KUSA Poll: Musgrave, Paccione in Statistical Tie

A Survey USA-KUSA/9News poll released on Wednesday indicates that U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave leads Democratic challenger Angie Paccione by a scant four percentage points which is well within the margin of error.

The first independently conducted poll in the district also bears some close watching of both campaigns’ base supporters – some of which appear to be abandoning their candidate of choice by both conventional wisdom standards and early outreach strategies.

If the election were today, and you were standing in the voting booth right now, who would you vote for? Republican Marilyn Musgrave? Democrat Angie Paccione? Or Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness?

46%  Musgrave (R)
42%  Paccione (D)
8%  Eidsness (RP)
4%  Undecided

900 adults from Colorado’s 4th Congressional District were interviewed 8/13/2006 – 8/15/2006. Of them, 783 were registered to vote. Of them, 452 were judged to be “likely voters.” Crosstabs reflect Likely Voters.

It’s in the cross-tabulations, or the polled subjects’ demographics, where things get interesting.

Musgrave is capturing a sizeable proportion of men’s votes (49%) over Paccione (38%). Reform Candidate Eric Eidsness appears to be acting as spoiler with 10% of the male votes. The women’s vote is fairly evenly split with a slight edge to Paccione but still within the margin of error. Undecided women voters outnumber men to a small degree.

Musgrave holds strong leads in all age groups except the 50-64 year olds where Paccione is favored by 6-points.

She also commands a surprising 11-point advantage over Paccione with the 18-35 year old group.

As a Colorado State Unversity professor, Paccione must overwhelmingly win the “youth” vote in order to win this race. Considering that the poll was conducted before students began arriving back at CSU/Fort Collins and University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, there’s some room for improvement. However, the perpetually disorganized Young Democrat groups on both campuses bear immediate attention by Paccione’s campaign.

Most surprising is the substantial 11-point lead Musgrave has built with Hispanic adults. Local politico grumbling about Paccione’s lack of Latino voter outreach in Weld County and campaign-sponsored radio ads declaring her tough approach on “illegal immigration” and use of Republican rhetoric may be alienating potential supporters.

As with male voters, Eidsness may be stripping Paccione of Latino votes by picking up 12 percentage points, making it one of his strongest voting blocs. With 1 in 6 residents in the district of Latino descent, Paccione can’t afford to lose these voters, their employers, nor their liberal allies.

Party Affiliation
As expected, both major candidates have cornered the market on their own partisan voters. Paccione, though, has developed a clear 22-point advantage with unaffiliated and third party voters. Independent voters are also Eidsness’ biggest group of supporters at 16 percent points.

With a 40/25/34 split between Republican, Democratic, and unaffiliated/third party voters, attacting a majority of Independents while holding the Democratic base could be the tipping point for Paccione. Eidsness could easily play spoiler here.

Paccione boasts a 30-point lead over Musgrave with self-described moderate adults in the district. The conservative/liberal split is as unremarkable as it is expected.

Musgrave leads in all educational categories (high school, some college, and college graduates) by substantial margins. While Paccione’s support among those with graduate degree is much higher, the proportion of highly educated voters is dwarfed by those with lower educational attainment by a nearly 8:1 margin, according to Census data. Turn-out of these voters will be key for the Democrats.

Interestingly, one of Eidsness’ stronger voting blocs is within low wage high school graduates. The appeal of the former Reagan Administration appointee to this particular demographic group is one of the surprise results of this poll. 

Again, while Paccione does not lead in any of the income categories she is within the margin of error with individuals making from $40-79,000 and more than $80,000 annually.

One of the more fascinating aspects of this subsection is the strong support Musgrave carries with adults earning less than $40,000 per year. Paccione has greatly stressed her impoverished childhood and an inspirational boot-strapping story as a way to connect with voters. It appears, at least, with voters in similar financial situations that it has not been an effective persuasion tactic.

President’s Approval Rating
According to SurveyUSA, the president’s approval rating in the district is 44 percent. With Musgrave’s close ties to the Bush Administration many political pundits have questioned the Congresswoman’s viability in 2006.

While Musgrave leads 10:1 among voters who approve of the president’s job performance, she is capturing a healthy 14 percentage points of those who do not. Potential cross-over voters who support the president, prefer Paccione slightly more at 8 percent than Eidsness at 6 percent. Eidsness appears to be making some infiltration into Paccione’s expected President Bush job disapproval bloc by earning 9 percentage points.

The Bottom Line
If the race gets particularly nasty, as expected, strongly ideologically-driven voters could overtake the eligible voting pool if less inclined voters fail to turn out for their candidate of choice.

According to the pollster, likely Republican voters outnumber Democrats 46 percent to 27 percent. Independent voters report a 25% likelihood of casting a ballot.

The likely voter disclosures don’t sound promising to Paccione unless she implements a much better communication programs and the mother-of-all get out the vote strategies in the coming weeks and begins to gain momentum.

One way or another, it is shaping up to be a very energetic race.

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Wendy Norris

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