by Anthony Hennen
Though polls in the race for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat have shown Democrat John Fetterman with a comfortable lead, it may be narrowing.
As the Nov. 8 election draws closer, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz trails Fetterman 45% to 43%, according to a new poll of very likely voters released today by Emerson College and The Hill.
Another 8% of voters remain undecided while 5% plan to vote for someone else. The election could come down to gender.
In a poll released Tuesday by Marist, Fetterman led Oz 51% to 41% among registered voters.
The seat is key in Election 2022 for a 50-50 Senate; it is held now by Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, who opted not to seek reelection.
“There is a gender divide in the race for U.S. Senate: men break for Oz over Fetterman by six points, while women voters break for Fetterman by seven,” Emerson College Polling Executive Director Spencer Kimball said in a press release.
The poll, conducted Sept. 23-26, also found that Fetterman’s recent stroke has hurt him among some voters.
“Regarding Fetterman’s stroke, 59% of voters say it makes no difference on their vote, 27% say it makes them less likely to support Fetterman, and 14% say it makes them more likely,” the poll noted.
The numbers have gotten worse for Fetterman in that regard; compared to Emerson’s August poll, voters apathetic to his stroke have declined by 9 percentage points (to 59%) while voters who are less likely to support him have increased by 5 percentage points (to 19%).
Similarly, the focus on Oz’s New Jersey residence has hurt him, though his numbers are improving. Forty-seven percent of voters don’t care, while 39% said it makes them less likely to vote for him and 14% say it makes them more likely to support him. That’s an improvement since August, when 51% said it makes them less likely to vote for Oz.
As far as voters’ issues, the economy dominates. When asked about the most important issue facing Pennsylvania, 39% said the economy, 14% said threats to democracy, 13% said abortion, and 9% said crime. In the Marist poll, top issues were inflation (40%), preserving democracy (29%), abortion (16%), immigration (7%), and health care (7%).
At least on crime, Oz has made it a campaign theme. He’s released a series of campaign ads — which some have called a “deluge” — criticizing Fetterman for being soft on criminals and not caring about the victims of crime. An Oz spokeswoman has said Fetterman “allowed criminals to run rampant,” while Fetterman’s campaign argued he “gave a second chance to those who deserved it” and reunited families.
Wherever voters stand on criminal justice reform, they are united on the value of debates. A strong majority, 83%, think a debate is very important or somewhat important to have before Election Day. That’s five weeks from Tuesday.
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Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.
Photo “John Fetterman” by Governor Tom Wolf. CC BY 2.0. Photo “Dr. Mehmet Oz” by Dr. Mehmet Oz.