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Franklin & Marshall Poll Release: April 2024

See where the 2024 presidential race stands in Pennsylvania, and explore voters' positions on marijuana legalization, voting reforms, and democracy, along with their ratings of President Biden, Governor Shapiro, and Senator Casey.

Berwood A Yost
5 min read

Dear Readers,

I'm writing to share our summary report for the April 2024 Franklin & Marshall College Poll. I've highlighted a few of the key findings below, but I encourage you to read the full report, which is also included. The Poll explores the mood of the state’s voters, their positions on issues like marijuana legalization, voting reforms, and democracy, and their ratings of state political figures.

Thank you for reading,

Berwood Yost

Key Findings

The April 2024 Franklin & Marshall College Poll finds that although the state’s registered voters are generally pessimistic about the economy and the direction of the state, these indicators continue moving in a more positive direction. More registered voters report being “better off” financially than last year compared to our last two surveys (17% compared to 15% in February and 11% in October) and more say things in the state are “headed in the right direction” (39% compared to 37% in February and 35% in October). Among the nearly half (45%) of respondents who say they are “worse off” financially than a year ago, inflation (41%), the cost of living generally (17%), the costs of goods and necessities (12%), and the cost of food specifically (6%) are the main reasons they feel worse off.

Graph of Pennsylvania voters' feelings about the direction of the state, April 1995 through April 2024.
Figure 1. This figure shows how Pennsylvania’s registered voters assess the state’s general direction. Voters have not expressed net positive feelings about the direction of the state since August 2020.

The survey also includes notable findings about state-level issues on marijuana legalization, voting reforms, and democracy:

  • More than three in five (62%) registered voters believe recreational marijuana should be legalized in the state, which is consistent with recent surveys. More (48%) voters favor selling legal marijuana through the state’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries than through state-run cannabis shops (29%).
  • Voters favor a host of voting reforms: substantial majorities favor requiring county voting officials to contact voters if they find an error on a submitted ballot (77%), requiring photo IDs to vote (73%), and allowing for automatic voter registration (65%). A majority (50%) also favor allowing for pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots.
  • Only two in five (40%) registered voters report being satisfied with the way democracy works in the United States, although nine in ten (88%) believe democracy is preferable to any other form of government.

Shapiro Job Approval Rating

Governor Shapiro’s job approval ratings remain high: more than one in two (54%) registered voters believes he is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as governor. He has the highest approval rating for a governor at this point in a first term since Governor Ridge.

Graph of recent Pennsylvania governors' job approval ratings, January 1995 through April 2024. Governors included are Ridge, Rendell, Corbett, Wolf, and Shapiro.
Figure 2. This figure compares the job approval ratings of Pennsylvania governors at similar points in their terms.

Biden Job Approval Rating and General Election Match-Up

While the mood of Pennsylvania voters is a bit more positive than it has been, views about the president and the presidential campaign are mostly unchanged. About one in three (35%) registered voters in Pennsylvania believes President Biden is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president, which is marginally better than his approval ratings last fall. More voters believe President Biden has better judgment, is more trustworthy, and is closer to their views on values issues than Mr. Trump, while more voters believe Mr. Trump is better able to handle the economy. Two in five (40%) voters say that “both” President Biden and Mr. Trump are too old to serve another term. Perceptions of the candidates’ relative issue strengths have changed little since October, although President Biden’s advantages on questions of character and honesty remain substantial. One in five (18%) voters has an “unfavorable” opinion of both presidential candidates. President Biden narrowly leads Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, 42% to 40%.

April 2024 chart showing Pennsylvania voters' views on Biden and Trump's values, strengths, and characteristics. Will Biden or Trump be better prepared to handle the economy and the job of commander in chief? Who best understands ordinary Americans and is closer to their views on abortion and same-sex marriage? Who is the most honest and has the character and good judgement to serve another term? Is either too old to serve again?
Figure 3. This table shows the percentage of respondents attributing descriptions of the presidential candidates to either Biden or Trump, October 2023, February 2024, and April 2024.

Casey Job Approval Rating and General Election Match-Up

About two in five (39%) registered voters in Pennsylvania thinks Bob Casey is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as their U.S. senator. Senator Casey leads Republican David McCormick 46% to 39% in a head-to-head matchup for U.S. Senate, which is about the same advantage he held over McCormick in February (47% to 35%) and October (46% to 39%).

Methodology

The survey findings presented in this release are based on the results of interviews conducted March 20 - 31, 2024. The interviews were conducted at the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College. The data included in this release represent the responses of 870 registered Pennsylvania voters, including 390 Democrats, 356 Republicans, and 124 Independents.[1] The sample of voters was obtained from Aristotle. 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, vote history, 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 Pennsylvania Department of State’s voter registration data. Gender and education are estimated using data from the November 2022 CPS Voter Registration Supplement.

The sample error for this survey is +/- 4.0 percentage points when the design effects from weighting are considered. The sample error for questions based on subgroups is larger. The sample error for the two-way presidential horse race question (n=431) is +/- 5.7% and the sample error for the multi-candidate presidential horse race question (n=430) is +/- 5.7%. 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.

Notes


[1] The data reported here is 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: 43% identify as Republican (n=358), 9% as Independent (n=71), and 43% as Democrat (n=373) and the balance not offering a response. Partisan comparisons in this summary show self-reported registration.

Candidates and CampaignsConcerns about Government and PoliticiansEconomic IssuesElection Integrity and Voting ReformElectoral ContextF&M Poll ReleasesPresidential Ratings on Issues

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