McConnell holds small lead in Kentucky

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Public Policy Polling

Posted on August 12, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 12 at 4:17 PM

(Public Policy Polling) -- PPP's newest Kentucky poll finds Mitch McConnell taking a small lead, with 44% to 40% for Alison Lundergan Grimes, and 7% for Libertarian David Patterson. Patterson's supporters say if they had to choose between the major party candidates they would pick McConnell by a 44/34 spread, and when you reallocate those voters to their second choice it leaves McConnell with a 47/42 advantage.

In early April we found Grimes leading McConnell 45/44. The main thing that's changed since then is McConnell seeing some consolidation in his base. At that point, in the middle of his primary fight with Matt Bevin, he had only a 49 point advantage with Republican voters at 69/20. Now in the two way contest he is up 67 points with GOP voters at 78/11, and when you include the Libertarian his advantage is 63 points at 72/9. That unification of Republicans accounts for most of the change we've seen over the last four months.

This is the first time PPP has looked at approval and favorability ratings for McConnell and Grimes since December, and although he remains unpopular McConnell's seen improvement on that front as well. Then he had a 31/61 approval spread, but now it's improved to 37/54. That shift is also largely a function of movement among Republican voters- he's gone from having just a 47/41 approval rating with them up to 58/30 now. Grimes has seen her name recognition increase from 68% to 86% over that period of time but there's been little shift in her net favorability- she's gone from -6 at 31/37 to -4 at 41/45.

Barack Obama's unpopularity in Kentucky continues to make the landscape difficult for Democrats- only 32% of voters approve of the job he's doing to 63% who disapprove. 38% of the voters who disapprove of McConnell also disapprove of Obama, and among that group McConnell is receiving 20% of the vote, which is how you get to 44% of the vote with only a 37% approval rating.

All said the race remains close and McConnell remains unpopular- and among the undecided voters McConnell has just a 10% approval rating to 66% of voters who disapprove of him. So Grimes should at least have a chance with those folks.

Moving onto next year's race for Governor it's looking like a pretty wide open race. Republicans are closely split on who they want their candidate to be- 25% say Matt Bevin to 20% for James Comer, 18% for Hal Heiner, and 11% for Cathy Bailey. In a head to head Heiner leads Comer 28/22, with 50% of voters undecided. The indecision on the Republican side is a function of the candidates not being terribly well known- even coming right off his Senate bid Bevin has only 50% name recognition and Heiner at 33%, Comer at 30%, and Bailey at 15% are even lower profile than him.
Jack Conway leads all of the Republicans in potential general election match ups, but several of them are quite close and there are many undecideds. Conway is up 3 points on Comer and Bevin at 38/35 and 39/36 respectively, 7 points on Heiner at 39/32, and 12 points on Bailey at 42/30. Conway has a 35/28 favorability rating, making him a good deal better known than the Republicans, so at least part of his early advantage is probably attributable to name recognition.

Finally we asked voters their opinions both about Kynect and the Affordable Care Act. Each finds 34% support, but while 51% of voters say they're opposed to the Affordable Care Act only 27% say they're opposed to Kynect. Even the Affordable Care Act numbers are a little bit better than you would expect for Kentucky given the conservatism of the state, suggesting that Kynect's success has helped some with the overall image of the ACA.

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