Claire McCaskill (D-inc): 43 (44)If you're reading this post, you already know all about Republican Rep. Todd Akin's amazing meltdown on the subject of rape, which led to members of his own party furiously trying to shove him out of the race all day Monday. Well, in our ultra-fast-paced media environment, Akin's remarks definitely penetrated quickly—see below—but PPP's single-night poll found that they haven't managed to budge the contest's toplines at all. So what's going on here? PPP's Tom Jensen explains:
Todd Akin (R): 44 (45)
Undecided: 13 (11)
It's not that Missouri voters are ok with or supportive of Akin's comments. 75% of voters, including even 64% of Republicans, say they were inappropriate to only 9% who consider them to have been appropriate. 79% of voters say they disagree with what Akin said, including 65% who express 'strong' disagreement with him. 51% of GOP voters say they strongly disagree with him.I'm honestly not that surprised. In the same way movement conservatives readily allowed their white-hot hatred for Obama to help them get over their qualms about Romney, right-leaning voters in Missouri don't seem to care about Akin's debacle nearly as much as they care about loathing Claire McCaskill. As Tom says, this is what the "hyper polarization" of American politics is all about.
All of that is taking a toll on Akin's image. Only 24% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 58% with a negative one. He's pretty universally disliked by Democrats (3/85) and independents (21/61) and even with Republicans (43/34) he's on only narrowly positive ground.
But for all of that the overall numbers in the race have moved very little. When we polled in May McCaskill was getting only 8% of the Republican vote, and even with the controversy around Akin she's only pushed up to 10% of it. GOP voters dislike McCaskill so much they're not going to vote for her no matter what their nominee does. Independent voters haven't moved at all either. In May they supported Akin 45-41, and even though they don't like him on tonight's poll we still found him leading 45-41 with them.
There are important caveats to bear in mind with this poll, though: It was only in the field a single night, a practice most pollsters (including PPP) typically try to avoid, but which was necessary here given how fast-moving this situation is. (Nate Silver once discussed this issue a bit here.) And also, while most interviewees indicated familiarity with Akin's comments, some respondents may feel pressure to say they have heard about his remarks even if they haven't, to avoid appearing uninformed about current events. (Of course, PPP uses an automated system to conduct its polls, so there isn't any live interviewer you need to confess your ignorance to, meaning this hopefully wasn't a major problem.)
And if you aren't buying the notion that independents have remained unchanged in their views, well, that's also a reason you might want to be skeptical of these numbers. But unless events overtake us, I'm sure we'll soon see other polls, which will either bear these numbers out or set them apart. In the meantime, though, if Todd Akin was looking to bolster his case for staying in the race, PPP just gave it to him.
9:30 PM PT: As some commenters have pointed out, the poll's sample was pretty red: 39% of respondents identified as Republicans, while only 30% are Dems and 32% independents. PPP's May poll was 35 D, 33 R, 33 I. According to the 2010 exit polls (obviously a high-water mark for Republicans), it was 37 R, 34 D, 28 I.