Radinovich holds narrow lead in NY Times poll

A screenshot from the New York Times/Siena College polling website shows a narrow lead by Joe Radinovich in what seems an incredibly close race.

Joe Radinovich holds an extremely narrow lead over Pete Stauber in a recent New York Times/Siena College poll of Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District.

Radinovich led 44 percent to Stauber’s 43 percent in the four-day poll that ended yesterday. Thirteen percent remain undecided in the survey, which did not name independent candidate Ray “Skip” Sandman. The poll’s margin of error is 4.6 percent.

This poll was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. In a new polling feature, the newspaper allowed people to watch the survey results posted in real time. As a result, political junkies stared at their screens as the calls moved the numbers to and fro. Early respondents favored Radinovich. The weekend calls seemed to favor Stauber.

The high number of undecided voters probably stems from the lack of knowledge that voters seem to have about these candidates. Both Radinovich and Stauber hover around 50 percent “No Opinion/Don’t Know” in the favorability ratings.

The more telling numbers come from other questions.

For instance, President Trump comes in one point underwater in this poll. Forty-seven percent of 8th District respondents approve of the president’s performance, while 48 percent disapprove.

Further, 47 percent would prefer Democrats take the House of Representatives, while 46 percent would prefer Republicans keep it.

I’ve been harping for months on the fact that I think Stauber’s vote take equals Trump’s approval rating. So, 47 percent, right?

Radinovich will be the standard bearer for Democrats. If you want Democrats to take the House, you vote for Radinovich. So, 47 percent as well, right?

No matter how you cut it, this is a very, very close race. And the complicating presence of independent Ray Sandman will ensure that it remains close even if Democratic fortunes are relatively good.

Something else I mentioned in my piece last week: turnout. Specifically, who turns out? That’s another interesting takeaway from the NY Times poll. Radinovich leads by a larger margin among the respondents most excited about voting. But if the electorate is like the 2016 race, Stauber holds the edge.

Nevertheless, the result is good news for Radinovich. Even a tiny lead, within the margin of error, shows that he survived a bruising DFL primary intact. He’s been hit by negative ads and weathered an embarrassing story about unpaid parking tickets for several weeks.

Stauber, who raised much more money, enjoyed a quiet summer in which most saw him as the front-runner in a changing swing district. I thought he would lead the first public poll and he didn’t. And now he’s caught up in his own minor scandal over using his county e-mail address for political business.

In truth, it’s another street fight in an election that could go either way. And for Radinovich, that’s a hopeful start.

One final note, the “real time” poll should be taken as an excellent education on how polls work, and how they are snapshots, not final results. Thousands of calls are made for every hundred live responses. Balancing the responses for likely voters and other factors produce some level of guessing in every poll.

So as exciting as this weekend was for political junkies, there is no substitute for engagement with the people who didn’t pick up their phones.


  1. The true margin between the candidates, when you don’t round their totals, was 44.49% to 42.69%, for a margin of 1.8%.

    But I bet that the Radinovich campaign is just fine with the race being reported as a 1% difference instead of a 2% difference. The closer the race appears, the less they have to worry about likely DFL voters deciding it’s safe to vote for Sandman.

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