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New poll shows mixed news for Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman

A new poll from a liberal-leaning group shows Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race remains deadlocked, but the news isn’t all bad for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A survey conducted by Public Policy Polling group for the liberal group Americans United for Change found little change in a head-to-head match-up between McConnell and likely Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, with McConnell leading 45 percent to 44 percent.

The same company polled Kentucky in late December and found McConnell leading Grimes 43 percent to 42 percent. The margin of error in the most recent poll was plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Of 882 Kentuckians polled from Jan. 24-26, 52 percent said they were Democrats, 36 percent said they were Republicans and 12 percent identified themselves as independents or other.

The good news for McConnell is that, according to PPP, his approval rating has improved since the last poll, though it remains weak.

The December poll put the senator’s approval rating at 31 percent while the most recent poll saw McConnell clock in at 37 percent.

Even better news for McConnell, who is facing a primary against Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, is that 60 percent of Republicans surveyed approve of the job he is doing.

The survey also shows that McConnell has more support among Republicans than Grimes has with Democrats.

When survey respondents chose between McConnell and Grimes, 74 percent of Republicans supported McConnell while 67 percent of Democrats supported Grimes.

The good news for Grimes is on the issues.

Grimes has staked out a position in favor of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, an issue President Barack Obama pushed in Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech and one a majority of Kentuckians favor.

The PPP poll found that 57 percent of Kentuckians approve of raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, and 42 percent said they would be less likely to vote for McConnell if he voted against such a hike.

Click here to see the full poll results.

Political Paddock: Breaking down the latest poll on Kentucky’s Senate race

Editor’s note: This is a special web-only version of Sam Youngman’s Political Paddock column. You can see all his previous columns at

Herald-Leader Political Writer Sam YoungmanBy Sam Youngman
Herald-Leader Political Writer

Polling in the 2014 Kentucky U.S. Senate race has been vexing at best. The Public Policy Polling group has been about the only public group in the field over the last few months asking questions about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican challenger Matt Bevin and Democratic hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes. Despite PPP’s enormous success in 2012, there are a few reasons we don’t report the results as gospel:

1. There are always reservations when a mention of a polling firm has to be prefaced with “right-leaning” or “Democratic.” That doesn’t mean their results are inaccurate or unavoidably biased, but it does mean the methodology has to be closely scrutinized.

2. Until this most recent survey, PPP has sometimes used slanted questions in their polls, prefacing questions in their last run with phrases such as “Now that you know Mitch McConnell supported the shutdown…” The questions in their latest survey released Tuesday were more straight-forward.

3. This is the one giving us the most heartburn. In a state where Democratic registration is significantly higher than Republicans but many Democratic voters consistently choose Republican candidates in federal elections, what should the survey sample be when it comes to party registration?

On its face, the poll found a seemingly accurate sample with 52 percent of respondents identifying themselves as Democrats. If anything, it might even have skewed in favor of Republicans given that the state is about 55 percent registered Democrats. But Kentucky is an anomaly. Consider that in this poll, 54 percent of respondents said they voted for Republican Mitt Romney in the last election when the actual results saw Kentucky go for Romney with about 61 percent.

Frankly, we’re not sure what the sample should look like, but it’s wise to consider the uncertainty caused by party breakdown when looking at this or any poll done in Kentucky.

All that said, the Paddock is a sucker for polls. So looking at these results, the results of previous PPP polls and what folks are saying about various internal polls, here are our takeaways:

New poll shows Clinton and Calipari popular in Kentucky

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT – Democrat Hillary Clinton would fare better in Kentucky in the 2016 presidential election than the state’s junior senator, Republican Rand Paul, a new poll says.

The poll also says University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has a higher favorability rating in the state than does his counterpart at the University of Louisville, Rick Pitino.

Earlier this week, the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling also said Republican Mitch McConnell of Louisville is the most unpopular U.S. senator in the country but leads all Democrats who have been mentioned as possible opposition against him in his 2014 re-election effort.

The poll Wednesday showed that Clinton, who now is the U.S. secretary of state, would be a formidable candidate for president in 2016 in a state where the Republican nominee has captured at least 50 percent of the vote in the last four presidential elections.

The poll showed Clinton with a 48 percent favorability rating with Kentucky voters, compared to 38 percent for President Barack Obama.

Second poll shows Beshear with double-digit lead over Williams

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — A second poll released this week shows Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear with a more than 20-point lead over Republican challenger David Williams.

Insight’s CN|2 poll, conducted by Braun Research, showed Beshear and running mate Jerry Abramson with 53.4 percent of the vote, compared to 25.3 percent for Williams and running mate Richie Farmer.

The independent slate of Lexington lawyer Gatewood Galbraith and marketing executive Dea Riley garnered about 7.2 percent of the vote.

Earlier this week, Public Policy Polling released numbers that showed Beshear witha 27-point lead over Williams.

Paul widens lead over Conway in two new polls

Two new polls released Thursday show Republican Rand Paul widening his lead over Democrat Jack Conway in their race for the U.S. Senate.

In the latest Courier-Journal/WHAS11 Bluegrass Poll, Paul holds a 9-percentage-point lead over Conway, 52 to 43, before next Tuesday’s election.

Paul held a two-point edge, 52-43, in the poll last month.

In a CN|2 Poll by Insight Communications, Paul led Conway, 46.5 percent to 39 percent, with about 13 percent undecided.

That was an increase of three points for Paul from a poll CN|2 took three weeks ago.

–Jack Brammer

CNN/Time Poll shows Paul up 7 points over Conway among likely voters

Democrat Jack Conway, left, and Republican Rand Paul are running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

A new CNN/Time Poll released Thursday shows 50 percent of likely voters in Kentucky support Republican nominee Rand Paul while 43 percent back Democratic nominee Jack Conway in their U.S. Senate race.

The race is much tighter among the larger pool of registered voters in the poll, with Paul holding only a 2-point advantage, 46 to 44 percent.

The telephone poll was conducted Oct. 20-26 with 1,336 registered voters, including 785 likely voters. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for registered voters and 3.5 percentage points for likely voters.

The media poll said Paul’s lead can be explained in part through a significant gender gap.

Kentucky Poll: Slim majority approve of Sen. McConnell’s job performance

PDF: Detailed poll results

By Jack Brammer and Bill Estep –

A slim majority of likely voters in Kentucky approve of Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s job performance, a new Kentucky Poll shows.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they approve of the job McConnell has done in the Senate, where he has served since 1985 and led the GOP caucus since November 2006. Thirty-seven percent disapproved and 11 percent were not sure.

The job performance numbers for McConnell are good but not great, said national political analyst Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Kentucky Poll: Voters focused on the economy

PDF: Detailed poll results

By Bill Estep –

Far and away, the biggest issue facing the state is the economy, according to this week’s Kentucky Poll.

Seventy-two percent of those surveyed said the economy was the single most important issue to them. No other issue reached double digits; the closest was education, at 9 percent.

It’s not hard to see why. Economic indicators show the recession is over, but businesses haven’t done enough hiring yet to drive down a stubborn 9.6 percent national unemployment rate.
Kentucky poll graphic 300×271

In Kentucky, the preliminary unemployment rate for September actually edged up to 10.1 percent from the revised August level of 10 percent, the state Office of Employment and Training announced this week.

People are clearly worried about the job picture.

“They either lost their job, they know somebody who lost their job, they haven’t had a pay increase in a couple of years,” said Don Gross, a political-science professor at the University of Kentucky. “It’s hard to feel real comfortable about the economy right now.”

Kentucky Poll: Ben Chandler locked in tight battle with Andy Barr

Coming Saturday: Find out which issue is on voter's minds.

PDF: Detailed poll results

By John Cheves –

U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, is barely clinging to his House seat as the Nov. 2 election approaches, a new Kentucky Poll shows.

Forty-eight percent of likely voters surveyed in Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District said they would vote for Chandler, compared to 44 percent for Andy Barr, his Republican challenger. Eight percent were undecided.

Chandler’s four-point lead is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Chandler also should worry about other numbers in the poll, said J. Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., which conducted a district-wide telephone survey of 500 registered voters Oct. 15 to 19 for the Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV.

Kentucky Poll: Lexington mayor’s race too close to call

Coming up Friday: In the newspaper, find out what Lexington voters think about the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. At 6 p.m., see poll results on the 6th Congressional District race.

PDF: Detailed poll results

By Andy Mead –

Vice Mayor Jim Gray appears to have a slim advantage over incumbent Mayor Jim Newberry in the race for Lexington’s top job, a new Kentucky Poll shows.

It is the first time an independent poll has shown the challenger out front in the non-partisan contest, although Gray’s four-point lead is within the poll’s margin of error.

Among likely voters, Gray leads Newberry 44 percent to 40 percent, with 16 percent undecided. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Gray trailed Newberry in the May primary, getting 37.5 percent of the vote to Newberry’s 43.7 percent. Former Mayor Teresa Isaac, who received 16.6 percent in the primary and didn’t move forward to the general election, endorsed Gray two days before the poll began.

The live telephone survey of 500 likely Fayette County voters was conducted from Oct. 15 through Oct. 19 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington D.C. It was commissioned by the Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV.