Saturday, May 13, 2006

IssuesPA/Pew Poll Shows Pennsylvanians Dissatisfied with State Direction

May 10, 2006 (Harrisburg, PA) – A new IssuesPA/Pew poll shows that close to half (49 percent) of all Pennsylvanians are dissatisfied with the direction of the state, compared to just 43 percent who are satisfied with the state’s direction. These are the most negative ratings recorded in an IssuesPA/Pew poll since August 2004. These results also show the widespread nature of the dissatisfaction – reaching more than 50 percent in four of the six regions in the state; only one month ago, dissatisfaction was over 50% in only one region.

The poll also shows that rising gas prices are one factor behind Pennsylvanians’ growing dissatisfaction. Mentions of high gas/fuel prices as the most important problem facing the state have doubled in the past month (13 percent now versus six percent in March).

Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) conducted the poll for IssuesPA, the non-partisan statewide awareness project focused on raising the issues most critical to Pennsylvania’s economic future. Funding for the survey was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The margin of error is plus/minus three percentage points.

Views of the Legislature
When asked for a one-word description that best describes the legislature, the largest number of Pennsylvanians (69 respondents) said, “greedy.” Though the top ten list of responses includes some positive or neutral words like “good,” “okay,” and “fair,” most have a negative connotation such as “crook,” “poor,” and “corrupt.”

Only a quarter (26 percent) of Pennsylvania residents feel they can trust the legislature to do what is right just about always or most of the time. Nearly seven in ten (67 percent) feel they can be trusted only some of the time or never.

Pennsylvanians’ negative perception of the legislature might carry over into this year’s elections, as two-thirds (66 percent) of voters say that an incumbent state legislator’s vote on the pay raise should be a very important issue in this year’s legislative elections

“The well-reported furor over the Legislative pay raise appears to be having a lasting effect,” said Larry Hugick of PSRAI. “Pennsylvanians express low confidence in the state legislature as whole but have more positive opinions of their own state representatives.

Education has emerged as a key issue in the 2006 elections. Most voters (85 percent) say that making sure high school graduates have the skills they need for college or a career will be very important in determining their vote in the gubernatorial and legislative races this year. Eighty-one percent say that making sure children have a similar opportunity for a quality education regardless of where they live will be very important. Voters were asked to rate the importance of 30 different issues this spring. Only one other issue – providing health care for uninsured children – was rated “very important” by 80 percent or more of the respondents.

Across Pennsylvania, most residents (56 percent) agree that financing education should be the responsibility of the state government. However, a similar majority (53 percent) want local school officials to be in charge of ensuring that public schools provide a quality education.

Gubernatorial Race Still Wide Open
The poll asked Pennsylvania voters about their chances of voting for Ed Rendell and Lynn Swann in the November gubernatorial election. Based on their responses to two questions, three in 10 (30%) voters are likely to support Rendell, another three in 10 (29%) are likely support Swann, and four in 10 (40%) are classified as swing voters, not strongly committed to either candidate. The new poll shows more voters on the fence than the March 2006 poll; the number of swing voters has increased by six percentage points.

Other Findings
The IssuesPA/Pew poll also generated these findings:
* Three in four (75 percent) voters statewide say the candidates’ positions on how to best control state spending will be very important to their vote.
* More than two-thirds (71 percent) of voters say the candidates’ positions on how to best provide a tax system that is fair, adequate and pro-growth will be very important to their voting decision.
* About half (52 percent) think the issue of helping cities and towns solve their financial problems should be very important.
* Most Pennsylvanians (63 percent) do not think local communities without their own police department should be charged a service fee for state police protection.
* Residents have many reasons for disliking local property taxes. Even numbers of Pennsylvanians (21 percent) say their main complaint about property taxes is that they make home ownership unaffordable and don’t specifically take household income into account.
* In terms of reducing the property tax rates, the two least acceptable alternatives are expanding the state sales tax base (27 percent) and increasing the local wage tax (25 percent).
* More than a third of Pennsylvanians (38 percent) think that conditions affecting their region’s economic performance have gotten worse in the past four years.

“There are a number of issues that matter to Pennsylvanians, and many of them may be important factors in the 2006 elections,” said Steven Wray, Project Director of IssuesPA and Deputy Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League’s office in Philadelphia. “The candidates’ positions on taxes, jobs and education may be key in deciding what could be a very close race.”

About the Poll
The April 2006 IssuesPA/Pew Poll, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Economy League and The Pew Charitable Trusts, was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Telephone interviews were conducted from April 17 – 26, 2006 with 1,503 Pennsylvania adults, age 18 and over, of which 1,191 identified themselves as registered voters. The results have been statistically weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The overall margin of sampling error for results is plus or minus three percentage points.

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