Saturday, June 23, 2007

Alaska Democrats Claim Hays Research Group Poll Shows Alaskans' Confidence In Federal Lawmakers Weakened By VECO Scandal

In the wake of a newly-released poll by Hays Research Group, the Alaska Democratic Party claims that Alaskans' confidence in Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young has been weakened by the VECO scandals, which to date have engulfed three former legislators and one current state lawmaker (whose resignation is effective July 19th). Read the full press release HERE.

According to the press release, the Hays survey, conducted June 14-15 using a sample size of 401 respondents, found 54% of Alaskans unlikely to vote for Don Young, while only 42% said they would be likely to vote for the incumbent congressman.

In the same poll, Ted Stevens failed to receive a plurality of those questioned, with only 50% saying they would be likely to vote for the senator, and 43% unlikely to vote for him. Stevens has won past elections with 78% (2002), 77% (1996), 66% (1990), 71% (1984), 76% (1978), 77% (1972). These new poll numbers are considered to be historic lows for the incumbent senator.

Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe said, "This poll shows Alaskans have questions about our congressional delegation's involvement in these corruption scandals. Our leaders have a responsibility to answer the questions about these investigations. We have a right to representation we can be proud of".

Click HERE to view the complete results of the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%, and which some of the questions, according to Anchorage Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins, were paid for by the Alaska Democratic Party. Click HERE for a discussion of poll methodology.

Analysis: And so I did, and here are the applicable questions about the two lawmakers with complete results. First, Hays asked respondents their basic public opinion about the two lawmakers, then asked how the corruption scandals would affect their votes for the lawmakers during a subsequent re-election campaign:

Public Opinion of Ted Stevens: When subcategories are combined, we find that 46% of respondents tend to hold a favorable opinion of Ted Stevens while 36% tend to be unfavorable.

26% - Very Positive
20% - Somewhat Positive
15% - Neutral
23% - Somewhat Negative
13% - Very Negative
2% -- Don't Know/Refused

Likelihood of voting for Ted Stevens given recent corruption investigations: The largest plurality are simply unaffected by the investigations and probably dismiss them as merely "politics". However, of those who lean one way or another, 39% are more unlikely to vote for Stevens, while only 15% are more likely. It is this latter conclusion which is providing grist for the Democrats' propaganda mill.

9% -- Much more likely
6% -- Somewhat more likely
40% - No difference
14% - Somewhat more unlikely
25% - Much more unlikely
6% -- Don't know/refused

Do investigations into alleged ties to VECO unfavorably influence your opinion of Ted Stevens? The response correlates with the trend revealed by the previous question.

49% - Yes, unfavorably influenced
45% - No, not unfavorably influenced
6% -- Don't know/refused

Likelihood to vote for Ted Stevens in the next election: This shows that 50% are favorably disposed towards Stevens, while 43% are unfavorably disposed. It also indicates that opposition strength is more pronounced and passionate than supporter strength.

28% - Very likely
22% - Somewhat likely
13% - Somewhat unlikely
30% - Very unlikely
6% -- Don't know/refused

Public Opinion of Don Young: When subcategories are combined, we find that 40% are favorably disposed towards Don Young, while 41% hold an unfavorable opinion. The benefits of Young's seniority are no longer impressing as many Alaskans as in the past.

18% - Very Positive
22% - Somewhat Positive
15% - Neutral
18% - Somewhat Negative
23% - Very Negative
3% -- Don't Know/Refused

Likelihood of voting for Don Young given recent corruption investigations: The largest plurality are simply unaffected by the investigations and probably dismiss them as merely "politics". However, of those who lean one way or another, 38% are more unlikely to vote for Young, while only 13% are more likely. It is this latter conclusion which is providing grist for the Democrats' propaganda mill, but since Don Young has no family connection with one of the "persons of interest" (Ben Stevens) in the VECO scandal, the similarity of Young's results to those of Ted Stevens probably reflects voter dissatisfaction in other areas.

6% -- Much more likely
7% -- Somewhat more likely
42% - No difference
10% - Somewhat more unlikely
28% - Much more unlikely
6% -- Don't know/refused

Likelihood to vote for Don Young in the next election: This shows that only 42% are favorably disposed towards Young, while 54% are unfavorably disposed. In addition, with 40% "very unlikely", opposition is much more pronounced and passionate than supporter strength. Alaska Democrats could be right about Don Young, if they put up the right opposition in 2008.

20% - Very likely
22% - Somewhat likely
14% - Somewhat unlikely
40% - Very unlikely
4% -- Don't know/refused

And who could that "right" oppposition be? Democratic strategists are smelling blood in the water, even before the wounds have started to bleed. According to an article posted on Politico.com, Democrats are eyeing several candidates believed to have a chance to take both Stevens' and Young's seats. The leading candidate for the Senate seat seems to be Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, whose father served one term in the House in the early 1970s and died in a 1972 plane crash. Begich himself has dampened such speculation in the past, but has not ruled out the possibility of a run for higher office.

However, while Begich is deemed more likely to challenge Stevens, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also places him in a first tier of potential opponents to Young that includes State Senator Hollis French and former State Representative Ethan Berkowitz, who ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 2006. Democratic operatives could actually face competition over candidates, despite Alaska's traditional lack of a deep bench of Democratic office seekers. This time, neither Frank Vondersaar nor the "incomparable, indominable, and inimitable" Theresa Nangle Obermeyer, PhD, need apply.

There are two schools of thought among Democrats in Anchorage and Washington on whether prospective candidates would prefer to run against Stevens or Young. Some believe that Stevens' Senate seat would be more enticing for challengers because it carries a six-year term and higher prestige. But French said he would be more likely to run against Young, given Stevens' near-iconic stature in the state.

Begich not only would be the strongest candidate of the bunch, given that the Hays poll showed that 47% of respondents were favorably disposed towards him (and a whopping 21% neutral, reflecting the possibility he's not as well-known outside of South Central Alaska), but his efforts might be more fruitfully directed against Don Young, who seems to be slipping faster than Stevens. The Anchorage Daily News tends to be more critical of Young than Stevens; in a recent editorial, they were highly critical of some Florida earmarks channeled by Young, without bothering to ask what Young got for Alaska in exchange for those earmarks.

And what does Don Young need to do to turn back a Begich challenge? First, he must change the perception of condescension that has now surrounds him. That, more than anything else, killed Frank Murkowski. Second, he must ratchet down these earmarks considerably - as a result of the ethics revival led by Governor Sarah Palin, most people are turning against them. And finally, Don Young needs to start voting against the New World Order once again, the way he once voted. Numbers USA shows that Congressman Young's commitment to defending our nation's sovereignty and borders through comprehensive immigration reform is SLIPPING NOTICEABLY. What was once immigration has now become outright invasion. Any lawmaker who votes for amnesty for the estimated 20 million illegal immigrants is committing treason. Don Young needs to explicitly join Tom Tancredo (R-CO), Lamar Smith (R-TX), and other like-minded lawmakers in stopping amnesty for illegals. He will not get re-elected in 2008 by merely being a right-wing version of Begich.

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