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Port: Rep. Armstrong releases polling showing a 22-point lead over Mund in North Dakota U.S. House race

"We have polled three times since Cara has gotten in the race. We have used three different polling companies to ensure we are getting the most diverse/accurate information," Armstrong told me of his surveys. "We don't do it for a press release. We do it so that we know how to move forward with our campaign. The only way to do that well is if we can trust the data."

Mund Armstrong.jpg
Incumbent U.S. Rep Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Independent challenger Cara Mund are facing off for North Dakota's lone U.S. House seat.
Forum News Service file photos
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MINOT, N.D. — Late last week the Democratic-NPL released polling showing independent candidate Cara Mund competitive in North Dakota's U.S. House race with incumbent Republican Kelly Armstrong.

That polling, conducted Sept. 19-21 by DFM Research, showed Mund at 40%, and Armstrong at 44%.

But now Armstrong has released his own polling, conducted almost contemporaneously with the Democratic-NPL poll, and it shows a very different picture of the race. In that survey, which was in the field Sept. 16 through 19 and conducted by Axis Research, Armstrong is at 52%, while Mund is at 30%, with 18% undecided.

Armstrong also released two previous polls his campaign commissioned, from two other polling firms, showing him with large leads over Mund dating back to late August.

"We have polled three times since Cara has gotten in the race. We have used three different polling companies to ensure we are getting the most diverse/accurate information," Armstrong told me of his surveys. "We don't do it for a press release. We do it so that we know how to move forward with our campaign. The only way to do that well is if we can trust the data."

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A survey by Odney, a marketing and consulting firm based in North Dakota, conducted Aug. 18 to 28, showed Armstrong at 49.38%, Mund at 19.6%, and Democratic-NPL candidate Mark Haugen, who had not yet been forced out of the race in favor of Mund , at 13.15% with 15.63% undecided.

A survey by 1892 Polling, conducted Sept. 10 to 12, found Armstrong at 48, Mund at 31, with 13% undecided.

That's a whole lot of numbers to absorb, I know, so let's take a look at it in graphical form before taking a deeper dive into where these numbers are coming from.

In the first two polls, taken before and after Haugen's exit from the race, we see Mund essentially gobbling up Haugen's supporters while Armstrong stays largely consistent, but it's the last two polls that are the most interesting.

The Democratic-NPL poll, clearly released to support Mund, who has become their de facto candidate, paints a starkly different picture from the Axis Research poll commissioned by Armstrong.

Which of these is accurate? I suspect most opinions are going to hinge on which candidate those giving the opinions want to win. Keep in mind, too, that the candidates have motivations for releasing this data. Mund has raised just a pittance for her campaign so far, and desperately needs her campaign to be perceived as competitive.

Armstrong, meanwhile, needs Mund's candidacy to be seen as fruitless as past campaigns backed by the Democratic-NPL.

Be that as it may, let's dive into each of these surveys, and the firms that conducted them, in the order in which the surveys took place to see if we can't arrive at a better understanding of where this race is.

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Odney: Armstrong 49%, Mund 19%, Haugen 13%

The Odney survey, commissioned by the Armstrong campaign, included 403 likely general election voters. It was conducted Aug. 18 to 28 by telephone of which over 73% were cellphones. The margin of error is +/- 4.9%.

The political polling experts at FiveThirtyEight.com give Odney a B/C grade for their polling, though that's based on just one of the firm's polls, a survey in the 2014 House race which was off by just 2.1 percentage points from the actual results.

"The August polling shows Congressman Armstrong dominating the election for U.S. House of Representatives," Odney states in its polling memo for this survey. "At the time of the survey, Kelly Armstrong was leading Democratic challenger Mark Haugen by 36% and independent challenger Cara Mund by 30%. Furthermore, Congressman Armstrong had significant leads among both men and women, within all age groups and in all regions across the state."

1892 Polling: Armstrong 48%, Mund 31%

The 1892 survey was commissioned by the Armstrong campaign and took place from Sept. 10 to 12. It included 518 likely voters using a combination of landlines and cellphones, though the memo doesn't make clear what the mix was. The margin of error for the poll was +/- 4.3%.

FiveThirtyEight.com gives 1892 Polling a B/C grade as well , though again that's based on just one survey conducted in Florida's 2018 gubernatorial race in which the firm's results were off from the final result by just 0.6 percentage points.

"Kelly Armstrong is the clear frontrunner in North Dakota’s election for Congress. Armstrong dominates the ballot 48-31%," the firm's polling memo states. "The issues environment also favors Congressman Armstrong," the memo also states. "Respondents cited that the top two issues were 'Reducing inflation and the cost of living' and 'cutting government spending and balancing the budget.' On those issues, Armstrong’s lead increases over Mund."

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Axis Research: Armstrong 52%, Mund 30%

The Axis Research polling was also commissioned by the Armstrong campaign, and took place from Sept. 16 to 19. It included 402 likely general election voters with 76% reached by cellphone. The margin of error is +/- 4.99%.

Axis had no polls graded by FiveThirtyEight.com.

"Not only is Armstrong currently taking over 50% of the vote, intensity is on Armstrong’s side; 37% of North Dakota voters are definitely voting for Armstrong, more than Mund’s total vote share (those either definitely or just probably voting for her)," the polling memo from Axis Research states. "Armstrong leads across all regions of the state, as well as amongst all demographic groups studied. This includes a 9-point lead with women, a 15-point lead with seniors, and a 22-point lead with 'supervoters' (those who have voted in all four of the past four general and midterm elections)."

DFM Research: Armstrong 44%, Mund 40%

The DFM Research polling "was conducted Sept. 19-21 by live phone calls with 400 likely North Dakota voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.9%," per my colleague Mike McFeely , and it was commissioned by the North Dakota Democratic-NPL.

The polling data was given to McFeely, and not to me, so I have not been able to read the data in full. I haven't seen a polling memo made public anywhere so far.

DFM also has a B/C grade from FiveThirthyEight.com based on 10 previous polls. The poll rating finds DFM has a slight bias toward Democratic candidates.

"In short, the U.S. House race is competitive," DFM's polling memo states, per McFeely's report , "with Cara Mund only 4 percentage points down (44-40%); this despite the same respondents showing a very unfavorable opinion of President Joe Biden and a survey sample that is R+24 (42% R and 18 D)."

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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