NEW ORLEANS -- A statewide poll conducted exclusively for WWL-TV shows incumbent David Vitter with a commanding lead in his race against Charlie Melancon, one week before the election for Louisiana’s U.S. Senate seat.
The telephone poll of 700 likely voters, conducted from Oct. 21 to Oct. 24 by Dr. Ron Faucheux and Clarus Research Group, finds Vitter, the Republican incumbent, with a 12 point lead over Melancon, his Democratic challenger.
Vitter received 50 percent of the vote, to Melancon’s 38 percent. None of the other 10 candidates in the race scored more than one point. Eight percent of those questioned said they were still undecided. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent.
Pollster Dr. Ron Faucheux said the poll shows two contrary forces competing against each other.
“On one hand you have 50 percent of the state's voters who are resistant on one level or another to reelecting David Vitter,” Faucheux said. “On the other hand, you have almost 60 percent of the state's voters who are resistant at one level or another to electing a Democrat to the Senate.”
Faucheux said Vitter winds up benefiting, and added that it's clear that President Barack Obama and the national Democrats are hurting Melancon.
“That's a mill stone around the neck of a candidate like Charlie Melancon in this election,” Faucheux said. “It's given David Vitter an opportunity to hold the edge that he's had in polling for some time.”
While just under half, or 48 percent, of the voters questioned in this poll disapprove of the job performance of Republicans in Congress, more than half, 57 percent, disapprove of the performance of Democrats in Congress. More than half, or 58 percent, disapprove of Obama's job performance while just 37 percent approve of his performance.
“And that makes it increasingly difficult for Democratic candidates to win this time, not only in Louisiana, but in other states across the country,” Faucheux said.
Faucheux said the WWL-TV poll appears to show that the driving force in the race is the question voters were asked about which candidate is most likely to support Obama's policies.
“Almost three-fourths of the electorate statewide thought that Melancon would be more likely to advance President Obama's policies than David Vitter would. And of course that plays into the campaign message that David Vitter has used throughout this race, that it's a nationalized race and you have to pick between David Vitter and Barack Obama,” Faucheux said.
Vitter's name recognition was already high in the Eyewitness News poll conducted by Faucheux this past August, and it has gone up two points in the most recent survey.
The good news for Melancon, according to Faucheux, is that his name recognition has jumped 16 points since August, from 68 percent to 84 percent.
The trouble for Melancon is that his unfavorable rating has also jumped: from 24 percent in August to 41 percent in this poll.
“The danger sign for Charlie Melancon is that his negative rating is now higher than his favorability rating, which is always something that's difficult for a challenger because it holds down his ability to move up at a time when he needs to,” Faucheux said.
The poll shows that Vitter's favorable rating has gone down by two points, from 49 percent to 47 percent, and his unfavorable score has gone up by four points, from 33 percent to 37 percent.
“One thing that both campaigns have succeeded in doing is raising the negatives of one another,” Faucheux said.
The poll shows Vitter does better among men than women and far better among whites than blacks. Melancon is strong among women and especially strong among blacks. And more of those two groups are undecided.
“I think Melancon has some opportunities to narrow the gap in terms of doing well with women voters and African-American voters who are now undecided,” Faucheux said.
Geographically, Vitter and Melancon come close in the metro New Orleans area (Vitter 45 percent to Melancon’s 44 percent). In the Acadiana area, Vitter outpaces Melancon 52 to 36 percent. In the Baton Rouge metro area and north central Louisiana, Vitter does equally well, scoring 54 percent to Melancon’s 33 percent.
Vitter received support from an overwhelming number of respondents who identified themselves as Tea Party supporters in the survey – 84 percent, to 7 percent for Melancon, with 8 percent undecided and 2 percent backing another candidate.
Vitter also came out ahead when respondents were asked which candidate has the best ideas to improve the economy. He scored 46 percent to Melancon’s 30 percent.
When asked which candidate puts Louisiana above party politics, Vitter scored 46 percent to Melancon’s 28 percent.
In terms of answering which candidate is most able to get things done for Louisiana, Vitter scored 46 percent among respondents, to Melancon’s 29 percent. And in terms of answering a question about which candidate fights for the people of Louisiana, Vitter scores 42 percent to 32 percent for Melancon.
“Vitter comes out ahead by particularly wide margins in areas that deal with job performance and issues,” Faucheux added.
Voters said Vitter is more likely to side with big businesses (39 percent to Melancon’s 20 percent.) Melancon is more likely to side with labor unions and trial lawyers, according to most respondents (Melancon 44 percent to Vitter’s 12 percent).
Vitter led Melancon 33 percent to 25 percent when voters were asked which is a typical Washington politician. 22 percent volunteered that both fit that description.
“And also 21 percent volunteered that they wouldn’t pick either one of them as anymore honest or trustworthy than the other,” Faucheux said, adding that that reveals a dissatisfaction among the electorate with both candidates.
Here were the standings for other candidates in the poll: Randall Hayes, William McShan, Tommy LaFargue and Bob Lang scored 1 percent each. Candidates Ernest Wooton, Michael Brown, Skip Galan, Milton Gordon, Sam Houston Melton and Mike Spears received less than .5 percent support from voters surveyed.