Pennsylvania Democratic Primary Poll
April 2-3, 2016

With three weeks remaining, Katie McGinty is closing on Joe Sestak in the race for the Democratic nomination for the Senate.  However, the 2010 nominee remains popular with Democratic primary voters and continues to grow his level of support on the ballot.  Our survey findings show that McGinty is capable of capitalizing on the support of her White House backers as the cadre of independent expenditure groups supporting her candidacy are likely to take aim at Sestak.  Despite fierce opposition from Democratic leadership in the Senate, the entire Democratic establishment in the state, and a popular White House, Sestak is beating the odds.

Electoral Environment

Q: Would you say that things in Pennsylvania are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?


The Race for Senate

Candidate Images


Both Katie McGinty (63% favorable/17% unfavorable/21% not sure) and Joe Sestak (70%/15%/15%) continue to strengthen their images and name identification as Election Day approaches. Both candidates are very well-liked by Democratic primary voters, but Sestak has a notable advantage in intensity of support (36% very favorable, McGinty: 24%). The portion of the electorate with an unfavorable opinion of both candidates has decreased since Harper’s last survey March 1-2. Despite a strong media push, John Fetterman (39%/18%/42%) continues to have lower name identification than the two better-funded candidates. However, his favorability has increased from 28% to 39% over the last month.

Sestak is viewed favorably by more than three-in-four Somewhat Liberal (76%) and Very Liberal (76%) voters, while McGinty receives softer image ratings from these groups (Somewhat Liberal: 66% favorable (37% somewhat favorable), Very Liberal: 72% (40% somewhat)). Fetterman’s image improves significantly among Very Liberals (47%/11%/42%) and voters who prefer a “political outsider” (48%/22%/30%). 

Ballot Test

Joe Sestak continues to lead the Democratic primary race for Senate, growing his share of the vote to 41%. However, Katie McGinty has narrowed his lead sharply, and has seen the largest increase in her share of the vote since March 1st. Fetterman trails in a distant third (9%) and 19% of likely voters are undecided. Sestak leads among voters who would prefer to vote for a political outsider (44-25% McGinty) while McGinty leads among those who choose a candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party (35% Sestak-45% McGinty). Sestak leads among voters of all ideologies (Conservative: 37-33% McGinty, Moderate: 39-34%, Somewhat Liberal: 44-35%, Very Liberal: 40-31%). Sestak earns a majority of the vote and leads McGinty in the Philadelphia/Southeast region of the state (50-24%). He also leads in Scranton/Lehigh Valley (51-31%) and the Northern Tier (32-29%). McGinty now leads in Pittsburgh/Southwest (28% Sestak, 38% McGinty, 18% Fetterman) and South Central PA (36% Sestak, 39% McGinty). Sestak receives a comparable portion of the vote among both Clinton (41%) and Sanders (43%) voters, while McGinty performs better among Clinton voters (38%, 26% Sanders voters).


4/2/16

3/1/2016

1/22/16

Vodvarka

N/A

4%

N/A

Fetterman

9%

15%

11%

Sestak

41%

33%

33%

McGinty

31%

17%

28%

Undecided

19%

32%

28%


Q: If the Democratic primary election for United States Senate were held today, who would you vote for: John Fetterman, Joe Sestak, or Katie McGinty?

Sestak has stronger intensity of support (62% of his voters definitely voting for him, 31% probably) than McGinty (52%/42%). 

(Asked only of Fetterman voters)

Q: And would you say you are definitely or probably going to vote for John Fetterman?

 

(Asked only of Sestak voters)

Q: And would you say you are definitely or probably going to vote for Joe Sestak?

(Asked only of McGinty voters)

Q: And would you say you are definitely or probably going to vote for Katie McGinty?

Senate Campaign Information Flow

Voters are hearing very similar levels of information about both Joe Sestak (63% yes) and Katie McGinty (60%) and the flow of information about both candidates is positive (Sestak: 67% favorable/13% unfavorable, McGinty: 68%/15%). This presents a fundamental challenge for the candidate trailing on the ballot. McGinty will likely not prevail if she does not bend the curve. Sestak’s campaign information flow is strongest in the critical Philadelphia/Southeast (71%/12%) region of the state, as well as in Scranton/Lehigh Valley (72%/8%). McGinty’s campaign information flow peaks in South Central PA (78%/16%), Pittsburgh/Southwest (72%/17%) and Northern Tier (72%/5%). 

Q: Have you seen, read or heard anything recently about John Fetterman?

(Asked only of Yes respondents from Fetterman SRH)

Q: Has that information given you a more favorable or a more unfavorable opinion of John Fetterman?

Q: Have you seen, read or heard anything recently about Joe Sestak?

(Asked only of Yes respondents from Sestak SRH)

Q: Has that information given you a more favorable or a more unfavorable opinion of Joe Sestak?

Q: Have you seen, read or heard anything recently about Katie McGinty?

(Asked only of Yes respondents from McGinty SRH)

Q: Has that information given you a more favorable or a more unfavorable opinion of Katie McGinty?

Obama/Biden Endorsements


Large and very comparable majorities of likely Democratic primary voters say the fact that Katie McGinty has been endorsed by President Obama (58% more likely/8% less likely) and Vice President Joe Biden (57%/6%) makes them more likely to vote for her. For both endorsements, 34% say this information makes them much more likely to vote for McGinty. Slightly more voters say the endorsement of Biden makes no difference in their vote (36%) than for President Obama (33%). 

Q: Katie McGinty has been endorsed by President Barack Obama. Does this information make you more likely or less likely to vote for Katie McGinty?

Q: Katie McGinty has been endorsed by Vice President Joe Biden. Does this information make you more likely or less likely to vote for Katie McGinty?

Senate Candidate Ideologies

Similar portions of the electorate describe Joe Sestak (27%) and Katie McGinty (30%) as Somewhat Liberal in their political ideology. However, a combined 38% describe Sestak as either Moderate (31%) or Conservative (7%) compared to just 24% for McGinty (20% Moderate, 4% Conservative). Conversely, 32% describe Sestak as Somewhat Liberal (27%) or Very Liberal (5%) compared to 38% for McGinty (30% Somewhat, 8% Very). Somewhat Liberals are more likely to claim McGinty as one of their own (39%) than Sestak (33%). Among Moderates, 45% believe Sestak shares their political ideology, compared to 31% for McGinty. More voters describe Fetterman as Very Liberal (10%) than describe Sestak (5%) or McGinty (8%) as the same. Very Liberals are also more likely to consider Fetterman Very Liberal (21%) than Sestak (12%) or McGinty (10%).

Q: How would you describe the political ideology of John Fetterman?

Q: And, how would you describe the political ideology of Joe Sestak?

Q: Lastly, how would you describe the political ideology of Katie McGinty?

Endorsed Candidate vs. Political Outsider

A solid 39% plurality of Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters would prefer to vote for a candidate for Senate “who is endorsed by the Democratic party in Washington” instead of “a candidate who is a political outsider” (28%). Philadelphia/Southeast voters are the most likely to prefer an establishment candidate (48%/21% outsider) while Pittsburgh/Southwest voters are more split (38% endorsed, 32% outsider). A near-majority of women want a candidate who is endorsed by the party (47%/19%) while men are more likely to gravitate towards a political outsider (30%/39%). 

Senate Undecided Voter Profile

Nineteen percent of likely voters remain undecided on the Senate Democratic primary ballot. A significant 64% of these voters are women, and they generally prefer a candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party in Washington (35%/22% outsider). They break for Hillary Clinton 40-32% over Bernie Sanders. 

 

The Race for President

Candidate Images

Both Hillary Clinton (75% favorable/24% unfavorable) and Bernie Sanders (71%/27%) are viewed favorably by the Democratic primary electorate in Pennsylvania. However, Clinton’s intensity of favorability is much stronger than Sanders’ (47% very favorable, Sanders: 33%). 

Ballot Test

Sanders has grown his support but still trails Clinton by a significant 22% margin. Clinton continues to lead among Moderates (58-28%) and Somewhat Liberals (60-31%) but now trails Sanders among Very Liberal voters (45-51%). She holds an advantage among both women (60-27%) and men (49-40%). 

4/2/16

3/1/2016

1/22/16

Clinton

55%

57%

56%

Sanders

33%

27%

28%

O’Malley

N/A

N/A

4%

Undecided

12%

16%

13%

Q: If the Democratic primary election for President were held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for: Hillary Clinton OR Bernie Sanders?

Attorney General Ballot

Josh Shapiro has moved to the front of the field since Harper’s last survey of the race January 22-23, now earning a third of the vote (33%, 1/22: 19%). He is followed by Stephen Zappala (17%) and John Morganelli (16%) with 34% undecided. Ideologically, Shapiro’s strongest support comes from Very Liberal voters (42%, Somewhat Liberal: 38%, Moderate: 32%, Zappala 25%). He earns a near-majority of the Philadelphia/Southeast region of the state (48%) and also leads in the South Central (31%, Morganelli 16%) and Northern Tier (22%, Morganelli 19%) regions. Zappala leads in Pittsburgh/Southwest (49%, Shapiro 22%) while Morganelli has the advantage in Scranton/Lehigh Valley (37%, Shapiro 25%). Shapiro expands his lead among African-American voters (43%, Morganelli 11%).  

Q: If the Democratic primary election for Attorney General of Pennsylvania were held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for: John Morganelli, Josh Shapiro, or Stephen Zappala?

Results & Methodology

METHODOLOGY:
The sample size for the survey is 603 likely Democratic voters in Pennsylvania and the margin of error is +/-4.0%. Reponses were gathered through land line interviews conducted using Interactive Voice Response (IVR). The survey was commissioned, paid for and conducted by Harper Polling April 2-3, 2016. The total percentages for responses may not equal 100% due to rounding.
NOTE: In the interest of disclosure, Harper Polling conducts survey research for Senator John Rafferty, Republican for Attorney General.

Harper Polling