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Trump's approval rating soars among voters polled in Western Pennsylvania

Tom Fontaine
| Thursday, May 11, 2017, 6:00 a.m.
President Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Jordan's King Abdullah (not pictured) in the Rose Garden after their meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
President Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Jordan's King Abdullah (not pictured) in the Rose Garden after their meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Support for Donald Trump has soared in Western Pennsylvania during the Republican's presidency, and the region is the only area of the state where a majority of voters think he's doing a good job, a new poll shows.

A Franklin & Marshall College poll out Thursday shows that 60 percent of registered voters in northwestern Pennsylvania and southwestern Pennsylvania, excluding Allegheny County, approve of Trump's job performance.

And in Allegheny County, the only Western Pennsylvania county that Hillary Clinton won in November, Trump's approval rating has climbed 6 percentage points to 31 percent over the past three months, according to the poll.

“I think he's a loose wire, but I think he's doing what he thinks is best for the country,” said Robert “R.J.” Sokol, 60, a Democrat from North Belle Vernon who works as a production supervisor at a chemical plant.

Sokol, who voted for Trump in November, said he's impressed with the way Trump has tried to combat illegal immigration and spur growth in the economy — particularly in the manufacturing sector, including the steel and coal industries. In his multiple campaign stops in the region, Trump repeatedly promised to breathe new life into those industries.

“That's part of our DNA here,” Sokol said of the industries. “When (Clinton) said she would take pride in shutting down the coal companies, that really turned my stomach.”

Clinton made the comment during a CNN Town Hall in March 2016 when she was talking about a campaign plan to use “clean renewable energy” as an economic opportunity in coal country. She later apologized, calling it a misstatement .

Sokol said he wishes Trump would spend less time on Twitter and not “fire people on a whim.” The president fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday and has canned several other officials since being inaugurated.

But then Sokol added: “This country needs a shake-up.”

Trump's approval rating didn't break 50 percent in any other regions of the state. It totaled 46 percent in the coal-rich northeast, 39 percent in central Pennsylvania and 24 percent in the southeastern counties surrounding Philadelphia. Just one out of 10 voters surveyed in Philadelphia said they think Trump is doing a good job, the poll shows.

Statewide, Trump's approval rating amounted to 37 percent — up from 32 percent in February. By comparison, Gov. Tom Wolf's approval rating was 41 percent and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey's 38 percent, the poll shows. Both are Democrats.

“I think there's distrust, distastefulness, lack of confidence and a feeling that politicians don't care about voters that is tremendously high in this state,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of Franklin & Marshall's Center for Politics and Public Affairs, noting that 22 percent of voters identified government and politicians as the most important problem facing Pennsylvania — higher than any other issue.

The poll surveyed 639 registered voters. The margin of error is 4.9 percentage points.

Staff writer Kevin Zwick contributed. Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847, or via Twitter at @FontainePGH.

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