Casey Leads Santorum by 10 points
Contest linked to national issues, but also to the candidates themselves.
PHILADELPHIA, September 25 — In one of the country’s most closely watched Senate races, likely voters in Pennsylvania prefer Democrat Bob Casey to Republican Rick Santorum by 49 percent to 39 percent, according to a new Temple/Inquirer Poll, a collaboration between Temple University’s Institute of Public Affairs and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Like many other Republican incumbents in Pennsylvania and across the country, Santorum’s campaign is struggling to overcome voters’ dissatisfaction with George W. Bush’s performance as president and with the war with Iraq. Fifty-eight percent of likely voters in the Commonwealth disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job, while just 42 percent approve. Forty-eight percent believe the war with Iraq has made the U.S. less safe, compared to 43 percent who think it has made the country safer.
“National considerations are certainly influencing the Senate race,” said political scientist and IPA Director Michael G. Hagen. “But our results also underscore the importance in Pennsylvania of the candidates themselves.” When likely voters were asked to express their opinions about people in politics on a scale from 0 to 10, 24 percent rated Santorum at 0. “Unfavorable opinion of Santorum is remarkably intense,” said Hagen, “and it is not only Democrats who hold strongly unfavorable opinions.” Twenty-six percent of independents rated the incumbent senator at 0.
Hagen added that Casey’s lead in the poll reflects more than just anti-Santorum sentiment. “Support for Casey is not motivated just by antipathy toward Santorum,” he said. “Democrats’ opinion of Casey is just as favorable as Republicans’ opinion of Santorum.”
Three percent of likely voters in the Senate race said they would vote for Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli, while 8 percent remain undecided.
The September Temple/Inquirer Poll also surveyed Pennsylvania’s likely voters on the gubernatorial race between incumbent Ed Rendell and Republican Lynn Swann. The poll found Ed Rendell to have a commanding lead over Lynn Swann, 60 percent to 33 percent. Five percent remain undecided.
“One of Swann’s chief problems is that he still has not made much of an impression on many voters,” Hagen said. Fourteen percent of likely voters said they didn’t know enough about Swann to express an opinion about him, and another 25 percent rated him a 5 out of 10: not favorable or unfavorable. Both figures far exceed the comparable figures for Rendell: 3 percent declined to rate Rendell, and 14 percent placed him at 5.
Visibility is not Rendell’s only advantage. He is a very popular governor. Among those who do rate him, favorable ratings far exceed unfavorable ratings, 60 percent to 25 percent, compared to Swann’s 34 to 26.
The only region of the state where Swann leads Rendell is in Southwest Pennsylvania, excluding Allegheny County, where he leads 48 percent to 38 percent. In the Southeast, excluding Philadelphia, Rendell leads 71 percent to 23 percent. Statewide, just 6 percent of African Americans say they will vote for Swann, while 88 percent say they will vote for Rendell.
For the September Temple/Inquirer Poll, a random-digit dial sample of Pennsylvania adult residents were interviewed between Sept. 14 and Sept. 20, 2006. The sample included 666 likely voters. With a sample of this size, the overall margin of error attributable to sampling is 3.8 percentage points. The sampling error for subgroups is larger. More information and results are available on the Web site of the Institute for Public Affairs: www.temple.edu/ipa.
A feature story on the findings of the Temple/Inquirer Poll described in this release was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sept. 24.
The Institute for Public Affairs, located on Temple’s Main Campus in Philadelphia, is an interdisciplinary public policy research center committed to studying important social, economic and political issues affecting the lives of Pennsylvanians and Philadelphians.
Michael G. Hagen is director of the Institute for Public Affairs at Temple and an associate professor of political science. A leading scholar in the areas of elections and public opinion, Hagen joined Temple in 2004 from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Hagen also has held positions at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University.
— Alix Gerz