12:08 p.m., Oct. 6, 2010----Four weeks before Election Day 2010, Delaware Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Chris Coons holds a 19-point lead over his Republican opponent, Christine O'Donnell, according to a new poll of 901 Delaware residents conducted by the University of Delaware's non-partisan Center for Political Communication.
The center's National Agenda Poll finds 49 percent supporting Coons and 30 percent supporting O'Donnell.
The poll reveals a large number of undecided Delawareans -- 13 percent. Coons' lead widens to 24 points when the probable decisions of undecided voters are taken into account for the poll's final estimate, with Coons holding a 61 percent to 37 percent advantage. The poll also finds weaker emotional support for O'Donnell among her supporters than Coons has among his.
The poll is the first released since long-time Republican incumbent Congressman Mike Castle announced he would not seek a write-in candidacy. Castle was defeated by O'Donnell in Delaware's Sept. 14 Republican primary.
The UD poll also finds that Democratic Congressional candidate John Carney holds a 48 percent to 31 percent lead over Republican Glen Urquhart, with 16 percent undecided. When undecided registered voters are allocated, Carney leads 60 percent to 40 percent.
The National Agenda Poll is overseen by David C. Wilson, assistant professor of political science and a public opinion specialist who serves as the center's coordinator of public opinion initiatives. The poll was conducted Sept. 16-30, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent.
The poll suggests that O'Donnell's Tea Party-supported Republican primary win on Sept. 14, transformed an almost certain Republican U.S. Senate seat to a likely Democratic win instead.
O'Donnell's primary victory thrust the Delaware U.S. Senate election into the national spotlight. O'Donnell and Coons are scheduled to face off in a formal debate at the University of Delaware on Oct. 13, with Carney and Urquhart meeting Oct. 6, also at UD.
Other highlights of the UD National Agenda Poll:
Coons shows strong support among pure independent voters in Delaware. When undecided voters are allocated, independents favor Coons over O'Donnell by about 42 points (70 percent to 28 percent).
Coons shows stronger support among crossover voters -- registered Republicans -- than O'Donnell does among crossover Democrats. Registered Republicans and those who lean Republican favor O'Donnell over Coons 77 percent to 20 percent, but registered Democrats and Democratic leaners favor Coons 92 percent to 7 percent.
The poll suggests O'Donnell's supporters have weaker emotional ties to their candidate. While two thirds (63 percent) of Coons' Democratic supporters say they would be “very disappointed” if he lost the election, only one third (34 percent) of O'Donnell's supporters say they would be “very disappointed” if she lost.
In the race for the U.S. House of Representatives, registered voters -- with undecided voters allocated -- prefer Carney over Urquhart, 60 percent to 40 percent. Wilson says that unlike the Senate race, there is no significant difference in the emotional investment between the House candidates. “If Carney lost the election,” Wilson reports, “32 percent of Delawareans say they would be very disappointed, and if Urquhart lost, 31 percent say they would be very disappointed.”
In the House race, while Carney garners a majority (58 percent) of support among pure independents, Urquhart, a first-time candidate relatively little known in the state, shows relatively strong numbers with 42 percent support. Wilson suggests that while Carney is heavily favored among independents who lean Democrat, the Democrat has not solidified support among pure independents, and may have work to do to shore up his lead before the election, particularly in the southern part of the state. Still, Wilson cautions, “non-leaning independents are a small group in the state and their turnout would have to be higher than usual to cover offset the current spread favoring Carney.”
As for crossover support, the National Agenda Poll shows registered Republicans and leaners prefer Urquhart to Carney 81 percent to 19 percent, and registered Democrats and leaners prefer Carney to Urquhart 92 percent to 8 percent. Wilson says that means Carney has about 11 percentage points more cross party support than Urquhart. These poll results mirror previous polls showing Coons and Carney with significant advantages over O'Donnell and Urquhart, respectively, but Wilson notes, “as we continue to analyze the data we will be able to better analyze questions about why Democrats have such a strong gap in support.”
Wilson says since roughly two-thirds of the registered voters in Delaware are Democrats, and the same proportion mostly resides in the heavily Democratic northern New Castle County -- the state's largest county -- the challenge for both O'Donnell and Urquhart is their ability to attract moderate and conservative Democratic and independent voters by moving to the ideological center while holding their base supporters who tend to be strongly conservative.
Center for Political Communication Director Ralph Begleiter says the National Agenda Poll will continue to track significant trends and new developments in political communication this year and next.
“Delaware has never had a regular, continuing public opinion poll,” says Begleiter, “and the University is committed to research and engaging students and the public in civic life. We want to further understand the opinions of Delawareans, and discover the effects of recent developments in social networking on political messaging at the local and national levels.”_
The Center for Political Communications National Agenda Poll is supported by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation through the CPC. Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) conducted the poll, and the interviews were conducted in English by Princeton Data Source.
Methodology results for the UD Center for Political Communication's “National Agenda Poll” are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 16-30, 2010, with a random sample of 901 Delaware adults, aged 18 and older. Respondents were selected using random-digit-dial sampling procedures targeting both cell and landline phone extensions. Based on the total sample for the poll, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls. Statistical results presented are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies.