This week RunSwitch PR and Harper Polling conducted a politics and issues survey among 500 registered voters in the state of Kentucky, ahead of the Fancy Farm political picnic. This week RunSwitch PR and Harper Polling are releasing the political questions and will release the cultural questions next week.
The State of the Races
U.S. Senate Ballot
As we enter Fancy Farm weekend, the traditional kickoff for Kentucky’s fall campaigns, Senator Rand Paul leads his Democratic challenger Jim Gray, the Mayor of Lexington, by 12 points, 50%-38%.
Senator Paul receives 76% of the Republican vote, one point better than Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s party support (75%). Paul earns the support of one-in-three Democratic voters (30%) while Gray takes 60% of Democrats. Gray receives stronger support on the Senate ballot from Democratic voters than does Hillary Clinton, who is getting just 54% of Democrats on the Presidential ballot. Both Gray and Clinton are suffering from massive defections among registered Democrats.
Among voters who say that their opinions do not align with either of the two major parties, 44% support Paul for reelection, compared to 18% for Gray, which indicates Paul has appeal among independent voters.
Voters who remain undecided on the Senate ballot are favorable ground for Paul as they support Trump on the Presidential ballot by a margin of 44%-21% over Clinton.
The last Democrat to win a U.S. Senate race in Kentucky was Wendell Ford in 1992; he is also the last Democrat running for U.S. Senate or President to eclipse 50% of the vote in Kentucky.
As the Presidential election makes the turn for home, Republican nominee Donald Trump holds a 49%-36% lead over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton among Kentucky voters. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein garner just 5% and 2% of the vote, respectively. Kentucky has become a reliably red state in presidential elections since 2000, and it appears will stay in that column this year. Kentucky has eight electoral votes.
Clinton holds a three-point lead (43%-40%) over Trump among women while men go big for Trump at 59%-29%. Trump garners 75% of the Republican vote while Libertarian Gary Johnson earns just 6% support from Republicans. Clinton is winning 12% of Republicans, and just 54% of Democrats. Nearly one-third of registered Democrats (32%) are supporting Trump. Clinton’s scare in Kentucky’s May primary, in which she barely bested Bernie Sanders, was a harbinger of problems to come with her party’s voters in the general election.
Trump is viewed favorably by 54% of Kentucky voters while 40% register an unfavorable opinion. Thirty-nine percent describe their opinion of Trump as very favorable while those who have a very unfavorable of Trump account for 32% of the electorate. Among women, those numbers are reversed with 36% having a very unfavorable opinion of him versus a smaller 32% who are very favorable toward Trump.
Forty-four percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton while 49% hold an unfavorable opinion of her. Her image among women is a net positive at 49% favorable to 43% unfavorable. One-in-three Democratic voters report an unfavorable opinion of Clinton (33%).
Governor Bevin Job Approval
After eight months in office, Republican Governor Matt Bevin finds himself in good stead with Kentucky voters. Fifty-two percent of them approve of the job Bevin is doing in Frankfort, versus 36% who disapprove.
Approval of Bevin’s job performance is solid across the two primary media markets in the state: Lexington (57% approve to 32% disapprove) and Louisville market (53% approve, 39% disapprove). Sixty-nine percent of Republicans approve of the Governor’s job performance as do 41% of Democratic voters; Bevin’s crossover appeal with Democrats, if it continues, will make him formidable for reelection in 2019.
Battle for the State Legislature
Generic State Legislative Ballot
One of the biggest political stories in Kentucky this year is the Republican Party’s attempt to wrest control of the State House in Frankfort from Democrats, who have controlled it for 93 years. When asked whether they would generally prefer to be represented in Frankfort by a Republican or Democrat, 49% of Kentucky voters chose a Republican while 39% opt for a Democrat.
The lead for a generic Republican is strongest in the Bluegrass (55% Republican-36% Democrat) and Northern Kentucky (56%-36%) regions while a Democratic candidate leads in the Louisville region (42%-47%) and draws closer in Western Kentucky (46%-41%).
Party loyalty is stronger toward Democrats in Frankfort, who generically earn 65% of the vote from Democratic voters compared to 60% for Jim Gray and 54% for Hillary Clinton.
A Hypothetical: George W. Bush vs. Bill Clinton
In a hypothetical contest for President between two former Leaders of the Free World, George W. Bush bests Bill Clinton 50% to 41%.
The survey asked voters to put their party registration aside and select which political party their “opinions align with the most.” Despite Democrats’ sizable advantage in voter registration in Kentucky (53% to 39%), 51% of voters cite the Republican Party as closer to their political philosophy than the Democratic Party (35%). A full 32% of registered Democrats say their opinions align more with the Republican Party while just 8% of registered Republican align more with the Democratic Party.
In looking at the results regionally, the areas that had the greatest disparity between Democratic voter registration and Democratic Party alignment were Mid-Western Kentucky (55% Democratic registration, 26% Democratic alignment) and Western Kentucky (58% Democratic registration, 34% Democratic alignment). The regions with the smallest disparities were Northern Kentucky (41% Democratic registration, 36% Democratic alignment) and Louisville (55% Democratic registration, 43% Democratic alignment).
America’s Next First Spouse
Melania Trump or Bill Clinton? Who do Kentucky voters prefer as the next First Spouse of the United States? Mrs. Trump bests the 42nd President 46% to 37%.
Interestingly, Bill Clinton receives a higher percentage of the vote (41%) in a hypothetical presidential race against George W. Bush than he does (37%) against Melania Trump for First Spouse. Although President Clinton won Kentucky twice in 1992 and 1996, he never eclipsed 50% of the vote, scoring 45% and 46% respectively.
Build Trump’s Wall?
About half of Kentucky voters (49%) support “Donald Trump’s plan to build a literal wall along the Southern Border of the United States.”
Thirty-four percent of registered Democrats support building the wall while 56% oppose; 72% of Republicans support the wall versus just 15% who oppose. Younger voters are the most opposed to building the wall with 50% against it and 37% in support.
Survey Methodology: The sample size for the survey is 500 registered voters in Kentucky and the margin of error is +/-4.4%. Responses were gathered through land line interviews conducted using Interactive Voice Response (IVR). The survey was conducted July 31-August 1, 2016 by Harper Polling. The total percentages for responses may not equal 100% due to rounding. The ballot questions were not “informed” by any positive or negative information introduced prior to asking voters for their preference in a particular race.