Pa. poll: Economy hitting hard; Specter leads Matthews

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A majority of Pennsylvania voters say the economic crisis is hitting them hard in the pocketbook, and they don't expect relief any time soon.

Some 54 percent say they're worse off financially than a year ago, while 23 percent are better off and 22 percent say they're treading water, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. A total of 52 percent say their finances are "excellent" or "good" and 47 percent say "not so good" or "poor."

Only 26 percent expect things to get better in the next year, while 23 percent expect them to get worse and 47 percent expect them to stay the same, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds.

Because of the economy, 73 percent of Pennsylvania voters report their retirement plan has lost money in the last year, with 56 percent of those who lost money saying they've lost a lot of money.

Looking at the big picture, 62 percent of Keystone State voters expect the national economy to get better during President-elect Barack Obama's first term, while 15 percent expect things to get worse and 17 percent expect no change.

"There is a lot of financial pain in Pennsylvania today. More than half the people say they are worse off financially than they were a year ago and seven out of 10 don't expect things to get better in the next year," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Three quarters of voters with private retirement plans say they have lost money in those plans recently and half of that number say they have lost a lot. As a result a more than a third say they are delaying retirement plans."

A total of 46 percent of Pennsylvania voters are "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with the way things are going in the state, compared to 52 percent who are "somewhat dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied.'' This matches the lowest satisfaction rate ever recorded in the state.

Still, Gov. Ed Rendell gets a 55-34 percent approval rating, his best score in 18 months. He gets a lower 42-38 percent approval rating for his handling of the economic situation.

U.S. Senate race

In an early look at the 2010 U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter leads TV commentator Chris Matthews, a possible Democratic challenger, 45-33 percent. Sen. Specter leads 72-9 percent among Republicans and 45-27 percent among independent voters, while Matthews leads 55-25 percent among Democrats.

Specter gets a 62-25 percent approval rating and by a 56-23 percent margin, voters have a favorable opinion of him.

For Matthews, 60 percent say they don't know enough about him to form an opinion.

"Who says the Republicans are dead? Sen. Arlen Specter has the highest job approval rating of any major Pennsylvania Pol and would knock off Chris Matthews by 12 points if the Hardball host decides to run against him," Richards said. "Matthews has been on MSNBC wall to wall during the election season, but is a question mark for 60 percent of the voters. Specter has been relatively invisible the past year and has a strong 56 percent favorable rating.

"And economic crisis or not, Gov. 'Teflon Ed' Rendell's job approval rating remains in the mid-50s, where it has been most of the time he has been governor. Voters, however, give him mixed marks on his handling of the current economic crisis."

From November 19-24, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,487 Pennsylvania voters with a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and the nation as a public service and for research.



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