By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – New polling in the race for Alabama Governor shows incumbent Kay Ivey with a sizable lead over her primary challengers at a percentage just shy of the 50 percent majority she needs to avoid a runoff in the Republican Primary.
In a Leverage Public Strategies – Alabama Daily News survey, 47 percent of GOP primary voters said they would choose Ivey if the election were held today. In the same poll, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle received the support of 11 percent, Birmingham minister Scott Dawson received nine percent and Mobile State Senator Bill Hightower received four percent. Thirty percent of voters were undecided.
The survey was conducted from April 23-30 and sampled 600 likely Republican voters using a combination of live phone calls and touch selection surveys with a margin of error of +/-3.94 percent.
Blake Harris, who conducted the Leverage poll, said the high number of undecided voters is typical for this early in the election cycle.
“About right now is when many voters start paying attention and asking questions about candidates,” he said. “The trouble for Gov. Ivey’s challengers is that her high name recognition and general approval among the electorate will be difficult to catch up with in just a little over a month.”
The survey showed some interesting numbers geographically. Among voters in the Huntsville-Decatur-Florence media market, Battle and Ivey are statistically tied at 33 percent. Ivey leads in every other media market, including the state’s largest, Birmingham-Tuscaloosa-Anniston, where she polls at 52 percent.
Hightower performs relatively well on his hometurf of Mobile with 19 percent saying they would vote for him, but does not register above three percent in any other area. Dawson’s best areas are his home of Birmingham, where he polls at 11 percent, Dothan, where he is also at 11 percent, and Montgomery, where he sits at nine percent.
Ivey is winning all age groups, but performs best with older voters that tend to dominate GOP primaries. She wins 50 percent of voters in the 55-65 age range and 53 percent of voters aged 66 and older. Battle performs well with 18-25 year old voters at 17 percent and Dawson saw a spike among voters in the 35-50 range at 19 percent.
While the survey might seem to diverge from recent polling that showed Ivey with approval ratings in the mid-to-high 60s, it’s important to remember this is a simple ballot test. Instead of testing whether voters have a favorable opinion of a candidate or approve of the job they are doing, voters were asked to choose who they would vote for if the election was held today. That’s a much different question, and many voters like to take their time in deciding.
Also, surveyors did not press respondents to “lean” one way or another. It’s a simple snapshot. That means a lot more undecided voters who will ultimately end up choosing one candidate or another.
While Ivey does not win a majority of voters in this survey, she only needs a small percentage of undecided voters to break her way in order to avoid a runoff. Based on this survey 40-35 days out of the election, that seems likely.
The encouraging news for the Battle campaign is his high performance in Huntsville, where he is best known. If he can somehow earn the same kind of rapport that he has in North Alabama with in other areas, he could contend with Ivey. That will take heavy television and radio advertising between now and Election Day.
Tune in tomorrow for results on the Lt. Governor’s race.