Analyzing Rehberg-Tester Polls

I had been meaning to get to the latest Rehberg-Tester poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP), a Democratic polling firm, and before I even had the chance to post my thoughts on it- Rasmussen Reports came out with a poll that completely took the wind out of Sen. Jon Tester’s (D-MT) twitter team sails. 

Earlier this week, PPP published a poll showing Tester up by 5 over Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT).  The Tester camp went crazy over the poll via Twitter.  

Then, almost a day later, Rasmussen Reports comes out with a new poll showing Rehberg up by 10 points. 

Rehberg campaign spokesman Chris Bond noted:

“Between now and Election Day, we’re likely to see a number of different polls showing various scenarios, but we feel very good about where we are as a campaign, especially given the encouraging trend that seven of the last eight polls have shown Denny in the lead.”

The Rasmussen Reports poll seemed to quickly shut down the PPP poll spin.  Regardless, let’s go with the assumption that for some reason Tester is up by 5 points and take a look back at some of the spin. 

First off, I find it hard to believe that Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney only leads by 5 points in Montana, as suggested by the PPP poll.  Plus, a  listener to our talk show pointed out that when Tester supposedly leads Rehberg by 5 points for the first time in over a year, PPP says “the trendline is encouraging.”  But when Romney is supposedly leading by 5, PPP says he is “narrowly” leading.  

The Flathead Beacon’s Myers Reece accurately pointed to the April Rasmussen poll when also reporting the PPP results, saying this:

But it should be noted that, in addition to previous PPP surveys, Rehberg has maintained a lead over Tester in polls by Rasmussen Reports. In the most recent Rasmussen poll released in early April, Rehberg had a 47-44 lead over the incumbent.

That was, of course, before today’s Rasmussen poll shows Rehberg with a 10 point lead. 

The Western Word blog was quick to tell the Rehberg camp not to “measure the drapes” quite yet, and added this piece of spin from the Tester camp.

The Tester Campaign’s Communications Director, Aaron Murphy, sent an e-mail to bloggers and reporters last night putting it all in perspective saying, “As you may know, we don’t place a ton of value in public polls.  We know Montana is a unique state and automated polls rarely reflect exactly what Montanans are thinking.”  He did go on to say that the five point lead happened after Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and other third-party groups dropped over $2 million in Montana for ads against Tester.

The idea that Crossroads GPS had been hammering Tester over the last month with $2 million in ads is not the case according to the Rehberg campaign.     

Take the Billings TV market for example.  Bond said you need to look at the total dollars spent either attacking or promoting a candidate in the past month, and then analyze that with gross rating points.  If you do that, Bond says, the average TV viewer in Billings would see 80 ads either bashing Rehberg or promoting Tester, and only 20 ads that were bashing Tester.

No matter who you believe, I think we can all agree on one thing- don’t expect either campaign to overplay a poll from here to November. 

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