Republicans ahead of Democrats in first independent poll of general election races

06/23/2015 06:43 PM

In the first independent poll of the 2015 campaign cycle, Republican candidates for constitutional office hold single-digit leads on their Democratic opponents, with GOP gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin ahead of Attorney General Jack Conway by 3 points.

Public Policy Polling released the results of its survey of 1,108 Kentucky voters Tuesday, describing the race for governor as “pretty up for grabs” with Bevin leading Conway 38 percent to 35 percent, with independent candidate Drew Curtis netting 6 percent support and undecided voters totaling 21 percent.

“Voters aren’t that familiar with either candidate and as a result we’re seeing a lot more undecideds than we usually would at this stage of the race,” Dean Debnam, president of PPP, said in a news release. “This is one where the campaigns really will go a long way toward determining who wins rather than it being preordained from the start.”

Bevin polled just as favorably as Conway, with 31 percent of respondents describing their opinions of both men positively. While the Louisville businessman is less known than Conway, 34 percent of respondents reported an unfavorable view of Conway versus 28 percent who disapprove of Bevin.

The poll has a 2.9 percent margin of error, with 80 percent of respondents completing the survey by phone and the remaining 20 percent without landlines answering questions via the Internet, according to PPP. Sixty-four percent of respondents were 46 or older. Fifty-three percent of the respondents were women, and 49 percent said they were registered Democrats versus 37 percent registered Republicans and 13 percent who identified as independents.

Results of other 2015 races polled by PPP include:

State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, leading Democrat Andy Beshear in the attorney general’s race 41 percent to 36 percent, with 23 percent of respondents undecided.

Democratic Auditor Adam Edelen trailing state Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville, 33 percent to 39 percent in the auditor’s race, with 27 percent of respondents undecided.

State Rep. Ryan Quarles leading Democrat Jean-Marie Lawson Spann 40 percent to 31 percent in the agriculture commissioner’s race, with 29 percent undecided.

Republican Allison Ball leading state Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, in the state treasurer’s race 41 percent to 32 percent, with 26 percent of respondents undecided.

The down-ticket leads for GOP candidates are particularly unusual considering the party’s spotty record, at best, in campaigns for those posts.

PPP also asked respondents for their thoughts on job performances by President Barack Obama, Gov. Steve Beshear, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and the favorability of Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie.

Sixty percent of respondents disapproved of Obama’s leadership and nearly as many – 54 percent – also gave McConnell low marks in job performance. Beshear and Paul tied for the state’s most popular politician with 43 percent approving their performance, but Beshear’s disapproval rating of 35 percent was 7 percent lower than Paul’s

Despite the difference, Paul holds a 10-point lead on Beshear in a prospective 2016 U.S. Senate matchup and a 14-point lead on Luallen, although both Beshear and Luallen have signaled they will not seek public office after their term expires.

The poll also tested Massie as a U.S. Senate candidate next year, and the Garrison Republican trails Beshear by 5 percent and leads Luallen by 2 percent in head-to-head matchups.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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