FDL/SurveyUSA, 1/16-1/18, 600 likely voters, margin of sampling error ± 4.1%

If there were an election for US House of Representatives today, and the only two candidates on the ballot were Democrat Baron Hill and Republican Mike Sodrel, who would you vote for?

41% Baron Hill (D)
49% Mike Sodrel (R)
10% Undecided

2010 will be the fifth straight time Democratic Congressman Baron Hill has gone head-to-head with Republican former Congressman Mike Sodrel for the opportunity of representing Indiana’s 9th congressional district. The seat, in the southeast of the state, has changed hands twice. Hill beat Sodrel in 2002 during their first match-up. Sodrel beat Hill in 2004, but lost the seat back to Hill in 2006. Hill successfully defended the seat against Sodrel in 2008:

Year Candidate Votes Percent
2008 Baron Hill (D)
Mike Sodrel (R)
D. Schansberg (LIBERT)
181,281
120,529
11,994
57.8%
38.4%
3.8%
2006 Baron Hill (D)
Mike Sodrel (R)
D. Schansberg (LIBERT)
110,454
100,469
9,893
50%
45.5%
4.5%
2004 Baron Hill (D)
Mike Sodrel (R)
Al Cox (LIBERT)
142,197
140,772
4,541
49.5%
49%
1.6%
2002 Baron Hill (D)
Mike Sodrel (R)
Jeff Melton (GREEN)
Al Cox (LIBERT)
96,654
87,169
2,745
2,389
51.2%
46.1%
1.4%
1.3%

Given the district’s electoral history, it would be safe to assume both candidates have strong name recognition.

After Hill beat Sodrel in 2008, CQ wrote that “the one-sided election result in 2008 had brought an end to the rivalry between Democratic incumbent Hill and Republican Sodrel, one of the longest-running rivalry in the nation’s congressional politics.”  When Sodrel once again threw his hat into the ring last year, they said “it seems likely that Republican strategists would prefer a fresher face as their 2010 challenger to Hill.”

It’s likely that both Hill and the White House are aware of his troubles.  Obama recently singled him out for praise for his courageous vote on health care, and Rahm Emanuel traveled to the district to do a fundraiser for Hill last month.

But that may hurt more than it helps. Obama’s very low job approval numbers in the district (38% approve, 58% disapprove) might be hurting Hill, too. The race had recently been rated “lean Democratic” by the Cook Political Report, making Hill’s low numbers somewhat surprising. When this poll is viewed in combination with the recent election results in Massachusetts and our polling in AR-2, OH-1, and NY-1, a pattern of strong, anti-congressional Democratic sentiment begins to emerge.

Individual Mandate

Like in the previous three swing districts, we looked at the proposed individual mandate, which would fine people for not buying private insurance, and it remains extremely unpopular.

Thinking about the proposal that requires everyone to either carry private health insurance or be fined, are you strongly in favor, somewhat in favor, somewhat opposed, or strongly opposed?

12% Strongly In Favor
21% Somewhat In Favor
20% Somewhat Opposed
40% Strongly Opposed
7% Not Sure

Similar to the NY-01, when people were given the option of buying into a government-run Medicare program, opposition to the individual mandate dropped substantially, from 60% to only 40%.

Requiring people to buy insurance only from private companies is simply very unpopular. Even in Hill’s Republican leaning district, the alternative–increasing payroll taxes to give everyone government-run health insurance (single payer)–had slightly more support in a conservative-leaning district:

If the bill did not require people to buy health insurance, but instead, increased a payroll tax to provide everyone with basic government run health insurance through Medicare … would you be strongly in favor, somewhat in favor, somewhat opposed, or strongly opposed?

17% Strongly In Favor
21% Somewhat In Favor
13% Somewhat Opposed
46% Strongly Opposed
3% Not Sure

If Hill did vote for a health care bill with the individual mandate removed, it would neither improve or worsen his poll numbers, leaving him still 8 points behind Sodrel. When people are informed that the individual mandate in the bill would result in a fine for not buying private insurance, support for the health care bill drops sharply. But, providing people the option to buy in to a government-run alternative significantly softens opposition to the individual mandate in swing districts. As Democrats work on a way to possibly “fix” the bill using reconciliation, this is a data point they should keep in mind.

Full crosstabs available here.