4/03/2014 Peter Durantine

F&M Poll: Wolf Holds Lead in Democratic Primary

  • The Pennsylvania state flag The Pennsylvania state flag

A York businessman seeking Pennsylvania's governorship holds a strong lead in the race for the Democratic nomination, according to a Franklin & Marshall College Poll released April 3.

Thirty-three percent of registered voters polled support Tom Wolf for governor, followed by 7 percent for U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Philadelphia, 6 percent for state Treasurer Rob McCord, and 1 percent former state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty.

Wolf held a similar lead in the last F&M Poll taken in February. That poll also included John Hanger, a former state DEP secretary who dropped out of the race in March.

"Wolf's successful launch into the gubernatorial race has been helped by a very successful television advertising campaign both in its quantity and its quality," said the poll's director, G. Terry Madonna. "That's given Wolf a huge edge."

According to the poll, conducted by F&M's Center for Politics and Public Affairs, 71 percent of registered Democrats have seen a television commercial for the candidates for governor. Of those who have seen a commercial, 85 percent have seen a Wolf commercial, 42 percent a McCord commercial, and 39 percent a McGinty commercial. 

Madonna said those results are "pretty definitive evidence" that Wolf's strategy of getting his message out early and repeatedly has allowed the candidate to set himself apart from the rest of the pack, even though all four candidates have mostly the same positions on the issues.

"The other candidates have not been able to distinguish themselves, much less establish a statewide persona, so the only question now is, can they catch Wolf? He's got a big lead and it's holding up. They've got a very tough road ahead."

Education remains the top issue for Democratic voters when they consider what candidate to support in the primary, with 31 percent saying that is their No. 1 concern, followed by the economy/job market at 19 percent, according to the poll.

Berwood Yost, director of the Floyd Institute's Center for Opinion Research and the poll's head methodologist, said voters are responding to the positive way Wolf presents himself in his TV campaign ads.

"It's one thing to have a game plan, but it's another thing to execute it and execute it well," Yost said. "Wolf's ads were early, consistent, persistent and very good."

The poll also showed that about half of Democrats, 46 percent, do not express a preference for governor.  Fifty-one percent of those who said they support Wolf report they are “certain” to vote for him, making his share of certain voters larger than any of the other candidates, Yost said.

"He's certainly built himself a solid base," the pollster said.

On May 1, Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Politics and Public Affairs will host a 90-minute forum with the four Democratic candidates. Madonna will moderate as three journalists from WGAL News Channel 8, PennLive.com/The Patriot-News, and Lancaster Newspapers/LancasterOnline ask the candidates questions.

The National Outlook

The poll also showed that almost six in 10 Democrats describe President Barack Obama’s job performance as either excellent or good while four in 10 rate his job performance as either fair or poor.

When asked whom they would support in the 2016 presidential primary, 55 percent said they prefer former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 5 percent prefer U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

The full Franklin & Marshall College Poll results can be found at the Center for Politics & Public Affairs website.

The poll reflects interviews with 524 registered Democratic voters conducted between March 25 and 31. The sample error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. 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 PennLive/The Patriot News, Lancaster Newspapers/Lancaster Online, and the Reading Eagle.

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