Mercyhurst-Times-News inaugural poll shows Kelly ahead by 7 points

The Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics (MCAP) today released polling data that shows Republican challenger Mike Kelly with a lead over incumbent DemocratU.S. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper in the 3rd Congressional District. Besides the hotly contested race for Dahlkemper’s House seat, voters favor GOP candidates in the Senate and Pennsylvania governor races, according to the latest data.

The Mercyhurst-Erie Times-News public opinion poll is the inaugural effort of the college’s new, state-of-the-art polling center, which debuted on the Erie campus this fall. The results were announced Sunday, Oct. 10, in the Erie newspaper; the entire report can be viewed at the MCAP website.

The survey, which sampled 634 registered voters in Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District, showed Kelly ahead of Dahlkemper by seven percentage points – 44 percent to 37 percent. Although 12 percent were undecided, there is a substantial difference between the level of enthusiasm and interest expressed by the candidates’ supporters, the poll showed.

Of those individuals who are “enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s congressional election, 52 percent indicate that they will vote for Kelly; while only 36 percent plan to vote for Dahlkemper. Similarly, of the individuals who indicate that they are “very much interested” in this year’s political campaigns, 56 percent plan to cast a vote for Kelly compared to 36 percent for Dahlkemper.

Interestingly, Kelly leads Dahlkemper in spite of the fact that 38 percent of respondents did not recognize his name, whereas only six percent of the respondents said they did not recognize her name, noted MCAP Director Dr. Joseph Morris.

Other key findings related to the House race:

· A majority of registered voters in Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District disapprove of the job that Barack Obama, a Democrat, is doing as president (52 percent disapprove, 37 percent approve) and that Ed Rendell, a Democrat, is doing as governor (51 percent disapprove, 31 approve).

· Of the individuals who voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, 17 percent indicate that they will be supporting the Republican congressional candidate in 2010.

· 11 percent of individuals who identify themselves as Democrats indicate that they will vote for the Republican candidate for Congress this November, while 7 percent of Republicans plan to vote for the Democratic candidate.

Meanwhile, in the race for governor, Republican candidate Tom Corbett leads Democratic candidate Dan Onorato 42 percent to 36 percent, with 17 percent undecided. Likewise, in the race for the Senate, Republican candidate Pat Toomey leads Democratic candidate Joe Sestak 39 percent to 31 percent, with 24 percent still undecided.

A majority of registered voters in Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District believe that things in western Pennsylvania (51 percent) are “off on the wrong track.” More than three-quarters of registered voters (76 percent) believe that the “most important issue” facing western Pennsylvania is the lack of jobs and the economy. Similarly, when asked to identify the single most important issue facing the nation as a whole, 60 percent identify the economy or lack of jobs.

These results are based on interviews conducted between Sept. 22 and Oct. 5. With a sample size of 634, there is a 95 percent probability that the results are within plus or minus 3.89 percentage points (the margin of sampling error) of the actual population distribution for any given question.

The new Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics is the only independent, nonpartisan research organization in northwest Pennsylvania that aims to regularly conduct public opinion polls on issues of regional concern. It is directed by Morris along with Dr. Rolfe Peterson, associate director and methodologist.

“I think I speak for everyone involved with conducting the poll when I say, it was a great experience,” said Morris. "For more than two weeks, 28 dedicated students volunteered their evenings to conduct interviews with registered voters, and did a fantastic job. I hope that the results of our poll encourage people to think and talk to one another about the issues facing western Pennsylvania and the nation."

“The Mercyhurst poll results speak to the electoral picture nationally, where there is an electoral wave of support for Republicans generally over Democrats,” said Peterson. “Our results parallel this phenomenon by suggesting that Dahlkemper is trailing Kelly, despite the fact that 38 percent of respondents don’t recognize his name. In a sense, Dahlkemper is fighting a battle against the generic Republican ballot and the national tide, as well as with Kelly.”

To learn more, visit the MCAP website or call the polling center at 824-3859.
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