Tom Wolf “Job Approval Poll” Report Misleading?

Governor Tom Wolf, the newly elected champion of the Left, has essentially been hailed as a return to the good ol’ days kind of liberal Democrat. He preached taxes . . . taxes on natural gas, the re-bloating of school budgets, spending, not being Tom Corbett, and doing mostly anything the opposite of Tom Corbett. This writer dubbed him “Tom Wolf-In-Sheep’s clothing” for The Inquisitr, as he generally spoke in vague platitudes. Like most things in life, you just had to read between the lines to find the truth. Now that he is governor, and has laid out some of his plans for Pennsylvanians to see, there are some who are a little shocked to find just what he wants to do. Despite this, a recent article hailed the new Lefty governor’s plans with the cheerleading title “Poll finds voters back Wolf’s tax plan.” Again, as with most things, you need to read between the lines.

The article misrepresented a Franklin & Marshall College poll. The quote from the misleading article stated the reads

“Voters overwhelmingly support Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to swap higher state sales, income and natural gas extraction taxes for lower school property taxes and more education funding, according to a new poll released Tuesday. Voters overwhelmingly support Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to swap higher state sales, income and natural gas extraction taxes for lower school property taxes and more education funding, according to a new poll”

Well, anyone who took the time to read—or at least glance at—the 25-page PDF would find that many of the stated claims are false. So, let’s take this one item at a time.

According to Franklin & Marshall, 57 percent of those polled viewed Governor Wolf’s budget address, 43 percent did not, and an unusual 1 percent are not sure whether they witnessed it or not. Here is the particular, and sole, question regarding his tax plan that matches what the report stated.

“Budg2. Governor Wolf proposed increasing the state’s sales tax, increasing personal income taxes and creating a Marcellus Shale extraction tax. These increases would be used to reduce local property taxes and to increase state funding to public schools in Pennsylvania. Do you generally favor or oppose the Governor’s plan for (rotated) [funding public schools/ balancing the state budget/ reducing property taxes]?”

Well, 29 percent responded with “strongly support,” 30 percent “somewhat support,” 11 percent “somewhat oppose,” 24 percent “strongly oppose,” and 6 percent “don’t know.” The most popular reason given for why people “strongly” or “somewhat” support the action is favor for more education funding and “property tax relief/property tax needs to be reduced.” While 23 percent who opposed the plan did so because they do not believe it will work, 20 percent are against raising taxes in general.

The article utilizes information on page 2 listed as “key findings.” That section alleges that 38 percent of voters believe Wolf is doing an excellent job. Survey respondents’ top priority was education funding, at 27 percent, followed by property tax reform, at 25 percent of respondents. Seventy-seven percent believes the tax system needs reform. Fifty-nine percent supports the governor’s budget plan, while 60 percent supports increasing income taxes to reduce property taxes.

On page 4 is located the question “Which of the following issues do you think should be the top priority for state lawmakers to address? “Increasing state funding for public education” was selected by 27 percent for “all registered voters,” breaking down further into 17 percent for Republicans, and 37 percent for Democrats. “Reforming Pennsylvania’s tax system to reduce local property taxes” was favored by 25 percent for “all registered voters,” 29 percent for Republicans, and 20 percent for Democrats. “Reducing overall state spending” was chosen by 15 percent for “all registered voters,” 23 percent for Republican, and 9 percent for Democrats.

Governor Wolf’s favorability, when compared to three previous governors six months into their terms, is not really impressive. He tops Tom Corbett by 10 percent, but falls behind Tom Ridge’s and that of Ridge’s former boss Ed Rendell.

Wolf’s job performance was found to be “excellent/good” by 16 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of Democrats, and by 28 percent of Independents (which basically means “everyone else”). Wolf’s “fair/poor” number totaled 61 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of Democrats, and 56 percent of everyone else. Twenty-three percent of Republicans did not know, 16 percent of Democrats did not, either, and respectively for every one else.

As far as “handling his job” is concerned, 7 percent responded “excellent,” 31 percent say “good,” 29 percent say “fair,” 14 percent found him “poor,” and 19 percent “don’t know.” Granted, he has been in office less than six months, so can we really even judge this matter at this time?

Pennsylvania voters, by Franklin & Marshall’s own graph, are most concerned about Education/School (19 percent of respondents), Taxes (17 percent), and Government/Politicians (16 percent). Education/Schools has been on somewhat of a downward swing, but Taxes and Government/Politicians has been on an upswing.

Seventy-seven percent think the “state’s tax system, including property taxes, is in need of reform,” while 13 percent disagree and 10 percent have no clue. Also, 48 percent of those polled think the tax system should be “completely rebuilt,” versus 41 percent who think “minor changes” need to be made. The rest don’t know.

Based on the actual data, it seems hard to come to the conclusion that voters “overwhelmingly” support Tom Wolf’s plans for Pennsylvania. Sadly, there is a +/- 4 percent margin of error, and the polling certainly was not taken of the 12,787,209 residents of the state (according to a 2014 Census.gov’s 2014 estimate).

This is the full picture, so judge it as you will. It is a shame that most writers—political or otherwise—push their obvious biases rather than the hard numbers.

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