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Small Lead for Saccone in CD18


Opinion on Trump helps Dem candidate remain in the hunt

West Long Branch, NJ – Republican Rick Saccone has a small advantage in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, even when the potential for a Democratic surge is taken into account. However, the Monmouth University Poll finds that a partisan gap in enthusiasm around President Donald Trump has helped Democrat Conor Lamb stay within striking distance.

Saccone holds a 49% to 46% edge over Democrat Conor Lamb in the race to fill the open House seat on March 13, using a turnout model similar to voting patterns seen in other special elections over the past year. Another 1% opt for a third party candidate and 4% are undecided. A historical turnout model, based on lower turnout than the 2014 midterm, gives Saccone a larger 50% to 45% lead. A model with higher turnout overall, similar to a presidential electorate, gives Saccone a 48% to 44% advantage. It is worth noting that all of these leads are within the poll’s margin of error for each model.

“Saccone has a slight edge, but it’s nowhere near the double digit advantage Republicans typically enjoy in this district. The potential for a Democratic surge like we have seen in other special elections helps Lamb stay in the hunt but it does not close the gap entirely,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. Monmouth used a similar multi-model approach in polling December’s special election for U.S. Senate in Alabama. That poll found a much wider 7 point swing between the low and high turnout models for that race.

The key difference between Monmouth’s Democratic “surge” model and the standard low turnout model in PA18 is an increase in the districtwide vote share coming from historically Democratic-leaning and competitive precincts. Most of these precincts are located in Allegheny County with some in neighboring Washington County. These precincts typically make up about 19% of PA18’s electorate in any given election. The surge adjustment increases that share to 23%.

Democratic voters are generally more engaged in this race than are Republicans. Among likely voters, 48% of Democrats compared with 26% of Republicans say they are following the PA18 special election closely. Among all potential voters interviewed for the poll – including those unlikely to vote in this contest – Democrats (65%) are more likely than Republicans (50%) to say they have a lot of interest in this race. If all potential voters were likely to cast a ballot next month, Saccone would hold an even larger lead of 48% to 41% over Lamb in the current poll.

“The fact that Saccone does better among all potential voters than he does in any of the probable turnout models is a clear sign of higher enthusiasm among Democrats. However, this district’s strong Republican bent may simply be too high a hurdle for Lamb to overcome,” said Murray.

Other poll results *

Conor Lamb earns a slightly better net voter rating at 49% favorable and 31% unfavorable than Rick Saccone does at 48% favorable and 39% unfavorable. The district’s electorate is divided over whether they prefer having the Republicans (43%) or the Democrats (40%) in control of Congress. Likely voters in PA18 give similar overall ratings to the Republican Party (41% favorable and 52% unfavorable) and Democratic Party (44% favorable and 51% unfavorable).

President Donald Trump earns a nominally positive job rating from likely voters in this district – 51% approve and 47% disapprove. Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 20 points in this district in 2016.  Voters are divided on whether they support (48%) or oppose (47%) how Trump is handling most issues. Two-thirds (68%) of likely voters say it is very important for them to cast a ballot that shows how they feel about Trump. However, among all potential voters interviewed – including those determined to be unlikely to vote – opponents of the president (67%) are more likely than supporters (50%) to see this election as a very important opportunity to send a message about the Trump presidency.

Nearly 6-in-10 voters (58%) are aware that Trump has endorsed Saccone, the Republican nominee. Most (86%) say this endorsement has not changed their candidate choice, with 5% saying it makes them more likely to support Saccone and 8% saying it makes them less likely.

“The impact of Donald Trump on this race is less about impacting the candidate choice and more about generating voter interest that drives turnout. These results find that the president’s detractors are more ginned up than his supporters, which is helping to keep this race tight,” said Murray.

On the Democratic side, Lamb has promised not to support Nancy Pelosi for another term as his party’s leader in the House of Representatives. This has had little impact on most voters in PA18 – just 40% have heard about his pledge – but among those who would take this promise into account, more say it increases (18%) rather than decreases (7%) their likelihood of supporting Lamb. Another 72% say the Democrat’s pledge has no impact on their vote. However, among likely voters who are undecided or say that they could change their mind before next month’s election, a majority (52%) say that Lamb’s declaration about Pelosi makes them more likely to support him.

“Lamb’s effort to distance himself from Pelosi is probably a smart calculation in this Republican district. Even if a Democratic surge materializes in the Pittsburgh suburbs, he still needs to win over moderate voters in more conservative areas. Lamb is having some success with that voting bloc, but he may have already maxed out that support,” said Murray.

According to the poll, 64% of self-described political moderates currently support Lamb and 28% support Saccone. Other demographic breakouts show that Lamb has a slight edge with voters age 65 and over (50% to 46%) while Saccone leads among voters age 50 to 64 (48% to 45%) and age 18 to 49 (52% to 44%). Men prefer Saccone (51% to 42%) while women are divided (48% Lamb to 47% Saccone). Lamb has a sizable lead in the Allegheny County portion of the district (54% to 40%) while Saccone has an even larger advantage in Westmoreland County (63% to 32%). The remainder of the district in Washington and Greene counties is split (48% Saccone to 47% Lamb).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from February 12 to 14, 2018 with 320 Pennsylvania residents likely to vote in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election next month. The results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

* The results in this section use “surge” model weighting based on recent special election turnout patterns. Other turnout weights referenced in this release produce estimates that are no more than 2 to 3 percentage points different than the results reported here.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS                                                                        

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1/2. If the election for U.S. Congress in your district was today, would you vote for … Rick Saccone the Republican or Conor Lamb the Democrat, or some other candidate?
[IF UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following at this moment, do you lean more toward Rick Saccone or more toward Conor Lamb?] [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

Likely voters with leaners




Rick Saccone49%48%50%
Conor Lamb46%44%45%
(VOL) Undecided4%5%4%


3. Is your general impression of Rick Saccone very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?

Very favorable27%
Somewhat favorable21%
Somewhat unfavorable14%
Very unfavorable25%
No opinion13%

4. Is your general impression of Conor Lamb very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?

Very favorable29%
Somewhat favorable20%
Somewhat unfavorable17%
Very unfavorable14%
No opinion20%

5. How much interest do you have in the upcoming special election for U.S. Congress – a lot of interest, a little interest, or not much interest at all?

A lot83%
A little16%
Not much at all1%

6. Have you been following the campaign for U.S. Congress very closely, somewhat closely, or not too closely?

Very closely38%
Somewhat closely51%
Not too closely12%

7. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president? [Do you (approve/disapprove) strongly or somewhat?]

Strongly approve37%
Somewhat approve14%
Somewhat disapprove5%
Strongly disapprove42%
(VOL) Don’t know2%

8. On most issues would you say you support or oppose what President Trump is doing?

(VOL) Depends/both3%
(VOL) Don’t know2%

9. How important is it for you to cast a vote for U.S. Congress that shows your [support of/opposition to] President Trump – very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?

Very important68%
Somewhat important16%
Not too important4%
Not at all important7%
(VOL) Don’t know6%

10. As far as you know, has President Trump publicly endorsed a candidate for Congress in this race, or hasn’t he done this? [IF YES: Who?]

Yes, endorsed Saccone58%
Yes, endorsed Lamb<1%
Yes, but not sure who3%
No, has not endorsed14%
(VOL) Don’t know24%

11. President Trump has endorsed Rick Saccone. [Does/Did] hearing about this endorsement change your mind about how you will vote, or not really? [IF CHANGE: [Does /Did] it make you more likely to vote for Saccone or less likely to vote for Saccone?]

Change, more likely Saccone5%
Change, less likely Saccone8%
Did not really change86%
(VOL) Don’t know1%


12. Is your general impression of the Republican Party very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

Very favorable12%
Somewhat favorable29%
Somewhat unfavorable18%
Very unfavorable34%
No opinion6%

13. Is your general impression of the Democratic Party very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

Very favorable12%
Somewhat favorable32%
Somewhat unfavorable16%
Very unfavorable35%
No opinion6%

14. Would you rather see the Republicans or the Democrats in control of Congress, or doesn’t this matter to you?

Does not matter16%
(VOL) Don’t know1%

15. Have you heard that Conor Lamb said he will not support Nancy Pelosi for another term as the Democratic leader of the House if he is elected, or have you not heard about this?

Not heard60%

16. Does knowing that Conor Lamb will not support Nancy Pelosi to lead the House Democrats make you more likely or less likely to vote for him, or does it have no impact on your vote?

More likely18%
Less likely7%
No impact72%
(VOL) Don’t know3%

17. How important is it for you personally to get involved in politics – very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?

Very important46%
Somewhat important37%
Not too important9%
Not at all important5%
(VOL) Don’t know1%


The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from February 12 to 14, 2018 with a random sample of 320 likely voters in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, drawn from a list of registered voters who voted in at least one of the last four general or primary elections or have registered to vote since January 2016, and indicate they are likely to vote in the upcoming special election. This includes 217 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 103 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. Final sample is weighted for region, party primary voting history, age, gender, and race based on state voter registration list and U.S. Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Aristotle (voter sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design).  Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Party Registration
45% Republican
51% Democrat
4% Neither
Self-Reported Party ID
36% Republican
29% Independent
36% Democrat
47% Male
53% Female
7% 18-34
16% 35-49
37% 50-64
40% 65+
95% White, non-Hispanic
5% Other
52% No college degree
48% 4-year college degree
46% Allegheny County
23% Washington/Greene County
30% Westmoreland County

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.