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Poll tests waters for primary, key issues
Huelskamp, Marshall nearly tied; Governor and president get low marks
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Roger Marshall

HAYS – The Great Bend Tribune joined other Kansas newspapers and Fort Hays State University’s Docking Institute of Public Affairs to conduct a political poll of the First Congressional District measuring Kansans’ candidate and policy preferences on key issues. 

The survey found the First District Congressional race between incumbent Tim Huelskamp and challenger Great Bend physician Roger Marshall in a statistical dead heat. It also found Republican Donald Trump out pacing Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race by 17 percent.

In addition, there were low approval numbers for President Barack Obama, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature, and tempid support for longtime Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran.

Dr. Gary Brinker, director of the Docking Institute, said the poll attempted to predict the winner of the First District congressional primary as well as the presidential contest. 

The results of the polling – which were conducted from July 11 through July 21 – also showed the current state of satisfaction with Brownback, Obama and Moran, along with policy preferences for guns, school funding and use of public facilities by transgender Kansans. 

Surveyed was a random sample of adult residents of Kansas age 18 to measure their intentions to participate in the upcoming presidential primary election, candidates they intended to support, choice for the general election given a hypothetical pair of candidates, job satisfaction ratings for Kansas elected officials and policy preferences for some controversial issues in Kansas.

Of those polled, 96 percent claimed to be registered voters. Of those, 58 percent we re Republican, 22 percent Democrat and 20 percent Independent or unaffiliated.

The sampling was split almost equally between men and women, and the respondents represented a wide spectrum of educational backgrounds and income levels.

The survey sample consisted of random Kansas landline telephone numbers and cellphone numbers. Over the 10 days, 1,975 Kansas residents were contacted through either landline telephone or cellphone, and 765 of them completed the survey, resulting in a 39 percent cooperation rate. 

With a larger sample size for all issues except the First District race, the margin of error was 4.4 percent. With a smaller sample in the congressional contest, the margin of error was 6.76 percent.

For complete poll results, click here.

For even more information, click here.


Key findings:

• One hundred and seventy-six likely voters polled from the First Congressional District were equally divided in their support for the two contenders for the Republican nominee. With 15 percent still undecided, this race is much too close to call.

• A follow-up question asking about the respondent’s self-reported likelihood to vote in the Kansas Primary Election offers insight into the Marshall/Huelskamp tie. Respondents who indicated that they were Very Likely to vote in the 1st District Kansas Congressional Republican Primary were slightly more likely to support Marshall over Huelskamp. Respondents who indicated they were Somewhat Likely to vote were much more likely to support Huelskamp.

• Among likely voters, Trump holds a 17 point advantage over Clinton in the race for President. This is well outside the margin of error, suggesting that if the election were held today, Trump would be highly likely to win the Kansas electoral votes. However, 16 percent were still undecided, enough to push Clinton ahead if the majority of undecided lean Democratic.

• Satisfaction with President Obama has hovered around 30 percent since October 2015, with about 60 percent expressing dissatisfaction through this period.

• Governor Brownback enjoyed between 35 percent and 40 percent approval until fall of 2014. Over the subsequent year, satisfaction with the Governor dropped to below 20 percent. The latest poll suggests that only 15 percent of Kansans are at least “somewhat satisfied” with Governor Brownback, while over three-fourth express some level of dissatisfaction. The percent who are “very dissatisfied” has hit a new high of 60 percent, while no more than 6 percent of respondents in the Docking Institute’s last two statewide polls have indicated that they were “very satisfied” with the Governor’s job performance.

• Satisfaction with Jerry Moran, like with President Obama, has been fairly stable since fall of 2015, though the Senator’s satisfaction levels are about 10 percentage point higher. Senator Moran also has more “neutral” evaluations than the President.

• The growth in dissatisfaction with the Kansas Legislature since 2012 mirrors that of the

Governor, temporally, but the decline is not as extreme as for Governor Brownback. This suggests that Kansans are attributing more of their dissatisfaction with the State’s current fiscal problems to the Governor, while still holding the Legislature somewhat culpable. Unlike the Governor, satisfaction with the legislature has remained fairly stable, dropping only a few points. Most of the change with the legislature has been people moving from neutral to dissatisfied.

• 17 percent more Kansans are very satisfied with President Obama, and 17 percent more are dissatisfied with the Governor than the President.

• Respondents were asked of three elected officials whether they would vote for that candidate if an election were held today. Results suggest that Kansans would be somewhat likely re-elect Jerry Moran, but two-thirds indicated they would not vote to reelect President Obama, and only one-fifth, at best, said they would vote to re-elect Governor Brownback. 

• There was a continuous decline since fall of 2013, with the percent saying the economy is poor or very poor increasing by 23 percent and the percent saying the economy is very good or excellent declining from 12 percent to 3 percent. Virtually no respondents have rated the Kansas economy as excellent since 2014. 

• When asked separately about the Kansas Supreme Court and Kansas Legislature’s handling of the recent school funding controversy, respondents were considerably more likely to place the blame on the legislature. Sixty-nine percent expressed dissatisfaction with the legislature, while only 46 percent expressed dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court. There was a 20 point difference in the percent “very dissatisfied.” To prevent recency bias, these two questions were randomized, with half of respondents getting the Supreme Court question first and half getting the legislature question first. 

• Respondents were highly varied in their support or opposition to the most recent school finance bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor. With one third having a neutral position, it suggests that many Kansans are confused or uninformed on how it might affect their local schools. 

• Of the three gun policy questions, respondents were most likely to support banning the sale of firearms to individuals on the FBI’s “no-fly” list, with over half strongly supporting this policy. Banning the sale of military assault rifles received some degree of support from a majority of respondents. Banning high capacity magazines, defined as holding 10 rounds or more, did not receive majority support, with equal numbers strongly supporting and strongly opposing such a ban. To prevent recency bias, these three questions were presented to respondents in a randomized order. 

• Respondents were asked if students who identify with a gender that differs from their biological sex should be allowed to use the bathroom matching their gender identity. Half of respondents disagreed with this policy and felt that they should be compelled to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex. Only one-fourth would allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender identity, while one-fourth had no opinion. 

• A follow-up question asked specifically about the federal government’s right to impose mandates allowing transgender to use the bathroom of their choice in order for states to receive federal funding. A strong majority of respondents indicated they felt that this was beyond the federal government’s authority, while only one-fifth believe the federal government was correct in imposing this mandate. 

The other newspapers in the state sponsoring the poll were: The Hays Daily News, Salina Journal, Hutchinson Daily News, Garden City Telegram, Lawrence Journal-World, Topeka Capital-Journal, Wichita Eagle and Ottawa Herald. Poll results can also be found on the Docking Institute’s website, on Monday.