A new poll was recently conducted for a local newspaper by Muhlenberg College on the race to represent the 15th congressional district of Pennsylvania. Here are some of the relevant facts concerning the poll and the Independent candidate in the race, Jake Towne.
- Jake Towne takes 3% of the vote in the race, with 49% for incumbent Republican Charlie Dent and 38% for Democrat John Callahn.
- When asked for opinions of Jake Towne, 55% of respondents have not heard of the candidate.
- At the same time, the net impression of Towne is negative- 10% favorable, 16% unfavorable. The most likely cause of this is that Republican partisans believe Towne is acting as a spoiler to Charlie Dent (with the widespread coverage of a debate on debates in the area), although this is not necessarily the case.
- Towne’s support appears to be equally split between the major party candidates- if Towne were not in the race, 44% polled would select Callahan, while 44% would select Dent. (The presence of this question makes the question asking about a two-man race between Dent and Callan quite redundant!)
In April, a Muhlenberg College poll had Towne at 4%. An internal poll from the Dent campaign had Towne at 8%; however, the pollsters released little information on that poll to the public.
Towne vehemently disputes the results at his campaign website here. Although there is a litany of accusations leveled at the poll, two seem to have the most gravity. The first is that the methodology is flawed, as it firsts asks respondents if they will vote for Callahan or Dent. This is a valid criticism, as the respondents are predisposed to the two choices without including Towne from the beginning. It would have been wiser to ask about Towne included first and then to ask about a two candidate race.
The second criticism, straight from the candidate:
Mr. Dent’s own poll showed that I was polling at 8% of the vote way back in January. To suggest my level of support has dropped after a successful ballot access drive with nearly 7,000 signatures collected and tens of thousands contacted on the streets, neighborhoods, and at community events since January is ridiculous. The overwhelming majority of people I have spoken with feel betrayed by the Republocrats and the country economically is moving in the wrong direction.
The Dent poll was an internal, so it comes with significant caveats. In addition, Towne appears to be cherry-picking news to only highlight the strong parts of his campaign. He ignores the fact that as elections approach races tighten, particularly at the expense of third party candidates who are perceived as a wasted vote. With the debate on debates in the local papers, Towne may have suffered from this syndrome a bit earlier. Even though the poll has some flaws, it does point out one major lesson: Towne has a lot of work to do to catch up to his opponents.