Beth Wood 36
Les/Leslie Merritt 31
Beth Wood 34
Les Merritt 30
Beth Wood 38
Leslie Merritt 32
When we did our first post-primary tracking poll and found Beth Wood leading Les Merritt 41-32, I was a little befuddled. Why would Wood, running against an incumbent, be out pacing most of the Democratic ticket?
Then I remembered that many folks had speculated in 2004 that Merritt having his name on the ballot as 'Leslie' Merritt rather than 'Les' might have helped him because voters could have gotten the impression that he was a woman. Female gender is a bonus in low information races, and when we polled it in May we referred to him as Les, negating the possible advantage he gets by having his name as Leslie on the ballot.
To test the theory, I ran this month's poll in a way such that half the respondents were asked to pick between Les Merritt and Beth Wood, and half the voters were asked to pick between Leslie Merritt and Beth Wood.
The theory is shot. Merritt actually polled better as Les- trailing Wood by four points- than he did as Leslie- trailing by six points.
I still don't know why Merritt is losing while the other Republican incumbents trail in the polls, but based on this little experiment I don't think it has anything to do with the way his name was presented.
Full results here.