The folks at Public Policy Polling (PPP) were curious: what do people in Pennsylvania think of now-former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, now that Paterno’s been fired as a result of the child rape scandal surrounding his former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky? And their curiosity didn’t stop there: what did Pennsylvanians think of Paterno’s firing? What do they think of Penn State itself? And what do they think of the man accused of some of the worst crimes imaginable – Sandusky himself?
It’s the response to that last question that was at once the most predictable and most fascinating. Predictable, because Sandusky now has the dubious distinction of being the least popular person about whom PPP has ever conducted a poll. 88 percent of those polled said they view Sandusky unfavorably, while three percent said they had a positive opinion of him. On the one hand: well, of course Sandusky would be that unpopular. The nature of the allegations against him are too much to overcome.
On the other hand: three percent still have a positive opinion of him?! Yeah, we get that the guy has a right to due process and all that, but have you seen how his lawyer is trying to defend him? Not to mention: Sandusky admitted to showering with boys! In the absolute best-case scenario (which would have to involve a vast conspiracy against Sandusky), he’s really, really creepy! As far as we can tell, having a positive opinion of Sandusky requires not knowing who he is, having extraordinarily little faith in the grand jury that investigated him, or…well, something worse than those other two reasons, let’s put it that way.
There were other interesting results of the poll, too. Penn State, for example, still enjoys great popularity: 61 percent of those polled viewed it favorably, next to just 25 percent with a negative opinion. And Paterno is still popular: he was viewed favorably by nearly a 2-to-1 margin (51 percent to 28 percent), and viewed favorably in every demographic. Interestingly, though, while Paterno received support, so did the decision to fire him: 45 percent thought it was the right call, while 38 percent disagreed.
The Sandusky numbers, though, are what we’re really going to keep thinking about. Who are those three percent who still like him? Why? Can PPP get back in touch with that three percent and ask them why they still like this guy? Whatever their reasoning, we’d strongly disagree, of course – but we’d like some closure all the same, to put our minds somewhat at ease. Oh, and as for the previous least popular person PPP ever polled anyone on: former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. And we bet anything he’d recoil at the crimes Sandusky’s accused of committing, too.
Photo by Andy Colwell for the Patriot-News