Economy, worry Pennsylvania voters ahead of general election
Pennsylvania voters say even the red-hot topics of gun control and abortion rights are taking a backseat to recent impacts on their purses and wallets.
A new Suffolk University/USA Today Network poll shows that the economy is top priority for likely commonwealth voters in both the U.S. Senate and governor races. Gun control, abortion and inflation are the only other topics that hit double-digits in this polling.
David Paleologos, of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said the percentage of Pennsylvanians who rated the economy as poor in this month’s poll (45%) has more than tripled since 2018 (12%).
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“I’m anticipating making changes to lifestyle, such as I might have to work longer. My plan was to retire next year,” said Lee Diekemper, a 65-year-old Harrisburg Republican. “I feel like I’m in a whirlwind of trouble.”
“There’s so many fires burning I don’t even know where to start.”
Diekemper said she wants to elect candidates who will battle inflation, starting with those who have a plan for domestic energy production.
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“I talk to even Biden voters … they’re questioning their vote,” she added. “‘What did we do?'”
Alicia Jacobs, a 51-year-old Democrat from Media, said she’s also feeling the cost-of-living crunch.
“The price of gas, groceries, utilities (is concerning). Having to penny-pinch more in terms of the grocery store and gas,” she said, adding that it costs her $70 to fill up her vehicle’s tank.
In relation to the U.S. Senate contest between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, voters say the economy (22%) is the most important topic. It’s followed by gun control (17%), abortion rights (14%), inflation (13%), Donald Trump (8%), corruption (6%), health care (5%), immigration (5%) and foreign affairs (1%). Approximately 9% of respondents were undecided about the top issue.
Aside from her economic concerns, Jacobs said she wants to elect candidates who have a plan to restrict access to AR-15 rifles and handguns, citing recent shootings in nearby Philadelphia.
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For Liz Merkel, a 39-year-old Butler County Republican, inflation and the economy are the runaway top issue.
“My husband’s working his butt off and we’re just not able to keep up. Basically everything (extra) had to be cut,” Merkel said. “No vacation this year, which is fine, I can accept that.”
“(But) it’s causing a lot of stress for my family, so I can’t imagine what it’s doing to people who are a little less fortunate than us.”
More than a quarter of all likely voters (26%) cited the economy as the top issue in the governor’s race. This was followed by gun control (16%), abortion (10%), corruption (9%), education (7%), taxes (7%), infrastructure (6%), crime (5%), health care (3%) and opioids (2%). Approximately 8% were undecided.
Pittsburgh resident Jacob Shaffer, 42, may be feeling less reactive than many others who were polled. He characterized himself as a principled supporter of liberal policies.
“I just vote progressive, so it’s going to be climate change and wealth inequalities,” Shaffer said. “Mostly I’d just like to see raising the federal minimum wage and more taxes for wealthier people.”
He added, however, that he’s not overly optimistic about the prospects of these initiatives and other progressive causes because he lacks confidence in officials who were elected in many conservative and rural constituencies.
“People don’t believe in facts anymore,” Shaffer said, “and blindly follow.”
Here’s where Pennsylvanians stand on other controversial topics.
Open primaries in PA
Most respondents in the Suffolk University poll say they are in favor of allowing independents to vote in primaries.
Under current Pennsylvania law, a person must be a Democrat to vote in the Democratic primary and a Republican to vote in the Republican primary. Open primaries would change that by inviting non-affiliated voters to have a voice in these contests.
In this new poll, 60% of Pennsylvanians favor open primaries, with 31% opposed and 9% undecided.
No-excuse mail-in voting in PA
Pennsylvanians are closer to 50/50 about a new voting practice.
According to the poll, 47% would like for no-excuse mail-in voting to continue. Approximately 43% want to end this practice. The remaining 10% is undecided.
The 4-point gap between those in favor and opposed is within the poll’s plus-or-minus 4.4-percentage-point margin of error, and 10% are still undecided.
Election security in PA
More than half of Pennsylvanians are “very” or “somewhat” confident in the security of the commonwealth’s voting procedures.
The Suffolk poll shows that 38% are very and 21% are somewhat confident, as opposed to 16% who are not very confident and 21% who are not at all confident. Approximately 3% are undecided.
Corruption in PA government
Most Pennsylvanians believe their state government is at least “somewhat” corrupt.
According to the polling, 14% say it’s extremely corrupt, 19% say it’s very corrupt and 41% say it’s somewhat corrupt. Smaller percentages have more faith in Harrisburg: 12% believe it’s “not very” corrupt and 6% believe it’s “not at all” corrupt.
Approximately 8% are undecided.
PA minimum wage
Just 1 in 10 Pennsylvanians agree with the current $7.25-an-hour minimum wage.
The poll indicates that 14% want it at $9 an hour, 27% want it at $12 an hour, 32% want it at $15 an hour and 12% want it at $20 an hour. A smaller percentage (5%) is undecided.
Recreational marijuana in PA
Most Pennsylvania residents want looser marijuana laws.
Polling shows that 65% support the legalization of recreational marijuana. Just 27% oppose, with 8% undecided.
Abortion in PA
A majority of the commonwealth also supports protecting abortion rights.
Suffolk’s study reveals that 58% would want state pro-choice legislation if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the United States Supreme Court. Approximately 30% want abortion restricted, 11% are undecided and 1% refused to answer.
Transgender rights in PA
A high percentage of Pennsylvanians say they want to support transgender rights.
According to the poll, 64% say they do not want to restrict transgender rights. Only 23% say they are in favor of this, with 13% undecided.
Suffolk University polling
The Suffolk University Political Research Center/USA Today Network poll included 500 Pennsylvania residents who say they are extremely or very likely to vote in the mid-terms this fall.
Respondents were called via cellphone and land line between June 10 and June 13. Their demographics were: 50/48 female/male; 43/39/14 Democrat/Republican/independent; and 75/13/7/1 white/Black/Hispanic/Asian.
The age range was a wide and fairly even disbursement that spanned multiple voting-age generations.
Bruce Siwy is a reporter for the USA Today Network’s Pennsylvania state capital bureau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BruceJSiwy.