Republican Bob Turner is poised to pull a huge upset in the race to replace Anthony Weiner as the Congressman from New York's 9th Congressional District, according to the latest Public Policy Polling results. A possible Republican victory would be a massive referendum on Barack Obama and his administration. Turner leads Democrat David Weprin 47-41 with Socialist Workers candidate Christopher Hoeppner at a paltry 4 percent and 7 percent of undecided voters.
Based on a closer examination of the polling results, Turner is winning in the heavily Democratic district for two reasons: a huge lead with independents and a large amount of defecting, "crossover" support. He is ahead by 32 points at 58-26 with voters unaffiliated with either major party. And he is winning 29 percent of the Democratic vote, holding Weprin under 60 percent with voters of his own party, while losing just 10 percent of Republican partisans.
The Public Policy Polling report continues: "If Turner wins on Tuesday it will be largely due to the incredible unpopularity of Barack Obama dragging his party down in the district. Obama won 55% there in 2008 but now has a staggeringly bad 31% approval rating, with 56% of voters disapproving of him. It's a given that Republicans don't like him but more shocking are his 16% approval rating with independents and the fact that he's below 50% even with Democrats at 46% approving and 38% disapproving."
Beyond Obama having a negative effect on Weprin's campaign, Turner has actually proven to be a strong candidate with 45 percent of voters rating him favorably to 30 percent negatively. Independents give him good marks by a 56/17 spread and he has better than normal numbers across party lines with 29 percent of Democrats expressing a positive view of him to just 43 percent with an unfavorable one.
Weprin has been much maligned as a candidate but he actually has positive favorability numbers too with 39 percent of voters rating him positively and 36 percent negatively, says the report. Over the last few years there have been very few races where Public Policy Polling has conducted research where a candidate had a positive net favorability spread and still lost. If Obama's approval in the district was even 40 percent, Weprin would almost definitely be headed to Congress. However, as the report suggests, Weprin is being dragged down by something bigger than himself.
One of the key issues impacting the race is the question of Israel. A plurality of voters--37 percent--said that Israel was "very important" in determining their votes. Turner is winning those folks by an amazing 71-22 margin. With everyone who does not say Israel is a very important issue for them Weprin actually leads 52-36. Turner is in fact winning the Jewish vote by a 56-39 margin which--especially in New York--is a rarity for a Republican candidate.
"This seems to be rooted in deep unhappiness with Obama on this issue--only 30 percent of voters overall approve of how he's handling Israel to 54 percent who disapprove and with Jewish voters his approval on Israel is 22 percent with 68 of voters disapproving. That has a lot to do with why Turner's in such a strong position," the report asserts.
Furthermore, it has to be remembered that the only reason this election is being held is because of Anthony Weiner's disgraced departure. That did not sit too well with voters. Only 29 percent have a positive opinion of their former Congressman to 53 percent with a negative one. That has not helped his party's prospects for keeping the seat.
A brief aside: one needs to keep in mind that polls are not definitive by any means and they only give a rough picture. In fact, there are several issues that need to be considered before one accepts the results of any poll. For example, there may be a problem with the sample design (for telephone surveys, how the numbers were selected and how the individuals are selected within the household), non-availability, the refusal problem (is the refusal rate different on the particular variable we are measuring?), question wording, question order, deliberate, or unconscious, lying or false reporting by respondents, or inappropriate or inadequate weighing of data.
All of these variables have been shown in various studies to be the source of not just small errors but sometimes quite substantial ones. Unfortunately, there are not many methods that allow one to quantify the effects of these errors or to validate the results within any kind of reasonable measure. Out of everything that can go wrong in a survey, only the “sampling error” can be quantified.
However, despite this, while the polls themselves may be inaccurate, the difference in the results is so great that it would suggest that even a sampling inaccuracy will not change what seems to be the most likely outcome of this congressional race.
One final note from the pollster: "55 percent of voters in the district report having voted for Obama in 2008, which is the actual percentage of the vote he got in the district. Last year a lot of the races Democrats lost were because their voters did not show up and the electorate was far more conservative than for a Presidential year. When you lose that way you can say, well, our voters will come back out in 2012 and we'll be fine. But there is no enthusiasm gap here. Obama voters are showing up in the same numbers they did in 2008. But only 65 percent of them are voting Democratic. That's a really big cause for concern."