IN THE OPENING MONTHS of Gov. Wolf's administration, Pennsylvanians are less miserable than they've been in years, according to a new poll.
The Franklin & Marshall College Poll released yesterday found that only 39 percent of residents think the state is moving in the right direction - but that's still the best number in the past five years.
Overall, the survey of 597 registered Pennsylvania voters found them generally positive about their new Democratic governor and key portions of his agenda, including his radical budget overhaul that would broadly change the state's tax structure and increase money for education.
The poll director, F&M political scientist G. Terry Madonna, said the results show that despite soft support, the jury is still out on Wolf, with 38 percent of voters rating his performance as "excellent" or "good" but many still undecided.
"It's a work in progress," said Madonna, noting that poll respondents broadly supported the elements of Wolf's budget plan that aims to lower property taxes but hike the sales and income taxes, with close to $1 billion in new education money. "People are still forming an opinion about where he'll take the state."
The new F&M poll also took an early snapshot of a potential hot-button election in 2016: a possible rematch between incumbent GOP U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Sestak. It found Toomey ahead, 34 percent to 29 percent, but a larger number of voters - 37 percent - are undecided.
Even in a seeming age of good feeling, 47 percent still believe that Pennsylvania is on the wrong track. Chris Borick, a political-science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said voters are generally feeling more optimistic as the economy improves around the nation.
"The biggest driver of how people are feeling is the economy, and the economy is improving," Borick said.
The survey also found that 66 percent of voters would favor raising the state's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.