February 8, 2006

Poll: Chafee Lead over Dems Narrows, but.....

Marc Comtois

Brown pollster Darrell West has a new poll out that includes a curious omission (thanks to George Conway for the heads-up). But I'll get to that later. First, the stats:

U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee is locked in a close race with Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse and Matt Brown in the Senate general election, according to a new statewide survey conducted by researchers at Brown University.

The survey was conducted Feb. 4-6, 2006, at Brown University by Darrell M. West, director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and the John Hazen White Sr. Public Opinion Laboratory. It is based on a statewide random sample of 785 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, the poll had a margin of error of about plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

If the general election were held today, Chafee has an advantage of 40 to 34 percent over Whitehouse (compared to his lead of 38 to 25 percent in September). If Brown is the Democratic nominee, Chafeeís lead is 38 to 36 percent (compared to 41 to 18 percent in September).

If the Republican nominee were Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, Whitehouse is ahead by 44 to 29 percent (up from the 35 to 25 percent lead Whitehouse had in September). If the nominees were Laffey and Brown, Brown has an advantage of 47 to 24 percent over Laffey (up from 30 to 26 percent in September).

On the face of it, the poll lends credence to the theory that Sen. Chafee is the only Republican that can win, even if his numbers are slipping. But a careful reading of the poll shows no numbers on the Republican primary, ie; Laffey v. Chafee. Why not? That's what George asked me in an email and he wondered if it was because there weren't enough Republicans in the sample to give accurate data. Here is my response:
Darrell West has a habit of underpolling Republican support. In 2002, he had a neck and neck race between now-RI Gov. Carcieri (R) and Myrth York (D). Carcieri ended up winning by around 10 pts. This does call into question his methodology (when, where does he poll?) Southern RI is more Republican than northern (around Providence) for instance. I suspect you are correct: he couldn't get enough Republicans to provide an adequate sample. Note how small his sample is in the Democrat race of Langevin v. Lawless. For such a Democrat state, that seems small, even if it is for only one district. Another factor is the large number of unaffiliated voters in the state. That's about all I can think of.
Upon further review, I understated the gap in West's polling of the governor's race in 2002. In October of 2002, he had York ahead of Carcieri, 41% to 34% with 25% undecided. Gov. Carcieri won 55% to 45%. In essence, perhaps his methodology tends to lead West to consistently undersample Republicans. I'm no pollster, I don't know. Setting that aside, it clearly shows that Mayor Laffey has his work cut out in appealling to the average RI voter, the amount of undecided can make a difference. Here are the actual political questions asked in the poll:

Survey Questions and Responses

If the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate were held today, would you vote for: 31% Matt Brown, 0% Carl Sheeler, 25% Sheldon Whitehouse, 44% don't know or no answer (based on 323 voters who say they are very likely to vote in this yearís Democratic primary)

If the Democratic primary for U.S. Congress were held today, would you vote for: 58% James Langevin, 14% Jennifer Lawless, 28% don't know or no answer (based on 160 voters who say they are very likely to vote in this yearís Democratic primary in the second congressional district)

If the Democratic primary for secretary of state were held today, would you vote for: 24% Ralph Mollis, 5% Guillaume de Ramel, 71% don't know or no answer (based on 323 voters who say they are very likely to vote in this yearís Democratic primary)

If the U.S. Senate election were held today, would you vote for: 38% Republican Lincoln Chafee, 36% Democrat Matt Brown, 26% donít know or no answer

If the U.S. Senate election were held today, would you vote for: 40% Republican Lincoln Chafee, 34% Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, 26% donít know or no answer

If the U.S. Senate election were held today, would you vote for: 24% Republican Stephen Laffey, 47% Democrat Matt Brown, 29% donít know or no answer

If the U.S. Senate election were held today, would you vote for: 29% Republican Stephen Laffey, 44% Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, 27% donít know or no answer

If the governorís election were held today, would you vote for: 46% Republican Don Carcieri, 35% Democrat Charles Fogarty, 19% donít know or no answer

If the lieutenant governorís election were held today, would you vote for: 16% Republican Kernan King, 41% Democrat Elizabeth Roberts, 43% don't know or no answer

If the attorney generalís election were held today, would you vote for: 18% Republican William Harsch, 59% Democrat Patrick Lynch, 23% don't know or no answer.

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I'm glad you all posted the poll...super interesting. I get more and more convinced that Chafee is the way to go...the fact is you need Democrats to win in Rhode Island, and Laffey simply doesn't attract any. The poll says it all.

Chafee is favored by 34 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of Independents against Brown, while Laffey only get 8 percent of Dems and just 27 percent of Independents.

The numbers are similar when it comes to Whitehouse...

There's simply no way Laffey can win.

Posted by: Celia at February 8, 2006 3:32 PM

It appears those Club for Oafs ads aren't working for Laffey.

Posted by: Photoguy at February 8, 2006 5:17 PM

This poll makes an erroneous assumption: that Carcieri was actually winning at the time West took his poll.

Carcieri himself admitted that his own polls showed him trailing York coming out of the primary. It was not until there was a mass abandonment of York by Democratic voters that Carcieri moved forward in the polls.

Stop making excuses and trying to explain away scientific data.

Posted by: Anthony at February 8, 2006 8:18 PM

Anthony,

You can post your drivel all over this blog, but you are not making any headway, especially when you try to make the case that a West/Brown poll is scientific.

Chafee is doomed...he's Indy by May Day.

Posted by: oz at February 8, 2006 9:32 PM

No poll is "scientific", Anthony - and political polls are the most unreliable of all. Polls are all about the sample chosen (strictly a judgment call) and probability (which is math). Where does science come in?? I am really surprised at this statement, coming from you.

Posted by: bountyhunter at February 9, 2006 9:20 AM