HARRISBURG - The voting public's approval of Gov. Corbett may be eroding, damaged by his push to cut college aid and his support for new rules for women seeking abortions.
And the headaches for the governor may be just beginning. Corbett found himself in the middle of a national furor this week when he affirmed his support for a rule requiring women to get a fetal ultrasound exam before they could get an abortion.
Corbett said this week he wasn't worried that the requirement would be too intrusive, as long as it was only an external exam.
"I'm not making anybody watch, OK? Because you just have to close your eyes," Corbett said. "As long as it's on the exterior and not the interior."
In a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, voters gave Corbett a 41 percent job approval rating to 41 percent disapproving, down from 47 percent to 34 percent in a December survey.
It is the governor's lowest rating since a poll last June, when he received a 39-38 approval-disapproval score amid a dispute with legislators over steep cuts in the state budget.
"After a honeymoon as one of the country's more popular new Republican governors, Tom Corbett takes a big hit in his job approval," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "A call for cuts in state funding to its universities may have hit a nerve with parents fearful tuitions could rise."
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said it was the governor's policy not to respond to public-opinion surveys.
"We don't tout them when he's up, we don't complain when he's down," said Harley. "He doesn't govern by poll. Leadership is not a popularity contest."
Voters disapproved, by 49 percent to 36 percent, of the way Corbett is handling the state budget, and registered by 53 percent to 27 percent disapproval of his handling of aid for state-supported colleges. Opposition to cutting that aid was even stronger, at more than 2-1.
The poll also found 48 percent opposition (vs. 42 percent in favor) to a bill Corbett has said he could support - requiring women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound exam first. The screen would be turned toward the woman, but Corbett said that wouldn't be a problem, because the woman could choose not to look.
The quote quickly went nationwide, headlining news sites, lighting up Twitter, and being seized upon as campaign fodder by Democratic political groups.
The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R., Forest) was scheduled for a vote this month, but the Pennsylvania Medical Society registered its disapproval, and House leaders tabled the legislation for further study. At the same time, 27 of the 112 original cosponsors dropped their names from the bill, known as the "Women's Right to Know" act.
The Quinnipiac poll found that men oppose the ultrasound measure 51 percent to 39 percent, while women are evenly divided, with 45 percent in favor and the same percent opposed.
Voters of both sexes strongly oppose so-called transvaginal ultrasounds - men by 67 percent to 18 percent, women by 61 percent to 28 percent, according to the survey.
The poll, conducted between March 7 and Monday, surveyed 1,256 registered voters, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.