Two Polls Show Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett In Big Trouble

Tom Wolf Tom Corbett

It’s been quite apparent for some time now that Tom Corbett was among the most vulnerable Republican Governors up for re-election in 2014. The combination of a mostly weak state economy, a Voter ID law that backfired on the state in court, and other controversies such as Corbett’s foolish lawsuit against the NCAA over the sanctions imposed on the Penn State football program had kept Corbett’s numbers in the red for quite some time. For awhile there, it even seemed like state Republicans might make an effort to boot him from the top of the ticket in favor of a candidate that might actually have a chance to win. While that never materialized, several Democrats did run for the opportunity to face Corbett in the fall, with the winner being businessman Tom Wolf, and if two new polls are any indication things are going to go very well for Wolf this year.

First, yesterday Public Policy Polling released a poll showing Corbett down by 25 points against Wolf:

PPP’s first poll of the general election for Governor in Pennsylvania finds a race that isn’t remotely competitive. Democratic challenger Tom Wolf leads Republican incumbent Tom Corbett 55/30. Wolf’s 25 point lead has more than doubled from the 12 point advantage he had over Corbett on PPP’s last poll of the state in November.

The biggest story in the race continues to be Corbett’s unpopularity. Only 27% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 58% who disapprove. But Wolf is also proving to be an unusually strong Democratic candidate. He has a +27 net favorability rating, with 47% of voters seeing him favorably to only 20% with a negative opinion. His strong numbers with Democrats (68/10) are unsurprising given his margin of victory in the primary, but even with Republicans he comes close to breaking even at a 29/32 favorability.Wolf is winning over 24% of Republicans while losing just 10% of Democrats to Corbett, and he also has a 43 point lead with independents at 63/20.

One thing voters do agree with Tom Corbett on despite his overall unpopularity is the decision he made not to appeal the court decision legalizing gay marriage in Pennsylvania. 56% of voters say they agree with Corbett’s decision to only 33% who disagree. Those numbers come among growing acceptance for gay marriage in Pennsylvania- for the first time in PPP’s polling a plurality of voters in the state support it with 48% in favor to 44% who remain opposed. That represents a 20 point net shift on attitudes toward gay marriage in the state over the last two and a half years. In November of 2011 we found just 36% of voters supported it with 52% believing it should remain illegal.

Second, this morning Quinnipiac released a poll showing Wolf leading Corbett by 20 points:

Apparently unscathed by a bruising Democratic primary battle, businessman Tom Wolf, the Democratic challenger for Pennsylvania governor, tops Gov. Tom Corbett by a commanding 53 – 33 percent and outscores the Republican incumbent on every measure in the survey, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to a 52 – 33 percent Wolf lead in a February 26 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University, conducted before the primary bloodletting began in earnest.

Pennsylvania voters disapprove 55 – 35 percent of the job Gov. Corbett is doing – his lowest net score ever – and say 58 – 33 percent that he does not deserve to be reelected. The governor gets a negative 29 – 50 percent favorability rating, compared to Wolf’s 46 – 14 percent favorability, with 38 percent who don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

Only 40 percent of voters say the Keystone State’s economy is “excellent” or “good” while 60 percent say “not so good” or “poor.” Only 23 percent of voters say they and their families are “better off” than they were four years ago, while 27 percent say they are “worse off,” with 49 percent who say they are “about the same.”

“The election is five months away, but Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett looks like easy prey for Democratic challenger Tom Wolf,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

“When only 23 percent of the electorate says their families are better off now than they were four years ago, the crisis of confidence reverberates through the State House.”

In an open-ended question allowing for any answer, 30 percent of Pennsylvania voters who disapprove of Gov. Corbett cite education as the main reason, while 8 percent point to fracking and the environment.

Among voters who approve of the governor, 19 percent cite the state budget, finances and taxes, while 12 percent cite the economy and jobs.


Pennsylvania voters say Wolf would do a better job than Corbett on several issues:

  • 59 – 26 percent on education;
  • 55 – 29 percent on economy and jobs;
  • 53 – 29 percent on the energy and environment;
  • 50 – 29 percent on health care;
  • 49 – 34 percent on taxes;
  • 46 – 35 percent on government spending;
  • 35 – 31 percent on the issue of abortion.

While it’s certainly possible, it seems unlikely that Corbett will be able to bounce back from numbers like this. Moreover, if they hold up, it seems likely that the GOP will lose the majorities is gained in the State Legislature four years ago and the Pennsylvania will switch back to being the blue state that it has basically been since at least 1988. At the very least, I would not expect to see many national Republicans campaigning for Corbett or sending money his way. There are far too many races that can actually be won to worry about, and no need to waste money on a candidate that is probably going to lose anyway.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Environment, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Once again radical Republican economic theories have been proven to be lead to weak economic growth. Who’da thunk it.

  2. Moosebreath says:

    “it seems likely that the GOP will lose the majorities is gained in the State Legislature four years ago and the Pennsylvania will switch back to being the blue state that it has basically been since at least 1988.”

    What an inaccurate statement. While PA has gone for Democrats in Presidential races since 1988 (although Obama has done only about as well in PA as the country as a whole, not far better as Kerry/Gore/Clinton/Dukakis did), both Senate seats were in Republican hands for the majority of that period, with one Democratic only during the 2 years Arlen Specter changed parties, and the other Democratic from 1991 (following John Heinz’s death) through 1994 and from 2007 to the present. Governors have alternated parties every 8 years since the 1970’s and Corbett is on track to be the first not re-elected in that period.

    The State Legislature has also been mostly Republican during that period, with a Republican President of the Senate and Speaker of the House continually since 1994 (with a strange interlude in 2007-08 where Democrats held the majority in the State House, but elected Republican Dennis O’Brien as Speaker).

    Pennsylvania at the state level is purple and arguably leaning red, not blue.

  3. B. Minich says:

    I’d argue Pennsylvania is leaning blue, but it is a purple state, I agree there.

    My Dad said it was 50/50 he’d vote for Wolf. I don’t remember the last Democrat he voted for. And THAT, my friends, demonstrates the problem Corbett faces. I think he’s doomed.

  4. Moosebreath says:

    @B. Minich:

    “My Dad said it was 50/50 he’d vote for Wolf. I don’t remember the last Democrat he voted for. And THAT, my friends, demonstrates the problem Corbett faces. I think he’s doomed.”

    That, and Republicans staying home (which could impact other close races like PA-08). In the primary, Corbett received far less votes than his running mate for Lt. Governor (about 27,000, or 7% less), and ran behind many state legislators, even though he was unopposed.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    As a rule an incumbent polling at 30% is considered – in the official poli-sci jargon – pretty fwcked up. That’s dead girl/live boy territory there.