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PA-Sen: PPP Poll: Toomey 42 Sestak 38

Official PortraitWell there’s good news and bad news for Senator Pat Toomey.

According to a new PPP poll, the bad news is that Pennsylvanians don’t seem to have a very high opinion of the Senator. The good news is that they seem to have a worse opinion about nearly everyone else.

For instance, just 30% approve of the Senator’s job performance with 37% disapproving. Nevertheless, Toomey leads ever potential 2016 Democratic opponent.

The best Democratic performer is former Congressman and 2010 nominee Joe Sestak.

Toomey edges out Sestak 42% to 38% in this survey with a whooping 20% of respondents undecided.

Through the crosstabs, we can break down the numbers by demographics. For example, Sestak leads among women (42/36), Democrats (64/18), moderates (40/30) and blacks (68/9). Sen. Toomey meanwhile has the advantage among men (49/33), Republicans (75/9), independents (36/29) and whites (47/34).

Other Possible Opponents

PPP decided to test Senator Toomey against a number of different potential Democratic opponents. Besides Sestak, they also matched-up the incumbent with the only other candidate currently in the race, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

Toomey leads Pawlowski 44% to 34% with 22% not sure.

Former Congressman Chris Carney and State Senator Vincent Hughes have expressed interest in possibly jumping in, so PPP polled them as well. They each trailed Toomey by a 44/35 margin.

Rumors have also been floated about Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. Therefore, PPP also had the Senator face off against him. The incumbent still has a 44% to 33% advantage.

They even asked respondents about former Governor Ed Rendell. The ex-Gov. has been among those urging for an opponent for Sestak but he’s given no indication that he wants to get back into politics.

In perhaps the best piece of news for Toomey, he defeats even Rendell 46% to 41%.

It is also likely PPP polled Toomey against Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro but threw the results out after the latter made it clear he won’t run.

There are two important caveats, though, to consider. Despite Sen. Toomey’s lead over every potential challenger, incumbents are usually thought to be in danger if they poll under 50%. His leads are also less than the ones he held in last month’s Harper poll. On the other hand, PPP is a liberal-leaning polling organization that has drawn criticism in the past from Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.

Public Policy Polling surveyed 799 registered voters from May 21st to May 24th. 80% of interviews were conducted over the phone while 20% were done online. The margin of error is +/- 3.5%.

12 Responses

  1. You can’t really assess this poll as regards Sestak without looking at comparable polls taken in 2009 and 2010 when Sestak successfully challenged Arlen Specter for the nomination and then went on to narrowly lose to Toomey in a year when most Democrats were crushed by their GOP opponents. Sestak has said publicly that he believes he would have won if the election had been just 2 weeks later, and he almost certainly would have won if the Democratic machine that was so upset at Sestak for challenging Specter had worked as hard to elect Sestak as they doubtless would have worked on Specter’s behalf.
    In this new PPP poll Toomey leads Sestak by 4 points eithteen month out from the election and a year out from the primary. No other potential Democratic candidate does as well against Toomey including Ed Rendell, who is not running as far as we know. Toomey is already losing ground if both the May PPP poll and the April Harper poll are accurate.
    Coincidentally, Quinnipiac polled the Pa. Senate race on nearly the same dates in 2009 (5/20-26/2009). In that poll Specter held 29-point lead over Sestak about a year before the Primary which Sestak went on to win by 18 points. Specter likewise held a 9-point lead over Toomey, who went on to beat Sestak by 4 points eighteen months later.
    PPP did not start polling the Pennsylvania Senate race until late March, 2010. By then, according to PPP, Toomey held A 3-point lead over Specter and a 6-point lead over Sestak. 65% of those polled did not know enough about Sestak to have an opinion about him, either favorable or unfavorable versus 54% in this current PPP poll.
    Clearly a lot can change over eighteen months, and just as clearly, things changed significantly for the better for Joe Sestak the last time he ran for the Senate. If these same trends hold true Toomey should be worried about his chances of beating Sestak a second time.

  2. Observer-
    No. 3.5 is not going to cover a 4 point deficit. Assuming it’s the 95% confidence interval, that means there is 95% the outcome falls inside, and 5% it falls outside (1/20 chance). It’s half that (1/40) that it falls outside to Sestak’s advantage.

    Are you on drugs? Toomey’s base won’t turn out to vote?
    In PA, in presidential elections, turnout % of voters flagged as “active” registration is about 80% for dems, and 84% for Republicans, and 65% – 70% for independents.

    The 20% who won’t come out, never vote anyway, or have died/moved but not updated/dropped from the roles.

    In Westmoreland, which is DEM majority, Toomey beat Sestak 60/40.

    The only question that matters is the size of Hillary’s coattails.

    Sestak and Toomey aren’t going to move the needle on voter turnout. A lot of western dems are NRA and conservative, and going to back Toomey because they think he’ll stop Hillary from replacing every gun shop with an abortion clinic.

    But, mostly, Sestak is just plain creepy to voters. Toomey should give Sestak $2 million to run ads of Sestak speaking directly to the camera. He should also trick Sestak into 5 debates, because each side-by-side event will cost Sestak a point in the election.

  3. Here’s some real numbers for Toomey to worry about:

    Among Moderate voters, he trails Sestak 40% to 30%. (Moderates and Liberals made up 61% of the electorate, showing that of those in the middle who know Sestak, they prefer him to Toomey by a large margin.)

    A full 29% of ROMNEY voters disapprove of his job performance. That means Toomey’s Base may not even turn out to vote.

    And here’s the Big One: 36% called themselves Republicans, but 47% called themselves Democrats. And who votes at the higher rate in Presidential years? In PA?

    Toomey is indeed Toast.

  4. And to correct the article, the poll did NOT match Toomey versus Little Josh Shapiro. True fact.

  5. Diano: one-trick pony, boring everyone since 2008. That margin of error could just as easily indicate a tie, fool.

    I took part in this poll, one of the longest ones I ever took, and it really sounded like a Republican-funded push poll at many points. It actually matched Scott Walker up against every possible Democratic presidential candidate! Who would do that, unless funded by the Kochs? On the other hand, they also asked what I thought of the job being done by Chip Kelly (good) and Ryne Sandberg(poor).

    It also matched up toomey v. Ed Rendell – I would LOVE to hear how those numbers turned out!

  6. “Public Policy Polling surveyed 799 registered voters from May 21st to May 24th”

    During the Memorial holiday weekend? Also, “registered” (rather than “likely” voters)

    The margin of error is +/- 3.5% (which could put Sestak 7 points behind Toomey)

    This is an early poll, when no one is paying attention to the race, so it doesn’t mean anything beyond name recognition and party identity/affiliation.

    Sestak’s ONLY chance at winning (besides Toomey getting hit by a bus) is coattails from Hillary’s presidential turnout. It really would be a huge waste for Dems to spend money on this race.

    Dems in PA should be focused on Congressional races and trying to win back seats in Harrisburg. Sestak should be left to fend for himself (as he can be counted upon to undermine the down-ticket candidates and court split-ticket Republicans to vote for him as he bad-mouths the legislative candidates).

  7. “According to a new PPP poll, the bad news is that Pennsylvanians don’t seem to have a very high opinion of the Senator. The good news is that they seem to have a worse opinion about nearly everyone else.”

    Seriously, that’s the take away from these numbers? Ridiculous, 20-22% undecided means voters don’t know Sestak or Pawlowski, Toomey is in serious trouble with polling numbers like that.

  8. The headline on April 6 was “Toomey has big lead over Sestak in poll, 48%-35%.’ Now that’s down to 4%. The Democrats will unite behind Toomey after the primary and they will be out in force in 2016 to elect Hillary. Toomey is toast.

  9. When you look at the breakdown, Toomey has more support within Republican party (75/9) than Sestak has within the Dems (64/18). Toomey has a 16 point advantage among men, compared to Sestak’s 6 point advantage among women.

    Also, Toomey has a 7 point advantage among Independents.

    Finally, Toomey has about 5 times as much cash on hand.

    Considering the other potential candidates haven’t done ANY campaigning, and Sestak does nothing but campaigning, his apparent lead over the others is meaningless.

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