Burns up 4 in polling last month

Published by Tim McNulty on .

We already knew there was going to be lots of national attention on the special election to fill Jack Murtha's congressional seat, and that Democrats were starting to sweat a loss. Time to throw some more (bituminous) coal on the sauna -- polling done last month in the 12th District showed Republican Tim Burns with a 4-point lead over Democrat Mark Critz, despite the 2:1 Democratic registration edge.

The results from the poll of 400 likely voters by GOP strategist Gene Ulm -- given to us in memorandum form by a Republican source -- are from a full month ago, but still point out some troubling things for John Murtha's former district director. It was done more than two weeks before either candidate started advertising in the district, and pointed out the negativity over health care reform that the National Republican Congressional Committee has tried to exploit lately with its own ads.

A previous poll done around the same time had Critz up by 4 points. The pair is also running head-to-head in first quarter fundraising. According to the Pa Dept of State, the district is 62 percent registered Democrat; 29 percent Republican; and 9 percent other. (Any registered voter can cast a ballot in the special election.)

Here's the memo from Ulm:


To: Tim Burns for Congress

Fr: Gene Ulm, Public Opinion Strategies

Date: April 12, 2010

Re: Recent survey results

 The following results are from a survey of 400 likely voters completed in Pennsylvania’s 12th

Congressional district by Public Opinion Strategies March 14-15, 2010. The margin of error on the survey is plus or minus 4.9%.

Key points

• Tim Burns currently leads Mark Critz 45%-41% with 13% undecided.

 • The President, Congress and the Democratic health care plan are HUGELY unpopular in

this Democratic district:

Approve Disapprove

President Obama 42% 57%

Democratic Congress 33% 65%

Democratic Health Care Plan 30% 64%

How strong is this dynamic? A full one-third (33%) of the electorate are NONRepublicans who disapprove of Congress and disapprove of the health care plan. One-in-four (25%) voters are NON-Republicans who disapprove of the President.

• The voter intensity is on the side of Tim Burns. Burns’ lead widens among those most interested in the election (55%-35%) and those with a history of voting in primaries (53%-33%).

 • Despite the Democrats better than two-to-one advantage in voter registration, this conservative district has a history of harboring huge numbers of swing voters:

McCain WON the district with 49% of the vote.

More than half (52%) of the voters attend religious services weekly

58% are pro-lifers

74% are NRA supporters

59% are Tea Party supporters

52% are self-described conservatives

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.