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A tale of two polls

Hagedorn vs Feehan: Will it be a landslide or a nail-biter?

Jim HagedornDan Feehan.jpg
GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn, left, and DFL challenger Dan Feehan
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The campaigns of GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn and DFL challenger Dan Feehan released polls in the last week within days of each other -- and not surprisingly, they show different outcomes.

Feehan wins by one percentage point in his. Hagedorn clobbers Feehan by 16 in his.

The polls were taken not only at different times, but in many ways, different eras given the tumult of the last three months. And though the outcomes differ, they draw one strikingly similar conclusion: Hagedorn has far greater name recognition.

Feehan's poll was released on June 19 and shows the DFL challenger edging the first-term GOP congressman 43 percent to 42 percent with 15 percent of respondents undecided. The poll, conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, involved a survey of 601 likely voters in the 1st Congressional District with a margin of error of 4.1 percent. It was conducted June 9-13.

Hagedorn's survey, conducted by Harper Polling, shows a Hagedorn landslide, 49 percent to 33 percent with 18 percent of likely voters undecided. The poll, which involved 406 respondents, was conducted March 10-12 and has a slightly higher margin of error at 4.86 percent.

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Hagedorn's campaign released its poll several days after Feehan released his.

So which poll do you believe?

Hahn Chang, Feehan's campaign manager, argues that their poll is a more accurate reflection of the state of play. It is not only more recent, but it was taken after the social upheaval caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and the killing of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

Hagedorn's poll, moreover, was taken "when the NBA was still playing," he said.

"Polling in March is so far away where the incumbent is just going to have an advantage," Chang said. "In the last few months, even though Dan hasn't been able to campaign in person (because of social restrictions prompted by the pandemic), we've been doing Facebook ads, ramping up our field program. Getting Dan's name out there."

Ted Prill, a Hagedorn campaign spokesman, points to inconsistencies in the Feehan poll. It shows, he said, that Feehan has "incredibly weak name ID," yet it shows him winning the race. That means everybody who "knows of Feehan or thinks of him is voting for him."

"If anything, the difference between these two campaigns and these two candidates is this: Since COVID has become a thing, Jim Hagedorn has been out working 24/7 to keep small businesses in the 1st District open and make sure that people who are losing their jobs or losing their companies have every resource the federal government can give them," Prill said.

The polls are in agreement in one area: Hagedorn has a "sizable advantage in terms of name identification." Eighty-eight percent of 1st District voters recognized Hagedorn in his poll, while only 63 percent recognized Feehan's name -- a 25 percent difference.

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The Feehan pollsters argue that the DFLer's relative low name recognition gives him room to grow as more voters are introduced to him.

"Hagedorn already is a polarizing figure, with equal positive and negative ratings; by contrast, Dan Feehan starts the campaign with a net positive image," it says.

When the two ran against each other in 2018, Hagedorn won by 1,311 votes -- a margin of 0.45 percent.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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