Governor Still Faces Low Numbers, But Senator Toomey Gets Boost in New Poll


Terry Madonna

Terry Madonna

Governor Tom Corbett is facing one fewer potential opponent next year with word that Republican Bruce Castor has decided not to run against him in the primary.  But   he’s still facing challenging approval ratings.

The latest Franklin and Marshall College Poll shows Governor Corbett’s job performance remains around 25% and more than half of those polled do not believe he deserves reelection.

Poll Director Terry Madonna says voters list the economy, jobs and schools among their priorities with privatizing liquor and lottery sales last on the list.  He says this creates a problem for the Governor, who has been talking about privatizing the management of the lottery and privatizing alcohol, he says  it does not resonate with voters as very relevant to them.

Madonna says the economy has also been a factor.  He says it’s often hard when you recommend cuts to popular state programs and the economy doesn’t seem to be moving forward very quickly. He says there’s an important correlation between governors who win reelection and the health of the economy.

Madonna says  Governor Corbett’s numbers lag behind the ratings of two previous governors, Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell,  at this time in their terms.

Madonna adds that the poll also shows some softening in support for liquor privatization. Although a plurality supports selling state stores, a third option is on the table- modernization. The poll shows 26% of voters support modernizing liquor sales.

Meanwhile, another Pennsylvania Republican saw his numbers go up in the poll.  U. S. Senator Pat Toomey  gained 9 points in his favorability ratings since February and now stands at 35%. More than 40% of those polled don’t have an opinion or are undecided.

Madonna says the gun background check debate in Congress did not hurt Toomey with the voters. The Senator was one of the architects of a compromise effort that failed to win final approval.

Madonna says 57% of the voters in Pennsylvania favor creating more laws to regulate gun ownership. 89% favor universal background checks.

Senator Pat Toomey

Senator Pat Toomey

Court Ruling Temporarily Blocks Enforcement of Voter ID

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has issued a partial preliminary injunction against the new law, which essentially means that voters will be asked to show a valid photo ID on November 6th, but they will not be required to do so. 

Governor Tom Corbett says it’ll be a continuation of the soft roll-out that was in place for the primary election this past April.  Corbett addressed the Voter ID issue at an unrelated event, telling reporters it doesn’t matter whether he’s disappointed with the ruling or not.  However, Corbett reiterated his support for the law. “I think it is incumbent upon people to have photo ID, particularly to identify themselves when they are voting.” 

Corbett suggests the Commonwealth is leaning against an appeal of Judge Simpson’s ruling, but notes the ruling is still being reviewed. 

While most Republicans’ reaction has been muted, that’s not the case for the bill’s prime sponsor, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler).  “It’s a violation of the separation of powers, and it’s a violation of the will of the people,” Metcalfe tells Radio PA. 

Metcalfe says the state is fulfilling its responsibility by providing free IDs for voting purposes, but Pennsylvania citizens have the responsibility to obtain one if they wish to exercise the right to vote.  “The state can’t fix lazy,” Metcalfe says.  “If somebody’s too lazy to do what they have to do, we can’t fix that.  We can’t hold every individual by the hand and take them through the process. They have to take on this responsibility.”

Voter ID, ACLU

Vic Walczak

Comments like those offend Vick Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.  “These are people who greatly value the right to vote, have gone to extraordinary lengths to try to get these IDs, and for some politician to get up and call them lazy is just beyond offensive,” Walczak said during a conference call with reporters. 

He and other Voter ID opponents who were on that call were hailing the judge’s ruling as a great day for PA voters.  “On Election Day no one will be turned away from the polls because they don’t have one of the photo IDs that would have otherwise been required,” says Ben Geffen with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. 

The state will continue its voter education efforts in hopes that all registered voters will have a valid form of photo ID well in advance of next spring’s primary election, when enforcement of the law is scheduled to begin.  However, the plaintiffs will still make their case for a permanent injunction at a later date.

Last week’s Franklin & Marshall College Poll found that 2% of registered voters say they lack a valid photo ID; 59% favor the law.

New Franklin and Marshall College Poll Shows Santorum with Large Lead in Pennsylvania

The latest Franklin and Marshall College poll shows Senator Rick Santorum with a large lead over Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania.   Poll Director Terry Madonna says the 45% to 16% advantage is evidence the Santorum surge has hit the former Senator’s state.

But Madonna says the race in Pennsylvania is still volatile.  When they asked Santorum and Romney supporters if they planned to stick with their candidate or if they were still making up their minds, 46% say they are still making up their minds.  Madonna says Santorum and Romney are the second choice among the other’s supporters, showing it’s a two person race.

Madonna adds that the November contest could be close in Pennsylvania as well.  In the poll taken this month, President Obama’s lead on Santorum was down to 7% in the state, while Romney trails the president by 8%.

Madonna says Santorum could face problems in a match up with President Obama over his socially conservative positions.  He says those issues were a problem with swing voters in 2006, when Santorum lost re-election to the U. S. Senate to Bob Casey in Pennsylvania.

Madonna says when asked whether President Obama deserves re-election, a majority of voters in Pennsylvania do not feel he does, but that gap is closing. He says the President’s job numbers are getting a little better in the state. The number of voters saying it’s time for a change has slipped under 50%.

Meanwhile, on state issues, just a third of those polled believe Pennsylvania is heading in the right and 56%   feel things are off on the wrong track. 

Madonna says when the voters are asked about Governor Tom Corbett’s ability to handle the state’s budget problems, 55% were very or somewhat confident.

Still, 66% strongly oppose reducing funding for local school districts. Madonna says almost half of those polled favor a combination of budget cuts and tax increases to balance the budget. The poll shows strong support for new taxes on smokeless tobacco and cigars.

Comparing Presidents in Reelection Years

In many respects, President Barack Obama is polling about the same in the Keystone State as George W. Bush did in his reelection year.  For instance, this week’s Franklin & Marshall College Poll finds that 29% of PA voters approve of the way President Obama is handling the economy.  Eight years ago, poll found that 30% of PA voters approved of the way President Bush was handling the economy. 

Terry Madonna

Terry Madonna

President Obama has a 45% personal favorable rating in this week’s F&M Pennsylvania Poll.  In 2004, the poll pegged Bush’s personal favorable rating at 46%.  “It’s not as though President Bush, at this point eight years ago, was the odds on favorite to win our state,” says Franklin & Marshall College Poll Director Terry Madonna. 

It seems Pennsylvania will once again be a key battleground state.  “His indicators right now would tell us that it would be very close,” Madonna says of President Obama’s chances in Pennsylvania. 

One key difference when comparing the two presidents is that Bush and Kerry were essentially tied in Pennsylvania at this point in 2004.  But, according to Madonna’s latest poll, Obama would easily stamp out Republican rivals Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum.  “The nomination struggle is still underway in the Republican primary.  They’re slinging around a lot of mud… and that at the moment seems to be working in the president’s favor.” 

President Bush won reelection in 2004, but barely lost Pennsylvania to John Kerry by 2.5%.  The last time Pennsylvania swung Republican was with George H.W. Bush in 1988.

President’s Approval Numbers Remain Weak in Pennsylvania According to New Poll

The job approval rating for President Obama is more negative than positive in Pennsylvania and more than half of the voters believe it’s time for a change according to the latest Franklin and Marshall College poll.

The President’s approval rating rose slightly from the August poll to the October poll, from 34% to 37%.   52% of the state’s voters believe it’s time for a change than believe the President deserves re-election (42%).

The President still comes out ahead in match ups against Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum. But poll director Terry Madonna says Pennsylvanians are not focused on the presidential election yet, since the primary is not until April. He says the Republican candidates are not well known and there has not been a lot of activity by the candidates in Pennsylvania.  He says the Republican field is still unsettled.

Madonna says the president, in a sense running against himself, is in trouble.  He says typically when they find this situation in polls; they find an incumbent who is going to have a tough fight on his hands.  He expects Pennsylvania to remain very competitive and play its role as a battleground state.

The poll shows President Obama leading Rick Perry in Pennsylvania 40% to 20%. In a match up with Mitt Romney, the president leads 35% to 26%. Going head to head with Rick Santorum, President Obama leads 38% to 25%. Against Herman Cain, the President’s lead is 38% to 24%. There were a large number of voters who were undecided.

Madonna says President Obama’s weak job performance is directly related to the continuation of the recession and the lack of optimism voters have about getting out of it anytime soon.  He says the American people tend to hold the party in power and the President of the United States responsible.

Pennsylvania’s two U. S. Senators also have approval ratings that are more negative than positive.  Senator Bob Casey’s approval rose 6 points from August to 38%, Senator Pat Toomey’s approval; rating was 32%, up 3 points from August.

The poll also looked at Pennsylvania issues.  The state legislature’s approval rating is only 22%, compared to 38% for Governor Corbett.  Half of those polled think the state is headed in the wrong direction.

While Governor Corbett’s approval rating is still below where Ed Rendell or Tom Ridge ranked at this point in their tenures, Madonna says it’s not as markedly low as previous surveys.  The rating rose 6 points from August.

Madonna says they have seen a steady erosion in support for the legislature somewhat influenced by the pay hike grab in 2005.  He says the prosecutions known as Bonusgate have also had an impact. But it’s the most positive rating for the legislature since the summer of 2009 and it’s almost twice as high as the rating Congress gets in most polls, which hovers around 12%.

The poll also asked voters to prioritize some of the top issues facing the state, and more than half pointed to fixing the roads and bridges as the most important or one of the most important issues. 43% ranked passing a tax on natural gas as an important priority, followed by school vouchers (39%), changing the way electoral votes are distributed (30%) and privatizing state stores (17%).