Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher (55 percent) is widening his lead over Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (27 percent) by nearly 30 points in the race for U.S. Senate among likely Democratic Primary voters in Ohio, according to a poll released today by the Suffolk University Political Research Center. Eighteen percent of voters were undecided.

The winner of the Democratic Primary will face Republican Rob Portman, who is unopposed, in the general election. Incumbent Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican, will retire at the end of his term.

“What was a single-digit race a couple of weeks ago has really opened up," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. "As always in a projected low turnout, the race is down to who can turn out their core base of support on Election Day. However, this poll suggests that, although the margin may be in question, the outcome will not be.”

Highlights

Fisher led Brunner comfortably among men and women, in all age groups, and among union and non-union households. Fisher extended his lead to 38 points (63 percent-to-25 percent) in Cuyahoga County and to 48 points (61 percent-to-13 percent) among all minority voters.

Brunner's best showing was among households with school-age children, where she trailed Fisher by 13 points (Fisher 43 percent, Brunner 30 percent).

Fisher has raised considerably more money than Brunner, and his campaign has spent about $3 million, as opposed to her $800,000, according to news reports.

Fisher's fund-raising edge has driven a perception edge, according to Paleologos. When all likely Democratic voters were asked which candidate has the best chance of defeating Portman in the November general election, 55 percent chose Fisher, while 15 percent said Brunner.

Strong party unity

Supporters of Fisher and Brunner are showing strong party loyalty looking ahead to November. Seventy-two percent of Fisher voters said they would vote for Brunner if she were the nominee against Republican Portman this fall, while 6 percent would vote for Portman; 10 percent would select one of the independent candidates; and 12 percent said they wouldn't vote at all.

Similarly, 74 percent of Brunner voters said they would vote for Fisher if he were the Democratic nominee against Portman, while 8 percent would vote for Portman, 7 percent for one of the independent candidates, and 10 percent wouldn't vote.

“Unlike the divisive 2008 Democratic Primary for president between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, when many more Democratic voters said they would vote for John McCain in November if their candidate lost, Ohio Democrats are steadfast in their support of the Democratic nominee come November,” said Paleologos.

President popular among Democrats

Barack Obama holds high popularity among his base of Democratic voters, as 86 percent of respondents viewed him favorably and 12 percent unfavorably. Registered Democrats account for 30 percent of registered voters in Ohio; Republicans represent 19 percent; and unaffiliated voters represent a majority at 51 percent.

Strickland endorsement

In a year where endorsements from incumbent politicians are often a curse, Ohio bucks the trend. Fifty percent said that Gov. Ted Strickland's endorsement of Lee Fisher made them more likely to support Fisher in the May 4 Primary, and 10 percent said it made them less likely to support him.

Ohio bellwether

The U.S. Senate Democratic Primary bellwether of Erie County showed trends similar to the statewide ballot test. Fisher (54 percent) led Brunner (27 percent) with 17 percent undecided. In the 2004 Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate, Eric Fingerhut defeated Norbert Dennerll in Erie County, Ohio, 72 percent to 28 percent, nearly exactly matching the statewide Ohio Democratic results (Fingerhut 71 percent. Denerll 29 percent statewide).

Bellwether tests have been 96 percent accurate in predicting straight-up winners when they agree with the statewide poll and are taken within three days of an election. Bellwether tests are designed to predict outcomes, not margins.

Demographics

The Suffolk University statewide Democratic Primary poll was conducted was conducted by live telephone interviews Tuesday, April 27, through Thursday, April 29, 2010. The margin of error on the statewide survey of 400 is +/- 4.90 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. All respondents from the statewide survey were likely Democratic voters in the Ohio U.S. Senate Primary to be held Tuesday, May 4. Frequencies/marginals and 92 pages of cross-tabulation data will be posted today on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site. The bellwether of Erie County, Ohio, was conducted April 28 through 29 and included a total of 250 likely Democratic respondents. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.