It’s the end of September and the end of the third quarter, so it’s time for the Commonwealth Foundation’s Q3 Common Ground in the Commonwealth poll.
The poll – conducted on a quarterly and annual basis—measures Pennsylvania’s pulse on the most important issues facing the commonwealth, including education, regulation, migration, energy, business climate, taxes, quality of life, confidence in elections, and more. The Common Ground poll also takes stock of approvals for elected officials and issue trends.
Direction of the Country / State
Pennsylvanians are feeling better about the Commonwealth than they are about the direction of the country. 72 percent of respondents say America has fundamentally gotten off on the wrong track, while just slightly half (51%) say the same about the state. Both numbers are down 3-4 points from the Q2 poll.
There was agreement on the three most important problems facing the country – inflation/cost of living (45%), the U.S. economy (21%) and crime (21%) – with immigration/border security (20%) next. Inflation (51%), crime (32%) and the economy (20%) were the top three issues those surveyed said were statewide concerns.
Fifty-three percent say they are better off or about the same financially than they were two years ago, while 45% say “Bidenomics” have improved or had no effect on PA’s economic conditions.
Those surveyed also said that Florida (28%), Texas (22%) and North Carolina (18%) all have a better economic outlook than Pennsylvania. Among neighboring states, 1-in-6 said New York and Delaware had a better outlook and 1-in-8 said same about New Jersey and Maryland.
President Joe Biden received approval from 42 percent of those queried – up three points from Q2 – while having a minus-9 favorability rating (45-54).
Pennsylvania’s senior U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. has a +13 favorability mark (48-45), while junior Sen. John Fetterman is dead-even at 45-45.
U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is underwater at minus-21, while his counterpart, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries is +5. On the Senate side, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is minus-10, which is 38 points better than Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Democrats are a minus-1 (48-49), Republicans are minus-19 (39-58) and the U.S. Supreme Court is minus-7 (43-50).
Gov. Josh Shapiro again showed strong numbers from those surveyed. Sixty-one percent said they approve of the job he is doing with nearly a quarter indicating strong approval. The 50-year-old governor also has a +32 favorability rating (62-30) – the highest among all Pennsylvania figures. That figure is slightly down from +34 during the Q2 poll.
Nearly 1-in-5 queried said Shapiro’s greatest accomplishment was the I-95 road repair, while 10% credited him for his stance on the state’s economy. While he was not given the lion’s share of the blame for the lack of a finalized budget (17%), those surveyed said he is responsible in the end for making sure it is completed (44%).
Fifty-six percent felt that Shapiro should support the lifeline scholarship legislation, while 62% agreed with the statement that he “made a bi-partisan deal with the State Senate to support scholarships” and that he “should honor the deal he made.”
General Assembly / Others
The State House and Senate were blamed equally (24%) for the lack of a finalized budget.
The survey indicates that residents of the Commonwealth are not paying as much attention to the drama in Harrisburg as some may think. Nearly of quarter of all those surveyed said they had never heard of Lt. Gov. Austin Davis (24%), House Speaker Joanna McClinton (28%) or Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (28%). Each had a favorable rating between 1-5 among those who had heard their name.
The PA House of Representatives (+2) drew slightly more favorable numbers than the State Senate (-1), while the PA Supreme Court stands at +18 (46-28). Philadelphia’s leaders did not fare as well with Mayor Jim Kenney at minus-13 (22-35) and embattled District Attorney Larry Krasner at minus-12 (21-33). In both cases, however, nearly 1-in-4 indicated that they were not familiar with them.
PA Supreme Court
Democrat Daniel McCaffery has a 42-36 lead over Republican Carolyn Carluccio for the open Pennsylvania high court seat.
The Foundation asked a series of questions about K-12 education in the Commonwealth.
Nearly 3-in-4 (73%) support expanding tax credit scholarships, which would allow businesses to donate funds to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships to low-income and middle-income children to attend pre-kindergarten or K-12 private school. Sixty-four percent support establishing scholarship for low-income student that would help pay for tuition to another K-12 school, while 57% support establishing an independent auditor which would approve and renew charter schools.
Respondents were split down the middle on the concept of a year-round school calendar that would still allow for 180 days, but reducing the summer break and allocating more frequent vacation periods throughout the year.
Regarding the question, “If financial costs were of no concern, what type of school would you select to obtain the best education for your child?,” 52% said a private (religious or non-religious) school, while only 20% said a district school.
PA Presidential Primary
Nearly half (46%) of those interviewed support a move of the state’s 2024 presidential primary to March, while 2-in-5 had no opinion or were unsure.
Eagles / Steelers
To no one’s surprise, on the lighter side, fewer than 1 in 100 had not heard of either the Philadelphia Eagles nor Pittsburgh Steelers. The defending NFC champion Eagles, off to a 3-0 start, had a +43 favorability number (66-23), while the six-time Super Bowl champion Steelers were at +38 (64-26).