Poll: The presidential race is tight in Pennsylvania
By Mike Wereschagin
Published: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, 9:17 p.m.
Two percentage points separate President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney in a state poll conducted for the Tribune-Review, even though the campaigns largely are ignoring Pennsylvania and concentrating on other battlegrounds.
Obama polled 47 percent to Romney's 45 percent among likely Pennsylvania voters, with 6 percent of voters undecided and 44 days until Election Day, according to the survey by Susquehanna Polling & Research. The survey of 800 voters, conducted Sept. 18-20, has a margin of error of 3.46 percentage points.
The poll showed most voters are disappointed with the country's direction, evenly split on whether Obama deserves another term and hesitant to back Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. Fifty-one percent of the state's voters approve of Obama's job performance.
Other recent polls showed a larger margin for Obama, leading some to speculate that Pennsylvania — which hasn't voted for a GOP presidential candidate since 1988 — no longer is a swing state. Two of those last four polls gave Obama a lead larger than his margin of victory in 2008, when he defeated Sen. John McCain of Arizona by 10 percentage points.
“All the evidence points to a much closer margin,” said Jim Lee, Susquehanna president. “Nothing suggests we're looking at anything like 2008.”
Voters continue to put the economy at the top of their list of concerns. Only one in three believes the country is headed in the right direction.
Yet, a deeper look at the numbers shows a more nuanced picture. Romney leads Obama, 48 percent to 44 percent, on the question of who would create jobs to speed up the recovery. Ask who looks out for the interests of the middle class and Obama leads, 56 percent to 38 percent.
“People run with the numbers without really paying attention to what's behind them,” said Dilip Namjoshi, 66, of Abington, a Philadelphia suburb. “Somebody says, ‘I created 2 million jobs.' Well, yes, but 600,000 of them are in China.”
Obama gained his lead on gut-level issues like that with his campaign's early attempts to define Romney, the former head of a private-equity firm, as wealthy and out of touch, Lee said. Although Romney fought off primary challengers, Democrats developed his public persona.
“The Romney folks failed to develop a positive image in this state,” Lee said.
Leah Brooks, 63, a Republican in New Wilmington, Lawrence County, said she has a hard time reading Romney.
“He seems to mean well, but I'm not sure he always sees the whole picture. I'm not sure he can get down to where we are,” Brooks said. “I don't blame him for it. But I'm not sure he really can see what it's like.”
Brooks said she's troubled by recent events in Arab countries where protesters stormed U.S. embassies and, in an apparent terrorist strike, killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
“It is important how we're seen and how we handle ourselves,” she said.
Obama leads, 49 percent to 41 percent, among likely voters on the question of who would better defend the homeland. But voters who peg foreign affairs and international events as their top concern prefer Romney, 53 percent to 46 percent, the poll found.
“We seem to get ourselves stuck in the mud and can't get out. I'm not sure anybody knows how to get out of the messes we're in,” Brooks said. “It seems that what (Obama) does best is campaign. I just wish he'd get down to business.”
Politicians and government operation tie with voters' concern about the deficit as the second-biggest problem facing the federal government, according to the poll. Thomas Hohler, 67, of Scott and other Democrats point to Republicans in Congress as the problem.
“You can't get anything accomplished if their goal is to say no to anything Obama wants,” Hohler said. The way to solve the country's problems “is to get members of Congress, elected officials, that are willing to work together to achieve something. I'm not sure how you can do that, or how soon that's going to happen.”
Hohler volunteers for Obama's campaign, though he says the past four years included disappointments.
“Obviously, Obama hasn't done as well as I would've liked. On health care, I would've liked to see him go for single-payer or Medicare for everyone,” Hohler said. Overall, the former high school teacher gives Obama a B grade.
Joseph Mozaleski said he used to vote for Democrats before the party embraced legalized abortions. Decades later, the Republican sees increasing reliance on government assistance and rules in Obama's health care law that require coverage of contraceptives as the consequences of a moral drift.
“Something is wrong with the moral fabric, and I think Romney has a better chance of bringing back my ideals in this country,” said Mozaleski, 62, of Sterling, Wayne County.
In Abington, Namjoshi registered to vote as a Republican in 1988 but changed his registration to independent last month, saying he's fed up with both parties. He said he liked Texas Congressman Ron Paul's small-government libertarian message during the GOP primaries and will watch the presidential debates to see whether either candidate says something convincing about stabilizing the country's financial situation.
“You've got to be fiscally responsible. Whoever does that is probably going to get my vote,” Namjoshi said.
The debates, the first scheduled for Oct. 3, might change the dynamic of the Pennsylvania race, Lee said.
“Three in four (undecided voters) say the country's going in the wrong direction,” Lee said. If they believe that, they're unlikely to back the incumbent, he said. “They're either staying home or they're voting for Romney.”
Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Bylsma’s moves — yes, moves — pay off
- 4 dead in Armstrong County crash
- Former Pitt captain Cavanaugh blazes trail as entrepreneur
- Penguins rally to escape with a victory in Game 1 against Columbus
- Physical Columbus team is a hit in playoff opener against Penguins
- Veteran North Huntingdon police officer fired
- Play of the game: Sutter’s goal completes rally
- Pirates notebook: Walker’s razor a right-handed swing solution
- Retired postal worker picks $1M winner
- Police see no sign Franklin Regional stabbing suspect was bullied
- 2 serious in New Ken stabbings