Harrisburg, PA (Monday, April 14) – A new statewide poll conducted by Harrisburg-based Susquehanna Polling and Research, Inc., in the upcoming PA Democratic Presidential Primary Election shows Hillary Clinton with a slight 40/37 lead over Barack Obama with just one week remaining before the April 22nd Primary Election. Eighteen (18) percent remain undecided, while 4% said they would vote for neither candidate; 1% refused to answer. This represents a significant drop from her 14-point lead in our last poll conducted March 5-10, where Clinton led by a 45/31 margin. The current poll was conducted April 6-10 with 500 likely Democratic voters and has a margin of error of 4.3% at the 95% confidence level; the calls were made from our telephone call center in downtown Harrisburg using live survey interviewers.
“Clinton’s 3-point lead is within the poll’s 4% margin of error, so this race is now a virtual toss-up,” said Jim Lee, the firm’s president, who conducted the poll for public dissemination. “Obama has a strong 62/19 favorable to unfavorable ratio in name ID (better than 3:1), and has succeeded in building up his positive image in the state, something he said all along he was capable of doing if voters had more time to get to know him. At the same time, Clinton’s name ID shows a higher negative than Obama, with 25% having an unfavorable opinion of her compared to 61% who view Clinton as favorable,” Lee added.
Clinton still leads in the culturally conservative Southwest (57/17), the Northeast (44/26) and Central “T”/Johnstown-Altoona media market (40/32), but her leads in these areas has narrowed in comparison to March when she was winning with bigger margins. Perhaps most surprising is Clinton’s shrinking margin in the Northeast, her natural strength given her family ties to the area, where her 38-point, 56/18 margin over Obama in March has now shrunk to 18 points (a swing of 20). Meanwhile, Obama has strengthened his lead in the Harrisburg/South Central region (now 39/29), and surpassed Clinton in the 4 suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia (now 45/40), whereas Clinton led in March by a 42/35 margin; Obama’s 50/30 lead in Philadelphia is unchanged from our earlier poll. “Obama’s media efforts are clearly paying off, he’s holding his base in the socially liberal areas of the state, and at the same time, has chipped away at her lead in areas where he knows he can’t win, but can at least have a respectable showing, namely in Central and Western PA, where Reagan Democrats are still key to a Clinton victory,” Lee said.
Because voter turnout is expected to be near historic levels, this race will be decided by whether or not Obama can turn out the vote among new voters, those least likely to have voted in past primary elections and black Democrats, all of whom historically have been less likely to vote in primaries. For instance, Clinton holds a 48/34 lead with senior citizens and a 42/35 lead with voters who have the strongest primary vote history based on past primary elections (i.e., 3 or 4 of the last 4 primaries), while Obama holds a near 2:1 lead with voters under 45 years old and a 50/30 lead with black Democrats; among those with less vote history in the poll it’s a 39/38 dead heat. If Obama succeeds in turning out the vote among new registrants, younger voters on college campuses and in the African-American community, he may be able to pull off an upset victory. However, still the undecided vote is still relatively high (at 18%), this vote is now even more up for grabs given Obama’s recent comments which the media is reporting are generally thought to be insensitive to voters in small towns, and may help stimulate turnout for Clinton in rural parts of the state if Obama isn’t able to give a more satisfactory explanation.
Endorsements by Governor Rendell and U.S. Senator Casey, Jr., for Clinton and Obama respectively don’t seem to be having much influence, however. Eighty-one (81) percent of voters said Rendell’s endorsement would have “no impact” on their vote for Clinton, while 8% said it would make them “more likely” to vote for her compared to 10% who said it would make them “less likely”. Similarly, 85% said Casey’s endorsement for Obama would have “no impact”, while 7% said it would make them “more likely” to vote for him while 8% said “less likely”. “This suggests people are making up their own minds, and endorsements by either of the state’s top Democrats don’t seem to carry much weight. However, this is probably more troubling for Clinton, who needs a big win in PA to stay in the race and has been counting on popularity from Governor Rendell to deliver the vote particularly in the Southeast where he is most popular.”