Cramer Leads Heitkamp in Average of Publicly Available Polls Going Back to February


North Dakota Representative Kevin Cramer speaks Sunday, April 3, 2016, at the ND GOP Convention at Scheels Arena in Fargo of his choice to endorse Donald Trump for president. Rick Abbott / The Forum

Calling the horse race in North Dakota’s political races is tough because our state doesn’t typically get a whole lot of publicly available polling.

In the Senate race, however, we have now have the results of three polls available publicly. Based on an average of those three polls, Congressman Kevin Cramer has a slight lead over Senate incumbent Heidi Heitkamp.

The polls I’m including are the Gravis Marketing and Tarrance Group polls conducted back in February (the latter commissioned by the NRSC, I should note) as well as the Mason-Dixon poll commissioned by Valley News Live and conducted this month.

The folks at VNL aren’t very transparent with their data – they describe the results and methodology but haven’t released a polling memo – but Mason-Dixon is a well respected outfit with a B+ rating from the folks at FiveThirtyEight. Here’s what the TV station said about their results:

When you look at the overall state, the Senate race shows Kevin Cramer with 48%, Heidi Heitkamp with 44% and 8% were undecided.

In Eastern North Dakota, you’ll notice that Cramer’s support starts to drop. He has 44%, Heitkamp at 47% with 9% undecided.

The numbers really show support for the incumbent Heitkamp, when you look closer at just Fargo and Cass County. Heitcamp with 54%, Cramer at just 35% and 11% undecided.

Cramer has a strong lead in most of North Dakota, but Heitkamp leads in the most populated county in the state. The Red River Valley is always a battleground in close statewide races, but really all Republicans have to do there is keep it close. Their dominance in the rest of the state can put them over the top.

Anyway, any one poll in a race can be wrong. What’s more useful is to have a lot of data points from a lot of different sources that we can aggregate into a clearer picture of the race. If we average the results from the Gravis, Tarrance, and Mason-Dixon results we can see that Cramer leads, but not by much:

I’m not sure how useful this analysis is. A poll is a snapshot of public opinion in a given moment. There is a lot of time between the Tarrance/Gravis polls in February and this Mason-Dixon poll in June.

Still, we have to work with what we have, and what we have is three polls between February and present.

And really, in terms of how these campaigns unfold, it’s all meaningless. Neither of these candidates should feel comfortable. And even if they did feel comfortable, they shouldn’t campaign that way lest they get blindsided.

Remember, in the 2012 campaign, there was polling released not long before election day showing Heitkamp losing by something like 10 points. She ultimately won.