Poll finds Corbett's approval rate plummeting

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 7:48 a.m.

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett has “no strong base of support among any income or age group or in any region of the state” as he starts to plan for re-election midway through his term, a statewide poll found.

Voters disapprove of the job Corbett is doing by a margin of 42-36 percent, said the poll the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute released Tuesday. That's down from 40-38 percent in November and may signal an uphill battle for the first-term Republican.

“We had very tough choices to make, and the people elected me to make the tough choices,” Corbett said. He inherited a $4 billion deficit in 2011 and made unpopular spending cuts.

“What I'm doing is what I told the people we were going to do,” Corbett said. “I would note that it's January of 2013” — almost two years before an election.

The poll of 1,221 registered voters conducted Jan. 22-27 found a large gender gap. Women disapprove of Corbett's performance 45-31 percent; men approve 41-37 percent.

Corbett has said his 2013 agenda includes pension reform, privatizing state liquor stores and funding transportation, all potentially controversial topics. In advance of his budget proposal next week, he spoke Tuesday in Moon about funding for state police. On Wednesday in Pittsburgh, he will outline his plan to privatize the state store system for wine and liquor sales.

Corbett's support among Republicans polled was 52-25 percent, which the pollsters characterized as “lukewarm.” Democrats disapprove 57-24 percent; independents disapproved 39-36 percent.

By a 51-31 percent margin, voters said Corbett does not deserve another term. He has made no formal announcement but several times hinted strongly he will run in 2014.

“He is pretty much across the board under water,” assistant polling director Tim Malloy said.

The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percent.

Corbett's 36 percent approval rating is the lowest of any governor at mid-term in recent history, said G. Terry Madonna, a pollster and political analyst at Franklin & Marshall College. It's too soon to know whether Corbett could turn around the numbers with legislative successes and a more moderate budget, Madonna said.

“It's halftime in Gov. Tom Corbett's first term, and if he were running a football team instead of a state, he'd fire his offensive coordinator, Malloy said.

He noted Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another Republican, has rebounded in polling — indicating that under the right circumstances, Corbett could.

Corbett's poll numbers “do not concern me greatly,” said House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson County. Smith said the governor has accomplished a lot but hasn't done enough to let people know.

The Penn State child sex scandal weighs on Corbett's numbers. As attorney general, he began investigating pedophile Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach convicted of child molestation in 2012. Fallout from that case included the firing of legendary coach Joe Paterno.

The poll found voters disapproved 50-26 percent of the way Corbett handled the Penn State situation. In households where one or more members attends or graduated from Penn State, his disapproval numbers were 59-23 percent.

Most voters approved of the lawsuit Corbett filed against the NCAA to reduce sanctions against Penn State over the Sandusky scandal. They think the bans on bowl games and loss of scholarships were too severe, the poll found.

Malloy said he didn't know why the positive numbers on the lawsuit failed to lift Corbett's overall numbers among Penn Staters.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter.

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