WA-Sen: Two Polls Show Tighter Race

Univ. of Washington for KPLU (10/18-28, likely voters, 10/5-14 in parentheses):

Patty Murray (D): 51 (50)

Dino Rossi (R): 45 (42)

Undecided: 6 (8)

(MoE: ±4%)

SurveyUSA for KING (10/24-27, likely voters, 10/11-14 in parentheses):

Patty Murray (D): 47 (50)

Dino Rossi (R): 47 (47)

Undecided: 6 (3)

(MoE: ±3.8%)

Two new polls out today both show tightening, of either two or three points in the last two weeks, in the Washington Senate race. This race has become increasingly pivotal in the last few weeks as well… quite literally, in that Nate Silver calls it the Senate’s entire pivot point for control — where, in the simulations he runs where the GOP gets a 10-seat pickup, Washington is most frequently the last race across the line. (Of course, it’s worth considering that as West Virginia seems to be getting better for Joe Manchin, there are increasing chances that Dems could lose Washington and keep the majority regardless of the Washington outcome, which is why overall odds of keeping the Senate are still hovering near 90%.)

What the closing of the gap means is quite debatable, though, depending on what method you use. For the Univ. of Washington, it’s still a Murray victory, as she’s already over 50 (at a point when, presumably, most people have sent in their ballots); her 8-point lead is down to 6. (They also find the reverse-enthusiasm-gap that seems unique in Washington, finding only a 4-pt edge among RVs.)

For SurveyUSA, it drops her into a tie, though. There are a couple odd things with the SurveyUSA poll, though; first, it’s strange that undecideds would shoot up in the closing stages of the race, particularly since the state SoS office reports that a majority of ballots have been sent in. Maybe those who haven’t sent ballots yet are still trying to decide; it’s hard to gauge, SUSA doesn’t include the vote breakdown among people who have already voted, which is an odd choice since they’ve done that in some other races, and it’s even more relevant in the (almost) all-mail-in Washington. Also (h/t to Taniel for pointing this out), there’s a steep dropoff in the Dem/GOP makeup of this sample from the last sample from two weeks ago: 33D-29R today, versus 36D-27R before. There’s no party registration in Washington so this is just self-identification, but it’s an abrupt switch.

One other consideration is the cellphone user gap, which has seemed particularly pronounced in Washington of all states (as seen by the wide split between live-calling Elway, UW, and CNN/Time, vs. auto-dialing SurveyUSA, Rasmussen, and PPP). I’m not a fan of mindlessly applying corrective formulas to poll data, but Nate’s most recent post on the “house effects” generated by the different categories of pollsters may be instructive here: all robocallers have an R+2.0 lean, while live polls have a D+0.7 lean (although that may have to do simply with the sheer weight on the R-side of the spectrum brought by Rasmussen’s massive volume of polling). In particular, SUSA has the most pronounced house effect this year, of R+4.0, even more than Rasmussen at R+2.1.

One major caveat, though: SurveyUSA used a live-caller overlay on this particular poll, and find that while the cellphone users they reached did tend to lean Democratic, it doesn’t matter much for the final totals. They’d done this once before on a Washington poll over summer, and come to much the same conclusion. That seemed odd at the time and still does, as it would tend to contrast with recent Pew research that showed a 5-point difference between cellphone-inclusive and non-cellphone samples in the generic ballot. With that in mind, I’ll leave it to you just how much special sauce you want to add to make sense of the results… or you can just average them out to 3, which is pretty close to where Murray’s leaked internals (+4) from a few days ago put the race.

55 thoughts on “WA-Sen: Two Polls Show Tighter Race”

  1. if this is a stupid question, but couldn’t it be that the cell phone difference isn’t detected if the sample is more Democratic already, which in this case it seems to be, even if it’s less pronounced than last time?  

  2. SUSA’s crosstabs don’t look totally wacky to me, except maybe women voters movign to Rossi.  I don’t like this poll, kind of worries more than the rest today.

  3. As Nate Silver said, Pew Research is used to working hard to getting all the people to reply, so, leaving out a portion of the electorate would no doubt affect their numbers a whole lot more.  However, if a firm (robo callers) is used to not getting a large number of respondents, they have always relied more on weighting, thus the lack of cell phones is not going to skew their numbers near as much.

    It would make since that the human pollers that call cell phones would normally be much more accurate.  However during the 2009 governor elections, it was the robo polls that were much closer to correct, while the human polls were several points off.

  4. I feel like I am in the twilight zone.  A few days ago, pollsters and prognositicators were saying that Murray was a more sure fire bet than Boxer.  How can the bottom drop out in a few days?  This is weird.

    Am I missing something? Did anything happen in Washington to change the dynamics of the race that quickly?  Usually, that does not happen…

  5. I think Rossi is going to win at this point. Not a take it to the bank type prediction, but a feeling thats been growing for a while inside me.

    Living in WA state, Murray’s campaign has been pathetic, IMO. Rossi is everywhere – signs, ads, billboards. I don’t think I’ve seen a single Murray road side sign or billboard. Rossi has signs in Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, FFS!  WTF is she doing? She has lots of money – I hope she’s spending it on GOTV or something.

    It strikes me that Murray doesn’t really know how to handle such an aggressive challenge well. Now, I love to hear some evidence from WA Dem insiders that I”m wrong, but I think Murray’s campaign has been a big failure.

  6. in their 10/26/08-10/27/08 polling, they showed Gregoire with a 5 point lead with women.  In their 10/30/08-11/2/08 polling they found Gregoire with a 12 point lead among women.  It played out that in exit polls Gregoire won women by 13.

    I expect SUSA to backtrack and have a more “women-support-Murray” poll in their final poll.

  7. And consider that other pollsters are showing Sen. Murray with a mid-single digits lead, and you tell me what the standings are.

    I think Murray is less likely to win than, say, Sen. Boxer or maybe even Gov. Manchin, but she’s more likely to win than Sen. Reid, and I think Reid will win.

    It’s the goddamn cell phones. Kudos to SUSA for trying to poll cell phone-only LVs, but it doesn’t sound like they got the results other pollsters who regularly call cell phones get.

  8. Murray wins this one by about 5-6.  I think SUSA’s polling has been notoriously bad in three states in particular, Washington, Minnesota, and California.  These are all states that will be going hard for the democrats this year, outside of perhaps individual house races.  

    Murray’s led in virtually all polling I’ve seen in the last month, with really only SUSA and Rassmussen giving Rossi a chance.  Rossi always seems to come close, but he’s never gotten it done before.  I’ll believe he’ll win when I see it happen.

  9. The Chicken Littles who believe a few bullshit Republican-skewing polls, and the people who have actually lived in Washington who know that, no matter how Republican some pundits want to believe this year is, there’s no way in holy hell Dino Rossi ever wins a statewide race in Washington.

    Actually, the UW poll looks pretty accurate to me. I say Murray by 4.  

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