Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk
has paid a price with voters for the controversy over his military record and that's probably why Democrat Alexi Giannoulias
has edged into a statistical tie with him in a race for Senate in which neither candidate seems particularly popular at this point, according to a Public Policy Polling survey
conducted June 12-13.
Giannoulias leads Kirk 31 percent to 30 percent with 14 percent for documentary maker LeAlan Jones
who is running as the Green Party candidate. A sign of the lack of enthusiasm for either major party candidate is that 24 percent are undecided. The margin of error is 4.2 points. In early April
, PPP had Kirk ahead 37 percent to 33 percent with 30 percent undecided.
Forty-five percent of voters do not believe Kirk is being truthful about his military record. Kirk has apologized
for misstatements he has made about his career in the Naval Reserve suggesting he had served in the Gulf War and at one time commanded the Pentagon war room. Kirk said the misstatements resulted in part from trying to translate "Pentagonese" into language voters would understand, or lapses in scrutinizing career details put out by his campaign. Ten percent believe Kirk has been truthful in his explanations, and 45 percent were undecided.
Thirty percent of fellow Republicans don't believe Kirk has been truthful while 17 percent do, with 52 percent not sure.
The Associated Press reported Monday night that the Pentagon had warned
Kirk twice about mixing his military career with political matters while he was on active duty, but Kirk's campaign denied he had done anything improper.
In early April, Kirk had been seen favorably by 24 percent of voters and unfavorably by 23 percent, with 53 percent not knowing enough about him to be sure of their opinion. The latest poll finds 31 percent seeing him unfavorably with 23 percent regarding him favorably, with 46 percent not sure.
Giannoulias, who had his problems due to a string of damaging stories about his family's failed bank
, is seen unfavorably by 31 percent and favorably by 23 percent, with 45 percent not sure. That's roughly where he stood in early April.
Neither Giannoulias nor Kirk got very impressive levels of support from members of their own parties. Giannoulias is supported by 56 percent of Democrats and Kirk by 63 percent of Republicans. The Green Party's Jones attracts 15 percent of the Democratic vote, which could hurt Giannoulias if that continued, and all three candidates are bunched up in the low-to-mid 20s range in the race for the votes of independents (29 percent of the sample).
"Voters in Illinois are tuning into a soap opera not an election," said PPP's Dean Debnam. "The Senate election is about scandals not issues. The candidate who can turn the focus of the race from their personal issues to the real issues will have the best chance of winning over undecideds."