Saturday, May 17, 2014

Last poll before primary shows slight uptick for Bevin, still 20 points behind; McConnell-Grimes race still tight

Sen. Mitch McConnell leads fellow Republican Matt Bevin by 20 percentage points and remains in a neck-and-neck race with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, according to the latest Bluegrass Poll for The Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader, Louisville's WHAS-TV and Lexington's WKYT-TV.

Among the 605 Republicans who said they were likely to vote Tuesday, McConnell had 55 percent and Bevin 35 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for each result. Five percent each said they were undecided or favored one of the three candidates who have been running nominal campaigns.

McConnell's 20-point lead was significantly less than the 32-point lead (37-25) he had in an NBC News/Marist College poll taken April 30 through May 6. A Bluegrass Poll in February showed the spread at 55-29, but that was among registered Republicans, not self-defined likely voters.

McConnell's lead is beyond the error margin in each of the poll's four geographic regions. It is smallest in the Louisville region (51-41) and largest in the east (61-27). He benefits from a gender gap, with women favoring him 62-25 and men favoring him by 48-44, within the error margin. There was a similar split among age groups, with McConnell winning 63-31 among those over 50 but only 45-41 among younger voters, who are less likely to vote.

The 747 registered voters in the poll were asked which of these statements they agreed with more: "Mitch McConnell has been in office too long and it's time for him to go? Or, Mitch McConnell's expertise and seniority are important for Kentucky to have in Washington, D.C." The first statement was adopted by 38 percent, the second by 55 percent. Among voters who defined themselves as conservatives, seniority and expertise prevailed 58-34; among moderates, that statement lost, 47-49, but moderates make up less than a fourth of the Republican sample.

Asked the converse, "Matt Bevin is too inexperienced and would harm Kentucky's ability to get things from Washington? Or, Matt Bevin is the fresh face that is needed to shake things up in Washington," the results were similar.

In a test of Bevin's primary campaign themes, about half of registered Republicans, 51 percent, said McConnell has done too little to "stop spending in Washington, and 54 percent said he has done too little to "stop the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare."

Other results

In a test of the expected matchup, among 1,475 likely general-election voters, Grimes led McConnell 43 percent to 42 percent, with an error margin of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. Independent Ed Marksberry and Libertarian David Patterson each got 4 percent, and 7 percent said they were undecided. In a test with Bevin, Grimes won 41-38.

Against McConnell, Grimes won 15 percent of the conservative vote, 60 percent of the moderate vote and 85 percent of the liberal vote. Generally, the more income and education respondents had, the more likely they were to vote for Grimes.

Grimes led 48-38 in the Louisville region, and McConnell led 48-33 in the east. The other two regions, west and north central, were about even. Error margins are much greater for such smaller samples; in the Louisville region it is plus or minus 4.8 percentage points; in the east, it is 6.4 points.

Among the 1,782 registered voters polled, only 34 percent said they approved of the job McConnell is doing as senator, and 56 percent disapproved. Among Republicans, 53 percent approved and 38 percent disapproved. Asked a more general question, their opinion of McConnell, 29 percent were favorable and 49 percent were unfavorable. Their opinion of Grimes was 35 percent favorable and 27 percent unfavorable.

Bevin's ratings illustrated how he has failed to make a strong impression with registered voters and the damage McConnell's attack advertising has done to him. Asked their opinion of him, 22 percent said it was favorable, 25 percent said it was unfavorable, 33 percent said it was neutral and 13 percent said they had no opinion.

UPDATE: The C-J's Joe Gerth notes, "Another interesting tidbit is that McConnell voters would be more likely to vote for Bevin in November — if Bevin were to win — than Bevin voters are inclined to vote for McConnell. The poll found that only 39 percent of Bevin voters plan to vote for McConnell and 25 percent said they are certain to back Grimes. Conversely, 53 percent of McConnell voters said they would vote for Bevin and only 9 percent say they would back Grimes."

For the full results, click here.

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