Pubdate: Tue, 07 Apr 2015
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2015 PG Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: James P. O'Toole


Slim Majority Favors Legalizing Marijuana

A new survey from Quinnipiac University depicts U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, 
R-Pa., with improving personal and job approval ratings along with 
his largest lead to date in a trial heat over potential challenger Joe Sestak.

The survey also found that a bare majority of registered voters in 
the state favored the legalization of small amounts of marijuana for 
personal use. That wasn't a big shift from the last time Quinnipiac 
asked that question, which was last year, but then the slight 
plurality, 49 percent to 48 percent, was against legalization for personal use.

In both surveys, substantial majorities favored the legalization of 
marijuana for medical purposes. The March poll found that 88 percent 
of the state's registered voters favored medical marijuana. Gov. Tom 
Wolf has said that he favors legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

Mr. Toomey's overall job approval ratings had been hovering in the 
mid-to low-40 percent range in previous Quinnipiac surveys. Their 
latest assessment, based on 1,036 interviews conducted between March 
17 and 28, found that 49 percent of the registered voters approved of 
his performance, 24 percent said they did not approve and an 
additional 27 percent were either uncertain or didn't know enough 
about the freshman Republican to supply an answer.

His personal approval rating also showed a modest uptick, with 44 
percent expressing approval and 23 percent disapproval. In previous 
Quinnipiac surveys in the last two years, Mr. Toomey's overall 
approval rating had been in the high 30s.

The overall increase in the incumbent's popularity was consistent 
with a boost in his lead in a trial heat over Mr. Sestak, the retired 
admiral he defeated in 2010 and the only Democrat who has announced a 
2016 challenge for the Toomey seat. Mr. Toomey led Mr. Sestak, 48 
percent to 35 percent.

A Quinnipiac survey in February had found a 45 percent-to-35 percent 
lead for Mr. Toomey, who won the seat over Mr. Sestak by a a margin 
of 51 percent to 49 percent.

Other recent independent surveys consistently have found Mr. Toomey 
leading his former opponent, but by slightly smaller margins.

A Franklin & Marshall College poll, conducted about the same time as 
the new Quinnipiac survey, showed Mr. Toomey leading, 34 percent to 
29 percent, with the balance undecided. In January, the 
Democratic-leaning firm, Public Policy Polling, put Mr. Toomey's lead 
over Mr. Sestak at 40 percent to 36 percent.

One question about the stronger numbers for Mr. Toomey in this survey 
was that the Quinipiac sample included equal numbers of Republicans, 
Democrats and independents in its weighted results, whereas Democrats 
hold a substantial advantage in voter registration.

According to the poll's methodology section, the sample's weighted 
percentages of self-identified registered voters were 31 percent 
Republican; 31 percent Democratic; and 31 percent independent. The 
state's voter registration - as opposed to actual turnout - is more 
heavily Democratic, with roughly 4.2 million Democrats, 3.1 million 
Republicans, and 1.1 million independents, according to 2014 statistics.

The Quinnipiac University polling institute could not be reached for 
comment about the apparent discrepancy.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom