Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Two More Maryland Gov Surveys – A Review

Far be it from me to question the wisdom of my polling brethren, but I needed to take a look at the internals of the latest Washington Post-University of Maryland and Gonzales Research poll findings re: the Governor’s race.

First, the WaPo – UMD survey:

814 Registered Voters (RVs) were surveyed, out of those, 648 self-identified as Likely Voters (LVs). 

For the RVs, the breakouts by party are consistent with the actual registration numbers from the State Board of Elections Registration Activity Report from September 2018.  The report shows a population of registered voters that is 55% Democratic (D), 25.5% Republican (R), and 19.5% Unaffiliated/Other (U).  The survey essentially mirrors those numbers …for the Registered Voters…55% Democratic, 26% Republican, 17% Unaffiliated/Other, 1% No Opinion (note: numbers might not add up to 100% due to rounding).

Importantly, we don’t know what the party ID breakout is amongst Likely Voters.  If you believe that Democratic turnout will be high, say 60%, while Republican turnout is closer to 50% - 55%, that would have a measurable impact on the head-to-head ballot test numbers.   

Unfortunately, the public release report didn’t show the party breakouts for the ballot test, so I can’t recalculate the numbers for the WaPo – UMD survey using a different turnout model.  Just off the top, I believe we would likely see a net 5% swing, so Hogan would probably have something closer to a 15% lead over Jealous.  Not insurmountable.

Of concern for Jealous? Again bearing in mind that the composition of the survey population might not reflect the actual 2018 electorate, Hogan’s 68% Favorable rating & 3.8:1 Fav/Unfav ratio) is quite respectable (would have been nice to see the intensity numbers here…).  Meanwhile, Jealous stands at 36% Favorable and a 1.1:1 Fav/Unfav ratio.  Room to grow.

Hogan also has a 68% job approval rating and double-digit leads on key attribute tests (honest/trustworthy, cares about people like you, agrees with you on most policy issues).  Jealous needs to improve on all of the latter measures, and tie Hogan on at least one.  

Hogan also leads on the handling of multiple issues (public education, health care, economy, and taxes). That said, the Jealous campaign has focused in recent days on communicating the differences between their visions on education and health care.  If Jealous can be seen as better than Hogan on those two issues, he stands a good chance of closing the gap.

With 76% of voters believing that Maryland’s economy is excellent (11%) or good (65%), it is unlikely that Jealous will want to focus his energies on economic grounds alone. 

Turning to the Gonzales October 2018 Maryland Poll:

Their demographic breakouts, by party, are a bit high with the Republicans (29.3%) and slightly low with the Unaffiliateds (15.4%) compared to their actual registration numbers.

Had the poll adopted a turnout model that reflects a somewhat higher Democratic turnout (reflecting a D base that is more energized than the Rs & Is), I am showing a recalculated head-to-head of closer to 51.5% Hogan – 37.5% Jealous, a 14% Hogan lead.

The direction of the state numbers (right direction/wrong track) reveal a decidedly optimistic electorate (64% right direction – 20% wrong track; +44% positive).  It is challenging to defeat incumbents – if they are perceived as popular, for whatever reason - with numbers such as that.

Hogan remains well-known and, at the moment, continues to enjoy solid favorability numbers (67% Favorable – 11% Unfavorable; 6.1:1 Fav/Unfav Ratio).  Looking at intensity, almost a third of Democrats (32%) have a “very favorable” impression of Hogan.

Meanwhile, Jealous is still contending with name identification issues, with 36% Favorable – 34% Unfavorable numbers (or a 1.1:1 Fav/Unfav Ratio).  35% of Democrats view him very favorably, which is only 3% higher than Hogan’s numbers with the same population.

Hogan has a 72% job approval rating.  Two-thirds of Democrats approve of the job he is doing.  Even if they are slightly under-represented as part of the overall survey sample, looking at internal Democratic numbers such as this reveals that Hogan would be difficult to cast – at this stage - as incompetent, or even villainous (which, of course, is distinct from competence).

My recommendation, given the resources available to the Jealous campaign, would be to run hard on positives pushing 1) the Jealous story, and his plans on 2) education and 3) health care.  This should be the message troika between now and Election Day.  While I recognize the utility of well-executed comparative spots, any so-called “attack” ads would have to come from outside groups.  The Jealous campaign needs to boost the candidate’s name ID and attachment, in the electorate’s mind, to issues that voters care about…issues that also have been historically good for Democrats.

My visceral reaction (as every pollster winces) is that this race is closer to Jealous down 14%, not 18% - 20%.  In short, not a great position to be in @four weeks out, but Hogan can still be defeated by a Democratic campaign with a strong closing message and a heavy Democratic turnout.  

I maintain this will end up being a single-digit race.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

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