Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you pay a lot of attention to polling, you know that surveys by Rasmussen Reports have tended to show Republican candidates in a stronger position than other polling and that surveys from Research 2000 have tended to show Democratic candidates in a stronger position than other polling. Even given that, however, the difference between the numbers the two pollsters produced recently in the Illinois governor's race is absurd.
In late February, Research 2000 found that Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, had a 15-point lead over Republican Bill Brady. Since then, Brady was certified as the winner in his razor-close primary, but he also suffered quite a bit of bad press from controversial bills he sponsored in the legislature. If anything, I would have expected his poll numbers to weaken in the last two weeks.
Rasmussen has a new poll out that shows Brady with a 10-point lead. That truly is a massively different result. Dwight Eisenhower, for example, was reelected by 15 points in 1956 and it was a huge landslide. Ronald Reagan has elected by ten points in 1980 and it was a huge landslide. Right now, Pat Quinn is Dwight Eisenhower circa 1956 according to Research 2000 and Jimmy Carter circa 1980 according to Rasmussen.
While Scott Rasmussen previously has speculated that his polls were producing different results than other pollsters because of his use of a likely voter screen, in this case both Research 2000 and Rasmussen Reports looked at likely voters. Sampling error can't explain a gap this large.
I think we can say conclusively that someone is ahead, unless it's a tie.
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