(Photo by Angela Breck/Maryland Matters)
Pennsylvania voters remain uneasy about the state of the commonwealth and their financial outlooks, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday.
On job performance of elected officials, voters polled said Gov. Josh Shapiro is off to a strong start since his inauguration in January.
Nearly half of those interviewed said they’re worse off than a year ago while only 11% said their financial position is better this year. A third of respondents said they expect to be worse off financially a year from now, the poll found.
“These assessments of financial well-being are essentially unmoved since the 2022 midterms,” a summary of the poll, directed by Franklin & Marshall political science professor Berwood Yost said.
Unemployment and high fuel and utility prices are driving concern about the economy, which 22% of voters polled identified as the most important problem facing the state. That’s down from 34% in the fall.
But concern about crime increased from 10% in November to 19% in this month’s poll with Democrats and independents more likely than Republicans to identify crime as a problem.
The findings are based on telephone and online interviews with 643 registered voters between March 27 and April 7. The poll includes responses from 287 Democrats, 266 Republicans and 90 independents, according to self-reported voter registration. The poll had an overall margin of error of 4.9%.
Among respondents in the poll, 43% said Shapiro is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as governor. That is the highest initial approval rating for a governor since 2003, when former Gov. Ed Rendell had a 46% positive rating early in his first term, according to the poll.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who announced this week that he’s running for re-election in 2024, has a lower approval rating (29%) than before his last election in 2018, when 43% of voters said he was doing an excellent or good job, according to the poll.
Despite the dip in approval ratings, Casey outperformed prospective opponents in head-to-head matchups, the poll found. Casey leads Republican Dave McCormick, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2022.
Casey leads state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, who was the unsuccessful GOP nominee for governor last year, by a wider margin of 47% to 31%.
The poll found President Joe Biden’s approval rating of 27% is lower than that of former Presidents Barack Obama or Donald Trump at the same point in their presidencies.
“Despite this, he still holds an advantage in a head-to-head matchup against the former president, 36% to 35%, although it is also clear that many voters are looking for an alternative to both candidates,” pollsters said.
The poll also asked voters about their views on state and national political issues.
In the wake of a Commonwealth Court decision earlier this year that declared Pennsylvania’s education funding scheme to be unconstitutional, voters were nearly equally divided when asked whether they believe their school districts have sufficient resources to prepare students for life after high school.
Noting that the responses differed by party and ideology, the poll found that 47% believe schools are adequately funded while 44% said they are not. A similar split emerged when voters were asked whether they support school vouchers to allow parents to choose where public education funding for their children goes, with 31% strongly in favor and 32% strongly opposed.
Following repeated challenges to the rules for counting mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, the number of voters in favor of voting by mail dropped to 50% from 59% percent before the 2020 election. A majority (57%), however, said they are confident that their votes would be counted if they choose to vote by mail, the poll found.
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