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NYT/CBS: Wolf, 52; Corbett, 39

Published by James O'Toole on .

A new survey shows Democrat Tom Wolf leading Gov. Tom Corbett but by a clear but somewhat smaller margin than previous post-primary polls.

The poll, conducted for CBS and the New York Times by the internet polling firm, YouGov, shows Mr. Wolf leading the incumbent, 52 percent to 39 percent, including respondents who said they were leaning toward one candidate or the other. That’s a reasonably comfortable advantage for the Democrat, but well short of the margins in the 20-point range he recorded in some earlier polls.  Without the leaners, Mr. Wolf’s lead fell to single digits, 42 percent to 33 percent.

The results come after weeks in which both sides have increased the level of attacks on one another through television advertisements and other media.  The survey rests on an innovative and still controversial technique that contrasts to the more traditional methodology of phone polls.  Its responses come from a large panel of registered voters contacted through the internet.  Their responses are then weighted to reflect the demographic characteristics of the entire voting population.  To varying degrees, traditional phone polls also weight their findings to more accurately reflect voting demographics, but they start with samples in which, in theory, every voter has an equal chance of being contacted.

While some traditional pollsters question the internet methodology, YouGov’s has an established track record.  Nate Silver, who heads the statistical web site, 538, rated them among the more accurate performers among all polling firms after each of the last two election cycles. YouGov has polled for a variety of established media outlets, including the Economist, but this is the first time the high profile and highly regarded CBS/NYT polling operation has commissioned an internet survey.  Their panel includes some 100,000 registered voters nationwide who will be interviewed four time between now and November.  The Pennsylvania governor’s results were based on the responses of 4,150 voters.

With leaners included, Mr. Wolf led with with almost all of the demographic subsets of the sample.  Mr. Corbett led only among Republicans and conservatives, but he tied his challenger among male voters, whites, and independents.  Considering only the firmer supporters _ without the leaners _ Mr. Corbett managed was ahead among males, and independents.

Across the age spectrum, the Democrat’s lead was greatest with younger voters.  He led 61 percent to 23 percent among voters aged 18 to 29,  Mr. Wolf led 55 percent to 32 percent with voters between 30 and 44, but the results were significantly closer with the older voters who are most likely to turn up at the polls _ 50 percent to 47 percent with those 45 to 64 and 50 percent to 47 percent among those over 65.

The results suggest that Mr. Wolf has done a better job consolidating his party base.  He led 90 percent to 5 percent among Democrats while Mr. Corbett’s GOP advantage was 80 percent to 16 percent.

The YouGov survey also tested a generic congressional contest, asking the respondents whether they favored an unnamed Republican or a Democrat for the U.S. House.  The results showed Pennsylvania voters favoring the GOP 43 percent to 32 percent among those with a clear preference and 50 percent ot 38 percent including those who said they were leaning one way or another.  

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