ST. LOUIS -- State Auditor Claire McCaskill is slightly ahead of Sen. Jim Talent in their race for the U.S. Senate, according to a poll conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV.
The statewide poll released Sunday showed McCaskill, the Democratic challenger, favored by 49 percent, compared with 43 percent for Talent, the Republican incumbent, the Post-Dispatch reported Sunday. The margin of error was 3.5 percent.
The telephone poll of 800 likely Missouri voters was conducted last week by Maryland-based Research 2000.
Likely voters also support a proposal to allow stem-cell research in Missouri, restoring Medicaid coverage to 90,000 residents, increasing the state's minimum wage and increasing the state's tobacco tax, according to the poll.
Talent's campaign pointed to a Wall Street Journal poll last week that showed Talent leading McCaskill by 5 percentage points with a similar margin of error.
"Basically this race is in the margin of error," said Lloyd Smith, an adviser to Talent's campaign. "What we are looking at are two candidates who are extremely well known. Polls in June are interesting for political pundits. It's one of those races that will be extremely close."
McCaskill's spokeswoman, Adrianne Marsh, said the poll is in line with the campaign's expectations.
Research 2000 President Del Ali said McCaskill had slightly higher approval ratings and lower disapproval scores than Talent.
Of the Missourians polled, 46 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of Talent, while 39 percent had an unfavorable opinion of McCaskill.
The poll used a random variation of telephone numbers, quotas and other statistical methods to get the most accurate sampling of registered voters by county.
In statewide issues, 62 percent favored a proposal to allow all types of stem cell research in Missouri that are allowed by the federal government, with 35 percent opposed and 3 percent unsure. Although it is a state question, the issue has shadowed the Talent-McCaskill race, with Talent opposing the effort and McCaskill favoring it.
Sixty-two percent also favor a proposal to increase the cigarette tax by 80 cents and triple the tax on other tobacco items, according to the poll. Thirty percent are opposed and 8 percent were undecided.
A plan to increase the state's minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.50 an hour was favored by 66 percent, with 21 percent opposed and 13 percent undecided.
And 66 percent of those polled said they favor restoring Medicaid coverage to about 90,000 adults who lost coverage when Gov. Matt Blunt and the Legislature tightened eligibility requirements. Twenty-three percent were opposed and 11 percent were unsure.
When choosing from a list of "important issue facing Missouri," education, Medicaid coverage for the poor and disabled, avoiding tax increases and economy were the top four. Twenty-three percent said education was most important, according to the poll.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, www.stltoday.com