New Castle News

Closer Look

February 1, 2014

John K. Manna: Survey data suggest governor faces re-election struggle

NEW CASTLE — While public opinion polls are conducted throughout the year, this is the time of year they may carry more significance.

Primarily because we are entering a new political campaign season, one in which Pennsylvania voters will be electing a governor.

And the current governor, Tom Corbett, isn’t doing so well. Poll-wise, that is.

In the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll released this week, only 23 percent of the state’s registered voters believe Corbett, a Republican, has done suffciently well to deserve re-election. Actually, that’s an improvement from October when only 19 percent expressed that opinion.

His job performance rating is lower than that of Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, or Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, at similar points in their first terms.

What this means for this year’s election is anyone’s guess. It will ultimately come down to not only what voters think about Corbett, but what they think about his opponent.

And right now, there are eight Democratic candidates who want his job. However, my sense is that none of them have much name recognition statewide.

When it comes to the most important problem facing Pennsylvania, unemployment topped the list. Second was education and tying for third was government and politicians and taxes.

While government and politicians always get a bum rap, there has been some improvement in the voters’ eyes.

In the October poll, 17 percent said government and politicians was a problem. The figure dropped to 11 percent in the latest poll. Same government, same politicians and the same other problems. So why the improvement?

That seems to conflict with another number.

A sizable majority — 62 percent — believe the state is headed in the wrong direction. That’s one percentage point higher than the October poll.

Seldom have Pennsylvanians believed the state is headed in the right direction. In fact, over the last four years, the percentage of those believing the state has been headed in the right direction has been under 40.

This includes polling that dates back to January 2010, well before Corbett was elected governor.

What to conclude? No matter who is elected governor, there will be always be a significant amount of pessimism among Pennsylvania’s voters.

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