Marist Poll: Murray 49%, Rossi 48%

A new Marist poll has been released in the race between Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and real estate wheeler-dealer Dino Rossi (R).

The poll of 638 likely voters (4.0% MOE) taken from 26-28 October has Murray leading Rossi 49% to 48%. Marist polls use live interviews and include a sub-sample of cell phone interviews. As we saw with the Marist poll from two weeks ago that had Murray up by +1%, the current poll is evidence against the otherwise strong trend of live-interview polls showing a modest (or better) lead for Murray.

I ran a Monte Carlo analysis that simulated a million elections using the observed preferences and sample size percentages observed in the new Marist poll. Murray won 567,112 elections and Rossi won 422,059 times. The poll (by itself) offers evidence that Murray would win with an election held over the past two weeks with a probability of 57.3%. Rossi would have a 42.7% probability of winning. Clearly, this result is a statistical tie, even if Murray’s odds are a bit better than Rossi’s.


With today’s poll, we have now had seven polls released that cover the past two weeks. Murray has led in five of the polls, Rossi has led in one, and one was a tie. A combined analysis of all seven polls provides a way to use all the recent evidence to assess this race. The resulting meta-poll had a total of 5,778 “votes” of which 2,797 go to Murray (48.4%) and 2,712 go to Rossi (46.9%). An additional 269 (4.7%) “votes” went to neither candidate.

The Monte Carlo analysis gives Murray 789,523 wins to Rossi’s 207,597 times. Thus these seven polls provide evidence that Murray would win an election held over the past two weeks with a probability of 79.2%. Rossi would win with a 20.8% probability.


With only three days to go until the Big Poll is tallied, it is worth a few minutes examining the recent trend in this race. Here is the collection of polls in September and October (I’ve excluded polls released by a candidate or party):


The very recent polling suggests a tightening race. Even so, Rossi has only led in three of 19 polls over the past two months, and all three were conducted by Rasmussen (and Murray has led in two other Rasmussen polls). Beyond that, Murray has led in all other polls conducted by seven other pollsters except for one of three SurveyUSA polls giving a tie.

The bottom line is that Murray looks like she will win this one, but there are some uncertainties that may be distorting the map between polling and actual voting. My hunch is that the uncertainties don’t help Rossi’s chances much and some favor Murray:

  • Voter “turnout.” There really isn’t “turnout” in Washington, which has a very high proportion votes cast by mail-in ballots. Voter motivation should be less of an issue in this race than it will be in other states. You may have heard media reports about how a rainy day across the country on Tuesday will negatively affect Democratic candidates. While that may be true in states with poll voting, rain in Washington state can potentially give Democrats a boost by simply keeping inattentive voters in closer proximity to their unspent ballots.
  • The “cell phone problem.” There wasn’t much evidence that this problem biased polls in 2008, but there is some more recent evidence to suggest it can now. Some pollsters, like Marist, include a cell phone sub-sample, but it is hard to do. If the phenomenon is real, Murray will do better than many polls suggest.
  • The robopoll—live interview difference. I’ve been discussing this for weeks after Stuart Elway first raised it. The phenomena is observed nationally as well as in this race. Here, I suspect it will result in a 3%-4% boost for Murray over the robopolls, but nobody really knows what is causing the phenomenon. We’ll find out soon.


  1. 1

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    I think this is pretty close Darryl.
    In fact, I think Murray is up more like 2-3% and that’s what the final margin will be….sadly.
    But there is always 2012 and Cantwell.
    Depending upon how Obama does the next 2 years, she could very well be an easier target than Murray. Would Rossi run again??
    And if Rossi wins, I think Rob McKenna could go against Cantwell. Being Governor of Washington is not something that is all that attractive. If McKenna runs for Governor in 2012, he will probably win and either be ineffective or a 1-termer. I think Rob would be an excellent Senator.

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:


    Maybe from your point of view, but no thoughtful person will feel sad if Rossi loses. Murray has 18 years of seniority, important committee assignments, and clout; and is a skillful politician who has delivered for our state. What rational voter would replace her with a one-term state senator whose main claims to fame are copying Gary Locke’s budget and working for a crooked real estate broker who went to prison for fraud? Nobody! What’s sad is that you’re so stupid. I also feel sad about what you’re doing to your goats. They deserve better than you. You should get your goats a stud stallion.

  3. 3

    Chris Vance spews:

    The Marist poll was live interviews.

    Throw out the Washington Poll (see link below) and the last three polls show this race dead even heading into the weekend. That’s where I think it is.

    One very hopeful sign for Rossi: so far ballot returns are higer in Republican areas of the state than in Democratic areas.

  4. 5


    Mr. Cynical,

    2-3% is not unrealistic. Some weeks ago, I mentioned to Goldy that the spread was looking like +9% normalized (that is, calculating the spread based only on votes cast for the two candidates). That was based on live-interview poll results and assuming the robopolls were systematically underestimating the spread. Polls since then, especially the two Marist live-interview polls, have caused me to revise that downward to a +5% Murray win.

    Either numbers (yours or mine) will be fine with me.

  5. 6

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    “Murray has 18 years of seniority…”

    Another good example of why we need term limits for these arrogant bitches and bastards. “Politician” was never intended to be a career!

  6. 8

    LD spews:

    Wabbit, you cannot possibly be drinking that much cool-aid laced carrot juice, not see what is going on in this economy. You are a highly educated man!

    So lets just do some really simple math:

    20% real unemployment or underemployment, matters not (they ain’t payin taxes or spendin)


    All those worried about losing jobs who are not spending, so no taxes coming in


    Massive Debt Spending, Massive worthless paper money printing, Gold and Silver skyrocketing


    A depression


    A King Obama who knows absolutely no limits to his own spending spree

    = Financial What?

    = Really Really BIG financial mess

  7. 9

    Mary Plante spews:

    Why throw out the Washington Poll when of all polling groups it has the best record in predicting the outcomes of Washington races?

    Ballot return is down in Spokane and Yakima, up in King, Pierce and Thurston.

    SUSA dis a very small cell overlay in Washington and a larger one in Oregon.

  8. 10


    My guess, I take what Chris Vance says (dead even), adjust for the landline Republican bias.
    I think Rossi is short 1 to 2 points. Had polls showed him down by 2 consistently I think we would see a Didier protest vote pull another 1% or so off his total.

    I said this yesterday, and again today, I can’t wait for the Cal and Tx results from largely Hispanic districts to show just how much (or little) there is in the landline bias. The sub-sampling may prove to be a useful supplement, but the shift away from the landline is happening at such a great rate that the utility may be reduced to just showing general trends.

  9. 11

    Mary Plante spews:

    I would remind Politically Incorrect that most of our founding fathers were career politicians. Instead of serving in a single office many served in mutilple capacities as senators, presidents and vice presidents, ambassadors and cabinet officials. Would we have been better off if Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin had chosen not to make a career of public service? I think not.

  10. 12

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Mr. Baker @ 10–
    I will tell you something about the “Didier Protest Vote”….after the election.
    Remind me please.

  11. 13

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    I suppose it could be as much as 5….but if it’s not, I’ll explain why post-election.

  12. 14

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Here is an example of a Republican breakout in NH.

    Election 2010: New Hampshire Senate
    New Hampshire Senate: Ayotte (R) Stretches Lead Over Hodes (D)
    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    Republican Kelly Ayotte earns her highest level of support yet against Democratic Congressman Paul Hodes in New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race.
    A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state finds Ayotte leading Hodes 56% to 41%.

    She went from +7 to +15 in a couple weeks.
    You look at this a couple ways…
    1) How regionalized the anger with Dems is.
    2) Look at how many breakouts there are like this by Party.

    This one was a shocker, although I expected her to win. How many folks have cellphones in NH?
    This might be a good one to assess post-election….as would any last 2 week breakouts.

  13. 15

    why do liberals hate free speech? spews:


    you should be ashamed of yourself…comparing the founding fathers to the current spate of crooked worthless party-centric POS politicians of today is embarrassing.

  14. 16

    I Love You Baby, You Know It! spews:

    Why are we “still” looking at polls? Haven’t 95% of voters already cast their ballots? Or do we seriously think most folks are sitting on those little mail in ballots they’ve had for weeks and just waiting until Tuesday to fill them out for some reason? Can we just stop the campaign commercials now? There isn’t going to BE any “voting” Tuesday here. I’m sure there are a tiny trickle of folks who haven’t voted yet, but really…the only point to the last 3 day push of ads is to influence folks BEFORE they “vote” on election day. If 95% of the ballots are already cast by Sunday night here can’t we just stop the madness?

    And this is fun, everyone on here likes the “sport” of politics, but take a breathers. Polls are shit. I’ve lived long enough to see many races that seemed close break one way or the other, and upsets and whatnot. Just wait until the ballots are in. I’ve lived through Republican Presidents and Democratic Presidents, Republican Congress’s and Democrat Congress’s. I’ve found little difference in my life. No one has come to take my guns. The IRS exists under either party and my taxes never vary more than a few single % points. The government will spend MORE 4 years from now no MATTER who wins (I guarantee you). Carter spent more than Nixon. Reagan spent more than Carter. HW Bush spent plenty. Clinton spent more than Bush. George W. spent more than Clinton. See a trend? So when I hear the “vote Republican for smaller government” I just laugh and laugh. In my entire lifetime it’s never been true. Each party just has DIFFERENT aspects of government they like but Republicans LOVE Federal power, control and spending, just on stuff they like. Go figure.

  15. 17

    NikkiTaMere spews:

    It’s Halloween so whistling past the graveyard may be popular. But Dems are gonna lose an historic number of House seats, upwards to 70.

    The Senate is probably lost to them. Any close race — & this includes Washington state & Illinois — will end up in the GOP column, given the size of the wave.

    Despite the hopes of the huffingtons & the kossacks, it’s probable that pollsters this year have OVER estimated the Dem turnout, cause they’re probably using metrics from the last 2 elections to estimate the Dem population.

    But what do you expect? When the only alternative to the Republicans are faux Republican policies from Democrats, people will choose the real fascists every time.

    Then you’ll see bipartisan meanness as 1/2 the remaining Dems end up supporting GOP policies just like they have in the past.

  16. 18

    John425 spews:

    Darryl: you can masturbate these numbers all you want but after the intensity factor is plugged in you better get used to saying “SENATOR Rossi!”

  17. 19

    Politically Incorrect spews:


    I don’t think it’s gonna happen. Remember who counts the votes in King County!!