U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell has increased his lead over former Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath to 12 percentage points according to a public poll released Thursday.
The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, surveyed 1,164 likely voters between Sept. 10 and 14 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. It found that 53 percent of voters supported McConnell while 41 percent of voters supported McGrath. Among the respondents, 41 percent said they were Republicans, 28 said they were Democrats and 27 percent said they were Independent.
An earlier Quinnipiac poll had McGrath trailing McConnell by 5 points, showing that 49 percent of voters preferred McConnell over McGrath.
Dan Kanninen, McGrath’s new campaign manager, said the August poll was more in line with the campaign’s internal polling.
“This poll assumes only the most reliable voters will turn out and doesn’t capture the enthusiasm of mail-in ballot requests,” Kanninen said. “More than 20% of the mail-in ballot requests so far are sporadic voters, and there’s been a swell of requests from newly registered voters.”
The McConnell campaign declined to comment, but their Twitter account mocked McGrath, saying “the Resistance has given her $60 million and counting lol.”
For several weeks, Republicans have emphasized violence that has broken out after protests in an effort to sway suburban and rural voters in their favor. McConnell has aired several ads highlighting violence in Portland, claiming that McGrath will not stand up against violent protesters (McGrath has denounced the violence).
It appears that the messaging may be paying off. Of the voters who said “law and order” is the most important issue at stake in the election, 88 percent of them supported McConnell while only 10 percent supported McGrath. Twenty percent of the voters surveyed said law and order was the most important issue, the highest percentage for any category after the economy, which 26 percent of voters said was the most important.
On the other hand, 80 percent of voters who said racial inequality is the most important issue supported McGrath, while 14 percent supported McConnell. Only 10 percent of voters listed racial inequality as the most important.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered life, the McGrath campaign has focused on healthcare. Of the voters who felt the coronavirus was the most important issue, 76 percent supported McGrath and of voters who felt healthcare was the most important issue, 64 percent of them supported McGrath.
McConnell appears to be effectively driving down how many people like McGrath. While 46 percent of voters said they had an unfavorable view of McConnell (compared to 44 percent who said they viewed him favorably), 47 percent said they viewed McGrath unfavorably while only 34 percent viewed her favorably.
Voters were more likely to say they viewed McGrath as honest and that she cared about people than McConnell.
The two candidates are tied among women voters (47% to 47%). McConnell led by 10 percentage points among white women (52% to 42%) and led among every age group except people between 18-34. Only 9 percent of voters said their minds weren’t already made up on whether they would vote for McGrath or McConnell.
The poll also showed strong support in Kentucky for President Donald Trump, with him leading former Vice President Joe Biden 58 percent to 38 percent, around 10 points shy of his margin of victory in 2016.
Despite the news that Trump privately recognized the severity of COVID-19 while underplaying it in public speeches last March, 54 percent of the Kentucky voters surveyed approved of how Trump is handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The result mirrors his overall job approval rating of 55 percent to 41 percent.
Kentuckians will be able to start voting by the end of the month and early in-person voting begins October 13.