Polling Shows A Republican Split in Pennsylvania

Trouble for GOP, but broad support for marijuana legalization and minimum wage increase.

One quarter of the way through 2021 and Pennsylvania voters are grumpy. According to the March edition of Franklin & Marshall College Poll, barely more than one-third (36%) think the state is headed in the right direction, down 20 percentage points from a pre-pandemic high point. (They are hardly more sanguine about the country: only 11% of registered voters believe there is little corruption in the federal government and just 21% think its operations are transparent.)

There may be special trouble brewing for Pennsylvania Republicans. Although the state is evenly split over Trump’s legacy as president, more than three-fifths (61%) disapprove of the vote against certifying the results of the state’s presidential election–a vote that was supported by eight Republican members of the state’s Congressional delegation. And, Keystone State Republicans are themselves divided: 42% align with Trump’s wing of the party while 38% align with a traditional view of the party. 

The internal GOP split revealed by Franklin & Marshall is consistent with a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in February that found 48% of self-identified Republicans in Pennsylvania believe the party “has lost its way,” up 17 percentage points from December. In fact, Reuters’ analysis of state voter data found that nearly three times as many Republicans are leaving their party as are Democrats. 

What’s happening in Pennsylvania seems to mirror larger national trends. A February survey by Gallup revealed that almost two-thirds of American adults support the formation of a third political party, a sentiment driven largely by Republicans. In fact, Gallup has never detected such high levels of support for a third party among members of a major party as is now evinced by Republicans. 

As New York Times columnist Bret Stephens’ observed, “Republican support for a third party jumped by 23 percentage points in the wake of Donald Trump’s defeat and his talk of forming a new party. The possibility of a full-blown GOP split in 2024 is obvious.”

By contrast, the Democratic Party is viewed favorably by vastly more Americans than the GOP. Interestingly, however, fully half of all U.S. adults identify as political independents, the highest ever measured by Gallup in a single poll. 

So what is popular in Pennsylvania 2021? The Franklin & Marshall College Poll found overwhelming support (67%) for increasing the state’s minimum wage and a clear majority (59%) in support of legalizing marijuana, a figure that is consistent with other recent polling in the state and nationally. Both issues would seem politically ripe for Pennsylvania lawmakers, but both face major hurdles in Harrisburg.