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Poll finds Sen. Specter leads Democratic, Republican opponents

| Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009

It's even worse than in the months after their pay raise.

The budget deadlock in Harrisburg has dragged Gov. Ed Rendell's and the state Legislature's job approval ratings to historic lows, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll released today.

Not one person said the Legislature is doing an excellent job, and just 18 percent said lawmakers are doing a good job, according to the poll. At the height of the furor over the early-morning 2005 pay raise legislators gave themselves, judges and the governor's cabinet — raises repealed for all but judges — their job approval never sank below 20 percent.

A record 59 percent of people believe things in Pennsylvania are on the wrong track, according to the poll. Conducted Aug. 25-31, the survey included 643 respondents and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.9 percentage points. Fewer than one in three people hold a favorable view of Rendell, and just 29 percent say he's doing a good or excellent job.

"This is Rendell's lowest job performance (since taking office in 2003), and the Legislature's job performance is lower than in September of 2005, the poll we did after the pay hike," poll director G. Terry Madonna said. "It shows you that week after week of failure to (pass) a budget has taken its toll. I've never seen that before."

The poll shows Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Philadelphia, maintaining leads over Democratic challenger Rep. Joe Sestak (37 percent to 11 percent) and Republican Pat Toomey (37 percent to 29 percent) in the 2010 Senate race. Fifty-four percent of people, however, say it's time for a change, compared with 34 percent who say Specter deserves a record sixth term.

Sestak, D-Delaware County, and Toomey of Allentown remain mostly unknown to many Pennsylvanians, with 73 percent saying they don't know enough about Sestak to form an opinion and 63 percent saying the same about Toomey. Ten percent said they don't know enough about Specter, who switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in April.

"That Senate election is about (Specter)," Madonna said. "It's more about his incumbency, his record, his party change than it is about Sestak or Toomey."

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