The Flathead Valley’s Leading Independent Journal of Observation, Analysis, & Opinion. © James R. Conner.


22 September 2012

Kim Gillan and the polls: bad news follows good


Updated. A week ago, a Public Policy Polling survey showed Republican Steve Daines leading Democrat Kim Gillan by just three percentage points, 40 to 37, with 15 percent undecided and Libertarian David Kaiser at nine percent. That put Gillan within striking distance of Daines, and she began receiving additional (and long overdue) help from the Democratic Party.

Yesterday, however, brought Gillan bad news. Montana’s Lee newspapers reported that a Mason-Dixon poll they had commissioned put Daines’ lead at eight points, 46 to 38, with 14 percent undecided and Kaiser at just two percent. Both PPP and Mason-Dixon sampled likely voters, a subset of registered voters.

What happened during that week? Did Daines suddenly become more popular? Did conservative voters indulging their libertarian leanings switch their allegiance to Daines? Why did the Republican candidate do better among registered voters than likely voters when the reverse is usually true? It’s interesting that both polls put Gillan a couple of points below 40 percent and the undecideds at 14–15 percent while Daines’ additional support apparently came at Kaiser’s expense. My guess is that sampling variations account for most of the differences.

When the polls are averaged, the result seems reasonable — and bad news for Gillan, who must now overwhelm Daines with fireworks and knockout punches at the debates to overcome Daines’ lead. Her first debate is Tuesday, 25 September, in a closed to the public television studio in Missoula, a setting that helps Daines. I hope she’s spending the weekend practicing with a mean and aggressive stand-in for Daines, debating under harsh lights and reviewing the videotapes of her performances with a political debate coach. She should not suppose that the everybody-loves-everyone-else joint press conferences during the primary, or her experiences in the legislature, prepared her for going one-on-one against Daines.

Related: Is this Kim Gillan’s last hurrah?