Two of three pollsters agree: CT governor’s race is tight

A new GOP poll shows Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the first-term Democratic incumbent, with a one-point lead over the Republican convention-endorsed candidate, Tom Foley.

For Democrats, it’s a comforting return to the status quo after a non-traditional YouGov poll Monday that gave Foley a surprising 9-point lead after a string of Quinnipiac University polls showing a dead heat.

The bottom line is that every poll agrees on one basic point: Malloy continues his status as one of the nation’s most vulnerable Democratic governors.

Compare the polls
Malloy vs. Foley
Poll Date Malloy Foley Difference
Vox 31-Jul-14 35 34 Malloy +1
YouGov 28-Jul-14 33 42 Foley +9
Quinnipiac 9-May-14 43 43 tie
Quinnipiac 4-Mar-14 42 42 tie
Quinnipiac 19-Jun-13 40 43 Foley +3
Compare the polls
Malloy vs. McKinney
Poll Date Malloy McKinney Difference
Quinnipiac 9-May-14 44 40 Malloy +4
Quinnipiac 4-Mar-14 43 37 Malloy +6
Quinnipiac 19-Jun-13 44 37 Malloy +7

State Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, who is challenging Foley for the GOP nomination in an Aug. 12 primary, was snubbed in the two most recent polls, both by out-of-state pollsters.

The new poll is by Vox Populi Polling, a GOP firm. It included one of two petitioning candidates, former Democratic legislator Jonathan Pelto, who was supported by 3 percent of voters. Republican Joe Visconti also is petitioning, but he was not included. Neither petitioner has yet qualified for the November ballot.

Vox says its poll is based on an automated telephone survey of “550 active voters taken from a listed sample of registered voters who voted in the 2010 or 2012 general election or registered since the 2012 general election.” The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 points.

Vox, Quinnipiac University and other traditional pollsters use a probability sample in which everyone has an equal chance of being selected for an interview through random-digit dialing of cellular phones and land lines. YouGov bases its Internet surveys on a huge self-selected population.

The announcement over the weekend that the New York Times and CBS News were making YouGov’s research part of their polling mix rocked the polling world.

“This is a very big deal in the survey world,” wrote Scott Keeter, the Pew Research Center’s director of survey research. “Until now, no major news organization has put its brand on using surveys based on non-probability methods.”

To learn more about the pros and cons the YouGov approach, read Keeter’s comprehensive Q&A.

Malloy, Foley and McKinney all have qualified for the state’s voluntary public financing program, so their resources are unaffected by polling. But polls still can help or hinder candidates by affecting turnout, depending if the results are close or if they show the race may be settled.

Primaries are particularly hard to measure, since voter turnout is much lower than general elections. In 2010, Malloy trailed in every poll, then scored a double-digit win in the Democratic primary.

Even in general-election polls, the results can vary.

In 2012, some GOP pollsters disagreed with non-partisan and Democratic pollsters over how to weight their samples. They had different assumptions about whether young and minority voters would turn out in the same percentages as they did in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected.

For example, the pollster of Linda McMahon, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, complained that Quinnipiac included too few Republicans in its polling samples in 2012. John McLaughlin, the McMahon pollster, said that 2008 was an extraordinary year unlikely to be repeated.

In Quinnipiac’s final poll in 2012, McMahon trailed Democrat Chris Murphy by six percentage points, while McLaughlin called it a tie. Other public polls  had the race anywhere from a tie to a 9-point win for Murphy.

Murphy won by 12 points.

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