2010 Redux? Two D-Leaning Polls Give Udall Small Lead

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

The question of whether or not polling of Colorado voters is accurately sampling the 2014 electorate is perhaps the biggest unknown in the current election cycle. In Colorado's U.S. Senate race, polling has shown Republican Cory Gardner with a small but consistent lead since the beginning of October. The Real Clear Politics average of polling in the race as of now shows Gardner ahead by three points.

But is that really what's going on? History says very likely not. Almost exactly four years ago today in October of 2010, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed then-GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck leading appointed Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet by three points. In fact, every poll taken entirely in the month of October of 2010 showed Ken Buck leading or the race tied. At the end of the race, the RCP average predicted that Ken Buck would win by three points.

Michael Bennet is our junior U.S. Senator. So obviously, the polls were wrong. In the 2010 U.S. Senate race, the polling consistently got the sample of "likely voters" wrong, which proved to be their undoing. Polling underestimated the role of women voters in particular, who went for Bennet by a 17-point margin and in so doing decided the race.

Is it going to happen again? Democrats not prone to spin tell us there's a good chance.


Two Democratic internal polls made public this weekend, one from the Mellman Group and another from the Benenson Group, both show Udall with a three-point lead over Gardner. Mellman has the race at 44-41%, and Benenson has Udall up 47-44%. Both samples are similar on party breakdown: 38% GOP, 32.5% Democrats, and 29.5% unaffiliated/third party in the Mellman poll, and 38% R, 33% D, 29% U in the Benenson Group poll. The Mellman poll release included no crosstabs, but in the Benenson poll we can see a 17-point lead for Udall with women voters (sound familiar?) and a whopping 22-point lead with Latino voters.

Last week, we discussed the results of a survey of Latino Colorado voters that showed Gardner distantly underwater, by an even greater margin than is shown in this polling. That came just after the lead pollster at SurveyUSA very candidly admitted that his organization and most other pollsters don't know how to properly sample for Latino voters–a critical defect in a state where 21% of the population is Latino. If 2010's experience is any guide, the recent polls showing a paltry lead for Udall with women can straightforwardly be questioned.

Bottom line: these variables are enough to flip the race. Just like 2010. Right out from under the pollsters.

If that doesn't happen, we'll take our lumps. If it does, though, we expect the pollsters to take theirs.

14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Early Worm says:

    How do pollsters get paid? I presume internal pollsters are paid by the campaign. A “campaign poll” on its face would seem biased, but why would a campaign pay for bad data? How do independent pollsters make money? Last time (and hopefully this time) they got it wrong. Who is their customer? Does that customer expect or demand a result? I am not suggesting a conspiracy, I just want to know if there is an inherent bias.

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      The Mehlman poll was paid for by the Senate Majority PAC, the PAC affiliated with Harry Reid and which has been spending and is trying to raise more money for Udall.  Could they get a Dem allligned pollster to come up with numbers to support the cause?  Sure.  Are the numbers real and objective?  Probably not.

      You are not suggesting conspiracies, you are asking the right questions.

      • denverco says:

        Actually Democratic run polls have been more accurate than the others – can you prove otherwise achole – yeah didn't think so – to bad for you gardner is going down – your posts reek of despair.

  2. Big Time says:

    I'd think the most important skill a pollster could have is, being able to accurately predict the likely voter pool – several pollsters in Colorado have a difficult time predicting this pool of voters, hence the state's history of polls not predicting the eventual winner. 

    Quinnipiac, Suryey USA and Faux News have released polls showing Gardner with a head scratching lead – 5-7 points. Quinnipiac has been pretty bad in recent Colorado elections. Survey USA admits they can't accurate predict the likely voter pool and Faux is Faux. Take those polls out and the aggregate is closer to even. 

    The most recent Dem polls show Udall with a 4 point lead or so. 

    If I were to lay a bet, I'd say the reality is Udall is up 1 or 2.

    As for bias in a Dem pollster – I would think a Dem pollster probably has a better idea of the likely Dem turnout than others. 


  3. itlduso says:

    Two other factors affecting likely voters and helping Dems:
    1) All mail ballots and same day registration, and
    2) A large Dem GOTV effort that is perhaps bigger than in 2010 and 2012.

  4. Zappatero says:

    Message to high paid DC consultants and pollsters: from a DFH (Dirty Fucking Hippy):

    A lot of money goes into election politics, yes even the Team D side of elections. People get paid a lot of money to recruit candidates and run campaigns. There are professionals whose job is to get people to vote for their team. And then as we near election day, and the preblaming begins, the supposedly unenthusiastic Democratic voter who always sits out midterm elections, perhaps because of nattering nabobs of negative liberal bloggers, will be to blame.

    I pay attention to this stuff. As was the case in 2010, a few weeks before election day, I still can't fill in the blank of "Vote team D because _______!" Don't get me wrong, I know why people should vote team D (mostly, but not entirely, because team R is much worse), but there is no narrative out there*. No simple storyline of "Dems will do this" or even "Dems will try to do this."

    There's some improvement. They seem to have finally decided that abortion and contraception access might actually be winning issues in some places. But overall… I couldn't give a bumper sticker pitch to my neighbor if I tried. And, again, I pay attention.

    The people who get paid a lot of money to run campaigns need to figure out how to get people to vote. It's their job.

    I'm not real optimistic Udall will win. If he does, or not, I hope these Professional Lefties take heed of how close, and what might've been if Udall acted like he was proud of the (D) behind his name.

    * – I attribute this to chronic Blue Dog syndrome, chasing Balanced Budget Rainbows and Grand Bargains, always being on the defensive and never missing an opportunity to distance yourself from your 2-term, Democratic, Resoundingly-reelected President.

    • BlueCat says:

      Professional lefties? What lefties? 

      • Zappatero says:

        The Professional Lefties are the ones taking Udall's and Bennet's money, which came from you can me, and consulting them to distance themselves from Obama, consulting them to play to the effervescent "middle", reinforcing their fears of acting like true Democrats (see H. Truman, FDR), and urging them to play along with the DC Conventional Wisdom (read: usually wrong) game.

        They are called lefties because, even though they don't have any true left-wing, Progressive, or Democratic principles that they stand up for, they will always be defined as having them and always be attacked for them. (So they might as well take a lefty position here and there, eh?) So, Mark Udall will always be a "Boulder Liberal" no matter how he yearns for The Grand Bargain that will cripple Social Security and no matter how much he pimps a Foolish Balanced Budget Amendment that even Tea Partiers love.

        And, sadly, he will remain an honorary co-chair of this idiotic Third Way organization until the day he loses his job.

  5. debbielynnepaint says:

    I hope the Democratic polls are correct.  The Denver Post just called me and said they would like to have me as a subscriber again (we canceled our subscription about a year ago).  Anyway, I told them they wouldn't ever get me back because of the disgraceful comments they made about Mark Udall when they endorsed Cory Gardner.  It felt so good to say that.

  6. mamajama55 says:

    I'm encouraged by the high proportion of Independent voters leaning towards Udall (+12 margin). That, with Udall's earned favorables with women and Latinos, may propel him to victory. 

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      If there is any basis in reality to believe Udall is ahead with Independents, it would be encouraging news for him.

      Even the Dem public polls and the polls where he lead had him losing Independents so I am not buying it.

      • Duke Cox says:

        How many times do I have to tell you this before it gets into your meat head…?

        No one cares what you think.

        • Zappatero says:

          many don't see that independents in CO are voters who thought Bush was too liberal and who say the Denver Post is "reliably Democratic". Polls don't really split up "independent" voters into their common sense/paranoid-reactionary parts.

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