2002 Pennsylvania's Governor's Race

Throughout the 2002 Pennsylvania governor's election, Millersville University professors G. Terry Madonna and Berwood Yost, Director and Head Methodologist, respectively, of the Keystone Poll will provide a series of analyses based on the results of various Keystone Polls. The Keystone Poll is produced for the Philadelphia Daily News, The Harrisburg Patriot, and Fox News-Philadelphia. These analyses may be used for editorial and news purposes with appropriate attribution, and represent the views of professors Madonna and Yost, and not the sponsors of the poll.

 

Series 1: The Governor's Race Begins

The Democrats At The Starting Gate, November 29, 2001

Pre-election polls can be very useful for identifying the key issues in a campaign and the strengths and weaknesses of candidates. As such, they are of fundamental importance to campaigns as they plan their electoral strategies. Although we are not privy to the candidates' polls, we do have our own data (the October 2001 Keystone Poll) that can provide some important clues about the nature of next year's governor's election. Indulge us for a moment as we play campaign strategists.

At the moment, Auditor General Robert Casey holds an edge in both name recognition and in a head-to-head match up with former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell in the Democratic primary. Of course, regardless of these early numbers, everyone expects this race to be a nail biter. More important than the candidates' aggregate support is how that support breaks down, and no breakdown may be more important for this primary than geography.

At the moment, Ed Rendell is a regional candidate. His strength comes mostly from the southeastern part of the state--Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Bucks, and Philadelphia counties. Rendell is the choice of about four out of every five Democratic voters there, but he does less well almost everywhere else in the state. For Rendell to win, he must hold onto his base in the southeast and expand his support elsewhere. His best prospect is to capture the small third class cities and the suburbs around them, putting together an urban/liberal coalition. We think this is Rendell's best strategy, because he is more appealing than Casey to liberals, African-Americans, abortion rights supporters, gun control advocates, and unmarried voters.

On the other hand, Bob Casey is a genuine statewide candidate. He has won two statewide elections as Auditor General and in 2000 was the Democrat's top vote getter, drawing more popular votes than Al Gore. Not surprisingly, our polling finds that Casey is well known throughout the Commonwealth, and he currently leads in every region of the state but the southeast. Casey's electoral strength comes from moderate and conservative Democrats, including many Catholics, military veterans, gun owners, those cautious or opposed to abortion rights, and those who live in less economically prosperous areas. Casey's support is also quite strong among labor households.

Clearly, the types of people inclined to support both candidates suggests some regional divisions. But regional support is essential for another reason--recent trends in voter turnout in Democratic primaries. Turnout in Democratic primary elections in southeastern Pennsylvania is well below what one would expect, given voter registration. For example, in the 1992 Presidential election, the five southeastern counties represented one-third (32%) of the Democratic registration in the state, but only represented 28 percent of the actual votes cast. Table 1 shows how consistent this pattern has been throughout the 1990s. In no major election between 1992 and 2000 did the turnout in the southeast come close to matching its registration. This table also shows how western Pennsylvania has become an important (and large) source of Democratic primary votes.

Table 1. Registration and Turnout for Democratic Primaries, Southeast and Western Pennsylvania as a Proportion of Statewide Figures


19921994199619982000
Registration




Southeast32.2%32.3%32.5%32.9%33.6%
West29.1%28.9%28.6%28.1%27.7%
Turnout




Southeast28.4%29.4%25.1%21.2%26.6%
West33.8%32.9%37.0%42.4%37.6%






Southeast Voter Deficit (Actual Votes Cast)69,22037,83986,140109,44080,308

Southeast region is Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia

West region is Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland

The races used to determine turnout were: 1992 President, 1994 Governor, 1996 Auditor General, 1998 Governor, 2000 US Senate

Given the turnout issue, no part of the Rendell strategy can be more important than expanding his base beyond southeastern Pennsylvania. He would normally be expected to gain more support in the Lehigh Valley, largely because it is located within the Philadelphia media market. Of course, the other part of his strategy must be to encourage those voters who live in the southeast to actually vote--it is difficult to imagine a Rendell primary victory, if the turnout trend evidenced during the last decade continues. Casey's challenge is to prevent Rendell from eating away at his strong vote in western Pennsylvania, while trying to halt a runaway Rendell victory in the southeast. Casey must also hope that past turnout woes in the southeast persist, and that turnout in the southwest continues to run ahead of its share of registration.

How issue and leadership play into the campaign strategy of each will be the subject of future analysis pieces.       

 

Series II: Why Issues Matter In 2002

February 12, 2002

Each open seat campaign for governor has its own nuances, but each and every one is essentially about three elements: issues, leadership and experience, and personalities. Campaigns often involve all of these elements, and they often work synergistically, but in the end one of these elements becomes the predominant feature of the campaign.   And in 2002, at the moment, it looks like issues will be most important, but events in the days ahead will likely shift the focus to the other elements of vote choice.

In 1986, discussion about leadership and experience dominated Bob Caseys campaign.  Casey questioned Bill Scranton's leadership abilities by telling voters that Scrantons judgment was poor and that they could not trust him with the power of the governorship. The infamous transcendental meditation commercial used by the Casey campaign was the ultimate manifestation of the leadership question.

In 1978 and 1994, issues were the central focus of the campaigns. In 1978, Dick Thornburgh used a series of recessions and the indictments of officials in the Shapp administration effectively to win the governorship. In 1994, crime and jobs monopolized the rhetoric. Tom Ridge put the election away when a crime related event, the controversial pardon of Reginald McFadden, put his opponent, Mark Singel, who as chair of the Pardons Board had voted to grant the pardon, on the defensive for the latter weeks of the campaign.

In 2002, the campaign for governor is coming into sharp relief--thanks in part to a survey of Pennsylvania citizens completed by Millersvilles Center for Opinion Research for The Pennsylvania Economy League. The study has identified some of the major components of this years election, especially the issue and leadership dimensions of the campaign.

The Issues

The perennial concern of state residents, the economy, after playing second fiddle to education for the past several years, now utterly dominates Pennsylvanians' list of concerns, with one in three residents saying it is their top state priority. The recession is here, and residents are acutely aware of it.

The threat of terrorism has slipped from view; only two percent say its a state concern. Last fall, it was the second most identified problem confronting the state.

Education is now a distant second (17%), but regional concern for education in Philadelphia and its suburbsBucks, Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Countiesoutpaces the economy, undoubtedly because of the tremendous media exposure given the state takeover of the Philadelphia schools.

At the other end of the state, taxes (24%) in Allegheny County run a close second (30%) to the economy, largely because of an unpopular county property reassessment enacted there.  The rest of the west is completely focused on the economy.

The various campaigns in 2002 will have to deal with some unique features related to the economy. The states citizens expect the next governor to attract new business and industries, help existing business grow and expand, and prepare workers for 21st century jobs. Pennsylvanians believe that the state's economic performance lags well behind the other states it must compete with to attract business and fuel economic growth.  Pennsylvanians also express alarm at the out migration of young people, more often referred to as the brain drain, and see it as a consequence of the poor economy.

Pennsylvanians expect the candidates to lay before them an action plan that deals with these fundamental economic problems, and the candidate who does this successfully will have a big advantage in the elections ahead. But they also want the candidates to present an education program. They especially want the performance of public schools improved and the unequal funding of public school districts addressed.  However, unlike the economy, Pennsylvanians believe the education system, despite its problems, is performing as well as the education systems in other states.

Then there are taxes.  Anyone seeking the governorship must be wary of taxes. Almost one in five respondents want to hear the candidates discuss taxes, a subject always fraught with danger for statewide candidates (why?). Citizens believe taxes are the main reason the state loses business to other states. On a personal level, they believe taxes are a more important problem than education. While the subject must be addressed, how a candidate handles taxes is another indicator of likely electoral success.

Few state residents mention abortion, guns, roads, management of growth, or environmental matters as pressing state concerns. At the moment, the state of the economy, education, and taxes are what the voters want the candidates to talk about as the campaign progresses.  Of course, these other concerns could define the vote choice of a small, but important subset of voters.

Vision

Just as in past campaigns, voters will be looking at more than their issue priorities. Leadership comes into play. Somewhat surprising, integrity and honesty are not on the minds of voters at the moment, nor is electing a candidate with a charismatic personality or business experience. Perhaps, because voters concerns are deeply related to pocketbook matters, education, and taxes, and because they are deeply rooted and relate to problems not easily resolved, voters want the next governor to have a vision for the states future--a discussion that is more than the sum of the issue parts. Almost 40% of respondents say vision is essential, followed by knowledge and experience (30%) in government, as the most important characteristic they will look for in the next governor.

The complete results of the Pennsylvania Economy League survey are available at http://www.issuespa.net/.  The analysis provided herein is based on the results of the survey: it does, however, contain some subjective interpretation of the data.  Log on and examine the survey yourself. Send in your interpretation, and your views may be shared with the mailing list of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs, as long as they display decorum and good taste.  Just hit your reply button and your response will be on its way.

 

Series III: Wedge Issues In The Democratic Primary, March 5, 2002

March 5, 2002

The role of issues in electoral outcomes is unsettled. Undoubtedly, they play a key role in many campaigns while just as certainly there are elections for which issues play little or no role. It has been estimated that in the average election about one in five voters are issue voters― meaning they are informed on particular issues, feel strongly about them, and vote on the basis of their knowledge and feelings. Roughly twenty percent of all voters can be decisive in a close election, and Pennsylvania statewide elections are typically close.

But what are the particular issues that these voters care about and will be voting on in this years gubernatorial election? While early polls have identified the economy, education and taxes as the main issues citizens want the gubernatorial candidates to discuss, there can be no doubt that before the campaign is finished, Pennsylvanias perennial wedge issues will emerge.

In the Democratic primary, many campaign watchers expect abortion and gun control to be those defining issues.  In fact, few Pennsylvania statewide campaigns end without these two notorious wedge issues emerging as part of the debate.

The campaigns of Ed Rendell, the former mayor of Philadelphia, and Bob Casey, the states Auditor General, will debate the wedge issues for two reasons.  First, because their positions on these issues are very different, and, second, because the interest groups that make up their support base will press them hard to do so.  The recent presence of the head of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League in Philadelphia to endorse Rendell is only the start of more wedge issue campaigning to come.

For the record, Rendell is pro choice on abortion rights and for gun control; he has advocated that cities sue gun manufacturers and for additional gun laws. Casey, on the other hand, is pro life and believes that current gun laws should be enforced more vigorously, but opposes new gun laws.

Given the strong likelihood of the emergence of wedge issues in the weeks ahead, what do we know about them in the context of the upcoming Democratic primary?
 

Abortion

Attitudes toward abortion are very stable among the Pennsylvania electorate. In fact, abortion attitudes have changed very little over the past half-decade or so. When considering the entire state electorate, about one in four voters are hard pro choice (they believe that abortions should always be legal), while about one in six voters are hard pro life (they think abortions should always be illegal). Among Democrats the hard pro choice support is somewhat higher, three in ten of the state's registered Democrats are supporters of the always legal position, while the hard pro life position is somewhat weaker only one in seven say abortion should always be illegal (see Table 2).

No aspect of the abortion issue is more important than the way it cuts geographically. Democrats who live in the southwestern and northwestern parts of the state are evenly divided on abortion, meaning about the same number favor as oppose unlimited access to abortion. Democrats, who live in the northeast and in the central parts of the state, and in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties, are advocates of the always-legal position by a two to one margin. Those Democrats who live in Philadelphias suburbs have by far the most liberal position on abortion; they prefer the always-legal option by a five to one ratio (see Table 3).
 

Guns

Just as with abortion, gun control has dominated the rhetoric of past statewide campaigns.  Overall, approximately two in five Pennsylvania voters strongly favor additional gun control laws, while about one in four strongly oppose the passage of any new gun control laws.   Democratic voters are much more likely to support gun control than Republicans, with nearly one half of all registered Democrats indicating they strongly support the passage of new gun control measures, but only one in six saying they strongly oppose them (see Table 5).

Regional differences among Democrats over gun control mirror to a great extent the patterns observed with abortion. Democrats who live in the southwestern part of the state are least likely to favor more laws regulating guns; they are about evenly spit between those who strongly oppose and those who strongly support gun control. Voters residing in the northeastern and central parts of the state strongly favor gun control by a two to one margin over those who would oppose it.

In Philadelphia, Allegheny, and the northeastern counties, the margin of those who strongly desire gun control is four to one. The four southeastern suburban counties  (Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester) again prove to be the home of the most liberal Democratic voters in the state, with an eight to one ratio of those who want stronger gun laws (see Table 6).
 

Implications for the election

This analysis reveals an extraordinarily skewed regional pattern among Pennsylvania Democrats.  Simply put, Democrats in southeastern Pennsylvania are by far the most liberal voters in the state with regard to abortion rights and the most restrictive with regard to guns, even ahead of Philadelphia Democrats on both counts. With regard to these two issues, there are two geographically separated Democratic electorates in Pennsylvania.  

How will these wedge issues that have such dramatic potential to define the candidates and divide the state, play out? Will the issues that everyone says they care about, particularly the economy, trump the wedge issues?  Or will the wedge issues be the primary means that voters have of deciding between two well-qualified candidates who have similar positions on the economy?

In some ways, the wedge issues look like they could help Rendell. The more important abortion and guns become as issues the more Rendell, the cultural liberal, will have his natural base in the southeast reinforced.

But pushing a cultural agenda is a double-edged sword for the former Mayor. He must expand his base beyond the southeast and Philadelphia if he hopes to win, and if the abortion and gun control wedge issues do become prominent his position on them could make it difficult for him to pick up support elsewhere in the state.

Caseys circumstances are the mirror opposite. The appearance of the wedge issues could make it all but impossible for him to cut into Ed Rendell's base in the southeast. And there are too many Democrat voters there to write it off.  On the other hand, the appearance of the wedge issues make it more likely that he can maintain his early support among voters in the West, a part of the state he must have if he is to win the primary.

Stay tuned. This is only beginning to get interesting.
 

This analysis was prepared by Berwood A. Yost, Director of Millersville University's Center for Opinion Research and G. Terry Madonna, Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs.  The information contained in this analysis may be used with proper attribution.

Supporting Tables

Table 1. Pennsylvanians' Attitudes Toward Abortion, July 1998-October 2001

Response

July 98 (602 adults)

July 99 (651 adults)

Feb 00 (600 RV)

Oct 00 (550 RV)

April 01 (499 RV)

Oct 01 (504 RV)

Legal under any circumstance

23%

26%

23%

26%

25%

25%

Legal under certain circumstances

56%

54%

53%

53%

53%

52%

Illegal under any circumstance

17%

17%

20%

15%

18%

20%

Source:  Keystone Polls conducted by Center for Opinion Research, Millersville University
 

Table 2. Registered Democrats' Attitudes Toward Abortion, July 1998-October 2001

Response

July 98

July 99

Feb 00

Oct 00

April 01

Oct 01

Legal under any circumstance

27%

21%

24%

31%

32%

31%

Illegal under any circumstance

13%

14%

17%

13%

18%

17%

Source:  Keystone Polls conducted by Center for Opinion Research, Millersville University
Average Legal under any circumstance equals 29%, average always illegal equals 15%.
 

Table 3. Registered Democrats' Attitudes Toward Abortion by Region, Aggregated Data

Attitude

Philadelphia

Northeast

Allegheny

Southwest

Northwest

Central

Southeast

Always legal

40%

23%

27%

21%

22%

29%

44%

Always illegal

17%

14%

14%

18%

28%

16%

9%

Source:  Responses to the October 2001, April 2001, October 2000, and February 2000 Keystone Polls were combined to create the proportions listed above.  All surveys included registered voters.  Sample included 918 registered Democrats.
 

Table 4. Pennsylvanians' Attitudes Toward Gun Control, February 2000 -October 2001

Response

Feb 00 (600 RV)

Oct 00 (550 RV)

April 01 (499 RV)

Oct 01 (504 RV)

Strongly favor

41%

37%

41%

33%

Somewhat favor

19%

18%

18%

22%

Somewhat oppose

11%

15%

14%

15%

Strongly oppose

24%

22%

22%

24%

Source:  Keystone Polls conducted by Center for Opinion Research, Millersville University
 

Table 5. Registered Democrats' Attitudes Toward Gun Control, February 2000 -October 2001

Response

Feb 00

Oct 00

April 01

Oct 01

Strongly favor

48%

50%

50%

42%

Strongly oppose

18%

14%

17%

17%

Source:  Keystone Polls conducted by Center for Opinion Research, Millersville University
 

Table 6. Registered Democrats' Attitudes Toward Gun Control by Region, Aggregated Data

Attitude

Philadelphia

Northeast

Allegheny

Southwest

Northwest

Central

Southeast

Strongly favor

62%

50%

50%

27%

40%

39%

68%

Strongly oppose

13%

14%

14%

29%

18%

18%

9%

Source:  Responses to the October 2001, April 2001, October 2000, and February 2000 Keystone Polls were combined to create the proportions listed above.  All surveys included registered voters.  Sample included 918 registered Democrats.

 

Series IV: What Has All That Money Bought?

The Advertising Pas De Deux, April 25, 2002

 

 The two Democratic challengers for governor, Ed Rendell and Bob Casey, Jr., have raised and spent an enormous amount of money.  Estimates are that the two candidates have spent 10 million dollars campaigning to date, with much of that going to television advertising.  What has all this spending done for the two candidates?