Corbett poll showing may be result of handling of Sandusky case

Debra Erdley
| Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Questions about Gov. Tom Corbett's handling of the Jerry Sandusky investigation while attorney general may be dragging him down in public opinion polls.

Favorability ratings for Corbett, who started the child sex abuse investigation in 2009, have hovered around 33 percent in recent months as critics complained that Corbett allowed the investigation to languish while he accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from directors of a popular Sandusky charity.

Only 17 percent of respondents to a Franklin & Marshall College poll released Wednesday said Corbett did an excellent or good job on the Sandusky investigation; 39 percent said he did a poor job, 27 labeled it only fair, and 18 percent had no opinion.

Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said the jury's verdict — Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts — vindicates the thoroughness of Corbett's investigation.

“Tom Corbett was the only one who investigated Jerry Sandusky. He believed a 10-year-old boy when no one else would,” Harley said.

Harrisburg-based conservative media strategist Charlie Gerow said the poll's results aren't surprising.

“The real critical element here is emotions are still raw over this whole sordid affair. Some are still in shock or denial, so the emotional reactions to this case are likely to change. As more and more facts come out about the case, how it was handled, etc., numbers will change,” Gerow said.

He said it is too early to say whether it could affect Corbett's re-election prospects.

About half of the 624 people questioned in the poll — 49 percent — said the next attorney general should review Corbett's handling of the case; 42 percent said it did not merit review.

G. Terry Madonna, director of the poll, said it is unclear whether the Sandusky scandal will dog Corbett in 2014 if he runs for re-election.

“Two years is a lifetime in politics. Much will depend on what the new attorney general does,” Madonna said, noting that both candidates — Democrat Kathleen Kane and Republican David Freed — vowed to review the case.

Sandusky, 68, a former Penn State University football defensive coordinator, is awaiting sentencing for sexually abusing 10 boys in and around the State College campus over 15 years.

Washington County native Larry Ceisler, a Democratic analyst who publishes PoliticsPA, said questions about the investigation could throw a curve into politics-as-usual in Pennsylvania, where no incumbent governor has lost a re-election bid.

“Gov. Corbett's only possible vulnerability and roadblock to re-election is the Sandusky case. That's because it touches such a raw nerve with such a cross-section of Pennsylvanians,” Ceisler said.

Joseph DiSarro, chairman of the political science department at Washington & Jefferson College, said it's unlikely it will matter.

“I would call this a difficulty that will pass with time,” DiSarro said. “But if there is a smoking gun, that is another matter. If there is something that the governor did not follow up on that could come back to haunt him.”

The random survey of Pennsylvanians conducted Sept. 18-23 had a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or

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