Poll results are always a mixed bag, and an Opinion Research poll from Franklin & Marshall College shows no different. People now hold a more favorable view of same-sex marriage and are feeling more enthusiastic about upcoming elections, but they still believe America is going down the tubes.
And Gov. Corbett was not immune, getting results that were both good and bad.
While more people view him favorably now at 32 percent – up 3 percent from January’s poll – his unfavorability rose faster, from 32 to 39 percent in the same time period.
And some of that might have to do with how voters were polled regarding the budget.
Most people showed support for a number of revenue-increasing measures that are not on the table for next year, or have stalled in the Capitol.
A vast majority of people (79 percent) believe that new taxes should be placed on the sale of smokeless tobacco and cigars, and 73 percent want to levy taxes against companies that extract and sell natural gas.
As the Patriot-News editorialized last month, PA is the only state that does not tax smokeless tobacco, which could generate $40 million annually. The other popular option, taxing Marcellus Shale, could bring hundreds of millions to the state, but lawmakers also opted for what the Patriot-News called “the lowest tax on natural gas drillers in the country.”
The next most-popular measures were reducing the number of state employees (62 percent) and privatizing state-owned liquor stores at 60 percent – an option that is giving Harrisburg lawmakers some difficulty.
While Corbett is not stalling all of these items personally, two of the least popular revenue options posed to voters dealt with education, a subject many Pennsylvanians associate negatively with the Governor’s administration.
One of the two was a halving of funding for state public universities, with 24 percent of respondents in favor of that option. The other was reducing state funding for local school districts, with only one in five people saying they would opt to do so.
The other two least popular involved eliminating the Keystone recreation, park and conservation fund (with 21 percent in favor), and reducing funding for human service programs (16 percent).
Gov. Corbett’s $27.1 billion budget plan would have cut an additional 20 percent from state universities in additional to last year’s cuts, and trimmed human services programs by 20 percent.
But most of those polled took an approach out of both parties’ playbooks when it came to balancing the budget, with 47 percent believing that legislators should consider cutting spending while also increasing taxes, rather than doing so solely on the back of either cuts (22 percent) or tax increases (10 percent).
As people weighed in on the budget, they also shared their own financial outlooks.
While 16 percent of people believe they are better off last year, 21 percent believe they will be better off next year (57 percent believe, in both cases, that they will stay the same).
And although staying the same isn’t exactly an indicator of economic prosperity, only 14 percent of people believe they will be worse off next year. Compare that with 27 percent of people who said they are worse off now than last year, and that shows that things may be looking up.
However, most also believe America is still “on the wrong track” (57 percent).
Even if America is getting worse, as most people polled believe, some of their beliefs are becoming more positive and suggest that times, they are a-changing.
For instance, the same F&M June polling from 2009 had same-sex marriage and civil unions far less popular than they are now.
Three years ago, only 42 percent of people favored a constitutional amendment permitting same-sex marriage (with 52 percent opposed) and 58 percent were in favor of civil unions (with 37 percent opposed).
Now, 48 percent of people favor same-sex marriage, and 63 percent favor unions, a 6 and 5 percent jump in each category from 2009. The “unfavorable” rating also has dropped, from 52 to 49 percent for marriage, and from 37 to 33 percent for civil unions.
Lastly, regardless of evolving beliefs on social issues, more people are gearing up for summer campaign season and the upcoming elections.
When people were polled in January, 89 percent of people were very much or somewhat interested in the elections.
While the number of disinterested people (11 percent) has not changed, there has been a 5 percent shift from the “somewhat” to the “very interested” category.
So, while the same number of people who do not care is the same as before, those who pay “somewhat” close attention will be paying “very” close attention from here on out.
The Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College interviewed 412 Pennsylvania voters from May 29 to June 4, 2012. Democrats accounted for just over 50 percent of respondents, Republicans just under 38 percent (current registration in PA is 50.6 percent D, 38.1 percent R). The sample error is +/- 4.8 percent.