Public Policy Polling
(PDF). 9/8-11. Likely voters. MoE ±3.8% (no trendlines):
David Weprin (D): 41
Bob Turner (R): 47
Christopher Hoeppner (SWP): 4
Usually when one or both of the major House committees—the DCCC and the NRCC—stay out of a special election, that tells you a race isn't going to be close. Chalk NY-09 up as a major exception, where the NRCC and other outside groups spent barely a penny but things nonetheless got turned on their head—leading the D-Trip to airdrop in ad dollars at the very last moment. It doesn't look like it's helping. Tom explains:
Turner's winning in a heavily Democratic district for two reasons: a huge lead with independents and a large amount of crossover support. He's ahead by 32 points at 58-26 with voters unaffiliated with either major party. And he's winning 29% of the Democratic vote, holding Weprin under 60% with voters of his own party, while losing just 10% of Republican partisans.
If Turner wins on Tuesday it will be largely due to the incredible unpopularity of Barack Obama dragging his party down in the district. Obama won 55% there in 2008 but now has a staggeringly bad 31% approval rating, with 56% of voters disapproving of him. It's a given that Republicans don't like him but more shocking are his 16% approval rating with independents and the fact that he's below 50% even with Democrats at 46% approving and 38% disapproving. Obama trails Mitt Romney 46-42 in a hypothetical match up in the district and leads Rick Perry only 44-43.
As for the candidates themselves, PPP's findings suggest that Turner and Weprin's individual candidacies matter a lot less than the backdrop against which they're running:
Beyond Obama's weakness, Turner has actually proven to be a pretty strong candidate. 45% of voters rate him favorably to 30% with a negative opinion. Independents give him good marks by a 56/17 spread and he has better than normal numbers across party lines with 29% of Democrats expressing a positive view of him to just 43% with an unfavorable one.
Weprin has been much maligned as a candidate but he actually has positive favorability numbers too with 39% of voters rating him positively and 36% negatively. Over the last few years there have been very few races we polled where a candidate had a postive net favorability spread and still lost. If Obama's approval in the district was even 40% Weprin would almost definitely be headed to Congress. He's getting dragged down by something bigger than himself.
To me, this squares with Colin Campbell's excellent run-down of how we got to where we are in this race. Above all else, Colin explores two factors that explain the situation: (1) the district's weak Democratic leanings (which have only been growing weaker with time) and (2) President Obama's unpopularity. That last point is especially troubling, as Tom observes:
One final note on the poll and what perhaps should concern Democrats most of all. 55% of voters in the district report having voted for Obama in 2008, which is the actual percentage of the vote he got in the district. Last year a lot of the races Democrats lost were because their voters didn't show up and the electorate was far more conservative than for a Presidential year. When you lose that way you can say, well, our voters will come back out in 2012 and we'll be fine. But there is no enthusiasm gap here. Obama voters are showing up in the same numbers they did in 2008. But only 65% of them are voting Democratic. That's a really big cause for concern.
It's not necessarily over for Weprin, but if one-time Obama voters are now showing up to vote Republican, that's a pretty brutal sign. Coming on top of Siena's poll which also had Turner up by six, it's hard to see much cause for optimism.