2/26/2014 Peter Durantine

F&M Poll: Wolf Has Advantage in Democratic Gubernatorial Race

  • The Pennsylvania state flag The Pennsylvania state flag

A York businessman who entered the Pennsylvania governor race in January with a flurry of television advertisements leads a group of Democrats vying for their party's nomination this year, according to a Franklin & Marshall College Poll released Feb. 26.

Thirty-six percent of registered voters polled support Tom Wolf for governor, followed by 9 percent for U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Philadelphia, 3 percent for state Treasurer Rob McCord, and 1 percent each for former state Department of Environmental Protection secretaries Kathleen McGinty and John Hanger.

"Wolf is really, at this moment, well ahead of his challengers," said Berwood Yost, director of the Floyd Institute's Center for Opinion Research and the poll's head methodologist.

"A lot of this has come from the Wolf advertising campaign," Yost said. "His ads are working" because they are frequent and voter-focused.

Two other candidates have withdrawn from the race, and Jack Wagner, former state auditor general who has run for governor and mayor of Pittsburgh, only announced his candidacy late last week, well after the polling had started.

The poll showed slightly less than two-thirds (65 percent) of registered Democrats have seen a TV commercial for the candidates for governor. Of those who have seen a commercial, 88 percent have seen a commercial for Wolf. Among those who have not seen any Wolf ads, Schwartz holds a narrow lead -- 13 percent to Wolf's 11 percent.

Wolf, who was state revenue secretary under former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, also leads in the favorability ratings with 44 percent, followed by Schwartz at 28 percent, McCord at 8 percent, and McGinty at 6 percent.

"This is all about television, and about Wolf's introduction to the state and Democratic voters," said the poll's director, G. Terry Madonna. "That was very shrewd strategy on his part."  

Despite Wolf's advantage, 48 percent of Democrats have not yet chosen a candidate in the primary, which is common this early in a primary race, Madonna said.

Twenty-three percent of the Democratic voters polled said education is the top issue when they consider which candidate to support in the primary, followed by jobs and the economy at 19 percent.

Madonna said the candidates all share the same positions on the key issues, so voters will be looking at their character, experience and leadership qualities to determine who gets their vote.

"This is by no means a done deal," Madonna said. "There's still a lot of fluidity left in the race."

The National Outlook

The poll also showed that 62 percent of Democrats rate President Barack Obama’s job performance as "excellent" or "good," whereas 37 percent rated his job performance as "fair" or "poor."

The full Franklin & Marshall College Poll results can be found here.

The poll is based on interviews with 548 registered Democratic voters conducted between Feb. 18 and 23. The sample error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. The interviews were conducted at the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College under the direction of Madonna, Head Methodologist Yost, and Project Manager Jacqueline Redman.

The 24-year-old Franklin & Marshall College Poll is produced in conjunction with the Philadelphia Daily News, WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, WPVI-TV6/ABC Philadelphia, Times-Shamrock Newspapers, Harrisburg Patriot-News/Penn Live, Lancaster Newspapers, and the Reading Eagle.

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