Oregon polls give mixed message

SALEM, Ore. – With two weeks remaining before Election Day, the presidential race in Oregon remains as volatile as ever.

Underscoring that are two polls conducted in the state last week, one of which showed President Bush narrowly leading Sen. John Kerry and another that gave Kerry a similar edge.

A survey of 400 voters conducted for KGW-TV by Portland pollster Mike Riley had Bush over Kerry, 48 percent to 43 percent. The KGW poll, which was released Sunday, had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points – statistically placing the candidates even.

But a poll of 600 Oregon voters taken last week by the American Research Group of Manchester, N.H., showed Kerry leading Bush, 49 percent to 44 percent. That survey, which was released last Friday, had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

The opposing groups working for the two presidential contenders said they aren’t placing too much stock in the polls at this point and are continuing aggressive efforts to turn out their voters.

“We are seeing more and more polling that is erratic,” said Scott Ballo, spokesman for the pro-Kerry group America Coming Together, which worked to register more than 46,000 new Oregon voters.

Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts, whose own poll two weeks ago showed Kerry leading Bush, 47 percent to 45 percent, said Monday he believes Kerry has the momentum in Oregon. Hibbitts’ poll of 624 voters had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

In an interview, Hibbitts said the race was virtually tied in Oregon prior to the first of three debates between Bush and Kerry, but that Kerry has been gaining in the polls steadily since his nationally televised encounters with the Republican incumbent.

“My belief is that Kerry is about 5 points head in Oregon,” Hibbitts said. “I believe he’s fairly likely to carry Oregon on Nov. 2.”