BY SHIRA KIPNEES ’15, Staff Writer
Tom Corbett, governor of Pennsylvania, has a higher approval rating among the state’s voters, but still faces difficulty winning re-election according to the latest F&M Poll. Corbett now has a 21 percent approval rating—an increase from the 18 percent rating he had during the last poll.
“It’s a small and modest increase, and it’s not transformational,” said Terry G. Madonna, director of the F&M Poll. “However, Corbett has been doing some things right lately. His transportation bill passed, and he spent the last six to eight weeks out on the stump campaigning. Corbett has also been handing out money for programs for people with disabilities, more money for police, and he has been out with a more positive message than cutbacks he was previously mentioning. He has come out with some programs—albeit very small programs — and with positive messages as of late.”
The poll noted that education is one of the major issues for voters. According to Madonna, of the 500 school districts in the state, many faced budget cuts that affected classroom activities and programs.
“Education is a problem and a major concern largely because of the cuts,” Madonna explained. “The federal stimulus went away and left a hole in the state’s pocket. Corbett lost more money than what the state was spending and hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers have been laid off across the state.”
The state of the economy as a whole will play a significant role in the outcome of the election. Many voters have expressed dissatisfaction with the state’s slow rate of job creation. While the economy is affecting voters’ perception of Corbett, Madonna pointed out that he inherited many of these problems, as he came into office with a $4.2 billion deficit.
Overall, the poll showed that 60 percent of voters believe the state is moving in the wrong direction because of the slow job growth, poor economy, and education cuts. According to Madonna, news sources from across the country characterize Corbett as the most endangered incumbent governor, yet Madonna believes he still has a chance of re-election.
“I am one of the few analysts who doesn’t think Corbett’s a political goner,” he said. “We don’t know who will come out of the Democratic primary, whether the Democratic candidates will go after each other in the primaries, wearing out Corbett’s competition, and whether Corbett can change his tune about cuts and other aspects of his administration.”
In addition to measuring Pennsylvanians’ mood towards Corbett, the poll also asked questions regarding the performance of President Barack Obama. The poll showed he has an approval rating of 30 percent. Madonna thinks Obama’s low approval rating can be mostly attributed to the poor rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
“Obama’s second term came in with a lot of issues, but the Affordable Care Act was the crowning blow,” he said. “Americans don’t like the Affordable Care Act as a whole and the way it was rolled out to the public, but they do like how they can get affordable care without it being very expensive even with a pre-existing condition. They also like that the kids can stay on the plan until age 26 and the idea of universal care. The question is whether this is the particular way to do it.”
Additionally, Madonna explained that Obama’s low approval ratings may be attributable to voters simply being tired of Obama as he enters his second term — a common problem for many presidents that secure re-election.
The poll not only focused on the approval rating of individual political leaders, but also on certain social and cultural issues. The poll showed that voters are ready for changes in both areas, with 81 percent of Pennsylvania voters favoring legalizing medical marijuana and 57 percent supporting a law allowing same-sex couples to marry.
“In my 23 years doing polling, I don’t remember cultural changes taking place so quickly,” Madonna said. “I like to tell people it’s not your grandparents’ state anymore. The voting and changes are being heavily driven by college students that are much more likely to support medical marijuana and are in favor of no discrimination over gender and sexual identity. Their reactions against these things are not as strong as the older generations used to have, and the majorities not in favor of these changes are not as strong and as massive as they used to be.”
Junior Shira Kipnees is a staff writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.