Western Kentucky University’s 2014 Big Red Poll released on Monday shows that incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leads Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes by 3 points, 45% to 42%, among likely voters in the Kentucky U.S. Senate race. The poll, coming two weeks before election day, indicates the race is still close, despite numerous recent gaffes by Grimes and news that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has stopped funding television advertising in support of her candidacy.
5% of likely voters supported Libertarian David Patterson, and 8% were undecided.
The most surprising result of the poll is that, despite a bitter primary battle between Tea Party-endorsed Matt Bevin and McConnell, the Tea Party overwhelmingly supports McConnell over Grimes. “13% of those surveyed self-identified as members of the TEA Party.” Among that group, McConnell “leads Grimes 87%-5%.”
In addition “nearly a third (32%) of those who did not self-identify [as Tea Party members] indicated that they were sympathetic to the views expressed by the TEA Party.” Among these Tea Party sympathizers, McConnell leads Grimes 70% to 21%.
A Survey USA poll also released on Monday showed McConnell’s lead was only 1 point, within the margin of error, but a Rasmussen Reports poll released last week indicated that his lead had jumped to 8 points.
Among registered voters only, McConnell’s lead was slightly greater, 45% to 40%. Libertarian David Patterson’s support was the same 5% as it is among likely voters, but the number of undecided voters was 2% higher among registered voters at 10%. This slightly higher percentage of undecided voters, if reached by the robust Democratic ground game, could bring the race even closer.
The Big Red Poll of 601 registered voters and 554 likely voters was conducted over a 14 day period, from October 6 to October 20. The margin of error for registered voters is 4%, for likely voters 4.1%
Most polls are taken over considerably shorter periods of time, usually two to four days. Polls taken over a longer period may not represent an accurate snapshot of voter views, since intervening events may change opinions.
Dr. Joel Turner, who runs the Western Kentucky University Social Science Research Center and conducted the Big Red Poll conducted the poll, acknowledged in an email to Breitbart News on Tuesday that “the danger for running a survey for this period of time is that events can happen (i.e. scandals, gaffes, etc.) that change the views of voters.”
“There were some things that occurred during that period,” Turner added, “such as Grimes’ unique answer to whether she voted for Obama, the coal videos of Grimes’ campaign workers, and McConnell’s interesting phrasing in an answer to an Obamacare question that garnered national attention.”
“Had these scandals moved the needle in any significant way,” Turner maintained, “our survey would have been able to show that. However, our trend lines show consistency in responses over the entire time period that the survey was out, and as a result we are confident in our results.”
Despite concerns over the length of time during which it was conducted, the Big Red Poll has some very interesting findings.
“Both candidates are doing well among their respective partisan and ideological groups,” the executive summary concluded. “Among Republicans, McConnell leads Grimes 85%-7%, and among conservatives McConnell lead 73%-16%. Conversely, among Democrats Grimes leads McConnell 80%-13%, and among liberals Grimes leads 73%-17%.”
The poll also found “[t]here is also evidence of a gender gap in Kentucky. Grimes leads among female voters (51%-36%), while McConnell leads among male voters (55%-33%).”
Not surprisingly, both President Obama and his landmark legislative accomplishment, Obamacare, are very unpopular in Kentucky.
According to the poll, “only 30% indicated they approved of the job President Obama was doing, while 65% indicated they disapproved of the job President Obama is doing. Those who disapprove of the job President Obama is doing are more likely to vote for Mitch McConnell (63%). Those who approve of the job President Obama is doing said they are more likely to vote for Grimes (84%).”
As for Obamacare, the poll found it “remains unpopular in the state.”
“When asked what effect they thought the law would have on healthcare in Kentucky, 50% [of registered voters] felt the law would make things worse,” the poll found, “while only 32% thought it would make things better and 14% didn’t think the law would make a difference. Not surprisingly, McConnell leads among those who think the law will make things worse (77%-11%) and Grimes leads among those who think the law will make things better (76%-11%).”
The poll also found that a vote for Grimes was primarily a protest vote against McConnell. “[T]he majority of those backing Grimes (60%) indicated opposition to McConnell as motivating their support for her,” the executive summary concluded.