By Jamey Dunn
A poll released today by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute shows Republican candidate for governor, Sen. Bill Brady, with a greater lead than other recent polls.
Today’s poll of more than 700 likely Illinois voters — conducted between September 30 and October 10 — shows Brady with 38.4 percent of the vote and Gov. Pat Quinn with 29.8 percent. Independent candidate Scott Lee Cohen got 5.9 percent, and Green Party candidate Rich Whitney had 2.2 percent. Libertarian candidate Lex Green had 1.5 percent, and 22.1 percent of respondents were undecided or said they preferred another candidate. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Two polls released at the end of September showed a much closer race for the governor’s seat. A Chicago Tribune poll had Quinn in the lead at 39 to Brady’s 38, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
A CNN/Time poll had Brady with 40 percent of the vote and Quinn 38 percent. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent. All three polls show the race for U.S. Senate as a toss up. The Public Policy Institute Poll had Republican candidate U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk with 37.3 and Democratic Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias with 36.8 percent. Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones had 3.3 percent. Libertarian Mike Labno had 1.8 percent, and 20.7 percent were undecided or preferred another candidate.
Just as those polls caused a stir earlier this month — many polls earlier in the race showed Brady leading by about 10 points — today’s Public Policy Institute poll has people taking notice. However, Charles Leonard, a visiting professor with the institute who oversaw the poll, said many factors come into play when looking at such public opinion surveys.
One is the margin of error. Leonard pointed out that the margin of error in his organization’s poll and the Tribune’s poll is very close to the difference in numbers. “When we do a survey, it’s not like sticking a thermometer in the water.”
Leonard added that all the polls paint a picture of a two tight races and — with the high level of undecided respondents — a group of candidates that voters are not very enthusiastic about. “It is a volatile, fluid race. It doesn’t look like people are very firmly committed,” he said.
He said some pollsters will push undecided voters to say which candidates they may be leaning toward, but that was not the case in the Public Policy Institute’s poll. “It’s a weird year, and other surveys don’t have as many undecideds as we do. … We didn’t poke the undecideds.”
Participants were also asked about their approval of President Barack Obama. Half of respondents approve of the president’s performance; a recent Gallup found 46 percent of voters approved nationwide.
However, well over half, 62 percent, of the respondents in the Public Policy Institute survey thought the country is headed in the wrong direction, and 81 percent thought the state was going down the wrong path.
While more respondents — 41 percent — said they agree with the ideals of the so-called Tea Party movement than those who disagreed — 36 percent. More — 45 percent — said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate affiliated with the Tea Party than the 33 percent who said they would be more likely to support a candidate tied to the movement.
Leonard said it is still fairly early for observers to latch onto poll numbers. “They should take every poll with a grain of salt until we get into the last couple days. … People either overstate what polls can do, or they ignore them and say they are all bogus. The truth is obviously somewhere in between.”
The institute plans to release more results from the poll tomorrow. Check back for more details.UPDATE: Additional poll results on ethics issues will not be released until tomorrow.