Poll: Democrats competitive in key southern showdowns
May 12th, 2014
11:24 AM ET
9 years 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.

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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. rs

    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.
    Do tell, Tommy- outline the GOP's accomplishments of the last 6 years- and yeah, you need to review Mr. Bush's years too, because indeed, he left a very steamy pile in his wake.

    May 12, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. smith

    All this hype and nothing will change. Dems hold on to the senate and the GOP keeps the house. The gridlock will continue all the way to 2016.

    May 12, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. just asking

    the american people are simply sick and tired of all the lies the obama adminstration has told over the last 5.5 years. no matter what the topic, their first instinct is to come out and spin a web of lies. then when people call them on it, they claim it is a false controversy or scandal and their minions in the press carry the water for them.

    the problem for the democrats and obama is that now, after 5.5 years of these lies, the whole house of cards built on those lies is starting to implode. lies about fast and furious, then stonewalled by the white house (transparency?!), lies about the irs, lies about the nsa, lies about going after journalists, lies about benghazi, lies about obamacare, massive liess about obamacare, and on and on.

    May 12, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. Matt

    I think this year will likely turn out as predicted, but 2016 is going to be a total circus on the right. Can't wait.

    May 12, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    rs wrote:

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

    Do tell, Tommy- outline the GOP's accomplishments of the last 6 years- and yeah, you need to review Mr. Bush's years too, because indeed, he left a very steamy pile in his wake.
    I think a better question might be to outline the GOP's accomplishments for the 6 years before Democrats took over the House and Senate. They set the economy on a flight path that completely stalled, yet they blame Democrats for it because Democrats were given the yoke just as the downward dive began.

    May 12, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  6. old age voters

    Democrats being competitive in the South; no way. Democrats won’t hold the Senate and won’t take back the House; why; 6 years of failures from this version of the Democratic party.

    May 12, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. Tommy G

    Do tell, Tommy- outline the GOP's accomplishments of the last 6 years
    Democrats controlled the entire federal goverment for the first 2 years and controlled two thirds of the government after that. Republicans have passed numerous bills that Harry Reid and the Democrats have refused to act on in the Senate. The Demorcats and Obama have refused to compromise or work with the House on ANYTHING. It is the Demorcats way or the highway, just as they did with Obamacare. And now you have Obama saying he'll just go around Congress with Executive decrees. Can you say leftist dictator?

    – and yeah, you need to review Mr. Bush's years too, because indeed, he left a very steamy pile in his wake.
    So if one man caused all this, why can't one man, Obama, fix it all after 5.5 years? Please enough with the lies. Demorcats controlled Congress for TWO YEARS leading up to the recession, Bush could do nothing but sign or veto what ever they sent to him. DEMOCRATS were in control of two thirds of the goverment and refused to act to avoid what many had warned about, the real estate bubble that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was fueling.

    May 12, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  8. Winning

    Gunderson swing hammer like cave man swing club. Set all day long licking window and watching traffic drive by. Sometime eat paste while watching Fox New. Nom nom nom.

    May 12, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  9. Obama LIED, Red State Senators Lose Their Jobs

    Any red state Democrat Senator that voted for Obamacare and lied to the American people about how people wouldn't lose their healthcare plans, is going to get tossed from office, as they should. The American people simply cannoyt allow this level of lying and deceit to go unanswered. If these people are not removed from office, then this country will be doomed for sure as lies and deceit in government will become the norm. The Obama administration is far down this path already. Rightfully, nobody will trust our government about anything.

    May 12, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  10. Tommy G

    Rudy NYC
    They set the economy on a flight path

    Yes, they did! 50 consecutive months of healthy economic growth and low unemployment!! A glide path the Democrats quickly turned into a death spiral with their insane policies that continue to this very day.

    May 12, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. old age voters

    Wonder how this poll would go now the former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says he was instructed by the Obama White House to say things he didn’t believe on the Sunday morning news shows. This will have an impact on voting when I go to the polls this November!!!!!!!!

    May 12, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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