6/18/2015 Jason Klinger

Franklin & Marshall College Poll: Voters Support Medical Marijuana, Suspension of Death Penalty

Pennsylvania voters favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, support Gov. Tom Wolf's moratorium on the death penalty, and believe boosting funding for education should be the state government's top priority.

These are among the results of the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll, released June 18.


The vast majority of registered voters (87 percent) backs the legalization of medical marijuana — reflecting a 10-year trend of escalating support — although a minority (40 percent) favors legalizing the drug for recreational use.

Meanwhile, 49 percent of voters approve of the state's moratorium on carrying out the death penalty in Pennsylvania, whereas 37 percent oppose the suspension of the penalty. By a slight margin (47 percent to 41 percent), voters say life in prison without the possibility of parole is a more appropriate sentence for murder than is the death penalty.

Wolf enacted the moratorium on the death penalty in February, citing questions about the inherent fairness of executions as a means of punishment. He appointed an advisory committee to study the issue and produce a report on its findings.

Education funding continues to be the top issue for registered voters, with 30 percent saying they would like to see greater spending on public education. Local property tax reform was a close second, with 25 percent of voters identifying it as a their top priority for Pennsylvania's leaders. Both results are in line with findings from a previous Franklin & Marshall College Poll released in March.

In other findings:

  • 70 percent of respondents believe it should be illegal to discriminate, either in employment or housing practices, against a person based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • 58 percent support Wolf's budget plan, a number unchanged since March. 
  • 39 percent believe Wolf is doing an "excellent" or "good" job as governor, the same as in March.
  • Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey currently leads Democratic challenger Joe Sestak by a four-point margin (35 percent to 31 percent) in the race for his seat, although many voters (34 percent) are still undecided. Toomey leads a second Democratic challenger, three-term Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, by a much larger margin (34 percent to 23 percent).
  • 32 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Kathleen Kane, while only 15 percent have a favorable opinion of the embattled attorney general.

The poll reflects interviews with 556 Pennsylvania registered voters conducted June 8-14. The sample error is plus or minus 4.1 percent.

The 24-year-old Franklin & Marshall College Poll is conducted under the direction of Terry Madonna, Head Methodologist Berwood Yost, director of the Floyd Institute's Center for Opinion Research, and Project Manager Jacqueline Redman. It is produced in conjunction with the Philadelphia Daily News, WGAL-TV in Lancaster, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, WPVI-TV6/ABC in Philadelphia, Times-Shamrock Newspapers, Harrisburg Patriot-News/PennLive, Lancaster Newspapers and the Reading Eagle.

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