A political expert thinks a recent poll showing Democratic strength in Missouri could be misleading.

Dr Terry Smith - Photo courtesy of Columbia College

Dr Terry Smith – Photo courtesy of Columbia College

The latest Monmouth University survey shows a virtual tie in the presidential contest between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Democrat Chris Koster has a gaping 11 point edge over GOP member Eric Greitens in the governor race.

Columbia College Political Scientist Terry Smith says the numbers would normally be a positive sign for Democrats, but he thinks voters could be lying to pollsters.  “(This) would under count real outsiders like Trump and like Greitens” said Smith.  “They might say they don’t know , or they might say they are voting for Clinton or Koster, when in fact they’re voting for Trump or Greitens.”

Smith notes there’s a previous case in which voters lied to pollsters.  In the 1982 California governor race, African American Democrat Tom Bradley consistently led in the polls, but ended up losing the race.  The phenomenon is known as the “Bradley effect”.

Despite the overall numbers showing strength for Democrats, Smith see’s each race tracked in the Monmouth poll as unique.

He thinks the governor race is far from over, despite Koster’s commanding 51 percent to 40 percent lead.  He points to three factors which could work in Greitens favor.  “Number one, it’s late August” said Smith.  “Number two, Greitens has a tremendous amount of money he can tap.  And number three, he was not the leading candidate for the gubernatorial primary for the Republicans.”

In the senate race, incumbent Republican Roy Blunt holds a surprisingly narrow five point lead (48 percent to 43 percent) over sitting Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander.  Smith thinks the wild-card in this race is money.

He says Blunt could a see funding boost from national Republicans repelled by Trump.  “There are millions, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars that would normally go a Republican presidential candidate, that are not going to go to Trump, but they’re going to go somewhere.”

National Democrats could also steer money toward the Missouri race if it continues to be close.  Smith thinks both sides will spend heavily in the Missouri senate race.

In the presidential contest, Trump holds a one point lead over Clinton (44 percent to 43 percent), well within the poll’s margin of error of 4.9 percent.  Clinton actually holds a slightly larger lead now with non-white voters than Barak Obama did in 2012 – 65 points over Trump.

But what’s especially striking is Trump’s standing among white voters.  Although he has commanding leads with both groups, Trump is doing 10 points better with white women than with white men, who’ve been far and away his strongest supporters.

Smith, the political scientist, is at a loss to explain this phenomenon.  “I have no idea, except to say that Missouri is unique in many ways (laugh).  Smarter people than me are going to have to explain that.”