Ben Chandler starts with double-digit lead over Andy Barr but 21% undecided, cn|2 Poll shows

07/28/2010 06:03 PM

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler begins the general election season with a 14-point lead over Republican challenger Andy Barr, although 37% of those surveyed have yet to form an opinion of Barr, the latest cn|2 Poll shows.

The cn|2 Poll of 503 likely voters in the 6th Congressional District showed Chandler receiving support from 46.1%, while 32.2% said theyplanned to vote for Barr. Another 20.9% were undecided.

The poll was conducted July 26-27 by interviewers from Braun Research Inc., a New Jersey-based firm, using random-digit-dialing. The respondents live in the 6th Congressional District, which comprises 16 Central Kentucky counties. The poll has a margin of error of 4.38 percentage points. Click here to read all the details and crosstabs from the cn|2 Poll of the 6th District.

The race has emerged as one to watch across the country and the most competitive congressional campaign in Kentucky. The National Republican Congressional Committee has named Barr, a Lexington attorney, one of its “Young Guns,” the highest designation for GOP challengers. CNN recently put Kentucky’s 6th District race in its Top 100 House races, although not in its top 50. And the Rasmussen Reports has altered its designation of the seat from “safe Democratic” to “leans Democratic” as another signal of its competitiveness.

But Chandler’s campaign said the cn|2 Poll results reaffirm voters’ faith in the incumbent.

“This poll confirms what our internal polling has shown for some time now: the voters of central Kentucky support Ben Chandler, and want him to continue his work on their behalf,” said the statement from Chandler’s campaign manager Andrew LaVigne. The campaign, however, has not made the results of that internal polling public.

More respondents had favorable views of both Chandler and Barr than unfavorable views. For Chandler, it was 56.5% favorable to 31% unfavorable, while Barr’s favorability rating was 41.7% compared to 19.2% unfavorable rating. Perhaps not surprisingly, a relatively high percentage of respondents, 37.6%, were unsure of Barr, who is making his first run for public office.

Barr’s campaign manager said a deeper look at the cn|2 Poll results show potential weaknesses for Chandler.

“This is the second poll showing Ben Chandler well under the 50% mark prized by incumbents,” said Barr’s campaign John Connell, referring to a Republican-commissioned poll the Barr campaign released earlier this summer. “On the heels of the congressman’s refusal to release his own poll results, it’s now crystal-clear that central Kentuckians are frustrated with his reckless spending and job-killing cap and trade vote – and that his support is dwindling by the day.”

The cn|2 Poll tested voters opinions on those issues, as well as Chandler’s vote against the health care bill.

Here’s a look at those results on the issue:

Q. Ben Chandler voted against the health care bill Congress passed in March. What is your opinion of Chandler’s vote?

  • 48.2% agreed
  • 43.2% disagreed
  • 8.0% don’t know

Q. Ben Chandler voted for a bill aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions, which is sometimes called cap and trade? What is your opinion of Chandler’s vote?

  • 41.4% agreed
  • 40.4% disagreed
  • 17.1% don’t know

Q. Ben Chandler voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 and believes that such government spending was needed to preserve jobs of teachers, police and state and federal workers. Andy Barr opposes the Recovery Act and believes tax cuts are the best way to help the economy. With whom do you agree more?

  • 44.8% agree with Chandler
  • 41.1 % agree with Barr
  • 11.8% don’t know

Al Cross, the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky and former political writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal, noted that on the key issue of the economy, moderates agreed with Chandler by a 2-1 margin, which is a good sign for him.

“It might be more in response to the name ‘Chandler’ than the issue. But that indicates they trust in his voting,” Cross said.

A review of other trends within the poll results reveal some potentially concerning numbers for the congressman, Cross said.

For instance, nearly 16% of those who considered themselves “very liberal” said they had an unfavorable view of Chandler.

“It illustrates how part of his base may not go vote for him because they’re unhappy with him,” Cross said. “That’s going to be a problem just like it was for Democrats all over the country in 1994 – depressed base.”

Coming later this evening, an analysis of other political trends at work within the 6th District.

- Ryan Alessi


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