A poll commissioned by a PAC hoping to unseat the incumbent in the Philadelphia district attorney primary election points to an increasingly competitive race in which “only 40 percent of likely voters believe [incumbent District Attorney Larry] Krasner deserves re-election.”
Additionally, 39 percent of those polled said it is “time to give a new person a chance,” according to the survey conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research.
The findings come just two weeks before Philadelphia Democrats will decide between Krasner and the challenger, Carlos Vega, in one of the most closely watched elections in Pennsylvania this year. Because of the city’s heavily Democratic makeup, it’s widely assumed the winner of the primary on May 18 will win the seat in the November general election.
READ MORE — “It seemed like the prosecutor just rolled over.”
Susquehanna Polling and Research conducted the survey from April 23-27 for the Protect our Police political action committee, which is running a campaign against Krasner.
The firm said the poll had a margin of error of 4.9 points. The analytics and polling website fivethirtyeight.com gives Susquehanna a B+ rating.
Protect Our Police provided a memo outlining some of the results to Broad + Liberty but did not provide the complete results. “We are not releasing toplines of the poll as part of a strategic decision, but we’re confident in a path to victory,” a representative with the PAC said.
In odd-year elections, polling of municipal races is scarce or nonexistent. Oftentimes campaigns’ internal polling or polling done by organizations like PACs can be the only early indicators of how the race is shaping up.
Susquehanna CEO and founder Jim Lee said there are other takeaways that show the race is continuing to tighten.
“I think the biggest takeaway and the first takeaway from the poll is the consensus that crime and public safety is the most pressing problem facing Philadelphia,” Lee told Broad + Liberty.
‘I think the biggest takeaway and the first takeaway from the poll is the consensus that crime and public safety is the most pressing problem facing Philadelphia.’
“In this poll 48 percent of voters in an open-ended unaided question said crime was the most important problem they worry about on a daily basis. And there was nothing else even close to 48 percent in this poll.
“That same question that was asked in December, and only 26 percent of voters said crime and public safety was the number one problem facing Philly — that now has swelled to 48 percent.”
The most significant difference between this primary and the one in 2017, which Krasner won, is that this year is a one-on-one matchup. In 2017, Krasner won 38 percent of the vote amid a split field of six other candidates.
Lee also said the trendlines have been moving against Krasner.
“Krasner’s reelect support has dropped,” Lee said. “In December, it was 47 percent of the voters saying they thought he was doing his job well enough to deserve reelection. That’s now down to 40, where conversely, the percent of people that say it’s time for new person has risen by 12 points from what it was in December at 27 percent, now up to 39 percent.”
About 20 percent of respondents were undecided, but if the consensus around crime as the top problem continues to solidify, many of those undecideds will break for Vega, Lee believes based on the trends.
A request for comment to the Krasner campaign was not returned.
If Krasner is losing support among everyday Democrats in Philadelphia, that would hardly come as a surprise to political watchers given recent events around the campaign.
In March, the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee refused to give Krasner a re-election endorsement, a rare snub from the political machine that tends to always support incumbents.
More recently, Mayor Jim Kenney refused to say whether he supported Krasner for another term.
A recent profile of Krasner in the national magazine The Atlantic highlighted the strain the murder rate has put on the incumbent.
“But Krasner is running now in a far different moment than the one in which he was first elected,” the magazine said. “In early 2017, gun violence and homicides were relatively stable. The year before Krasner took office, about 350 murders occurred in Philadelphia; last year, there were 499—the most in three decades—and homicides this year are on pace to set a record.”
As of May 2, the Philadelphia Police crime-tracking website tallied 176 homicides so far this year, a 39 percent increase over the same time in 2020.
There are broader national questions as well, given that Krasner is one of the most high-profile progressive district attorneys in the country. Some media reports say his reelection as a referendum on the progressive response to criminal justice in the Black Lives Matter era after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police.
Some media reports say his reelection as a referendum on the progressive response to criminal justice in the Black Lives Matter era after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police.
“Publicly, advocates are wary of elevating Krasner’s importance in case he loses. ‘One man is not a movement,’ Rashad Robinson of the Color of Change PAC, a national progressive group backing Krasner,” told the Atlantic. “Privately, however, they’re unnerved by the possibility of his defeat. ‘It would be disastrous,’ another top advocate confided.”
The other curveball in 2021 is frustrated Philadelphia Republicans. A city official told Broad + Liberty that 5,593 Republicans in the city have switched their registration to Democrat from about the second week until today. By comparison, in all of 2017, only 1,861 Republicans switched their voter registrations to Democrat.
Put another way, in just four months of 2021, three times as many Republicans have switched their voter registrations to Democratic affiliations when compared to all 12 months of 2017.
The head of the local Fraternal Order of Police has not kept it a secret that he has asked many of his officers to switch registrations to Democratic for the primary, and then to switch back afterward, when the general election will be essentially a fait accompli for the Democratic primary winner.
Krasner and Vega have a debate this Wednesday at 7 p.m., available on NBC10 television and KYW Newsradio at 103.9 FM and 1060 AM.
The primary election is May 18.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article said Protect Our Police PAC was supporting Vega. The PAC is only campaigning against Krasner, and is not directly supporting Vega.
UPDATE II: The first version of this article suggested roughly 3,000 people had switched their registration from Republican to Democrat this year. The article has now been updated with the most current information available from the city.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd at broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports at protonmail.com.