Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Kirk poll has him trailing Duckworth in an “incredibly tight” race
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Kirk poll has him trailing Duckworth in an “incredibly tight” race

Tuesday, Apr 5, 2016 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a Mark Kirk campaign polling memo

GS Strategy Group conducted a statewide survey of 600 likely general election voters in Illinois March 30-31, 2016. The survey yielded a margin of error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% confidence level. The survey tested a number of issues, including the current state of the U.S. Senate race in Illinois along with some current event issues that are important to both Illinois and the United States. Below are some key findings from the survey.


Today, the race for U.S. Senate in Illinois between Mark Kirk and Tammy Duckworth remains incredibly tight (Duckworth 42.7%, Kirk 39.6%), and almost 18% of voters are undecided. Independent voters are nearly evenly split in their choice between Duckworth and Kirk.

Kirk’s numbers are strengthened by voters’ belief that he is an independent voice for Illinois in Washington, DC. By 2:1, respondents agreed with the statement Mark Kirk is a thoughtful, independent leader. This positive definition of Kirk as a thoughtful, independent crosses the political spectrum, with even a plurality of Democrats agreeing (33%) and by a 3:1 margin, independents agree (48% to 16%).


Over 60% of voters say the U.S. Senate should hold hearings and a confirmation vote for President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Illinois voters know about Mark Kirk’s independent position on the issue, bolstering his moderate image.


By large majorities, Illinois voters believe there is a likely chance America will be the target of another terrorist attack within the next year, with more than half of respondents saying it is extremely (27.6%) or very (28.1%) likely. Additionally, nearly 60% agree with Mark Kirk’s position that we should not allow Syrian refugees into the U.S. until it can be done safely. National security issues are a major vulnerability for Tammy Duckworth’s candidacy.

When voters learn about Kirk’s and Duckworth’s positions on the issues, Kirk’s record wins. From the Syrian refugee crisis to her economic record to her failures at the VA, Duckworth is vulnerable on her extreme record.

Bottom Line: While the ballot test between Mark Kirk and Tammy Duckworth remains incredibly tight, the issues voters are focused on and most passionate about provide an edge to the Kirk campaign. Duckworth’s positions on key national security issues, such as her support for allowing 200,000 Syrian refugees into the US, put her at odds with the great majority of Illinois voters. Further exacerbating the challenges to her candidacy are her clear partisan record and failings at the VA.

The full memo with more questions and results is here. Make sure to take a look at them.

* The claim that Illinoisans know about Kirk’s position on the Supreme Court issue is only partially true. A large plurality believe he did show independence, but even more don’t know

That will change, obviously, as the campaign kicks into higher gear.

* And check out these results

Duckworth flatly denies she ever said she wanted to accept 200,000 Syrian refugees, but a recent WaPo article on the topic quotes some Chicago reporters as saying she did. Duckworth may have misspoken, but whatever. I don’t expect Kirk to ever give up on that one.


  1. - vibes - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 9:30 am:

    Incumbent under 40%? Wow.

  2. - CornerGuy - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 9:35 am:

    Tight race but duckworth has to be disappointed with these numbers. The very last thing she wants is a tight race with Kirk. Bad news for her.

  3. - Ray del Camino - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 9:41 am:

    No questions about stamina or health?

  4. - Norseman - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 9:43 am:

    Looks like Kirk is going to need a lot of Rauner money for his “education” needs.

  5. - MSIX - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 9:47 am:

    Typical leading statement about the Syrians. It’s actually two statements for which one could have differing answers.

    =After the bombings and shootings in Belgium, Paris, and California, there is no way to ensure some Syrian refugees are not part of terrorist groups like ISIS=

    That may be true. But it’s true of any refugee.

    =…and we shouldn’t allow them to enter the U.S. until it is safe.=

    Until what is safe? When will that be? How will we know it’s safe?

  6. - The Captain - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 9:47 am:

    The quarter is over, they know how much they’ve raised, but the filings aren’t due for another ten days and today they’ve released a poll that shows them losing? One likely explanation is that they’re talking to donors who think they’re going to lose and they’re releasing this poll to try to convince them it’s still competitive. But I suspect they think that Duckworth’s fundraising numbers are going to beat them this quarter, that’s the best explanation for making public a poll that shows you losing at this time.

  7. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 9:48 am:

    If only there was some way to vet Syrian refugees.

    You know, make them leave their homes and everything they own and live in makeshift camps in the desert in a third country for two years while they are vetted by the U.N., Homeland Security, Defense, the CIA, the FBI, and State.

    Would that calm Sen. Kirk’s fears?

    Oops, that’s already being done.

    Believe me, I get the politics. But Sen. Kirk’s position, in reality, is an argument against letting anyone in the country, because there’s no possible 100% guarantee that someone is not a terrorist. And Kirk knows that.

    Syrian refugees are the most vetted of the millions of people who enter the country every year.

    Curiously, Kirk has no problem with refugees from Iran, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, etc. I guess those are all Mayberries.

    Kirk’s position has nothing to do with national security, it’s just ugly, cynical fearmongering at the expense of some of the most oppressed people on Earth.

    The same argument of “terrorism” was made against the Jews trying to escape Europe in the 30s. How’s that looking now?

    And for the record, the San Bernadino shooter was a U.S. citizen from Chicago, his wife was from Pakistan, and those responsible for Belgium and Paris were French and Belgian citizens of Moroccan descent.

    You can’t lay an act of violence on any refugee let into the United States since 9/11/2011.

    Wish we could say the same about our mass-shooter citizens.

  8. - chad - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 10:12 am:

    The overwhelming reliance on the Syrian talking points seems so narrow-casted, but he has been using it for months. Unless there is some kind of national security tragedy, I just don’t think that saves him. Time to diversify the issue portfolio.

  9. - Century Club - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 10:33 am:

    Two things leap out:

    ==600 likely general election voters== I’d be interested to see the demographics on respondents. It’s a crazy year and the Republican nominee may affect turnout dramatically.

    Also, I would assume the last question of the poll is a re-test of Duckworth v. Kirk after hearing the pro-Kirk arguments, but that’s not discussed in the polling memo. If your poll shows you losing in the first heat, you normally would include the final question results to show that if voters hear your arguments you’ll win. My suspicion is that Kirk’s arguments are not moving voters to his camp.

  10. - the Other Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 10:34 am:

    The question on Syrian refugees is hardly an objective question. It references the terrorist attacks and is based on the premise that refugees are not vetted. I don’t think the question can accurately measure the topic.

    For example, if the question was prefaced by ‘Millions of Syrians are being forced to leave their homes to escape ISIS” you would see the numbersupporting allowing refugees to enter the US increase.

  11. - cdog - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 10:36 am:

    Duckworth will undoubtedly benefit from the anti-GOP (anti-Obstructionist) vote, especially as McConnell continues to be controlled by the few far right-wing voices.

    Both Kirk and Duckworth need to get out their with more comprehensive immigration positions. Then repeat those positions writing new history, burying these old flawed messages.

    Let’s hear about some VIsa tracking? You can now fly into the States, get through customs and immigration and completely disappear. Do Americans have the appetite for the tracking it will take to stop this?

    When we travelled in Europe our passports were scanned by hotels, car rental companies, the entire time. (Europe obviously needs a few tweaks in their systems too.)

  12. - pundent - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 10:37 am:

    The top of the ticket will have a lot to do with how things play out. Kirk seems to be hanging his hat on his war hawk credentials. It will be interesting to see how Kirk is able to contrast his position on Syria with is likely to be a slightly more extreme position from Trump or Cruz.

  13. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 10:49 am:

    That Kirk’s own polls have him trailing and under 40% tells you all you need to know about how this is going to go for Kirk. All the pandering in the world on Syrian refuges isn’t going to let him keep his job.

  14. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 11:14 am:

    I thought Kirk might step down after the primary to allow a stronger GOP candidate to try to hang on to this critically important seat. But now that it looks like either Trump or Cruz will be at the top of the ticket, I don’t think there’s anyone the GOP could find to hold onto this one.

    At least we’ll be treated to more Kirkisms along the way. That’s always fun.

  15. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 11:41 am:

    National Security - Kirk
    Preventing Terrorist Attacks - Kirk
    Keeping Taxes Low For Working Families - Kirk
    Independent/ Thoughtful Leadership - Kirk

    These numbers create a clear picture. Kirk is looking better and better!

  16. - slow down - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 12:18 pm:

    So is “Anonymous” at 11:41 am Kirk’s press secretary? How can the numbers of Kirk’s own poll “create a clear picture” of “kirk Looking better and better” if those numbers have him under 40% as an incumbent and losing to his challenger? He’s going to lose. Surely you know that’s the likely outcome.

  17. - burbanite - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 12:35 pm:

    She needs to start running a campaign. Haven’t really seen anything coming from her.

  18. - looie111 - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 12:57 pm:

    so the people won’t vote for someone who doesn’t vote down party lines? sad ! mr. kirk helped me with a problem at the VA. they were at my house in less than 3 weeks. i had waited 8 months. ty senator !!

  19. - velournail - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 1:50 pm:

    Kirk will win; Tammy will loose. I have been saying for months that Tammy is a flawed candidate and stand by that statement.

  20. - cal city crew - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 4:44 pm:

    burbanite is correct.

    That said, Democrat advantage in Presidential year turn out is pretty hard to top here in IL.

    This is Tammy’s race to lose, and I’m doubtful she will.

  21. - Angry Chicagoan - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 4:48 pm:

    There’s videotape of Duckworth saying she’s “signed on for 200,000 refugees,” reported on right here at CapitolFax ( However, that’s ALL refugees–not just Syrian–and not necessarily all at once. The letter to the president she signed back in September called for up to 200,000 total, including 100,000 from Syria. But we’ll see whether voters’ discomfort at that number, in the context of terrorist events that for now are fresher in the public mind than the sign of dead kids’ bodies on Greek beaches, exceeds voter discomfort at Kirk’s pandering. And we’ll also see whether Duckworth has the campaign chops to point out the extent to which Kirk is a faux moderate, aggressively supporting foreign wars and, to a much greater extent than moderate Republicans in the past, providing his votes to the GOP leadership when they are needed and only deviating from the party line when the margin is not close.

  22. - Roscoe Tom - Tuesday, Apr 5, 16 @ 8:44 pm:

    Kirk the wannabee warrior with a good conduct medal and nothing else versus Tammy the real warrior equals no contest. Game Set Match with Kirk back to the local VFW

  23. - Mhsheikh - Wednesday, Apr 6, 16 @ 10:50 am:

    Kirk is in terrible shape. I saw him at Fairdale - wow. Duckworth just came off of a contested primary and the spectre of Trump or Cruz isn’t in the poll.

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