A National Association of Realtors’ poll from late May had McDaniel with a 45-40 lead over incumbent Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann on a “heads up” question, but support swung to Hosemann when messages favorable to him were tested.
A considerable number of polls released this election cycle have focused on the race for Governor. Despite being arguably the most interesting race on the ballot, the Republican primary for Lt. Governor has drawn less attention.
Only one public poll has been released to date. That poll, conducted in early June by Mississippi Today/Siena College, had incumbent Lt. Governor with a 15-point lead over his chief rival for the Republican nomination, State Senator Chris McDaniel. However, to get there it assumed one-third of Republican primary voters this year will be something other than Republican.
Late last week, another poll of the race began circulating among Mississippi lobbyists and politicos (Full Poll Here). This poll, conducted ten days prior to Mississippi Today’s poll by a trade association that has endorsed Hosemann, implies a much closer race between the two top candidates.
Commissioned by National Association of Realtors (NAR), the poll showed McDaniel up 45-40. When voters who expressed a “leaning” toward one candidate or the other were included, McDaniel went up 47-43. When “positive” descriptors of both candidates were used, McDaniel’s reported lead increased to 50-44. These were the descriptions used:
Delbert Hosemann has served as lieutenant governor since 2020. He is an advocate for increasing government transparency and growing small businesses. Under his leadership, the state has increased training opportunities for high-paying jobs, raised public school teachers’ pay, and passed legislation that imposes harsher penalties on violent criminals. Hosemann is your trusted conservative voice in Jackson.
Chris McDaniel has been a state senator since 2008. He is a staunch defender of states’ rights, individual freedoms, and lowering state income taxes. He will work to keep Mississippi’s election system secure, and he will fight back against far-left policies in our schools. McDaniel will bring much-needed change to Mississippi’s leadership.
Two other Republican candidates, Tiffany Longino and Shane Quick, drew minimum support.
Who Conducted the Poll?
The poll was conducted by American Strategies. Its website lists two clients, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the National Apartment Association.
The Political Action Committee of NAR’s Mississippi affiliate, the Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR), endorsed Lt. Governor Hosemann in February of this year. MAR’s PAC has given Hosemann $60,000 this cycle, including a $10,000 gift on September 21, 2022, and a $50,000 gift on April 26, 2023.
Multiple attempts were made to reach the Mississippi Association of Realtors for confirmation of the poll and comment. One question asked in writing was whether any subsequent polling had been performed. At press time, Magnolia Tribune had not received a response.
Silver Lining for Hosemann, Potential Path for McDaniel
Beyond the initial “heads up” questions, the poll reads like a message testing survey for Hosemann. There are seven individual statements designed to move people’s opinion in favor of the current Lt. Governor.
These statements range from support for recent tax reforms, to support for Second Amendment rights, to tough on crime language. Taken together the seven positive messages shifted sentiment to Hosemann 52-40 over McDaniel. That’s a large swing.
Hosemann campaign spokesperson Casey Phillips highlighted the message testing outcome in a statement to Magnolia Tribune:
This month-old data shows Delbert Hosemann winning re-election by 12 points on the informed ballot — which confirms polls in June showing Delbert leading right now by double digits. It also confirms that under Delbert’s leadership, a large majority of Republicans believe we are headed in the right direction in Mississippi, including the Realtors who endorsed us.-Casey Phillips, Hosemann Campaign Spokesperson
The poll did seek to elicit a response to one negative characterization of Hosemann, asking if the following statement raised doubts in the minds of respondents about him:
Some say that Delbert Hosemann is not a true Republican. He awarded THIRTEEN committee chairs to Democrats in the state senate, and he forced the state to adopt a new flag without letting citizens vote.
51 percent of respondents said this statement created either “very serious doubts” or “serious doubts” about Hosemann. Another 24 percent indicated that the statement created “minor doubts.”
This race will ultimately come down to two things. The first is the ability of the candidates to get their messages out to the public. The NAR poll suggests that both candidates have messages that are capable of resonating with primary voters.
Since the poll ran, Hosemann has been up on television with heavy ad buys. He has a decided funding advantage over McDaniel. His ability to continue, and ramp up, paid media gives him an overall advantage in connecting with the public.
The second key factor will be turnout. High turnout, north of 350,000, plays to Hosemann’s advantage. The 2019 primary, which featured a hotly contested governor’s race, drew 383,000 voters.
Low turnout, south of that line, and the math starts to move in McDaniel’s favor. In his two previous statewide bids for U.S. Senate, he garnered roughly 158,000 votes (2014) and 154,000 votes (2018). There is a working assumption among political operatives that low turnout favors the candidate with the most “intense” base and that McDaniel has an intense base.
A betting man would likely still bet on Hosemann to beat McDaniel come August. It’s probable. But an incumbent candidate would much prefer a sense of inevitability over “probable.” Taken at face value, this poll certainly suggests the race is closer than expected and McDaniel has a puncher’s chance.
A sidenote, the NAR poll shows that Donald Trump remains wildly popular with Mississippi Republicans, with an 85 percent favorability rating. Not far behind him in the poll is Governor Tate Reeves. With a 74 percent favorability rating, Reeves outpaces both Hosemann and McDaniel by double digits.
Finally, a word on methodology. A poll is a snapshot in time. The leaked poll was commissioned by an organization friendly to Lt. Governor Hosemann. One would think any bias in the poll would inure to his benefit. Certainly, the message testing portion is designed to boost the perception of his candidacy. The demographic makeup of the poll, though, may actually cut against Hosemann.
The demographics in the NAR poll stand in stark contrast to the demographics in the Mississippi Today poll that followed ten days later. The Mississippi Today poll assumed 32 percent of Republican primary voters would be something other than a Republican. 81 percent of respondents in the NAR poll identified Republican, another 14 percent said they leaned Republican.
The Mississippi Today poll suggested Republican primary voters preferred moderate candidates. The NAR poll showed a combined 81 percent of respondents identified as very or somewhat conservative.
Barring some significant deviation from the norm in crossover voting, the Mississippi Today poll oversampled non-Republicans and moderates. The composition of the NAR poll is certainly closer to my experience polling in Mississippi, but there is an argument that the NAR poll oversampled Republicans and conservatives.
The NAR poll was “multi-modal.” This means it relied on landlines, cell phones, and web-based surveys. Multi-modal polls are sometimes criticized because of the internet component, though they are becoming more common.
Finally, the NAR poll is a month old. A lot can change in a month.