Rasmussen Poll Predicts Senate Victory: Ron Johnson 51%, Russ Feingold 44%
The Latest Rasmussen Reports poll shows Ron Johnson defeating Russ Feingold by seven points. After a decisive victory over his Republican challenger, Dave Westlake, in the Republican Party primary, Ron Johnson now appears poised to defeat his Democratic Party challenger Senator Russ Feingold in the general election, scheduled for November 2, 2010.
The latest Rasmussen Reports poll, released on September 17, 2010, shows Ron Johnson, an Oshkosh business executive and political outsider, defeating incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold, 51% to 44%.
In last month’s poll, Johnson held a miniscule one point lead, 47% to 46%, with a four percent margin of error. Now, one month later, after both candidates easily won their primaries, and the national parties are spending copious amounts of money to elect their candidates, Ron Johnson has pulled ahead in this ever-important Senate race.
Johnson’s lead in this poll is attributed to what Rasmussen dubs “leaners.” Leaners, for those unfamiliar with this political vernacular, are those who initially indicated no preference for either Feingold or Johnson but have recently decided to support a candidate. Rasmussen contends that many of those who were initially undecided in this race have indicated that they prefer Ron Johnson over Russ Feingold. Rasmussen Reports, in its analysis of the Wisconsin Senate race, writes, “When leaners are excluded from the totals, Johnson leads Feingold 50% to 43%. Even when leaners are excluded from the polls, Ron Johnson still holds a significant lead over Russ Feingold.” As these numbers indicate, it appears as though Ron Johnson is going to defeat Russ Feingold on November 2, 2010. If that is the case, Ron Johnson will become the first Republican Wisconsinite since Robert Kasten, 1986-1993, to occupy a seat in the United States Senate.
Aside from the support of leaners, Johnson’s recent success is attributed to his outsider status, his penchant for running positive television advertisements that highlight his record rather than denigrate that of his opponent, his enormous fundraising prowess and, lastly, the electorate’s disdain with the current political establishment.
In addition to polling voters on whom they prefer in the general election, Rasmussen also examines the favorability and unfavorability ratings of the two candidates. Rasmussen finds that sixty-one percent of Wisconsinites view Ron Johnson favorably, and just thirty-three have an unfavorable opinion of him. Conversely, fifty one percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Russ Feingold, and a whopping forty-six percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. For a three term incumbent these favorability/unfavorability ratings are abysmal.
Feingold, if he intends to win the general election, must reconsider his campaign strategy and focus more on his record than attacking Ron Johnson. Despite Ron Johnson’s seven point lead over Russ Feingold, Rasmussen still categorizes the Wisconsin Senate race as a “toss up.” This designation is due largely to the fact that Wisconsin is, and in recent times has been the epitome of a swing state. In both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, the margin of victory for the winning candidate was less than one percent. In fact, in 2004, John Kerry defeated George W. Bush by a meager 0.4% in the popular vote. As the reader can discern, even though Ron Johnson holds a seven point lead over Russ Feingold victory is far from assured. As the election nears, expect national pundits and media outlets to remain fixated on this hypercritical United States Senate race.
Much like the August 2010 poll, Rasmussen surveyed 750 likely, not registered voters, and relied heavily on telephone surveys. As noted in our analysis of the Wisconsin gubernatorial poll, surveys done by landline phones are not an accurate gauge of voter attitudes, due to the fact that senior citizens and females have a greater tendency to use landline phones than millennials and males. A paltry sample size, coupled with a relatively high margin of error, +/-4.5%, makes this poll relatively inaccurate.
In each analysis piece that PAI has penned thus far on the gubernatorial and United States Senate contests, an issue has been made of sample sizes and margins of error. We do this to educate non-political science majors about the intricacies of polling and how to gauge whether or not a poll is an accurate representation of the electorate. As noted in several prior documents, if a poll is to be deemed accurate the sample size must exceed 1,500 registered voters. Additionally, polling agencies should sample those from different backgrounds and socioeconomic classes. In order to accurately gauge the views of the electorate, it is of paramount importance that leading polling agencies, mainly Rasmussen and Gallup to increase their sample sizes. While this poll provides Wisconsinites with a general overview on the state of the United States Senate race, it is lacks accuracy and validity. As new polls and information about the Wisconsin United States Senate race become available, PAI will keep you abreast.