Going Beyond the (First) Numbers

The Denver Post ran a front page story today based on their own polling data on the 2006 governor’s race. Democrat Bill Ritter leads Republican Bob Beauprez by seven percentage points (42-35) in the Post poll, which carries a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points. Those numbers are fairly consistent with what we have seen from other polls in recent months, which indicates the race to be a virtual toss-up at this point (though Ritter clearly has a slight advantage).

Those are the numbers that create the headlines, but they aren’t the most interesting numbers. Most of what you can really learn from these polls comes from the “cross-tabs,” as they are called, which show how voter preferences break down in other areas. When you dig down a little further, the numbers look even better for Ritter.

Ritter is favored by 15 percentage points among women (46-31), which as the Post points out, could indicate that his personal opposition to abortion isn’t hurting him as much as some might have thought. The polling also shows that Ritter has the support of 10% of Republicans, while Beauprez only picks up votes from about 2% of Democrats. Furthermore, Ritter has a 41-33 lead among voters who are registered as Independent or unaffiliated. Both of these comparisons are important because Colorado is a Republican-leaning state in terms of overall voter registration. For Ritter to win in November, he’s going to need the support of a number of Republican and Independent voters; it looks like he’s getting that support thus far.

Perhaps the most important numbers from the Post survey are the favorable vs. unfavorable ratings for each candidate. Beauprez has much better name recognition than Ritter (25% of respondents recognize Beauprez, compared to 16% for Ritter), and both candidates are about equal in terms of favorability ratings. Where Beauprez really gets into trouble, however, is with unfavorable ratings; some 22% of respondents dislike Beauprez, while only 8% dislike Ritter. The election is still about four months away, and already more than one-fifth of Colorado voters know who Beauprez is…and they don’t like him. It’s far better to be unknown than unliked at this point in the campaign.

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