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MCAP poll: Voters not ‘tuned in’ to state high court election

Monday, March 2, 2015

Despite believing that electing a justice to Pennsylvania’s highest court is “about as important as electing a governor,” few Erie County voters recognize the names of candidates competing for three open seats in the May 19 primary, according to a poll released today by the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics.

One open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court resulted from the retirement of Chief Justice Ronald Castille last December, while the other two seats were made vacant by resignations. The general election, which will be held in November, has the potential to reshape the court, which presently is controlled by a Republican majority (three Republican justices, two Democratic justices).

“The results of our poll suggest that voters have not yet tuned in to this very important election,” said MCAP Director Joseph Morris, D.A. “Whether they will ultimately tune in is anything but certain because odd-year elections suffer from notoriously low voter turnout. What's true of voters in Erie County is probably true of voters across the state.”

MCAP polled 405 (MOE +/-4.75) registered voters in Erie County Feb. 16-25.

A majority (56%) said that the election of three justices is about as important as electing a governor and one in five (20%) said that it is more important. Still, the vast majority of voters “did not recognize” the names of potential candidates: Cheryl Lynn Allen (80% did note recognize), John Bender (74% ), Sallie Updike Mundie (81%), Anne Covey (83%), and so on.

Nor did they recognize the names of sitting justices: Thomas Saylor (82% did not recognize), Michael Eakin (79%), Correale Stevens (82%), Deborah Todd (80%), or Max Baer (72%).

A plurality of voters (43%) do not know whether they approve or disapprove of the way the state Supreme Court is handling its job. When asked how much they have heard, seen or read about the upcoming primary election, voters said “a lot” (2%), “some” (8%) or “a little” (30%), while a solid majority (60%) said “nothing.” 

Turning to an issue that has received far more media attention – healthcare reform – Erie County voters have mixed opinions about the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” A majority (63%) of voters said that the law has not had a direct impact on their family.  In spite of this, a plurality of voters said that they have a generally unfavorable (49%) opinion of the law compared to 35% who say they have a favorable opinion of it (14% are unsure, 2% do not know). However, a strong plurality (46%) said that they want their representative in Congress to work to improve the law rather than repeal it and replace it with something else (21%), repeal it and replace it with nothing (9%), or do something else (17%).

For complete results, visit MCAP.