Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Hill Research Consultants Poll a Reason for Guarded Bob Schaffer Optimism

Recent polls in Colorado's U.S. Senate race have shown Boulder liberal Mark Udall with a small lead over Bob Schaffer. The latest Rasmussen Report had Udall gaining from the July survey to reach a 47-41 advantage. Suffolk University's poll of 450 likely voters gave Udall an 8-point lead, and the Mason-Dixon outlier (surveying 400 voters) said Schaffer was down by 10.

Then out of the blue comes this interesting poll:
The poll, conducted by Hill Research Consultants - Schaffer's regular pollster - among 553 likely Colorado voters Aug. 23 and 24, shows Udall leading Schaffer 41 percent to 38 percent. That's within the survey's +/- 4.2 percent margin of error.
Are there reasons to give more credence to this latest survey? Hill surveyed more likely voters than Suffolk or Mason-Dixon did, and he employs a different methodology. Hill has 18 years of experience polling in Colorado, and was the only pollster to call U.S. Senator Wayne Allard's re-election victory in 2002.

The conclusion of Hill's analysis is most intriguing:
Turnout is likely to be extremely crucial to the outcome of this race. Without a huge turnout that includes the participation of many who have never voted in Colorado, Udall appears doomed. He trails Schaffer among the voters who voted in 2004 or 2006, falling farther behind those who voted in both. Udall leads Schaffer only among voters who have been registered to vote for five years or less. Among voters we judge most-likely-to-vote by a multi-item scale of propensity to vote—including demographics, past participation, and expressed interest in this election—Schaffer leads Udall by 2 percentages points, a net shift of 5 points from the results of the total sample.
On the other hand, it's vital to note that Hill is working for the Bob Schaffer campaign, and cross-tabs are not available to provide an independent analysis of the voting sample. Therefore, this poll should be taken by Schaffer supporters with guarded optimism. Another reliable survey reflecting similar results would be even more encouraging. But then again, maybe Hill is poised to repeat his 2002 performance.

(Apologies that further analysis of recent polls hasn't appeared here. Our poll tracker expert El Presidente has been especially busy covering the Democratic National Convention for the Peoples Press Collective. Then he's off to the Republican National Convention to provide blog coverage. Hopefully he can add his insights when he returns from all the hoopla.)

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