The latest poll of registered Democrats across Pennsylvania shows that not only has York County businessman Tom Wolf maintained his lead against his three party rivals seeking the nomination to run for governor but his chief rival, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, has lost some support since February.
The poll, released Thursday by Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, was conducted March 25-31 and queried 524 registered Democrats. Wolf had the support of 33 percent of the responders. Schwartz, of Montgomery County, was a distant second with 7 percent of those surveyed saying they supported her. State Treasurer Rob McCord was third with 6 percent and former state Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty drew the support of 4 percent.
Both McCord and McGinty gained supporters since the February poll, while Wolf and Schwartz slipped slightly.
The results from the February poll conducted by the college showed Wolf with 36 percent, Schwartz with 9 percent, McCord with 3 and McGinty with just 1 percent.
But even for those trailing by so much with more than a month before the May 20 primary, there was some good news in the poll. About half of those surveyed — 46 percent — did not express a preference for governor at this time meaning there are a lot of undecideds out there that can be swayed by the candidates.
Though a local political science professor doesn’t see this as much a silver lining for candidates not named Wolf.
“With the Democratic primary for governor quickly approaching, this poll basically could not be better news for candidate Tom Wolf. Sustaining a sizable lead over such a crowded field is a testament of the strength of his campaign,” said Keystone College Professor Jeff Brauer.
“The obvious question mark still in the race is the large number of undecided voters. However, many of these will eventually end up in the Wolf camp. … That, with Wolf’s large percentage of ‘certain’ voters, will make it very difficult for any of his opponents to catch him before the May primary,” Brauer said.
The poll showed that 71 percent had seen a commercial for one of the Democratic candidates but only one of them — Wolf — had a commercial viewed by more than half those polled. His sinking of $10 million of personal wealth into the race early, especially via commercials, has been cited by political observers, including Brauer, as a key to his emergence.
“It also demonstrates the power of money in U.S. politics. Wolf’s deep pockets has proven to be the distinct advantage over his follow candidates. The ability to run television advertisements early and often throughout the state has clearly helped to endear him to the PA Democratic electorate,” Brauer noted.
The winner of the Democratic primary will likely face Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in November.
Other poll findings of note:
• Education remains the top issue for Democratic voters when they consider which candidate to support in the primary, with 31 percent of responders giving that answer. The economy/job market was next with 19 percent of those surveyed saying it was their top issue. Energy/fracking was a distant third with just six percent of those surveyed citing it as their top issue.
• When asked who they’d support for a party nominee for president in 2016, Hillary Clinton was the overwhelming choice, garnering 55 percent of the responses. Vice President and Scranton native Joe Biden was a distant second with five percent.
• Looking at the demographics of those who took the survey, 13 percent were from Northeast Pennsylvania, 38 percent were age 65 or older, 24 percent said they were a gun owner, 84 percent were white and 58 percent were female.
• The poll has a 4.3 percent margin of error.