March 24th, 2010
12:54 PM ET
11 years ago

Poll: Pa. Senate race in dead heat

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A new poll indicates that Sen. Arlen Specter is deadlocked with a probable Republican opponent in the Pennsylvania Senatorial race."](CNN) - Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is deadlocked with probable Republican opponent Pat Toomey in his difficult bid for re-election this year, according to a new poll.

A Franklin and Marshall College survey released Wednesday indicates that Toomey leads Specter 33 percent to 29 percent among registered Pennsylvania voters; 32 percent are undecided – a very high number. Toomey's 4 point advantage is within the poll's sampling error. In Franklin and Marshall's last poll, conducted in February, Toomey trailed Specter by 4 points.

Toomey is a former congressman and former head of the Club for Growth, a limited-government and anti-tax organization. Specter, a five-term senator, switched parties from Republican to Democrat last spring. At the time of the party flip, he cited the difficulty in winning the Republican primary against Toomey as a factor.

A Quinnipiac University survey of Pennsylvania voters conducted late last month indicated that Specter led Toomey 49 to 42 percent in a hypothetical general election matchup. That was up from a 44 percent tie in a Quinnipiac poll conducted in December.

The Franklin and Marshall poll also indicates that Toomey leads Rep. Joe Sestak 27 to 19 percent in a hypothetical general election matchup, with nearly half of those questioned undecided. Sestak, a two-term congressman from southeastern Pennsylvania and former Navy admiral, is challenging Specter in May's Democratic primary.

According to the survey, Specter leads Sestak 32 percent to 12 percent in the Democratic primary, but more than half of Democratic primary voters remain undecided. Specter led Sestak 53 percent to 29 percent in the February Quinnipiac poll.

The high number of undecided respondents is due to the fact that the poll explicitly offered respondents an undecided option, which most polls do not do.

"Polls that have the interviewer read an undecided option along with the names of the candidates tend to vastly overstate the true number of undecided voters," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That's because some respondents know how they will vote but feel impolite or uncomfortable expressing that view, so they jump at the chance to give an 'undecided' answer if that option is offered, even though it doesn't reflect their true opinion. On occasion, a high undecided number can mask one candidate's strength."

Three in 10 people questioned in the Franklin and Marshall poll approve of the job Specter's doing as senator, unchanged from last month. And 28 percent say Specter deserves re-election, up 3 points from February.

The survey indicates that Pennsylvanians say health care is the most important issue in their vote for Senate, followed by the economy, a switch from February when the economy was on top.

The Franklin and Marshall College poll was conducted March 15-21, with 964 registered Pennsylvania voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.2 percent for registered voters and plus or minus 4.5 percent for questions only of Democratic respondents.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn

Filed under: 2010 • Arlen Specter • Pat Toomey • Pennsylvania
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. gt

    spector is old , no ideas, and only for himself... retire old man

    March 24, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. Willy Brown

    Stand By folks, Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter will flip flop again and become a republican so he can get a lead in the polls. He’s done CNN but keep up the smoke and mirror for Barry’s lap dogs.

    March 24, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. Romneygirl

    Im not surprised. Most people, accept a few dillusional liberals, know the DEMS in power are a bunch of thugs who are wasting tax payers dollars and doing nothing to create jobs or get the debt down (and no I dont beleive the health care bill will create more jobs (it costs too much) and you are only a fool if you believe the bill will reduce the deficit.

    March 24, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  4. Right Leaning Independent

    For the first time in my life I will be voting a straight ticket in November and it will be for the Republicans! Between not working hard enough on creating jobs and passing this health care reform even though the vast majority of Americans are against it has lost my vote for all Dems!

    March 24, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  5. Toss Up

    Both of these guys are too moderate for me. Whichever leans further left has my vote. All moderate democrats need to be primaried. I don't care how they voted on the healthcare bill. Primary all moderates! This includes you too Mr. Stupak.

    March 24, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  6. Josh in TN

    If PA wants to loose health care let them.

    March 24, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. Patience

    Dump this guy. He is a two faced liar, and fair weather polititian.
    Time for some new ideas and tme to get rid of this weazel

    March 24, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  8. Doug,lib jersey

    Specter's head attached to Maobama's rectum may get him all the votes in filthadelphia, but the decent people in the middle of this state have morals, values, decency, and integrity so they will not vote Maobama-crat.

    March 24, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. SocialismBad

    NOBODY want's Arlen Specter re-elected. This pathetic piece of work is a disgrace. He should have retired with an ounce of respect. Now he will leave in humiliation. On second thought, I kind of like that result. He deserves it.

    March 24, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  10. Sue

    When a Republican is leading over a Democrat in Pennsylvania this early in the race-–or is tied--this spells BIG trouble for the Democrats!!!

    And, the fact that the true Democrat Sestak is not even gaining any ground --–also spells BIG trouble for the Democrats in Pennsylvania.

    In addition, have you seen Obama's approval ratings in West Virginia and Ohio????

    The Democrats are in BIG trouble in November.

    March 24, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. Dixie

    This poll evidently has 17 voters out of 100 undecided. If the GOP continues on it's self destructive path, perhaps 56% will vote for a Democratic candidate. The GOP is it's own worst enemy.

    March 24, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  12. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    Specter is a traitor to his party and when he's voted out of office I will say, "Good riddance!"

    March 24, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  13. stop the nonsense

    One of three things will happen between now and November:
    1) People will wake up and remember why they voted the Republicans out of office and see that most of what has been told them in the media is a lie – the media's only reporting the lies or misinformation..
    2) The Republicans will sya or do so much that is untrue that people will get tired of them and vote for Democrats
    3) People will be poeple and continue to learn fact form talk radio and Sarah Palin will win in every district around the country.

    March 24, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  14. Bedtime for Obonzo

    Go Toomey! Defeat self-serving Specter.

    March 24, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  15. Mike D

    Adios Arlen!

    March 24, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  16. Brian in MD

    Go Toomey!!!! Specter has been on the taxpayer's payroll waaaaayyyyy to long.

    March 24, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  17. Glennis

    I will throw every cent I can afford at Toomey. I will do whatever I can to see that Specter never again darkens the doors of the Senate. Worthless slug.

    March 24, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  18. Gale

    Possible strike two for the Dems??

    March 24, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. Capt. Snarky

    Go, Toomey. You Pennsylvannians vote that Weasel Specter out of office, OK?

    Just do it!

    March 24, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. Jon

    When thing is getting tough, this guy switches from a party to the other party and back. Pennsylvania voters should throw this spine-less, damocRat-Republican-democRat out in next election.

    March 24, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  21. gl, From Pittsburgh

    The survey indicates that Pennsylvanians say health care is the most important issue in their vote for Senate, followed by the economy, a switch from February when the economy was on top.

    That statement is true so if Toomey runs on repealing the health care bill he is going to LOSE BIG TIME! I hope he do run on repealing the Health care bill which wiill give Specter a easy win.

    March 24, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  22. britto-fl

    People of Pennsylvania you have a mirror to look at ...please don't be fooled again,,, if health care is your concern why would you want to vote for someone who has no concern for the middle class...Give Spector a chance, he stood for you on this bill so regular americans can have access to healthcare.

    March 24, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  23. Steve- Illinois

    Spector is a prime example of what's wrong in our government! He's been feeding at the breast of the taxpayers as a Senator for 30 years! Has no loyalty or commitment to his constituents. Flopped from Rep. to Dem. when the Dems became popular. All this guy cares about is getting re-elected! He's had 30 years to work on the problems, he's obviously not capable of getting the job done.
    These career politicians need to be dumped!

    March 24, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  24. Rick McDaniel

    Toomey for senate!

    March 24, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. Jerry - Florida

    Kick the turn-coat traitor out!

    Need I say more???

    March 24, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
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