'Goofy' polls and TV ads here to stay in Pa.

Sean Philip Cotter
  • Pennsylvania is often considered a swing state, though it has broken for the Democratic nominee in every election since 1992.
  • But pollster G. Terry Madonna said the polls indicate a close race this year in the Keystone state.

One poll shows Donald Trump up six points in Pennsylvania, but then another that comes out a few hours later has Hillary Clinton up eight in the state.

What gives?

Clinton and Trump vie for president.

Well, polling is tough — and getting tougher — especially at this point in the race, when the respecive conventions and running-mate announcements will send numbers yo-yoing up and down for the next few weeks, according to G. Terry Madonna, a pollster at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster

"It’s not uncommon this early in an election, before a convention," he told The York Dispatch on Friday. "It’s not totally goofy."

The differences come from the underlying assumptions of the polls, Madonna said. Various numbers, such as the party or ethnic breakdown of those polls, might be weighted differently in an attempt to figure out who will come out to vote, he said.

Madonna said the polls will likely converge more after both sides' conventions are over and the candidates' vice-presidential nominees are announced. The polls will continue to be more consistent leading up to the Nov. 8 election.

"They tend to settle down after the conventions," he said.

More to come: Pennsylvanians sick of the already-long election season will be further disappointed — buzz surrounding the presidential election and Senate race will only continue to grow over the next several months. The media will be rife with reports — such as this one — of contradictory and disparate electoral polls for the next few weeks in particular, and then the TV advertising blitzes will begin in earnest, Madonna said.

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Last week, two polls came out with notably different findings. A Quinnipiac poll that surveyed 982 registered voters between June 30 and July 11 showed Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, ahead of Clinton, the apparent Democratic candidate, 40-34. But then a few hours later, a Marist College poll of 829 registered voters between July 5 and 10 showed Clinton up 43-35 on the New York businessman. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, received 9 percent and then 8 percent support, respectively.

The Republican National Convention will be held Monday through Thursday in Cleveland, and the Democratic National Convention will be held the following Monday through Thursday in Philadelphia. Trump formally announced his running mate on Friday: Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana. Clinton has yet to announce her running mate.

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Close race: Pennsylvania is often considered a swing state, though it has broken for the Democratic nominee in every election since 1992. But Madonna said the polls indicate a close race this year in the Keystone state.

"We sort of roughly mirror what’s going on nationally," he said.

As of Friday, the data-journalism site FiveThirtyEight, led by statistician Nate Silver, who correctly predicted all the states but one over the course of the past two presidential elections, gives Clinton a 65.1 percent chance of winning Pennsylvania, nearly identical to the 65 percent chance it gives her winning the national election.

Franklin and Marshall College Dr. Terry Madonna.

That's actually a significant drop from a few days earlier — on Tuesday  —  FiveThirtyEight gave Clinton a 74.5 chance of winning Pennsylvania and a 73.1 percent chance of winning the election. The site says polling right now shows Clinton receiving 47.3 percent of the vote to Trump's 45 percent, with Johnson pulling 6.4 percent in the state.

The site also says Pennsylvania has a 12 percent chance of providing the decisive vote in the electoral college, which is the second most likely, behind Florida at 17.3 percent.

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Campaigns: In response to an inquiry about the importance Clinton's campaign is placing on Pennsylvania, Latoya Veal, Clinton's Philadelphia-based press secretary for the state, sent a statement from Corey Dukes, Hillary for America Pennsylvania director. He said "we're taking nothing for granted in Pennsylvania."

The statement also said the campaign is working to mobilize volunteers.

Recently, the campaign opened an office in York City. Veal said it's one of the earlier offices opened in Pennsylvania.

The Trump campaign directed all media inquiries to national press secretary Hope Hicks, who didn't return an email seeking comment on Friday afternoon.

There's no Trump office open in the York area, nor are there immediate plans for one, but York Republicans last week held a training program to jump start a grass-roots initiative for the Trump campaign

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Senate: The presidential race isn't the only high-profile one going on in Pennsylvania. Incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is in a tight re-election battle with challenger Katie McGinty, the Democratic nominee, who most recently served as Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff.

The Marist Poll — the one that showed Clinton ahead — has McGinty up 44.3 percent to 41.7 percent. The Quinnipiac poll that had Trump on top showed Toomey with a 49-39 lead over the Democrat. That recent Marist poll is the only one that's shown McGinty up, both others have shown a close race, sometimes in a statistical tie.

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With Toomey considered one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in the country, Madonna expects both sides to pour money into Pennsylvania. The previous most expensive Senate race in Pennsylvania history was Democratic Sen. Bob Casey's most recent re-election bid in 2012, when he fended off Republican challenger Tom Smith. In that election, the candidates combined to spend more than $40 million, Madonna said — but he thinks that number soon will hold second place.

"This will be the most expensive race in the state, and by the end of it, it could be in the top five most expensive nationally," Madonna said.

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.