Trump supporters at the the president's inauguration.

The latest Franklin & Marshall poll making the rounds has a few notable findings from likely Pennsylvania voters. But while most attention will focus on President Trump’s negative approval rating — three in five voters surveyed are ready to give him the boot — F&M pollster Terry Madonna has lingering questions about what that number actually bodes for the swing state in 2020.


Trump’s current numbers track closely to former President Barack Obama’s approval rating at around the same time in his presidency, two years into his first term. Pennsylvania went on to re-elect Obama to his second term with 52 percent of the vote.

“I’m not saying [Trump] will win the state,” Madonna told Billy Penn. “I’m merely pointing out we better be careful about saying he can’t win the state.”

That contextual clue is further complicated by the timing of the poll’s release, Madonna says. F&M pollsters conducted interviews before the four-page summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released last week. While national polls give no indication yet, Madonna wonders if the 540 Keystone State voters his team surveyed — 254 Democrats, 216 Republicans, and 70 Independents — would have changed their responses.

Still, 61 percent of all voters said Trump’s time is up, while 34 believe he’s doing a “good” or “excellent” job worthy of a second term. Those favorability odds are consistent with F&M’s other recent polls.

Nearly 60 percent favor legal pot

Unemployment, the economy, taxes — these issues continue to rank as most important for the Pennsylvania voter, and there’s no news on that front.

On thing that’s somewhat surprisingly unchanged: Pennsylvania voters’ views on legalizing marijuana.

With a medical program up and running, state lawmakers have begun moving the gears toward recreational marijuana laws. Newly minted Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is leading a multi-county “pot listening tour.” Even Gov. Wolf — whose favorability rating remains solid, per F&M, with just 13 percent of surveyed voters saying he sucks — is coming around to the idea.

But residents’ views haven’t budged much in the last year, despite all the talk. In this poll, a majority 59 percent of state voters support full-scale legalization. That’s a big increase since the 22 percent in favor when F&M first polled the question in 2006, but not much different from recent numbers.

Madonna noted that there’s been “a fair amount of pushback” to the idea over the past year. Even New Jersey, which is more liberal statewide than its eastern neighbor, has stalled on plans to move forward with a recreational program.

Climate change on PA’s mind

On the environment, Pennsylvania’s outlook appears less stagnant.

The number of voters who indicated that climate change is causing problems has gone up to 67 percent — up from 62 percent this time last year.

“I didn’t think quite frankly that it would be that high,” Madonna said.

Two in three voters also support the state prioritizing renewable energy, though the poll notes some partisan difference and ideological differences on what that looks like. More men (69 percent) than women (40) support nuclear energy in the long-term.

Support for moving fast on climate change policy also showed high support in people under 35.

“With this many young people thinking it’s problem,” Madonna said, “you can see what I’m talking about when I say this is going to be a recurring and important theme in American politics.”

Read the full polling results here.

Max Marin (he/him) was Billy Penn's investigative reporter from 2018 to 2021. A graduate of Temple University, he has produced award-winning journalism on local politics, criminal justice, immigration...