This week’s Y'all Politics story on polling numbers in the governor’s race deserves a serious review. Here’s our summary analysis: The composition of the IMG poll sample is a bit shaky. Don’t put much stock in the general election match-ups. But, if the GOP primary numbers are to be believed, Tate Reeves could be in trouble.
Methodology: The sample is skewed a bit.
- Limiting the survey to 27% African American is inconsistent with recent election turnout. Even with the truck driver and no campaign at the top of the Democratic ticket in 2015, Black voters were at 29% of turnout. In the 2018 the US Senate runoff, the Black voter turnout was 34 %. We actually expect 32% or higher this fall.
- No weighting for women—the gender gap in recent elections is considerably higher than the 2.3% in this poll. Last year, women turned out 8% more than men.
- The biggest cause for concern is that 74% of voters will be over the age of 50 and that 40% of the November electorate will be senior citizens.
- Datapoints to consider:
- Our poll in April showed a 37% plurality for right direction—up from January for sure. But a 49% right direction figure suggests that either the sample is off a bit or there’s been a tremendous improvement in mindset as we enter the election season.
- Partisan Primary Turnout—Four years ago the Democratic Primary was about 52% of the total turnout in August. This poll suggests that the GOP Primary will be much larger in size this year ( 56+%). No doubt a contested governor’s primary will raise Republican interest but we haven’t seen the wholesale shift at the county level in rural Mississippi where all the courthouse candidates are running on the Republican ticket.
So we believe the head-to-head general election results are unreliable. Make no mistake; if the general election turnout is as old and as white and as male as this poll predicts, then the GOP will continue to occupy the governor’s mansion.
But moving on and accepting, for the sake of argument, that the GOP primary sample in this poll is pure, we turn to the question of the Republican nominee for governor. Consider that Tate Reeves, the GOP establishment candidate with 16 years of statewide office and the endorsement of the most popular outgoing governor in our lifetime, squares off against Bill Waller, someone who has never run for statewide office and his last regional court election was seven years ago; and Robert Foster, a freshman lawmaker from the far end of the state.
Even with a solid month’s worth of television invested, Reeves only gets to 50% in this GOP primary poll. By contrast, Foster, who had spent one-tenth of Reeves' sum through May, is at 9% among Republican voters. That’s a core protest vote. Waller lacks statewide name ID at this point and is likely to close the gap quickly if he can raise the money for TV. Our own polls before the Reeves media surge show that in metro Jackson where voters know both Waller and Reeves, the Lt. governor’s advantage was in is single digits.
The consensus among pundits is that Reeves’ election plan is twofold: don’t get flanked on the Right on any issues and spend whatever it takes to buy the race. And to his credit, Reeves has stored up $6.3 million in treasure as the gatekeeper for legislation in the State Senate—it costs a lot to pass legislation these days.
The real unknown is whether Waller or his surrogates will raise enough money to draw a sufficient contrast and force a runoff. A de facto GOP incumbent who cannot put it away the first time will have a difficult three weeks of scrutiny in the runoff, and Waller’s name ID will skyrocket with GOP voters.
Based on this less-than-reassuring poll, we expect Tate Reeves to continue to serve up very generous portions of Red Meat to the Far Right and to try to bury Waller with media spending before he catches on.