Gov. Tom Corbett remains unpopular with Pennsylvania voters despite their majority approval of his controversial legal challenge to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's sanctions against Penn State University.
A new survey released by Public Policy Polling found that 52 percent of the state's electorate disapproved of the Republican governor's overall job performance with just 38 percent saying they approved of his record in office. At the same time, 52 percent of the voters said they approved of his decision to sue the NCAA over its treatment of the school while 34 percent said they did not approve. In contrast to the general agreement with his decision to sue the NCAA, half the voters said they did not approve of the governor's overall handling of the divisive Penn State issues while only 27 percent said they approved.
In one of several 2014 trial heats within the survey, Kathleen Kane, the attorney general-elect and a Democrat who has been sharply critical of Mr. Corbett's handling of the case, tied the incumbent, who is halfway through his first term. Each got 42 percent with 16 percent undecided.
The Republican governor managed pluralities in the low 40s in trial heats against most of his other potential Democratic challengers. Only former Gov. Ed Rendell, who left office amid sagging poll numbers after his constitutional limit of two terms, ran ahead of the incumbent: 46 percent to 40 percent in the hypothetical race.
Against John Hanger, a former member of the Public Utility Commission and chief of the Department of Environmental Protection who has announced his interest in the Democratic nomination to challenge Mr. Corbett, the results were Mr. Corbett, 41 percent; Mr. Hanger, 37 percent, and 21 percent undecided.
If there is any consolation for the Republican in the PPP results it is that, at this very early stage, the Democrats do not appear to have a bench of well-known figures poised to challenge him.
After spending millions in a closely contested Senate race in 2010, former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak was viewed favorably by roughly a quarter of the respondents, unfavorably by another quarter, and 50 percent were undecided. For Rob McCord -- the state treasurer re-elected in November -- the numbers were 13 percent favorable, 11 percent unfavorable and 76 percent undecided.
While some critics dismissed Mr. Corbett's decision to sue the NCAA as an effort to ingratiate himself with Penn State's many followers, views of the governor were about the same regardless of whether the voters considered themselves fans of the school.
As is often the case with Republican figures, women were somewhat more likely than men to disapprove of his performance, although he was on the wrong side of the numbers with both genders. Nearly 3 in 5 women -- 57 percent -- said they did not approve of the governor's overall performance, with just 30 percent offering a positive response. Among men, it was 44 percent approve and 48 percent disapprove.
Just under half of the voters 45 or younger said they disapproved of Mr. Corbett's performance. His ratings were even lower with the older voters, who are most likely to show up at the polls. Among those 46 to 65, 54 percent said they disapproved of Mr. Corbett's performance, and just 35 percent approved. For those over 65, Mr. Corbett met with 33 percent approval and 56 percent disapproval.
PPP is an independent but Democratic-leaning consulting firm. Its latest survey was based on responses to automated calls to 675 Pennsylvania voters conducted between Friday and Sunday.
Politics editor James O'Toole: email@example.com or 412-263-1562.