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F&M Poll: Corbett Up, Slightly; Obama Down

  • The Pennsylvania state flag

One in four registered voters believe Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett deserves to be re-elected in this year's election, while a majority, 62 percent, believe the state is "off on the wrong track," according to a Franklin & Marshall College Poll released Jan. 30.

The poll, conducted between Jan. 22 and 27 at F&M's Center for Opinion Research, showed one in five registered voters, 23 percent, believe Corbett is doing an "excellent" or "good" job. Only one in three Republicans, 38 percent, rate his performance as either "excellent" or "good," according to the poll.

Reflecting social changes occurring nationwide, the poll also showed that 81 percent of registered voters in Pennsylvania favor legalizing marijuana for medical use in the state, 56 percent support gay marriage, and 57 percent support a state law allowing same-sex couples to marry.

"This is not your grandfather's or grandmother's Pennsylvania any more," said the poll's director, G. Terry Madonna. "The state is going through a cultural change."

Although the governor's "strongly favorable" rating moved to 6 percent, up from 5 percent in October's poll, and his "unfavorable" rating dropped to 32 percent, down from 36 percent, Corbett remains "an endangered incumbent," Madonna said.

"He's got an almost immeasurable bump upward, but he's still in the danger zone," Madonna said. "He's shown some modest gains, and that's probably a result of his effort to better communicate with voters."

Corbett's performance rating increased to 21 percent, from 18 percent, which Madonna believes is a result of those stepped-up communication efforts and the recent passage of a transportation bill. But he said the governor's decision to cut education funding and the lack of job creation in the state are big factors in his low ratings.

Thirty-one percent of poll respondents believe unemployment and the economy is the state’s most pressing issue, followed, at 19 percent, by schools and school funding.

"I don't think I've done a poll in 23 years where educated rated that high," Madonna said. "He's lost the narrative on what's going on in the schools."

Citing Corbett's predecessors, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and Republican Gov. Tom Ridge, Madonna said Corbett's performance rating is much lower than those two governors at similar points in their first terms.

The National Picture

The poll showed President Barack Obama's job approval rating among Pennsylvania voters slipped to 30 percent from 39 percent, the lowest since he took office in January 2009, said Berwood Yost, director of the center and head methodologist.

"The healthcare rollout has hurt him," Yost said.

Also working against Obama are historical trends in which presidents in their second terms start to see their popularity slide for a variety of reasons, including voter fatigue, he said.

"It's rare for a politician to leave office more popular," Yost said. "Obama has a chance to reverse those trends, but we'll see."

Obama's job performance ratings are similar to President George W. Bush's ratings in Pennsylvania at a similar point in his presidency, according to the poll.

The full Franklin & Marshall College Poll results can be found here.

The poll is based on interviews with 580 Pennsylvania voters. The sample error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. The interviews were conducted at the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College under the direction of Madonna, Head Methodologist Yost, and Project Manager Jacqueline Redman. The data represents the responses of 289 Democrats, 214 Republicans, and 77 registered as Independent/Other. 

The 23-year-old Franklin & Marshall College Poll is produced in conjunction with the Philadelphia Daily News, WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, WPVI-TV6/ABC Philadelphia, Times-Shamrock Newspapers, Harrisburg Patriot-News/Penn Live, Lancaster Newspapers, and the Reading Eagle.