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Tuesday, October 23, 2018 1:00 am

Poll puts Donnelly, Braun in dead heat

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly leads Republican challenger Mike Braun by a single percentage point in polling results released Monday by the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Donnelly is favored by 41 percent of likely Hoosier voters, Braun by 40 percent and Libertarian Lucy Brenton by 8 percent, with 11 percent of respondents undecided.

Andy Downs, director of the nonpartisan Downs Center, said the combination of undecided voters and Brenton supporters is “a pretty significant chunk of voters” in the center's poll ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.

“(Brenton) is certainly in a position to have a significant impact on the outcome of the race,” Downs said in a phone interview.

Support for Brenton “is demonstrating a desire for something else. I don't know what that something else is, but people are in some respects not happy with the two major political parties,” he said.

The Downs Center poll of 816 likely Indiana voters was conducted Oct. 12 through Oct. 16 by SurveyUSA and has a 4.6 percent credibility interval, which is akin to margin of sampling error – making the race a statistical dead heat.

The results are in line with those of recent surveys conducted by other pollsters. Statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight states that a compilation of 13 polls taken since late August, and weighted according to sample size and pollster quality, would put Donnelly 4 points ahead of Braun.

The Downs Center survey shows Donnelly with a 19-point advantage over Braun among independent voters, who made up 38 percent of respondents, more than either Republicans or Democrats.

“If you look at party affiliation across the country, you see a decline, more so in Republican membership than in Democratic membership. But neither is growing by any stretch of the imagination,” Downs said. “I don't think it's uncommon for people to say, 'I'm a person without a party.'”

The Downs Center poll finds Granger resident Donnelly with an 11-point lead among women, a 5-point lead among people with college degrees and a 4-point lead among respondents younger than 50. Donnelly enjoys leads of 83 percent among blacks and 46 percent among Hispanics.

Braun, a Jasper business owner, is in front of Donnelly by 23 points among people who regularly attend church, 11 points among white voters, 9 points among respondents with a high school education but who did not attend college, and 8 points among men. He and Donnelly are tied among voters older than 50, with either candidate favored by 42 percent.

Braun posts a 10-point lead among people earning at least $80,000 a year, and Donnelly has a 12-point lead among those earning less than $40,000. Braun edged Donnelly by 1 percentage point among people earning between $40,000 and $80,000.

Donnelly builds a 35-point lead among urban voters, while Braun has a 22-point advantage among rural voters and a 1-point lead among suburban voters.

Brenton's strongest backing – 13 percent – comes from independents. The Indianapolis business consultant was favored by 11 percent of respondents in four categories: people ages 18-34, regular church-goers, people earning less than $40,000 a year and voters with some college.