Franklin & Marshall poll continues trend of Wolf in double-digit lead over Wagner

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
FILE - In this May 8, 2018 file photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf listens to state Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Phila.) during a news conference in Philadelphia. The politics of abortion could be especially prominent in the fall as Wolf and Republican Scott Wagner hit the final stretch of Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial campaign. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File)

The most recent Franklin & Marshall College poll serves as another example of Democratic incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf holding a double-digit advantage over Republican Scott Wagner with the November elections on the horizon.

The poll, using data from 511 registered state voters, puts Wolf 17 points ahead of Wagner in the race between the York County millionaires — 52 percent to Wagner's 35 percent.

While 12 percent of voters reported themselves undecided, the poll is one of six polls this year that show Wolf's lead ranging from 13 to 19 points.

RealClearPolitics, a political analyst organization, has compiled the six polls on its website from F&M, The Allentown Morning Call, NBC news and more.

According to the organization, Wolf's average lead in the polls is 15 percent, putting the F&M poll just two points above the average and two points below the F&M poll in June, which was Wolf's strongest polling thus far in the race at 19 points ahead.

The poll also shows that while 70 percent of Republicans would vote for Wagner if elections were held today, 86 percent of Democrats would vote for Wolf.

Still, Wagner campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo said he doesn't think this poll and some others with Wolf in the lead are valid and criticized the poll, which was led by G. Terry Madonna, director of the college's Center for Politics and Public Affairs.

"Just like his poll in June, Dr. Madonna's survey is useless given that he sampled 8 percent more Democrats than Republicans," Romeo said in a Thursday, Aug. 30, statement. "Such a disparity has never occurred during a modern gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania and did not even occur during President Obama's historic victory in 2008."

Republicans Scott Wagner and Jeff Bartos hold a town hall event at the Shiloh Fire Hall, Sunday, August 5, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

Romeo pointed to voter turnout statistics over the past few elections, which show Democratic turnout hovering above Republican turnout by as little as 0.3 percent in 2010 to as high as 6.6 percent in 2008.

True to demographics: Although it's true 8 percent more Democrats were surveyed in the F&M poll, Madonna maintained the poll results show validity as they're closely aligned with previous polls this year.

"If a poll is so wrong, then why is it consistent with all of the other polls?" Madonna said. "(Romeo) is doing his job, and I'm not mad at him for that. But the poll is clear."

He also pointed to the state's voter statistics and said the reason more Democrats were surveyed is because there are more Democrats in the state, regardless of voter turnout.

According to the most recent Department of State statistics, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in the state 4,042,947 to 3,228,076 — a 22.4 percent difference.

York County is significantly more conservative than the state as a whole, as Republicans outnumber Democrats by 37.3 percent.

"The poll shows more Democrats (statewide) voting this year and that Democrats have more enthusiasm," Madonna said. "Show me a poll in our state that doesn't show that. This is similar to what we've been seeing."

Outlier: The only outlier in polling this year has been from the Commonwealth Leaders Fund, published earlier this month, which shows Wolf with a slim lead — just 2.8 points ahead of Wagner. 

The organization is a conservative political action committee chaired by Jeff Kendall, owner of Pittsburgh's Laurel Mountain Partners waste and environmental investing firm.

Wagner owns his own waste business, York-based Penn Waste.

The Wagner campaign touted the poll on social media and the campaign website after its release, where Romeo said, "There’s no doubt why Scott Wagner is surging" before reiterating the candidate's platform.

But Madonna said the Commonwealth Leaders Fund poll is inadequate, as those who conducted the poll "are people who are invested in the campaigns, which is a bad thing whether they are Democrats or Republicans."

Despite Wolf's prominent lead in the majority of polls, Wolf campaign spokeswoman Beth Melena didn't address the recent F&M poll when asked what the results of the poll mean for the campaign in a Thursday, Aug. 30, statement.

"Gov. Wolf is continuing to fight to change Harrisburg and he will be traveling across the state continuing to talk with people about the issues important to them," she wrote. "He is focused on the issues that really matter to Pennsylvanians like making sure everyone has access to quality, affordable health care, more seniors have the opportunity to stay in their homes as they age and our children are able to get the education they deserve."