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Filner loses ground, but maintains lead in poll

Republican Councilman Carl DeMaio continues to trail in the San Diego mayoral race but has gained ground on Democratic Rep. Bob Filner, according to a new poll released Monday.

The poll by SurveyUSA was conducted for 10News and found Filner with a 7-point advantage among likely voters, 47 percent to 40 percent. Thirteen percent of voters remained undecided during interviews conducted Friday through Sunday.

While the poll suggests DeMaio is closing the 12-point gap the firm found for him three weeks ago, it also depicts a race roughly back to where it stood in late August.

SurveyUSA’s polling data has been the subject of scrutiny — both by unaffiliated political professionals and campaign representatives (usually from whichever campaign is behind in a new poll) — because of disagreements over the firm’s methodology.

Rather than using live interviewers, the company instead opts for automated voice recordings to gather its data, a cheaper alternative.

On the other hand, the company includes cellphone respondents, who answer using push-button questionnaires on mobile devices. Not all polling companies include cellphone respondents, an omission that disproportionately excludes certain demographic groups, especially young voters.

New York Times polling analyst Nate Silver has found SurveyUSA to be an accurate firm with a slight Democrat-leaning “house effect,” a poll’s systematic tendency to favor one party or another.

The state of the mayoral race would be clearer if more polling firms were conducting more surveys, but SurveyUSA is the only regular public polling available. In the absence of alternatives, discarding it entirely makes no more sense than taking it as unchallenged gospel.

Regardless of whether the the poll’s specific methodology is flawed, the trends among respondents from poll-to-poll are nonetheless educational. Even if the company’s approach systematically under-represents one candidate’s support, the poll-to-poll movement can still measure the direction of the race — or at least act as one attempt to measure the direction of the race.

Beginning with a poll conducted shortly after DeMaio and Filner advanced through the primary, SurveyUSA has found the following splits among likely voters: Filner +3, Filner +6, Filner +12, Filner +7.

Even if you choose to disregard those results based on the pollster, they nonetheless show a potential direction of the mayoral race from one poll to the next. That trendline, beginning with the first poll, is Filner +3, Filner +6 and DeMaio +5.

The undecided voter totals during those four polls held mostly steady: 11 percent, 12 percent, 12 percent, 13 percent.

In its first general election poll, SurveyUSA found Filner holding a 3-point lead, 46 percent to 43 percent.

More than two months later, in late August, Filner extended that 3-point advantage to a lead of 6 points, 47 percent to 41 percent.

In late September, Filner had opened his largest lead of the race at 12 points, 50 percent to 38 percent.

Now, Filner’s lead has regressed to 7 points, 47 percent to 40 percent.

The most recent result returns the race roughly to its late-August state. Filner has the same support now he did in that poll (47 percent), while DeMaio lost one point of support and undecided respondents gained 1 percent.

The two candidates have spent much of the post-primary campaign angling for moderate voters, especially those who voted in June for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.

In the most recent poll, Filner holds a 13-point lead among Fletcher voters and a 12-point edge among those who went for Dumanis.

Dumanis supporters heavily favored Filner just after the primary, but DeMaio ate into that support into September, before again losing ground in the most recent poll.

Fletcher supporters, meanwhile, were evenly split just after the primary and gradually went to Filner over the course of the summer.

This most recent poll is the first one in which DeMaio made progress among those voters, following his securing the endorsements of moderate figures and groups like Mayor Jerry Sanders; Qualcomm founder and philanthropist Irwin Jacobs; and “Movement to the Middle,” a pro-Fletcher business group.

Among specific demographic groups, Filner holds broad advantages.

He continues to lead among women, as he has throughout the race, among whom he currently holds a 15-point advantage. He has the edge among all racial groups in the most recent poll, and hasn’t trailed among any racial group since the June and August polls found him behind among whites.

Filner’s ahead among voters aged 18-34, 50-64 and those over 65. He trails only among voters between 35 and 49 years old.

DeMaio is ahead among male voters in the most recent poll, the first time he’s led with men since the poll just after the primary. He has a 3-point advantage.

Independents and Democrats both favor Filner, by 8 points and 40 points, respectively, while Republicans support DeMaio by 45 points.

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