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Narrow lead for McConnell vs Grimes in new WHAS11 Bluegrass Poll

by Joe Arnold


Posted on July 28, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 28 at 10:54 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) holds a narrow two percentage point lead, 47 percent to 45 percent, over Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in a new WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll of Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.

U.S. Senate - Kentucky
604 Likely voters
Alison Grimes (D) 45%
Mitch McConnell (R) 47%
Undecided 8%
Margin of error +/- 4.1%

The poll was conducted last week, July 18-23, by Survey USA for WHAS11, the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV in Lexington.

It's McConnell's first lead this year in the WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll.  In the February poll, Grimes was up by four percentage points; in May, Grimes led by one.

In its polling memo, Survey USA says the "pendulum in Kentucky Senate race swings ever-so-slightly To McConnell."

Factor in the poll's +/- 4.1 percent margin of error, all of the Bluegrass Polls of the race this year are a statistical dead heat.

McConnell appears to be drawing his strength from two key demographic groups, senior citizens and Eastern Kentuckians.

WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll
Likely voters 65 and older
Alison Grimes (D) 40%
Mitch McConnell (R) 54%
Undecided 6%

Among likely Kentucky voters 65 and older, McConnell holds a 14 point advantage over Grimes, 54 percent to 40 percent. That's the largest lead for either candidate within an age group.

McConnell also leads (49 percent to 44 percent) among the youngest voters, 18 to 34.

Grimes leads among the voters in the middle, a two point advantage (44 percent to 42 percent) among voters between 35 and 49, and a five point lead (50 percent to 45 percent) among voters between 50 and 64 years old.

The McConnell advantage among seniors may help explain Grimes' first attack ad of the campaign which began running July 8. It features retired coal miner Don Disney to criticize McConnell on Medicare.

WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll
Healthcare is also an issue. Which candidate do you trust more to keep the Medicare system financially stable and affordable for seniors? 
42%    McConnell
42%    Lundergan Grimes
16%    Undecided

Voters are evenly split in the poll on the question of which candidate they trust more to keep the Medicare system financially stable and affordable.

Grimes' second attack ad featured another Eastern Kentucky coal miner, David Stanley, criticizing McConnell on job creation. It appears Grimes has some work to do in Eastern Kentucky, where Mcconnell leads by 15 percentage points, 54 percent to 39 percent.

WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll
U.S. Senate - Kentucky
Likely voters in Eastern Kentucky
Alison Grimes (D) 39%
Mitch McConnell (R) 54%
Undecided 7%

Former President Bill Clinton will campaign with Grimes next week in Eastern Kentucky.  After appearing at the Carrick House, the mansion in downtown Lexington owned by Grimes' father Jerry Lundergan for use by his catering and special events company, Clinton and Grimes will head into the heart of coal country, with a 3pm event in Hazard.

That's where the issue of coal really hits home, where EPA regulations are regarded as job killers. Both candidates describe a "war on coal" by the Obama administration.

McConnell has the edge over Grimes on the question of which candidate voters trust more to strike the right balance between protecting coal jobs and protecting the environment. 

Coal is an issue in the U.S. Senate race. Which candidate do you trust more to strike the right balance between protecting jobs in the coal industry and protecting the environment from pollution caused by coal-fired power plants? Republican Mitch McConnell or Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes ... 

43% McConnell

39% Lundergan Grimes

18% Undecided

While the poll was being taken last week, campaign ads blared, with both candidates staking a claim to be better on the issue of Kentucky jobs.


Which candidate do you trust more to create jobs?  
37%    McConnell
41%    Lundergan Grimes
22%    Undecided

Grimes job attacks on McConnell appear to have traction. On the question of which candidate voters trust more to create jobs, Grimes has a four point edge, 41 percent to 37 percent.

At the heart of the debate in the senate race, McConnell argues that a vote for Grimes is a vote to empower President Obama to achieve his agenda.

Grimes has repeatedly stressed that she disagrees with the Obama administration on EPA policies concerning coal, and that the race is not a referendum on Obama.

The extent to which Grimes can distance herself from national Democrats appears to be the key to whether she can upset McConnell.

Which party would do a better job in Senate control?
Democrats 40%
Republicans 48%
Not Sure 12%

By an eight point margin, likely voters in the WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll say Republicans would do a better job in control of the Senate.

McConnell has narrowed his favorability gap since the poll two months ago.  In May, those who had an unfavorable opinion of McConnell dwarfed those with a favorable opinion, 49 percent to 29 percent.  Today, McConnell has shrunk that 20 point deficit to 7 points, 43 percent to 36 percent.

McConnell favorability

July 28                       May 16
36%    Favorable          29%
43%    Unfavorable      49%
18%    Neutral              18%
2%      No Opinion         4%

Grimes' favorability rating, meanwhile, has slightly worsened since the May 25 Bluegrass Poll.

Grimes favorability

July 28                       May 16

36%    Favorable           35%

33%    Unfavorable       27%

24%    Neutral               25%

7%      No Opinion        13%

Grimes has made a concerted effort to appeal to women. Yet our poll shows Grimes leads by just one percentage point among female Kentucky voters 47 to 46 percent.


WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll
Likely female voters
Alison Grimes (D) 47%
Mitch McConnell (R) 46%
Undecided 8%
Margin of error +/- 4.1%

When Libertarian candidate David patterson's name was included in the survey, both McConnell and Grimes' support declined.

"Patterson throws a wrench into the mix," a memo from Survey USA reads.  "With his name included in the poll question, the number of undecided voters increases from 8% to 13%. Beyond the number who say they are undecided, 1 in 4 voters say they might change their mind before the 11/04/14 election."

WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll

Alison Grimes (D) 39%

Mitch McConnell (R) 41%

David Patterson (L) 7%

Undecided 13%

 Poll memo:

Cell-phone respondents and home-phone respondents included in this survey: SurveyUSA interviewed 800 state of Kentucky adults 07/18/14 through 07/23/14. Of the adults, 714 were registered to vote. Of the registered, 604 were determined by SurveyUSA to be likely to vote in the 11/04/14 election for U.S. Senate. This research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a home telephone (73% of likely voters) were interviewed on their home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (27% of likely voters) were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device.