Poll: Democrats competitive in key southern showdowns
May 12th, 2014
11:24 AM ET
7 months ago

Poll: Democrats competitive in key southern showdowns

(CNN) - New polls in three southern states with crucial Senate contests this year indicate that Democrats remain very competitive as they try to keep control of the chamber.

But another new survey suggests that Republicans nationwide have a ten point advantage over Democrats when it comes to voter enthusiasm.

According to NBC News/Marist polls released Monday, the Democratic incumbent in Arkansas currently enjoys a double-digit lead over his GOP challenger, while Democratic candidates in Georgia and Kentucky are tied up with the GOP as they try to turn red seats blue. Those two states are, as of now, the only places where Democrats hope to go on offense in the battle for the Senate.

Overall, the Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate (including two independents who caucus with the party). But the party's defending 21 of the 36 seats in play this November, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states.

And one of those states is Arkansas, where two-term Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor faces a difficult re-election this year. But by a 51%-40% margin among registered voters, Pryor leads first-term Rep. Tom Cotton, the all-but-certain Republican challenger. The new survey's in line with a recent New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation poll that indicated Pryor with a ten-percentage point lead. Other recent polls also put Pryor ahead of Cotton.

Pryor's 11-point lead comes despite President Barack Obama's poor approval rating in Arkansas (34%) and the unpopularity of the federal health care law. By a more than two-to-one-margin Arkansas voters strongly say the health care law's a bad idea (49%) rather than a good idea (22%).

CNN/ORC Poll: Majority say keep or improve Obamacare

"So far, Senator Pryor has staved off Cotton's challenge," says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "Holding this seat is no easy task for a Democrat with President Obama's approval rating at 33% in the state."

The poll indicates Pryor grabbing the support of 32% of those who give Obama a thumbs down. Also helping Pryor: Arkansas voters have a more positive view of the incumbent (50%-35% favorable/unfavorable rating) than Cotton (38%-39%).

Dead heat in Kentucky

According to the poll, the race between Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is all tied up. Forty-six percent of those questioned say they back the five-term McConnell, with 45% saying they support Grimes, the Democratic challenger. The survey is similar to the most recent polls which also indicated a deadlocked race.

Grimes is tied with McConnell even though the President's approval rating stands at just 32%, and by a 43%-27% margin, Kentucky voters strongly say the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is a bad idea.

Republicans are trying to tie Grimes to the President. The latest example: the narrator in a new television commercial out Monday from the pro-McConnell outside group Kentuckians for Strong Leadership says "ObamaCare. The War on Coal. That's Obama's agenda. And Alison Grimes supports Obama."

But the poll indicates McConnell's approval (41%-46%) and favorable (42%-46%) ratings slightly underwater with Kentucky voters.

While Grimes faces no serious opposition in Kentucky's May 20 primary, McConnell is fending off a primary challenge from the right from businessman Matt Bevin, who enjoys strong support from many tea party groups and influential conservative organizations. While the race has seen big spending - both by the campaigns and from outside groups - McConnell is expected to cruise to renomination.

And the new poll backs up that assessment: McConnell leads Bevin 57%-25% among those likely to vote in the GOP Senate primary.

All tied up in Georgia

Georgia also holds primaries on May 20, and there's a wide open free-for-all for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Republican Reps. Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun and Jack Kingston, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, and businessman David Perdue are the major GOP candidates in the race for their party's Senate nomination.

According to the poll, the more moderate candidates are ahead of the more conservative candidates in the race. Perdue's at 23% among likely GOP primary voters, with Kingston at 18%, Handel at 14%, and Broun and Gingrey each at 11%. With none of the candidates likely to crack 50%, the race will most likely head to a July runoff between the top two finishers.

The winner will face off in November against Michelle Nunn, the all-but-certain Democratic nominee and daughter of former longtime Sen. Sam Nunn, a household name in Georgia.

The poll indicates Nunn competitive with all of the Republicans: Nunn 41%-Perdue 45%; Nunn 43%-Kingston 43%; Nunn 42%-Handel 39%; Nunn 42%-Broun 43%; Nunn 44%-Gingrey 42%.

President Obama stands at 41%-50% approval/disapproval among Georgia voters.

There's also a high profile gubernatorial race this year in Georgia. The poll indicates first-term GOP Gov. Nathan Deal leading the all-but-certain Democratic challenger, state lawmaker Jason Carter (the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter), 50%-40%.

GOP has the intensity edge

Republicans have a 10-point advantage over Democrats when it comes to enthusiasm, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. Forty-two percent of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say they're more enthusiastic about voting than usual, compared to 32% for Democrats and independents who lean towards the Democratic Party.

Overall, 35% of registered voters nationwide say they're more enthusiastic about voting, with 53% saying they are less excited to cast a ballot than in past elections. That's a dramatic change from the last midterm elections, in 2010, when the numbers were reversed.

Obama: Democrats 'don't vote' in midterms

The poll follows previous surveys this year that indicated Republicans more intense than Democrats about voting. Conventional wisdom dictates that the GOP has an advantage over the Democrats in midterm contests. White voters and older voters, key to the Republican base, tend to cast ballots in bigger percentages in midterms than younger voters and minorities, who are an important part of the Democrats' base.

The Gallup poll was conducted April 24-30, with 1,336 registered voters nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

The NBC News/Marist poll in Arkansas was conducted April 30-May 4, with 876 registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

The NBC News/Marist poll in Georgia was conducted April 30-May 5, with 2,196 registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

The NBC News/Marist poll in Kentucky was conducted April 30-May 6, with 2,353 registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus two percentage points.


Filed under: 2014 • Alison Lundergan Grimes • Arkansas • Georgia • Kentucky • Mark Pryor • Matt Bevin • Michelle Nunn • Mitch McConnell • Poll • Senate • Senate Primaries • Senate Race • Tom Cotton
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    More polls Steinhauser? Haven't you guys in the media realized we don't rely on your polls? How about doing your best Karl Rove impersonation. McConnell is going down in Kentucky, Kay Hagan will keep her job and republicans are in for the shock of their lives.

    May 12, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  2. Sniffit

    Better enact more voter suppression laws quick!

    May 12, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  3. Get Real

    When you KEEP voting the SAME people, DON'T complain when NOTHING changes.

    May 12, 2014 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. much thunder...little rain

    here is the reason ...they run as far and as fast away from obama....vote keystone ...and for one man one women...

    May 12, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Overall, 35% of registered voters nationwide say they're more enthusiastic about voting, with 53% saying they are less excited to cast a ballot than in past elections. That's a dramatic change from the last midterm elections, in 2010, when the numbers were reversed."

    Oh, but hey. Of that 35% who say they are more enthusiastic about voting overall, GOPerville has a 10 point momentum. Not only are they enthusiastic ... they have become INTENSELY enthusiastic.

    Ben Ghazi and Company 2014

    May 12, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  6. 2_indy1600

    Obama's statement intimating that dimworld doesn't vote in midterms is just a ruse to keep people, conservative people, away from the poles in a sense of false confidence. Don't believe anything this fraud says. Godphobic dems will be out in droves with their content marketers to push agendas they push on the most vulnerable, least educated, and least expecienced group: social media. Also a great way to push the worldview down america's throat. Rape by the blame stream media, not lame stream. Somehow, "we missed it," or it's Bush's fault, or you can keep your doctor and the ACA will save every household $2500, and ain't the economy grand?

    May 12, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. ProudDem

    On the Faux site this morning, not ONE anti-Obamacare story. That's the real story of this mid-term. They've banked on that being their big issue.

    May 12, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  8. Sniffit

    "Obama's statement intimating that dimworld doesn't vote in midterms is just a ruse to keep people, conservative people, away from the poles in a sense of false confidence"

    More reality denial? It's an objectively measurable phenomenon, not "spin" or "talking points" or stuff that people are just making up in order to "trick" conservatives. Moreover, hearing about it every day in the MSM and their mindless reliance on polls for "make news" is very disheartening and discouraging for Dems/liberals. Not everything is a grand conspiracy and I assure you, your tinfoil hat isn't giving you magical powers of perception that clue you in on the secrets of the universe.

    May 12, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  9. Gunderson

    Um, Well,
    Now why many of you want government to fill your feed bag? Liberals mostly democrats promise moon, but no even have moon rock. They all want Conservatives, mostly Republicans fill your feed bag but they run country. Happy marriage, no? Liberals run country, conservatives pay for it. Are peasants tired of big Liberal Promises but still on bottom? Hey old Gunderson say you vote for it you got it., you like it?

    May 12, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. ChrisM

    Yep, and that is because the republcians have moved so far to the right they need bicnocculars to see the middle and now even the south is getting sick and tired of the repubs crap.

    May 12, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    Republicans were said to be more enthusiastic in 2012. Judging from many conservative's reactions, they probably were.

    May 12, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  12. Silence DoGood

    Dems need to get out the vote. Arrive early and expect some last minute GOP tricks like long lines or other delays attempting restrict the vote. We have seen this in the past.

    May 12, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  13. sonny chapman

    Dems. have one BIG Advantage in these races-Repubs. !!

    May 12, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  14. Gurgyl

    GOP is pretty much gone to dogs, no one is caring those guys.

    May 12, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  15. Silence DoGood

    @Gunderson "Liberals mostly democrats promise moon, but no even have moon rock. "
    ---------–
    (hyperbole alert) You are so right. Liberals don't have moon rocks. I am going to become a conservative.

    May 12, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  16. CMML

    When you have a single Democrat candidate and a GOP race that's undecided – like in Georgia and Arkansas – all polling data is worthless. Try polling when people know who the candidates are.

    May 12, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "On the Faux site this morning, not ONE anti-Obamacare story. That's the real story of this mid-term. They've banked on that being their big issue."

    They've lost that issue big time and they're starting to realize it. #8Million

    What we're witnessing with the Select Committee and renewed, redundant effort to find the elephants in the strawberry patch is the GOP/Teatrolls' Plan B(enghazi). In fact, I would go so far as to say that the renewed, redundant Benghazi hysteria is in part an effort to create a major distraction from the GOP/Teatrolls losing on the ACA and to keep the MSM reporting negative narratives about Obama, Dems and Clinton, rather than having a chance to get a word in edgewise about the positive data coming out about the ACA. It's why the MSM ignored the hearings last week at which numerous CEOs from the nation's largest insurers basically embarrassed the GOP/Teatrolls and disproved their idiotic conspiracy theories and their attempts to undermine the 8M singups number. The MSM is more than happy to help create more nontroversy about Benghazi while avoiding reporting on things that deflate the nontroversy about the ACA.

    May 12, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "@Gunderson "Liberals mostly democrats promise moon, but no even have moon rock. "
    ---–
    (hyperbole alert) You are so right. Liberals don't have moon rocks. I am going to become a conservative."

    No me....not if it means you end up talking like a friggin toddler like Captain Babytalk there. Baby talk for baby thoughts, I say.

    May 12, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  19. cnnife

    In the opinion of the GOP, any voters' poll that is in favor of the democrats is always skewed by the media against the RIGHT. When job report is positive, or when evidence points to overwhelming support for the ACA, the report according to them is cooked by the WH. It is hard to understand how they think.

    May 12, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Gunderson

    Um, Well,
    .... .... Liberals mostly democrats promise moon, but no even have moon rock. ... .... ....
    ------------------------–
    Um, Well,
    The truth of the matter is that a Republican named Newt Gingrich campaigned on creating moon bases.

    May 12, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  21. barryinlasvegas

    Here goes CNN again – doing it's very best trying to make lemonade out of lemons. These Democrat senators are going to lose.

    May 12, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. Tommy G

    Well, after 8 years of dismal Democrat control and failure, it is of course very hard to maintain enthusiam for more of the same. Democrats controlled the House and Senate and ran us right into the recession without doing a thing. Then using their propaganda arm (LSM) convince evrybody it wasn't their fault and take total control and what do they do? Borrow and spend a TRILLLION dollars on a giant boondoggle that was supposed to fix the recession. Then they moved on to destroy our healthcare system and ignore the economy and jobs, We STILL have record unemplyoment 5 years after the recession ended.

    DEMOCRATS = MASSIVE FAILURE. Very hard to get enthused about that.

    May 12, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "It is hard to understand how they think."

    They don't. Problem solved.

    May 12, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  24. yerkiddinright

    I think that the right to vote should be contingent on passing a 3rd grade level spelling test. That way the Democrats will control the Presidency, House and Senate forever.

    May 12, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Tommy G

    Well, after 8 years of dismal Democrat control and failure, it is of course very hard to maintain enthusiam for more of the same. Democrats controlled the House and Senate and ran us right into the recession without doing a thing.
    ----------------------------
    The truth of the matter is that the first Democratic budget year, FY2007-08, kicked in on October 1, 2007, and George W. Bush was still POTUS. The economy had been in decline since early 2006, when new construction spending suddenly slowed and home mortgage crisis began rearing its' ugly head. Economists agree that the The Great Recession officially began December 2007, and officially ended June 2009. Those are the facts, folks.

    May 12, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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