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Oregon Senate: Merkley tops Smith for first time 43% to 41%

Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley for the first time has edged ahead of Republican Senator Gordon Smith 43% to 41% in Oregon, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey. While the advantage is not statistically significant, it is noteworthy for an incumbent senator to receive such low levels of support at this point in a campaign.

If leaners are factored in, the race is tied with each candidate claiming 46% of the voters.

Last month, Smith, who is seeking a third six-year term, led Merkley by nine points 47% to 38%. Merkley is the speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.

In the four previous months, Smith has been narrowly ahead, but he has never crossed the 50% mark, below which an incumbent is generally viewed as vulnerable. His support has ranged from a low of 45% to a high of 48%.

The only Republican who holds a statewide office in Oregon, Smith is one of a handful of GOP senators who has supported efforts to set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He also recently featured Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in a campaign ad that boasted of how the two had worked together on energy issues.

The presidential race remains virtually unchanged in Oregon, with Obama ahead of Republican John McCain 46% to 37%.

Smith has seen his favorability numbers drop this month, too. In June, he was viewed favorably by 58% of Oregon voters and unfavorably by 38%. Now only 53% regard him favorably, and 45% see him unfavorably.

By contrast, Merkley’s favorability number is largely unchanged from last month at 51%, but those who regard him unfavorably have dropped from 37% in June to 34% now.

Smith also has lost ground in his own party and among Democrats, 23% of whom supported him last month. Now only 14% of Democrats do. In June, 79% of Republican voters favored the GOP incumbent, but now only 72% feel that way. Democrats appear to be coming home to Merkley, who had the support of only 66% of his party’s voters in June, but that number is up now to 75%.

The GOP incumbent still has a very modest lead among unaffiliated voters.

Smith, who had a six-point lead among female voters last month, now trails Merkley among women 43% to 37%. His 11-point lead among male voters has shrunk now to 3%.

In addition to Smith’s, several other Republican Senate seats are potential pick-ups for Democrats, including Alaska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Colorado, Mississippi, Virginia and Kentucky.

Rasmussen Markets data currently gives Smith a % chance of keeping his Senate seat. These figures are updated on a 24/7 basis by market participants.

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Oregon Toss-Up

Latest RR P oll

RR Poll Avg.

RR Mkts.

In Trade

2002 Results

Smith (R)

46%

46%

56%

Merkley (D)

49%

47%

40%

This telephone survey of 500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports on July 15, 2008. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

See Methodology.


Oregon Trends: Smith vs. Merkley

Date

Smith

Merkley

10/30/2008

46%

49%

10/14/2008

47%

47%

09/15/2008

46%

45%

08/07/2008

47%

39%

07/15/2008

41%

43%

06/11/2008

47%

38%

05/07/2008

45%

42%

03/25/2008

47%

34%

02/13/2008

48%

30%


Favorable Ratings for Senate Candidates in Oregon

 

Smith

Merkley

Very Favorable

18%

17%

Somewhat Favorable

32%

32%

Somewhat Unfavorable

29%

20%

Very Unfavorable

20%

28%

Not Sure

1%

3%


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.