AP NEWS

Voters Back Legal Pot, Higher Minimum Wage

March 28, 2019

Strong majorities of Pennsylvania voters think climate change causes problems now and back legalizing marijuana and Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage, a new poll released Wednesday to The Times-Tribune found.

Two-thirds of voters (67 percent) think climate change has begun causing environmental problems, up from about three in five voters (62 percent) a year ago, according to the Franklin & Marshall College poll.

About as many (68 percent) think the state should probably or definitely should do more to solve the problem.

“Climate change is growing as an important state issue, and it’s likely to be there for some time,” said G. Terry Madonna, Ph.D., the poll director.

Attitudes about marijuana legalization have starkly changed since 2006, when only about one in five voters (22 percent) supported it. In the latest poll, about three in five voters (59 percent) favor legalization.

Wolf proposes increasing the minimum wage from the federally mandated $7.25 an hour to $12 an hour as of July 1, and more than two-thirds of voters (69 percent) strongly (47 percent) or somewhat (22 percent) agree that should happen.

On each issue, Democrats and independents contribute more heavily to the large majorities.

On climate change, more than four in five Democrats (85 percent) and independents (78 percent) think climate change is already a problem. Only about two in five Republicans (41 percent) think that.

On marijuana legalization, almost three-quarters of Democrats (71 percent) and more than three-quarters of independents (77 percent) believe in legalization compared to about two in five Republicans (39 percent).

On the minimum wage, almost nine in 10 Democrats (88 percent) and almost three-quarters of independents (74 percent) favor Wolf’s proposals while only more than two in five Republicans (44 percent) do.

The breakdown reverses when it comes to including nuclear energy as a part of the state’s long-term energy strategy. More than half of voters (55 percent) strongly or somewhat favor nuclear energy’s inclusion, but only about two in five Democrats (44 percent) favor that compared to almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Republicans and three in five (61 percent) of independents.

As much as climate change, marijuana legalization and the minimum wage may matter to voters, other issues still matter more. Asked the most important issue facing the state, voters named taxes (14 percent), education (12 percent), government/politicians (9 percent), crime/drugs/violence/guns (9 percent), economy/finances (9 percent), healthcare/insurance (7 percent), unemployment/personal finances (6 percent) and roads/infrastructure/transportation (6 percent).

As he hopes to implement an agenda that includes more education funding and a higher minimum wage, Wolf stands well among voters.

More than half (54 percent) view him strongly (19 percent) or somewhat (35 percent) favorably compare to fewer than a third (31 percent) who view him somewhat (16 percent) or strongly (15 percent) unfavorably. A majority (51 percent) think he’s doing a good (40 percent) or excellent (11 percent) job compared to two in five (42 percent) who think he’s doing a fair (29 percent) or poor (13 percent) job.

“Gov. Wolf is well-situated as he starts his second term,” Madonna said. “He’s got a positive job performance. No. 2, he’s benefitting from the health of the national and state economy and the fact that people’s personal finances are up. Overall, his agenda for minimum wage and for taking more action looking at climate change seems to be popular.”

Almost half of voters (49 percent) think the state is on the right track while fewer than two in five (37 percent) think it’s off on the wrong track.

That’s almost the reverse of President Donald Trump’s situation, the year before he seeks reelection.

About a third (34 percent) think he’s doing an excellent (18 percent) or good (16 percent) job, compared to almost two-thirds (66 percent) who think he’s doing a fair (13 percent) or poor (53 percent) job.

Fewer than a third (30 percent) believe the country is headed in the right direction compared to almost two-thirds (65 percent) who think it’s on the wrong track.

Contact the writer: bkrawczeniuk@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9147; @BorysBlogTT on Twitter.