Oregonian Poll: Saxton Gaining?

Jeff Alworth

The Oregonian has a new poll out that shows Ted Kulongoski's lead is down to five points over Ron Saxton (.pdf of the poll is here).  Asked who they would vote for, 39% cited Kulongoski, 34% Saxton. Another 4% were leaning toward each candidate.  Mary Starett polled at just 4%, while one in five respondents is undecided.  (Sorry Greenies--Joe Keating's getting just 1%.)  The survey also asked about key ballot measures:

Measure 43 (parental notification)
Yes: 54%*
No: 34%

Measure 45 (term limits)
Yes: 48%
No: 38%

Measure 48 (TABOR)
Yes: 26%
No: 37%

The survey was conducted on 600 Oregonians between September 23-25.  My first read of the findings inclines me to believe it's a pretty representative sample (without being able to see the methodology).  Respondents were divided pretty well between Dems (44%), Republicans (40%), and Independents (17%)--fairly close to registration numbers.  They were spread across the state and were skewed older (as voters are).  And they also gave the President a 37% approval rating--consistent with recent national polling.

If you're pulling for Ted, the news is mixed.  His lead in this poll is smaller than in others, and Ron is within spitting distance.  On the other hand, while the Kulongski campaign has only just recently started running ads, Ron's been running commercials pretty heavily, and they haven't paid huge dividends.  Mary Starett might play a role in the campaign, but hasn't yet. 

The big factor are undecideds. A plurality of respondents think the state is headed in the wrong direction (43% to 38%, who think it's on the right track).  Are those undecideds evenly distributed?  Will they break to the incumbent or look for change?

Stay tuned...

*findings do not include "leaning toward" numbers

  • (Show?)

    Another poll of likely voters shows it a 38-38 dead heat. It was a poll of likely voters, which is a better representation of an election than just a poll of people - especially in a year where turnout is expected to be very low.

  • LT (unverified)

    Let me say at the beginning that I don't trust "likely voter" polls unless I know the order of questions, and don't much trust polls in general without knowing more about the sample size and composition, questions asked, etc.

    But for someone without a lot of math skills, it does look to me that in order to win with the numbers in the post, Saxton would have to get about 3/4 of the undecideds (or maybe my math is all wrong)--and I noticed that the numbers don't add up to 100%, so there are probably lots of undecideds. In 2000, it was just about now my friends and I STARTED discussing ballot measures.

    I am not sure average people have tuned into this yet. As a friend of mine and I were discussing on the phone today, if you are cleaning the oven, or cooking for company, or dealing with problems at work, the topic uppermost in your mind is probably not who you like for Governor, or your views on the corporate kicker, or on term limits or any other ballot measure.

    Once debate season starts, people might start paying more attention.

    And I am a poll skeptic. Even if it is a representative sample, it is the views of 600 people who were willing to answer the poll questions. That doesn't mean all who will vote think along the same lines as those 600 people.

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    Anon, the Moore poll was an internal poll, done for Saxton's benefit. And they won't release the question set, so you can't see what was asked before, and how the questions were asked.

    And yet, even in an internal poll with possible push question issues...Ron still got his 38, no more. Bit of a rut, there!

  • (Show?)

    Remember, polling is as much art as it is science. The key art is in figuring out what the turnout model looks like. Pollsters make assumptions about who is going to turn out to vote (they can ask 'em, but people lie.)

    You see, if you assume that it's an anti-Republican mood out there, then you might assume that Republican turnout will be slightly depressed and Democratic turnout slightly higher. Probably get a good poll for Ted K that way.

    If, on the other hand, you assume that it's an anti-incumbent mood out there, then you might assume that Oregon Republicans might be motivated to turnout while Oregon Democrats might be slightly depressed. Probably get a good poll for Ron that way.

    As they say in sports, there's a reason they play the games. The betting line is interesting, but it doesn't tell ya who is going to win once the players hit the field.

  • (Show?)

    Ugh. Looks like term limits will pass. At least Measure 48 is not doing well. If that thing passes, in all seriousness, I have to move to Vancouver WA. I can't subject my kids to more years of budget uncertainty.

    I agree, Jeff, the "right track" numbers plus a shrinking lead are not good news for Ted. The one silver lining is that, based on advertising figures I got from KGW, Ted hasn't even begun his ad buy yet. Saxton has spent 10 times (yes that is right -- 200k to 20k) as much on KGW.

    But what if this means Ted has no money? Campaign reports come out next week...

  • (Show?)

    term limits at 48% is actually a good thing for people opposed. The historical rule is that if it opens at 55 or better, it will probably pass. Note even M43 is safe, but it's got a good shot. Good turnout from the left will beat all three of those measures back, IMO, based on those figures.

  • Mister Tee (unverified)


    Have you looked into Saxton's club memberships, or unpaid parking tickets, or even his (ahem) DVD rental history....There must be something out there? I can't believe his only sin was to establish a second residence to get his son into the best public high school in town. Yawn.

    If that's only skeleton in the closet, then Teddy is going to have to buy another union or two. Maybe this would be a good time to rewire all the old schools with broadband and upgraded electrical capacity? It's for the children.

  • Aaron (unverified)

    Sen. Smith has stronger numbers then Teddy K. This is in itself very interesting to me. IMO M43/M45 were from the beginning going to be a tough ones to deal with. M48 is wide open still, with 1/3 undecided.

  • (Show?)

    This is a Hibbitts poll. He's the gold standard. I think we can trust that this poll is an accurate snapshot of reality, done without any bias either way.

    This race is very competitive, and it seems there is both good and bad news for both candidates in this poll.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)

    Guv K - He needs to stop talking about raising taxes, or at least articulate why it is necessary in a way voters will understand. Otherwise I see his lead shrinking in the next 4 weeks.

    Parental Notification - Not surprised by the numbers. Weak arguments in its favor. Voters recognize the incongruity of needing to be 18 to vote, join the military, get atattoo, etc., yet only be 15 to terminate a pregnancy. It’s a parental responsibility issue as much as anti-abortion.

    Term Limits - Strong dissatisfaction with elected officials is fueling this. In Multnomah County, term limits is the only thing between informed voters and the re-election of Cruz and the other mean girls by those who cast votes based on name recognition. Time to turn the soil at the state level.

  • (Show?)

    I have always respected Hibbits polls. Althouogh I always try to take a look at all the polling to see if we can find any similarities and discrepencies.

    I find it interesting Jeff that in your posting you immediately grab for the number sets that put a positive spin on your particular political leanings. The Oregonian story put the race at 4 points not your five. The Oregonian (and Hibbits) put the M45 numbers at 51%.

    The ballot measure numbers seem a little odd to me. I have three polls from Rasmussen (tracking and the last one on the 15th) and another from a different firm and all say that M45 is at about 60% YES and below 30% NO. Yet Hibbits shows up as the one that is different. Although Hibbits did qualify his measure polling with the fact that the voters "don't seem to be dialed in yet."

    He seems to leave the door open for some errors on the measure campaigns.

    The M48 polling I have seen is also different. I have not seen it polliing nearly like M45 and M43 but certainly better than what Hibbits has shown. However the difference here is that the polling I had seen is older and would not take into account the recent media bashing of the measure.It could very well have fallen off a bit.

    However I think it is more likely that the Hibbits version of M48 question missed it's mark. Hibbits has included (check Q10) the ballot title plus the "result of" portions. That makes for a very long question over the phone and the average person would have become lost by the third sentence. Just try to call a friend and read them that question over the phone and follow by asking if they understood it or would they feel more comfortable seeing it in print. Also that question ENDS by quoting the "result of NO" vote. Again could skew that number downward some.

    Oh Rob? Gold standard?

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    I am not surprised by these numbers.

    Our Gov. is being "Swift Boated" by the Saxton ads, at least those on TV and radio over here in Central Oregon. -- And like Kerry, there is no response.

    Here at Blue Oregon, we known the facts about the Gov's record, and know that the ads of Saxton are at best misleading, and frankly are full of mistruths. But where does that get out to "the people in the street"? It hasn't yet.

    When lies are told, but not refuted, then the lies are believed.

    Our Gov. is OF COURSE going down, as long as he plays dead like Kerry did two years ago.

  • (Show?)

    I find it interesting Jeff that in your posting you immediately grab for the number sets that put a positive spin on your particular political leanings. The Oregonian story put the race at 4 points not your five. The Oregonian (and Hibbits) put the M45 numbers at 51%.

    I went with the attached document from Hibbitts, and didn't include "leaning toward" numbers. It's likely that the O had more comprehensive data and that the rounding, including "leaning toward" numbers, put it at four instead of five. As asterisked,the measure numbers I reported also do not include "leaning toward" group. All the numbers on the front page of today's O include the aggregates and are therefore larger. Oh, except for the undecideds, which are 12% if you extract "leaning towards" and 21% if you don't.

    (That is itself an interesting decision. With six weeks to the election, I find it dubious to include squishy support for measures--which people reliably know very little about. M36 started dropping like a stone once people started to understand it in '04, and by the day of the election, it was actually polling at less than 50%--d'oh! damn mail in ballots!)

    As to spin, I reads the tea leaves as I sees 'em. No doubt Saxtonians are dancing in the street. Shocking to imagine that we might read them differently, no?

    As to the quality of Hibbitts' polls, we don't know. It is always a little disconcerting when a pollster fails to include his methodology--that's really how you tell whether the survey was flawed or not. Blind faith does not equal sound methodology.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    Depending on how they determined who is a "likely" voter, if they did it fairly (past voting record, the role of issues that matter most to the voter in a particular race, etc.), numbers for "likely" voters are pretty good. Not to say they fairly determined who is a "likely" voter in this poll since, as torridjoe pointed out, we haven't seen the questions, nor the phone scripts.

    What is interesting most about this poll is it comes on the heels of some well done (in a campaign management sense) negative advertising by Saxton, and limited, but very poor, advertising by Kulongoski. As a Democrat I literally was made uncomfortable by the Kulongoski radio ad I heard. My first involuntary feeling was that it illustrated how much we have failed in defending Democrat values that we haven't gotten him intensive counseling to help him get past his truly unfortunate childhood. I also couldn't help how the ad caused me to think what a predator Goldshmidt must have been to seek out vulnerable individuals like this to help further his own selfish political and personal power kingdom building.

    I genuinely felt really bad for the guy, and definitely not inspired that he has overcome his tragic and difficult start to emerge as a strong leader of principle. It reinforced an image of a weak guy who attends the funerals of fellow servicepeople like him, but has been so unsure of himself in the face of a corrupted system that he couldn't speak out against the illegimate war that has caused all those funerals. This critique is not intended as an argument against Kulogonski, since after hearing this ad I honestly am left with even less of an idea what he is really about as a leader, and from what I can see Saxton is just another undistinguished example of all the venality and ignorance the Republican party has to offer. I'm just saying that if this is the first emotional reaction that Kulongoski's ads involuntarily conjures up in even 5% of undecided or "independent" voters, there is a huge problem with the tone. Unless the numbers turn around quick, Kulongoski had better fire his campaign PR staff and get some people with brains and backbones who can re-tool his image in these ads.

    As far the ballot measures: Given the inconsistency the current results represent as a set of governing values, they help reinforce the oft made point here that too many lacking real political experience refuse to accept: Voting is an arational act. People vote from their gut, based on who or what they perceive to represent their values, frequently in completely inconsistent ways, and in almost every case given the barest or no actual factual information about who or what they are voting for. That's what the neofascist right-wing understands, and has developed into a science with micro-targeting to help them win U.S. Senate and House majorities (and at least get our dry-drunk

  • JJones (unverified)

    Say what you will about the money being spent, the fact is, numbers are moving and they are moving DOWN for Teddy K. His constant thumping of the "more taxes" drum is not what voters want after coming out of a recession and the nation's highest unemployment in the last couple of years. People aren't stupid, they know that they already give more than enough money to government and that government doesn't spend it wisely. Saxton is running on a platform of change and at this point, voters may just embrace that change simply because it's something different than the dysfunctional government and Governor we've had to date.

  • Zak J. (unverified)

    JJ says: "People aren't stupid, they know that they already give more than enough money to government and that government doesn't spend it wisely."

    I wouldn't say they're stupid, but I would say Oregonians who think our current tax burden is high or fair are uninformed.

    JJ - Do you like the current level of services, especially schools and state police, that we're provided? Again, I'd love to hear Saxton's specifics on where he'll find "efficiencies" to solve these shortcomings without changing our state revenue structure.

    I'm listening for Saxton's answers, but all I hear are crickets.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    As Jeff Alworth notes, Saxton has much more TV advetising. This may explain the closer poll numbers. If Ted exploits Saxton's gaffs and past questionable activities, Saxton's toast.

  • (Show?)

    Unless something changes dramatically, Saxton's toast anyway. His negatives are amazingly high, and his Q rating too high to gain new converts who don't already know him. Kulo's numbers simply fluctuate back and forth among the undecided; Saxton isn't able to peel any away to his side as yet.

  • (Show?)

    Jeff, Sorry I just noticed that you posted this last night and the universe that I am referring to was from today's story.

  • Phen (unverified)

    I was dismayed to see the term limits measure with a 10-point lead. Thanks, torridjoe, for providing a ray of hope (less than 55% means it can be defeated). I haven't seen or heard any advertising about this measure. I have to believe the backers will be out there, but is there a campaign on the NO side?

  • Sally (unverified)

    Hope lives. Yeehaw. It's worth tuning in here once in a while.

    Go Saxton.

  • LT (unverified)

    Sally, Assume that Saxton wins and there is a Democratic House and maybe Democratic Senate. Exactly why do you think he would do well in that situation? If that happens, "GO Saxton!" will not be enough. He would actually have to govern--which means the art of persuasion and attention to detail. And if Ron can't get what he wants from the legislature, we could be in for a long session, vetoes rivaling Kitzhaber's record, veto overrides, that sort of thing.

    I don't think the average voter has tuned into the Gov. election yet.

    And to all you Ted supporters: I had a serious conversation outside the most recent State Central Comm. meeting with a top Ted for Gov. campaign person. This man said WE GET IT! WHEN AN INCUMBENT ONLY GETS 54% IN THE PRIMARY, SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE!

    If Steve is not seeing serious effort over there in Central Oregon, why is that?

    I understand there is some kind of debate on OPB starting in several minutes. We'll see if Ted "get's it" and if Saxton can give detailed intelligent responses.

    Or if the debate is like a couple of legislative situations I have seen or heard about where the Republican gave a "head scratching" answer ("what was that answer supposed to prove?") or admits the opponent knows more in the area of the question being asked.

  • Oregon Dem (unverified)

    Can you all please Volunteer for Governor Kulongoski. If Saxton Wins it will simply be because demcorats didn't vote and they wont vote unless someone asks them and no one will ask them if there aren't any volunteers and there won't be any volunteers if you, the person who is reading this right now, isn't volunteering... The demcoratic party is a democratic volunteer organization and is thus only as good or as powerful as the people who show up so if no one shows well...... Please volunteer this our state and if we aren't willing to take a stand for it what are we willing to take a stand for. It is simply time for all of us as liberals, progressives and demcorats to take a stand and not give one inch anywhere on any race and do it together. we must be the teeth of this party we must come together and fight for our candidates, our government, our state, and most importantly our neighbors and friends. Please fight and stand with me. To volunteer you can call the DPO at 503 224 8200 - or Mult dems at 503 248 0826 or local democratic candidate our county party. I am paid - but not by Ted - and it doesn't really matter because i would do this work for free if i had to because i must act i can not let what has happened under republican leadership go unanswered, CAN YOU?

  • (Show?)

    LT, And if the Republicans hold the house and the Senate stays the same?

    Or if the Republicans hold the house and the Senate goes back to Republicans?

    Or, if both houses flip and Kulongoski wins?


  • (Show?)

    One thing I noticed about the poll results for the Governor's race is that if you add Starrett's 4% and Morley's 3% and give it to Saxton, it puts him at 45%, and if you give Keating's 2% to Kulongoski, it would also put him at 45%.

    Which would indicate that if all three minor party candidates were not in the race, it would be a statistical dead heat.

    Granted you can't assume all minor party supporters would vote that way if their candidates weren't on the ballot, but it shows you how things shape up if you group all the left of center candidates together and all the right of center candidates together.

    If I were a Green Party supporter, I would be pretty depressed and demoralized that my guy was getting beat pretty good by not just one but two right of center minor party candidates.

  • (Show?)

    Also, so far I've received three flyers in the mail from Saxton, (including the "Governer" one) and none from Gov. K. Since I'm registered as unaffiliated, I guess that means Saxton is going hard after independent voters and undecideds, while the Gov is mainly trying to rally registered Democrats?

  • (Show?)

    Just got back from this afternoon's debate at OPB--I'll get my thoughts up ASAP. Oh, Ted won.


  • JJones (unverified)

    Zak - You would say "I wouldn't say they're stupid, but I would say Oregonians who think our current tax burden is high or fair are uninformed." Really? Seriously? Why are they uninformed? Because they don't believe that having some of the highest taxes in the nation coupled with things like high gas prices, some of the nation's highest unemployment and government inefficiencies under Democrat Leadership is enough? And yes, like it or not, the Governor is the CEO or the Captain or whatever other analogy you want to use. He, and the previous Dem Govs, are the ones ultimately held responsible for governing and they have failed this state.

    Do I "like the current level of services, especially schools and state police, that we're provided?" Of course not, I don't think many people do. But I also don't believe that simply throwing money at a problem is the answer. The gross mismanagement of state agencies by Democrat-appointed Heads and the bloated union pension funds are as much or more to blame for our sad, sick state of affairs as the amount of money coming in to the state coffers. We pay a disgusting amount of money to PERS and for what? So state employees can retire on 105% of what they were earning when they left? So that those same state employees can come back as "consultants" and double dip the state, costing us even more money?

    You say "I'm listening for Saxton's answers, but all I hear are crickets." Well, I'm listening for Kulongoski's answers and all I hear is the sound of my empty bank account from paying too much in taxes and the sound of poverty on my doorstep.

    I suppose the good news is once Ted has all my money, I'll be able to get welfare, food stamps and other government sponsored programs to support me since we'll have enough money to take care of everyone in Oregon.

  • John Mulvey (unverified)

    Couple points:

    -A "likely voter" is someone who has voted in 2 of the last 4 elections (general or primary). This is printed at the top of the poll results.

    -People will of course put whatever spin they want on these sorts of things. The reality is that these numbers are a qualified good news for Ted. Saxton has a huge amount of money and has been blanketing tv and mailboxes for three weeks. Ted has less money and has made the strategic choice to hold off blowing it all early. Given this, the fact that Kulongoski still leads by 5% is good news. Not GREAT news, but still GOOD news.

    -The most troubling thing in this report is the lopsided total on the parental notification initiative. Please, please, please Oregon NARAL: put down the brie, quit shmoozing and patting yourselves on the back, and get to work doing some real public education and outreach to undecideds on this issue. Keep resting on your bank accounts and flawed public opinion polling and you'll watch reproductive rights slip away in this state.


  • (Show?)

    JJones--Oregon's tax burden is generally below the national average, so I'm not sure what you're talking about. For corporate taxation, it's near the bottom. As for unemployment, Oregon's job growth is among the very BEST in the nation the last year or two.

    IMO, throwing money at the problem IS the answer, if the question is, "How will we pay the additional people we need to protect us on our highways" or "how can we afford more teachers to keep class sizes down?"

    As for PERS, I'm baffled. State workers make less than their private counterparts, and have as their tradeoff better benefits and job/retirement security. That's the way it works. Are you suggesting that state workers not receive retirement? For several years now, anyone joining PERS is getting basically a 401K that goes up and down with the markets. The guaranteed 8% return is promised only to Tier I employees, and I assume you don't favor the state breaking its promise to those workers, right? And you act as if only public employees can double dip after retirement. Why is that the fault of the state, and why should the state do anything about what people do after earning their fair retirement?

    What was that about Oregonians being well informed enough to handle these issues?

  • Stan Pdgorny (unverified)

    Hey, ain't the only poll that counts the one on votin' day? The rest's just o'pinyuns fer pundits to kick 'round, nuthin' more!

  • Robert Christian (unverified)

    Check and confirm your voter registration status. Mine was disqualified because they didn't recognize my signature in the last election.

  • Bill Ryan, Salem, Oregon (unverified)

    The Hibbitts poll has the same split as the new Rasmussen poll out, 5%, less undecided there. Good news here.. the other candidates are eating up 8%, so Saxton has to get nearly all the undecided. Also his favorable/unfavorable ratio is in the negative range, while Ted's is slightly positive. I think Ted's in pretty good shape.

  • LT (unverified)

    And the details and indications of Ron's character are beginning to emerge.

    Take the Saxton (with arms crossed) "Illegal is illegal" ad. Maybe I missed it (was watching from kitchen while cooking) but I didn't see any mention of employer sanctions for hiring illegals. What I did see was "how dare Ted support driver licenses for illegals" because they "use up services and might even vote".

    Here's what it sounds like Ron is saying: he's not upset when employers hire illegals or that would have been the message of the ad, he's been vague about funding state police, but by golly it is time to crack down on those illegals, he doesn't want illegals to take an eye test, take a test on Oregon's rules of the road and driving ability, and he doesn't want illegals to have their address on record with the DMV. What evidence can Ron produce that illegals "use services and might even vote"? Or is that just propaganda? Are there any Russian or European or Asian illegal aliens, or does he want just Hispanics to prove their citizenship?

    I have mental picture of famous Republicans (AG Gonzales, Sen. Martinez come to mind) coming to Oregon to campaign for Saxton and seeing that ad. Should a cabinet official or a US Senator have to prove their citzenship to drive in Oregon? (wasn't there a great West Wing episode about that?).

    Given who is elected to the Oregon Legislature, what if a Gov. Saxton had alienated enough legislators that they wouldn't pass the changes he mentions in the ad (if he is serious about them) until there were serious crackdowns on hiring of illegals?

    There are people who say that in 1988, the "Willie Horton" ad "worked" to elect GHW Bush. But to those who think that means Saxton will win, recall this: For the adult lives of many people (back to the 1960s?)there was a "Republican lock on the West". Oregon was a "red" state--Oregon always went to the Republican nominee for President. Except in 1988 when Dukakis carried the state, and Oregon has been a "blue" state ever since.

  • Chuck Paugh (unverified)

    People are unhappy with Kulongoski and the direction the state is going. What is their REAL alternative but to vote for Saxton? I have many friends who are Democrats who are either not going to vote for ANYONE for governor or for Saxton, not because they like Saxton, but as a vote AGAINST Kulongoski.

    Furthermore, there is a large influx of out of state people becoming Oregon residents -- you know, all the new people moving into the $750K a piece condos going up in downtown Portland -- who are going to vote Republican. I don't resent them, but I do resent Oregon allowing developers to build only highend units and not requiring them to build affordable housing as well. Trust me, this will change the entire political makeup of the state within 10 years.

  • LT (unverified)

    OK, so all those people vote for Saxton. Are they all voting for Republican legislators? What if Saxton gets a Democratic legislature? No one who talks about voting for Saxton has yet convinced me he understands the role of the legislature in state government. It might be nice to see Mr "We need to talk about..." faced with actual decisions as Governor.

    <h2>I'm voting for Ted because while I disagree with some of the things he has done, I don't blame him for the mess made by House leadership. And I know that as a former legislator he understands the there is precious little any Gov. can do without the help of the legislature.</h2>

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