March 2, 2010 - Specter Takes Lead In Pennsylvania Senate Race, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Have Little Trust In Government

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Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter leads Democratic primary challenger, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak 53 - 29 percent and has pushed ahead of Republican Pat Toomey 49 - 42 percent in a general election matchup, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today, up from a 44 - 44 percent tie December 18. In a battle of the unknowns, Toomey leads Sestak 39 - 36 percent with 24 percent undecided.

President Barack Obama's job approval rating in Pennsylvania remains below 50 percent, at 49 - 46 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

Fewer than one in five Pennsylvanians think the federal government in Washington, or the state government in Harrisburg, does the right thing almost all or most of the time.

"Sen. Arlen Specter seems to be having a good winter politically. He is back ahead of Republican Pat Toomey after having been essentially tied with him since last summer, and there remains no evidence that his primary challenger, Congressman Joe Sestak, has made much progress as we get within three months of the May primary," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Specter's lead over Toomey is built upon a 52 - 36 percent margin among women voters, while Toomey has a small 49 - 46 percent lead among men, an indication that the gender gap remains alive and well.

"Specter's edge is that he is so much better known than his challengers at this point. Only 11 percent of voters say they don't know enough about him to form an opinion," said Brown, "while 74 percent of voters including 73 percent of Democrats say Sestak is too unfamiliar for them to have an opinion."

"Toomey remains unfamiliar to 65 percent of voters. Toomey has eight months to close that gap, but Sestak has a much shorter timeline, given the May 18 primary," Brown added.

But Pennsylvania voters say 52 - 38 percent Specter does not deserve another term in the Senate. Voters give Specter a narrow 48 - 45 percent approval rating. By comparison, the state's other Democratic U.S. Senator, Bob Casey Jr., gets a 53 - 29 percent approval rating.

Among Democrats who have some opinion of both Specter and Sestak, Sestak leads 54 - 37 percent.

Although he was a Republican until last April, Democrats say 48 - 29 percent that Specter more than Sestak shares their values.

President Obama's Approval

President Obama's job approval rating has been ever so slightly below 50 percent in Pennsylvania since October. As is the case nationally, his biggest loss in support has come from independent voters, who now disapprove of his job performance 51 - 42 percent, compared to a narrow 47 - 45 percent disapproval December 18.

"President Obama's overall job approval is linked to his 51 - 44 percent disapproval on handling the economy and 58 - 35 percent disapproval for handling health care," Brown said.

Voter anger is apparent by how little trust there is that government will do what voters consider to be the right thing. Only 1 percent of Keystone State voters say the federal government does what is right almost all the time, and 10 percent say it does right "most of the time," while 53 percent say "only some of the time" and 35 percent say "hardly ever."

The politicians in Harrisburg rate only slightly higher. They too get a 1 percent rating on "almost all the time," but 17 percent say they do the right thing "most of the time;" 60 percent say "only some of the time," and 21 percent say "hardly ever."

"Voters are slightly higher on the folks in Harrisburg than Washington D.C., but they are really unhappy with both," said Brown.

From February 22 - 28, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,452 Pennsylvania voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points. The survey includes 649 Democrats, with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and the nation as a public service and for research. For more data or RSS feed- http://www.quinnipiac.edu/polling.xml, call (203) 582-5201, or follow us on Twitter.

2. (If registered Democrat) If the 2010 Democratic primary for United States Senator were being held today and the candidates were Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak, for whom would you vote?
                     REGISTERED DEMS..
                     Tot    Men    Wom
Specter              53%    52%    54%
Sestak               29     37     23
SMONE ELSE(VOL)       2      2      1
WLDN'T VOTE(VOL)      2      1      3
DK/NA                14      8     18
 
TREND: (If registered Democrat) If the 2010 Democratic primary for United States Senator were being held today and the candidates were Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak, for whom would you vote?
                     REGISTERED DEMS.......................
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  May 28
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009
Specter              53      53      44      55      50
Sestak               29      30      25      23      21
SMONE ELSE(VOL)       2       1       2       1       1
WLDN'T VOTE(VOL)      2       1       1       2       2
DK/NA                14      15      28      19      27
 
 
7. If the 2010 election for United States Senator were being held today and the candidates were Arlen Specter the Democrat and Pat Toomey the Republican, for whom would you vote?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Specter              49%    15%    82%    45%    46%    52%    56%
Toomey               42     78     11     42     49     36     39
SMONE ELSE(VOL)       -      -      -      -      -      -      -
WLDN'T VOTE(VOL)      1      -      1      1      -      1      1
DK/NA                 8      7      5     11      5     10      4
 
                     Alghny Philly NthEst SthEst NthWst SthWst Cntrl
Specter              55%    76%    41%    50%    44%    49%    39%
Toomey               37     14     49     42     47     42     52
SMONE ELSE(VOL)       -      1      -      1      -      -      -
WLDN'T VOTE(VOL)      2      2      1      -      2      1      -
DK/NA                 6      7      9      7      7      8      8
 
TREND: If the 2010 election for United States Senator were being held today and the candidates were Arlen Specter the Democrat and Pat Toomey the Republican, for whom would you vote?
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  May 28  May 4
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009    2009
Specter              49      44      42      45      46      53
Toomey               42      44      43      44      37      33
SMONE ELSE(VOL)       -       1       1       -       1       2
WLDN'T VOTE(VOL)      1       -       1       -       3       1
DK/NA                 8      11      13      10      14      10
 
 
8. If the 2010 election for United States Senator were being held today and the candidates were Joe Sestak the Democrat and Pat Toomey the Republican, for whom would you vote?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Sestak               36%     3%    71%    28%    37%    36%    37%
Toomey               39     74     10     40     45     33     40
SMONE ELSE(VOL)       1      1      -      1      1      -      -
WLDN'T VOTE(VOL)      1      -      1      2      -      1      2
DK/NA                24     22     18     30     17     30     20
 
                     Alghny Philly NthEst SthEst NthWst SthWst Cntrl
Sestak               34%    62%    32%    45%    30%    30%    26%
Toomey               32     15     45     36     45     42     48
SMONE ELSE(VOL)       1      -      1      1      -      -      -
WLDN'T VOTE(VOL)      4      1      1      -      -      -      1
DK/NA                29     23     22     17     25     28     26
 
TREND: If the 2010 election for United States Senator were being held today and the candidates were Joe Sestak the Democrat and Pat Toomey the Republican, for whom would you vote?
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  May 28
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009
Sestak               36      35      35      35      37
Toomey               39      40      38      39      35
SMONE ELSE(VOL)       1       1       1       1       1
WLDN'T VOTE(VOL)      1       2       1       1       3
DK/NA                24      22      25      23      23
 
 
9. Is your opinion of - Arlen Specter favorable, unfavorable or haven't you heard enough about him?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Favorable            44%    20%    67%    41%    41%    46%    52%
Unfavorable          43     72     18     46     52     36     37
Hvn't hrd enough     11      8     13     12      6     16     10
REFUSED               1      -      2      1      1      2      1
 
                     Alghny Philly NthEst SthEst NthWst SthWst Cntrl
Favorable            46%    64%    42%    47%    38%    46%    33%
Unfavorable          41     22     43     42     56     41     52
Hvn't hrd enough     11     13     11      9      7     12     14
REFUSED               2      -      4      1      -      1      1
 
TREND: Is your opinion of Arlen Specter favorable, unfavorable or haven't you heard enough about him?
                                                             FAVORABLE....
                                                             High    Low
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  May 28  Nov 26  Oct 1
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009    2008    2009
Favorable            44      43      42      45      46      56      42
Unfavorable          43      45      46      44      39      23      46
Hvn't hrd enough     11       9      10       9      14      19      10
REFUSED               1       3       2       2       2       3       2
 
 
10. Is your opinion of - Pat Toomey favorable, unfavorable or haven't you heard enough about him?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Favorable            26%    44%    11%    26%    33%    19%    25%
Unfavorable           8      2     11     10     11      5      6
Hvn't hrd enough     65     53     76     63     55     74     68
REFUSED               1      1      2      1      1      1      1
 
                     Alghny Philly NthEst SthEst NthWst SthWst Cntrl
Favorable            24%     9%    28%    29%    23%    23%    34%
Unfavorable           7     10     10     11      7      3      7
Hvn't hrd enough     68     80     60     60     68     74     59
REFUSED               1      1      3      1      2      -      1
 
TREND: Is your opinion of Pat Toomey favorable, unfavorable or haven't you heard enough about him?
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  May 28  May 4   Mar 25
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009    2009    2009
Favorable            26      35      34      34      27      20      14
Unfavorable           8      10      12      10      11      13       6
Hvn't hrd enough     65      55      53      56      61      67      78
REFUSED               1       1       1       1       1       1       2
 
 
11. Is your opinion of - Joe Sestak favorable, unfavorable or haven't you heard enough about him?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Favorable            18%     9%    23%    23%    22%    15%    20%
Unfavorable           6      7      2      8      8      4      5
Hvn't hrd enough     74     83     73     69     68     80     75
REFUSED               1      1      1      1      1      1      1
 
                     Alghny Philly NthEst SthEst NthWst SthWst Cntrl
Favorable            11%    29%    15%    38%    11%    10%    10%
Unfavorable           4      3      4     10      8      8      5
Hvn't hrd enough     84     66     78     50     80     81     84
REFUSED               -      2      3      1      1      1      1
 
TREND: Is your opinion of Joe Sestak favorable, unfavorable or haven't you heard enough about him?
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  May 28
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009
Favorable            18      20      21      23      18
Unfavorable           6       9       8       7       5
Hvn't hrd enough     74      70      70      69      76
REFUSED               1       1       2       1       -
 
 
20. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Arlen Specter is handling his job as United States Senator?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Approve              48%    22%    75%    44%    44%    52%    53%
Disapprove           45     75     18     49     53     39     41
DK/NA                 6      3      7      8      3      9      6
 
                     Alghny Philly NthEst SthEst NthWst SthWst Cntrl
Approve              52%    60%    45%    53%    40%    51%    41%
Disapprove           39     28     49     43     58     45     52
DK/NA                 9     12      6      4      3      4      7
 
TREND: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Arlen Specter is handling his job as United States Senator?
                                                             APPROVE.......
                                                             High    Low
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  May 28  Nov 26  Oct 1
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009    2008    2009
Approve              48      47      44      47      51      62      44
Disapprove           45      45      48      46      39      25      48
DK/NA                 6       8       9       7       9      13       9
 
 
21. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bob Casey Jr. is handling his job as United States Senator?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Approve              53%    35%    70%    51%    54%    52%    55%
Disapprove           29     49     12     29     32     26     27
DK/NA                18     16     17     20     14     22     19
 
                     Alghny Philly NthEst SthEst NthWst SthWst Cntrl
Approve              54%    60%    56%    51%    52%    49%    52%
Disapprove           26     20     32     27     35     37     29
DK/NA                20     20     12     22     13     14     19
 
TREND: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bob Casey Jr. is handling his job as United States Senator?
                                                             APPROVE.......
                                                             High    Low
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  May 28  May 28  Mar 28
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009    2009    2007
Approve              53      53      53      53      56      56      46
Disapprove           29      29      29      25      21      21      18
DK/NA                18      18      18      21      23      23      35
 
 
22. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Approve              49%    16%    83%    42%    43%    55%    48%
Disapprove           46     81     14     51     53     40     47
DK/NA                 4      2      3      7      4      5      5
 
TREND: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President? (*Low also 49% Dec 2009 & Oct 2009)
                                                             APPROVE.......
                                                             High    Low
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  May 28  May 4   Mar 2
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009    2009    2010*
Approve              49      49      49      56      62      66      49
Disapprove           46      45      42      37      31      29      46
DK/NA                 4       6       9       7       7       5       4
 
 
24. Looking ahead to the 2010 election for United States Senator, do you feel that Arlen Specter deserves to be reelected, or do you feel that he does not deserve to be reelected?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Yes/deserves         38%    15%    60%    37%    35%    41%    42%
No/does not          52     80     27     54     59     45     46
DK/NA                10      5     14      9      6     14     11
 
                     Alghny Philly NthEst SthEst NthWst SthWst Cntrl
Yes/deserves         44%    52%    39%    40%    31%    41%    30%
No/does not          46     34     51     50     62     52     59
DK/NA                10     14     10     10      7      7     11
 
TREND: Looking ahead to the 2010 election for United States Senator, do you feel that Arlen Specter deserves to be reelected, or do you feel that he does not deserve to be reelected?
                                                             DESERVES......
                                                             High    Low
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  May 28  May 4   Oct 1
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009    2009    2009
Yes/Deserves         38      38      37      40      42      49      37
No/Does not          52      50      52      49      43      41      52
DK/NA                10      12      11      11      15      10      11
 
 
25. Does President Obama's support of Arlen Specter for United States Senator make you more likely to vote for Specter, less likely to vote for Specter, or doesn't it make a difference?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
More likely          12%     1%    27%     6%    10%    14%    15%
Less likely          18     40      3     17     22     15     17
Doesn't make diff    69     58     69     77     67     70     67
DK/NA                 1      1      1      1      -      2      1
 
                     Alghny Philly NthEst SthEst NthWst SthWst Cntrl
More likely          15%    26%    16%    12%     5%    10%     6%
Less likely          14      6     24     16     26     23     20
Doesn't make diff    69     68     57     71     69     68     72
DK/NA                 2      1      3      1      -      -      1
 
TREND: Does President Obama's support of Arlen Specter for United States Senator make you more likely to vote for Specter, less likely to vote for Specter, or doesn't it make a difference?
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1
                     2010    2009    2009
More likely          12      11      12
Less likely          18      17      18
Doesn't make diff    69      71      68
DK/NA                 1       1       2
 
 
27. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling - the economy?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Approve              44%    14%    75%    37%    39%    47%    44%
Disapprove           51     83     20     56     57     47     54
DK/NA                 5      3      4      7      4      6      3
 
TREND: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy?
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1   Jul 22  Mar 25  Feb 12
                     2010    2009    2009    2009    2009    2009
Approve              44      45      46      50      56      59
Disapprove           51      50      47      43      36      26
DK/NA                 5       5       7       7       8      16
 
 
28. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling - health care?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Approve              35%     9%    60%    31%    33%    37%    37%
Disapprove           58     89     30     61     62     55     60
DK/NA                 7      2     10      8      5      9      3
 
TREND: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling health care?
                     Mar 2   Dec 18  Oct 1
                     2010    2009    2009
Approve              35      37      39
Disapprove           58      56      53
DK/NA                 7       7       8
 
 
29. Do you support or oppose President Obama's health care reform plan?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Support              37%     7%    67%    32%    35%    39%    39%
Oppose               52     86     19     56     56     48     51
DK/NA                11      7     15     12      9     13     10
 
TREND: Do you support or oppose President Obama's health care reform plan?
                     Mar 2   Oct 1
                     2010    2009
Support              37      41
Oppose               52      47
DK/NA                11      12
 
 
30. How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington to do what is right - almost all of the time, most of the time, only some of the time, or hardly ever?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Almost all the time   1%     -      2%     -      1%     1%     -
Most of the time     10      5     16      9      8     12     13
Some of the time     53     46     65     49     50     56     57
Hardly ever          35     49     15     41     41     30     30
DK/NA                 1      -      1      -      -      1      -
 
 
31. How much of the time do you think you can trust the state government in Harrisburg to do what is right - almost all of the time, most of the time, only some of the time, or hardly ever?
                                                               Union
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Almost all the time   1%     1%     2%     1%     1%     2%     1%
Most of the time     17     14     21     14     14     19     17
Some of the time     60     62     61     57     60     60     63
Hardly ever          21     23     14     28     24     18     17
DK/NA                 1      -      2      -      1      1      1
 
 
32. (If registered Democrat) Regardless of how you intend to vote, who do you trust more to do in office what they say they will do during the campaign - Arlen Specter or Joe Sestak?
                     REGISTERED DEMS..
                     Tot    Men    Wom
Specter              53%    50%    55%
Sestak               25     32     21
NO DIFF(VOL)          4      3      5
DK/NA                17     15     19
 
 
33. (If registered Democrat) Regardless of how you intend to vote, who do you believe most shares your values - Arlen Specter or Joe Sestak?
                     REGISTERED DEMS..
                     Tot    Men    Wom
Specter              48%    47%    48%
Sestak               29     36     25
NO DIFF(VOL)          2      1      3
DK/NA                20     15     24