A new poll reveals that while most Pennsylvania voters, 62-30%, believe the economic benefits of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale outweigh any environmental concerns, a majority, 64-27%, also want to see the industry taxed.

Those numbers indicate that support for both the industry and a severance tax may have both slipped slightly since June, but the figures are within the margin of error.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, Democrats back drilling by a 50-41% margin, while Republicans said they would support an industry tax, 51-37%.

But in a Quinnipiac poll in June, 63% of voters supported drilling over environmental concerns, the issuing garnering strong support across all demographics (see Shale Daily, June 15). A severance tax was also supported by voters overall, 69-24%, but Republican support for a tax stood then at 59%. An April poll pegged opposition to a tax at 22%.

Voters sent a mixed message over other proposals to raise revenue in the Keystone State. The poll found all groups of Pennsylvanians support privatizing liquor stores, 62-31%, but opposed privatizing the operation of state parks, 64-28%. On the issue of privatizing health care in state prisons, voters overall rejected the idea, 43-37%, with Democrats and independents opposed but Republicans in favor.

The poll also found that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett scored his highest approval rating, 50-32%, since taking office in January (see Shale Daily, Jan. 20). Heeding the advice of his Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, Corbett on Monday proposed a Marcellus impact fee, enhanced safety provisions and incentives to increase natural gas consumption (see related story).

“The governor’s support of drilling in the Marcellus Shale and of privatizing the state’s liquor stores are in step with voters,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Interviewers for the independent survey called land lines and cell phones of 1,370 registered voters Sept. 21-26. The survey has a margin of error of plus/minus 2.7%.