Who's ahead? Polls at odds on Graham battle

jself@thestate.comFebruary 7, 2014 

Two polls – one paid for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s campaign and, the other, by Graham challenger state Sen. Lee Bright – differ on whether the Republican incumbent will beat his four GOP primary challengers in June by a margin wide enough to avoid a runoff.

The poll that Bright’s campaign paid for, conducted by Wenzel Strategies of Ohio, shows Graham getting 46 percent of the vote against his four GOP challengers – short of the 50 percent that the Seneca Republican would need to avoid a two-week runoff, where his opponents say he will be vulnerable.

Bright of Spartanburg trailed Graham by 28 percentage points in the poll, 45.9 percent to 17.4 percent. Charleston public relations executive Nancy Mace, Easley businessman Richard Cash and Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor followed in the single digits.

However, a poll of likely GOP primary voters, paid for by the Graham campaign and conducted by North Star Opinion Research, said Graham would win more than half the vote in the primary.

Bright led among Graham’s challengers, favored by 11 percent of those surveyed.

Graham’s campaign declined to comment on either poll. But Bright declared that he was “gaining steam” and Graham’s top threat. Both polls put undecided voters at about 23 percent.

Wenzel Strategies’ poll included 623 likely Republican primary voters questioned on the evenings of Feb. 3 and 4 through an automated telephone survey that targeted landlines. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. The poll drew from recent GOP primary voters and screened respondents for whether they likely would vote in June’s primary.

The sample was balanced to reflect voter turnout, gender and age, said Fritz Wenzel, president of the polling company. Wenzel said he sometimes includes cell phones in a survey but did not this time. In a GOP primary, “there is no difference between (the results),” he said.

But Whit Ayres, president of North Star, questioned differences between the two polls. Not everyone pays attention to automated calls, making them unreliable, and young voters are likely not to have landlines, he said.

North Star’s poll was conducted by live interviewers who surveyed 600 likely Republican primary voters on the evenings of Jan. 20-26. Thirty percent of the interviews were of cell phone users. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Staff writer Adam Beam contributed. Reach Self at (803)771-8658

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