TAMPA — Two new polls show Alex Sink leading in the race to replace U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young in Pinellas County’s District 13 congressional race.
A survey by Saint Leo’s new polling institute shows Sink, the Democratic nominee in the race, up 46 percent to 37 percent over Republican David Jolly in the race for the March 11 special election, with Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby at 12 percent.
Another poll by Bay News 9, WUSF Public Media and the Tampa Bay Times shows Sink with a narrower but still significant lead, 42 percent to 35 percent, with 4 percent for Overby.
Some experts, however, question how significant poll results are in a special election, which is likely to see a small turnout, mainly including highly motivated, possibly partisan voters.
“In a special election, I’d be much more suspect of polling to begin with,” said retired University of South Florida political scientist Darryl Paulson, a Republican.
The outcome of such a race, he said, may depend more on which side’s voters are more motivated, and Republican voters are generally recognized as more likely to turn out than Democratic voters.
Both polls used screening questions to seek out likely voters, and Andrew Gold of Saint Leo said its poll used unusually rigorous screening.
The Saint Leo poll shows Democrats strongly behind their candidate, 88 percent for Sink to 6 percent for Jolly and 4 percent for Overby. Republicans are more divided, 64 percent for Jolly, 16 percent for Sink and 14 for Overby.
“Jolly is not only leaking Republican voters to Alex Sink, but also to David Overby,” Saint Leo political scientist Frank Orlando said. “Traditionally, Libertarian candidates have siphoned off more support from Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.”
Orlando said the poll shows the two major-party candidates have positive favorability ratings, but Sink has a slight edge.
He said Sink’s lead appears to be driven, in part, by issue positions more in line with those of the district’s voters — a majority oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act, which Sink opposes and Jolly favors; and most voters favor immigration reform legislation, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants here now, which Sink favors and Jolly opposes.
Voters split evenly, 46 percent to 46 percent, when asked whether they prefer a candidate who would support or oppose President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress.
The Saint Leo poll used a “blended” methodology, including automated-dial or “robopoll” calling, plus a sample drawn from an online panel of respondents, in an attempt to include younger voters less likely to use land-line phones.
The Feb. 9-11 poll included 400 likely voters for an error margin of 5 percentage points; the margin would be larger for questions asked of only parts of the sample, such as Republicans or Democrats only.
According to a WUSF news release, its poll, done Feb. 4-9, included a land-line and cellphone sample of 603 likely voters for a four-point error margin.