New Castle News

June 9, 2012

John K. Manna: Poll data reveals about something about how people think

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Public opinion polls, we are constantly reminded, give us a snapshot of a given point in time.

In other words, polls are not a forecast of what may happen. However, they do show us possible trends.

And the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll, shows that, for the most part, people in Pennsylvania have been fairly constant over the last few months in how they feel about certain public officials.

For instance, the poll, taken from May 29 through June 4, shows that favorability ratings for President Obama have been consistently in the 45 percent to 47 percent range since January.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s favorability ratings also have been consistent so far this year, but with one exception. In January, 17 percent of the state’s registered voters were strongly unfavorable toward him. In the latest poll, 25 percent were strongly unfavorable.

Also in January, 47 percent of the voters believed Pennsylvania was on the wrong track. That figure jumped to 56 percent in February and is currently at 57 percent.

While the poll doesn’t indicate the reason, we can only speculate what the reason may be. The one major event that occurred after January was Corbett’s introduction of his budget that contained significant funding cuts.

The poll also reminds us that people want services but don’t necessarily want to foot the bill to receive them. An overwhelming 76 percent oppose reducing state funding for school districts. Yet, only 36 percent favor increasing the state income tax and 40 percent favor raising the sales tax.

The majority of voters support tax increases in other areas such as on smokeless tobacco and on companies that extract and sell natural gas. However, revenue from those sources is minimal when compared to the income and sales taxes. The income and sales taxes account for 72 percent of the state’s revenue.

Although only 10 percent of voters support tax increases overall to prevent program cuts, 47 percent support a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. That is generally the position taken by Democratic legislators these days. However, it’s highly unlikely there will be any kind of tax increase with a Republican–controlled Legislature.

The poll numbers show the majority of voters feel the same way, at least with the income and sales taxes.