Putting this week’s polls in context
What to make of this week’s polls of the U.S. Senate and presidential races and the governor’s popularity? Put them in the context of other recent polls and the picture becomes clearer.
The political world in New Mexico has been abuzz this week with news of a new poll that shows Martin Heinrich leading Heather Wilson in the U.S. Senate race, Gov. Susana Martinez’s popularity remaining high, and Mitt Romney gaining on Barack Obama.
Part one of the poll, from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, had Heinrich, the Democrat, leading Wilson, the Republican, 48 percent to 43 percent; it also had Martinez’s approval at 56 percent. Part two had Obama leading Romney 49 percent to 44 percent in New Mexico – or 42 percent to 38 percent when you include Gary Johnson, who had the support of 13 percent of those polled.
The automated phone survey of 724 New Mexico voters was conducted between Friday and Monday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Of course, there’s lots of controversy surrounding PPP polls, with the GOP regularly accusing the company of skewing results in favor of Democrats. I’ve written before about that (here, here, here and here). It was no different when part one of this PPP poll came out on Tuesday, with the state GOP saying the polling company “artificially increases percentage of Democrats.”
Rather than get into that debate again (you can click on the four links in the previous paragraph if you want to), I figured I’d skip right to the bottom lines by putting the poll in the context of other recent surveys:
Senate race leans D, but only slightly
Polls have consistently shown Heinrich with a slight lead over Wilson. Wilson’s campaign keeps insisting the race is a “dead heat” – and it’s close, but probably not quite that close.
In addition the PPP poll, I wrote last week about two recent, independent polls that have Heinrich ahead, one by nine points and the other by four points. An April independent poll from the right-leaning Rasmussen Reports had Heinrich up by four points. And an independent, bipartisan poll had Heinrich leading by one point in January. Most of Heinrich’s leads have been within the margin of error.
Earlier today, the Wilson campaign told me it had an internal poll from late June that had Heinrich up three points, 48 percent to 45 percent. The survey of 500 likely voters, which was conducted using live interviews, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.38 percent.
The bottom line: The race leans slightly Heinrich’s his favor. But Wilson has been in this situation more than once in the past as the U.S. House member from New Mexico’s First Congressional District. She runs disciplined and nearly perfect campaigns. And she pounces when her opponents make mistakes.
In other words, Wilson is the last person anyone wants to be up against in a close race. Heinrich, who is also no stranger to hotly contested races, is in a strong position at this point, but either candidate can win this race.
Martinez is popular
Polls have also consistently shown the Republican Martinez’s popularity ranging from high to sky-high. In February, Rasmussen Reports had it at 66 percent. A January bipartisan poll had it at 61 percent.
PPP has consistently found Martinez’s popularity a little lower than most other polls, but still in the mid-50s.
Given that she’s a Republican governing a blue-leaning state, Martinez’s consistently high approval rating makes her a rarity among governors nationwide.
NM still isn’t a swing state, but keep an eye on it
What of the poll of the presidential race? PPP’s last two surveys in New Mexico had Obama leading Romney by 14 and 15 points, respectively. To date, five points is the closest Romney has come to Obama in any poll of New Mexico voters.
Don’t buy it, at least not until other polls confirm it. It may be accurate, or it may be an aberration. That’s why it’s important to give more credibility to polling trends, when possible, than any individual poll.
Real Clear Politics averages out the last eight polls of New Mexico in the presidential race, and finds Obama leading Romney by an average of 10.7 percentage points. Since February, the trend has been slowly moving in Romney’s direction. But that doesn’t mean Romney is down only five points.
PPP finds Johnson’s support falling in New Mexico. And, interestingly, the new poll found Johnson hurting Obama a little more than Romney. Go figure.
New Mexico’s not a swing state yet, but it might be getting interesting. We’ll see what the next poll tells us.
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