Republican poll puts Hinckley within 8 points of Whitehouse

Is Rhode Island’s quiet U.S. Senate race getting tighter? One Republican pollster thinks so.

A survey conducted Oct. 11 by GOP polling firm McLaughlin & Associates [pdf] shows Democratic incumbent Sheldon Whitehouse at 49% and Republican Barry Hinckley at 41%, with 10% of voters undecided. The telephone interview poll of 300 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 points.

The 8-point gap between Whitehouse and Hinckley in the McLaughlin poll is much closer than in recent polls from WPRI 12, which had Hinckley down 26 points, and Brown University, which showed the Republican trailing by 29 points. Hinckley was 16 points behind Whitehouse in a July 18 McLaughlin poll.

The McLaughlin poll was released by People’s Majority, a super PAC created after the Citizens United decision by Ken McKay, the former Rhode Island Republican Party chairman and Republican National Committee chief of staff. The reemergence of People’s Majority on Oct. 9 was first noted by OpenSecrets.org.

Whitehouse and Hinckley will debate live for the first time Tuesday at 7 p.m. on WPRI 12. McLaughlin & Associates did not release the full poll results but rather just a one-page summary. The firm was Republican Catherine Taylor’s pollster during her strong bid for secretary of state in 2010.

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