Exit poll: Boyle less polarized than other places

Published 6:33 pm Friday, November 8, 2019

An exit poll of 1,832 Boyle County voters shows the birthplace of the Bluegrass state may have done a better job than most at resisting political polarization.

That’s according to Centre professor Dr. Benjamin Knoll’s assessment of the exit poll, which he administered along with fellow Centre professors Dr. Ryan Lloyd and Dr. Jaclyn Johnson.

About 75 Centre students conducted the exit poll surveys with randomly chosen voters; they got 55.1% of the 3,325 voters they asked to take the poll, or about one out of every six voters in the county.

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Knoll pointed to the amount of political support different politicians have as evidence that Boyle County voters are less politically polarized — they’re willing to support politicians from both sides of the aisle.

“Local politics have become increasingly nationalized over the last few decades. While this trend has certainly affected Boyle County, it has resisted this trend to a great degree than much of the rest of the country,” Knoll said. “Local politics in Boyle is still less polarized than national politics.”

Voters were asked whether local politicians and political bodies “have performed well enough to deserve re-election, or do you think it’s time to give a new person a chance?”

Boyle County’s Republican U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie received 53.7% overall support for re-election, including 77.9% of Republicans, 23.6% of Democrats and 57.8% of independents.

“It’s notable that nearly a quarter of Boyle County Democrats think that Congressman Guthrie has performed well enough to deserve re-election,” Knoll said. “That kind of cross-partisan support for members of Congress is increasingly rare these days.”

Boyle County Judge-Executive Howard Hunt, a Republican, received 60.5% overall support for re-election, including 79.3% support from Republicans, 38.8% from Democrats and 48.9% from independents. The Boyle County Fiscal Court as a whole had 57.8% support, with 67.1% among Republicans, 47.3% among Democrats and 54.4% among independents.

Knoll said it’s noteworthy that almost two in five Democrats support re-electing their Republican judge-executive, and almost half support the fiscal court (which has three Republicans and three Democrats).

“At the same time, neither Judge Hunt nor the fiscal court has a lock on the Boyle Republican vote, either, as about 20% and 33% of Boyle Republicans think that it’s time to get someone new, respectively,” Knoll said.

Support is even more balanced across parties for Danville elected officials.

Danville Mayor Mike Perros received 46.2% support for re-election, including 53.4% of Republicans, 36.3% of Democrats and 54.5% of Independents. The Danville City Commission as a whole had 55.6% support for re-election, including 54.4% from Republicans, 57.3% from Democrats and 53.8% from independents.


Other interesting results


Part of the exit poll asked respondents about the importance of local issues. Prescription drug abuse was ranked most important, with 21.5% of respondents choosing it as the number-one problem.

Knoll said that hasn’t changed — prescription drug abuse was also the top concern at 28% when Centre students conducted an exit poll in 2016.

What has changed is Boyle County voters are apparently significantly less concerned about jobs. In 2016, they ranked “job creation” as the second-most important local issue, at 21% right behind drug abuse. This year, job creation fell to No. 4 at 10.8%, now also behind crime (17.8%) and education (15.7%), according to the poll results.

The full ranking of local issues is:

  • Prescription drug abuse: 21.5%
  • Crime: 17.8%
  • Education: 15.7%
  • Job creation: 10.8%
  • Roads and sidewalks: 10.3%
  • Economic development: 7.1%
  • High taxes: 7%
  • Health care availability: 4.7%
  • Racial/ethnic tension: 3.3%
  • Expansion of parks/trails: 1.1%
  • Expansion of cultural opportunities: 0.8%

Voters in the Lancaster Road precinct line up to vote at First Christian Church early Tuesday morning. (Photo by Robin Hart)

The exit poll also asked specifically about the recent re-striping of Danville’s Main Street. The plan to reduce lanes and introduce dedicated turning lanes created a substantial amount of controversy several years ago before getting shelved, and then got people talking again earlier this year when it came back off the shelf. The lane changes became a reality in August.

A whopping 80.8% of those asked approve of the lane changes downtown, with 19.2% disapproving.

The poll asked voters about their support for different state and national politicians, and found 52.3% support for re-electing President Donald Trump; 49.9% for re-electing Sen. Rand Paul; 41.2% for re-electing Sen. Mitch McConnell; and as previously mentioned, 53.7% support for Rep. Guthrie.

“While McConnell is still very likely to win re-election next year, given the partisan makeup of Kentucky voters, he’s less popular among Republican voters even than Trump, Paul or Guthrie,” Knoll said.

The poll also asked what respondents thought about Trump’s trade policies with China and how they have affected the economy.

A total of 37.8% said there had been a positive impact, compared to 46.5% who said there had been a negative impact. 15.7% said there had been no impact.

“Another interesting exception is that nearly half of Boyle County voters think that President Trump’s trade policies have had a negative effect on Kentucky’s economy, including one of every six Republican voters,” Knoll said.


More from the poll


  • 54.6% of men polled said they voted for Matt Bevin for governor; 56% of women said they voted for Andy Beshear.
  • 51.9% of white voters said they voted for Bevin; 84.2% of black voters said they voted for Beshear.
  • Majorities of voters ages 40-64 (61.6%) and 65+ (53.8%) said they voted for Bevin; 60% of voters under 40 said they voted for Beshear.
  • Bevin got votes from 81.8% of Republicans; Beshear got votes from 93.6% of Democrats.
  • 37.2% believe Danville-Boyle County’s economy has gotten better in the last year, while 7.3% believe it has gotten worse and 55.5% believe it has stayed the same.
  • 42.6% believe Kentucky’s economy has gotten better, while 17.9% believe it has gotten worse and 39.5% believe it has stayed the same.
  • 46.4% approved of the idea of ranked choice voting, which allows voters to vote for candidates in order of preference instead of choosing a single option; 53.6% disapproved.
  • 55.3% had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of President Donald Trump; 47.1% felt the same about Sen. Mitch McConnell; 26.2% for Sen. Elizabeth Warren; 45.1% for Joe Biden; and 40.7% for Bernie Sanders.
  • 49.7% approved of “the construction of more walls along the U.S.-Mexico border,” including 87.7% of Republicans, 8.9% of Democrats and 44.9% of independents.
  • 47.7% approved of “how Robert Mueller handled the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and Donald Trump’s possible connection,” including 35.9% of Republicans, 60.2% of Democrats and 43.5% of independents.


How the poll was conducted


According to a summary of the polling process, the approximately 75 Centre College students who conducted the exit poll were on-site from 6 a.m. through 6 p.m. on Election Day.

“Respondents were randomly selected by interviewers to participate in the survey. In all, 1,832 Boyle County voters participated … meaning that this survey contains the views of approximately one out of every six voters in Boyle County,” according to the summary. “… It should be noted that this is an exit poll of voters only and therefore these figures should not be interpreted as fully representative of all adults in Boyle County, but rather of 2019 Election Day voters in Boyle County, Kentucky. The margin of error for the full sample is ±2% and approximately ±3.5% for subsamples.”

The students and professors were assisted by Michel Margolis, Dan Hopkins and David Azizi at the University of Pennsylvania in preparing and processing the survey results.