CD11: Dueling polls emerge





After yesterday’s release of a KPIX-TV poll showing 11th District GOP nominee David Harmer with a 6-point lead, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney followed today with a statement about an internal poll that gives him a 10-point advantage.

What is a poor voter supposed to believe?

So, here’s the deal.

McNerney’s poll was done on Sept. 21-25, nearly a month ago. That makes a difference. His campaign did not tell us what question was asked, in what order it was ask or provide crosstabs that would break down the age, party or gender of the 500 people surveyed.

That’s typical. Campaigns commission internal polling all the time and they rarely release the details; it’s like asking a football team to publish their playbook. But it also means that we cannot judge the veracity of such polls with any great confidence.

In contrast, all the information about the KPIX-TV poll conducted by SurveyUSA is online. More significant, the television station doesn’t work for either of the candidates. (My personal thanks to the station for spending the money on an independent poll!)

For review purposes, the pollster surveyed 624 likely and actual voters on Oct. 8-11 and found that, if the election were held that day, Harmer would beat McNerney 48 percent to 42 percent. (Click here to read the initial post.)

Which poll is more accurate? Polls are a snapshot in time so the more recent survey is probably a better reflection of current opinions.

But there are some caveats to the SurveyUSA poll. The firm uses an automated telephone polling system. The individual who picks up the phone enters his or her answer via the telephone keypad. No live pollster asks the questions nor can the automated system confirm that an actual voter or likely voter has answered the telephone.

That said, KPIX commissioned similar polls in the 2009 10th Congressional District special election and the results were remarkably close to the final outcome.

The crosstabs show that among the 624 participants, 41 percent identified themselves as Republicans; 39 percent as Democrats and 18 percent as nonpartisan. The most telling result may be among the independents, which prefer Harmer over McNerney 50 percent to 32 percent.

Actual party registration in the district is much closer between the two major parties. But keep in mind that turnout won’t necessarily match registration. Candidates win with a plurality of the votes cast by the people who actually show up.


Dublin, CA – The McNerney for Congress campaign today released a survey showing Congressman Jerry McNerney with a significant lead in the race for the 11th Congressional District. McNerney is ahead of challenger David Harmer by 45% to 35%, with American Independent Party candidate David Christensen receiving 5% of the vote.

“This survey shows that Jerry McNerney is well-positioned to win in November,” said Sarah Hersh, Communications Director, McNerney for Congress. “Jerry McNerney has a track record of delivering for the communities he represents. He brought a new veterans medical center to the area, creating 900 new jobs. Jerry McNerney helped pass laws to provide tax relief to small businesses and wrote a bill to close tax loopholes that big corporations use to send jobs overseas. These poll results make clear that voters are evaluating the candidates and deciding that Jerry McNerney is the right choice for California families.”

Other factors also point to continued momentum for the McNerney for Congress campaign. McNerney raised more than $700,000 in the crucial fundraising quarter ending September 30th and reported more than $1,450,000 cash on hand. By contrast, Harmer raised only $550,000 during the same period and has only $500,000 cash on hand. In addition, the McNerney for Congress campaign continues a strong voter outreach program reaching thousands of people each week.

McNerney recently received key endorsements by the Stockton Record, Livermore Independent, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee.

The survey was conducted by Lake Research Partners on behalf of McNerney for Congress and sampled 500 likely voters from September 21 – September 25.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • Joshua

    You may laugh, but the McNerney campaign poll is more credible than you might think. Lake Research is one of the best quality partisan polls out there. Even though they are a Democratic-leaning group, their past polls intentionally try to give Republican candidates an advantage. For example, they will increase the percentage of Republican respondents intentionally to try to give the Republican the best chance possible.

  • Jim Freeman

    Releasing an internal poll when a 3rd party poll shows you down six points with a few weeks to go? Can you say stench of desperation?

  • John W

    Dems in evenly divided districts like the 11th don’t have a prayer this year. If the voters pass Prop. 20, the East Bay Congressional districts are in for big changes.

  • Dan

    The McNerney poll is laughable. All the momentum is with Harmer now.

  • John W

    This is going to be an angry “throw the bums out” vote — not anti-McNerney or pro-Harmer. I doubt that more than 10 percent of the voters in the district are familiar with Harmer’s very clear views on subjects like public education. And many who will vote for him wouldn’t if they did know.

  • Josh Richman

    D’you mean these views on public education, John W? Mother Jones jumped all over this yesterday, and I’d predict you’ll be seeing a McNerney campaign ad focusing on this before long.

  • John W

    Re #6

    Yes, something like that. I’m not a status quo guy on public education, and Tom Torlakson won’t be getting my vote for state school sup. But Harmer takes the notion of innovation and experimentation to Tea Party extremes. Perhaps he can say the same thing about public education that he said about health care reform: “Pour salt on it, and curse it in God’s holy name.” I’ll bet you not even some of the Tea Partyers with kids in, say the San Ramon Valley school district, would agree with his views if they knew of them.

  • John W

    Re #6 – again

    Mother Jones story on Harmer and his education views mentions that his kids attend public school in “an upscale suburb of San Ramon.” Didn’t know we had suburbs. I assume they meant “THE upscale suburb of San Ramon.”

  • Elwood

    Lots of people agree with Harmer.

    Public schools suck.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    John W., you are right. Relative to many places, San Ramon has nothing but upscale schools. Harmer lives in Dougherty Valley and his kids attend the local schools. His wife, Elayne, is also a substitute teacher in the San Ramon Valley school district.

  • John W

    Mother Jones story on Harmer made it to MSNBC today on the Ed Schultz show. I’m not a fan of Schultz — too left for me. But he comes on after Chris Matthews, whose show I do like. Anyway, Schultz made it his lead story. It’s kind of surprising that the McNerney people didn’t pick up on this months ago. It’s all public domain. For that matter, I’m surprised the Times hasn’t done more compare and contrast stories on McNerney and Harmer and their positions on issues.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    John W. FYI, I’m working on a compare and contrast piece in CD11 for next week.

  • John W

    Lisa — Great. I’ll look forward to reading it.

  • Elwood

    When November comes around,

    It’s bye-bye McNerdney!

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    If the Giants can beat the Phillies, Harmer could win.

  • Dan

    Go see the movie “Waiting for Superman” by David Guggenheim, the liberal producer of “An Inconvenient Truth.” It certainly opened my eyes to the problems with our failed public school system. Harmer has the courage to challenge the corrupt status quo while working to improve public education in his community.

  • John W

    Re: 16

    Haven’t yet seen “Waiting for Superman” but have read and heard great things about it. But it’s one thing to call for shaking up the status quo in the public school system, as the documentary advocates, to abolishing them, as Harmer has advocated. That’s a big leap, even for Superman.