Bellwethers Give the Edge to Fetterman in Pennsylvania Senate Race

Early voters in two counties show Fetterman swamping Oz

Two Pennsylvania bellwether counties show Democrat John Fetterman leading Republican Mehmet Oz ahead of Tuesday’s midterm election, according to a short survey conducted by Suffolk University/USA TODAY Network October 27-30.

In Northampton County, Fetterman leads Oz 46%-44%, with the three third-party candidates combining for 1% and 9% undecided. While the poll is within the margin of error, Fetterman’s lead among voters who have already cast ballots is far larger (76%-7%), with third-party candidates receiving 2% combined. Oz leads by six points among white voters 48%-42%, but trails Fetterman among Black and Hispanic voters combined 67%-20%.

In Centre County, Fetterman leads Oz 50%-43%, with the three third-party candidates combining for 2% and 5% undecided. Fetterman also holds a substantial lead among voters who have already cast ballots (82%-9%), with third-party candidates receiving 2%. Fetterman leads among Centre County independents 51%-25% with 20% undecided, and also holds an edge among white voters 49%-46%.

About Bellwethers

Although bellwethers are not designed to predict actual margins, they have proved remarkably accurate in forecasting outcomes, said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.

Paleologos also offered a word of caution. “Past bellwether performance is a guide but not a 100% guarantee of future performance,” he said. “New bellwethers often are created every election cycle as people migrate and as development- and geography-driven issues emerge. In addition, local endorsements from popular residents can skew margins. If a bellwether misses, it is eliminated from consideration in future midterms.”

Historical precedent 

In the past two Pennsylvania midterm elections where there were contested senate and governor’s races (2018 and 2010), Northampton and Centre counties not only predicted the correct statewide winner of the senate race, but their county results were within 3% of each candidate’s final statewide total.

In the 2010 senate election, Northampton and Centre county bellwether voters each went 52% for Republican Pat Toomey and 48% for Democrat Joe Sestak, almost identical to the final statewide total of 51% for Toomey and 49% for Sestak.

And in the 2018 senate election, Northampton County bellwether voters went 54% for Democratic Senator Bob Casey and 44% for Republican challenger Lou Barletta, while Centre County went 57% for Casey and 40% for Barletta—results that mirrored the final statewide total of 56% Casey, 43% Barletta.

“We’ll be watching the results of those counties next Tuesday night to see if they give us an accurate indication of who will ultimately win statewide.,” said Paleologos. “If Oz or Fetterman win both of them, it could be a big indicator statewide.”

Bellwether methodology

Suffolk University interviewed 600 likely midterm voters from a list of Northampton (300) and Centre County (300) registrants. Polling was conducted October 27-30, 2022 and is based on live telephone interviews, including both cell (88%) and landlines (12%). Each area’s quota and demographic information—including geography, gender, party registration, and age—were determined from the 2020 Census, American Community Survey, and exit polling from like elections. All respondents indicated they were probably, almost certain, or had already voted in the midterm election. The margin of sampling error for results based on the total sample is +/-5.7 percentage points. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, [email protected].