AP claims "[r]ecent polls have shown" Beauprez "gaining some ground"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

The Associated Press reported that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez was "gaining some ground" against Democratic opponent Bill Ritter but offered no evidence to support that claim. In fact, the most recent publicly available polls show Ritter increasing his lead over Beauprez within the margin of error.

One day after the Rocky Mountain News noted in regard to a poll it sponsored that "Republican Bob Beauprez has failed to gain any ground on Democrat Bill Ritter in the Colorado governor's race," the Associated Press reported that "[r]ecent polls have shown" Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez "gaining some ground against Democrat Bill Ritter." The AP cited no polls to support this claim. In fact, the two most recent publicly available polls have shown that Ritter has increased his lead within the margin of error since the previous installments of those polls. As Colorado Media Matters has noted, both polls showed Ritter leading by 22 percentage points.

The November 4 AP article, by AP writer Steven K. Paulson, reported on President Bush's visit to Greeley in support of Beauprez and U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Fort Morgan).

The AP article's assertion that "recent polls have shown" Beauprez "gaining some ground" on Ritter echoes Beauprez's recent claim that he is "closing the gap," as an October 31 Rocky Mountain News article quoted him as saying. The News article noted that Beauprez was "urging supporters to ignore polls showing him trailing Bill Ritter by double digits" and said Beauprez "cit[ed] in part an online Wall Street Journal-Zogby poll showing him within 2 percentage points of Ritter." However, as the News reported, "[s]ome pollsters ... doubt the accuracy of online polling, fearing it can be skewed by regular survey participants and a void of seniors, low-income voters and others who don't use the Internet." A subsequent online Zogby poll, conducted October 23-27, showed Beauprez leading by 0.2 percentage points and had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

But two more recent polls have shown that Ritter has increased his lead within the polls' margins of error. The most recent 9News/SurveyUSA poll, conducted October 30-November 1, showed Ritter with a 22-percentage-point lead and had a 3.8-percentage-point margin of error. A previous 9News/SurveyUSA poll, conducted October 20-22, showed Ritter with an 18-percentage-point lead and had a 4.1-percentage-point margin of error.

Similarly, an October 28-30 Rocky Mountain News/CBS4/Public Opinion Strategies poll showed Ritter leading by 22 percentage points and had a margin of error of 4.38 percentage points. A previous Rocky Mountain News/CBS4/Public Opinion Strategies poll, conducted September 10-12, showed Ritter with a 17-percentage-point lead and had a margin of error of 4.38 percentage points.

According to former American Statistical Association president Fritz Scheuren, "a rule of thumb is to multiply the currently reported margin of error by 1.7 to obtain a more accurate estimate of the margin of error for the lead of one candidate over another. Thus, a reported 3 percent margin of error becomes about 5 percent and a reported 4 percent margin of error becomes about 7 percent when the size of the lead is being considered."

As Colorado Media Matters noted, two polls conducted earlier in October -- by The Denver Post/Mason-Dixon and Rasmussen Reports -- did show that Ritter's lead had fallen within the margin of error since the previous installments of those polls. However, a Ciruli Associates poll released October 27 showed that Ritter had increased his lead by 9 percentage points since the previous Ciruli poll -- slightly outside the poll's 4.4-percentage-point margin of error.

From Paulson's November 4 AP article, "Republicans hope Bush visit will help struggling candidates":

The hastily scheduled Bush visit was part of a barnstorming effort by the White House to battleground states like Colorado, where recent polls have showed Republicans are struggling.

[...]

Tom Petersen, a 43-year-old computer consultant from Severance, said he's worried about Musgrave and Beauprez, but thinks they will still win on Tuesday. He said Bush's visit is a big boost at a time Republicans need it.

Recent polls have shown both races getting closer, with Democrat Angie Paccione closing in on Musgrave in the race for the 4th Congressional District and Beauprez gaining some ground against Democrat Bill Ritter in the race to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Bill Owens.

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