Clinton Dominates in Key Philadelphia Suburbs, Bloomberg Poll Finds

Losing Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes would sharply curtail Trump’s paths to the White House.

Clinton Takes 9-Point Pennsylvania Lead: Bloomberg Poll

Hillary Clinton holds a commanding 9-point lead on Donald Trump in the critical state of Pennsylvania and is trouncing him in the Philadelphia suburbs, where more than 80 percent of voters say they’re bothered by the 2005 video of the Republican nominee bragging about groping women.

Clinton has 51 percent to Trump’s 42 percent in a two-way race statewide, with her margin swelling to 28 percentage points in four suburban counties that were once reliably Republican, according to a Bloomberg Politics poll conducted Friday through Tuesday after the video’s release.

Clinton’s suburban advantage is 18 points larger than President Barack Obama’s winning margin there in 2012, meaning that to match Clinton’s strength in those counties and in urban areas, Trump would have to dramatically improve on his 11-point lead in the rest of the state. Losing Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes would sharply curtail his paths to the White House.

In a contest that will help determine control of the U.S. Senate, Democrat Katie McGinty is roughly even with Republican incumbent Pat Toomey, 47 percent to 45 percent, and, like Clinton, is doing better in the suburbs than statewide.

“Hillary Clinton’s strength in the Philadelphia suburbs may clinch the state for her,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey. “It’s possible she will carry McGinty to a win over Toomey in the U.S. Senate race.”

Read the results and methodology here.

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Shifting Suburbs

While Clinton’s strength was long assured in the urban Democratic strongholds of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, her fight with Trump would typically be expected to be more competitive in these four suburban counties, which accounted for 22 percent of the state’s vote in 2012. Instead, she carries almost every demographic group tested there, including women 67 percent to 24 percent in the two-way race.

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Clinton has been seeking to drive up her numbers with those women, who often play a decisive role in presidential elections, as a way to counter Trump’s strength with white, working-class men. While white men have been the core of Trump’s support, Clinton is even performing about the same as Trump with that group in the suburbs. 

“That’s a signal of her ability to cut through in these suburbs,” Selzer said.

The survey included 806 likely voters statewide and an additional 215 in the four suburban counties—Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware—bringing the total interviews there to 373. It has a top-line margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points statewide and 5.1 percentage points for the four counties.

Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney in Bucks County by only about 4,000 votes out of 321,000 cast in 2012. The state's fourth-most-populated county is a microcosm of Pennsylvania, with a mix of suburban strip malls, quiet leafy neighborhoods, rural expanses, and gritty industry. Its southern section, known as Lower Bucks by locals, has a large proportion of the sort of white, working-class voters often drawn to Trump.

Video’s Fallout

Statewide, 60 percent of likely voters said they were bothered a lot by the 2005 Trump recording, including 24 percent of his own supporters. Among women, 69 percent were bothered a lot, compared to 51 percent of men.

In the four suburban counties, 68 percent of likely voters were bothered a lot, including 76 percent of women, 60 percent of men, and a quarter of Trump supporters.

Trump has apologized for his comments in the video and dismissed them as “locker room talk” that’s not indicative of who he really is. But that hasn’t been enough to reverse his sliding poll numbers nationally, as the video threw the Republican Party into disarray with a wave of lawmakers withdrawing their support.

There was more division in the poll about a New York Times report that Trump recorded a nearly $1 billion business loss on his 1995 tax returns and may not have paid federal taxes for as many as 18 years. Half of likely voters statewide said that’s wrong, even though it’s legal, while 47 percent say it’s OK because it’s legal.

Broader Race

Statewide, some of the groups Clinton is winning handily in the two-way contest include non-whites (+49 points), those with a college degree (+26 points), and those under age 35 (+22 points). She wins whites with college degrees, a longstanding Republican stronghold, 57 percent to 35 percent.

In the two-way race, Trump is recording some of his biggest advantages over Clinton among white men without college degrees (+32 points), rural residents (+20 points), Catholics (+15 points), and western Pennsylvanians (+11 points).

Trump’s Sunday debate performance may have helped his Pennsylvania standing, with his numbers showing more strength on Monday and Tuesday than on the two previous days of polling.

When third-party candidates are included, Clinton beats Trump statewide 48 percent to 39 percent. Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson wins 6 percent while Green Party nominee Jill Stein gets 4 percent. Johnson gets 21 percent of independent voters and 9 percent of voters under 35.

While voters statewide viewed Clinton more negatively than positively by 3 percentage points, they see Trump more negatively than positively by 18 points. In the four suburban counties, he’s viewed negatively by 70 percent.

Clinton's top campaign surrogates—the president, first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden—all are viewed more favorably in the state than the nominee. Obama is seen positively by 56 percent, while the first lady and Pennsylvania native Biden each scored above 60 percent.

In the Senate race, demographic dynamics are similar to those at the top of the ticket, although McGinty is only narrowly beating Toomey among those under 35 years old. McGinty has some of her strongest showings among non-whites (+37 points), suburban women (+18 points), and those with college degrees (+15 points). Some of Toomey's strongest groups are independents (+33 points), white men with no college degree (+30 points), and rural residents (+21 points).

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Almost two-thirds of likely voters—including 95 percent of Trump supporters—say the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction. A slim majority of Clinton supporters say things are going in the right direction.

Clinton supporters most commonly pick unemployment as the top issue facing the nation right now (20 percent), closely followed by declining real incomes (19 percent). For Trump supporters, terrorism was the top issue picked, at 32 percent.

Seven in 10 likely Pennsylvania voters oppose making all abortions illegal, one of several social issues tested. Sixty-three percent favor de-criminalizing possession of marijuana, 66 percent oppose outlawing same-sex marriage, and 62 percent favor outlawing discrimination against gay and transgender people.

State’s Importance

A Pennsylvania win for Clinton would be a significant roadblock to any Trump path to the presidency. Both sides have blanketed Pennsylvania with campaign stops and advertising. The state hasn't backed a Republican for president since 1988 and is second to only Florida in electoral votes among battleground states.

Without Pennsylvania, Trump would still be shy of the 270 electoral votes needed to win even if he won Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Nevada—all states that voted Democratic in the last two presidential elections—and all the other states fell as they did in 2012.

—With assistance from Greg Giroux.

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