Today’s Bluegrass poll question that was featured by the Louisville Courier-Journal is a first-class example of the “fun with numbers” brand of political reporting. Depending on how you ask a question, you can get a result that will fortify whatever thesis you’re trying to promote.
Case and point – the following is the Bluegrass poll question: “If the 2014 election for United States Senator were today, which best describes you: I will vote FOR Mitch McConnell no matter who runs against him. I will vote AGAINST Mitch McConnell no matter who runs against him. I will need to see who runs against McConnell before I know how I will vote.”
No incumbent could possibly fare well with this question.
The question itself minimizes the level of support for an incumbent by requiring a poll respondent to pledge their allegiance despite the prospect of an unnamed utopian candidate looming in the wings. To make the bias even more pronounced than a generic “someone else,” which is difficult enough, this question hardens that by asserting you must support him “no matter who runs against him.” So your neighbor, best friend, husband/wife, priest, pastor, reverend or rabbi wouldn’t get your vote if they were on the ballot.
Conversely, the question maximizes opposition simply by asking whether a voter would vote against Senator McConnell regardless of who is running against him. The only thing this accomplishes is to identify partisan opposition. The takeaway from this is that only 34% of the Kentucky electorate would oppose Senator McConnell is the election were today. That’s not altogether significant for a party leader with universal name ID.
What is significant is that the poll shows the GOP Leader’s ceiling of the vote share in Kentucky is a stunning 66 percent. (1 point higher than Sen. McConnell’s 2002 victory over Democrat Louis Combs Weinberg)