(Updated 12:37 p.m.)A new Quinnipiac University poll on the U.S. Senate race shows Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy are still deadlocked in the race for retiring U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s seat.
The poll found 48 percent of 1,696 likely voters support McMahon while 47 percent back Murphy. The poll has a 2.4 percent margin of error.
“It looks like a real nailbiter we’re going to have here in Connecticut,” Quinnipiac Poll Director Doug Schwartz said.
Both have been successful over the past month in damaging their opponents image with a barrage of negative TV ads.
Murphy’s negatives are up 10 points and McMahon’s negatives are up 6 points.
McMahon has hammered her opponent on his attendance record and for defaulting on his mortgage, but Murphy has countered with a video of McMahon saying she would consider a “sunset provision” for Social Security.
“McMahon has done a good job defining Murphy, who was not well known statewide, in a negative way,” Schwartz said.
There are few undecided voters in the race. Only 14 percent of voters surveyed said their mind isn’t made up. That also doesn’t bode well for Murphy or his supporters who will be outspent by McMahon.
McMahon supporters also seem to be more enthusiastic about their candidate than Murphy supporters, the poll found. Fifty percent are “very enthusiastic” about McMahon, while 27 percent are “very enthusiastic” about Murphy.
“McMahon voters are much more likely to say they are very enthusiastic about their choice than Murphy voters, by about 2-1,” Schwartz said. “While the horserace has barely changed, the images of both candidates have declined since August, as the campaign attacks have increased.”
Despite, Murphy’s ability to begin to turn the tables on McMahon over the past week, he still maintains a negative approval rating, while McMahon’s approval rating remains in positive territory.
By a 45 – 41 percent margin, Connecticut voters have a favorable opinion of McMahon, compared to 47 – 35 percent in August. Murphy gets a negative 36 – 40 percent favorability rating, down from a 38 – 30 percent positive score in August.
“Connecticut voters like Linda McMahon more than U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy,” Schwartz said. “But the Democrat seems to be holding his own against the onslaught of negative advertising.”
The poll found a total of 84 percent of voters have seen McMahon campaign ads “very often” or “somewhat often,” compared to 64 percent for Murphy. McMahon’s ads are “very effective” or “somewhat effective,” 66 percent of voters say, compared to 51 percent for Murphy.
“McMahon’s blanketing the airwaves with TV ads appears to be working. More voters have seen her ads than Murphy’s and more voters think they are effective,” Schwartz said.
The two candidates will have their first of four debates this Sunday and only 22 percent of voters say the candidates could say something that would change their mind, and 72 percent say there’s nothing the candidates will say to change their minds. Also regardless of how they will vote, 41 percent of voters said McMahon will win the debates, while 35 percent believe Murphy will emerge victorious.
Schwartz said 70 percent of people polled said they intend on watching the debate, which could have an effect on the outcome of the election because they’re so close to Election Day. One thing he said may sway voters is if one candidate is able to come across as being able to relate to people’s economic problems.
“I could turn the election,” he said.
The issue of each candidates’ personal finances have also played a big role in the campaign. Murphy defaulted on his mortgage in 2007 and his rent in 2003, while McMahon declared bankruptcy back in 1976.
Voters were asked if each candidate has handled their personal finances appropriately. Thirty percent believe Murphy handled his situation appropriately, while 49 percent say McMahon handled her situation appropriately.
“People thought that he’s handled his personal finances inappropriately and it does affect their view of him, and again, their view of him will affect their vote,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said McMahon is still being indirectly negatively impacted by people’s perception of the WWE, but it may not help Murphy much considering people aren’t fond of Congress either.
“We wanted to compare what the effects of both their backgrounds. Her background is in wrestling, his background is in Congress and what we found was people have a very low opinion of both. It doesn’t help either candidate,” he said.
The poll also found that President Barack Obama is leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 12 points. In August, Obama held a 7 point lead over Romney prompting Connecticut Republicans to argue that Romney had a chance of winning the state.
Among women voters Obama leads Romney 22 percent.
Women back the president 59 – 37 percent, while men are divided, 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.
“President Barack Obama’s lead has jumped into double digits, where it is expected to be in blue Connecticut,” Schwartz said.
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.