10/29/2015 Peter Durantine

Support For Governor Slips As Budget Impasse Continues, F&M Poll Shows

As Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly wrangle over a state budget that is now nearly four months late, the governor's support among registered voters is beginning to erode, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll.

"People were thinking it was the Legislature's fault that the budget has yet to be passed, but now they are starting to blame the governor," said Berwood Yost, chief methodologist of the poll and the director of the Center for Opinion Research.

The state's constitution requires the Legislature to adopt and the governor to sign into law a budget no later than July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, or the commonwealth is prohibited from spending money to meet payment obligations.

Sixty-two percent of voters now think Pennsylvania is off on the wrong track, up from 54 percent in August, while 39 percent believe government and politicians are the biggest problems facing the state, knocking education off the top shelf of voter concern, according to the poll.

Full Poll Results.

Wolf's performance rating has dropped because of these sentiments, according to the poll's analysis. One in three voters, or 36 percent, believe the governor is doing an "excellent" or "good" job, down from 39 percent in August.

More voters (51 percent) blame the Legislature for failing to agree to a budget deal compared to the governor (32 percent). Similar proportions trust the governor (43 percent) rather than the state Legislature (38 percent) to make decisions about the budget.

"There isn't any doubt now that the failure to reach a budget agreement has significantly raised the angst of the voters in the state," said Terry Madonna, director of the F&M Poll and F&M's Center for Politics and Public Affairs.

Madonna said the poll reflects a view among voters that state government is in poor shape. "They want Harrisburg fixed," he said.

A proposal for new taxation is part of the reason for the impasse. Wolf wants to tax natural gas extraction, which 67 percent of voters support, while Republicans in the Legislature oppose it. In other tax matters, voters support increasing taxes on smokeless tobacco and cigarettes (71 percent), but they oppose raising the income tax (25 percent) and the sales tax (34 percent).

On other statewide issues, a majority of voters (51 percent) believe Attorney General Kathleen Kane should resign. Earlier this year, Kane was charged with perjury for allegedly leaking confidential documents illegally, then lying about it under oath. Last month, the state Supreme Court suspended her law license.

In the presidential primary races, state voters' candidate preferences appear to reflect nationwide sentiments, Madonna said.

Hillary Clinton leads her closest competitor, Bernie Sanders, 52 percent to 18 percent, for the Democratic nomination. The GOP contest is less clear. Donald Trump is leading Ben Carson, 23 percent to 22 percent, with Sen. Marco Rubio polling at 13 percent. Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum has just 1 percent of the vote.

"Pennsylvania looks like it could be another bellwether state," Madonna said.

The 23-year-old Franklin & Marshall College Poll is conducted under the direction of Madonna, Yost, and Project Manager Jacqueline Redman. It 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 PennLive/The Patriot News, Lancaster Newspapers/Lancaster Online, and the Reading Eagle.

Conducted between Oct. 19 and 25, the poll reflects the responses from 614 Pennsylvania registered voters. It has a margin of error plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. 

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