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TalkBiz: Mark Pryor Leads Tom Cotton in New Poll

501 voters took part in survey which shows Pryor leading, 47% to 41%.

LITTLE ROCK, AR (TalkBiz) - A new poll provided to Cook’s Outlook shows Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor leading his Republican challenger Congressman Tom Cotton by six points.

The poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group for an Arkansas issue campaign, shows Pryor leading Cotton, 47% to 41%.

Q: If the November 2014 general election for U.S. Senate were held today and the candidates were Mark Pryor, the Democrat, and Tom Cotton, the Republican, for whom would you vote? [IF UNDECIDED] If you had to decide, which candidate would you lean towards supporting?

Mark Pryor – 43%
Lean Mark Pryor – 4%
Tom Cotton – 37%
Lean Tom Cotton – 3%
Undecided – 11%
Refused – 2%

The poll utilized live callers on August 26-29 and has a sample size of 501 voters, but it should be noted that Global Strategy Group, once led by Harrison Hickman, has worked with Mark Pryor in the past. This election cycle there is no connection between GSG or Hickman Analytics and the Pryor campaign.

Before I delve into the data, allow me to preface this story with a caveat. This is an internal issue campaign poll released to a media outlet and like all such polls released by campaigns or third-party advocates, it never hurts to review it with a critical and questioning eye.

The 47% to 41% Pryor vs. Cotton numbers include those who are leaning toward supporting one of the candidates, but haven’t fully committed yet.

If you remove the “leaners,” it becomes 43% for Pryor to 37% for Cotton with 11% of voters being undecided. Two percent refused to provide an answer to this question. In either scenario, Pryor still leads by six.

The horse race question was asked near the beginning of the poll and no negative or positive information was provided on either candidate before the question was asked.

The partisan make-up of voters in this poll is intriguing. The following question was asked:

Q: No matter how you are planning to vote, when it comes to politics, do you generally think of yourself as a strong Democrat, a not very strong Democrat, a strong Republican, a not very strong Republican, or an Independent? [IF INDEPENDENT/DON'T KNOW] Do you think of yourself as closer to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party?

The results:

Democrat = 32%
Republican = 26%
Independent = 42%

However you’ll notice in the above poll question, the callers pushed the independents to pick a political party. With the leaners, here are the results:

Democrat = 42%
Republican = 44%

Republicans gain a two-point advantage once independents are pushed to pick a party. This question was asked before the horse race question and these results give the poll more credibility. If the poll showed a a significant advantage for Democrats among independents in this political climate, then questions could be raised about the validity of the poll.

With the closeness of the partisan make-up, albeit with a slight GOP edge, an argument could be made that Arkansas may not be so much becoming “redder,” but becoming more “swing” in state elections. More polls and, of course, elections will need to be examined before that case could be made.

The favorable/unfavorable ratings for Pryor and Cotton were not provided, nor were we shown the crosstabs. However, we have a few other data points from the poll which we’ll share in a later story.

Global Strategy Group is a very reputable polling firm and I trust their methodology, but again, all internal polls publicly released must be taken with a grain of salt. Personally, I believe this to be a valid poll due to my experience with the pollster and the fact there is something to compare it to.

This latest poll hews closely to another public poll released in early August which had Pryor at 43% to Cotton’s 35%, which is similar to the results in this poll excluding the “leaners.”

When multiple polls are released, I find that by averaging the results of the data gathered by credible pollsters you’ll have a fairly accurate snapshot of a race.

Therefore by averaging the two polls, it gives Pryor 43% to Cotton 36%, which is where I personally believe the race roughly to be at this point. Pryor is likely leading at this juncture, but as I’ve consistently said, this race is a complete toss-up.

If you include “leaners,” Pryor is close to the magic 50.1% he needs, at a minimum to win, but he’s not there yet.

In comparison to Senator Blanche Lincoln, at this point in 2009 she was losing in all public polls to unknown Republican state candidates. Pryor is leading in two credible polls against a Republican Congressman. While Pryor is in a stronger position than Senator Lincoln was, he still has an epic fight on his hands.

Mark Pryor leading in this latest poll is welcome news for his campaign, but it’s still a political lifetime until November 2014.
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