Pennsylvania, July 12-13, 2015

Cities, States & Famous People

Maryland is the Best of Bad Options

 “Crab cakes and football, that’s what Maryland does!” AND be the most desirable alternative state to live in for Pennsylvanians.  A 23% plurality say that of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states, they would most prefer to live in Maryland. Maryland is followed closely by Delaware (21%), where limited liability corporations outnumber residents 2-to-1. New York (14%) and Ohio (14%) tie for third, followed by New Jersey (11%) and West Virginia (9%). A plurality of women choose Maryland (26%) while men choose Delaware (22%). Pennsylvanians from the different regions of the state have varying opinions about this. In the Northern Tier, Ohio (23%) and Maryland (22%) were the top two selections. Those in the Philadelphia/Southeast region were the most likely to choose Delaware (32%, see #10 on this list) while Scranton/Lehigh Valley natives were most  likely to choose New York (26%). Almost a third of South Central Pennsylvanians (32%) would choose Maryland, and participants from Pittsburgh/Southwest choose Ohio (32%). 

Q: Which of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states would you most prefer to live in: Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, or West Virginia?

Top Pennsylvania City

Almost a third of Pennsylvanians choose Pittsburgh (30%) as the Pennsylvania city they would most like to live in, followed by Philadelphia (19%). Lancaster took a surprising third place (12%), beating out Erie (8%) and Allentown (7%).

As survey respondents selected a city other than the one in which they lived, we found a great deal of loyalty to a region’s largest city.  However, people living in the Southwest region were more likely to want to live in Pittsburgh (56%) than Southeasterners were to live in Philadelphia (36%). In South Central PA, they choose Pittsburgh (29%) and Lancaster (21%) while Scranton/Lehigh Valley residents choose Allentown (23%). 

Q: Which major city in Pennsylvania would you most prefer to live in: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Reading, Scranton, Bethlehem, Lancaster or Harrisburg? If you live in one of these cities now, please select a city other than the one in which you live.

Most Respected State System University

Indiana University (16%) narrowly edges out West Chester University (15%) as the most respected University in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Bloomsburg and Slippery Rock tie for third (11%), followed by Kutztown (8%) and Millersville (8%).

This ranking follows total enrollment numbers relatively closely, as shown below. Regional loyalty also plays a significant role here. Indiana University’s lead grows in the Northern Tier (28%) and Pittsburgh/Southwest (30%). In the Philadelphia/Southeast region, over a third identify West Chester University as the state system school they respect the most (35%). The Scranton/Lehigh Valley region chooses Kutztown University (27%) while those in South Central are split between Shippensburg (20%), Millersville (19%) and Indiana University (18%).

State System School



Total Enrollment

Poll Results

West Chester




















Slippery Rock




















(Note: Only those schools with total enrollment above 7,000 were included).

Q: Which of the following universities in the Pennsylvania State System do you have the most respect for: Bloomsburg University, California University, Indiana University, Kutztown University, Millersville University, Shippensburg University, Slippery Rock University, OR West Chester University?

Most Respected Private College or University

The two pre-eminent private schools of Pennsylvania are University of Pennsylvania (29%) and Carnegie Mellon University (26%), in a battle pitting the Philadelphia Ivy against Pittsburgh’s nationally-acclaimed research university. Bucknell University (9%) and Lehigh University (9%) tie for third. Villanova University comes in fourth (8%) followed by Franklin and Marshall College (5%), Lafayette College (4%) and Dickinson College (3%).

In the Lehigh vs. Lafayette rivalry, Lehigh wins this round (9-4%), driven by strong support in the Scranton/Lehigh Valley region (30%).  Similarly, a majority of participants in the Philadelphia/Southeast region select University of Pennsylvania (54%) while Pittsburgh/Southwest participants overwhelmingly choose Carnegie Mellon (70%) as the most-respected. Pennsylvania natives are more likely to choose Carnegie Mellon (30%) over University of Pennsylvania (25%) while non-natives currently living in Pennsylvania choose Penn (38-19%).  


Q: Which of the following private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania do you have the most respect for: Bucknell University, Carnegie Mellon University, Franklin and Marshall College, Dickinson College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, University of Pennsylvania, or Villanova University?

Favorite Famous Pennsylvanian

A plurality of Pennsylvanians say Bradley Cooper, the pride of Philadelphia and star of last year’s blockbuster American Sniper, is their favorite living famous Pennsylvanian (17%). Cooper is followed by Kevin Bacon (13.95%, also a Philadelphia son) and, in what may be the shock of the survey, Taylor Swift, (13.52%), the girl next door from Reading, in third place. Note, however, that Swift’s most loyal and adoring fans are likely to be under the age of 18, and thus are not included in survey research. Hailing from Upper Darby, Tina Fey earns the fourth spot (13%), followed by Philadelphians Will Smith (11%), Patti LaBelle (11%), Kevin Hart (6%), Bobby Rydell (5%) and Meadville native Sharon Stone (3%). More than a quarter of young adults say Tina Fey is their favorite famous Pennsylvanian from this list (18-39: 26%) while the middle-age groups follow the overall results and choose Bradley Cooper (40-54: 25%, 55-65: 17%). Those aged 66 and older choose Patti LaBelle (22%). 

Q: Which of the following currently living famous Pennsylvanians is your favorite: Kevin Bacon, Bradley Cooper, Tina Fey, Kevin Hart, Patti LaBelle, Bobby Rydell, Will Smith, Sharon Stone, or Taylor Swift?

Greatest Athlete

Last year, we shamefully failed to include Joe Montana, The Comeback Kid of New Eagle, in our list of greatest athletes from the state. This year we remedied that and also removed Ken Griffey Jr., Stan Musial, and Johnny Unitas, who all tied at 6% last year. These changes did not affect Wilt Chamberlain’s status as the greatest athlete from Pennsylvania (2014: 24%, 2015: 24%). He is followed by golf-great “The King” Arnold Palmer (2014: 14%, 2015: 21%). Joe Montana earns the third spot this year (17%) followed by Dan Marino (2014: 14%, 2015: 12%), Joe Namath (2014: 10%, 2015: 10%) and Kobe Bryant (2014: 10%, 2015: 8%). Twenty-six percent of men consider Chamberlain the greatest athlete from Pennsylvania, followed by Palmer and Montana tied at 21%. Women are more evenly split between Chamberlain (22%) and Palmer (21%), with Montana in a more distant third (13%). 

Q: In your opinion, which of the following Pennsylvania natives is the greatest athlete from our state: Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Dan Marino, Joe Namath, Arnold Palmer, or Joe Montana?

Another Day, Another Dollar?

Another Day, Another Dollar?

Not in PA.  A substantial two-thirds of Pennsylvanians say they enjoy their job, compared to just 25% who say it is “just a way to pay the bills.” Those in the South Central region of the state are the most likely to enjoy their jobs (75%), followed by Philadelphia/Southeast (72%). The Northern Tier follows the overall sample (67% enjoy) while participants in the Pittsburgh/Southwest (54%) and Scranton/Lehigh Valley (56%) regions are less likely to say they enjoy their job. People who work outdoors are significantly more likely to enjoy their job (81%) than the overall sample, while those working in a factory are most likely to say their job is just a way to pay the bills (43%). 

Q: Do you generally enjoy your job or is it just a way to pay the bills?

Most Pennsylvanians (43%) work in an office. Reflecting the changing nature of the workplace, 13% say they work from home, followed by 9% in a factory, 9% outdoors, and 5% who say their job is primarily travel-based. In a state littered with old factories, it is particularly noteworthy that more people now work from home than work in a factory. One in three Pennsylvanians work in a small company of 0-25 employees. A smaller portion (19%) work for large companies with more than 1,000 employees. 

Q: Which of the following best describes your work setting: Factory, Office, Travel-based, Outdoors, or Work from Home?

Q: How many employees does your company have?

What Really Matters: Food & Fairs

Chain Family Restaurants- Old Standbys Hanging On

Despite challenges from newer upstarts, the old standbys of the chain family restaurant business continue to find favor among Pennsylvanians. Endless breadsticks carry the day as Pennsylvanians identify Olive Garden as their favorite chain family restaurant (22%). Red Lobster comes in second at 14%. Of the three steakhouses included, Texas Roadhouse earns the most support (13%), followed by Outback (10%) and LongHorn (9%). In the Italian chain category, Olive Garden dominates Carrabba’s Italian Grill (22-5%).  The following table demonstrates that tastes are not driven simply by number of locations.

On the partisan front, Democrats are more likely to choose Olive Garden (27%) than Republicans (19%) and Independents (15%). A quarter of women choose Olive Garden (25%) while men are more split between Olive Garden (19%), Texas Roadhouse (13%) and Red Lobster (13%).

Chain Restaurant

Number of Locations in PA

Poll Results

Chili’s Grill and Bar

38 (approximately)


Red Lobster



Red Robin






Texas Roadhouse



Cracker Barrel



Olive Garden



LongHorn Steakhouse



Carrabba’s Italian Grill



(These counts were obtained using location finders on each restaurant’s website.)

Q: Which of the following chain family restaurants is your favorite: LongHorn Steakhouse, Texas Roadhouse, Olive Garden, Chili’s Grill and Bar, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Red Lobster, Outback Steakhouse, Cracker Barrel, or Red Robin?

Pennsylvania Fairs

According to the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs 2015 calendar, there are 109 fairs in Pennsylvania this year. Since Harper Polling is decidedly pro-fair, we wanted to find out how many Pennsylvanians share this penchant for rickety rides, futile games and feel-good food.  It turns out that more than half of the Pennsylvania population (57%) visits a local carnival or fair in their area during the Summer or early Fall. Among Pennsylvania natives this number increases to 62%. Those in the Northern Tier are most likely to attend a fair (74%), followed by Scranton/Lehigh Valley (67%), South Central PA (64%) and Pittsburgh/Southwest (53%). A majority of those in the Philadelphia/Southeast region say they do not attend a local carnival or fair (55%). 

While it’s a point of some controversy, the York Fair is known as “America’s Oldest Fair.” Fifty-five years ago this September, President John F. Kennedy spoke at the York Fair weeks before he would defeat Richard Nixon by 2% to carry Pennsylvania and win the Presidency. 

Q: Do you visit a local carnival or fair in your area during the Summer or early Fall?

Scrapple, the Prime Rib of Pennsylvania

One in three Pennsylvanians say they enjoy eating the quintessential mystery meat of Pennsylvania, scrapple (34%). While we don’t have any national data to support it (because no one else cares), we’d be willing to bet that’s much higher than the national average. The Philadelphia/Southeast region is home to the most scrapple lovers (56% yes), who are gearing up for ScrappleFest 2015 at Reading Terminal Market.  Here you’re likely to find the distinctive Philly/South Jersey recipe, which is quite different than the Pennsylvania Dutch recipe known as panhaas.  This brand is native to South Central PA, which is home to the second most rabid scrapple fans (42% yes).  Pittsburghers are inexplicably, and tragically, vehement scrapple haters (70% no). Next year, we’ll do a deep dive on pierogis.

Q: Do you enjoy eating scrapple?

Convenience Store Wars

After earning the inaugural title of “Favorite Convenience Store in Pennsylvania”, Sheetz has slipped to a close second behind Wawa for the past two years (34-32%). GetGo remains a distant third at 10%.

As in previous years, there is considerable regional variation in convenience store preference. Wawa dominates in the Philadelphia/Southeast region (81%) and also claims the title in Scranton/Lehigh Valley (45%) followed by Turkey Hill (19%) and Sheetz (14%). Sheetz is king in South Central PA (59%) and the Northern Tier (58%). In the Pittsburgh/Southwest region, Sheetz leads at 45%, followed by Southwest regional darling GetGo at 35%. 

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

“Fuel and Food are Quick, but the Fealty is Forever”-The New York Times

This year, our weird curiosity with convenience stores continues as we look closer at what makes convenience store fans pick a brand and stick with it. With just one in three Pennsylvanians citing "proximity to work or home” (31%), it is clear that convenience store loyalty goes far beyond convenience these days.  Twenty-eight percent say “food” is the reason they choose a store followed by “gas prices” at 22%. This would seem to indicate a perception by many that there is less variance in gas prices than in the quality of the food between competing convenience stores.

When you look at the individual store brands, the attraction for customers varies.  Thirty-six percent of Sheetz fans say they go there primarily to “Feel the Love” (and the heartburn) after enjoying a “Boss Bacon” or “Atomic” Burger.  Gas prices are the allure for nearly half of all GetGo patrons (47%).  Wawa loyalists split their reasoning between the food (29%) – Hoagiefest!—and proximity to work or home (30%). 

Q: And which of the following is the primary reason that store is your favorite: Food, Gas prices, Coffee, Partnership deals with grocery stores and other businesses, OR Proximity to your work or home?

Fast Food Feud

Chick-fil-A is the undisputed favorite fast food chain of Pennsylvanians at 26%. Despite declining sales, McDonald’s still has enough gold in its golden arches to rank second (12%), followed by Subway (12%), Wendy’s (11%) and Arby’s (10%) in the top five. Burger King falls out of the top five this year (9%). We replaced Taco Bell, KFC and Hardee’s, three low performers from last year, with Chipotle (7%), Sonic (4%) and Five Guys (5%). However, this had no measurable impact on Chick-fil-A’s dominance. It is worth noting that all of the burger joints (including Arby’s, pollster prerogative) make up 51% of the sample, while Chick-fil-A, Chipotle and Subway combine for 45%. Chick-fil-A peaks in the Philadelphia/Southeast region (37%) while Chipotle earns double digit support in Pittsburgh/Southwest (12%).  Last year, Seniors represented a last bastion of support for McDonald’s, ranking it as their favorite, but this year Mickey Dee’s slips below Chick-fil-A (19%, McDonald’s: 18%) among the senior crowd.

Q: Which of the following is your favorite fast food place: Arby’s, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle, Sonic, McDonald’s, Subway, Five Guys, or Wendy’s?

Old Fashioned Chewing Gums

For some reason, we wanted to find out which old-fashioned chewing gum stirs up the greatest feelings of nostalgia among Pennsylvanians.  About 40% of Pennsylvanians would like to see Chiclets have a major revival (39%) followed by Fruit Stripe gum (24%), Big League Chew (16%) and Bubble Gum Cigarettes (10%). There is a pronounced generational difference of opinion on this topic, with young adults far more likely to select Big League Chew (18-39: 42%), middle-aged adults pining for Fruit Stripe (40-54: 35%) and older adults wishing for Chiclets (55-65: 48%, 66+: 58%).

Extra credit goes to anyone who can name the supreme Senate staffer who is the grandson of Chiclets founder, Louis Mahle of Ambler, PA.

Q: Which of the following old fashioned chewing gums would you most like to see have a major revival: Big League Chew, Bubble Gum Cigarettes, Chiclets, or Fruit Stripe?

Life, Death and the Intermediary

Conspiracy Theories

Over 50 years later, half of Pennsylvanians still believe that the conspiracy theory involving President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is most likely true. There is a general consensus, as 54% of Republicans, 51% of Democrats and 45% of Independents agree. Only 14% of participants say none of the conspiracy theories listed are true. Independents are the most skeptical of any of the theories, at 19% “none of them”, followed by Republicans (13% none) and Democrats (11% none).  Skeptics are most likely to live in the Northern Tier (22% none of them), while 69% of those surveyed from the Scranton/Lehigh Valley region believe the JFK assassination conspiracy theory is most likely true. 

Q: Which conspiracy theory do you believe is most likely true: That the 1969 Apollo moon landing was faked, That Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in assassinating President John F. Kennedy, That Elvis is still alive, That people within the United States government knew that the 9/11 attacks were going to happen but did nothing to stop them, That the CIA created AIDS, OR That Princess Diana was intentionally killed?

Life After Death

A staggering 75% of Pennsylvanians “believe in life after death.” In fact, a strong 57% major of Pennsylvanians say they definitely believe in life after death. Participants from the Northern Tier (86% yes) and South Central (83%) regions were the most likely to believe, while those in the Scranton/Lehigh Valley area were least likely (68% yes). Sixty-seven percent of those 66 or older say they definitely believe in life after death, compared to just 44% of 18 to 39 year olds. 

Q: Do you believe in life after death?


A surprising 69% majority of Pennsylvanians share famous physicist Stephen Hawking’s belief that “there are other life forms in the Universe besides those found on Earth.” Men (75% yes) and young adults (18-39: 82%) are far more likely to believe this than women (63%) and those aged 40 and above (40-54: 64%, 55-65: 67%, 66+: 69%). We’re as surprised as you are.

Q: Do you believe that there are other life forms in the universe besides those found on Earth?


Okay, how about spirits and ghosts?  Six in ten Pennsylvanians believe in spirits or ghosts. In contrast to the ‘other life forms’ results, women (62%) are more likely to believe in ghosts than men (57% yes). Philadelphia residents (69% yes) are more attune to the supernatural than those in Pittsburgh (53% yes).

Q: Do you believe in spirits or ghosts?


Jerry Seinfeld recently made news by warning that rising political correctness is on a collision course with comedy.   And comedy will be the loser. 

We asked Pennsylvanians whether they agree with the legendary stand-up comedian and sitcom actor.  Seven out of every 10 Pennsylvanians say Seinfeld is right that “political correctness is killing comedy in this country.”  A full 53% say they strongly agree. Majorities of voters from all parties agree (Republicans: 85%, Democrats: 62%, Independents: 74%). 

Q: As you may have heard, comedian Jerry Seinfeld recently said that political correctness is killing comedy in this country. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Full Results & Methodology

The sample size for the survey is 546 adults in Pennsylvania and the margin of error is +/-4.19%. Reponses were gathered through land line interviews conducted using Interactive Voice Response (IVR). The survey was conducted July 12-13, 2015 by Harper Polling. The total percentages for responses may not equal 100% due to rounding.

Previous Our Commonwealth Polls

Harper Polling