This survey, the second Resurgent Republic survey in this election cycle, polled 1000 likely 2014 voters in twelve U.S. Senate battleground states, with respondents evenly distributed among the states just as U.S. Senate seats are distributed. The survey was a cooperative endeavor between Resurgent Republic and Democracy Corps for National Public Radio. North Star Opinion Research conducted the calls June 6-11, 2014, and compiled the data. States included in the sample are those listed by the Cook Political Report as either toss up, lean Democrat, or lean Republican. (The survey did not include one Democrat-held seat, South Dakota, that the Cook Report lists as likely Republican.)
The following chart lists the dozen battleground states, along with the incumbent senator, the Republican and Democratic nominees if settled by the time of the survey, and the Romney and Obama percentages in those states in 2012. Eight of these states voted for Romney and four for Obama, with an average Romney lead of 8 percentage points among the twelve states.
The political environment in these twelve states tilts strongly toward the Republicans. Several factors create that Republican tilt:
The stories about the Veterans Administration, Benghazi, the IRS, and the Obamacare website are phony scandals promoted by Republicans trying to hurt the Obama Administration.
The stories about the Veterans Administration, Benghazi, the IRS, and the Obamacare website are real problems that raise serious doubts about the competence of the Obama Administration.
By 57 to 25 percent, voters in these states think the stories are real problems, including 78 to 11 percent among Republicans and 59 to 22 percent among Independents. Even Democrats are relatively close on this question, at 34 percent real problems and 46 percent phony scandals.
Government policies should promote fairness by narrowing the gap between rich and poor, making the rich pay their fair share, and reducing income inequality.
Government policies should promote opportunity by fostering job growth, encouraging small businesses, and allowing hardworking people to keep more of what they earn.
By 55 to 38 percent, voters in these states want government to promote opportunity over fairness. Republicans and Independents prefer opportunity by 74 to 20 percent and 57 to 36 percent, respectively. Democrats prefer fairness by 59 to 31 percent.
Battleground-state voters trust Republicans more than Democrats on three of the four issue areas tested, and the parties tie on the fourth.
Congress and its leaders are unpopular nationally, and these Senate battleground states are no exception.
But Republican voters who disapprove of their party leaders’ performance in the House are hardly closet voters for Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate. Subsequent questions will demonstrate that Republicans who disapprove of their leaders’ performance in the House overwhelmingly intend to vote for Republican candidates for Senate in the fall.
While individual Senate candidates will have their own messages honed for their state and their candidacy, a generic Republican and Democratic message keyed to what party leaders have been saying recently shows strong preference for the Republican message in these battleground states. (Resurgent Republic wrote the Republican message, and Democracy Corps wrote the Democratic message.)
The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate says it’s time for a new direction in Washington. Democrats have controlled the Presidency and the Senate for six years, and their policies haven’t worked. Our economy is still struggling, and too many middle-class Americans are unemployed or underemployed. A Republican Senate will pass legislation to create jobs, stop spending money we don’t have, lower the cost of energy, stop the Democratic cuts to Medicare Advantage, and replace Obamacare with reforms that will lower health care costs. Democrats have had their chance, and now it’s time to try something new.
The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate says I fight for our state first and foremost and work with both Republicans and Democrats to do what’s right. The billionaire Koch brothers are trying to buy this election with all these attack ads so they can reduce taxes for oil companies and corporations that outsource our jobs. I will honor seniors by protecting Medicare and Social Security from cuts and help our small businesses and independent contractors by lifting regulations and helping with health care costs. I support raising the minimum wage and oppose any trade agreements that threaten our jobs.
By 50 to 40 percent, these voters prefer the Republican message. While partisans of each party line up behind their party’s message, Independents prefer the Republican message by 13 percentage points, 51 to 38 percent.
These U.S. Senate battleground states clearly tilt toward Republicans in 2014. That does not, of course, guarantee that Republicans will take control of the Senate. Republicans need a net gain of six Senate seats to do so, a tall order in any election cycle. Moreover, seven of these twelve battleground states include Democratic incumbent senators running for reelection, and incumbents are always hard to beat.
But the playing field looks as promising for substantial Republican gains in the Senate as any in recent years. Assuming that all the non-battleground states follow their current partisan leanings, and assuming Republicans pick up the Democratic-held seat in South Dakota, then Republicans can take control of the Senate by holding Georgia and Kentucky and winning half the remaining ten battleground contests. Given the rightward tilt of the playing field, that is an achievable goal in 2014.
Respondents for this survey of 1000 likely 2014 voters were distributed equally among the twelve Senate battleground states listed as toss up, lean Republican, or lean Democrat by the Cook Political Report: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and West Virginia. The questionnaire was developed jointly by Resurgent Republic and Democracy Corps. Calls were conducted and data produced by North Star Opinion Research. Calls were conducted June 6-11, 2014. Respondents were selected randomly from a random-digit-dialing sample including both cellular and landline telephone numbers, and were contacted by live interviewers. Fifty percent of the interviews were completed on cell phones. All respondents confirmed that they are registered to vote in the county in which they live. Calling quotas were set for the twelve-state sample for age, race, and gender using exit polls where they were available, and either past turnout results from states with that information or registration data for the remaining states. By party the sample is 26 percent Democrat, 44 percent Independent, and 27 percent Republican.
The margins of error for responses with an even split—50 percent for one response and 50 percent for another response—are ±3.10 percent for the entire sample at the 95 percent confidence level, ±6.03 percent for Republicans, ±4.64 percent for Independents, and ±6.15 percent for Democrats. The margin of error is smaller when one response receives a higher level of support.