The Illinois Senate race continues to be very close, but because Mark Kirk is doing a better job of consolidating his base than Alexi Giannoulias is he's taken a small lead after trailing by 2 points on PPP's previous two polls of the race. Kirk is ahead 40-36 with Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones at 8% and Libertarian Mike Labno geting 3%.
Our August poll found Kirk winning 74% of Republicans and Giannoulias getting 72% of Democrats. Now Kirk has expanded his support from his own party to 79% while Giannoulias' support from his has declined to 68%. Kirk is getting 9% of the Democratic vote while only 2% of Republicans are planning to vote for Giannoulias. Kirk's double digit lead with independents persists at 41-27.
This continues to be a race between two deeply unpopular candidates. Giannoulias' favorability is 33/48 and Kirk's isn't much better at 33/47. 16% of voters have a negative opinion of both candidates and Kirk leads Giannoulias 35-16 with them, accounting for most of his overall lead. For many swing voters this is going to come down to choosing who they see as the lesser of two evils and right now Kirk is winning that vote.
A big factor to watch moving forward is whether Jones, the Green Party candidate, can maintain his support in the final 5 weeks as it becomes more clear that votes for him could push this race into the Republican column. On one hand Jones' voters strongly dislike Giannoulias- 56% see him unfavorably to only 21% with a positive opinion. On the other hand they are a strongly Democratic leaning lot with 65% of them having voted for Barack Obama to only 28% who were McCain voters. If Jones fades Giannoulias will gain but if his support remains steady that's going to be a big plus for Kirk.
Another factor that could result in the race tightening further as voters more firmly make up their minds is that 46% of the undecideds are Democrats compared to 27% who are Republicans and 27% who are independents. If those folks end up 'coming home,' that will move Giannoulias even closer.
This continues to be one of the closest- and depressing- Senate races in the country. Only 39% of voters say they're excited about who they're voting for with 45% saying they wish someone else was running. This is one race where you may end up seeing an enthusiasm gap on both sides.
Full results here