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Robert Morris poll finds seniors shunning Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett

| Monday, May 26, 2014, 9:20 p.m.

Senior citizens appear to be turning on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a poll shows.

Only 30.8 percent of likely Pennsylvania voters have a favorable impression of Corbett, up from 29.4 percent in February, according to the survey by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute, which Trib Total Media sponsors.

“Likely voters in Pennsylvania continue to have a poor impression of Gov. Corbett. This is true across the demographic categories of gender, age and marital status,” said RMU political scientist Philip Harold, associate dean of the School of Education and Social Sciences.

Corbett, a Republican from Shaler, will be challenged by York businessman Tom Wolf, a former state Department of Revenue secretary, in November. Wolf trounced his three Democratic opponents in last week's primary.

A slightly higher percentage of senior citizens — 37 percent — have a favorable opinion of Corbett than likely voters as a whole, while 57 percent have an unfavorable one, the poll shows. Their support appears to be slipping.

Forty-eight percent of seniors had an unfavorable opinion of Corbett in an RMU survey in February, and exit polling in the 2010 election showed seniors supported him 63 percent to 37 percent, Harold said.

Harold said the issue of taxing natural gas extraction and drilling, in general, could be turning the table.

A campaign spokesman for Corbett downplayed the results.

“The governor has been keeping his promises and getting the state's finances in line. These weren't always easy decisions or popular decisions,” said spokesman Billy Pitman.

But with focus shifting from a crowded Democratic primary to a one-on-one race between Corbett and Tom Wolf, Pitman said, “It will be much easier to contrast what the governor has done and the same old tax-and-spend culture that (Wolf) is a part of and left the state with 8.2 percent unemployment and a $4.2 billion deficit” before Corbett took office.

The poll asked respondents why they had the impression they did. About 29 percent of those with a negative impression of the governor cited education. The second most-mentioned issue was taxing natural gas at 13 percent, up from 7 percent in February.

“The issue of natural gas drilling has gotten more public awareness with the Democratic gubernatorial primary race. So one theory could be that Democratic seniors gained more familiarity with this issue in recent months and, as a result, their opinion of the governor worsened correspondingly,” Harold said.

“Seniors are a demographic that would stand to benefit from an extraction tax ... without paying any of the costs, if the costs include harm to job creation as Republicans claim.”

Harold said seniors support natural gas extraction, or severance, taxes by 74 to 18 percent. Voters younger than 50 do by 51 to 30 percent. Corbett opposes any new taxes on drilling. Wolf has argued for an extraction tax.

Among other findings, the poll showed that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ranked as the top presidential choice among likely Republican voters, with 33.3 percent support; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led among Democrats, with 66.5 percent support.

The statewide poll surveyed 506 Pennsylvanians. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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