Shuler’s campaign questions validity of recent poll
A poll released August 2 by SurveyUSA and commissioned by the conservative Civitas Institute showed incumbent Rep. Heath Shuler (D) ahead of challenger Jeff Miller by a 45-44 percent margin. The results of the poll were surprising as many analysts have the race heavily favoring the Democrat. In their July 22 chart, The Cook Political Report listed the race as likely Democratic, while The Hill lists the race as Lean Democratic. Shuler won re-election in 2008 with 62% of the vote.
Speaking to the Asheville Citizen-Times, Hayden Rogers, Shuler’s chief of staff, questioned the validity of the poll due to it’s focus on registered voters instead of likely voters. He also called the results of the poll into question due to the involvement of Civitas.
Rob Schofield, Director of Research and Policy Development for NC Policy Watch echoed Rogers’ comments about the organization: “Their polls are traditionally polls with a point of view. They will trumpet the polls that have the results they like. The organization is clearly a partisan organization.”
Chris Hayes, an analyst for Civitas counters the argument that poll results are tainted. “SurveyUSA conducted the poll. The Wall Street Journal had them rated the number one rated pollster last year.” Hayes also felt the argument about registered voters versus likely voters was false. “If you look at those most likely to vote, those with who answered the poll with a ten out of ten on how likely they are to vote, Jeff Miller is up 49-43,” he said.
Peter Leousis, Deputy Director of the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, feels that there is some truth behind Hayden Rogers’ claims.
“When you look at registered voters, those are not always the people who turn out to vote in an off-year election,” Leousis said. “The point Shuler’s people are making is a valid one. If you want an accurate look at the race, you should look at likely voters instead of registered voters.”
Turnout will be a key to many races this fall and Republican currently have an edge in voter enthusiasm. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows 56 percent of Republican voters statewide “very excited” about voting this year, with 51 percent of Democrats expressing the same level of interest.
Hayes felt that lack of enthusiasm among his party is hurting the Democrat. “Shuler has a base problem. He only won 60% in the primary.” But Shuler has a major fundraising advantage, at the end of the last filing period he held $1.4 million cash on hand, while Jeff Miller had only $65,000. Hayes felt this disparity in fundraising could be enough for Shuler to hold on. “It doesn’t matter how good of a Republican year it is, if Miller gets outspent 20 to 1.”
(Image by Matt Mahurin)