Republican Andrew Roraback and Democrat Elizabeth Esty released dueling internal polls Wednesday with each side claiming the lead in their hotly contested Congressional race.
Roraback said he was up by 6 points, while Esty said she was up by 4 points in polls that both had margins of error of 5 percentage points each. Both sides claimed they have the momentum heading into the final days before the November 6 election.
The polling opened a window into the closeness of the battle because no public polling by major organizations, such as the University of Connecticut/Hartford Courant poll or Quinnipiac University, has been done in the district.
Roraback went first by releasing his poll Wednesday afternoon. After being told by Capitol Watch that Roraback had released the results, Esty’s campaign countered by releasing their own survey in the early evening.
Adam Geller of National Research, Inc., who is best known as a pollster for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, says that Roraback “clearly” has the momentum entering the final 12 days.
“Despite facing a barrage of negative attacks over the past several weeks, Roraback maintains a positive rating of 44 percent favorable and 25 percent unfavorable,” Geller wrote in a memo that was obtained by Capitol Watch.
The survey of 400 likely voters, which showed Roraback ahead by 45 percent to 39 percent, was taken on Monday and Tuesday of this week. The survey size is smaller than those of many statewide polls, and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percent.
“It’s certainly a close race,” Geller said in a telephone interview with Capitol Watch. “I would say it’s just outside the margin of error. It’s fairly close. I would tell you that Andrew is ahead. Nobody is going to conclude that Elizabeth Esty is in good shape.”
Geller, who has polled for the Republican Governors Association, Club for Growth, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee, said that 400 likely voters is the current standard for polling in Congressional races – up from a sample of 300 when he started professional polling in 1993.
“It’s got to be the right 400,” Geller said. “I give you every assurance it’s a legitimate 400 sample, and these are the results.”
Noting that all serious Congressional campaigns conduct polls, Geller said most campaigns will keep quiet if the numbers are not favorable to their candidate.
“It is true that when most campaigns have a good poll, they send it out to the reporters,” Geller said. “When we get back good numbers, we send it out. That’s the way campaigns work.”
Esty’s poll, conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group of Washington, D.C. on Sunday and Monday, showed Esty ahead by 46 percent to 42 percent with 12 percent undecided.
Esty’s polling memo stated as follows:
“While there are a sizeable number of “persuadable” voters and the congressional race is certainly fluid, the polling data reveals a number of factors which provide Ms. Esty with momentum in the closing days.
“First, she will benefit from a strong top-of-the-ticket performance. President Obama leads Mitt Romney by 53%-42% in our survey, and “undecided” voters in the congressional race break for the President by more than twenty percent.
“Second, Ms. Esty has leads over Mr. Roraback on a number of key traits and attributes that will be important elements of voters’ choice on election day, such as caring about seniors (Esty +8) and being independent of politics as usual (Esty +6).
“This memorandum is based on a survey conducted among 400 likely voters in Connecticut’s 5th C.D. The survey has a margin of error of ±5 percentage points.”
Esty’s spokesman, Jeb Fain, said, “Because people are excited to vote for Elizabeth and because of the hard work of our volunteers who have knocked on tens of thousands of doors and made over 200,000 phone calls, Elizabeth is well-positioned to bring home a win on November 6th.”
On the Republican side, Geller has conducted polls in Congressional races in the past for Republicans Chris Shays, Nancy Johnson and Dan Debicella in Connecticut, as well as races in Wyoming, Arizona, Idaho, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, and New Hampshire.
At a time when Republicans have been complaining across the country that pollsters have been “oversampling” Democrats, Geller said he surveyed 42 percent independents, 33 percent Democrats, and 25 percent Republicans in the Connecticut district that stretches from Simsbury to Danbury to Salisbury.
Geller reported that the poll showed that the presidential race between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is tied at 46 percent each in the 5th Congressional district
Geller’s polling was questioned in September 2010 when he conducted a poll in the same Congressional district. The internal poll for Republican Sam Caligiuri said the race was essentially tied with Democrat Chris Murphy, a two-term incumbent, leading by one percentage point.
But the Murphy campaign blasted the poll at the time, saying that the survey sample of 400 was too small to generate an accurate picture in the 41-town district that extends to the New York State and Massachusetts borders.
“Our campaign’s internal polling has always shown us with a solid double digit lead, so we know this slapdash poll doesn’t add up,” Murphy’s campaign manager, Kenny Curran, said in 2010. “We got several calls from furious constituents last week after they received this poll, so we knew there was one in the field trying to create a manufactured head-to-head number. Now we know it was Caligiuri.”
Caligiuri’s spokeswoman, Tiffany Romero Grossman, rejected Curran’s comments at the time.
Murphy eventually won the race, and he is now running for the U.S. Senate against Republican Linda McMahon.