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F&M Poll: Gov. Corbett Struggling Against the Tide

As he prepares for his re-election bid next year, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett appears to face challenges, as 62 percent of voters believe the state is headed in the wrong direction and only one in five believe he is worthy of serving another four-year term, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll.

The poll, conducted of registered voters between Aug. 21 and Aug. 26 at the Center for Opinion Research at F&M, showed only 20 percent of voters believe the first-term governor deserves re-election, a decrease from four months ago, when the center's May poll showed 25 percent willing to support Corbett.

"No incumbent governor has had that many voters indicate it's time for a change," said the poll's director, G. Terry Madonna. "His priorities are not in sync with what voters want, and he can't go a month without negative news regarding his administration."

Recently, Corbett had to pull the nomination of his choice for education secretary, a former school superintendent in central Pennsylvania, after Corbett's administration learned of allegations regarding the man's behavior toward subordinates. 

  • The Pennsylvania state flag

As governor, Corbett has pursued initiatives to sell Pennsylvania's state-run liquor stores and have a private concern run the state lottery. According to this latest poll, though, voters have other worries. Twenty-eight percent believe that unemployment and the economy is the state’s most important problem followed closely by schools and school funding at 23 percent. 

One issue where Corbett appears aligned with voters is passing a transportation-funding plan. Twenty-nine percent of voters support a plan, which Corbett and the Pennsylvania Legislature were unable to accomplish last spring.

Yet Corbett's approval rating for re-election is well below where the state's last two governors stood at this point in their first terms, according to past Franklin & Marshall College polls. Govs. Edward Rendell and Tom Ridge were above 40 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

Between the poll in May and this one in August, a narrative is emerging of an incumbent governor struggling against a tide of voter discontent, Madonna said, noting incumbency is still a strong position from which to wage a campaign.

"He needs to turn this ship around and he needs to do it quickly," Madonna said.

Corbett's numbers are not the only ones sliding, according to the poll. Fewer than 1 percent of voters believe the state Legislature is doing an excellent job, the lowest performance rating since 1999, when the question was first asked. Thirty-seven percent of respondents would like to see their state representative re-elected next year. President Barack Obama's job performance dropped from 44 percent in May to 34 percent in the August poll. 

While the poll in May found 54 percent of Pennsylvania voters support gay marriage, 76 percent in the August poll disapproved of granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples when current state law bans it.

"Voters seem to be saying that, though we favor gay marriage, breaking the current law to accomplish that objective is not the way to proceed," Madonna said. 

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

The poll reflects interviews with 594 Pennsylvania voters from Aug. 21 to Aug. 26, 2013, with a sample error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. 

The 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, and Lancaster Newspapers.