If a pollster took a poll of Pennsylvania polls, he or she might conclude that today’s from Susquehanna Polling and Research is an outlier. Commissioned by the Pa. Republican Party, the survey shows both the presidential and the U.S. Senate races within the margin of error.
So why does the SP&R poll – which shows Obama ahead just 48 percent to 47, and Casey ahead just 45 percent to 42 – differ so much from the norm?
Update: We have the toplines, embedded below. The poll’s take on down-ballot races is more in line with other public polling. The same poll shows Dem Kathleen Kane leading Republican Dave Freed for Attorney General, 40 to 35. It shows Republican John Maher leading Democrat Eugene DePasquale 34 to 33 for Pa. Auditor General. And it shows Republican Diana Irey Vaughan tied with Dem Pa. Treasurer Rob McCord, 33 to 33.
Pollster Jim Lee notes that SP&R does polling in dozens of state House districts (20 Republican-held seats, 17 Dem-held seats), which gives the firm the inside track on understanding Pennsylvania.
“I think our polling at the state House level validates what we’re seeing statewide. We don’t have the President leading above his 2008 numbers in any district we’ve surveyed in the past 3 months,” Lee said.
SP&R polled 800 likely voters (48 percent Dem, 42 percent GOP, 10 percent indy or other) using live telephone interviews from Sept. 15 to 17. The margin of error is +/- 3.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
Lee says the firm has kept an eye on the race for months (Obama lead 48 to 43 in June; 46 to 43 in July; and 48 to 43 in August). It does not appear that either Green Party candidate Jill Stein or Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson – both of whom are presently on the ballot in Pa. – were included in the poll question.
Romney’s gained ground in southeast Pa., Lee said, because moderate voters there don’t respond to the President’s “class warfare” message. Obama’s margin in SEPA is half the 15 percent it was in 2008, he added. Romney has lagged in western Pa. because, well, voters there do respond to that message.
PoliticsPA always advises that internal polls be taken with a grain of salt. In this case, the GOP has an interest in making Pa. appear as competitive as possible. But the release of the numbers comes after every presidential campaign and super PAC – each of which has its own set of internal polling – has pulled television ads down from Pa. (In the Senate race, Casey and Smith have been on television continuously for several weeks.)
The poll sparked immediate skepticism from the Pa. Democratic Party. Since the party announced its toplines on Wednesday, spokesman Mark Nicastre tweeted, “This poll is complete fiction.” AFL-CIO spokesman Yuri Beckelman similarly tweeted, “BREAKING: @PAGOP calls election for Romney. Suggests OFA start laying off staff”.
“We live here, we do this every day. I wouldn’t try to BS you on this thing. Jimmy’s out there, he has a lot of integrity and honesty,” said PAGOP Chair Rob Gleason, responding to skepticism about the polls. He added that the party intended to release the full poll later Thursday.
“To say that we would be down by 11 as the Philadelphia Inquirer said is ridiculous. We lost by 10 [in 2008], things have improved over the last 4 years so that now they like Obama? That’s not true.”
He said the party has shared these numbers with the Romney campaign.
It begs the question: if this is a one point race, why did national players withdraw from Pa. and its 20 electoral votes? Gleason said they’re not gone for long.
“There will be TV commercials going up soon, I can say that for sure. I’m not exactly sure what the volume will be,” Gleason said of the Romney campaign.
Pa. Dems spokesman James Hallinan said TV ads wouldn’t change the race.
“Chairman Gleason’s announcement on a conference call this morning that the Romney campaign will be running TV ads in Pennsylvania is not surprising,” he said. “Democrats are clear eyed about what we need to do between now and Election Day and we always expected Romney and his special interest allies to make a strong play for the state in the final weeks.”
But even this poll has silver lining for Democrats. Romney is viewed unfavorably by a plurality of Pennsylvania voters, 43 percent to 41. Lee said that’s 10 points behind John McCain at this point in the 2008 cycle.
Here’s the poll’s toplines. Note: campaigns releasing polling numbers almost never include crosstabs, and this SP&R report is no different.