The last time Louisiana voters cast their ballots in a U.S. Senate primary, more than a dozen independent polls foretold how the match was shaping up in the two months leading up to Election Day.
But this year, just two independent polls have been conducted since mid-September, and their results vary widely.
Polling experts say that the state is facing a double hit — brought on by a crowded field of 24 candidates and a U.S. presidential race that is stealing away attention — that has largely left a question mark stamped on the Senate race here.
The election is Nov. 8, with early voting this Tuesday through Nov. 1. A runoff will be held Dec. 10 between the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, if no candidate wins a majority in two weeks.
The Pew Research Center, on its website, points out that long lists of candidates can create difficulties in telephone surveys, and each candidate’s position on the ballot can have more impact as voters skim through the names.
"You're going to get some room for random error in there," said Mike Henderson, director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab. "The more candidates you have, the more problematic the poll becomes."
Louisiana's complex "jungle" primary set-up, in which all candidates appear on one ballot, regardless of party, also makes polling less predictable, Henderson said.
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"In a sense, it's harder to poll in Louisiana because we don't have the same kind of setup," he said.
And, in general, many independent pollsters and media outlets appear to have been less interested in Louisiana's elections while Republican Donald Trump is expected to easily take the state in the presidential race. They would rather focus their resources on key presidential battleground states.
For example, Ohio, a state with an incumbent Republican senator who is projected to handily win re-election this year, has had at least eight independent polls conducted on the Senate race just in October. Louisiana, which has a rare open Senate seat that has attracted two Congressmen, a state-wide elected official and a member of the Public Service Commission, among others with political backgrounds as candidates, has technically had one independent poll this month.
Tom Jenson, with the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, N.C., said PPP has done internal polling for Louisiana candidates this election cycle, but doesn't plan to conduct an independent poll here ahead of the runoff.
"If the race ends up with a competitive looking runoff that could help determine the balance of control in the Senate, I’m sure we would do something then, especially with the presidential race in the rear view mirror," he said.
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A recent poll conducted on behalf of Louisiana Public Broadcasting, the results of which were revealed during the first televised debate in the Senate race last week, didn't ask respondents which candidate they would vote for but it offers some insight into how voters are feeling on political issues.
Despite national criticism of partisan gridlock, half of the poll's respondents said they would rather have a senator who is willing to stick to his or her positions, rather than compromise with others to get legislation moving.
More than 34 percent of the respondents said that they believe health care should be the federal government's biggest budget priority, while 22.3 percent said it should be on defense spending, 18.4 percent said immigration enforcement, 13.8 percent said flood response and 13.8 percent said flood aid.
Those issues, particularly health care, defense and immigration efforts, could shed some insight into what voters want in the Senate race, as horse-race polls have been harder to come by.
Based on Huffington Post's national poll tracker, fewer than half a dozen polls have been conducted on the race since May — nearly all of which have been conducted on behalf of campaigns or political entities with links to campaigns.
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That's a sharp contrast from what was seen in Louisiana's last Senate race, when at least 16 polls were conducted from September to November on the race between Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republicans Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness.
The 2014 polls included ones from Rasmussen Reports, Public Policy Polling, CNN, Fox, NBC, CBS and USA Today. None of those outlets have released polling figures for the Louisiana Senate race this time around.
The most recent poll on Louisiana's senate race was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research for Raycom Media stations in Louisiana, has a 4 percent margin of error. It was conducted Oct. 17 through Oct.19. The Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the Council for a Better Louisiana held the first televised debate in the race on Oct. 18.
The poll found Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy leading with 24 percent of the vote, followed by PSC Commissioner Foster Campbell (19 percent) and New Orleans attorney Caroline Fayard (12 percent), both Democrats. They were followed by Republican U.S. Reps Charles Boustany (11 percent) and John Fleming (10 percent). Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a Republican, polled just above 5 percent, securing him a place among the other five leaders in the upcoming Raycom-sponsored debate on Nov. 2.
The other independent head-to-head polling, which was conducted by Southern Media and Opinion Research in September, showed Kennedy at 17 percent, Boustany at 15 percent, Fayard at 11 percent, Campbell at 9 percent, Fleming at 8 percent and Duke tied with retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, also a Republican, at 3 percent.