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What effect did the Oz-Fetterman debate have on the Senate race? Here’s what three new polls show.

Separate polls from Monmouth University Polling Institute, Muhlenberg College, and Suffolk University/USA TODAY Network released this week indicate the race is essentially tied with six days to go.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz shake hands prior to their Pennsylvania Senate debate.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz shake hands prior to their Pennsylvania Senate debate.Read moreGreg Nash/The Hill/Nexstar

For all the attention last week’s debate between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz received, the race appears virtually unchanged — and extremely close — in its aftermath.

Separate polls from the Monmouth University Polling Institute, Muhlenberg College, and Suffolk University/USA TODAY Network released this week indicate the race is essentially tied with six days to go.

The Monmouth poll released Wednesday found 48% of voters will either definitely or probably vote for Fetterman, compared with 44% who said they would definitely or probably back Oz. That’s well within the poll’s 4.5-point margin of error, meaning the poll shows the race is essentially tied.

In the Muhlenberg poll released Tuesday, 47% of likely voters said they were voting for Fetterman, and 47% said they were voting for Oz. Three percent said they would vote for a third-party candidate, and 2% were unsure. However, the poll had a significant margin of error: 6 percentage points. (In September, Fetterman led in Muhlenberg’s poll by 5 points. That poll also had a 6-point margin of error).

Suffolk had Fetterman with a slim two percentage point lead over Oz (47% to 45%) in a poll with a 4-point margin of error. Fetterman’s lead in Suffolk’s poll shrunk from a 6-point advantage in September to 2 points this week. Oz gained 5 points since September.

The polling is some of the first conducted since the Oct. 25 debate between Oz and Fetterman in which Fetterman, who is recovering from a stroke, often struggled to articulate his points and stumbled over words. His showing prompted Democrats to question whether he should have participated and worry about what it might mean in an already tight race.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Pa.’s November 2022 election

The trends largely reflect what has been seen earlier in the fall, Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray said, with Oz making consistent, modest gains on Fetterman month to month but no clear post-debate spike.

“The overall trend suggests he has been chipping away with some voters who have not been completely comfortable with him, but that mainly happened prior to the debate,” Murray said. “Fetterman’s performance may have had an impact on the margins, but we don’t see any evidence of a wholesale shift in the race.”

Oz’s improvement is particularly evident with independents, who favored him in the Suffolk poll over Fetterman 43% to 32%. About 19% of the surveyed independents said they were still undecided, though. In September, Fetterman led 43% to 29% among independents, with 21% undecided.

» READ MORE: John Fetterman’s debate showing left Democratic insiders shaken but still hopeful

The debate was the most-watched program on broadcast TV in the Philadelphia market that night, according to Nielsen ratings. It averaged 179,000 viewers on PHL17 and an additional 119,000 who streamed it online. (It was blacked out for Verizon customers across the state due to a dispute between the company and station owner Nexstar.)

Fetterman’s stroke has had some impact on how voters are making up their minds, polling shows.

Fewer voters in the Monmouth poll said they saw Fetterman as capable of effectively serving a six-year term (48%) than said the same for Oz (59%).

But more voters believe Fetterman’s assertion that his speaking problems do not affect his ability to think or do his job (48%) than disbelieve they do (38%). The poll found 12% of respondents were unaware Fetterman has had trouble speaking in public. Just 3% of those polled, including 7% of independent voters, said they were reconsidering their candidate because of the debate. Most voters said they had no serious concerns from the debate (46%) or did not see or hear anything about the debate (27%).

Murray said the findings show some voters “are considering the impact of his recent stroke. In the end, though, many other factors appear to be more pressing for voters.”

» READ MORE: Mehmet Oz’s Senate run has stripped the gloss off his TV image. That could weigh on him in a tight finish.

The poll found that as Oz has chipped away with voters, specifically independents, Fetterman has slipped slightly in how much voters trust him on the economy.

Voters continue to view Oz negatively — 40% give him a favorable rating compared with 53% unfavorable. Fetterman’s reviews are split at 47% favorable and 46% unfavorable. Those ratings have remained consistent over the fall.

“Oz is hanging in in this race despite the fact that most Pennsylvania voters don’t really like him,” Murray said.

Other findings

In the race to become the state’s next governor, Democrat Josh Shapiro had a 14-point lead (54% to 40%) in the Muhlenberg poll over Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano. Respondents, however, leaned slightly Republican in their congressional picks, with Republicans leading Democrats 48% to 43% in the voters’ congressional race match-ups.

Fetterman had an advantage among people who said they returned mail ballots or who planned to vote early. That group makes up about one-quarter of those surveyed in the Monmouth poll. Sixty-eight percent of mail voters said they were backing Fetterman, compared with just 25% for Oz. Conversely, Oz had more support among Election Day voters (52% compared with 41%) who were polled.

“Here’s your reminder that, regardless of the outcome, Oz will almost certainly have a lead in the Election Day vote tally,” Murray said. “That gap will narrow and perhaps be overtaken as legally cast mail ballots are counted in the ensuing days. This fact won’t stop the conspiracy theorists, but there you have it.”

The Muhlenberg poll results were based off of a telephone survey of 460 likely voters in Pennsylvania between Oct. 24-28. Respondents were interviewed in English on both landlines (144) and cell phones (316). The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 6 percentage points.

The Monmouth College poll was conducted by telephone from Oct. 27- 31, with 608 Pennsylvania registered voters. The question results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Suffolk surveyed 500 likely midterm voters from Oct. 27-30 using live telephone interviews. The margin of error for the survey is 4.4 percentage points.