Pennsylvania Statewide Poll

September 2-3, 2014

Gubernatorial Race

Gubernatorial Ballot

As the Fall campaign season begins, Democratic challenger Tom Wolf leads Republican Governor Tom Corbett by a margin of 11% (52-41%) among likely voters.

Q: If the election for Governor were held today, who would you vote for: Tom Corbett, Republican or Tom Wolf, Democrat?

Wolf has stronger support among Democrats (82%) than Corbett does among Republicans (70%).  Wolf takes 21% of the Republican vote away from Corbett.  By comparison, Corbett gets 14% of the Democratic vote.

Wolf enjoys his largest lead in the Philadelphia/Southeast region of the state (58-35%).  The race is being fought to a draw in the South Central (Corbett 48%, Wolf 45%) and Pittsburgh/Southwest (Corbett 46%, Wolf 48%) regions.

Gubernatorial Winner

We asked voters who they believe will win the election in November despite their personal preference. 

Q: Regardless of your personal choice, which candidate do you expect to win the election for Governor: Tom Corbett, Republican or Tom Wolf, Democrat?

Sixty-one percent said Tom Wolf, compared to 33% who said Governor Corbett.  Meaning 8% of the electorate is voting for Corbett despite not believing he will win.  Just 53% of Republicans believe the Governor will be re-elected.  It illuminates a challenge for Corbett: making people believe he can win.  Tom Wolf is likely benefitting from a sense of inevitability.

The Issues

Wolf Tax Plan

A 51% majority of likely voters oppose Tom Wolf’s plan to raise income taxes on households with an annual income of $90,000 or more.  
Q: Would you support or oppose a tax plan that would increase taxes on families with an annual household income of $90,000 or more?

Opposition is strongest in the Pittsburgh/Southwest region as 56% oppose and just 28% support Wolf’s tax plan. Democrats support their nominee’s plan by a mere 9% margin (45-36%).   Voters of all income levels oppose the plan with the exception of those making $25,000 or less (48% support, 35% oppose).

Wolf Income Tax

Q: From 2010 to 2012, Tom Wolf had an average income of $1.5 million. During those years, he paid an average tax rate of 8.7%, well below the average federal income tax rate of 18.1%. Does this information make you more likely or less likely to vote for Tom Wolf?

Tom Wolf’s comparatively low federal income tax rate is surely a net negative for his campaign.  However, it does not appear to be a particularly potent line of attack.  Forty percent say they are less likely to vote for Wolf because of it, while 35% say it makes no difference.  Voters with an annual household income of $48,000-$69,000, are the least likely to vote for Wolf as a result (55% less likely).

Corbett Answer to Education Cuts

Q: Governor Corbett has been criticized for cutting education spending. The Governor argues that when $1 billion in federal education funding ran out, this cut was the only way to avoid raising taxes. How credible do you find this argument?

What this demonstrates is that the Governor has the theoretical ability to fight to a draw the Democrats’ central line of attack against him in the campaign.

Corbett Answer on Extraction Tax

Wolf has also criticized Corbett for not placing high enough taxes on companies who drill for oil and natural gas in the state.  Once again, voters are pretty evenly divided on the Governor’s rebuttal as 47% find it either “very credible” or “somewhat credible” while 49% say it is either “not very credible” or “not credible at all”.

Q: Governor Corbett has been criticized for refusing to implement an extraction tax on oil and gas companies drilling in Pennsylvania. Corbett has argued that the extraction tax is unnecessary, pointing to the local impact fee on gas companies, which has provided over $630 million to local communities. How credible do you find this argument?

Thirty-two percent of voters in the Northern Tier region and 39% in the Pittsburgh/Southwest region believe the Governor’s counterargument is “very credible.”  Meanwhile, 32% of voters in the Philadelphia/Southwest region say it is “not credible at all”.  And that pretty much sums up the energy debate in Pennsylvania.

Education Funding and Learning

With so much of the debate in the gubernatorial campaign focused on education spending, we tested voter opinion about the impact of state education spending on two things: classroom learning and property taxes.

Voters are more inclined to believe that education spending impacts property taxes than classroom learning, although they believe it heavily impacts both.

Q: How much do you think reductions in state education spending directly impact the quality of classroom learning?
A near majority of voters (48%) in the Philadelphia/Southeast region say that education funding impacts classroom learning “a great deal.”  Women (43%) are 11% more likely than men (32%) and Democrats (53%) are 28% more likely than Republicans (25%) to believe funding impacts learning “a great deal.”

Education Funding and Property Taxes

On the question of how much education funding impacts property taxes, voters of all ideological stripes share very similar opinions.  “A great deal” is the response from 33% of conservatives, 37% of moderates, and 35% of liberals.

Q: How much do you think reductions in state education spending directly impact property taxes?

Medicaid Expansion

Q: Do you agree or disagree with Governor Corbett’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income individuals, as called for under President Obama’s new health care law?

Beer with a Candidate

Lastly, we asked voters the age-old question: Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?  Of the two Toms, more voters would prefer to share a drink with Wolf.    

Q: Thinking about the two candidates for Governor, which one would you rather have a beer with: Tom Corbett or Tom Wolf?

Full Results and Methodology

The sample size for the survey is 665 likely voters and the margin of error is +/-3.18%. The Interactive Voice Response (IVR) automated telephone survey was conducted September 2-3, 2014 by Harper Polling. The total percentages for responses may not equal 100% due to rounding.

Harper Polling