Poll shows Obama leading in Pa., despite low approval numbers

President Obama's approval rating may be in the tank, but it's good enough to hold off his main Republican challengers, according to a Franklin & Marshall poll released Thursday.

'The takeaway is that the president has weak job performance, period," said poll director Terry Madonna. "The conclusion is that Pennsylvania, given Obama's job performance, will be very competitive next year."

The late October poll shows Obama beating several Republican contenders, including Mitt Romney, in a hypothetical matchup.

Obama leads the former Massachusetts governor 35% to 26% and Herman Cain, the businessman, 38% to 24%. Obama maintains a 20% lead over Texas Gov. Perry, 40% to 20% and a 13% advantage over former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum, 38% to 25%.

At the same time between 26% and 30% of individuals in each head-to-head match up don't know whom they will support in next year's election.

And more voters (52 percent) believe that it is time for a change than believe Obama deserves re-election (42 percent).

But it is still too early to say how Obama will fare next year given that half the voters are still no paying attention to the presidential race and the GOP race has had five different candidates as front runners, said Madonna.

"It's very unsettled," said Madonna.

When it comes to job performance ratings the president, the state's two U.S. Senators - Pat Toomey and Bob Casey Jr. - and Gov. Corbett are all coming in below 40 percent. 

Madonna said he thought one of the more interesting findings was how Pennsylvanians ranked their most important state issues.

The poll shows they would rather see bridges fixed than be able to buy bourbon at the local supermarket.

"Only one issue got majority support and that was they want the legislature to do a transportation plan," said Madonna, speaking of the stalled effort to find revenue to fix Pennsylvania's ailing roads and bridges and shore up public transit systems.

Corbett formed a transportation commission to assess the problems and develop recommendation of how to pay for improvements. The commission issued its report three months ago, but Corbett has yet to offer his proposal and has said it is not among his immediate priorities.

The poll found that passing a comprehensive transportation plan was number one (54%) second most important issue was enacting a Marcellus Shale gas extraction tax  (43%), followed by passing legislation approving school tuition vouchers (39 %).  Selling state liquor stores - which has emerged as a top issue in the House driven by Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) - came in last (17 %).

The poll surveyed 525 people, among them 419 were registered voters, between Oct. 24 and Oct. 31. The sampling error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points for non-registered voters and plus or minus 4.8 percentage points among registered voters.

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