More Polls: Kitzhaber & Dudley close, Wyden over Huffman by wide margin

Jeff Alworth

Are you experiencing poll fatigue yet? No? Don't worry--it's only June, and you'll be plenty tired in a few months! Now, onto the results...

Ten days ago, I blogged about the SurveyUSA poll that put Republican Chris Dudley out in front of Democrat John Kitzhaber by six points. Two more have the race a bit closer. The GOP's fave firm, Rasmussen, puts Dudley up just two 47%-45%. That's within the margin of error (500 likely voters, +/- 4.5%). Moreover, it shows that the trend is flat. Kitzhaber tumbled from a 6-point February lead, and the two were tied a month ago. In polling this far out, trends are more important than actual numbers.

Similar findings come from a Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall poll that puts the two even at 41%. Again, that's within the margin of error (399 likely voters, +/- 4.8%). Important note: neither poll included named minor-party candidates. The SurveyUSA poll included Progressive Party candidate Jerry Wilson.

In the Senate race, incumbent Senator Ron Wyden continues to lead Republican challenger Jim Huffman comfortably. Rasmussen puts the number at 47%-37%, and Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall put it at 50%-32%.

Update. The Wyden campaign forwarded me results of a Grove Insight poll that has Wyden up by 30, 53%-23%. That means in three polls, Wyden's lead is 10, 18, and 30. Why are these polls so scattered and the ones in the governor's race so consistent? Thoughts below the jump.

In three separate polls for the governor's race, John Kitzhaber receives 41, 45, and 41%. Chris Dudley receives 47, 47, and 41%--differences of just 6%, 2%, and 0%. These are all very close and, when you add in difference in the poll that included a third candidate, they get even closer.

But then in the Senate race, Ron Wyden receives 51%, 47%, and 53%--pretty consisten. Jim Hoffman's numbers, though are all over the place: 38%, 37%, and 23%--poll differences of 13%, 10%, and 30%.

Polls are useful only to the extent that they can predict who will turn out for an election. What I see here is the result of weighting for anti-incumbent votes. Wyden's approval rating is a relatively high 51% (with 39% disapproving)--good considering the mood of the country right now. Normally, we'd consider that an incumbent senator north of 50% is pretty safe, particularly when running against a political novice with very low name recognition. But apparently, pollsters are giving a lot of credence to the anti-incumbent theory. You don't see the same effect in the Dudley-Kitzhaber race because neither is an incumbent.

If I had to guess, I'd say Lisa Grove's results are accurate now. The burden of proof lies with Hoffman. Inflating his numbers on a dubious hunch that incumbents will fare poorly seems a stretch to me. At the very least, call his lead a comfortable twenty points.

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    Dudley's entire campaign will hinge on making it be a de-facto-incumbency race against Kitzhaber. Because on the merits and resume, he is a non-starter compared to Kitzhaber otherwise.

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    Hibbitts is by far the best pollster for Oregon. I can believe his tie a lot more than I can believe the SUSA polling you published ten days ago on the guv race. And the Hibbitts result on the Wyden race looks about right too.

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    The flatness is great news for Kitzhaber. If there were a wave, it didn't seem like Dudley was around to ride it.

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    The public in general does not pay much attention to politics and this gives the Kitzhaber opponent, who is charming, tall and short on experience, an advantage.

    It is up to the Kitzhaber team to make this a race about issues and not about who is going to be Prom King and that's exactly what I think the opponent's team would like, as undemocratic as a substance-less popularity contest would be in a time of such pressing issues such as deficits, prisoners being released and the most vulnerable of us getting even more vulnerable because of budget cuts.

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    Looks like SurveyUSA was on the mark after all.

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