1/28/2010

Voters Remain Undecided in Statewide Races

  • The Pennsylvania state flag The Pennsylvania state flag

Pennsylvanians are paying little attention to the primary races for governor and U.S. Senate, and the candidates in those races remain largely unknown to voters, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll.

About seven in 10 registered Pennsylvanians do not know whom they plan to vote for in the gubernatorial primaries. Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato leads the Democratic race at 10 percent, while 72 percent of Democrats remain undecided. State Attorney General Tom Corbett leads the Republican race with 23 percent, as 69 percent remain undecided.

In the general election race for the U.S. Senate, Republican Pat Toomey has a decided advantage over both Democratic candidates. Toomey leads incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter among likely voters, 45 percent to 31 percent, and has an even larger advantage over U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak among likely voters (41 percent to 19 percent). Specter leads Sestak in the primary race, 30 percent to 13 percent.

A majority of registered Pennsylvanians say they don't know enough about Toomey (65 percent) or Sestak (76 percent) to have an opinion.

In other findings:

  • Pennsylvanians continue to express pessimism about the economy. Four in 10 (40 percent compared to 36 percent in October) say they are financially worse off this year than last, and only a quarter (27 percent) expects their personal finances to be better off a year from now.
  • Favorability ratings for President Barack Obama have changed slightly since October. His unfavorable rating increased by 5 percentage points, and he is now viewed favorably and unfavorably by equal proportions (44 percent) of registered Pennsylvanians. Specter's favorability rating has risen slightly, to 35 percent (compared to 28 percent in October), and his unfavorable rating stands at 43 percent (compared to 46 percent in October).
  • Obama's job approval in Pennsylvania is the lowest of his presidency, with only 38 percent (compared to 40 percent in October) saying he is doing an "excellent" or "good" job. Specter's job approval has risen slightly, to 34 percent (compared to 29 percent in October), and about three in 10 (29 percent) respondents say he deserves re-election (up from 23 percent in October). Those who say Specter does not deserve re-election cite his length of service (25 percent) and party switch (21 percent) as the main reasons.

The interviews were conducted Jan. 18-24 at the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College under the direction of the poll's director, G. Terry Madonna, Head Methodologist Berwood Yost and Project Manager Jennifer Harding. The data represent the responses of 1,165 adult residents of Pennsylvania, including 993 registered voters.

The sample error for the survey is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The sample error for registered adults is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, and is slightly higher for registered Democrats (plus or minus 4.7 percentage points) and registered Republicans (plus or minus 4.8 percentage points).

For complete results, go to www.fandm.edu/fandmpoll.

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