Pennsylvania Poll: State Budget & Corbett Reelection

Conducted:  July 1-2, 2013
Sample Size:  813
Margin of Error:  +/-3.44

Summary

The results of three poll questions illustrate the challenges Governor Tom Corbett faces in pursuit of reelection.  The baseline number for any generic Republican candidate running for Governor is 40% in this survey.  Governor Corbett has the support of 24% of the electorate who believe he deserves reelection.  A gubernatorial campaign that becomes a referendum on the direction of Pennsylvania’s economy under Governor Corbett would yield 29% of voters who believe it is “getting better.”

Generic Gubernatorial Ballot

Q. If the election for Governor were held today, would prefer to vote for the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate?

Seventy-nine percent of Republican voters give their vote to the generic party standard bearer.  Forty-three percent of Republican voters believe Governor Corbett deserves reelection.

In the Philadelphia/Southeast region, voters prefer the Democratic candidate over the Republican 50%-31%.  In the Republican strongholds of the Northern Tier and South Central, voters go for the Republican 45%-31% and 50-30% respectively.

There is a notable gender gap on the question.  Men support the Republican candidate by a 7% margin (42%-35%) while women back the Democrat by 11% (48%-37%).

Corbett Reelect

Q. Do you believe Governor Tom Corbett has done enough to deserve reelection or should we give someone else a chance?

Two key demographic groups in the survey lend little support to the Governor’s reelection:

                                                                                             Deserves           Someone
                                                                                             Reelection        Else
                     Independent voters                                25%                    40%
                     Somewhat Conservative voters         32%                    45%

Direction of Pennsylvania's Economy

Q. Do you believe the economy in Pennsylvania is getting better or getting worse?

As clearly evidenced by its new ad, this question is critically important to a Corbett reelection effort.

Voters in the Southeast Pennsylvania are the most optimistic about the economy (37% better, 38% worse), and yet the most elusive at the ballot box for Republicans.  Those in the Scranton/Lehigh Valley region are the most pessimistic (20% better, 55% worse).  

Of all ideological groups, Very Conservative voters rate the economy the harshest (21% better, 52% worst).

The overriding negative opinion about the direction of the state economy is durable across all party affiliations.

                                                                                         Getting         Getting
                                                                                         Better            Worse
                                                   Republicans                 28%                43%
                                                   Democrats                   31%                 43%
                                                   Independent                21%                 42%

Medicaid Expansion

Harper Polling conducted an experimental "split sample" on a question related to the debated issue of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.  Split samples are often used in internal campaign polls to improve precision of messaging.  Half of the survey's sample heard one version of the question while the other half of the sample heard an alternate version.  The difference was that President Obama's name was not used in the first version, but was in the second.  The results show that voters favor the expansion of Medicaid in either version.  However, the inclusion of the President's name has an approximate 10% negative impact on overall support.

(split sample – without Obama)
Q: Do you agree or disagree that the state of Pennsylvania should expand Medicaid coverage for low-income individuals, as called for under the new health care law known as the Affordable Care Act?

In the Philadelphia/Southwest region, those who "strongly agree" with Medicaid expansion jumps by 10% (58%).  Young voters 18-to-35 years old are 17% more likely to "strongly agree" with expansion when it's tied to the President.  President Obama's name polarizes the opinion of Pennsylvania seniors.   It produces 9% more seniors who "strongly agree" (47%) and 10% more seniors who "strongly disagree" with Medicaid Expansion.

(split sample – with Obama)
Q: Do you agree or disagree that the state of Pennsylvania should expand Medicaid coverage for low-income individuals, as called for under President Obama’s new health care law?

On Time & No Tax Increases

The survey finds that two of the state budget’s key attributes play very well with voters.  If voters know nothing else about the new budget except that it was on time and contained no tax increases, they will give it high marks.

Q. How important do you believe it is that lawmakers in Harrisburg pass state budgets before the Constitutional deadline?

There are two interesting demographic splits on the issue.  Seventy-six percent of those 51-to-60 years old say an on-time budget is “very important” while 18% fewer seniors agree (58%).  Women (71%) are 9% more likely to say assign great importance to an on-time budget than men (62%).

Q. How important do you believe it is that the new state budget contains no tax increases for the third year in a row?

The sentiment is widely held among voters of all stripes.  Democrats (68%), Independents (77%) and Moderates (67%) report that the state budget’s lack of tax increases is significant.

Education Spending

The most pivotal aspect of the budget is a spending increase on education, a key talking of the Governor’s Office.  State Democrats are rushing to frame it in voters’ minds as too little, too late.  Aside from the Sandusky scandal, no issue has been used so effectively against Governor Corbett as education spending.  The stakes are high on this one.

Q. Which of the following comes closest to your opinion regarding education spending in the new state budget?  Some say the budget’s $120 million dollar increase in education spending, despite these tough economic times, is a good thing.  Others say the spending is not enough to make up for the previous cuts to education over the last few years.

The numbers break down along geographic lines with Philadelphia/Southeast and Scranton/Lehigh Valley voters saying the spending increase is not enough by margins of 47%-29% and 35%-28% respectively.  Northern Tier and South Central voters believe the spending increase is sufficient by margins of 41%-36% and 35%-30%.  In Pittsburgh/Southwest, “not enough” leads narrowly (33%-30%).

More importantly, the undecided voters are highest in Pittsburgh/Southwest (37%), Scranton/Lehigh Valley (37%) and South Central (34%).

The partisan breakdown is a mixed bag for Governor Corbett.  Independents favor the education spending increase 34%-26% with 40% undecided.  However, Democrats (53%) are more stridently skeptical than Republicans are supportive (44%).

Pension Reform

A state pension reform proposal for new state employees enjoys strong popular support.

Q. Do you support or oppose a plan to require new state employees to participate in a 401k retirement plan as opposed to the current state employee pension system?

Voters of all party affiliations voice support the plan: Republicans (66% support, 16% oppose), Democrats (57% support, 23% oppose), and Independents (48% support, 20% oppose).  Men are 9% more likely to “strongly support” the plan than women (47%-38%).

Favorite Hershey's Candy Bar

Q. Which of the following is your favorite Hershey's candy bar: Hershey's Kisses, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey's Chocolate Bars, Kit Kat or York Peppermint Patties?