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Hickman Analytics, Inc.
Honest Accurate Insight

MEMORANDUM Interested parties Harrison Hickman Recent Nebraska Poll Results October 18, 2012

Summary. The 2012 Nebraska Senate race remains competitive. Deb Fisher is only five points ahead of Bob Kerrey in the current horserace. Her personal popularity has eroded significantly since the honeymoon period after the Republican primary: her unfavorable rating now more than double what it was then, and her favorable rating is statistically indistinguishable from Kerrey’s. Kerrey is putting together the coalition he needs to win majority support. The outcome of the race remains uncertain as about one in five voters are either undecided or admitting that they might switch candidates before election day. Key Findings Deb Fischer’s advantage in the current horserace is five points: 45%-50%. By comparison, Romney leads Obama by 14. Kerrey and Fischer win comparable proportions of voters registered with their own party, but Kerrey now has a substantial advantage (56%-37%) among the 17% of likely voters enrolled as Independents or with a minor party. More significantly, Kerrey now has the support of 17% of registered Republicans. Thus, while the Republican registration advantage continues to be the main source of Fischer’s lead in vote preference, Kerrey is within striking distance of the coalition Democrats like Kerrey, Ben Nelson, and Jim Exon have forged to win majority support in this Republican state. Fischer remains much less well known than Kerrey. More than 10% of Fischer’s “supporters” either do not recognize her name or are unable to rate their feelings about her. Our focus groups find that even this level of recognition is quite shallow, with few swing voters -- including those inclined to vote for Fischer -- aware of even the most basic information about her. Our research also demonstrates that this lack of familiarity makes Fischer exceedingly vulnerable to credible unfavorable information about her such as the advertising that just began. It is worth a reminder that robo-polls are particularly susceptible to inaccurate vote estimates in Nebraska. First, robo-polls are prohibited by law from calling cell phones. This makes a difference in the representativeness of the sample, since fully 30% of adults in the state rely exclusively on a cell phone without access to a landline number, and Kerrey does particularly well with cell phone respondents.


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Second, most robo-polls make no adjustment for the geographic location of the respondents and significantly over-represent rural voters. This makes a difference in the horserace since Kerrey, like most Democrats, does better in urban areas in eastern Nebraska, and the most prominent knowledge of Fischer is her background as a rancher. Third, robo-polls over-represent older voters which also lead them to underestimate Kerrey’s support. In short, our research shows that the Nebraska Senate race is close and far from being decided, with Bob Kerrey showing clear separation from the Presidential campaign and putting together the coalitions that have allowed Democrats to win even in Presidential years and off-years with very unfavorable political climates. Moreover, Fischer’s “lead” is weak and she is vulnerable to unfavorable information such as that which has just begun to be communicated about her.

Technical note: This memo is based on a sample of 600 likely 2012 general election voters in Nebraska. th h Telephone interviewing was conducted October 14 – 16 , 2012. The sample was selected so all likely voters in Nebraska were equally likely to be contacted, and included both landline and cell phone numbers. The results were adjusted slightly to align the sample with known facts about the demographic composition of the state. All polls are subject to errors associated with interviewing a sample rather than the entire universe. The estimation associated with a sample of 600 is +/-4.0 percentage points. In other words, these results are within 4.0 points of the results, plus or minus, that would be obtained from interviewing the entire population of likely voters in Nebraska. The estimation errors associated with subgroups are higher.

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