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Stevens Closes To Within Two in Alaska Senate Race

Ted Stevens is back, helped no doubt by the popularity of his state’s governor, Sarah Palin, now the high-profile running mate of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Stevens, the longtime GOP senator from Alaska, now trails his Democratic opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, by just two percentage points 48% to 46%, according to a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of voters in the state (demographic crosstabs available for Premium Members).

In late July, just after Stevens was indicted for allegedly hiding more than $250,000 in illegal gifts from an oil company, the incumbent Republican trailed Begich 50% to 37%. Prior to that the race had been a toss-up for months.

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Stevens, who is seeking a seventh term in the Senate, appears to have made his biggest gains among unaffiliated voters. In late July, 23% of unaffiliateds supported the embattled incumbent, with the vast majority backing Begich. Now 36% of unaffiliated voters support Stevens while the Democrat’s numbers are unchanged.

While 68% of Republicans back Stevens’ re-election bid, 22% support Begich. By comparison, 84% of Alaska Democrats support their party’s candidate, with 15% in favor of Stevens. This is a slight increase for both candidates from voters in their respective parties, but Stevens has dropped five percentage points among Democrats, all of whom appear to have moved into Begich’s column.

Stevens, who easily defeated two challengers in the state GOP primary last month, has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges. He is scheduled to go to trial in two weeks, and his lawyers are pushing for a verdict before Election Day.

In the new survey, 68% of Alaska voters rate Palin’s job performance as governor as good or excellent, including 51% who say she is doing an excellent job. Ironically, she has been a harsh critic of Stevens and others in the Republican “good ol’ boy” network that has dominated politics in her state for years.

Stevens is viewed at least somewhat favorably by 52%, including 26% who rate their opinion of him as Very Favorable. Twenty-nine percent (29%) have a Very Unfavorable view of Stevens. This represents a slight increase in both favorables and unfavorables for the incumbent since late July.

Begich is now viewed at least somewhat favorably by 61%, and 28% say they have a Very Favorable opinion of the Democrat. Only 16% regard him Very Unfavorably. His numbers are largely unchanged since the previous survey.

One of the hallmarks of Palin’s bid for the vice presidency has been her rejection of so-called “pork barrel” spending, which Stevens has championed for years, pouring millions of dollars into his home state. Palin has not endorsed Stevens’ bid for re-election, but she also has not called for his resignation. Meanwhile, Stevens, despite a history of tension with the new governor, is now strongly embracing her vice presidential candidacy.

In television ads and constant campaigning since his indictment in late July, Stevens has been promoting his influence as the senior Republican senator and how much federal money he has been able to bring home to Alaska.

Rasmussen Markets data currently gives Stevens a % chance of retaining his seat in the Senate. Begich is given a % chance of winning.

Numbers in this paragraph are from a prediction market, not a poll . We invite you to participate in the Rasmussen Markets. It costs nothing to join and add your voice to the collective wisdom of the market.

Rasmussen Reports will release the latest data on the presidential race in Alaska at 5 pm Eastern and also is publishing new numbers from New Mexico this afternoon.

Earlier this week, Rasmussen Reports released new presidential polling data for Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Additional state Presidential poll results will be released each Monday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern and Tuesday-Friday at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

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Alaska Leans Democratic

Latest RR Poll

RR Poll Avg.

RR Mkts.

In Trade

2002 Results

Stevens (R)

44%

46%

79%

Begich (D)

52%

49%

10%

This telephone survey of 500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports September 9, 2008. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

See Methodology


Alaska Trends: Stevens vs. Begich

Date

Stevens

Begich

10/28/2008

44%

52%

10/06/2008

49%

48%

09/09/2008

46%

48%

07/30/2008

37%

50%

07/17/2008

41%

50%

06/16/2008

46%

44%

05/14/2008

45%

47%

04/07/2008

46%

45%


Favorable Ratings for Senate Candidates in Alaska

 

Stevens

Begich

Very Favorable

22%

27%

Somewhat Favorable

21%

30%

Somewhat Unfavorable

20%

18%

Very Unfavorable

35%

23%

Not Sure

1%

2%


About Rasmussen Reports

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information.

The Rasmussen Reports ElectionEdge™ Premium Service for Election 2008 offers the most comprehensive public opinion coverage ever provided for a Presidential election.

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade.