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New Resources about State Politics and Public Opinion

Learn about resources for understanding election polls and public opinion in Pennsylvania, including how to find survey data in the F&M Poll archive. Also read about a new book analyzing whether politics were more nationalized in the 2020 elections.

Berwood A Yost
3 min read

Dear Readers,

Today’s newsletter introduces you to two resources that could be helpful to you if you’re interested in knowing more about 1) the campaigns for US Congress and the state legislature in the 2020 election, or 2) public opinion in the state over the past 20 years. I hope you find these resources both useful and interesting.

Thank you for reading,

Berwood Yost

Are All Politics Nationalized? Evidence from the 2020 Campaigns in Pennsylvania

Stephen Medvic, Matthew Schousen and I are pleased to announce the publication of our book about the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. This edited volume has case studies for six Pennsylvania Congressional districts and a dozen state legislative races and explores how political campaigns encourage nationalized voting behavior.

Many people believe that voters make decisions about the state and local candidates they support based mainly on their views of the national parties and presidential candidates. Despite this conventional wisdom, nationalization itself and the process by which politics becomes nationalized is not clear. Our book addresses this knowledge gap by looking at the behavior of candidates and the factors that influence voters’ electoral choices.

Contrary to our expectations, the campaigns we studied with colleagues from around Pennsylvania found that issues specific to particular districts—such as fracking and local union politics—still mattered, and that candidates were eager to connect with voters by highlighting their ties to the local community. National politics trickle down to local races, but races up and down the ballot are much more localized than many people believe.

If you are interested in questions about our nationalized politics, just want to get a comprehensive sense of the driving forces in the state’s 2020 races, or want to better understand how campaigns are run at the local level, there should be something to interest you. You can read more about the book or order a copy here.

Finding and Using F&M Poll Data

The Center for Opinion Research is pleased to have a new tool that makes it easy to find public opinion data from our past surveys. We’ve spent the past few months loading all of the topline and summary reports from past Franklin & Marshall College Polls into an online database. The landing page for this new resource is presented in Figure 1 and can be found here.

Figure 1

Clicking the SEARCH link on the landing page takes you to an interface (see Figure 2) that lets you search either Topline summaries, which are the questions and responses to each question in each survey project, or the summary reports that are accessed by the Analysis toggle.

Figure 2 provides an example from a search that uses “transgender” as the Keyword. Typing the search term and hitting the Search button produces a single item from the database. Entering a search term in the Keyword box is the only requirement for a search, although you can choose to limit your search by date or project.

Figure 2

The search terms are highlighted in your output; in this search, the term is within the body of the question, but the results also can include terms that are one of the response options. The search results also show the survey and the dates when the data were gathered. This question was in our April 2022 survey conducted March 30 – April 10.

Clicking on the Results tab below the question shows the answer categories and the distribution of responses. Clicking the box next to KeyApr22 will turn on the Export function, which produces a file that shows the full question wording as well as the distribution of responses. Here is the result of exporting this question:

TS1. A number of states have passed laws that require athletes to participate in sports based on their gender assigned at birth in order to prevent transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports. Would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose passing a law in Pennsylvania that requires athletes to participate in sports based on their gender assigned at birth?

Strongly support   55%

Somewhat support   9%

Somewhat oppose    11%

Strongly oppose    18%

Do not know       8%

To get more details about the survey that included this question, type the survey name into the Project box and click the Analysis box to see a summary of that survey’s findings, which includes details about how the survey was conducted.

Nationalization of PoliticsElection Analysis

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