Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Center for Opinion Research

The Battle for Pennsylvania's House of Representatives

The latest Keystone Poll finds that continued control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is not a certainty for the Republicans. The Republicans currently hold a slim one vote majority in Pennsylvania's lower chamber, 102 Republicans to 101 Democrats. A generic test of voter preferences for the State House finds the Democrats with a slight advantage over the Republicans, 39% to 33%, with a large number of voters still undecided, 28%. Democratic candidates do best in Philadelphia (57%), Allegheny County (58%), and southwestern Pennsylvania (50%). Republican strength lies in central (43%) and southeastern Pennsylvania (42%). The battleground lies in northeastern and northwestern Pennsylvania, where Democratic and Republican candidates run about even.
The good news for the Republicans is that a plurality (45%) of the undecided voters identify themselves as Republicans, while just over one in three (35%) undecided voters identifies as Democratic. The election will turn on the one in five (20%) undecided voters who identify as independent.

On the other hand, Democrats can find solace from the fact that two in five (43%) of those who are undecided in the state House race plan to vote for Bill Clinton, while less than a third (31%) plan to vote for Dole. Clinton and Dole voters are likely to vote for the same party in the House races.

The trend evident in Pennsylvania mirrors the trend evident in similar generic ballot questions about the U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrats now lead Republicans by about 10 points. The latest ABC tracking poll (August 26-27) finds the Democrats leading the Republicans, 51% to 41%.

A cautionary note: It is worth noting that the national generic ballot test normally overstates Democratic support in House races--and this same tendency may well be evidenced in Pennsylvania. It is important to remember that the House districts are won by the votes cast within each district, making it possible for one party to receive in the aggregate more total votes, yet not increase the number of seats they hold. That is, counting the aggregate vote smooths over the electoral margins that appear in each district.

****SURVEY QUESTION AND FREQUENCIES FOLLOW****

If the 1996 elections for Pennsylvania's state House of Representatives were being held today, would you vote for the Republican Party's candidate or the Democratic Party's candidate for the House in your district?

33% Republican
39% Democratic
28% Undecided/Don't know


The Keystone Poll is conducted by the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Millersville University for KYW-TV3, Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the Harrisburg Patriot. The telephone survey of 677 Pennsylvanians was conducted October 7 and October 30, 1997, among a random sample of adults living in the state. The sample included 474 registered voters. The sample error for the total sample is plus or minus 3.8%, but is larger for subgroups. The survey data were weighted by age and gender to reflect the known distribution of these variables in the state.

Any use of this survey must indicate that it was conducted at Millersville University.