5/08/2013 Peter Durantine

F&M College Poll: Majority of Voters Believe Pa. on Wrong Track

  • The Pennsylvania state flag The Pennsylvania state flag

A majority of voters, 58 percent, believe Pennsylvania is on the wrong track, and Gov. Tom Corbett's job approval rating remains low among the electorate, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll.

The poll, conducted of registered voters between April 30 and May 5 at the Center for Opinion Research at F&M, showed only one in four voters, 25 percent, believes Corbett deserves re-election, little changed from 26 percent in Franklin & Marshall College's February poll.

"His job performance continues to be lower than the two previous governors' rating at this time in their terms," said the poll's director, G. Terry Madonna, referring to governors Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell, both of whom won re-lection.

Madonna said that Corbett, with no apparent primary opponent and 18 months until the election, has time to build voter support. "Can he improve enough to win? We don't know," Madonna said. 

The "right track/wrong track" question also showed little change since it was last polled in August 2012, when 56 percent of respondents said the state is "off on the wrong track."

The poll also found significantly fewer voters, 47 percent, support Corbett's proposal to sell the state-owned liquor stores to private companies, than did so in February, when 53 percent supported such a plan.

Last month, Pennsylvania's House of Representatives passed legislation, 105-90, to end the government's 80-year control on the sale of liquor and wine, marking the first time since the end of Prohibition in 1933 that such a measure passed out of a legislative chamber. The bill has yet to be debated in the Senate.

Since February, support for selling the state stores has declined among Republicans, from 61 percent to 54 percent, and Democrats, from 48 percent to 41 percent.

According to the poll, the number of voters who strongly oppose allowing private companies to sell liquor rose from 24 percent to 31 percent since February.

Despite support for the liquor stores sale, more registered voters believe the state-owned liquor stores should continue as they are, 31 percent, or be modernized, 26 percent, than believe they should be sold to private companies, 37 percent.

Madonna said the poll suggests the governor's priorities are not voters' priorities. Asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 what should be elected officials' top priority, poll respondents said creating new jobs, 8.9, and improving the state's economy, 8.9. Selling the state liquor stores and the state-run lottery received ratings of 4.9 and 3.6, respectively.

"What he's pushing isn't overly important to voters," Madonna said.

Among other poll findings: 

  • A majority of voters oppose legalizing marijuana (38 percent favor to 54 percent oppose), but 82 percent favor the use of marijuana for medical reasons if prescribed by a doctor.
  • A majority of voters continue to favor allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry (54 percent favor to 41 percent oppose).
  • A majority of voters continue to favor certain gun-control measures: 83 percent favor background checks for all gun sales, 53 percent favor banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, and 52 percent favor banning assault weapons.

The poll reflects interviews with 526 Pennsylvania voters from April 30 to May 5, 2013, with a sample error of plus or minus 4.3 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.

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