October 12, 2010

Brady leads governor’s race, senate race a tie

CARBONDALE, Ill -- Republican Bill Brady has opened up almost a nine-point lead over Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the statewide race for Illinois governor, according to a new poll of likely voters conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The U.S. Senate race between Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias is a dead heat.

“Few states have the two top races as close as those in Illinois,” said Institute Director David Yepsen. “These races could turn on the smallest thing – a gaffe, the turnout efforts, or unforeseen events. Every vote will be important.”

Charles Leonard, the Simon Institute visiting professor who supervised the poll, said, “Our results appear to be in line with other recent surveys, in that Bill Brady holds a single-digit lead over Pat Quinn. Similarly, the Simon Poll shows the U.S. Senate race remains a virtual tie between Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk.

“Taken as a whole, these recent Illinois polls demonstrate that the governor’s race is more volatile and that opinions in the Senate race are more hardened and are more difficult to move. That there are still one in five voters saying they are undecided adds to the air of uncertainty about both these races,” Leonard said.

Yepsen said the poll is good news for Republican Brady. “Brady leads Quinn, who had been closing in on him in other recent polls. Also, the survey shows Republicans are more excited about this election.”

In the race for governor, Brady is capturing 38.4 percent of the vote to Quinn’s 29.8 percent. Independent candidate Scott Lee Cohen captures 5.9 percent, and Green Party candidate Rich Whitney garners 2.2 percent. Libertarian candidate Lex Green is at 1.5 percent. There are 22.1 percent who are undecided or who favor another candidate.

In the Senate contest, Kirk has 37.3 percent and Giannoulias has 36.8 percent. Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones has 3.3 percent and Libertarian Mike Labno has 1.8 percent. There are 20.7 percent who are undecided or who favor another candidate.

The survey of 1,000 registered voters was taken Sept. 30 to Oct. 10 and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. It found 758 who were classified as likely voters. Few polls of the Illinois contests have sample sizes as large as this one. The margin for error among likely voters is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The numbers in this release are those for likely voters.

Results from the entire sample have a statistical margin for error of 3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. This means that if we were to conduct the survey 100 times, in 95 of those instances the results would vary by no more than plus or minus 3 points from the results obtained here. The margin for error will be larger for demographic, geographic and response subgroups.

Likely voters are respondents who passed a two-question "screen": first, that they were absolutely certain to vote, and second, that they knew exactly where their polling place was.

(When viewing the results for the two races among all 1,000 respondents in the registered voter sample, the results change very little. In the gubernatorial race, Brady's lead shrinks from 8.6 percentage points to six points -34.4 percent vs. 28.4. In the Senate race, including all 1,000 respondents gives Giannoulias a statistically insignificant 1.7 percentage point lead over Kirk - 35.1 percent vs. 33.4.)

In other findings, the survey found:

• Green, Libertarian and independent candidates may be taking similar numbers of votes away from the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates. If there were no “third party” candidates in the governor’s race, the survey indicates Quinn would have gained 3.8 percentage points to Brady’s 3 points. In the Senate race, the third party candidates appear to draw equally from both parties.

• Republicans and Democrats are essentially tied in the generic race for Congress, 40.8 percent to 40 percent, respectively. However, Republicans (55.4%) are more likely to say they are “more enthusiastic” about this election than are Democrats (34.7%).

• President Obama’s job approval rating in his home state of Illinois remains slightly higher than it is nationally. Half (50.3%) of likely voters approve of the job he is doing, compared with 46 percent nationally in a recent Gallup poll. “That may be one reason the president and others in his administration are spending so much time here,” Yepsen said. “They’re not as welcome in other places and their work could prove pivotal in turning out Democratic base voters, particularly in his hometown of Chicago.”

• Some 62.4 percent of likely voters thought the country was headed in the wrong direction but an overwhelming 81.3 percent said the state was headed that way. They were evenly divided on the question of whether their city or home area was headed in the right or wrong direction.

• While voters were ambivalent about the Tea Party movement, affiliation with it would turn off more voters than it excites in Illinois. A third (33.1 percent) said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate affiliated with the Tea Party, compared with 45.5 percent who said they would be less likely to do so.

Click here for complete poll results.