HARRISBURG, PA – Today, as part of efforts to fight against cultural and political divides, a coalition of Pennsylvania progressive, faith-based, education, and anti-racism organizations released a new poll, “Building Community in the Commonwealth,” shedding light on Pennsylvania voters’ values ahead of the midterm election. Poll results suggest that current perceptions of a rural-urban divide may be overstated and that Pennsylvanians might vote for a Democratic governor and senator on Nov. 6.
The poll, commissioned by People’s Action, Reclaim Philadelphia, Keystone Progress Education Fund, Faith in Action affiliate POWER and HOPE Not Hate, was conducted by Populus and includes responses from more than 3,000 adults in all Pennsylvania counties between October 4, 2018 and October 11, 2018. The purpose of the poll is to understand the divisions in Pennsylvania, to identify the core issues that unite Pennsylvanians, and to offer insight for progressive organizers on the ground regarding people’s attitudes about identity, national policies and what motivates people to stand together.
Speakers on the call agreed that the poll provides a clear pathway to organizing and coalition building against racial divides to build transformative change.
“This poll demonstrates there is more that unites us than divides us,” said Daniel Doubet, Executive Director for Keystone Progress, a People’s Action affiliate. “We see a broad consensus for a whole host of issues, from abortion rights to bold action on climate change, whether people live in cities, towns or the countryside. More than anything else, people seem to be clamoring for leaders who represent all of us, not just an elite few.”
“As we begin to do organizing in the center of Pennsylvania, we are trying to bridge gaps between rural, urban and suburban, bridge gaps between Black, Brown and White, culture and the other gaps that separate us,” said Rev. Gregory Holston, Executive Director of POWER, a faith-based organizing group that represents over 50 congregations in Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania. “We wanted to be a part of this poll to really see where we all have common ground. What we found is the truth. Across the board, we are seeing that issue after issue, there are more things that unite us– the wealthy are getting wealthier, the poor are getting poorer and politicians seem to care more about the wealthy than individuals.”
Nick Lowles, Chief Executive Officer of HOPE Not Hate and editor of Searchlight Magazine said, “To challenge hate, to challenge the fear that drives hate, we have to go into the communities to understand where people are and why people are thinking what they’re thinking.” Lowles is also the author of a number of reports tracking the rise of extremist groups and ideologies and has been involved in anti-racist and anti-fascist struggles since the late 1980s. “What’s special about this report is that it gives us a base for action, not just something that will sit on a shelf.”
- EDUCATION: 70 percent of all Pennsylvanians believe that public schools are underfunded. There are very similar attitudes to education across the rural/urban divide, with 71% of people in cities thinking public schools are underfunded and 67 percent of people in rural communities thinking the same.
- MINIMUM WAGE: A majority of people 57 percent believed that “raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour increases the spending power of low-paid working people in society and so boosts the economy for everyone hour”, while 43 percent of people supported the view that “raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour puts a heavy burden on businesses and will result in job losses.”
- ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT: There was widespread support (70 percent) for the statement that “the Government should invest in renewable energies, like solar power over fossil fuels, like coal, which pollute the environment, while 72 percent opposed the view that “We should put job creation ahead of protecting the environment.” In keeping with the general dislike of large corporations and distrust of politicians, 76 percent agreed that “Politicians all too often put the interests of big oil and gas companies before those of local communities.”