Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy are essentially deadlocked in the Connecticut Senate race, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.
The survey, released Thursday morning, shows McMahon with 48 percent, and Murphy at 47. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
The gender gap that has marked the race from the start — the fact that women prefer Murphy and men favor McMahon — continues to play out in the current poll. Men back McMahon 52 – 45 percent, while women favor Murphy 50 – 44 percent.
But in a troubling trend for Murphy, the poll also uncovered an “enthusiasm gap.” Half of McMahon backers are “very enthusiastic,” while 39 percent are “somewhat enthusiastic.” Among Murphy supporters, 27 percent described themselves as “very enthusiastic” and 55 percent are “somewhat enthusiastic.”
Also, unaffiliated voters are breaking Republican in this race. Fifty-two percent favor McMahon, 43 percent back Murphy. Unaffiliated voters make up the largest block of the Connecticut electorate.
The survey results reflect the power of negative ads.
“McMahon’s blanketing the airwaves with TV ads appears to be working,” poll Director Douglas Schwartz said in a press release accompanying the survey results. “More voters have seen her ads than Murphy’s and more voters think they are effective.”
More than percent of voters have seen McMahon campaign ads “very often” or “somewhat often,” compared with 64 percent for Murphy. And 66 percent of voters said McMahon’s ads are “very effective” or “somewhat effective,” compared to 51 percent for Murphy.
“While the horserace has barely changed, the images of both candidates have declined since August, as the campaign attacks have increased,” Schwartz said. “Murphy’s negatives are up 10 points and McMahon’s are up 6 points. McMahon has done a good job defining Murphy, who was not well known statewide, in a negative way.”
Murphy could get a boost from the top of the ticket: President Barack Obama handily out-polls Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Obama is favored by 54 percent of Connecticut likely voters; Romney by 42 percent.
Women back the president 59 – 37 percent, while men are split, with 49 percent for Romney and 47 percent for Obama. Independent voters also are divided, with 48 percent for Obama and 45 percent for Romney.
Obama’s 12-point edge over Romney is an improvement over his performance in the Aug. 28 Q poll, when he led Romney by 7 percentage points.
The poll of 1,696 likely voters was conducted from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.