The U.S. Senate race in Connecticut, which could determine whether the Democratic Party holds onto its narrow majority in the chamber, is a statistical dead heat with just over six weeks to go until Election Day, according to The University of Connecticut/Hartford Courant poll released Wednesday.

The poll of likely voters gives Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy a slight edge with 37 percent of the vote compared to Republican candidate Linda McMahon’s 33 percent. But since the margin falls within the poll’s 4 percent margin of error, it’s essentially a tie, said UConn poll director Jennifer Dineen.

“Right now, this is anyone’s race,” she said. “Both candidates need to focus on that large number of undecided voters if they want to open up a lead going into the home stretch.”

The live-caller poll of 517 likely voters was conducted Sept. 11-Sept. 16, 2012 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Both land lines and cell phones were included in the sample.

Forty-eight percent of unaffiliated voters are still undecided, leaving that crucial vote largely up for grabs.

“It’s good news for McMahon that she’s winning over independents at that rate, but both campaigns should see it as an opportunity that one in two unaffiliated voters is still on the fence,” Dineen said.

The Murphy campaign can take some encouragement in the fact that the relatively large number of undecided Democratic voters gives him a chance to bolster his overall numbers. While just 17 percent of Republicans remain undecided, 27 percent of Democrats have not made up their minds yet.

The high number of undecided voters comes despite months of television commercials blanketing the airwaves and thousands of mailers sent to homes across the state.

“The voters seem to be waiting for either candidate to give them a definitive reason for their support on Nov. 6,” Dineen said. “With less than 50 days to go, it looks like this election is going to be decided by which candidate does a better job of mobilizing those voters.”

Among the poll’s other findings:

  • No gender gap exists between the candidates. Murphy and McMahon are roughly even with female voters, standing at 38 percent and 35 percent, respectively, of the vote.
  • McMahon has a commanding lead among older voters, with nearly 49 percent of those 65 and older giving her their support compared to Murphy’s 34 percent. Murphy has a similar edge with voters aged 50 to 64.
  • McMahon is doing well in eastern Connecticut and Murphy is out in front in Hartford County, but the race is a dead heat in western Connecticut.

These findings are based on the University of Connecticut/Hartford Courant Poll.  The sample of 517 randomly selected Connecticut likely voters were interviewed by landline and cellular telephone between September 11 and September 16, 2012. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 4 percentage points.

The data have been weighted by the number of adults in a household and the number of telephone numbers, land and cellular, at which adults in the household can be reached in order to equalize the chances of an individual adult being selected.  The data have also been weighted by the sex, race and level of education of the respondent and the region of Connecticut based on the American Community Survey conducted by the US Census.

The University of Connecticut-Hartford Courant Poll is a joint effort between one of the nation’s top research universities and the oldest continuously published newspaper in America. The purpose of the poll is to provide unbiased opinion research into critical questions affecting both the state of Connecticut and the nation.

Download the data (PDF)