Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Burns leads Critz 44-41

Buoyed by an electorate that is exceptionally sour on national Democrats, Republican Tim Burns has a 44-41 lead over Democrat Mark Critz in the special election to replace John Murtha in the House.

It's a rare election these days where both candidates are viewed pretty favorably in the district. 45% of voters have a favorable opinion of Burns to 26% who view him unfavorably and Critz is in positive territory as well with 41% of voters saying they like him to 34% who do not.

Tipping the balance in a race where each candidate is pretty well liked may be the way voters in the district feel about a number of key Democrats- Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Arlen Specter, and Ed Rendell are all exceptionally unpopular. Obama's approval rating is just 33% to 57% disapproving, only 24% have a favorable opinion of Pelosi to 64% with an unfavorable one, 28% of voters approve of Specter to 60% who don't, and 24% give Rendell good marks to 63% unhappy with him. Those aren't the sorts of reviews that bode well for the district electing another Democratic politician.

Although the district is exceptionally Democratic- 55% in this sample- these are not what you would think of as mainstream national Democratic voters. Only 50% of the party's voters in the district approve of Obama's job performance and just 43% support the health care bill passed last month. There are more Democrats in the district who have an unfavorable opinion of Nancy Pelosi than a positive one.

Because of that it's not surprising that Burns is winning over 22% of the Democratic vote compared to Critz's 10% of the Republican vote. Burns also has a 51-31 lead with independents, although there are fewer of them in this district than most.

Republicans have the enthusiasm on their side in this race as well. 57% of GOP voters say that they are 'very excited' about voting in the special election while just 38% of Democrats express that sentiment. There's been some speculation that more closely contested primaries on the Democratic side for Senator and Governor might give the party a turnout edge but that will more than likely be evened out by Republicans being more excited about the special election.

We find a likely electorate that voted for John McCain by seven points in 2008, in contrast to his single point victory in the district. That six point shift in a Republican direction is consistent with what we found for the electorate in the Massachusetts Senate election in January, but it shows Critz could make this even closer by getting Democratic voters out to the polls in the same proportions that were seen in 2008.

It's hard to see this race as anything but a tossup at this point. It's very close and there are a fair number of undecided voters still remaining. Critz is clearly doing an effective job of distancing himself from national Democrats and is polling remarkably well given the way voters in the district feel about his party. Still Burns has the national political climate and a more fired up party base on his side, and that gives him a very good chance to flip this seat to the Republicans next month. It's going to be an interesting one to watch unfold.

Full results here


Anonymous said...

This poll just shows that Dems are going to be slaughtered (Politically of course) in appalachia, even in historically Democrat districts, very much because of cap and trade and some other stuff.

Anonymous said...

Dave Wasserman of Cook Political Report is already warning for months that the appalachian trail is going to be ground zero for Dems in Nov.

Ranjit said...


I don't think, this district is democratic in nature. It voted democrat because of John Murtha. So, it will not be a big surprise to flip this one.

Unknown said...

It's not just cap and trade. These are union guys who feel like the party has gone away from them. They cling to their guns and religion and lean toward a more aggressive foreign policy. Hillary Clinton got 70% in this district. I'm sure some of it has to do with Bill Clinton being loved here. He's from a town that's similar. Obama is a liberal intellectual from Hawaii, Harvard, and Chicago.

There is a rift between progressives and union guys in the Democratic party.

Anonymous said...

@Dave, Are you Dave Wasserman? Some birdie is telling me that you are...

Anonymous said...

@Ranjit, It is an overwhelmingly Dem district, Dems outnumber Rs by a 2 to 1 margin in voter registration.

Anonymous said...

Tom, can you please explain, is the percentage of Ds in PA-12, 55% and therefore you weighted it to 55%, so how is it still McCain +7 instead of +1, or district is more than 55% Ds and with likely voters, it's only 55% Ds and that's how I woud understand that it's McCain +7. Thanks for your great work and please explain.

Anonymous said...

As a long-time resident of PA-12, I can tell you that the district was hopelessly gerrymandered in 2000 to give Murtha the edge. The district had gone Republican in previous years before the borders were redrawn, although I can't recall the representative's name who held the seat.

The Dems in southwestern PA are, as the article says, resemble the national Dems in name only. They are very socially conservative and family oriented and - dare I say it - could be catagorized as Reagan Democrats.

I'm in the outer reaches of this aforementioned gerrymandered district, and as I mentioned on another blog, I have been waiting to vote for a Murtha opponent for years. When he was alive, I couldn't stand him, not only because he didn't care if we existed, but because he made those ridiculous accusations of the Marines at Haditha and in general sticking both his feet in his mouth on a regular basis. Then there was ABSCAM, which had been pretty much shoved under the rug for years. I really can't stand how since his death, Murtha's being painted as some great warrior-statesman. Nothing could be further from the truth.

All told, Murtha was the worst kind of career politician we ever were stuck with, and I'm glad we finally have a chance to dispense with his more-of-the-same successor.

Christian Liberty said...

In a district/PPP poll with 55% Democrats:

... Leftists like Obama, Pelosi, Specter, and Rendell are unpopular... but a moderate Republican like Pat Toomey is favorable to a plurality in the Democratic district. Toomey is also up by 10 against Specter.

Voter excitement is much stronger among men, which bodes well for Burns and Toomey.

Among independents, Burns leads 51%-33%. Independents also find Burns more favorable (49-27) than Critz (34-32).

Republicans have highest levels of enthusiasm, independents/other next, Democrats lowest.

Burns not only wins the head-to-head among white voters (44-41) but also among minorities (43-34).

Toomey is also favorable with both whites and others (36-28).

Every single age subgroup opposes Obamacare by at least 13% margins.

Anonymous said...

Dude only in your disturbed world is Pat Toomey a moderate Republican. He is far right and once the electorate learns anything about him hes done. Pennsyvlania is a blue state and strongly pro-choice

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