Posted April 14, 2008

Temple Poll: In Pennsylvania, Clinton’s advantage over McCain greater than Obama’s

Poll also shows both Democrats would beat McCain


Looking Ahead: Who Can Carry Pennsylvania?

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would both beat Senator John McCain in a head-to-head matchup in Pennsylvania today, but Clinton’s advantage is significantly larger than Obama’s, according to a new Temple Poll. The Poll also shows striking differences between the coalitions that give the two Democrats their leads over McCain. The two candidates’ claims to electability in Pennsylvania, at least, rest on different grounds.
Pennsylvanians registered to vote prefer Clinton over McCain by 51 percent to 40 percent and Obama over McCain by 47 to 40. The difference between the results in the two hypothetical contests is that larger fractions of the state electorate say they would not vote or they are uncertain how they would vote if Obama were the Democratic candidate. “The belief that a lengthy contest between the candidates for the Democratic nomination would benefit the Republican nominee is not being borne out in Pennsylvania,” according to Michael G. Hagen, director of Temple’s Institute for Public Affairs. “For the past six weeks the Democratic campaign has been more intense in Pennsylvania than anywhere else in the country, yet both Democrats hold substantial leads over Senator McCain.”
Clinton vs. McCain
Obama vs. McCain
Another candidate
Would not vote
Don’t know/Not sure
Refused 1 1



Registered Republicans
Clinton vs. McCain Obama vs. McCain Clinton vs. McCain Obama vs. McCain
74 65 11 19
20 24 77 69
Another candidate
2 2 1 1
Would not vote
2 6 6 6
Don't know/Not sure 2 3 3 4
Refused 0 0 1 1
  The two candidates’ claims on Pennsylvania differ substantially, however. Clinton owes more of her advantage to Democrats than does Obama, while Obama’s appeal to Republicans is stronger than Clinton’s. In the hypothetical contest with McCain, Clinton does considerably better than Obama among registered Democrats and worse than Obama, by about an equal margin, among registered Republicans.

Among Democrats, Clinton does better than Obama against McCain in part because Clinton’s primary supporters are less likely than Obama supporters to defect from the Democrat if their primary candidate were the nominee. Eighty-nine percent of Clinton primary voters say they would vote for Clinton if she won the nomination, but only 82 percent of Obama supporters say they would vote for Obama if he won the nomination. The reason is simple: Obama supporters are more likely than Clinton supporters to have a favorable view of McCain, by 32 to 27 percent.

Much more striking, in a matchup with McCain, Clinton primary supporters are considerably less supportive of Obama than are Obama primary supporters of Clinton. Just 49 percent of registered Democrats intending to vote for Clinton in the primary say they would vote for Obama in a general-election contest with McCain; 60 percent of Democrats intending to vote for Obama say they would vote for Clinton. Twelve percent of Clinton supporters say they would choose not to vote at all rather than vote for Obama. The reason for this is equally simple: Clinton supporters are less likely than Obama supporters to have a favorable view of the rival Democrat. Forty-six percent of Obama supporters have a favorable view of Clinton, but just 36 percent of Clinton supporters have a favorable view of Obama.

  Clinton primary voters   Obama primary voters
Vote in

general election

  Vote in general election  
Clinton 89 Obama 82
McCain 9 McCain 11
Other 0 Other 2
Don't know 2 Don't know 4
Would not vote 0 Would not vote 1
Obama 40 Clinton 60
McCain 31 McCain 26
Other 2 Other 5
Don't know 7 Don't know 6
Would not vote 12 Would not vote 4

“It’s more than a little ironic that one of Senator Clinton’s main assets in the nomination campaign is that Obama supporters are very likely to back her in November while one of Senator Obama’s liabilities is that Clinton supporters would be much less likely to back him,” Hagen said. “If Senator Clinton can claim to be more likely to carry Pennsylvania in the fall, that claim rests less on her potential to win the votes of Republicans and Independents than on the hostility among her Democratic supporters to her rival for the nomination.”

  Clinton primary voters   Obama primary voters
McCain   McCain  
Favorable 27 Favorable 32
Neither 27 Neither 24
Unfavorable 46 Unfavorable 44
Obama   Clinton  
Favorable 36 Favorable 46
Neither 29 Neither 20
Unfavorable 35 Unfavorable 34

This Temple Poll was sponsored by the Institute for Public Affairs at Temple University. For this Poll a randomly selected sample of 1175 Pennsylvanians registered to vote were interviewed by telephone between March 27 and April 9, 2008. Once the interviewing was complete, the data were weighted to correct for unequal probabilities of selection and response, and to ensure that the demographic characteristics of the sample match the population of registered voters in Pennsylvania. With a sample of this size, the overall margin of error attributable to sampling is 3 percentage points. The sampling error for subgroups is larger.

Additional results from the Poll will be released over the next several days.