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Franklin & Marshall Poll Release: August 2021

Issue #12 • View online
Franklin & Marshall College Poll
Dear Subscribers,
Today’s newsletter contains information from the August 2021 Franklin & Marshall College Poll, conducted August 9 -15 among a sample of 446 registered Pennsylvania voters. The survey asked about a wide range of topics, including voters’ general feelings about the direction of the state and economy, climate change, government reform, the events of January 6, feelings about the distribution of wealth, views on government and regulation, and job approval ratings for President Biden and Governor Wolf. You can see the full set of questions asked as well as the overall responses to each question in the attached topline summary. I’ve highlighted a few of the notable findings in today’s newsletter and you can find more details in our Summary of Findings.
Berwood Yost, Director

Key Findings
The August 2021 Franklin & Marshall College Poll finds that concern about COVID-19 is increasing among the state’s registered voters. After declining from one in three (31%) in March to less than one in ten (7%) in June, one in five (17%) voters now say that COVID-19 is the state’s most important problem. Concerns about government and politicians (20%) and the economy (13%), including unemployment and personal finances, are other top concerns. For the first time in the history of the Poll, a notable portion of voters (4%) mentioned “election integrity” as one of the state’s pressing issues.
Pennsylvanians’ pessimism about conditions in the state have stabilized. Only two in five (37%) registered voters believe the state is “headed in the right direction,” essentially unchanged since the March and June Franklin & Marshall College Polls. This is not true of voters’ assessments of the United States, as more registered voters now believe that things in the US are “on the wrong track” (69%) compared to June (62%). There is also no notable improvement in voters’ assessments of their personal finances. Most respondents say they are “better off” (15%) or “about the same” (60%) financially as they were last year, although there has been a decline since June in the proportion who report their finances will be “better” a year from now, falling from 22 percent to 17 percent. 
More than three in five (63%) registered voters believe that state redistricting practices need reformed, and two in three (65%) support having an independent commission redraw state legislative districts, a sentiment that crosses party lines: 76 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents, and 58 percent of Republicans support the use of an independent commission to draw state legislative districts.
Governor Wolf’s positive job approval ratings are at 41 percent, very similar to the 39 percent he had in June. About two in five (41%) voters in Pennsylvania believe President Biden is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president, which is a slight decline from his June rating of 44 percent. The Presidents’ COVID ratings have also declined a bit since June (49% to 44%). 
The upcoming US Senate race to replace retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey has drawn significant interest from politicians in both parties. At the moment, John Fetterman is the first or second choice of about one-third (30%) of Democrats, followed by Connor Lamb (14%). The Republican primary field has no clear front-runner at the moment, with Sean Parnell (10%), Kathy Barnette (8%), and Jeff Bartos (7%) each garnering similar shares of Republicans’ first or second preferences. Two in five (37%) Democrats and two in three (63%) Republicans are undecided about their choice for US Senate.
The survey findings presented in this release are based on the results of interviews conducted August 9 - 15, 2021. The interviews were conducted at the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall. The data included in this release represent the responses of 446 registered Pennsylvania voters, including 207 Democrats, 173 Republicans, and 66 independents.[i] The sample of voters was obtained from Marketing Systems Group. All sampled respondents were notified by mail about the survey. Interviews were completed over the phone and online depending on each respondent’s preference. Survey results were weighted (age, gender, education, geography, and party registration) using an iterative weighting algorithm to reflect the known distribution of those characteristics. Estimates for age, geography, and party registration are based on active voters within the PA Department of State’s voter registration data. Gender and education is estimated using data from the November 2018 CPS Voter Registration Supplement.[ii]
The sample error for this survey is +/- 6.4 percentage points when the design effects from weighting are considered. In addition to sampling error, this poll is also subject to other sources of non-sampling error. Generally speaking, two sources of error concern researchers most. Non-response bias is created when selected participants either choose not to participate in the survey or are unavailable for interviewing. Response errors are the product of the question and answer process. Surveys that rely on self-reported behaviors and attitudes are susceptible to biases related to the way respondents process and respond to survey questions.
References & Resources
[i] The question reported here is self-reported voter REGISTRATION and is consistent with past reporting practices. The survey also asked about self-reported voter IDENTIFICATION, which shows a slightly different partisan split: 45% identify as Republican (n=193), 12% as Independent (n=54), and 42% as Democrat (n=179). Partisan comparisons in this summary show self-reported registration.
[ii] Data downloaded from IPUMS-CPS, University of Minnesota,, accessed 12/31/2019.
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