Volume 2, Number 14
November 2002

Tracking Louisiana Opinions
A Publication of the Florida Parishes Social Science Research Center

The SLU Poll: The 2002 Statewide U. S. Senate Runoff Election

“If the runoff election for the United States Senate were held today
would you vote for Mary Landrieu or Suzanne Terrell?

Landrieu 51.4%
Terrell 36.4%
Undecided/Refused 12.2%

Results include a panel of 390 voters interviewed before and after the primary
Landrieu’s lead diminishes with increasingly lower black turnout projections
Gender gap favors Landrieu
Terrell needs to keep Cooksey and Perkins voters
Landrieu’s lead is lower among chronic voters

Sample Size: 554
Sampling Frame: Registered Voters
Sampling Error: + 4.2%
Conducted November 6-9, 2002

The SLU Poll: The 2002 Statewide U. S. Senate Runoff Election
Report by Dr. Kurt Corbello, Director of the SLU Poll

     In what is best described as a baseline study of voter attitudes four weeks before the next statewide election, the latest SLU Poll of registered voters statewide has Mary Landrieu with 51.4% of the vote against Suzanne Terrell’s 36.4% in the race for the United States Senate (Table 1).  About 12.2% of voters are undecided or refuse to state a preference.  The poll has a sampling error of + 4.2% and was conducted among 554 registered voters from November 6-9, 2002.  The sample includes a panel of 390 voters initially interviewed for our primary election poll (Oct. 18-24, 2002).
     As with any poll released weeks before an election, the SLU Poll is not an attempt to predict an outcome.  It is simply a “snapshot” in time.  As such, we can only say that this poll provides a look at the “lay of the land” at the beginning of a four-week campaign that will be fluid.
     One thing that we see in the data (Table 1) is that Landrieu is holding onto voters from the primary.  Among those who chose her in our primary election poll, almost 86% select Landrieu in the runoff.  Terrell also holds onto most of the voters from the three major Republican candidates in the primary, receiving about 74% of the preferences from voters who chose her, John Cooksey, and Tony Perkins.  Still, Terrell loses almost 18% of these voters to Landrieu.

Table 1: The U. S. Senate Runoff and the Two-Party Vote from the Primary: Panel Study Voters*
“If the runoff election for the United States Senate were held today would you vote for Mary Landrieu or Suzanne Terrell?”
Panel Study Voters*
Cooksey, Perkins
Terrell Voters
Landrieu 51.4 85.7 17.5 28.1
Terrell 36.4 10.7 73.7 37.1
Undec/Ref 12.2 3.6 8.8 34.8
N= 554 180 121 89
* Panel study voters are a group of 390 voters interviewed before and after the primary election.

     There has been a lot of talk about the issues driving voters in this election season.  Voters in our poll provide a variety of concerns when asked to describe the most important problem facing the United States today (Table 2).  While almost 21% listed the economy as the most important problem, security issues are in the forefront.  The second, third, and fourth most important problems are terrorism (15.4%), war (11.4%), and homeland security (4.7%).
Table 2: The Most Important Problem 
“What do you think is the most important problem facing the United States today?”
The Economy
Homeland Security 
Need to Support the Pres. 
Other Problems (48) 
Don’t Know/Ref 
N = 

     To say that this four week election campaign will be fluid is to admit that both candidates must work well to get out the vote on election day.  Differential turnout rates by some groups of voters can spell doom for one candidate and success for another.  Neither Landrieu nor Terrell can rest safely.  For example, Terrell must pick up more of the vote from respondents who supported Cooksey and Perkins in the primary.  Landrieu must turnout “her” vote as well.  Some analyses after the primary focused on the negative impact of low voter turnout on Landrieu.  In fact, while Landrieu leads Terrell 54% to about 30% among non-chronic voters, she only leads by about 49% to Terrell’s 42% among chronic voters, that is, voters who voted in at least four of the last five statewide elections (Table 3).
Table 3: The U. S. Senate Runoff and Chronic* vs. Non-chronic Voters
Chronic Voters* Non-Chronic Voters
Landrieu 51.4% 48.9% 54.0%
Terrell 36.4 42.0 30.4
Undec/Ref 12.2 9.1 15.6
N= 554 286 268
* For purposes of this report, chronic voters are those whose vote record indicates that they turned out to vote at least four times in the last five statewide elections.  Non-chronic voters turned out fewer than four times.

     Critical to Landrieu is voter turnout among black voters.  Preliminary newspaper analyses of primary election results pointed to the large differential turnout rate between blacks and whites, with black voters in selected precincts around the state turning out at rates ten, twenty, and thirty percent lower than whites.  Table 4 provides a picture of possible outcomes in our sample if black voter turnout is ten percent, twenty percent, or thirty percent lower than white voter turnout.  In each case, the lower is black voter turnout versus white voter turnout, the smaller becomes Landrieu’s lead.  If black voters turnout at a rate ten percent lower than white turnout (that is, if blacks make up only 26% of the sample instead of the actual 29%), Landrieu leads Terrell by about 50% to 38%.  At 20% lower black turnout, Landrieu leads Terrell by about 48% to 39%.  Finally, if black voter turnout is 30% lower than white voter turnout, then Landrieu leads Terrell by only 47% to 41%.
Table 4: The U. S. Senate Runoff and Black Voter Turnout Senarios 
“If the runoff election for the United States Senate were held today would you vote for Mary Landrieu or Suzanne Terrell?”
                                       Equal B/W
                                      (Bl. 29% of
10% Lower
Black Turnout
(26% of
20% Lower
Black Turnout
(23% of
30% Lower
Black Turnout
(20% of
Landrieu 51.4% 49.9% 48.4% 46.9%
Terrell 36.4 37.8 39.1 40.5
Undec/Ref 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.6
N= 554 554 554 554

     When we look beyond race to other demographic categories, several things are of interest.  First, there appears to be a gender gap up to this point in the runoff election campaign, with Landrieu leading Terrell among women by 55% to 30% (Table 5).  Both hold onto their party supporters, though independent voters are split (Table 5).  The Landrieu margin of victory appears smaller at progressively higher levels of education and annual family income (Table 6).  Landrieu leads among all age groups, but particularly among those between 45 and 59 years of age (Table 7).  Finally, Landrieu does best in her home region of Southeast Louisiana, leading Terrell by 58% to 30% (Table 7).
Table 5: The Senate Runoff by Race, Gender, and Party Identification.
Black White Male Female Demo Repub Indep
Landrieu 51.4% 87.6% 36.4% 46.9% 54.9% 76.0% 13.6% 45.0%
Terrell 36.4 2.8 50.1 43.8 30.4 14.8 80.4 36.9
Undec/Ref 12.2 9.6 13.2 9.2 14.7 9.2 6.1 18.1
N= 554 161 393 249 305 249 136 141

Table 6: The Senate Runoff by Education and Annual Family Income
< HS Dip
Some College College Degree <$20th $20-40th $40-60th $60th+
Landrieu 55.4% 49.4% 49.0% 63.9% 50.9% 53.8% 47.0%
Terrell 32.0 38.4 42.2 23.6 42.4 37.3 45.2
Undec/Ref 12.6 12.2 8.8 12.4 6.7 8.9 8.7
N= 222 166 154 110 154 102 115

Table 7: The Senate Runoff by Age and Region.
< 44 yrs
45-59 yrs. 60+yrs Cajun Triangle Southeast Louisiana North/Central Louisiana
Landrieu 47.3% 57.5% 49.7% 45.3% 57.8% 46.2%
Terrell 38.7 34.6 36.3 41.2 29.8 43.3
Undec/Ref 14.0 7.8 14.0 13.4 12.4 10.5
N= 150 164 239 162 258 134

About the SLU Poll
    The Director of the SLU Poll is Dr. Kurt Corbello, Department of History and Political Science.  Through the SLU Poll, Southeastern Louisiana University provides objective and independent analyses of public opinion on important issues and elections.  Each poll is conducted by students who are trained for the purpose and who are under professional supervision.  Facilities for the SLU Poll are provided by the Florida Parishes Social Science Research Center (FPSSRC).

For further information about The SLU Poll contact:
Dr. Kurt Corbello
Department of History and Political Science
Southeastern Louisiana University
Hammond, LA 70402
Phone: (504)-549-2112 or 2109
E-Mail: mcorbello@selu.edu

Regarding the services offered by the FPSSRC, contact the Director:
Dr. Bonnie Lewis
Dept. of Sociology, Social Work and Criminal Justice
Southeastern Louisiana University
Hammond, LA. 70402
Phone: (504)-549-5120
E-Mail: blewis@selu.edu