A little more than three months into his second term, Pennsylvania’s careful and deliberative Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, is looking good to Keystone State voters.
That’s according to a new Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday that shows a majority of state voters polled (51 percent) believe Wolf, of York County, is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as chief executive of the nation’s fifth-largest state.
“Wolf is benefiting from the general improvement in the national and state economy,” Franklin & Marshall pollster G. Terry Madonna told The Capital-Star. “People, personally, in their finances, are doing better and think they are going to be doing better in the future.”
Halfway through his first term, volatile Republican President Donald Trump is holding steady, having neither improved nor damaged his standing with voters in a state that helped put him in the White House in 2016.
Just one in three respondents to the new poll (34 percent) say Trump is doing an “excellent” or “good” job — a figure unchanged from recent F&M polls.
Even so, a third (36 percent) of respondents say the scandal-buffeted president has done a good enough job to deserve reelection. Of those voters, two-thirds (63 percent) say they’ll vote for Trump regardless of who runs against him in 2020.
Trump still remains deeply divisive, according to the F&M poll. Eighty percent of those who disapprove of the president said they would vote against him no matter who runs against him.
But Madonna was quick to add that Trump’s current statewide approval rating is in line with former President Barack Obama’s at the same point in his first term. Obama won Pennsylvania by 6 points on his way to reelection in 2012.
The poll of 540 registered voters, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percent, was conducted between March 18 and March 24. It was completed before the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Mueller found no evidence of collusion, according to a summary of the report provided by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, nor did he exonerate Trump either. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said they found no case for obstruction of justice by Trump.
Jason Gottesman, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Republican Party, pounced on the end of the Mueller investigation, saying it raised the “pall of mythical collusion hanging over every [Trump] accomplishment.”
Gottesman theorized Trump was headed for a bump in approval with the end of the report. Madonna agreed.
What voters want
Twenty-three percent of state voters said increasing state education funding was their top priority — the highest ranked. Ranked second, at 21 percent, was reducing local property taxes and third at 19 percent was improving infrastructure.
Wolf in January rolled out an infrastructure plan to pour billions of dollars into state roads and bridges, reduce blight, and improve flood prevention, among other priorities. The plan would borrow off of future earnings from a severance tax on natural gas.
While raising the minimum wage was not listed as a high priority for many voters, 69 percent said they strongly or somewhat support raising the wage floor to $12 an hour.
“You can’t say [Wolf’s] agenda is unpopular,” Madonna said.
The polling also showed that economic improvements might have a slight impact on Trump’s reelection odds.
Two thirds of self-identified liberal voters in the poll who have experienced economic gains said they would vote against Trump no matter what. Upwards of 94 percent of people who say they are economically worse off or the same economically since Trump took office plan to vote against him.
Still, looking back on Trump’s overall approval numbers in the state, F&M’s Madonna said that it’s “remarkable … how consistent his approval ratings have been regardless of the good news.”
Since taking office in January 2017, 23 to 26 percent of Pennsylvania voters have been strongly favorable of Trump. Except for one poll in September 2017, between 49 to 55 percent of voters have strongly disapproved.
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