Thursday, March 06, 2008

Detroit News Poll: Schauer, Walberg Even

A friend was kind enough to pass this along to me, and then the Schauer campaign sent out a press release about 45 minutes later. EPIC-MRA conducted a poll for WXYZ-Detroit and the Detroit News on the 7th District, polling a match-up between incumbent Congressman Tim Walberg and state Senator Mark Schauer.

(While nothing is ever guaranteed, the rest of this post works under the assumption that Schauer is the nominee, and that it's Walberg versus Schauer in November. I don't want to keep repeating caveats like "Assuming Schauer wins the nomination over Renier..." because that gets repetitive.)

Here's what they found:

A survey of 7th Congressional District voters conducted by Detroit News/WXYZ-Action News pollster EPIC-MRA shows Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton in a statistical dead heat when voters are read biographical information about him and challenger Mark Schauer, who represents the Battle Creek area in the state Senate. Walberg stood at 48 percent and Schauer at 49 percent.

The error margin of the survey of 400, Feb. 27 through March 2, was 4.9 percentage points.


When voters had no additional information than the two candidates' names and party affiliations, Walberg was favored by 51 percent to Schauer's 40 percent. That head-to-head question was asked first, then asked again after the biographical information was read to survey respondents.
Here's a bit of analyisis:
"If I were in Tim Walberg's camp, I would have grave concerns at this point that a relatively unknown Democrat in a traditionally Republican district can match up so competitively," said EPIC-MRA political analyst John Cavanagh.


But Cavanagh says migration from Ingham County to Eaton County is watering down the Republican flavor of the district.
And, finally, here's some fun with issues and approval ratings.

Voters showed little interest in two issues that are among Walberg's priorities: Only 7 percent of voters in the district picked "promoting morality and family values" as their top concern while 3 percent chose "keeping federal taxes low."

The overwhelming top concern picked by voters -- 41 percent -- was "improving the nation's economy and providing jobs."

The poll found that 53 percent of voters didn't know Schauer. Among those who do, 19 percent view him favorably and 12 percent don't.

On Walberg, a fiscal and social conservative who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, 42 percent of voters have a favorable view, while 30 percent don't.

But voters were split when asked to "rate the job being done" by Walberg: 39 percent rated his performance as positive and 38 percent gave him negative marks.

Walberg Chief of Staff Joe Wicks declined to comment on the poll results, saying "Congressman Walberg is focused on the economic issues."

(Emphasis added.)

Let's make all of that easier to read.

(Margin of error +/- 4.9%)

Walberg versus Schauer, no biographies:

Walberg (R) - 51%
Schauer (D) - 40%

Walberg versus Schauer, with biographies:

Walberg (R) - 48%
Schauer (D) - 49%

Walberg Favorable vs. Unfavorable:

Favorable - 42%
Unfavorable - 30%

Schauer Favorable vs. Unfavorable:

Favorable - 19%
Unfavorable - 12%

Walberg Job Approval:

Positive - 39%
Negative - 38%

I'm told by Deb Price, the reporter with the Detroit News, that more details from the poll will be available tomorrow afternoon. For now, that's what we've got.

So, what does all of that mean? For starters, Tim Walberg is in a weak position for an incumbent. Given no other information about the leading Democratic challenger, Walberg only manages to get 51 percent. That's almost half of the district that's already looking for someone news.

Schauer, meanwhile, manages to start off with a base of 40 percent from his name alone, and he gets an extra nine percent when a simple biography is read. That's a strong starting position for a challenger.

The fact that Schauer is leading Walberg by one percent when biographies are read doesn't really have any meaning when the poll has a margin of error of five percent. If anything, it gives Mark Schauer the benefit of headlines like "Schauer Leads Walberg in New Poll" all across the 7th District.

Supposing Schauer's name identification increases between now and November (which, with over $500,000, he should be able to do even if he just stopped fundraising now), that means we'd be starting the race essentially even. That's significant. All the advantages of incumbency that Walberg has only manage to make this a 50-50 race.

Walberg also isn't helped much by the fact that people don't really care about his anti-tax bills or his moral values. The focus right now is on economic issues, and on Schauer's website, that's the first thing you see-- the mortgage crisis and the economy. When you visit Walberg's website (such that it is), you see items mentioning taxes, government spending, abortion, same-sex marriage... and nothing about the economic issues people are thinking about.

And, beyond all of that, a good rule of thumb is that if only 39 percent approve of the job you're doing, you're probably in a lot of trouble.

This is bad news for Walberg, but Schauer and Democrats in general have some work to do. There are a lot of people out there who don't like Walberg and are looking for something better. Now we just have to convince them.

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It was interesting, in Saul Anuzis' daily newsletter, he only mentioned the fact that Walberg was ahead, not that when issues were brought up, Schauer went ahead. Typical Republican nonsense.
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