Polls Painting A Confusing Picture Of Colorado Races

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Originally published on September 18, 2014 4:44 pm

Multiple polls on Colorado's U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races were recently released and there are some different perspectives on where things stand with just seven weeks until the November election.

Most polls show the U.S Senate race as being too close to call. The Denver Post recently gave incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall a narrow edge over his Republican challenger Congressman Cory Gardner, but within the margin of error. A separate USA Today Poll gives Gardner a one point edge. The most recent Quinnipiac Poll was more of an outlier. It gave Gardner the lead, 48 – 40 over Udall.

"There's no doubt that these races are important. There's no doubt that votes are going to matter. There's no doubt these races are going to be contested until Election Day," said Colorado State University Political Science Professor Kyle Saunders.

When looking at new polls, Saunders notes, it's important to determine who conducted it, and whether it follows the general trend.

"When you see multiple polls come out on the same day that have wide variation between them you have to remember polling firms differ," Saunders said. "There's a lot of differences in how they conducted the survey. There's a lot of differences in how they choose to sample."

For instance, the Sept. 18, 2014 poll from Quinnipiac University on the Senate race put Democrat Mark Udall 8 points behind Gardner. The last poll in July suggested the race was a "see-saw tie." Saunders said the poll raises questions even though it was conducted from a non-partisan perspective.

There was a similar swing in the most recent Quinnipiac Poll for Colorado's Governor's race. The Sept. 17, 2014 poll put Governor John Hickenlooper 10 points behind his Republican challenger Bob Beauprez, while the previous July poll suggested the race was tied.

"There's going to be many more polls. And the more polls we have and the more transparency with regard to their methodology, we can get more certainty about their outcome," said Saunders. "If there is change, and change can occur, and Quinnipiac may be on to something with their Beauprez and Gardner finding. But we need a lot more confirmation when we see an outlier than we do when see polls that are generally in line with a trend."

Saunders believes the methodology may be flawed because the Quinnipiac Poll is over calculating how many Republicans will turn up at the polls on Election Day compared to Democrats. The GOP is widely believed to be more enthusiastic going into the midterm election, but Saunders said the poll exaggerated this enthusiasm gap.

Most analysts agree the race for Colorado Governor and the state's U.S. Senate seat are tossups – something the poll averages at Real Clear Politics (Senate | Governor) agree with.

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