Curious PA Poll

Pennsylvania based Franklin & Marshall College just released the results of their most recent statewide poll on the heels of Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D) announcing that he will seek a fourth term, and the data reveals some vulnerability for two top Democrats.

The survey (3/27-4/7; 643 PA registered voters; live interview) finds Sen. Casey would claim a 42-35% advantage over 2022 Senate candidate David McCormick (R) in the general election ballot test. His spread significantly expands to 47-31% if his opponent were 2022 gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano (R) who lost his election in a landslide.

Though leading two of the potential GOP nominees, Sen. Casey’s margin and support level at least against Mr. McCormick are not particularly impressive for a three-term incumbent. This can largely be attributed to what appears to be a poor job performance perception.

The F&M poll sees Sen. Casey’s approval rating at a poor 29:48% favorable to unfavorable. The result is likely accurate because Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s records what one would expect for a majority party incumbent before his state electorate, a much stronger, but not overwhelming, 43:36%.

The job approval score even worse than Sen. Casey’s belongs to President Joe Biden. Only 27% give the President favorable reviews, either excellent (10%) or good (17%). A full 50% of the sample rates his job performance as poor. Another 22% said he is doing only a fair job, for a negative total of 72%.

Though Mr. Biden’s job approval numbers nationally have been consistently upside down, they have not been as poor as what these F&M Pennsylvania numbers found. Considering the importance of the state in the 2024 presidential election, when it will be one of the key deciding factors, the Biden favorability index should be a point of concern for the President and his campaign team as they prepare for the re-election campaign.

The pollsters went further in pinpointing where the President is doing well or poorly. The respondents were asked to rate Mr. Biden’s handling of several issue areas with a letter grade.

Of the six issues queried: job creation, immigration, foreign policy, climate change, infrastructure (meaning roads, bridges, and transit systems), and inflation, the President’s most often mentioned letter grade in five of the areas was an F. The only issue where the highest assigned grade was something other than an F, was climate change where 29% of the people graded him with a C. His worst issues, where an F grade was assigned by 49 and 48% of the respondents, were inflation and immigration.

As we saw in the 2022 election, the poor job performance reviews did not translate into votes against Mr. Biden’s party or typically the candidates he was supporting. That same pattern appears mostly true in looking at the F&M poll results.

In a head-to-head ballot test pairing President Biden with former President Donald Trump, the result would be 36-35% in the current chief executive’s favor, though an additional 23% expressed the desire to vote for someone else.

Though this tabulation is not particularly encouraging for President Biden, when compared to his job approval ratings any sized lead should be considered a major bonus.

The pollsters also questioned those who said they would vote in a Republican presidential primary, and here we see Mr. Trump posting only a 40-34% lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Former Vice President Mike Pence recorded 6% support, and ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was the choice of just 4 percent.

A question was then asked as to who might be the individuals’ second choice. Here, we see that 33% of the respondents say it would be Gov. Ron DeSantis, and 18% retorted similarly regarding Mr. Trump. A total of 10% said that Ms. Haley would be their second choice, and 8% said this of Mr. Pence.

The fact that both DeSantis and Trump are dominating both the first and second choice question tells us that the vast majority of the Pennsylvania respondents believe the Republican nomination race is a two-way affair. If Gov. DeSantis is to have any chance of upending Mr. Trump for the nomination, the perception of a two-way contest must be the prevailing view,

This new Franklin & Marshall College poll reveals vulnerability both for President Biden and Senator Casey. Even with their poor perception numbers, however, we don’t see the sentiment necessarily translating into votes against. Should the close results found here continue largely throughout the election cycle, Pennsylvania may well become the focal point of the entire election.  

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