Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Center for Opinion Research

Pennsylvania's 1995 Statewide Judicial Process

Prepared by:
Dr. G Terry Madonna, Director
Center for Politics and Public Affairs

Berwood A. Yost, Director
Center for Opinion Research
Head Methodologist

Pennsylvanian's Attitudes Toward State Government

New data show citizens continue to have low levels of confidence and trust in Pennsylvania's state government. A recent Keystone Poll found that only one in twenty (4%) citizens believes they can almost always trust the state government to do what is right. On the other hand, more than three in five citizens (61%) say they trust the state government only some of the time. Yet, the job performance of many state officials is high. Take Governor Tom Ridge, for example. Six in ten (61%) voters say he is doing an excellent or good job as Governor. National data point to a similar disillusionment with the federal government. For example, a recent ABC News survey show that only 3% of the country's citizens almost always trust the federal government to do what is right, whereas two-thirds (67%) trust the federal government to do what is right only some of the time.

Despite low levels of trust, citizens of the Commonwealth still believe that the role for state government in solving community problems should be expanded, as three in five (58%) think the state should do more to help solve the problems of local communities.

The lack of confidence stems in part from citizen belief that state government has not been very effective in solving critical problems. Most citizens rate state government's performance as only fair or poor when it comes to attracting new jobs to the state (81%), holding down taxes (80%), maintaining and improving roads (75%), improving public education (70%), and slowing the growth of state government (65%).

Government waste and mismanagement is not at the heart of citizen concern. Only one in eight (13%) believe state government is not well managed. Pennsylvanians believe that state government spends money on the wrong things (37%) and takes too much time (35%) to solve critical problems.

A number of ideas to make state government more efficient have been offered. Many of these proposals are supported by a majority of the citizens of the Commonwealth. One of the most popular ideas is for the alternative sentencing of nonviolent criminals, which is supported by four in five (82%) state residents. Others include: making it easier to hire and fire government employees (75%), shifting some state government functions to local government (70%), giving bonuses to state employees when they make a suggestion that saves the state money (66%), and giving state employees more decision making responsibility (64%). There is also support for selling the state-owned liquor stores (58%).

I'd like to ask you a few questions about Pennsylvania's state government. First, how much of the time do you think you can trust the state government to do what is right?

  4% Just about always
 32% Most of the time, or 
 61% Only some of the time
  3% Don't Know

Some people think that the state government does things that should be left to individuals, communities and private companies. Others think that the state should do more to help solve the problems of our communities. Which do you agree with more, that

 33%  State government does too much, or that
 58%  The state should do more?
  8%  Don't know

Which one of the following is your biggest complaint about Pennsylvania's state government. It wastes money because it is not well managed, it spends too much money on the wrong things, its solutions to problems are ineffective, or it takes too long to solve problems.

 13%  Not well managed                    
 37%  Spends money on the wrong things    
  9%  Solutions are ineffective
 35%  Takes too long to solve problems
  3%  Don't know
  3%  Other 
  1%  No Complaints

Now I'm going to read you a list of issues and I want you to tell me how good a job the state government has done in each area. Is the state government doing an excellent, good, only fair, or poor job...

                                                  Exc  Good Fair Poor DK
 Improving the quality of public education          2%  22%  39%  31%  5%
 Maintaining and improving roads and highways       2%  22%  34%  41%  1%
 Slowing the growth of state government             2%  18%  49%  16%  15%
 Attracting new jobs and industries to the state    1%  14%  47%  34%  4%
 Holding down taxes                                 0%  17%  44%  37%  2%

There have been a number of proposals made to make Pennsylvania's state government more efficient and business-like. I would like to read you several of these proposals, and for each one I would like you to tell me whether you favor or oppose the idea as a way of saving the state money. Do you favor or oppose . . .

                                                                  Favor Oppose DK
 Allowing persons convicted of non-violent crimes to be sentenced  82%    16%   2%
 to alternative punishments other than prison or probation that 
 could include boot camps, community service, electronic 
 monitoring and the like.

 Making it easier to hire and fire government employees            75%    19%   6%

 Shifting certain state government functions to local governments  70%    18%  12%

 Giving bonuses to state employees when they make suggestions      66%    32%   3%
 that save the state money

 Giving lower-level state employees more decision-making           64%    29%   7%
 responsibility

 Selling the state-owned liquor stores to private companies        58%    33%   9%

 Modifying the state's purchasing system so that individual state  55%    34%  11%
 employees have more authority to negotiate contracts.

 Requiring state employees to join health maintenance              51%    38%  11%
 organizations

 Allowing local school boards to hire private companies            40%    52%   7%
 to manage public schools

The Keystone Poll is conducted by the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Millersville University for KYW-TV3, Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the Harrisburg Patriot. The telephone survey was conducted September 28-30, 1996, among a random sample of adult Pennsylvanians. A total of 626 registered voters in Pennsylvania were interviewed (265 R; 310 D; 39 I and others). The sample error for the sample of voters is plus or minus 3.9%, but is larger for subgroups. The survey was weighted to reflect the known distribution of registered voters in the state.

Any use of this survey must indicate that it was conducted at Millersville University.