With the November Senatorial and Gubernatorial Elections 2010 looming in the near future, Pennsylvania, and my home city of Philadelphia, are gaining massive importance, as we typically do nearing Election Day. Over the last several days, the media has released a flurry of poll numbers in connection with several key Pennsylvanian Congressional, Senatorial, and Gubernatorial races. The news seems a little bleak for the Democrats with numbers that imply impending losses to Republican nominees, is this truly the case? Is the pendulum really swinging that strongly in favor of the GOP, or is it still too early to tell?
Election Day Voter Issues
The issue of polling, which affects election results, has been raised many times. In fact, announcing exit-polling results of a projected Presidential winner is strictly regulated during November 2 open polling hours so the results do not skew voters’ decision-making processes. However, because the restrictions do not affect polling in the months and weeks leading up to Election Day, these announcements can, and do, affect voters’ attitudes.
Recent Race Polling Issues
The most recent poll results in major PA races show a significant lead for the GOP candidates for Senator and Governor. The numbers announced show that Pat Toomey (R-PA) holds a seven-point lead over the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) with seven percent still undecided. As an afterthought, these polling results come from “likely voter” surveys, with no explanation of the methodology used to determine who a “likely voter” is as compared to registered voters.
In the Governor’s race, State Attorney General Tom Corbett (R-PA) leads Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato (D-PA) by 15 points with seven percent undecided. The numbers do not look good for Democrats, but again, I ask, is this the whole story? Independent voters have an increased impact of which polls are mentioning this fact. Predicting the future is problematic at best, but without knowing what the pollsters consider a “Likely Voter,” it is uncertain what these poll numbers represent to the public.
Obama’s “Approval Rating Factor” Effect
Now, the “Obama factor” and the intense campaign on the GOP’s part to damage his image is another play on voters’ moods using Likely Voter approval ratings. Considering the economic troubles facing America, the increased GOP effort has worked to some degree and the seeming lack of concerted response from the Democratic White House has so far soured America’s general attitude towards Democrats. The general dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs plays heavily on the public mood, cycling Obama’s approval rating down farther, thus sullying the public towards Democrats even more. This makes it difficult for “likely voters” to elect any Democrat nominee, but again, who are the Likely Voters?
The “Likely Voter”
In PA and the US, the media is focusing on “likely voter” election results. While this is legitimate from a journalistic perspective, these results can damage the entire democratic process. Voters need to know the real story behind the candidates and not the “Oracle of Delphi’s” pronouncements. The problem is that registered voters are potentially too vulnerable to the Likely Voter polling pronouncements, which then swings the entire vote based on a small part of the registered voter population.
I only hope that before Election Day 2010 every eligible Philadelphian voter makes their mind up about Pennsylvania’s future, ignoring the prognostications while “getting their democracy on.” As a registered Democrat in the 13th Congressional district in Philadelphia, I intend to keep (most of) my opinion to myself, waiting until November 3 to speak up. Let us not allow a small, but opinionated population of Philadelphia to control this year’s Election Day vote.
Chris Brennan “Latest Poll Show GOP with leas in PA races,” Philadelphia Daily News
George F. Will, “”Swing time in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District?” The Washington Post Survey Results, “Independent Oppose Party in Power… Again,” PEW Research Center
Michael Dimock, Scott Keeter, et al., “”Screening “Likely Voters” Experiment,” PEW Research Center
Jocelyn Kiley and Michael Dimock, “”Understand Likely Voters” (PDF) PEW Research Center Alex Isenstadt, “New Poll Shows Murphy Down 14 Percent,” Politico
“Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District & Map” GovTrack.US