Less than a week before Pennsylvania's May 20 primary election, businessman Tom Wolf maintains the lead he has held since the Democratic gubernatorial nomination race began in January, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll.
Among likely voters, Wolf leads with 37 percent to U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz's 20 percent, state Treasurer Rob McCord's 12 percent, and former state Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty's 3 percent. Although more than a quarter of those polled, 27 percent, indicated they were still undecided.
The poll reflects interviews with 530 registered Democratic voters conducted between May 6 and 12. The sample error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
"Wolf's wire-to-wire lead is about his successful introduction through television commercials, his very successful campaign talking to voters, and the way he fended off attacks without going negative," said the poll's director, G. Terry Madonna.
If primary voters who lean toward a candidate are included in the results, Wolf maintains a similar lead over Schwartz, 43 percent to 26 percent, with 11 percent undecided. Among all registered voters, Wolf leads Schwartz 33 percent to 14 percent according to the poll, conducted by F&M's Center for Politics and Public Affairs.
Wolf was the first of the four candidates to begin running TV ads, which depicted him driving his jeep around the state as he introduced himself to viewers.
"It's been a campaign that has been executed well," said Madonna. "In the end, if Wolf wins, it's still about television."
Eighty-three percent of registered Democrats have seen TV commercials for the candidates for governor, the poll reported. Of those, 93 percent have seen a Wolf campaign ad, 67 percent a McCord commercial, 61 percent a Schwartz spot, and 44 percent a McGinty commercial.
Also according to the poll, 72 percent of Democratic voters believe Pennsylvania is moving on the wrong track, while 20 percent believe the state is moving in the right direction.
The top issue for Democratic voters is education. Twenty-nine percent of those polled cited it as the main platform issue they consider when picking a candidate to support in the primary. The other voter priority, at 17 percent, is the economy and job market.
On May 1, Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Politics and Public Affairs hosted a 90-minute forum with the four Democratic candidates. Madonna moderated as three journalists from WGAL News Channel 8, PennLive.com/The Patriot-News, and Lancaster Newspapers/LancasterOnline asked the candidates questions.
An F&M forum between the winner of the Democratic primary and incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is tentatively planned for the fall.
The 23-year-old Franklin & Marshall College Poll is conducted under the direction of Madonna, Head Methodologist Berwood Yost, director of the Floyd Institute's Center for Opinion Research, and Project Manager Jacqueline Redman. It 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.