DENVER – Republican candidate Joe Coors Jr released the results from an internal campaign poll today showing the GOP challenger with a lead over incumbent Democrat Ed Perlmutter by a 45% to 36% margin.
The poll was conducted by OnMessage, a Republican polling firm who has a long history of polling Colorado races, usually for national party committees like the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). In 2010, when the Republicans picked up 63 seats in the House, OnMessage was the lead pollster for the NRCC’s Independent Expenditure arm.
The survey sampled 400 Likely Voters from July 16-17, with a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.
It is the first survey to be released publicly in the race, leaving little to compare the results to. In 2010, Perlmutter defeated Republican challenger Ryan Frazier by 11 points, but the district has become more Republican as a result of the redistricting process.
The 2012 challenge to Perlmutter is significantly different from 2010, in that Coors has built-in name ID from his affiliation with one of the oldest and most well-known brands in Colorado. His campaign has also spent approximately $750,000 on TV ads so far, almost all positive spots introducing the former CoorsTek CEO to voters.
Perlmutter has yet to air an ad in the race.
The Perlmutter campaign told The Denver Post‘s Lynn Bartels that their internal surveys show Perlmutter leading, but notably did not release those results.
It is standard campaign practice when criticizing an opponent’s poll to release a competing survey showing different results, but Perlmutter’s campaign has not done so yet.
Critics have also attacked the poll for the limited information released publicly, complaining that it was taken a month ago and saying that without more information it is impossible to judge the validity of the results.
Coors campaign spokeswoman Michelle Yi said the results were delayed due to the time it takes to compile the data and the campaign wanting to keep politics away from the tragedy in Aurora, which occurred only days after the poll was taken.
“We wanted to be sensitive to the families and communities who were still grieving over their pain and losses,” Yi said.
Perlmutter has been criticized for politicizing the tragedy after appearing on a Sunday morning talk show to call for new gun control measures just days after the mass shooting. Shortly after the television appearance, Perlmutter once again generated controversy when the three-term incumbent cited the theater shootings as a justification for his vote in favor of Obamacare.
In an interview with The Colorado Observer, OnMessage’s Wes Anderson released additional information that seems to bolster the credibility of the results.
According to Anderson, the sample of the survey was 39% Democrat / 37% Republican / 24% Unaffiliated/Other. That appears to comport with current voter registration statistics in the district.
As of August 1, active voter registration in the 7th Congressional District is 34.6% Democrat / 32.2% Republican / 33.2% Unaffiliated.
Anderson told The Observer that Unaffiliated voters historically turnout to vote at rates lower than their registration figures, leading to the lower percentage of Unaffiliateds in the poll’s sample.
The poll was conducted with live interviews, compared to the automated polls that have become increasingly popular due to their cheaper costs. OnMessage also supplemented their sample with cell phone interviews, to ensure the poll did not oversample elderly voters who are less likely to live in cell phone-only households.
A breakdown of the ages of respondents was not released.
Addressing another criticism of the poll, Anderson told The Observer that the “ballot test” question — who will you vote for — was asked before any information was conveyed to respondents about either candidate. Polls often test positive and negative messages about each candidate, with ballot test questions both before and after the messages, to see how well each one works.
In the case of the ballot test question of Coors vs. Perlmutter, the 9-point Coors lead was found from a question asked at the beginning of the poll.
Conservative website Colorado Peak Politics has called on both campaigns to release their full surveys. With the Coors campaign releasing more information, the pressure will now be on the Perlmutter campaign to divulge more about their own poll.