More than three months since the contentious 2016 election, and one month into a new administration and Congress, Pennsylvania voters remain dissatisfied with the direction of the country, the state and politics, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll.
Sixty-six percent of registered voters think the country is “on the wrong track” while 52 percent think the same of the state; 41 percent think the most important problem facing the nation and the state today is government and politics.
“What surprised me is the continued concern about government and politics at the state and federal level,” said Berwood Yost, F&M Poll’s chief methodologist and director of the Center for Opinion Research. “It raises important questions about democracy and how you get people back to thinking that government works for them, that it’s not a problem to be solved.”
Yost said voter dissatisfaction shows up in the poll’s job approval ratings for President Donald Trump, whose rating is 32 percent; Gov. Tom Wolf at 38 percent; and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey at 37 percent. At this point in his first term, former President Barack Obama was well above 50 percent in job approval rating.
Sixty-one percent of Republicans and 72 percent of conservatives approve of Trump’s job performance. Nor surprisingly, 8 percent of Democrats, 5 percent of liberals and 20 percent of moderates approve of the job the president is doing.
F&M Poll Director Terry Madonna said the dissatisfaction appears to reflect where people fall on the ideological scale since more conservatives than Republicans rated Trump’s performance positively while more liberals than Democrats rated it poorly.
“Ideology trumps party,” Madonna said. “Whether you are a conservative or a liberal means more than whether you are a Republican or Democrat. We are ideologically divided more than we are on partisanship. That’s a phenomenon of recent history.”
Regarding the Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as “Obamacare,” 29 percent of respondents believe the law should be repealed while 60 percent believe the law should have a few changes made to improve it. Among conservatives, 64 percent want repeal, but 3 only percent of liberals do.
Despite Trump’s low rating, 51 percent overall of poll respondents are confident in his ability to improve the economy.
On the issue of whether the media treats Trump fairly, 32 percent said “very unfairly” and 32 percent said “very fairly,” an equal share of voters. Poll respondents also rated the president’s honesty, using a one to 10 scale, where one means dishonest and 10 means honest.
Trump scored a 4.5 rating overall. Conservatives gave the president a 7.6 rating on the scale, moderates 3.8 and liberals a 1.9.
Yost said the results on the media’s treatment of Trump and on Trump’s veracity show the media and Trump are both challenged on the question of honesty.
“I read them and think both sides should be careful,” Yost said.
Conducted by the Center for Opinion Research at F&M from Feb. 15 to 19, the poll reflects interviews with 816 Pennsylvania registered voters, including 391 Democrats, 310 Republicans and 114 independents. The sample error for registered voters is plus or minus 5 percentage points while the sample error for the 496 likely voters is plus or minus 6.1 percent.