Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Polling update

A month or so ago, we reported on a SurveyUSA poll examining how Kansans view various issues. It turns out SUSA did another poll with the same questions. It's worth noting that the new poll has a lot fewer Democrats and a lot more self-described conservatives.

Encouragingly, support for candidates who support teaching evolution increased from 23% to 26%. That's within the margin, but we can hope that the trend continues on to statistical and electoral significance. Support for teaching "alternative theories" dropped by 3 points as well. Democratic support for evolution-only increased by 6 points, while moderates and Republicans remained relatively constant.

In the West of Kansas, support for teaching "alternative" dropped 9 points, down to 69%. Wichita saw a 17% jump in support for teaching evolution, while eastern Kansas held steady.

Views on sex ed were nearly unchanged. Democratic support for comprehensive sex ed increased while independents became more accepting of abstinence-only. While Republicans in general were unchanged, conservatives swung 5 points away from abstinence-only, leaving moderates unchanged.

In terms of what they look for in a governor, morals and character exchanged a few backers, but no meaningful trend is apparent. Republicans are consolidating on moral issues (pron.: "abortion") while Independents are rallying to economic issues and away from moral issues. This will put the Republican challengers in a bind, as does the breakdown of what voters will be using to guide their votes.

The only issue even approaching significant change was education funding, which moved from 20% to 23%. Illegal immigration and health care drifted down 2 points while abortion ticked up. Among Democrats, health care increased in importance. For Republicans, immigration dropped from the clear priority down into the pack of issues, while abortion and education spending increased. Abortion dropped off the radar for Independents.

Asked what the legislature should do to fund education (a topic that seems to be grabbing attention across the board and tops the list of issues) there was a big shift away from tax increases (already the least popular option) and toward school consolidation. "Other" remains the most popular. Cutting funding overtook the mysterious "other" among Republicans, while "other" switched places with cutting funds among Democrats. Independents still favor the mystery meat, but are coming around to a funding cut as well. Moderates and conservatives remain divided over cutting funding.

These divides between what moderates and conservatives want will make it very hard for the campaign that wins the Republican primary to reach out to the broad population of moderates who currently favor the Governor. A poll SUSA did for the Star shows that most people don't know anything about most of the candidates. Jim Barnett and Ken Canfield are the best known, but 42% of people are unfamiliar with them, and of the people who know them, 32-35% are neutral, while those strong opinions that exist about any of the candidates tend to be unfavorable. Ken Canfield comes closest to break-even by having 11% favorable and 17% unfavorable. Interestingly, Democrats seem to be more likely to know anything about the candidates than Republicans do (though they may just know that their opinion is unfavorable). Canfield is the only candidate with much favorability at all among Independents, but moderates don't really like any of the pack.

To win the primary, the candidates will all have to run hard on abortion, but that will poison the winner when he tries to reach out to moderates and independent voters in the fall. The governor already has high favorability with the public, and the only way a Republican will get into the ring with her will require them to take unfavorable positions about their priorities.

In other news, Rasmussen Reports that the Missouri Senate race is still too close to call.