Elway Poll: Murray 55%, Rossi 40%


Respected local pollster Stuart Elway just released a new survey of the Washington Senate race, and it’s a bit of a shocker for those plying the too-close-call meme: 51-38 percent in Sen. Patty Murray’s favor, and a yawning 55-40 percent gap when “leaners” are factored in. That’s a far cry from the spate of surveys from national polling firms that have recently shown the lead bouncing back an forth, near or within the margin of error.

Elway of course is painfully aware that such a dramatic departure from the national narrative might “come as a surprise to many and as unbelievable to some,” so he goes on at some length explaining why these results should not be dismissed as an outlier. This survey only interviewed “likely voters,” defined as those who have voted in at least two of the past four elections, or who have registered since 2008. The demographic profile of this sample matches the samples all year, and the expected profile of likely voters. And, Elway’s results are actually in line with the trend from other, non-automated surveys.

But in the end, one of the big differences between Elway’s results and those of other pollsters comes down to “philosophy.”

One of the challenges of election polling is determining what to do with respondents who are undecided. The philosophy here has always been to let them be undecided. After all, it is still 3 weeks until election day and the purpose of a survey is to describe the campaign situation today—not to predict the outcome. As a consequence, The Elway Poll routinely indicates more “undecided” voters than other surveys—a position that fails to satisfy the partisans, often resulting in charges of incompetence and/or bias from partisans on the short end of data.

And not only doesn’t Elway push the undecideds, he also doesn’t statistically weight the data the way many national pollsters do, using some “secret sauce formula” to estimate how the undecideds will break based on party identification. But if he did weight the data, here’s how the results might look:


51 to 49 percent… that’s right in line with Rasmussen. But as Elway points out, the Party ID model assumes that all of the remaining undecideds would break for Rossi, ignoring the fact that leaners in this survey actually broke 2 to 1 for Murray.

According to Elway, these results illustrate the difficult challenge for Rossi, as “there are simply not enough undecided voters left” to sway.

One path for Rossi is to bring new voters into the electorate—people who were not in the “likely voter” sample. This is where Tea Party voters may help, assuming that there are a significant number who are not “likely voters.” Sufficient help from that quarter seems problematic for two reasons. First, it is not clear that Tea Partiers are disproportionally less likely voters. Second, Rossi has consciously not courted the Tea Party constituency.

This means Rossi must take votes away from Murray. He must convince enough Murray supporters to switch sides, which puts a premium on the two debates and on making an effective “closing argument” in the final three weeks of the campaign.

Good luck with that. Murray has been in the U.S. Senate for 18 years, and this is Rossi’s third appearance on a statewide ballot in six years, so a lot of voters came into this election with their minds already made up. And it doesn’t help Rossi that, according to Elway, Washington seems to be bucking the national generic trend, with a plurality of voters preferring Democrats maintain control of Congress by a 46 to 37 percent margin.

All in all, pretty good news for Patty Murray.


  1. 2

    greg spews:

    That is wonderful news.
    Now we can focus on some of the other much closer races around the state.

  2. 3

    sarge spews:

    I’m wondering if this “too close to call” race isn’t going to be a repeat of the tight race between Constantine and Hutchison.

    Final results:

    Susan Hutchison 224467 40.68%

    Dow Constantine 325777 59.04%

  3. 6

    rhp6033 spews:

    I’m still trying to figure out the Seattle Times position on the Murray/Rossi race.

    (1) As I previously reported, it had a tendency to report Murray accomplishments on it’s website late on a Friday, meaning it would hit the Saturday editions – the least read of all the printed papers, if paid subscriptions and newsbox numbers can be believed. That’s why businesses and politicians who want to get bad knews publicized in such a way so that it gets the least amount of coverage refer to a Friday afternoon news release or story to be “throwing it out with the trash”. Early stories about Murray’s securing money for the Howard Hanson Dam repair, for example, were reported on Friday, but Rossi’s attacks on Murray were front-page news on Monday.

    (2) The Times ultimately endorsed Murray, but again posted it online on Friday afternoon, with it appearing in printed form on Saturday’s edition. But by Sunday a story about Rossi, using the entire front page above-the fold with a large full-color picture of Rossi, focusing on his “confidence” and how close the race is. How often does the largest daily newspaper in a state endorse a candidate in the most important race in the state this election cycle, and then “throw it out with the trash”, as the Times did?

    I’m wondering if there aren’t some in-fighting within the Times editorial department, and within the Times editor’s functions within the news department (the ones who decide on story placement and headlines).

  4. 7

    rhp6033 spews:

    Interestingly enough, the P.I. called this poll and “outlier”, repeating the Republican meme that previous polls have called the race “too close to call”. In doing so, they are ignoring what is probably a clear shift towards Murray and away from Rossi.

    I’m wondering if the state’s voters aren’t smarter than we give them credit for being. It could well be that Rossi’s campaign blizt, trying to blame the recession, joblessness, bailouts, home foreclosures etc. on Murray have a number of Washington State voters realizing what a crock of B.S. Rossi’s been trying to peddle, and it’s backfiring.

  5. 8

    Lauramae spews:

    I hope it is true, but the margin of error is a bit high on the elway poll. Brad Shannon says its higher than 4.6%

  6. 9


    rhp6033 @6:

    (2) The Times ultimately endorsed Murray, but again posted it online on Friday afternoon, with it appearing in printed form on Saturday’s edition.

    I was finally able to convince Frank to stop trying to send me his litterbox liner, so I wasn’t aware of this. The Murray endorsement was in the Saturday paper, not Sunday?

    I do know that it was pulled from the website a couple of hours after it went up on Friday, reappearing some time Saturday.

  7. 10

    don spews:

    What do you mean Rossi has not courted the tea party constituency? According to Orly Taitz, queen of the birthers, Dino has already locked up the tea party endorsement:

    “Dino Rossi in WA, who is running against sitting senator Patti Murray. Rossi is endorsed by the tea party, he is plugging ahead and currently according to Sept 26 Rasmussen poll 1% ahead of Murray. This lead is very fragile and he needs reinforcement.”


  8. 11

    Zotz sez: Puddybud is just another word for arschloch. spews:

    @10: More: Rossi signed off on the Teahadist agenda back before the primary.

  9. 12

    greg spews:

    More good news for us Democrats.\
    Elway is set to report that Fischer is actually leading Portman in Ohio by 3 points despite Rasmussen claiming this.
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 Email to a Friend ShareThis.Republican Rob Portman has now jumped to a 23-point lead over Democratic Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race.

    A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio shows Portman, a former congressman and Bush administration official, earning 57% support, his best showing in the race to date. Fisher claims just 34% support, a new low,

    Apparently Rasmussen is way off everywhere.
    I knew it

  10. 13

    Zotz sez: Puddybud is just another word for arschloch. spews:

    @10: re @11: Lots of the Teahadist R state level candidates are running under the radar — they seem to have made a point not to be id’d with the Tea People.

    I’m wondering maybe hammering Teahadist affiliation and endorsements wouldn’t be a wonderful post by Goldy (hint, hint) with help from all of us.

    My ante: Both of my R state rep R nominees are Teahadists.

    Lynda Simpson: http://www.kitsapwethepeople.com/

    Linda Simpson is a true 9/12 Candidate. She has been an active participant of this group and some of her past reports can be found on this site. She will stand up for you and our United States Constitution

    Dan Griffey: http://www.resistnet.com/profi.....unning-for

    Just one of many of his wife’s posts. Note this is ResistNet — way out on the fringe.

    They both ended up neck and neck with the D nominees in the primary. Key: South Kitsap late returns drove up their percentages. I’m hoping Sam Reed’s big turnout prediction comes true.

  11. 14

    Zotz sez: Puddybud is just another word for arschloch. spews:

    @13: PS: This info was for the 35th District. The D incumbents are Finn and Haigh, respectively.

  12. 15

    Tony spews:

    RHP, as I said last week, I’m continually amazed by your ability to spew ignorance with such an undying air of authority. Your Friday-Monday theory of Times coverage is balderdash. And your “reporting” on what they did when is just downright wrong. Most notably, the editorial endorsement of Murray appeared in last Sunday’s paper, the most widely circulated paper of the week.

    Get a clue.

  13. 16

    rhp6033 spews:

    Tony @ 15: The Times issued the endorsement online on Friday. It wasn’t in Friday’s papers at my office, and I didn’t it see Saturday’s, Monday’s, or Tuesday’s printed papers.

    But I didn’t check the Sunday editorials (a neighboring office “borrowed” our paper and returned it to us, sans ads and coupons and the editorial pages, this afternoon). So if it did appear in the Sunday printed edition, I didn’t see it. I really didn’t think to check, because (a) I got busy, (b) I thought it unlikely would announce an endorsement online on Friday, and hold publication until Sunday, and (c) I didn’t have the printed version to check anyway.

    So if it did appear on Sunday, I offer my apologies to the readers here, and would revise my post accordingly if I were capable of doing so.

    But don’t you think it strange that the Times would spend a good portion of the “A” section on Dino Rossi, and then put the endorsement in the editorial section? Like I said before, I suspect that there may be some in-fighting between some on the editorial board, as well as the news editors who determine placment and headlines.

  14. 18

    LD spews:

    Speaking of Elway I1098 is in the gutter 48% Yes and 41% No. So again the income tax is being rejected.