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Alaska is more competitive, but the Republicans are still leading



The dependable Republican state of Alaska has hurt President Trump’s job performance, but Republicans are still leading the state’s races for the President, Senate, and House, according to a New York Times / Siena College poll published Friday.

Overall, Mr Trump leads Joe Biden with 45 to 39 percent, with 8 percent supporting libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen. Similarly, the incumbent Republican Senator, Dan Sullivan, leads Democratic candidate Al Gross 45-37, with 10 percent supporting Alaskan independence candidate John Howe.

In a 2018 home race rematch, Republican Don Young, the longest-serving member of Congress, leads Democratic candidate Alyse Galvin with 49 to 41

percent – roughly the same as his seven-point win two years ago.

Alaska has turned out to be an unlikely battlefield in the late stages of the campaign as Democrats and Republicans rushed to advertise in both the House and Senate. The state has elected Republicans in every presidential election since 1964, and polls show Republicans enjoy a significant advantage in party registration and party identification. But many Alaskans have turned against Mr. Trump after backing him with 15 points against Hillary Clinton four years ago, creating a potential opening for Democrats in a state with an independent streak.

Today 47 percent of Alaskans say they approve of the way Mr Trump does his job as president, while the same number opposes it.

Although Alaska is still a long way to go for Democrats, many voters support a candidate from a small party, so there is an unusually high level of uncertainty. Democrats can also hope that their candidates will boost their standing over the past three weeks; They are still less well known than the Republican incumbents and are entering the final stages with a significant financial advantage.

The GOP challenge is centered around Anchorage, a once dependable Republican city that is now all three Republican candidates lagging behind. The President won Anchorage by five points four years ago, but Mr Biden leads the poll with nine points, 47-38. The city makes up a larger fraction of the state’s population than any other city except New York City.

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Nobody would mistake Anchorage for part of the Sun Belt, but politically there are surprising similarities. The city is relatively well educated, diverse, traditionally Republican, and has a large energy sector. As in other parts of the country, the president’s weakness is due to a significant deficit among white graduate Alaskans, who support Mr Biden at 65 to 27 percent – one of his biggest top performers in the group of all Times / Siena polls to date.

Democrats have tried to capitalize on nominating two candidates, Ms. Galvin and Mr. Gross, who describe themselves as independent. The state has had a long independent phase, and unrelated voters represent the majority of the state’s voters – whether through registration or through identification of a self-identified party. An independent candidate won the governor’s race in 2014, and 12 percent of voters supported a large number of candidates for smaller parties in the 2016 election. Mr Trump won just 51 percent of the vote in 2016 – about as much as his record in traditional battlefield states like Ohio or Iowa.

If the Democrats prevailed of both races, it would offer the party an unusual way of controlling the Senate and, less obviously, the presidency. The US House will decide the presidency in the event of a tie in the electoral college, with each delegation to the State Congress receiving one vote. On the way to the elections, Republicans have a 26-23 head start in the State Congress delegations, with two evenly divided between the parties. A Democratic victory in Alaska, which has only one congressional district, would seriously jeopardize the Republicans’ path to a majority of state delegations.

However, a significant number of the President’s critics remain reluctant to accept the Democratic candidates. And while the Republicans in Anchorage have lost significant ground, they have retained most of their support elsewhere in the state thanks to the overwhelming margins among white voters without a degree. Republicans also had surprising strength among non-white voters who did not identify as Alaska Native or Native American, such as Hispanic or multiracial voters.

Part of the challenge for Democrats could simply be the vote itself. The Alaska ballot, as well as the Times / Siena poll, characterize Mr. Gross and Ms. Galvin as “Democratic candidates” rather than independents who some Democrats fear could undermine their attraction to unaffiliated voters. Perhaps that is why many of the state’s independent voters say they will support Alaska’s Independence Candidate Mr. Howe for the Senate.

Polls conducted well in advance of an election tend to exaggerate the eventual support of candidates for smaller parties at the ballot box, but Alaska’s long history of supporting candidates for smaller parties at least raises the possibility that those candidates will have an unusually large percentage of support to keep.

When the small party candidates see their support waning, as has often happened before, it is not obvious whether Democrats or Republicans would be ready to take advantage of it.

During the presidential contest, Ms. Jorgensen’s supporters split the president’s workload evenly, but they said they supported Mr. Trump by a three-to-one margin four years ago.

Based on the job approval numbers, Mr Howe appears to have a more Republican group of supporters. They say they voted two to one for Mr Trump in 2016, and they are also by a wide margin in favor of his performance.

The two Alaska incumbents, Senator Sullivan and Representative Young, appear to have particular strengths. In contrast to the President, Mr. Sullivan has a positive favoritism rating of 48 percent positive and 39 percent unfavorable. He wins 10 percent of the voters who disapprove of the president.

Mr. Young has his own perk: unusual support from the state’s far-flung Alaska Native and Native American communities, which represent roughly half of the state’s non-white voices. Alaskan Natives have a long history of splitting their tickets in favor of incumbent Republicans like Mr. Young, but they can be a challenge for the pollsters. Many municipalities have no internet or street access.

The Times / Siena poll of 423 probable voters in Alaska was conducted on landlines and cell phones from October 9-14. Analysis shows that the survey successfully reached Alaska Natives in the remote western parts of the state. It was less successful with voters on the north slope in cities like Utqiagvik – formerly known as Barrow. In terms of poll results, the poll could be biased if the Alaskan indigenous people on the northern slopes are significantly different from those in the west and southwest of the state, although the county’s results in the 2016 election suggest the two regions are similar enough to be Political Survey Research Purposes.

Overall, Alaska Natives made up 13 percent of the likely voters in the poll. Mr. Young led the way among the relatively small sample of 45 Native Alaska or Native American people who participated in the poll, even though the same voters supported Mr. Biden and Mr. Gross.

Here are the crosstabs for the survey.


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