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

Herald-Leader Political WriterDecember 18, 2013 

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 http://www.kentucky.com/1367/.

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:

Read the rest of Sam Youngman's Political Paddock column on Bluegrass Politics.

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