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-5{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.  More than twice that defecting five percent – 13{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} – support the GOPer, while 71{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} stay with the Democrats. 

Democrat Incumbents
Only 42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of voters in the four states we surveyed that include Democrat incumbents approve of the job their Senators are doing, compared to 46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} who disapprove.  In each case, we named the specific Senator in their state.  The states were Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, and Washington.

The combined Re-elect/New Person score for these incumbents is terrible.  Only 34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} want to re-elect their incumbent Senator in those four states, while 55{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} prefer a new person.

The Bottom Line
Republicans are not likely to win all 13 of these Battleground seats (and since then, Washington state and California have both established themselves as competitive), but GOPers are clearly in position to win the lion’s share of competitive Senate races.

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