Poll: Pa. voters support Wolf’s COVID-19 response, split on Trump

Governor Tom Wolf at a March 12 press conference announcing Pennsylvania's new COVID-19 response strategies. Source: Commonwealth Media Services.

By Tyler Buchanan

Nearly seven in 10 Pennsylvanian say they support Gov. Tom Wolf’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with support stretching across party lines, a new poll has found.

President Donald Trump does not fare as well in the Oakland University and Ohio Northern University poll of voters in the 2020 battleground states that also include Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Trump got between 51 percent 58 percent support in those four states, polling best in Ohio, pollsters found. 

In all, 69.4 percent of the poll’s Pennsylvania respondents said they strongly or somewhat approved of Wolf’s management of the pandemic, compared to 21.5 percent who strongly or somewhat disapproved. More than eight in 10 Democratic respondents gave Wolf high marks, compared to 69.3 percent of Republicans.

(Source: Baldwin Wallace University poll )

Voters are fairly split about whether they trust the information Trump gives about the new coronavirus, with between 40-50 percent in each state saying they don’t trust him “very much” or “at all.” 

Through midday Sunday, Pennsylvania health officials had confirmed 3,394 COVID-19 cases in 58 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Wolf, and his top health official, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine have held daily briefings on the state’s efforts to fight the illness. Some have faulted the Democratic administration for its order to close non-essential businesses.

In general, however, there’s widespread support for the orders being given by governors in these and other states. Nearly all agree with the closing of K-12 schools, daycare centers, restaurant dining rooms and bars. Voters across the four states nearly all agree that public gatherings should be limited, and most agree that the primary election dates should be pushed back.

Michigan did not postpone their March 10 election; Ohio did by moving to an all-mail balloting system with an April 28 deadline; Pennsylvania postponed its primary to June; and Wisconsin, as of now, is sticking to an April 7 voting date. 

Poll respondents also agreed to several proposals that have since been approved by Congress: giving Americans cash relief and expanding unemployment benefits.

Pa. Health Secretary Levine confirms 64 cases of COVID-19 in Pa. personal care homes

Public Knowledge of the coronavirus

The poll asked voters how closely they were following the news about the coronavirus. 

A full 83 percent said they are following the news “very” or “fairly” closely, with just 17 percent saying they were following “a little” or “not at all.”

This intake in virus information has led to actual changes in everyday lives. Respondents said they have washed their hands more frequently in recent weeks, are avoiding physical contact and are declining visits from friends and family. Perhaps owing to people being stuck at home, they also noted having spent more time on social media.

Most agreed that, as far as the virus is concerned, the worst is yet to come. 

What will Pa. get from federal COVID-19 stimulus? According to Wolf, it’s too early to tell.

Despite that, around 1-in-4 people believed that the virus is being “blown out of proportion.” The earliest responses of this poll took place in mid-March; since then, the United States has overtaken China and other countries to become the nation with the most confirmed virus cases. It’s possible the results would be different if the poll was taken today.  

The 2020 election

Voters in these four states were asked to decide who they would vote for between Trump and the eventual Democratic nominee, no matter who it may be. 

The generic Democratic candidate led by 9 points in Michigan. In the other three states, the result was a statistical tie. (In each state, between 10-15% are still undecided.)

In a specific Trump vs. Joe Biden match-up, the differential is between 5% in all four states. With Trump vs. Bernie Sanders, the president leads by between 4-6% in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; Sanders leads by 3% in Michigan. 

Other results of the poll show positive news for both Trump and the Democratic Party heading into the fall …

People like Trump’s job performance more than they like Trump

Here is the bad news for Trump’s reelection effort: he is not viewed especially well by voters in these four states. He has a negative approval rating in three of the states, and is positive by only 0.4% in Ohio — 46.9% few him favorably compared to 46.5% who view him unfavorably. 

There is some good news for the president, though. The poll asked a separate, albeit similar-sounding question: if voters approved of Trump’s job as president.

These results were a bit better for Trump. He fared better in all four states, with a positive approval rating in Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

Essentially, people like the job Trump’s doing more than they like Trump himself. 

Among GOP voters, Trump remains extraordinarily popular: more than 80% of Republicans in each of the four states approve of him. 

On the Democratic side, Biden had percentages in the 70s in all four states and Sanders had percentages in the 60s. They are very popular among voters in their party, but not quite so popular as Trump is with his.

If this winds up being a “turnout election,” that bodes best for Trump. This gets back to the “Trump vs. Democrat” poll, though; there may prove to be a pocket of voters who simply want to defeat Trump, resulting in a further consolidation of support behind the Democratic nominee once the primary contest is over. 

Health care remains voters’ top issue

Voters were asked to select, among a provided list, the most important issues to them heading into the 2020 election. 

In all four states, the top three was this order: health care, economy and security issues (“terrorism, foreign policy, and border security”). Trailing far behind were voters who felt climate change was the top issue, and then education, women’s issues and “other.”

Women were more likely to identify health care as their top issue, while men were more likely to pick the economy. 

The poll, being conducted in a unique economic climate with the effects of the virus-related shutdowns, offered an interesting result of how Americans view the economy. Most think the economy is worse now than it was a year ago, and most similarly think the economy will be worse off in a year from now. 

Tyler Buchanan is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal, where this story first appeared. Capital-Star Editor John L. Micek contributed to this story.