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Poll: Sisolak looks strong despite shutdown; Biden has small lead over Trump

Jon Ralston
Jon Ralston
Ralston Reports

Despite making the difficult decision to shut down the state and absorbing criticism for the duration of the closures, Gov. Steve Sisolak enjoys the highest job approval ratings of his governorship and is viewed much more favorably by Nevada voters than President Donald Trump and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

But even though the president’s numbers are upside down here, Trump actually could win Nevada and end three straight presidential cycles of Democratic victories. The president only trails presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 4 percentage points in Nevada (49-45), indicating the state is still in play for November.

That is: We Matter. Still.

Those are the findings of a statewide online survey taken April 27-30 by national Democratic pollster John Anzalone for a partisan group that wished to remain anonymous. It’s a poll of 763 likely Nevada voters – a very robust sample -- who identify as likely 2020 voters, with interviews apportioned demographically and geographically based on past voter turnout. It has a 3.6 percentage point margin of error.

I know some people will discount the numbers because of the survey’s provenance, but this is a very credible poll by someone who knows Nevada well. Nobody had better numbers in Nevada in 2018 than Anzalone when he polled for then-candidate Sisolak – he nailed the primary and general elections. I trust his numbers.

The demographics look solid: The party ID numbers are close to the actual registration figures, and the Hispanic number (14 percent) actually could be low in a presidential year here.

So let’s look at the results:

Sixty-four percent of voters have a positive reaction when asked how the governor “is doing responding to the coronavirus outbreak.” That includes 83 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of indies and – wait for it – 48 percent of Republicans. If you want evidence that the Sturm und Drang protesters are not the majority of the GOP, here it is.

Sisolak’s overall job performance rating on the pandemic: 64-34.

Compare those numbers responding to the coronavirus crisis to the president’s (46-53) and the mayor’s (28-61) – the latter’s are some of the worst I have seen for an elected official not embroiled in some kind of scandal. Perhaps her, ahem, erratic television performances have taken a toll and dented the family legacy.

The general job approval ratings for the three elected officials are not that different than their coronavirus response numbers:

--Sisolak: 64-32

--Trump: 46-53

--Goodman: 32-58

For some perspective, right after the governor took office, the same pollster found Sisolak at 47-30; post-2019 session, Sisolak was at 58-28; and just before the pandemic hit, he was at 54-34.

He’s also viewed almost as well in Washoe (61-37) as he is in Clark (65-30).

Heckuva job, GOP.

(There were no rural crosstabs, but we can assume Sisolak is not doing well there.)

One more note on the governor: Of those who have a connection to someone who has been infected, 68 percent give Sisolak positive marks; 66 percent of those who have experienced economic disruption (lost job, hours cut, applied for unemployment, forced to work from home, etc.) also give the governor a positive rating. That is very telling.

Trump is at 43-57 in Clark and 49-51 in Washoe – that ain’t Paul Laxalt’s Washoe anymore. The coronavirus response numbers are very similar in both areas.

As for the mayor, her abysmal job rating breaks down this way:

--Democrats, 17-69

--Republicans: 41-42

--Indies, 28-57

Pro tip, Your Honor: Now might not be the best time to announce that challenge to Sisolak. (Also, the Goodman dynasty may have seen its end.)

Even in her home base, Clark County, Goodman’s numbers are 36-59. That is astonishing, even though many of those people can’t vote in the city (although a large number don’t know they can’t).

And in Washoe, Goodman is at 19-61. I think you are safe, Mayor Schieve.

In the presidential race, even though some people (looks in mirror) have said Nevada is becoming a blue state, the poll says we are still quite purple. Yes, Biden’s lead is just outside the margin of error and it’s almost twice the margin Hillary Clinton won by in 2016. But 4 points is…a close race.

Let’s break down the numbers:

Biden is only ahead of Trump by 8 points – 51-43 – in Democrat-rich Clark County, where Democratic statewide candidates need to win by at least 10 points to feel comfortable. But the changing Washoe County, where Republicans once could count on a victory but where the Democrats now have a slight lead, also provides an edge for Biden – 48-45. (No rural crosstabs, but assume Trump is winning in the other 15 counties by 30 points or so. The poll assumes the rurals will only be 10 percent of the vote, though, and it may be slightly higher in November.)

It’s still almost impossible for the rurals to save Trump, but there are miles to go before we vote.

Biden’s lead among Hispanics – 57-34 – is not as large as Democrats would hope, I’d guess. If Trump can get into the 30s among Latinos, he probably has a chance. And the president is leading among indies – 46-38 – which is keeping him in the race here.

The gender gap is stark: Biden is up 53-39 among women while Trump leads among men, 51-44.

Bottom line: Nevada is still a Democratic-leaning state, but it is a place where a large population of non-college whites and a Hispanic population not yet overwhelmingly wedded to Biden could keep the state in play.

So Nevada leans Biden, but I don’t think the Democrats, based on this poll, can take the state for granted in November.

Updated at 11:08 AM to add a few details about the polling methodology.


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