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U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey Has a Sagging Approval Rating

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

PITTSBURGH, March 3, 2015 – With two years to go in his term, less than half of Pennsylvanians hold a favorable opinion of Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, according to a poll by the Robert Morris Polling Institute Powered by Trib Total Media.

The news comes one day before the man Toomey defeated in 2010, former congressman Joe Sestak, is expected to announce plans for a rematch. Sestak plans to kick off his campaign for the Democratic senate nomination Wednesday.

The survey found that only 43.7 percent of Pennsylvanians hold a favorable opinion of Toomey, while 25.8 percent have an unfavorable opinion. Another 30.5 percent were either unsure or had no opinion. 

The poll, conducted Feb. 11-20, surveyed 508 Pennsylvanians and has a 4.5 percent margin of error.

Philip Harold, a professor of political science at Robert Morris, said the poll is “relatively good news for Sen. Toomey” but points to potential weakness going into the race.

“It shows that public opinion has not swung against him and he has a chance to win in 2016,” Harold said. “Senate incumbents above 50 percent very rarely lose, so Toomey is not sitting pretty.”

Harold described Toomey’s 25 percent negative rating as “manageable.”

“We show Toomey stronger with middle-age resident and weaker with younger residents and seniors,” Harold said. “Seniors are 35 percent unfavorable towards him, and their minds are more made up: only one in five seniors are unsure about him.”

Pennsylvania has 2 million senior citizens with a traditionally a stronger voter turnout than younger age groups, pointing to a potential trouble spot for Toomey.

Another twist in the polling data comes from numbers that show Toomey polling only 58 percent favorability among Republicans — with 19 percent unfavorable and the remaining 22 percent of Republicans unsure about the senator.

One possible area of outreach for Toomey is the women’s vote. Survey data shows that 37 percent of women surveyed remain unsure in their views of Toomey, with 36 percent of married women holding that view. “That is a demographic which could be receptive to messaging from his campaign,” Harold said.

Toomey, a conservative from Allentown, defeated Sestak with 51 percent of the vote in 2010. Six years earlier, he narrowly lost the Republican Senate nomination to longtime incumbent Arlen Specter.

Six years later, Specter switched parties in an attempt to save his seat, opening the way for Toomey to take the GOP nod.


ABOUT THE POLL: The poll was conducted by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute Powered by Trib Total Media. Polling by the Institute is conducted on a regular basis and may also include spontaneous polling on occurring events. RMU polls have been featured in national media outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Huffington Post. Go to rmu.edu/poll for more information.

METHODOLOGY: The poll sampled opinions of 508 Pennsylvanians Feb. 11-20, 2015. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level on a composite basis. 

ABOUT ROBERT MORRIS UNIVERSITY: Through 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate degree programs across five academic schools, Robert Morris University (RMU) in Pittsburgh, Pa., works to change its students' lives so that they can go out and change the lives of others for the better. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate, nontraditional and online students from 37 states and 37 nations are enrolled at RMU, which sits on 230 scenic acres just 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. Emphasizing experiential learning, Robert Morris focuses on professional development, service learning, global awareness, undergraduate research, campus leadership, and cultural experiences, all of which are documented on our innovative Student Engagement Transcript. More than 100 clubs and organizations help students to develop leadership skills, network professionally, and meet friends. RMU also has 16 NCAA Division I athletic programs, including football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, and men's and women's lacrosse. Learn more at rmu.edu.

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