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Published June 07 2012

New poll finds Heitkamp, Berg deadlocked in Senate race

FARGO – A new independent poll released today indicates North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race is a dead heat between Republican Rep. Rick Berg and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.

Fargo-based Valley News Live and Bismarck-based KFYR-TV commissioned a poll of 625 likely North Dakota voters this week, just days before the statewide primary election.

The poll found Heitkamp with 47 percent of the support from likely general election voters, while Berg had 46 percent.

Seven percent remain undecided in the race, with about five months left until November.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, of Washington, D.C., conducted the telephone survey June 4-6. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Berg, the Republican-endorsed candidate, faces a challenge Tuesday from Republican Duane Sand, who’s making his fourth bid for Congress this year.

In a poll among only likely Republican primary voters this week, Valley News Live found 73 percent said they’d vote for Berg on Tuesday, while 16 percent said they favored Sand. Eleven percent were undecided at the time of the poll.

Meanwhile, in the other possible general election matchup, Heitkamp led Sand by several percentage points among likely voters.

The Valley News Live poll found 46 percent would vote for Heitkamp, while 38 percent would vote for Sand and 16 percent were undecided.

Valley News Live, which operates KXJB and KVLY in Fargo and Grand Forks, is owned by Texas-based Hoak Media.

Valley News Live’s poll is the second independent survey released on North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race, and it offers a different snapshot of the race than a poll last month by Forum Communications Co.

Forum Communications surveyed 500 likely primary voters in its poll con-ducted May 3 to May 8 by Essman/Research of Des Moines, Iowa.

The Forum poll found voters statewide favored Berg over Heitkamp, 51 percent to 44 percent, if the general election were held at the time of that survey.

Five percent were still undecided in that matchup.

The Forum’s poll results had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

The Forum poll also found Berg leading Sand by a wide margin in the primary, 65 percent to 21 percent, with 14 percent undecided.

Similarly, the Heitkamp-Sand matchup also indicated a Democratic advantage.

Heitkamp garnered 48 percent of likely voters support in the Forum poll, compared to 45 percent for Sand, with 8 percent undecided.

The Forum received criticism from Democratic groups because its poll asked likely primary voters about a general election contest.

Incumbent Democrat Kent Conrad is retiring from the U.S. Senate this year after representing North Dakota since 1987.

State and national Democrats released internal polling this spring, which showed Heitkamp leading Berg by several percentage points as recently as April.

However, ratings from political experts and national media continue to gauge the race as intensely competitive, with many outlets saying Berg has the slight advantage so far.