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Franklin & Marshall Poll Release: October 2023

We explore the mood of Pennsylvania's voters and their opinions of President Biden, Donald Trump, public schools, crisis pregnancy centers, the Republican presidential primary, and the state Supreme Court election.

Berwood A Yost
5 min read

Dear Readers,

I'm writing to share our summary report for the October 2023 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 school funding and crisis pregnancy centers, their ratings of the state Supreme Court candidates and other state political figures, as well as Republicans' preferences in the presidential primary race.

Thank you for reading,

Berwood Yost

Key Findings

The October 2023 Franklin & Marshall College Poll finds that the state’s registered voters have a generally negative outlook about the economy and the direction of the state. Half (50%) of respondents say they are “worse off” than a year ago, and one in three (35%) registered voters expects they will be “worse off” financially a year from now. Pennsylvania voters are more pessimistic than optimistic about conditions in the state with more than half (55%) reporting the state is “off on the wrong track.”

Figure 1. Line graph showing F&M Poll data on Pennsylvania voters' feelings about the direction of the state, April 1995 through October 2023. Voters have not expressed net positive feelings about the direction of the state since August 2020.

Concern about the economy (25%), including unemployment and higher gas and utility prices, continues as the most important and often mentioned problem facing the state’s registered voters. The survey also includes notable findings about state-level issues on public schools and funding for crisis pregnancy centers:

·         About half (47%) of the state’s registered voters believe the public schools in their communities have sufficient funding to educate their students, but three in five (61%) also believe that most public schools in the state do not have sufficient funding to educate their students.

·         Most (69%) registered voters favor requiring that all public schools have armed security personnel, with three in four (73%) believing it would make schools safer.

·         A majority (56%) of registered voters favors continued funding of crisis pregnancy centers in Pennsylvania.

The State Supreme Court Race

The state’s registered voters know little about the candidates running for the open state Supreme Court seat. More than seven in ten registered voters don’t know enough about Democrat Daniel McCaffery (76%) or Republican Carolyn Carluccio (71%) to have formed an opinion about them.

Shapiro, Casey, Biden Job Approval Ratings

Governor Shapiro’s job approval ratings remain high: almost one in two (49%) registered voters believes he is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as governor. This is the highest approval rating for a governor at this point in a first term since Governor Ridge. Governor Shapiro has more positive ratings among Democrats (76%) and Independents (38%) than either Senator Casey or President Biden.

Figure 2. Line graph showing F&M Poll data on recent Pennsylvania governors' job approval ratings, January 1995 through October 2023. Governors included are Ridge, Rendell, Corbett, Wolf, and Shapiro.

About one in three (30%) registered voters in Pennsylvania believes President Biden is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president, which is the same as his ratings in August. President Biden’s current rating is lower than President Trump’s and President Obama’s ratings in Pennsylvania at the same point in their terms. President Biden narrowly leads Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, 44% to 42%. 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 and serve as commander-in-chief. More than two in five (43%) voters say that “both” President Biden and Mr. Trump are too old to serve another term.

Figure 3. Bar graph of October 2023 F&M Poll data showing Pennsylvania voters' views on Biden and Trump's values, strengths, and characteristics. Which candidate is better prepared to handle the economy and the job of commander in chief, best understands ordinary Americans, is closer to their views on values issues, is the most honest, and has the character and good judgement to serve another term? Are either or both too old to serve again?

About one in three (36%) registered voters in Pennsylvania believes Bob Casey is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as their U.S. Senator. Senator Casey’s ratings are a bit lower than his ratings in October 2018, prior to his last election, when he had a 43% positive job approval rating, although they are similar to his ratings in October 2011 (38%), about one year prior to his first re-election campaign. 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 April (42% to 35%).

Republican Presidential Primary

President Trump continues to lead the Republican primary field in Pennsylvania with a significant advantage over his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, 55% to 14%. Nikki Haley (9%) is currently in third place. Mr. Trump’s advantage over Governor DeSantis has widened considerably since August.

Figure 4. Bar chart comparing the presidential primary preferences of Pennsylvania Republicans in April, August, and October 2023. Candidates listed are Trump, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Scott, Pence, Haley, and Christy. Other categories are "someone else" and "do not know."


The survey findings presented in this release are based on the results of interviews conducted October 11 – 22, 2023. The interviews were conducted at the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College. The data included in this release represent the responses of 873 registered Pennsylvania voters, including 393 Democrats, 359 Republicans, and 121 Independents. 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 +/- 4.1 percentage points when the design effects from weighting are considered. The sample error for questions based on subgroups is larger and is +/- 6.4 percentage points for the Republican presidential primary questions.  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.

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