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Polls are hard to read in Love, Matheson race

By Billy Hesterman - Daily Herald - | Oct 16, 2012

The race between Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love is just too close to call.

Every poll released in the past month shows one ahead of the other while the next poll released flips the candidates and gives the nod to the loser of the previous poll. As Dan Rather once said, the race is so close it would give an aspirin a headache.

Not all polls are created equal, though. Many are created and released as part of campaign strategy, but generally if there is one clear leader in a race the polls do say so consistently. In this case it still seems to be a toss up.

“I do believe there is a good momentum that is moving my way right now,” Matheson said. “I feel like the undecideds that are left are moving my right direction.”

Matheson is coming off the heels of a third-party poll released on Monday that showed him leading Love among 4th district voters 48 to 41 percent. The poll was released by the House Majority PAC, a political action committee operated by Democrats in Washington, D.C., and did not contain any information about the poll such as questions asked or the demographics of people polled.

Team Love dissed the poll, claiming that it was released from a group that receives financial backing from the Blue Dog Democratic Caucus, which Matheson chairs.

“The poll is absurd,” Matt Holton, Love’s campaign manager, said in a written statement. “They must have sampled only Matheson donors to manufacture that kind of result.  It flies in the face of every independent poll, as well as our own internal data, showing that Mia is leading the race, has been for several weeks, and has in fact, been widening her lead as more voters learn about Matheson’s irresponsible fiscal record in Congress.”

It is similar to a poll, from the Love campaign, that Love released near the end of September that showed her leading Matheson 51 percent to 37 percent. The Love camp did not release the data about the poll but they did take the opportunity to tout the lead, a strategic way to claim to the media and the public that they have the momentum in the race.

In between the two polls, a Deseret News/KSL poll conducted by Dan Jones and Associates more than likely showed the reality of the race. The poll showed Love up 49 to 43 percent but the margin of error was 5 percent, meaning the race could go either way on Nov. 6.

Brigham Young University political science professor Adam Brown suspects that the truth of where voters are at in the race is somewhere in between, meaning the Dan Jones poll is probably the best snapshot of what is happening three weeks away from the election. Brown observed that one consistent theme does stand out to him in all the polls and that was that Matheson is below 50 percent in all three. That means Matheson will have some work to do if he wants to return to Congress for a seventh term. Matheson said he plans to push to the end and that the most important poll will be the one that comes out on Election Day.

“I’ve always assumed that this would be a close race,” Matheson said. “The name of the game is to be as available as possible to meet with people. A lot of folks are really going to start focusing on the race now. This is an important time to make myself as available as I can.”


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