A new poll by Kansas University students suggests many Kansas voters still don't know much about the candidates running for governor and attorney general.
Even so, the Sunflower Survey showed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Sebelius and GOP attorney general nominee Phill Kline holding double-digit leads in their respective races.
The poll by political communication students also showed there were enough undecided voters to settle the outcome of either race. Fifteen percent of those likely voters polled were undecided about the governor's race; 30 percent were undecided about the attorney general's contest.
The telephone survey of registered voters was conducted from Wednesday to Sunday.
Sebelius won the support of 50 percent of those polled compared to Republican Tim Shallenburger's 33 percent. The numbers were similar to those in a Harris News Service poll released earlier this week.
In the KU poll, Kline, the Republican attorney general candidate, outpolled Democratic opponent Chris Biggs 41 percent to 29 percent.
The Sunflower Survey was supervised by KU professors Mary Banwart and Diana Carlin. There was a 4 percent margin of error.
The KU students conducted a primary election survey for several Kansas media outlets in August. But allegations by Shallenburger's campaign about Carlin's Democratic Party affiliations she had made three contributions totaling $400 to Sebelius' campaign led the media group to drop continued polling.
The latest poll was partially financed by a new group of Kansas media outlets.
The student pollsters said those surveyed indicated they didn't know enough about the gubernatorial candidates, despite millions of dollars the campaigns have spent advertising.
|For a look at whether voter sentiment is shifting as the general election draws nigh, turn to The World Company Poll.Tune in to 6News at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday for the first look at results of the latest polling on statewide races. Then pick up Friday's Journal-World for an in-depth look at the results.|
"I don't think it's been that (voters) haven't been paying attention," said Jennifer Luis, a KU graduate student who worked on the survey. "A lot of the results have shown that it's hard for the general public to differentiate between the two."
Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran-Basso acknowledged that many voters might think both candidates are being unnecessarily vague in their promises to do a "top-to-bottom" review of the state budget as a step to bridge a widening revenue gap some estimates have pegged at $800 million in a $4.4 billion budget.
"I understand their frustration," Corcoran-Basso said.
She said Sebelius couldn't be more specific about what state programs to cut until the review has been done.
Bob Murray, Shallenburger's spokesman, downplayed the KU survey, noting several major polls before the Republican primary in August incorrectly predicted a Shallenburger loss.
"We like to rely on pollsters who do this for a living," Murray said. "There's been a lot of wrong polls."
Attorney general's race
The attorney general's race is breaking down along party lines, according to the poll. But, as in the gubernatorial race, voters don't seem to know with whom they're dealing.
Only 20 percent of respondents knew Biggs was the Geary County prosecutor, roughly the same as those who knew about Kline's job history as a legislator and radio talk show host.
That could be significant as undecided voters make up their minds in the campaign's final days, the pollsters said. Most voters ranked "prosecutorial experience" as a an important qualification for the attorney general job.
Biggs said he had an uphill battle against Kline's fund-raising and name recognition to get voters to understand his qualifications.
"We're starting to change that," Biggs said. "That poll was last week, and we've had quite a bit of media coverage, endorsements and started running TV ads since then."
Kline spokesman Whitney Watson said voters didn't know much about the candidates because they've tuned out the media's anti-Kline agenda.
"I think it's unfortunate," Watson said. "Voters are starting to tune out because they see so much one-sided coverage in the media, they tune out the coverage."
Lewis said the numbers could change in the final week, when many voters begin paying attention.
"I think that's the first time a lot of people realize that there's a race going on," she said. "The general public hasn't had a chance to figure out who those people are, or what they stand for."