cn|2 Poll shows Rand Paul has slight lead over Jack Conway

07/22/2010 05:05 PM

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul narrowly leads Democrat Jack Conway, 41% to 38%, although a whopping 19% say they aren’t sure yet, according to the cn|2 Poll conducted this week.

That number of undecided voters and fluidity of moderates’ support suggest the race is in play, political observers say.

Conway led among those who considered themselves to be moderates, 52% to 18%. Nearly 27% of moderates said they haven’t made up their mind.

“When you step back and look at it at arm’s length, the race is up for grabs because the middle is up for grabs,” said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky and former political writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Rand Paul leads Jack Conway in first cn|2 Poll

The cn|2 Poll was conducted by Braun Research — a Princeton, New Jersey-based firm. Interviewers from Braun Research surveyed 803 likely Kentucky voters between July 19 and July 22, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.46 percentage points. Click here to see the crosstabs and detailed results for the U.S. Senate-race-related questions.

The cn|2 Poll shows a higher percentage of undecided voters than some recent surveys that have been made public, such as the Rasmussen Reports poll from earlier this week. That automated poll, in which respondents press a button on their phones to indicate a choice, showed Paul leading 49% to Conway’s 41%. Just 6% said they were unsure and 4% said they’d prefer another candidate.

Paul Braun, president of Braun Research, said many of the respondents might be leaning toward a candidate but not ready to make a commitment. Respondents to the cn|2 Poll were asked between Paul and Conway. Being “undecided” or “don’t know” weren’t offered as choices.

“The fact that we have a don’t-know (total) that is a little higher is reflective of the snapshot of where voters are now,” he said. Interviewers could try to nail down voters preferences with follow-up questions forcing them to choose, “but we think especially at this point in the cycle, not pressing so much is preferable.”

In general, Paul, the Bowling Green ophthalmologist, has capitalized on a conservative wave in Kentucky, said Cross. He called it “remarkable” that the poll results that showed 50.3% of respondents considered themselves to be conservative.

“I think that shows a trend in the conservative direction,” Cross said. “I’ve never seen it go over half. It’s always in the 40s. I’ve never seen it over 50.”

Paul fared well among those who considered themselves on that part of the political spectrum, garnering more than 65.4% of their support compared to 14.6% for Conway. Another 18.5% were undecided.

Overall, respondents had a slightly more favorable view of Conway than Paul, although a higher percentage said they were unsure of Conway, Kentucky’s attorney general.

That’s largely because Conway has done little to explain to voters what he stands for, said Danny Briscoe, a Louisville-based campaign consultant who isn’t working on the U.S. Senate race.

At the same time, Paul has “taken an unmerciful beating over the last 60 days, and he has yet to cut though that torrent” of media coverage over his views, controversial statements and background, Briscoe said.

On balance, the poll results seem to be “better news for Paul” considering that he remains in the lead despite the media scrutiny and considering Paul hasn’t begun trying to define Conway to the electorate through ads, Briscoe said.

Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign manager, said the results were “more good news” for Paul.

After appearing at a Kentucky Farm Bureau forum in Louisville Thursday, here’s what Paul had to say about being ahead in recent public polls:

Allison Haley, spokeswoman for Conway’s campaign, responded to the cn|2 Poll results with a statement saying the campaign is “in a strong position.”

“There are going to be a lot of polls in this race but the only one that matters is the one taken on Election Day, November 2,” the statement said.

A deeper look into the cn|2 Poll’s numbers shows that Paul holds double-digit leads over Conway in the 4th congressional district in Northern Kentucky and the 1st congressional district that covers far western and southern Kentucky.

Paul received the highest favorable views from respondents in the 2nd congressional district, which includes his home of Bowling Green, and in the 4th district.

Conway fared best his home area of Louisville, where he leads Paul 45.5% to 34.3% and held a slight lead in the 6th congressional district in Central Kentucky. The Louisville and Lexington areas carried Conway in his narrow win in the May 18 Democratic primary.

More than half of respondents in the 2nd, 3rd and 6th congressional districts said they had a favorable view of Conway. (Note: the congressional district crosstab results have a margin of error of 8.43 percentage points.)

Some other highlights:

  • Paul led Conway in the 5th congressional district that covers Eastern Kentucky, 40.9% to 32.9%.
  • Conway scored higher among daily newspaper subscribers, 42.2% to 39.6%.
  • Paul dominated in the category of those who get most of their news from cable TV, 49.9% to 33.9%.
  • Conway led among 18-29 year olds and was slightly ahead among those 65 and older.
  • Paul had a sizable lead among those 40-49.
  • The two essentially split the 30-39 year old crowd.
  • Conway scored higher with women than Paul did, 42.5% to 35.9%

Check back later Thursday for more results from the first cn|2 Poll, including the the job approval ratings for Kentucky’s U.S. Senators and President Barack Obama.

- Ryan Alessi


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