Suffolk University Poll Shows Republicans Lead for Senate, Governor

With five weeks until the general election, Pennsylvania is leaning Republican, as GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett (47 percent) leads his Democratic rival Dan Onorato (40 percent), while Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey (45 percent) clings to a five point lead over Democrat Joe Sestak (40 percent), according to the latest Suffolk University poll.

“With the number of undecided voters shrinking, both Democrats need to shake things up in their respective races,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “Otherwise, it will be a doubleheader victory for the GOP in this key state.”

In the Presidential election of 2008, Democrat Barack Obama bested Republican John McCain by a 55 percent to 44 percent margin. President Obama’s favorable rating in the latest Suffolk poll is 41 percent favorable and 51 percent unfavorable.

Hillary Clinton, who easily defeated Obama in the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary in April 2008, was the most popular political figure in the poll, as 56 percent gave her a favorable rating while just 34 percent indicated an unfavorable view. And among those voters still undecided for governor, Secretary of State Clinton’s popularity was 66 percent favorable to just 24 percent unfavorable, suggesting that she could make an impact in the governor’s race.

“Hillary Clinton could be a catalyst to motivate voters at a time when Democrats like President Obama and Gov. Rendell are suffering the throes of the bad economy,” Paleologos said.

Indeed, few believe that the recession is over in Pennsylvania. Only 10 percent indicated they thought the recession had ended, while 83 percent said it was not over. And when likely voters were asked if the job situation will improve in the next six months, only 29 percent indicated yes, while 59 percent said no.

In the governor’s race, Corbett was seen as the candidate more likely to change the way government works in Harrisburg (Corbett 44 percent vs. Onorato 28 percent).

“Clearly, the challenge for both Onorato and Sestak is to disconnect themselves with the policies of Democratic incumbents,” Paleologos said.

A whopping 84 percent of likely Keystone State voters said that Pennsylvania law should be changed so that all parties have the same signature requirements when running for governor. Currently, Democratic and Republican candidates only need to secure 2,000 certified signatures, while Independent or third party candidates must garner 19,082 signatures. Of those polled, 72 percent said that they would consider an Independent candidate in Pennsylvania, while 16 percent said they would not vote for an Independent candidate under any circumstance and 9 percent said they would definitely vote for a third party candidate.

In the bellwether Erie County, both races were much closer. In the Senate fight Toomey led Sestak 42 percent to 41 percent, while Corbett led Onorato 43 percent to 42 percent. In the last mid-term general election in Pennsylvania, Erie County was within two points of the Rendell 58-42 percent statewide win over Republican Lynn Swann in the governor’s race, and Erie County exactly matched the 59-41 percent win of Bob Casey over Rick Santorum in the Senate fight in that same election.

The Suffolk University poll taken in May 2010 was the closest to call the Democratic Primary between Joe Sestak and Arlen Specter. The SUPRC poll showed a nine point lead for Sestak, who won by eight on election day.


The statewide survey of 500 Pennsylvania registered voters was conducted Sept. 24-27, 2010 using live telephone interviews. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The Erie County bellwether included 300 likely voters polled 9/26-9/27. Bellwethers are designed to predict outcomes, not margins. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data will be posted Tuesday Sept. 28 on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site: For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.