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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Dem Dominates in CD17

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Only incumbent v. incumbent race in country

West Long Branch, NJ – Conor Lamb maintains his double-digit advantage over Keith Rothfus in the race for Pennsylvania’s newly drawn 17th Congressional District, according to the latest Monmouth University Poll.  The nation’s only House contest that pits two incumbents against each other is being dominated by the Democrat. Lamb has only served in Congress since winning a special election in March, but he is better known and better liked than his three-term Republican opponent.  Voter disapproval of President Donald Trump and concerns about health care costs are key factors driving this race.

Lamb currently holds a 54% to 42% lead over Rothfus among likely voters using Monmouth’s standard midterm turnout model. The race stands at 55% for Lamb and 41% for Rothfus using a model that incorporates a turnout surge in Democratic precincts. A model projecting lower overall turnout shows Lamb with a 54% to 42% edge over Rothfus. These results are basically unchanged from Monmouth’s July poll. At that time, Lamb was ahead by similar margins in the standard model (53%-40%), the Democratic surge model (54%-39%), and the low turnout model (54%-40%). All leads in the current likely voter models are outside the margin of error for the poll.

“It really doesn’t matter which likely voter model we use. This newly drawn district has a lot of active Democrats as well as voters with a past history of voting Democratic. Lamb simply dominates across the entire district,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.  Most of the interviews for the poll were completed prior to Monday’s televised debate between the two candidates.

A recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court carved the new PA-17 from parts of House districts 3, 12, 14, and 18 – and Lamb holds a substantial lead in every part. Just over half the electorate is currently represented by Rothfus in the current 12th District, but these voters prefer Lamb by a 53% to 43% margin. The Democrat’s edge here was a much narrower 49% to 46% in July. About 1-in-5 voters are represented by Lamb in the current 18th District and they are sticking with him by a 55% to 41% margin, which is similar to the 59% to 36% lead he had over the summer. The remainder of the new district is made up largely of Democratic-leaning Pittsburgh suburbs in PA-14 along with a small sliver of heavily Republican PA-03 in Butler County. Taken together, these voters give Lamb a sizable lead of 56% to 39% over Rothfus, although this is somewhat narrower than the 59% to 28% lead he had in July.

The poll finds that the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is not having much of an impact on this race. Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) likely PA-17 voters say this has not caused them to change their vote for the House. Among the remainder, 10% say the Kavanaugh issue has made them more likely to support Rothfus, 8% say it has made them more likely to support Lamb, and 2% say it has made them more undecided.

Lamb is getting a big assist from district voters’ negative views of the president – 41% approve of the job Trump is doing while 58% disapprove.  This marks a decline from the already negative 45% approve to 52% disapprove rating the president received in July. Trump won what is now the 17th District’s electorate by just over 2 points in 2016. Mitt Romney won it by 5 points in 2012.

Currently, 73% of likely voters say that the president is a very important factor in their House vote, but this motivation is more prevalent among Trump opponents (83%) than it is among Trump supporters (66%).  In July, a similar 72% said Trump was a very important factor, with a similar gap between opponents (81%) and supporters (66%) who felt this way.

Last month, Trump tweeted his endorsement of Rothfus, but only 33% of PA-17 voters have heard about the president’s support. Regardless of whether they are already aware of the Trump endorsement, just 11% of voters say it makes them more likely to support Rothfus while a larger 28% say it makes them less likely to support Rothfus. Another 61% say Trump’s tweet has no impact on their vote choice.

“It’s probably good news for Rothfus that few voters are aware of Trump’s endorsement because it really doesn’t help him. I doubt we will see a repeat of last spring’s presidential rally in southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Murray.

PA-17 voters have softened a bit on the president’s trade and tariff policies, but are still more negative than positive about them. More say these policies hurt (42%) rather than help (37%) the economy in this part of Pennsylvania, with another 10% saying they have no impact.  When these policies were only recently implemented in July, 49% of voters expected they would hurt the local economy, 33% said they would help, and 10% said they would have no impact.

When asked to choose their top issue in the House race from a list of six included in the poll, health care (36%) emerges as the clear top pick, followed by immigration (15%), job creation (15%), gun control (11%), tax policy (9%), and abortion (9%).  When asked who they trust more to keep health care affordable, 45% choose Lamb and 26% choose Rothfus, with 19% saying they trust both candidates equally.

A majority (52%) of PA-17 likely voters have a favorable view of Lamb and just 20% have an unfavorable view of him, with 27% expressing no opinion. This is similar to his 49%-20% rating in July.  Voters are split on Rothfus, giving him a 37% favorable and 32% unfavorable rating, with another 31% having no opinion.  This is similar to his 35%-28% rating in Monmouth’s prior poll.  When asked which candidate shares more of their values, 46% choose Lamb and 32% choose Rothfus, with 14% of voters saying both candidates equally share their values.

The poll finds that Lamb’s party affiliation is an advantage in this race. PA-17 voters are more likely to prefer having Democrats (48%) rather than Republicans (35%) in control of Congress. This gap has expanded from voters’ 44% to 40% Democratic preference in July.

Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) likely voters say they have a lot of interest in the upcoming House election, which is up from 68% who said the same in July. Democrats (84%) are more likely than Republicans (71%) to have a lot of interest in this race, which is similar to the enthusiasm gap Monmouth found in July (77% Democrats to 65% Republicans). Interest among independent voters has climbed from 59% in the summer to 79% in the current poll.

“Republicans have been closing the enthusiasm gap in national polls as well as other individual House races that Monmouth has been tracking. Pennsylvania’s 17th seems to be bucking that trend. A focus on fundamental kitchen table issues continues to boost Lamb’s prospects” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from October 5 to 8, 2018 with 354 likely voters in Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 5.2 percentage points. The error of the difference between the two candidates’ vote share (i.e. the “lead”) is +/-7.3 percentage points.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

 

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS                                                                        

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

 

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

Likely Voters

with leaners

Oct. 2018

July 2018

Standard
Midterm

Democratic
“Surge”

Low Turnout

Standard
Midterm

Democratic
“Surge”

Low
Turnout

Keith Rothfus 42% 41% 42% 40% 39% 40%
Conor Lamb 54% 55% 54% 53% 54% 54%
(VOL) Other 0% 0% 0% 2% 2% 2%
(VOL) Undecided 4% 4% 4% 5% 5% 4%
    (n) (354) (354) (354) (355) (355) (355)

 

[QUESTIONS 3 & 4 WERE ROTATED]

  1. Is your general impression of Keith Rothfus favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
July
2018
Favorable 37% 35%
Unfavorable 32% 28%
No opinion 31% 37%
    (n) (354) (355)

 

  1. Is your general impression of Conor Lamb favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
July
2018
Favorable 52% 49%
Unfavorable 20% 20%
No opinion 27% 31%
    (n) (354) (355)

 

  1. How much interest do you have in the upcoming election for House of Representatives – a lot of interest, a little interest, or not much interest at all?
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
July
2018
A lot 79% 68%
A little 18% 25%
Not much at all 3% 7%
(VOL) Don’t know 0% 0%
    (n) (354) (355)

 

  1. Have you been following the campaign in your congressional district very closely, somewhat closely, or not too closely?
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
July
2018
Very closely 30% 18%
Somewhat closely 51% 46%
Not too closely 18% 35%
(VOL) Don’t know 0% 0%
    (n) (354) (355)

 

  1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president? [Do you (approve/disapprove) strongly or somewhat?]
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
July
2018
Strongly approve 32% 31%
Somewhat approve 9% 14%
Somewhat disapprove 10% 6%
Strongly disapprove 48% 46%
(VOL) Don’t know 1% 3%
    (n) (354) (355)

 

  1. On most issues would you say you support or oppose what President Trump is doing?
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
July
2018
Support 43% 46%
Oppose 54% 51%
(VOL) Depends/both 2% 2%
(VOL) Don’t know 1% 2%
    (n) (354) (355)

 

  1. How important is it for you to cast a vote for Congress that shows your [support of/opposition to] President Trump – very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
July
2018
Very important 73% 72%
Somewhat important 14% 15%
Not too important 4% 5%
Not at all important 5% 5%
(VOL) Don’t know 4% 3%
    (n) (354) (355)

 

  1. Would you rather see the Republicans or the Democrats in control of Congress, or doesn’t this matter to you?
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
July
2018
Republicans 35% 40%
Democrats 48% 44%
Does not matter 14% 14%
(VOL) Don’t know 2% 2%
    (n) (354) (355)

 

  1. Which candidate shares more of your values – Keith Rothfus or Conor Lamb, or do they share your values equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
Keith Rothfus 32%
Conor Lamb 46%
Both equally 14%
(VOL) Neither one 1%
(VOL) Don’t know 7%
    (n) (354)

 

  1. Please tell me which one of the following policy issues is most important to you in your vote choice for Congress? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
Immigration policy 15%
Health care policy 36%
Gun control policy 11%
Abortion policy 9%
Tax policy 9%
Job creation policy 15%
(VOL) Other 3%
(VOL) Don’t know 2%
    (n) (354)

 

  1. Who do you trust more to work to keep health care affordable – Keith Rothfus or Conor Lamb, or do you trust both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
Keith Rothfus 26%
Conor Lamb 45%
Both equally 19%
(VOL) Neither one 3%
(VOL) Don’t know 7%
    (n) (354)

 

  1. Do President Trump’s trade and tariff policies help, hurt, or have no impact on the economy in this part of Pennsylvania?
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
July
2018*
Help 37% 33%
Hurt 42% 49%
Have no impact 10% 10%
(VOL) Don’t know 11% 9%
    (n) (354) (355)

* Question wording in July poll was:  “Do you think President Trump’s trade and tariff policies will help, hurt, or have no impact on the economy in this part of Pennsylvania?”

 

  1. Have you heard that Keith Rothfus was endorsed by Donald Trump in a tweet last month, or haven’t you heard about this?
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
Heard 33%
Not heard 67%
    (n) (354)

 

15A.  Does Trump’s endorsement make you more likely to support Rothfus, less likely to support Rothfus, or does it not change your vote choice either way?

Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
More likely to support Rothfus 11%
Less likely to support Rothfus 28%
Does not change vote choice 61%
(VOL) Don’t know 1%
    (n) (354)

 

  1. Has anything that’s happened in the last few weeks related to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court caused you to change your mind about who you will support in the election for House of Representatives, or hasn’t it changed your mind? [If “YES”: Has this made you more likely to support Rothfus, more likely to support Lamb, or has it made you more undecided?]
Likely Voter Standard Oct.
2018
Yes, more likely to support Rothfus 10%
Yes, more likely to support Lamb 8%
Yes, more undecided 2%
No, has not changed my mind 79%
(VOL) Don’t know 2%
    (n) (354)

 

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from October 5 to 8, 2018 with a random sample of 354 likely voters in Pennsylvania’s 17th 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. This includes 168 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 186 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 registration, age, gender, education and race based on state voter registration list and U.S. Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and L2 (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 5.2 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.

 

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)

Party Registration

38%  Republican
54%  Democrat

  7%  Neither

 

Self-Reported Party ID

33%  Republican
22%  Independent
46%  Democrat
 
46%  Male
54%  Female
 
11%  18-34
22%  35-49
32%  50-64
34%  65+
 
94%  White, non-Hispanic

  6%  Other

 
63%  No college degree
37%  4-year college degree
 
74%  Allegheny County
23%  Beaver County

  3%  Butler County

 

Current House district

57%  12 – Rothfus
20%  18 – Lamb
21%  14

  3%  03

 

 

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

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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