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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Radio Smart Talk: Are Pennsylvanians changing their minds on social issues?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | May 16, 2013 3:38 PM

Radio Smart Talk for Friday, May 17:

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Pennsylvania is changing right before our eyes.  So says Franklin and Marshall College political analyst Dr. G. Terry Madonna. 

Madonna and Dr. Michael Young, another longtime analyst, write in their latest Politically Uncorrected column that this month's statewide F and M poll shows shifting attitudes on several social issues.

The poll indicates 54% favor same sex marriage, 89% support universal background checks for all gun sales, and while 54% oppose legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the opposition is down from 72% seven years ago.

Madonna says the cultural change is being led by younger Pennsylvanians.

Madonna will be on Friday's Radio Smart Talk to explain.


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  • Blyden img 2013-05-17 10:28

    How many times did Scott and Terry reference issues being either conservative or "liberal"?! Generally speaking the opposite of conservative is progressive, not liberal. Liberalism can mean a number of things, most of which are not mutually exclusive of conservatism, as the existence of conservative liberals (e.g. Neoconservatives) make clear.

    I think the tendency to conflate progressive and liberal results from having a linear, one-dimensional model of the political spectrum. In that model most contemporary liberals and progressives appear to more or less the same end of the spectrum, just as most conservatives and libertarians appear to be at the same spot on the other end. But I was shaking my head in disbelief that any political scientist, even a pollster, would work based on such an obviously flawed model.

    In future discourse, you should use the word "progressive" as the opposite of conservative, and you might want to look into other models of political perspectives, ones that at least offer a two-dimension field, if not a multidimensional space, so that you can tell the difference between, neoconservatives and libertarian, contemporary liberals and progressives.

    Which leads me to another point. Looking at the change in political values in PA in summary, univariate ways is interesting because of the extent to which the numbers have changed over time, but what would be a lot more interesting is to look at the multivariate tendencies. Telling the story that swings on the dimensions underlying any particular opinion poll question is a shift from conservative to progressive assumes that the dimensions under the question are aligned with the dimension that distinguishes progressive from conservative, i.e. acceptance of change as a positive political value, but without reference to other variables there isn't really any way of knowing whether that is true. The changes reported on marijuana and same sex marriage could just as easily be a result of a change toward more libertarian values as toward progressive ones, and in reality are likely some combination of the two. Estimating how much of the change is due to each would be really interesting, but to do it you would need analysis that considers each change in the context of how responses to those questions correlate/cluster with various other questions to get a sense of the overall political subcultures of the respondents. I heard almost none of that on today's program, and I consider that a deficiency in the story and interview.

    Last point: What is up with having a special disclaimer for gay marriage, about neither supporting nor opposing views? Why single that particular issue out for that disclaimer? It comes across as suggesting that Terry opposing gay marriage.

    PA's culture may not be our grandparents' Pennsylvania any more, but Terry Madonna remains our grandparents' political scientist.

  • billgriggs4 img 2013-05-19 10:37

    This poll isn't even remotely accurate unless the question is "how do old people in Pennsylvania feel about these issues?" Look at the age breakdown for those surveyed:

    4% 18-24
    8% 25-34
    9% 35-44
    17% 45-54
    23% 55-64
    39% 65 and older

    Only 12% were 18 to 34 while 62% were 55 and older. That's not even remotely close to the actual age breakdown of Pennsylvanians. Of those surveyed 39% were 65 and older? This poll is worthless. For instance, we know from national polls and polls from other states that the overwhelming majority of people 65 and older are opposed to legalizing marijuana while a strong majority of young people are for it. there's a huge age gap on a lot of social issues. Census data shows that only about 15.6% of Pennsylvanians are 54 and older and only around 9.2% are 55 through 64, a total of 24.8%, but 62% were 55 and older in this poll, 39% 65 and older? This is fraud.