Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
If anyone is still asking whether Republican Pat Toomey did any damage to his reputation, a new survey puts the question to bed: nope.
The Quinnipiac University poll shows the state’s junior U.S. senator has emerged from his foray into the gun control debate with his highest ever approval rating.
Toomey’s score jumped to 48 percent – up by five points in the past month. 30 percent of voters surveyed said they disapprove of the job he’s doing.
The poll started just two days after the failure of Toomey’s controversial amendment to expand background checks on gun purchases online and at gun shows. It didn’t muster the votes it needed to overcome a filibuster.
At the time, the senator was still receiving criticism from members of his base. But Franklin & Marshall College pollster and political scientist Terry Madonna said if it’s re-election he’s worried about, Toomey shouldn’t fear losing conservative voters.
“His bigger problem is winning independent-minded voters in the Philadelphia suburbs and the Lehigh Valley,” said Madonna. “And also, by the way, in the Harrisburg suburbs.”
Madonna said even during the height of the blowback against Toomey’s amendment, speculation about the ramifications of angering conservative voters came with a big “but.”
“The ‘but’ is the whole point,” said Madonna. “The fact is that 94 percent of the voters of the state in [a Franklin & Marshall College] February poll support universal background checks for all gun sales – all gun sales. And Toomey’s proposal mirrors Pennsylvania law almost to the line.”
Madonna noted the commonwealth’s gun law was approved by a Republican legislature, Republican governor, and had the support of the National Rifle Association.
From the Quinnipiac University Poll press release:
Pennsylvania voters approve 34 - 29 percent of the way U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is handling gun control and give Sen. Toomey an overall 48 - 30 percent approval rating, his highest ever. By a 54 - 12 percent margin, voters think more favorably of Toomey because of his co-sponsorship of legislation to require expanded background checks.
Looking at support for background checks:
69 percent of voters "strongly support" the measure;
16 percent support it "somewhat;"
5 percent are "somewhat opposed;"
7 percent are "strongly opposed."
Voters disagree 68 - 27 percent with the argument that extending background checks unfairly targets gun enthusiasts. Voters do agree 56 - 36 percent that extending background checks would close loopholes for gun buyers who want to avoid such checks.
Pennsylvania voters are divided 45 - 48 percent on whether they approve of the way President Barack Obama is handling gun control and divided 48 - 48 percent on his overall job approval rating.
U.S. Sen. Robert Casey Jr. gets a 48 - 34 percent overall job approval rating, including a split 28 - 29 percent approval for the way he is handling gun-control.
"Pennsylvania voters are dissatisfied, and many are angry, with the U.S. Senate's failure to act on gun-control," Malloy said. "By wide, sometimes overwhelming margins, they still want action.
"Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey gains ground with both parties by calling for stiffer background checks for prospective gun owners."
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