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Polling averages show tight Kansas governor's race


Political junkies in Kansas are being treated to an unusually large number of polls this election cycle, which gives people who are nerds about statistics a lot to work with.

The latest came out Tuesday night from SurveyUSA, which conducted a poll on behalf of KSN-TV in Wichita. It showed Democrat Paul Davis with an eight-point lead, 48-40 percent, over incumbent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

It was the third public poll conducted since the Aug. 5 primary, and all three have shown Davis ahead in the race, giving the Davis camp a boost of confidence. But when all three polls are averaged together, the results still show a close race.

The polls included one by Public Policy Polling, showing Davis ahead by two, 39-37 percent; and one by Rasmussen Reports showing Davis ahead by 10, 51-41 percent. Each poll was conducted differently using different sample sizes, resulting in slightly different margins of error. But when the three of them are combined as if they were all one poll, you come up with this:

Here, we're looking at the raw number of respondents who indicated how they would vote if the election were held on the day they were polled. SurveyUSA provides those raw numbers. For the other two, the numbers were calculated using the reported percentages and sample size.

Mark Joslyn, a Kansas University political science professor who studies public opinion polling, said those numbers show the race is far from decided.

"The reasonably consistent low support for Brownback does indicate a close race," Joslyn said in an email when asked to comment on the numbers. "In that regard, how firm voters’ support is and how the undecided break are keys to the eventual outcome."

An important point about the table above is that we've combined the "other/undecided" voters with those who said they support Libertarian candidate Keen Umbehr. Two of the polls, SurveyUSA and PPP, gave people the option of picking Umbehr. The Rasmussen survey did not.

SurveyUSA shows Umbehr polling at 5 percent while PPP showed him at 9 percent. So if we give him an average of 7 percent, out of the 2,213 people sampled, that still leaves about 8.4 percent undecided.

The question for Brownback, then, is what can he do to sway those voters that he hasn't already done during three and a half years in office. Given his high disapproval ratings (53 percent in Rasmussen; 55 percent in PPP), the answer is twofold: rewrite the narrative of his first term in hopes of changing voters' assessment of him and launch a negative campaign to convince undecideds that Davis would be worse, both of which the Brownback campaign has been doing.

The latter may be an achievable task, given Davis' current low name recognition. In the PPP poll, 41 percent said they're not sure what to think of him. In the Rasmussen poll, 19 percent said they've never heard of him.

Thus, Davis' challenge will be to connect with those undecided voters and make them feel comfortable voting for him before Brownback's negative message has a chance to sink in.


James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

You flipped the SUSA numbers for Brownback and Davis. I went to double check on your link, and indeed it lists Brownback 226, Davis 270.

I'm just having a hard time seeing how an 8 point lead, a 2 point lead, and a 10 point lead average into a 2 point lead. However, when we add it up using the correct numbers, Brownback is 39% and Davis at 45% giving Davis a 6 point lead.

It's still not a guaranteed win for Davis, but math harder, please.

Peter Hancock 3 years, 9 months ago

Thanks, that's been fixed. But the basic point is still valid: the size of the undecided vote is larger than the spread between Brownback and Davis. And given how early we are in the season, the race is still up for grabs, statistically speaking.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't disagree. There's a lot that could happen between now and November.

Ed Johnson 3 years, 9 months ago

RCP lists the same polls this month, and it is showing Davis +8 SUSA, Davis +5 PPP and Davis +10 Rasmussen.

That averages out to Davis +8 this month, with an avg margin of error of around 3.8.

I have a hunch Sam Brownback is a lot further behind than these polls are showing.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Hard to say. There's a lot of room for Brownie to swiftboat Davis still, since most of the polls indicate that voters don't even know who he is other than being not Brownback.

Then again, when you're so unpopular that people are willing to vote for anyone but you...

Steve Jacob 3 years, 9 months ago

This could be a very high turnout vote this November, Davis will soon have to be everywhere in Kansas and raise lots of money quick. He's got to get the Democratic god/ATM Bill Clinton to Kansas.

Clark Coan 3 years, 9 months ago

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in Koch-funded attack ads will swing it to Brownback.

Ed Johnson 3 years, 9 months ago

Agree that late-entry Koch money has swamped media markets and done wonders for Konservatives in the past. Davis better leave a little something in the cookie jar for the last two weeks.

Lawrence Freeman 3 years, 9 months ago

6 points down for an incumbent? That is a kiss of death. Anybody who is still undecided will probably not bother voting.

Clark Coan 3 years, 9 months ago

The hucksters only have to convince 3% of the Kansas electorate to switch from Davis to Brownback. Remember when Kerry was doing well in the polls until the Swiftboat attack in 2004? He never recovered in the polls despite it being refuted as a fabrication. That's what the Koch operatives are going to do. Davis: a Liberal Lawyer from Lawrence who supported Obamacare.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Actually, they just have to convince 3% of Davis supporters too not bother voting. Low voter turnout is Brownback's friend. If there's high voter turnout, it's because the voters are pissed off. They're not going to be pissed off about Obama this time around, no matter how much team Koch tries to make it so.

So the smear ads will be aimed t making people think that there's no point in voting at all because all the candidates suck.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Site went down when I was trying to fix this. I wanted to include that there's more than the spread worth of undecideds. Critical info when the math doesn't add up!

Ed Johnson 3 years, 9 months ago

Never kiss off anybody who can get people to write them huge checks at a moment's notice. Sam Brownback should be 15 points back.

Lawrence Freeman 3 years, 9 months ago

You're right Clark, but at this point I think the hucksters can't change the decided voters. Brownback has to run with his record hanging over his head. He can only count on the extreme right, not the moderate republicans.

Now maybe if his staff will pick on another 18 year old high school girl, Davis can lock the election up!

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

WE know ALEC is backing Sam Browmback…… which is not good for Kansas not even a little bit.

What Does ALEC Lobby For?

ALEC claims it “does not lobby in any state.” However, ALEC’s tactics and operations are strikingly similar to those of registered lobbyists with corporate benefactors. Beyond distributing model legislation, ALEC provides its members with “issue alerts,” “talking points,” and “press release templates” expressing support or opposition to state legislation. The organization tracks the status of its model bills in legislatures, and sends its employees to testify in support of its bills in state houses across the country.

  • Undercutting Health Care Reform After the passage of health care reform, ALEC’s top priority has been to challenge the law by encouraging members to introduce bills that would prohibit the law’s insurance mandate. ALEC’s Health and Human Services task force is led by representatives of PhRMA and Johnson & Johnson, and representatives of Bayer and GlaxoSmithKlein sit on ALEC’s board.

The group’s model bill, the “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act,” has been introduced in forty-four states, and ALEC even released a “State Legislators Guide to Repealing ObamaCare” discussing a variety of model legislation including bills to partially privatize Medicaid and SCHIP.

The legislative guide utilizes ideas and information from pro-corporate groups like the Heritage Foundation, the Goldwater Institute, the James Madison Institute, the Cato Institute, the National Center for Policy Analysis and the National Federation of Independent Business.

  • Corporate Power and Workers’ Rights ALEC works fervently to promote laws that would shield corporations from legal action and allow them to limit the rights of workers.

The group’s model legislation would roll back laws regarding corporate accountability, workers compensation and on the job protections, collective bargaining and organizing rights, prevailing wage and the minimum wage.

ALEC is a main proponent of bills that undermine organized labor by stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights and “right to work” laws. They also push “regulatory flexibility” laws that lead to massive deregulation. It is no surprise that the director of ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force previously worked as a Koch Associate at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

  • Tax Policy As states face challenging budget deficits, ALEC wants to make it more difficult to generate revenue in order to close shortfalls. Bills include the “Super Majority Act,” which makes it so complicated for legislatures to change tax policy that California voters overturned the law; the

“Taxpayer Bill Of Rights,” which brought fiscal disaster to Colorado; and measures to eliminate capital gains and progressive income taxes. The main beneficiaries of ALEC’s irresponsible fiscal policies are corporations and the wealthiest taxpayers.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

Con't ….

  • Private School Vouchers Despite constitutional problems, negative impacts on public schools, bias against disadvantaged students, and comprehensive studies in cities like Washington DC, New York, Milwaukee, and Cleveland which demonstrate that private school voucher programs failed to make any improvements to the education system, ALEC sees vouchers as a way to radically privatize the public education system.

Under the guise of “school choice,” ALEC pushes bills with titles like “Parental Choice Scholarship Act” and the “Education Enterprise Act” that establish private school voucher programs.

  • Voter ID and Election Laws ALEC is directly tied to the emerging trend among state legislatures to consider voter ID laws. Using false allegations of “voter fraud,” right-wing politicians are pursuing policies that disenfranchise students and other at-risk voters -- including the elderly and the poor -- who are unlikely to have drivers’ licenses or other forms of photo ID.

By suppressing the vote of such groups, ALEC’s model “Voter ID Act” grants an electoral advantage to Republicans while undermining the right to vote. In addition, ALEC wants to make it easier for corporations to participate in the political process.

Their Public Safety and Elections taskforce is co-chaired by Sean Parnell of the Center for Competitive Politics, one of the most vociferous pro-corporate election groups, and promotes model legislation that would devastate campaign finance reform and allow for greater corporate influence in elections.

  • Obstructing Environmental Protection At the bidding of its major donors like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries, ALEC is behind state-level legislation that would hinder the ability of government to regulate and curb polluters.

ALEC has previously said that carbon dioxide “is beneficial to plant and human life alike,” and promotes climate change denialism. The group’s model legislation assails EPA emissions guidelines and greenhouse gas regulations, destabilizes regional climate initiatives, permits free-reign for energy corporations, and pushes for massive deregulation.

  • Unsurprisingly, ALEC’s “Energy, Environment and Agriculture” task force is led by Tom Moskitis of the American Gas Association and Martin Shultz of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a major lobbyist firm for oil and gas companies like ConocoPhillips. The group receives funding from ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Texaco, Amoco, the American Petroleum Institute, and the American Electric Power Association


Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

  • Conclusion Americans are increasingly recognizing and speaking out against the disproportionate power of corporations in shaping public policy and steering politicians, and ALEC is a prime example of how Corporate America is able to buy even more power and clout in government.

Rather than serve the public interest, ALEC champions the agenda of corporations which are willing to pay for access to legislators and the opportunity to write their very own legislation. It helps surrogates and lobbyists for corporations draft and promote bills which gut environmental laws, create a regressive tax system, eliminate workers’ rights, undermine universal and affordable health care, privatize public education, and chip away at voting rights. It’s no wonder that so many big corporations view ALEC as a wise investment.

ALEC represents an alarming risk to the credibility of the political process and threatens to greatly diminish the confidence and influence ordinary people have in government.


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