Survey: Flipping the 49th Congressional District Won’t Be Easy

by on February 22, 2018 · 1 comment

in San Diego

By Doug Porter

A just-released poll, conducted February 12-15 by FM3 Research for Flip the 49th! Neighbors in Action has a cautionary tale for Democrats seeking to replace retiring Congressman Darrell Issa in the 49th Congressional District.

The good news is the Republicans’ brand is so tarnished that a generic Democrat could win over a generic Republican by 7 points or more.

The bad news is that the current line-up of Democratic candidates is likely to split primary voters in such a way that two Republicans will face each other in the general election.

The FM3 poll is unique in that was conducted on behalf of an independent effort supportive of all Democratic candidates rather than a media or party organization. The Flip the 49th campaign is focused on driving voter engagement and will not be endorsing any particular candidate.

This latest polling data differs from results from SurveyUSA, working for KGTV-TV and the San Diego Union-Tribune, most likely because those surveyed in the FM3 poll were asked for their opinions after being presented with arguments for and against candidates.

The SurveyUSA poll was conducted February 10-13 and indicated 27% of those surveyed were undecided.

From the Union-Tribune story on the SurveyUSA poll:

Democrat Doug Applegate and Republican Rocky Chávez lead a pack of 12 candidates with support of 18 percent and 17 percent of voters, respectively — a difference that’s within the margin of error. The San Diego Union-Tribune/10News poll was conducted by Survey USA and reached 510 people.

Both candidates are retired Marine Corps colonels and had significant advantages over the second-most popular candidates from their respective parties.

While Chávez and Applegate share a common history, their political bases have very different interests. According to the telephone survey conducted from Feb. 10-13, 30 percent of voters who said the economy is their most important issue are backing Chávez. No other issue of the five topics other pollsters asked about brought Chávez as much support.


This newest poll shows 58% of those questioned about President Trump responding unfavorably, with 51% holding a “very” unfavorable opinion. Nearly half (47%) regarded the California Republican Party unfavorably.

Following the positive messaging, the FM3 Research poll showed Applegate at 19%, trailed at 18% by Republicans Chavez and Diane Harkey at 18%, with Democrat Mike Levin polling at 16%. Republican Kristin Gaspar came in with 9%, followed by Democrats Sara Jacobs 7%, Paul Kerr 3%, and Christina Prejean 1%. Ten percent of respondents replied with undecided/don’t know.

Following the negative messaging, the poll showed Republicans Chavez and Harkey with a tie at 18%, followed by Democrats Applegate 17% and Levin 13%. Gaspar and Jacobs both polled at 8%, with Kerr at 2% and Prejean at 1%. Seventeen percent of respondents replied with undecided/don’t know.

Checking on the relative strength of candidates in a possible general election matchup, the survey tested all four leading Democrats (Applegate, Jacobs, Kerr, and Levin) against the three leading Republican candidates. Following positive and negative information about each of the candidates, Democrats were led against the field of Republicans in general election head-to-head match-ups, but were still within the margin of error, with one-fifth of respondents undecided.

The question remaining is whether any of the candidates will bow out of the race. Given how contentious the contest has become on the Democratic side and the fact four of those candidates have substantial funding, I’m skeptical.

The two leading Democratic candidates, Applegate and Levin, have the most skin in the game.

Applegate has a track record, having come close to beating a Republican incumbent in 2016, and the support of activists from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party and a couple of labor unions. He has less cash on hand than Levin.

Levin, is based in Orange County, where Applegate didn’t do as well, has ample funding, and support from the party ‘establishment.’

Things between the two campaigns have gone negative lately.

Applegate is the target of a whispering campaign concerning allegations of less-than-honorable behavior during a 2002 divorce proceeding. Levin is being characterized as a corporate lawyer with ties to foreclosure efforts by Countrywide, one of the real bad actors in the last economic melt-down.

Neither set of allegations holds up under scrutiny, but facts are really important where smear campaigns are concerned.

Here’s the FM3 research methodology, for those who feel the need to see such things:

Survey Methodology: From February 12-15, 2018 FM3 conducted a survey of 750 randomly-selected voters in California’s 49th Congressional District who previous participation in statewide elections indicate they are likely to cast a ballot in the November 2018 statewide election. The sample includes 400 voters who are likely to cast a ballot in the June 2018 statewide primary election. The sample is representative of CD49’s demographic and geographic composition. Interviews were conducted via landline and cell/mobile telephone by live interviewers. The full sample margin of error is +/-3.6% at the 95% confidence level; the June primary sample margin of error is sample margin of error is +/-4.9% at the 95% confidence level; and margins of error for population subgroups will be higher. Due to rounding, some percentages may not sum to 100%.

Full Disclosure: I donated research on all the candidates for the purpose of formulating questions in the poll.

This originally appeared at San Diego Free Press.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim S May 24, 2018 at 8:08 am

The district map displayed is obsolete. The present 49th CD runs from southern OC, and hugs the coast all the way south to UCSD. The map in this article is from the 200o reapportionment, and the district was redrawn after the 2010 census. Notable changes: San Clemente/Dana Point/San Juan Cap were added to the 49th, and inland north SD County (Vista, San Marcos) were removed. This made the district somewhat more liberal. The OC portions added are conservative, but so are the inland North County areas that were removed. The addition of the coast strip down to UCSD shifted the 49th toward the moderate section of the spectrum.


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