Toomey leads Sestak by 4 in Rematch

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s newest Pennsylvania Senate poll continues to find Pat Toomey with mediocre approval numbers, but leading the Democratic field.

30% of voters approve of the job Toomey is doing to 37% who disapprove. Those numbers are little changed from when we polled the state in January and found 28% approving to 35% who disapproved. Throughout his first term we’ve consistently found Toomey with about a third of voters approving of him, about a third disapproving, and about a third having no opinion either way. 

Despite his weak approval though, Toomey still leads half a dozen announced and hypothetical candidates we tested against him by anywhere from 4 to 11 points. The Democrat who comes closest to Toomey is 2010 candidate Joe Sestak, who trails by 4 points at 42/38. That’s pretty similar to his 2 point margin of defeat the first time the two faced off.  54% of voters have no opinion either way about Sestak, indicating he’s lost most of the name recognition he built up in his first run. Toomey leads the other announced Democratic candidate, Ed Pawlowski, 44/34. Pawlowski is little known statewide with 28% name recognition.

We also tested 4 other Democrats against Toomey- three who have expressed interest at some point in challenging him and one reach candidate. Seth Williams (30% name recognition), Chris Carney (29% name recognition), and Vincent Hughes (28% name recognition) are all relatively unknown across the state. They trail Toomey by similar margins- Carney and Hughes are each down by 9 at 44/35, and Williams is down by 11 at 44/33. 

We also looked at former Governor Ed Rendell as a potential candidate- he’s actually three years younger than Ted Strickland who’s looking like a strong contender in the Ohio Senate race. Rendell left office unpopular though and feelings about him in the state continue to be pretty mixed- 42% see him favorably and 47% unfavorably. Rendell would trail Toomey 46/41 in a hypothetical contest, similar to Sestak’s deficit.

One thing that may have Democrats running behind in Pennsylvania despite Toomey’s unpopularity is that Barack Obama is quite unpopular there- only 38% of voters say they approve of the job he’s doing to 54% who disapprove. Those numbers make the political climate more difficult for Democratic candidates. On the flip side though Bob Casey is the state’s most popular politician with a 43/33 approval rating and Tom Wolf is at least on positive ground at 40/35.

The overall takeaway from our first 2 Pennsylvania Senate polls of the cycle is pretty steady- as long as Democrats do well in the Presidential race in the state, the Senate race should be close as well.

Full results here

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