Poll finds most in Pa. stand behind Penn State
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Penn State University's reputation remains solid with Pennsylvanians, a new poll found, even as wide majorities agreed that its football program has too much influence at the university and favored the firing of school president Graham Spanier.
Whether rich or poor, college educated or not, black or white, 63 percent of Pennsylvanians polled by Quinnipiac University still have a favorable opinion of Penn State since child sex abuse charges were first filed against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky Nov. 5, with 33 percent saying they view the school less favorably.
With the same agreement across all demographics, almost 75 percent statewide agreed with Mr. Spanier's firing after the scandal broke to 13 percent against, and 65 percent told pollsters the football team has too much influence at Penn State, to 25 percent who say it has the correct amount.
Though Pennsylvania has a reputation as a football-mad state, 46 percent of respondents told Quinnipiac they are "not at all" interested in college football. The Sandusky scandal is another matter: 85 percent said they are following the sex abuse case very or somewhat closely.
Other than those results, there were disagreements among Pennsylvanians on questions regarding the firing of longtime head football coach Joe Paterno, Gov. Tom Corbett's handling of the scandal and related matters.
Pennsylvanians generally agreed 52 percent to 43 against with the firing of Mr. Paterno, but there were differences in other breakdowns: white Protestants were against the firing 49 to 44 percent; white Catholics were in favor 52 to 45 percent; and young people and seniors were split on the move, though those aged 50 to 64 were strongly in favor at 58-36 percent. Those making in excess of $100,000 were most in favor of the coach's firing, at 65 percent.
While most respondents agreed with Mr. Paterno's firing, they still liked the man, with 44 percent having a favorable opinion of him to 36 percent unfavorable. Men were more likely to favor him (at 53 percent) than women (at 35 percent).
Two-thirds of respondents said it would be a bad idea for Penn State's football team to turn down its post-season bowl invitation. Almost 50 percent said the state should not financially compensate victims if Mr. Sandusky is found guilty, to 42 percent who said it should.
"Pennsylvania voters have more love for the legendary football coach than for Graham Spanier, but they agree that Joe must go," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement. "Clearly the scandal has shaken the university to its foundations and may forever reshape its football program despite the clear indication from our polling that Pennsylvanians don't want the players or team penalized."
Quinnipiac got the findings from phone surveys of 1,453 registered voters in the state from Nov. 28 through Monday, and the results have a 2.6 percentage point margin of error.
Voters were split 38 to 36 percent on whether they approved of Gov. Corbett's handing of the scandal, with 26 percent saying they did not know. As for his job as governor, 47 percent approved of Mr. Corbett's performance to 34 percent against. Those findings differed little from Quinnipiac's last poll Nov. 10.
First Published December 10, 2011 12:00 am