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Updated 6 hours ago
Voters don't appear to be placing all of the blame for Pennsylvania's dire state finances on the shoulders of Gov. Tom Wolf.
But 52 percent of Pennsylvania voters who participated in the poll think the state is “on the wrong track.” And 54 percent described the financial condition of state government as “bad” or “very bad,” with nearly a quarter of respondents saying they aren't sure.
The state faces a current budget shortfall of at least $700 million and could see a nearly $3 billion deficit by July 2018. Wolf has worked with a conservative, Republican-controlled Legislature since taking office in 2015.
Steve Long, 52, of Export is no fan of Wolf and said the General Assembly is not much better because legislators give the governor many of the tax hikes he wants.
“He is just taxing the working man out of a job,” said Long, who participated in the survey. “Our gas taxes are so high, and the roads still are junk.”
Hiking the gas tax to help pay for new infrastructure projects was approved under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
Rebecca Booher of Ligonier Township, another survey respondent, said Wolf “is doing as good a job as he can, considering what he has to work with in the Legislature.”
Wolf isn't the only political figure with a job approval rating in the 30 percent to 40 percent range. About one in three voters, or 32 percent, responded that they think President Trump is doing a “good” or “excellent” job, while 66 percent said they believe the United States is “on the wrong track.”
“Low job approvals have a lot to do with the attitude Pennsylvanians have toward politics and government,” Madonna said, including “a lack of confidence and enthusiasm in the political system.”
A pervasive displeasure with the political establishment that was highly visible during the 2016 presidential election still lingers, and the poll reveals a “profound disenchantment” with the political process, Madonna said.
Politicians and government are the most important problem facing Pennsylvania and the United States, voters said, followed by education and schools, unemployment and personal finances, and taxes.
The poll was conducted Feb. 15-19, a little less than a month after Trump took office. It surveyed 816 registered voters: 391 Democrats, 310 Republicans and 114 independents. The margin of error is 5 percent.
Survey results reveal a deep polarization in the electorate, Madonna said.
Trump received strong marks among Republicans but even stronger support from conservatives.
“We ought to give the man a chance,” said Long, a Trump supporter who said he wants to see business grow so there are more jobs and more people can pay taxes.
Such support is not there among liberals and Democrats, which gave Trump negative marks of 96 percent and 90 percent, respectively.
“I wanted to give him a zero, but that didn't count,” Booher said, noting the poll's lowest rating was a 1.
Survey responses showed a divide among voters based on education level. Only 23 percent of college graduates said Trump is doing an “excellent” or “good” job, while 76 percent gave him negative marks. Voters with a high school education or less are split, with 51 percent giving Trump positive marks and 47 percent giving him a negative review.
“It truly shows rural and small-town America versus urban and exurban America, the same divisions as in the election,” Madonna said.
Despite a voter registration advantage by Democrats, Westmoreland County turned out strongly for Trump last fall. There also are more registered Democrats statewide, but Pennsylvania narrowly supported Trump.
About half, or 51 percent, of registered voters who participated in the poll said overall they are confident in Trump's ability to handle the economy. Fewer are confident in his ability to handle immigration issues (41 percent) and foreign affairs (38 percent), the survey found.
Voters gave Trump an average honesty rating of 4.5 out of 10. They were split over how the media treats Trump, with 32 percent saying he's treated “very unfairly” and 32 percent saying he's treated “very fairly.”
A key policy position Wolf announced in his recent budget proposal — increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 an hour — was supported by 61 percent of survey respondents.
On the Affordable Care Act, a majority of voters want federal lawmakers to make improvements. Only 29 percent said they want to see Obamacare repealed, while 60 percent support tweaking the law to improve it.
Joe Napsha contributed to this report. Kevin Zwick is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2856 or email@example.com.
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