Our Commonwealth Poll 2014
Pennsylvania's People, Places & Culture

Most Respected University

Penn State University holds the crown as the most respected institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Our Commonwealth poll shows that 24% of Pennsylvanians have the highest respect for Penn State, followed by Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pennsylvania which are tied at 17%. 

The Northern Tier region of the state is the strongest bastion of support for Penn State at 45%; Bucknell University comes in second in the region at 11%.  Penn State is the top choice in two other regions.  In the Scranton-Lehigh Valley, Penn State receives 37% followed by Temple University at 17%.  In the South Central region, Penn State leads Indiana University of Pennsylvania 38%-11%.  African-Americans in Pennsylvania rate Temple University the highest at 27%, followed by UPenn at 22%.  

Q: Which of the following universities in Pennsylvania do you respect the most: Bucknell University, Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University, Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, or Villanova University?

Greatest Pennsylvanian

Though born in Boston, Benjamin Franklin is the undisputed king prince of Pennsylvania.  An overwhelming 57% majority of present-day Pennsylvanians consider Franklin the “greatest Pennsylvanian” in history.  Actor, comic and author Bill Cosby comes in second at 16%, followed by state founder William Penn and frontiersman Daniel Boone at 7% each. 

Bill Cosby and William Penn receive their strongest backing from those in the Philadelphia/Southeast region with 21% and 11% of the vote respectively.  Democrats give Cosby 22% of their vote, compared to Republicans who give Cosby 7% of their vote.

Banker and industrialist Andrew Mellon does best in his home region of Pittsburgh/Southwest with 8% of the vote.  Boone receives a solid 19% of the vote in the Northern Tier region.  American flag maker Betsy Ross receives 10% of the vote among women, but just 0.43% of the vote among men.

Pennsylvania’s only U.S. President, James Buchanan, came in last at 2% of the overall vote.

Q: In your opinion, which of the following is the greatest Pennsylvanian: Daniel Boone, James Buchanan, Bill Cosby, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Mellon, William Penn, or Betsy Ross?

Best Modern President

With 41% of the vote, Ronald Reagan is considered by Pennsylvanians to be our greatest modern United States President; Bill Clinton is second at 28%.   Reagan receives 69% of the vote among Republicans and 46% among independents. Clinton leads Barack Obama 46-36% among Democrats.  Those 18-to-39 years of age are the only age group where Clinton leads Reagan, 33-31%.

Women (27%) are more than twice as likely to pick Obama as men are (12%).  Although Reagan leads among both genders, men (48%) are significantly more likely to pick Reagan than women are (33%).

Notably, those in the Philadelphia/Southeast region pick Obama as our best modern President with 35% of the vote, followed by Clinton and Reagan at 29% and 25% respectively.


Q: Which of the following is the best United States President from the modern era: Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan?

Favorite Fast Food

Chick-fil-A is the favorite fast food chain of Pennsylvanians with 25% of the vote.  Subway (15%), McDonald’s (13%), Burger King (12%) and Wendy’s (12%) round out the top five.  Chick-fil-A enthusiasts are most likely to be Republican (29%) and live in the Philadelphia/Southeast region (36%). 

Other notable findings include:

                 -Arby’s fans are more likely to live in the Pittsburgh/Southwest region (15%)

                 -Subway fans are more likely to live in the Northern Tier (28%)

                 -Wendy’s fans are more likely to live in South Central PA (20%)

                 -McDonald’s and Burger King are most popular in the Scranton/Lehigh Valley
                   region (24%, 22%)

                 -Seniors call McDonald’s (19%) their favorite chain followed by Subway (17%)

Q: Which of the following is your favorite fast food place: Arby’s, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, Hardee’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell, or Wendy’s?

Favorite Beer

With 40% of the vote, Yuengling is the clear winner in the competition for favorite beer among Pennsylvania’s breweries.   At 12%, Iron City comes in second overall, receiving 29% of the vote in the Pittsburgh/Southwest region. 

The results show signs of regional bias toward local breweries:

-Straub’s support increases to 8% in the Northern Tier
-Victory’s and Yards’ support increase to 8% and 6% respectively in the Philadelphia/Southeast region
-Troeg’s support increases to 8% in South Central PA

Q: Which of the following Pennsylvania beers is your favorite: Iron City, Straub, Troegs, Victory, Yards, or Yuengling?

Philly Cheesesteak vs. Primanti Bros

In a battle between the signature sandwiches of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the Philly cheesesteak wins in a landslide with 73% of the vote.   In the Philadelphia/Southeast region, the cheesesteak prevails 94-2%.  In the Pittsburgh/Southwest region, the Primanti Bros. beef sandwich closes the gap to just 12% behind the cheesesteak.

(Note: We are aware that this is an unfair comparison for a variety of reasons and chose to ignore them.)

Q: Which of the following two famous Pennsylvania sandwiches do you prefer: the Pittsburgh Primanti Brothers beef sandwich or the Philadelphia cheesesteak? 

Table or Booth?

As the age-old question goes, ‘would you like a table or booth?’  In Pennsylvania, the answer will be ‘booth’ 69% of the time.  Seniors are most likely to say ‘table’ at 35%.  On this issue, and maybe this issue alone, Republicans and Democrats are in complete agreement.  Twenty-eight percent of Republicans and 28% of Democrats say ‘table’ while 69% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats say ‘booth.’

Q: When you go to a restaurant, would you prefer to sit at a table or a booth?

Favorite Convenience Store

The gripping question that gave life to Our Commonwealth Poll back in 2013: In the land of convenience stories, which is the favorite of the natives?  Sheetz was the inaugural winner.  However, this year’s inclusion of Pittsburgh-based GetGo has tipped the scales to Philadelphia giant Wawa with 33% of the vote.  Sheetz finishes a very close second at 31%.  

As a chain convenience store not owned or operated by an oil-and-gas company, GetGo’s inclusion proved warranted as it finished third overall at 11%.  In the Pittsburgh/Southwest region, Sheetz leads GetGo 45-37%.  Sheetz also leads in the Northern Tier by 59-11% over Turkey Hill and in South Central PA 57-13% over Rutter’s. 

In the Philadelphia/Southeast region, Wawa’s lead of 77-8% over 7-Eleven propels them to the top spot statewide.  Republicans and Democrats disagree on the matter.  Republicans pick Sheetz over Wawa 36-28% while Democrats pick Wawa over Sheetz 37-25%.

Q: Which of the following convenience stores is your favorite: 7-Eleven, GetGo, Rutter’s, Sheetz, Turkey Hill, or Wawa?

Favorite Hershey's Candy

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups continue to reign as the favorite Hershey’s candy of Pennsylvanians.  Reese’s are the pick of 39%, which is a 4% decrease from 2013.  Hershey’s Chocolate Bars moved into second place (18%) with York Peppermint Patties dropping 5% into a tie with Hershey’s Kisses at 12%.  Kit Kat saw a slight 3% uptick to 15% and third place overall. 

In South Central PA, among those who know Hershey best,
 Reese’s Cups receive their most enthusiastic support (48%) of anywhere in the state.

Q: Which of the following is your favorite Hershey’s candy bar: Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s Chocolate Bars, Kit Kat or York Peppermint Patties?

Greatest Pennsylvania Athlete

With 24% of the vote, Philadelphia’s Wilt Chamberlain is ranked as the greatest athlete from Pennsylvania.  Chamberlain’s place at the top is driven by very strong support from the Philadelphia/Southeast region where he receives 45% of the vote. Chamberlain fans are twice as likely to be Democrats (32%) as they are Republicans (15%).    

It’s a close race among Republicans as Arnold Palmer leads with 17%, followed by Dan Marino at 16% and Chamberlain at 15%.  Among Democrats, Dan Marino and Arnold Palmer tie for second behind Chamberlain with 12%.

Arnold Palmer is the winner in the Northern Tier (25%) and Pittsburgh/Southwest (20%).  Pittsburgh native Dan Marino comes in second in his home region with 17%.  Marino wins in South Central PA with 21% over Joe Namath at 13%.  Laces out.  

Q: In your opinion, which of the following Pennsylvania natives is the greatest athlete from our state: Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Ken Griffey Jr., Dan Marino, Stan Musial, Joe Namath, Arnold Palmer, or Johnny Unitas? 

Next Championship in PA Professional Sports

Twenty-nine percent of Pennsylvanians believe the Pittsburgh Steelers are the professional sports franchise most likely to bring a championship to the state.  The Philadelphia Eagles are a close second at 24%, followed by the Pittsburgh Penguins at 15%. 

Between the Steelers and Eagles, their respective fan bases have about equal hope in their teams: 45% in the Pittsburgh/Southwest region for the Steelers and  46% in the Philadelphia/Southeast region for the Eagles.  The Steelers prevail in the Northern Tier (33%) and South Central PA (40%) while the Eagles come out on top in the Scranton/Lehigh Valley (38%).

Women were twice as likely as men to be unsure about which team would win the next championship in their sport (14-7%).

Here is how fans in the regions of Philadelphia/Southeast and Pittsburgh/Southwest, view the championship prospects for their local teams:


                46% pick the Eagles

                10% pick the Flyers

                10% pick the Phillies

                5% pick the Sixers


                45% pick the Steelers

                28% pick the Penguins

                14% pick the Pirates

Q: Which of Pennsylvania’s professional sports teams do you think will win the next championship in their sport: Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia 76ers, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Philadelphia Flyers?

Best NFL Coach

By a margin of 46-34%, Pennsylvanians believe the Steelers have the better coach in Mike Tomlin than the Eagles do in Chip Kelly.  In their respective home regions, Tomlin is the pick of 75% of those in the Pittsburgh/Southwest while Kelly is the pick of 59% of those in the Philadelphia/Southeast, and 22% are undecided. Eagles fans are reserving judgment as year two of the Chip Kelly Era in Philadelphia approaches.

Q: In your opinion, who is a better NFL football coach: Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, or Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles?

Best Amusement Park

Hershey Park is Pennsylvania’s top amusement park according to Commonwealth residents.  Hershey leads Dorney Park 36-18%, followed by Knoebel’s Amusement Resort at 15% and Idlewild at 14%.  Hershey is the top pick in the Northern Tier (31%) and South Central (50%) regions.  Knoebel’s places second in both regions as well at 28% and 22% respectively.  Knoebel’s wins the Scranton/Lehigh Valley region 45-27% over Hershey.  Idlewild prevails in the Pittsburgh/Southwest region 39-32% over Hershey.  Dorney Park is the top pick of Philadelphia/Southeast residents 38-35% ahead of Hersey.

Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to name Knoebel’s as their top choice.  Democrats are twice as likely to pick Dorney Park as are Republicans.

Q: Which of the following Pennsylvania amusement parks is your favorite: Dorney Park, Dutch Wonderland, Hershey Park, Idlewild, Knoebels Amusement Resort, or Waldameer Park?

Best Vacation Destination

A third of all Pennsylvanians name the Jersey Shore as their top vacation destination.  Maryland’s Eastern Shore (17%) and the Poconos (16%) place second and third, followed by upstate New York (10%) and Deep Creek Lake, Maryland (7%).  Democrats (36%) and those in Philadelphia/Southeast (54%) are prototypical Jersey Shore goers.

The Poconos is the preferred vacation spot of those in the Northern Tier.  The Scranton/Lehigh Valley area is split between the Poconos (31%) and the Jersey Shore (34%).  Pittsburgh/Southwest and South Central PA are split between the Eastern Shore and the Jersey Shore.  That’s impressive reach for the Jersey and Eastern Shores into central and western Pennsylvania.

Favorite Holiday

A truly confounding 44% percent of Pennsylvanians name something other than Christmas as their favorite holiday.  Thanksgiving comes in second to Christmas 56-20% followed by the (Happy) Fourth of July (9%), Easter (8%), and Memorial Day (4%).  Christmas gets its weakest support from those in the Philadelphia/Southeast region at 52%.  Pagans.

Women (64%) are significantly more likely to pick Christmas than men (48%).  Men (24%) are more likely to pick Thanksgiving than women (16%).  Easter scores the highest in the Northern Tier at 11%.

Q: Which of the following holidays is your favorite: Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, or Thanksgiving?

Favorite Season

Fall is Pennsylvania’s favorite season of the year with 37% of the vote.  Summer trails with 31%, followed by Spring with 25% and Winter at just 7%.  Winter is most popular in the Northern Tier but with just 11% of the vote in the region.  Fall is more popular in South Central PA than any other area of the Commonwealth.  Forty-one percent of Pittsburgh/Southwest residents prefer Summer.

Men and Republicans are more likely than women to prefer Fall while women and Democrats are more likely to prefer Summer.  

Q: What is your favorite season: Fall, Winter, Spring, or Summer?


Full Results & Methodology

The sample size for the survey is 568 and the margin of error is +/-4.11%.  The Interactive Voice Response (IVR) automated telephone survey was conducted June 25-26, 2014 by Harper Polling.  The total percentages for responses may not equal 100% due to rounding.

Harper Polling