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Poll: Neither Party Has Advantage

November 2, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Republicans say their voters are more intensely motivated in Tuesday’s congressional elections and Democrats claim to have the momentum, but weekend polls suggested neither political party has a clear national advantage.

Polls released by the Pew Research Center and CNN-USA Today-Gallup indicated that voter preference for Democratic or Republican congressional candidates was at a statistical tie among likely voters in the weekend before Election Day.

But nearly one in five registered voters now only leans to a candidate or is flatly undecided, the Pew poll found, suggesting that last-minute voter decisions could be crucial in many races.

Rep. John Linder of Georgia, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, discounted the significance of national polls in congressional elections, saying it means more to look separately at each district. He suggested the GOP would gain the advantage through better turnout in midterm elections that traditionally draw fewer voters.

``Our voters are more religious about voting,″ he said.

Democrats countered that new GOP ads attacking President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair could energize the president’s supporters.

``There will be a lot of elections decided by 1,000 or 2,000 votes,″ said Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. ``We’re working turnout harder than we ever have.″

In the Pew poll released Sunday, Democrats were preferred by 46 percent of likely voters and Republicans by 44 percent, a statistical tie. Two weeks ago, the Pew poll gave Republicans a 48-43 advantage among likely voters. The new poll of 743 likely voters was taken from Wednesday to Saturday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Clinton’s job approval rating in the Pew poll was at 65 percent, while 42 percent approved of the job done by Republican leaders in Congress and 46 percent disapproved.

``The key message out of this poll is that the conviction we had about modest Republican gains a few weeks ago falls from certain to questionable,″said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.

The Gallup poll of 563 likely voters showed 48 percent support for Democrats and 45 percent for Republicans. The poll taken Thursday and Friday had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

But a Fox News-Opinion Dynamics Poll gave Republicans an advantage among the most likely voters, reflecting other recent polls that show that GOP candidates do better if turnout is significantly lower than normal for a midterm election.

Weekend polls showed several contests around the country tightening:

_ In the New York Senate race, Republican Sen. Alfonse D’Amato and Democratic Rep. Charles Schumer were in a statistical dead heat in two new polls. A New York Post tracking poll taken Oct. 30 showed D’Amato at 40 percent and Schumer at 39 percent. The poll of 700 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The New York Daily News released a poll of 662 likely voters taken between Oct. 25-30 that showed Schumer at 46 percent and D’Amato at 42 percent. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

_ In California, Sen. Barbara Boxer was in a close re-election contest with Republican Matt Fong, the state treasurer. A San Francisco Examiner-KTVU poll of 809 likely voters taken Oct. 26-28 showed Boxer at 45 percent and Fong 43 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

_In Minnesota’s governor’s race, Democrat Hubert Humphrey III, Republican Norm Coleman and Jesse Ventura of the Reform Party were separated by less than 8 percentage points in a Star Tribune-KMSP-TV poll. In the poll of 1,007 adults Oct. 27-30, state Attorney General Humphrey was favored by 35 percent, St. Paul Mayor Coleman by 30 percent and former Brooklyn Park Mayor and ex-professional wrestler Ventura by 27 percent. The survey had a 3 percentage point margin of error.

_ In Hawaii’s governor’s race, Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano has closed his race against Republican challenger Maui Mayor Linda Lingle to a dead heat at 43 percent apiece. The Honolulu Advertiser/KHON poll of 480 likely voters taken Oct. 27-30 has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

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