Updated October 30, 2012 (scroll down for most recent poll results)
Bachmann supporters wait for the Sixth Congressional District debate to begin in St. Cloud, Minn., Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. (Photo credit: Dave Schwarz / St. Cloud Times)
Yesterday, Adam Graves, campaign manager for the DFL-endorsed Jim Graves in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District race for U.S. Representative, sent out a fundraising email in which he stated, “polling has us just 5 points behind [incumbent Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann] and closing fast.”
The dispatch piqued my interest, because I had been aware of just one public opinion poll, conducted nearly two months ago, back in June. I was particularly eager to see polling conducted after Bachmann’s broadly denounced incendiary remarks about alleged Muslim Brotherhood infiltration in the U.S. government.
An extensive Google search did not turn up any recent polling data, leaving me in the dark as to the basis for the assertion that the race is “closing fast.”
Lacking any new polling data, I decided to compare the poll numbers reported by the Graves campaign with polling conducted at roughly the same time frame in the previous election cycle, 2010.
Michele Bachmann and Jim Graves (Photo credit: Getty Images/Facebook via WJON)
The poll cited by the Graves campaign was conducted for Jim Graves for Congress by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc., June 12-14, with a sample size of 505 registered likely voters and a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.
1. Bachmann’s job performance
Michele Bachmann’s job performance was rated favorably by 39 percent of respondents (excellent: 14%; good: 26%; just fair: 22%; poor: 34%).
In the poll, 35 percent of respondents gave Bachmann a warm, positive rating and 51 percent gave her a cool, negative rating.
2. Congressional head-to-head contest
Michele Bachmann (R) 48%
Jim Graves (DFL) 43%
Just 31 percent of respondents said they were certain to vote for Bachmann, compared with 26 who were certain to vote for Graves — a 5-point difference, exactly the same spread as the head-to-head contest.
Comparative data for the 2010 election
The table below reports data from an independent survey of the U.S. House race in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, conducted at roughly the same point in the 2010 election cycle, contested by Michele Bachmann (R), Tarryl Clark (DFL), Bob Anderson (Independence Party) and Aubrey Immelman (unaffiliated nonpartisan).
Bachmann Clark Anderson Immelman Undec’d
KSTP/SurveyUSA (July 9-11) 48 39 6 2 5
Actual election result (Nov. 2) 52.5 39.8 5.8 1.8 —
At midsummer before the 2010 election, DFL-endorsed Tarryl Clark trailed incumbent Republican Michele Bachmann by 9 percentage points, 48-39.
At midsummer before the 2012 election, DFL-endorsed Jim Graves trailed Bachmann by 5 percentage points, 48-43.
At first glance, it would seem that Graves is up 4 points on his predecessor Clark at an equivalent point in the election cycle; however, the two data sets do not lend themselves to direct comparison, because the 2012 election is a twoway contest, whereas 2010 featured a fourway race with 8 percent of survey respondents choosing either the IP- or politically unaffiliated candidate.
Lacking a clean comparison between the two election cycles, the most meaningful data point is probably the remarkable stability of Bachmann’s support: 48 percent in both 2010 and 2012.
In addition, I think it’s fair to conclude that, without a third-party candidate this year, the number of undecided voters is greater in 2012 (9%) than it was in 2010 with an IP-candidate on the ballot (5%). This gives Graves some room to maneuver in attracting independent voters.
In that regard, one more observation is in order: In 2010, with 5 percent of voters undecided, Bachmann polled at 48 percent in the summer and received fully 52.5 percent in November, whereas Clark polled at 39 percent in the summer and received just 40 percent in November. (Anderson’s and Immelman’s actual vote totals were practically identical to their summertime poll numbers.)
So, what accounted for Bachmann’s bump in the November election? In an election where a well-known incumbent runs for reelection, voters are undecided primarily because they have not yet fully evaluated the challenger, who is typically not as well known at the incumbent. If voters haven’t decided by Election Day, they’re likely, by a margin of about 2 to 1, to cast a default vote — for the incumbent.
Applying that formula to the 2012 contest, Bachmann would normally be expected to garner about 6 percentage points, and Graves around 3 percentage points, from among the undecided 9 percent. That would give Bachmann an actual election tally close to 54 percent in November, versus roughly 46 percent for Graves. (Disclaimer: I said “would normally be expected” — and with Bachmann few things are ever really normal).
It’s possible that Jim Graves can beat Michele Bachmann in November, but not highly probable — and I don’t say that with any disrespect to Mr. Graves or his personal qualities and attributes as a candidate; as I’ve noted elsewhere, it’s purely a matter of 6th District demographics — the way the cookie crumbles in this, the reddest of “red” districts in Minnesota.
Along those lines, here’s how the professional handicappers view Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District:
CD-6 — Currently Likely GOP
|MN||1||D||Walz||Currently Safe Democrat|
|MN||2||R||Kline||Currently Safe Republican|
|MN||3||R||Paulsen||Currently Safe Republican|
|MN||4||D||McCollum||Currently Safe Democrat|
|MN||5||D||Ellison||Currently Safe Democrat|
|MN||6||R||Bachmann||Currently Safe Republican|
|MN||7||D||Peterson||Currently Safe Democrat|
A modest proposal
Bachmann challengers Stephen Thompson and Aubrey Immelman at a joint news conference at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Aug. 7, 2012.
Michele Bachmann is vulnerable to defeat, but not in November; if Bachmann is going to be beaten at all this election cycle it will be on Tuesday, Aug. 14, in the Minnesota state open primary election. But it will only happen if reasonable Republicans, independents, and Democrats turn out at the polls in large numbers to vote against Bachmann in the open primary.
1. What anti-Bachmann voters need to know
The political makeup of the 6th Congressional District — it’s Minnesota’s most conservative district — and even more so after redistricting this year — makes it a near-certainty that Bachmann will be reelected in November if she wins the Aug. 14 Republican primary. It is virtually impossible for a Democrat to beat Bachmann in the November general election, because only about one-third of 6th District voters self-identify as Democrats.
2. Bachmann’s greatest vulnerability
Michele Bachmann’s greatest vulnerability is Minnesota’s open primary system, in which state law gives voters the freedom to vote in the party primary of their choice. As Minnesotans we — Republicans, Democrats, independents, and unaffiliated voters — have the liberty to vote in any party primary we please. Minnesota state law puts the power — the deciding vote — in the hands of individual voters, not political parties.
I like to believe that when the law was written our legislators had the wisdom, vision, and foresight to know that at some point in the future an extremist like Bachmann could rise to prominence with the complicity of party insiders and activists, and that the only way to stop him or her would be by means of a bipartisan coalition — a crossover vote — as a check against the dictatorial power of a small cadre of party activists aiding and abetting radical candidates with their endorsement.
Just how vulnerable Bachmann is to defeat in the open primary was demonstrated in the 2008 primary election, in which 19,127 voters voted for Bachmann (47% of primary votes cast) and 21,436 (53%) voted for someone other than Bachmann. Unfortunately, 17,474 of the “non-Bachmann” votes were cast in the DFL-column for Bachmann’s unopposed Democratic opponent, who didn’t need anyone’s vote but his own to advance to the November general election ballot.
By letting Bachmann slip through the primary gate, Democrats sealed the fate of their candidate: a general election defeat at the hands of Bachmann.
3. The greatest mistake an anti-Bachmann voter can make
The gravest mistake an anti-Bachmann voter can make is to not vote against Bachmann in the Aug. 14 primary. In the 2008 primary election, more than 90 percent of registered voters chose not to vote. With 385,279 registered voters staying home on primary election day or sitting on their hands, Bachmann was, in effect, returned to Congress with a mere 19,127 votes.
The lesson we learned — or should have learned — in 2008 is that, to defeat Bachmann, the most important election date in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District is not in November; it’s August 14, in the primary election.
Bachmann challengers Stephen Thompson and Aubrey Immelman, and U.S. Senate Republican primary candidate Bob Carney Jr., prepare for a joint news conference at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Aug. 7, 2012.
By Catharine Richert
September 10, 2012
A new poll commissioned by Jim Graves, the DFL challenger to Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, shows the two candidates effectively tied in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.
The poll, which surveyed 401 likely voters and was conducted between August 29-30, shows that 48 percent are planning to vote for Bachmann while 46 percent are planning to vote for Graves, a local hotelier. That’s within the survey’s 4.9 percentage point margin of error.
Six percent of those surveyed said they don’t know who they’ll vote for.
The poll was paid for by the Graves campaign and conducted by a Democratic polling firm. …
In June, the same firm polled 505 likely voters, and found that Graves had only 43 percent of the vote while Bachmann had 48 percent and 9 percent were undecided.
The latest poll also shows that Graves is doing better among independents. In June, Graves had only 41 percent support among that voting bloc while Bachmann had 45 percent support.
Today, the survey shows Graves leads Bachmann 57 to 37 percent [among independents]. …
Bachmann’s vulnerability has become part of Graves’ pitch for support. For instance, an infographic on his Facebook page touts statistics about Bachmann’s recent showing in the 6th district primary ["She turned in the worst primary performance of any incumbent in 50 years, proving just how much her party has abandoned her"] and directs users to a page on his website where they can sign up to support the Graves campaign.
Still, the Rothenberg Political Report still lists the 6th as safe for Bachmann.
Infographic from Jim Graves for Congress Facebook page
By Alex Seitz-Wald
August 16, 2012
Despite her national fan base and a massive war chest, Rep. Michele Bachmann may be in more danger than most suspect, with a new poll showing her lead diminished to just 2 points. Independent voters have swung against her by nearly 20 points in just two months, from a 4 percent advantage to a 15 point disadvantage.
The internal poll, conducted by Democratic pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner at the behest of Democrat Jim Graves’ campaign and shared with Salon, shows that Bachmann’s favorability rating has tumbled since their last survey in mid-June, and finds Graves gaining ground with independents as his name recognition grows.
Overall, the poll shows Bachmann leading Graves 48-46 percent, within the margin of error. The race has moved significantly among independents, with a 20-point net shift toward Graves, from a 41-45 percent disadvantage in June to a 52-37 percent lead now.
Among independents, Bachmann’s favorability rating has slipped 4 points while her unfavorability rating has jumped 7 points. Overall, she’s viewed mostly negatively. Among all voters, 40 percent give her a positive job rating, while a sizable 57 percent give her a negative one, with a plurality of 35 percent giving the most negative answer possible — “poor.” …
As we argued last month, Graves has the best shot at beating Bachmann of any Democrat since the congresswoman was first elected in 2006, thanks in large part to the absence of a third-party candidate. …
The poll also show that Graves’ name ID in the district has jumped 20 points, though he’s still largely unknown at 38 percent. Meanwhile, Bachmann is known by 99 percent of voters. That will make it harder for Bachmann to change people’s perceptions about her, while Graves should be able to influence people who do not yet have an opinion of him. …
There’s been no other public polling of the district, though it’s reasonable to assume that the Bachmann campaign has commissioned its own surveys. The fact that none have been released suggests that Bachmann’s numbers also do not bode well for her. Meanwhile, she underperformed in her Republican primary last month [link added].
Note: Michele Bachmann’s support has not shrunk, as suggested by the Salon.com report, or fallen, as stated by the Graves campaign; it has remained steady at 48 percent since the June poll. What is significant, is that Jim Graves’s support has risen three points since June, from 43 percent to 46 percent. Another three-point increase by Election Day would put Graves in a position to defeat Bachmann.
Public Policy Polling, which will release Minnesota numbers on the presidential and Senate races today, reports Rep. Michele Bachmann’s statewide favorability at 33/55 in its latest survey.
That’s significantly lower than her numbers in a Minnesota survey conducted in November 2009, a year before Bachmann’s 2010 reelection, by Rasmussen Reports. In that poll, Bachmann’s statewide job approval was 51 percent, with 45 percent disapproving.
Bachmann’s favorability in Minnesota’s conservative 6th Congressional District, which she represents, is no doubt considerably higher than her statewide approval. A Public Policy survey conducted December 17-20, 2009 had Bachmann at 53/41 approval/disapproval in her district.
By Michelle Knoll
October 15, 2012
In an election today for the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, high-profile incumbent Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann is re-elected, defeating DFL challenger Jim Graves 50% to 41%, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted for KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities.
Bachmann’s lead comes entirely from men. Graves leads by 1 point among women. Bachmann leads by 18 points among men. Bachmann holds 86% of the Republican base. Graves holds 85% of the DFL base. Independents split. Bachmann holds 81% of the conservative vote. Graves holds 83% of the liberal vote. Moderates break 58% to 31% to Graves. Bachmann leads among lower-income, middle-income and upper-income voters. Graves and Bachmann tie in union households. Bachmann leads by 12 points in non-union households.
Bachmann has a Net Zero Favorability Rating: the same number of voters have a favorable opinion of her (40%) as have an unfavorable opinion of her (40%). Graves has a Plus 1 Net Favorability Rating: 28% have a favorable opinion of him compared to 27% who have a negative opinion. …
By Jennifer Brooks
October 16, 2012
A new KSTP poll shows U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann with a nine-point lead over her Democratic challenger, Jim Graves. …
These are the first public poll numbers from the sixth district since a September poll from the Graves campaign that showed him within two percentage points of Bachmann.
In response, the Graves campaign released another internal poll, taken between Oct. 3 and 4 by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research that again showed Graves within two points of Bachmann.
Last week’s poll, the campaign said, showed Bachmann with 47 percent support and Graves at 45 percent. The poll sampled 403 likely voters and has a margin of error of 4.9 percent. The campaign’s August poll showed Bachmann leading Graves 48 percent to 46 percent. In June, the campaign said, its internal polls showed Bachmann up by 48 percent to Graves’ 43 percent. …
The poll results come the same day the Democratic Congressional Committee upgraded the sixth district to its list of competitive “Red-to-Blue” districts where they believe a Democratic challenger has a shot at unseating a Republican incumbent. …
Related reports on Minnesota 6th District Demographics
CQ Rates Bachmann’s Seat Safe (May 17, 2010)
Building a Non-Partisan Coalition (Aug. 5, 2009)
Can a Democrat Beat Bachmann? (July 27, 2009)
How to Beat Bachmann (May 9, 2009)
Bachmann Steady Post-Hardball (Oct. 25, 2008)
Poll: Bachmann Base Holds Firm (Oct. 24, 2008)
After the Election: Day 1 (Sept. 10, 2008)
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