Pennsylvania Democratic Primary Poll
January 22-23, 2016
Direction of Pennsylvania
A majority of likely Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania say things in Pennsylvania “have gotten off on the wrong track” (51%). Just a third say things are headed in the “right direction.”
Governor Tom Wolf continues to enjoy a very strong image among Democratic primary voters (78%/20%). His image is even stronger than that of former Governor Ed Rendell (70%/25%), although Rendell still posts an impressive 70% favorability. Governor Wolf’s image is softer among self-identified Moderates (34% very favorable, 40% somewhat) and stronger among Liberals (Somewhat Liberal: 50% very, 31% somewhat; Very Liberal: 60% very, 26% somewhat). His unfavorable number peaks in the Northern Tier region of the state (67%/31%).
Kathleen Kane Image
Kathleen Kane’s image is a net negative among primary voters (43% favorable/49% unfavorable), with 17% reported as very favorable and 22% as very unfavorable. Men have a more unfavorable view of Kane (42%/53%) than women (43%/45%).
Senator Bob Casey Image
Senator Casey reaches 74% favorability among likely Democratic primary voters (19% unfavorable). A 37% plurality has a very favorable opinion of the Senator. His image is strong across all regions of the state (Northern Tier: 70%/26%, Phil./SE: 71%/19%, Pitt./SW: 75%/20%, Scranton/LV: 80%/18%, South Central: 79%/16%), with notable intensity of favorability in Scranton/Lehigh Valley (51% very favorable).
Likely Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania have a narrowly positive image of Socialism (38%/35%). A third of voters say they have a somewhat favorable opinion of this political movement. Very Liberals (44%) and younger voters (23%) are the most likely to have a very favorable opinion of Socialism.
A majority of likely Democratic primary voters have a favorable opinion of Capitalism (57%/29%) with a plurality of voters having a somewhat favorable opinion (40%). Moderates are more likely than Liberals to have a very favorable view of Capitalism (23%, Somewhat Lib: 13%, Very Lib.: 13%).
Tattoos For some reason, we also asked voters for their opinion of body art, or tattoos. Tattoos are a disappointing net negative among Democratic primary voters (25%/46%) with the intensity gap on the side of those with an unfavorable opinion of tattoos (20% very unfavorable, 9% very favorable). However, a majority of younger voters have a favorable opinion of tattoos (50%/34%).
The Race for President
More than three-in-four likely Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters (77%) have a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton (21% unfavorable). Bernie Sanders also has a very strong image among likely primary voters (68%/26%). However, Clinton’s intensity of favorability is stronger than Sanders’ (Clinton: 45% very favorable, Sanders: 29% very favorable). Clinton’s image is strongest in the two urban centers of the state (Phil./SE: 83%/14%, Pitt./SW: 81%/17%). A majority of female Democratic primary voters have a very favorable opinion of Clinton (54%, 83% favorable/15% unfavorable) compared to 34% of men (70%/27%). Clinton’s image intensity is stronger among older voters than younger (18-39: 31% very favorable, 40-54: 37%, 55-65: 47%, 66+: 56%). In contrast to Clinton, Sanders’ image is comparably strong across all regions of the state (Northern Tier: 70%/29%, Phil./SE: 70%/24%, Pitt./SW: 66%/27%, Scranton/LV: 66%/26%, South Central: 67%/28%) and his favorability is more intense among younger voters than older voters (18-39: 38% very favorable, 40-54: 31%, 55-65: 31%, 66+: 21%).
Hillary Clinton has a solid majority lead on the primary ballot for President (56%), followed by Bernie Sanders (28%). Martin O’Malley, former Governor of neighboring Maryland, registers at just 4%. Clinton earns a majority of the vote among Moderates (54-24% Sanders) and Somewhat Liberal voters (59-28%) while Sanders narrows her lead to 4% among Very Liberal voters (49-45%). Reflecting their image advantages, Clinton’s leads are strongest in the Philadelphia/Southeast (64-25%) and Pittsburgh/Southwest (55-29%) regions of the state, while Sanders narrows her margin somewhat in the other three regions (Northern Tier: 46-30%, Scranton/LV: 50-25%, South Central: 47-34%). Clinton earns two-thirds of the vote among women (66-18%) but leads by just 3% among men (43-40%). Sanders leads among 18-39 year olds (40-41%) but trails among the remaining age groups (40-54: 50-31%, 55-65: 57-28%, 66+: 66-19%). Voters who say they have a very favorable opinion of Socialism choose Sanders (35-58%) while those with a very favorable opinion of Capitalism choose Clinton (56-16%).
Q: If the Democratic primary election for President were held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, OR Bernie Sanders?
The Race for Senate
Joe Sestak has the strongest image of the three candidates in the Democratic primary field for U.S. Senate (54%/20%), reaching majority favorability. However, much of his favorability is soft, in the somewhat favorable category (35%). He has the highest name identification of the candidates, followed by Katie McGinty, who also posts a solid favorable image (49%/19%). Mayor John Fetterman has a net positive image (27%/20%), but faces a name identification disadvantage (53% not sure). Joe Sestak’s image is strongest in the Philadelphia/Southeast (59%/22%) and Scranton/Lehigh Valley (61%/17%) areas of the state. His image demonstrates more strength among older voters (18-39: 39%/21%, 40-54: 52%/18%, 55-65: 58%/22%, 66+: 60%/16%). Sestak’s image is also notably strong among Very Liberal voters (68%/17%, Somewhat Liberal: 55%/20%). By contrast, McGinty’s image is stronger among Somewhat Liberals (58%/11%, Very: 45%/19%). Her image is weakest in her home region of Philadelphia (40%/22%) and stronger in the other regions of the state (Northern Tier: 53%/13%, Pitt/SW: 51%/16%, Scranton/LV: 56%/15%, South Central: 53%/20%). McGinty’s image is actually a bit stronger among men (53%/19%) than among women (45%/17%). John Fetterman’s image improves substantially among Very Liberals (34%/10%) voters in the Pittsburgh/Southwest region (40%/21%) and 18-39 year olds (26%/14%).
Joe Sestak (33%) leads the Democratic primary race for Senate, followed closely by Katie McGinty (28%) and more distantly by John Fetterman (11%). More than a quarter of likely voters remain undecided at this stage (28%). With the addition of Fetterman, Sestak’s lead over McGinty has narrowed since our September 2015 poll (Sestak 40%, McGinty 30%, Undecided 29%). McGinty’s image strength among Somewhat Liberals translates to a lead for her among this group (32-30% Sestak) as well as among Moderates (32-28%). Sestak leads among Very Liberals (40-28% McGinty). Geographically, Sestak converts his image advantage in the Philadelphia/Southeast region to a lead on the ballot (36-23% McGinty) and also leads in the Northern Tier (36-27%). Sestak and McGinty are tied in Pittsburgh/Southwest (27-27%) and Scranton/Lehigh Valley (33-33%) regions while McGinty has a lead in the South Central region (39-29% Sestak).
Fetterman Wildcard: John Fetterman’s wild card status is re-enforced on the ballot, where he demonstrates strength among some key and interesting demographics. His share of the vote peaks among Very Liberals (14%), in his current home region of Pittsburgh/Southwest (19%) and among younger voters (18-39: 16%). Among people with a very favorable opinion of tattoos, he pulls into second place behind Sestak (29-35% Sestak).
Q: If the Democratic primary election for United States Senate were held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for: John Fetterman, Katie McGinty or Joe Sestak?
Most of John Fetterman (46% definitely, 36% probably) and Joe Sestak’s (47% definitely, 35% probably) voters say they are definitely going to vote for their candidate, while McGinty’s support demonstrates less intensity (40% definitely, 44% probably).
Q: And would you say you are definitely or probably going to vote for John Fetterman?
Q: And would you say you are definitely or probably going to vote for Katie McGinty?
Q: And would you say you are definitely or probably going to vote for Joe Sestak?
All three candidate biographies tested make solid majorities of Democratic primary voters more likely to vote for the candidates. McGinty (68% more likely, 17% less likely) and Sestak’s (67%/16%) bios register almost identically for likely Democratic primary voters evaluating their past bona fides (both 33% much more likely). Mayor Fetterman’s bio, while making a similar portion of the electorate more likely to vote for him (64%/19%), has a slightly softer impact (26% much more, 38% somewhat more). The test of Fetterman’s biography demonstrates his potential, at the very least, to compete in the Pittsburgh/Southwest (38% much more likely) and South Central (39% much more likely) regions of the state. His bio also resonates strongly with younger Democratic voters (18-39: 36% much more likely).
Now I am going to read you three candidate biographies. Please tell me whether the information you hear about each candidate makes you more likely or less likely to vote for them.
Q: The candidate is a Philadelphia native who has been an advisor to Vice President Al Gore, Environmental Advisor under President Bill Clinton, and Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Governor Ed Rendell. She unsuccessfully ran for Governor in 2014 and later served as Governor Tom Wolf’s Chief of Staff.
Q: The candidate is a former U.S. Navy three-star admiral who was born in Delaware County outside Philadelphia. He served two terms in the United States House of Representatives and ran for Senate in 2010. He also served as Director for Defense on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton.
Q: The candidate is a native of York and is mayor of Braddock, a historic steel town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. After earning a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Harvard University, he joined AmeriCorps and moved to the severely economically depressed town to try to revitalize it.
Attorney General Ballots
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala (20%) and Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro (19%) are essentially tied, in what has signs of becoming an East vs. West match-up, with several candidates dropping out of the race in the past week (Morganelli 12%). The regional breaks tell the story on this ballot. Although Josh Shapiro earns a solid plurality (33%) of the vote in the Philadelphia/Southeast region, Stephen Zappala demonstrates dominance in the Pittsburgh/Southwest region (63%). John Morganelli and Josh Shapiro tie in the Northern Tier region (17%) and in the South Central area (12% Morganelli, 13% Shapiro). Zappala holds an advantage among Moderates (25%-14% Shapiro) while Shapiro and Zappala tie among Somewhat Liberals (20%) and Shapiro leads among Very Liberals (23-19% Zappala).
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?
With Kathleen Kane
Despite it all, when incumbent Kathleen Kane (31%) is included on the Democratic primary ballot for Attorney General, she holds a double-digit lead over her closest challenger, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala (18%). Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro (13%) and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli (9%) register third and fourth, respectively. Kane still holds strong advantages in the Scranton/Lehigh Valley (40-23% Morganelli), South Central (42-11% Zappala) and Northern Tier (39-13% Zappala) regions. Zappala earns a majority of the vote in the Pittsburgh/Southwest region (51%) while Shapiro trails Kane by 2% in the Philadelphia/Southeast region (26-24%). Kane leads among both women (30-19% Zappala) and men (32-17% Zappala).
Q: If the Democratic primary election for Attorney General of Pennsylvania were held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for: Kathleen Kane, John Morganelli, Josh Shapiro, or Stephen Zappala?
NOTE: In the interest of disclosure, Harper Polling conducts survey research for Senator John Rafferty, the Republican nominee for Attorney General.
Threats to the United States
Almost two-thirds of likely Democratic primary voters identify “homegrown right-wing extremists” (63%) as a bigger threat to the United States than “radical Islamic terrorists” (29%). The likelihood of choosing “homegrown right-wing extremists” increases as ideology becomes more Liberal (Moderate: 40%/52%, Somewhat Liberal: 20%/71%, Very Liberal: 15%/84%).
Q: Which of the following do you think poses a bigger threat to the United States: radical Islamic terrorists or homegrown right-wing extremists?
Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania decidedly agree that “freedom of speech protects all statements, regardless of whether they are offensive to others “(78%) rather than that “in some cases, the government should be able to prevent people from saying things that are offensive to others” (15%).
Q: Which of the following statements comes closest to your opinion:
In some cases, the government should be able to prevent people from saying things that are personally offensive to others OR Freedom of speech protects all statements, regardless of whether they are offensive to others.
Pennsylvania’s Atlantic Coastline
A 52% majority of likely Democratic primary voters favor “increasing funding to protect Pennsylvania’s Atlantic coastline” (16% oppose, 33% not sure).
Q: Do you favor or oppose increasing funding to protect Pennsylvania’s Atlantic coastline?
2014 Democratic Primary Poll
To view Harper Polling's survey results from the 2014 Democratic Primary Election for Pennsylvania Governor, click here.
Full Results & Methodology