PPP poll says the Chrises are strongest Senate candidates

More than 13 months from Election Day 2012, Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Chris Shays are less well-known than their main rivals for their parties’ U.S. Senate nominations, but they’re better liked. And both do better than their competitors in prospective general election matchups.

In a survey released Wednesday, Public Policy Polling says 70 percent of voters know Democrat Susan Bysiewicz well enough to form an opinion, but 41 percent say that opinion is unfavorable. For Republican Linda McMahon, the GOP Senate nominee last year, 88 percent have an opinion, and 49 percent say it’s unfavorable.

Among voters who say they have an opinion of Shays (65 percent) and Murphy (64 percent), the unfavorability rating for each is 28 percent.

Rob Simmons, who challenged McMahon for the GOP nomination last year, has not expressed interest in the race this time but was included in the poll. He is viewed favorably by 28 percent and unfavorably by 28 percent; 44 percent have no opinion. Democratic State Rep. William Tong of Stamford, who has declared his candidacy, is viewed favorably by 5 percent and unfavorably by 23 percent; 73 percent aren’t sure.

In general election contests, PPP shows Murphy beating Shays 43 percent to 39 percent and McMahon 50 percent to 43 percent. Bysiewicz would lose to Shays 34 percent to 48 percent and edge McMahon 47 percent to 46 percent, PPP says.

PPP is a Democratic polling organization, but many of the conclusions from this poll are less favorable to Democrats than those of a Quinnipiac University survey earlier this month. Murphy and Bysiewicz show much higher unfavorables in the PPP poll, for example, as does Shays. And while the Q-Poll shows Bysiewicz easily beating McMahon in the general election and neck-and-neck with Shays, the PPP survey makes the Bysiewicz-McMahon race a statistical dead heat and gives Shays an easy win.