3/11/2021 Peter Durantine

Democracy in Question, According to Latest F&M Poll

The Franklin & Marshall College Poll’s first survey since 2020’s contentious presidential election, which led to an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, finds only 29% of Pennsylvania’s registered voters believe the legislative actions by Congress represent the collective will of Americans. 

“A lot of people think of democracy in practice as failing. That’s an important thing we need to think about for everyone in politics,” F&M Poll Director Berwood Yost said. “How do you restore faith in the way we practice democracy in this country, the way we practice governance?”

According to the poll, which was conducted March 1-7, only 21% of voters believe the federal government’s operations are transparent while only 11% believe there is little official corruption in government.

Among the poll’s other key findings, 36% believe the state is “headed in the right direction,” which is 19 points lower than the pre-pandemic high of 57% reported in October 2019. Thirty-one percent of voters cite COVID-19 as the most important problem facing the state, the same number as did in the October 2020 poll. 

Voters also expressed concerns about government and politicians, 27%, and economic issues, 12%, including unemployment, personal finances and business retention.

A strong majority of state voters, 67%, support raising the state’s minimum wage and 59% support legalizing the use of marijuana. 

About three in ten, or 31%, of voters have received a COVID-19 vaccine, but partisan attitudes about the vaccine are clear. More Democrats (40%) than Republicans (26%) reported getting a shot. Among those not yet vaccinated, more Democrats, 74%, than Republicans, 36%, say they will “definitely” get vaccinated. 

Forty-one percent of voters in Pennsylvania believe President Joe Biden is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president. That rating is higher than President Donald Trump’s and lower than President Barrack Obama’s at the same point in their respective terms. 

Biden’s rating for his management of the pandemic is higher, at 50%, than his overall approval rating. Trump’s rating for his management of the pandemic, at 33%, was lower compared to his overall job performance. 

Pennsylvania voters are almost evenly divided over Trump’s legacy as president with 50% saying his presidency was “good” for the country and 48% saying it was “bad.”

Finally, 61% percent of voters disapproved of the vote against certifying the results of the state’s 2020 presidential election that eight members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation supported. 

The F&M Poll, like all surveys, is a snapshot of a specific point in time, not a forecast. All polls have variability; voters change their minds; and events after a survey can sometimes influence voters’ decisions, including whether to vote at all.

Conducted by the Center for Opinion Research at F&M, the poll reflects interviews with 588 Pennsylvania likely voters, including 269 Democrats, 236 Republicans and 83 independents. The sample error is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

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