Even after his fall from grace amid the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, Joe Paterno is still posting poll numbers most politicians would envy.
More than half of Pennsylvania voters surveyed still have a favorable opinion of Paterno, according to a Nov. 23 poll conducted by the North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling. Only 28 percent of the 500 respondents think poorly of him, with 14 percent not sure.
Penn State enjoys even more support, with 61 percent reporting a favorable view of the university.
The institution has been lambasted for not doing enough to stop Sandusky, a former assistant football coach charged earlier this month with molesting eights boys over 15 years, with some of the alleged attacks taking place on university property. Sandusky denies the charges.
By contrast, only 44 percent of Americans approve of President Barack Obama, according to polling group Rasmussen. Public Policy Polling pegs Gov. Tom Corbett's approval rating at about 40 percent.
"I think that as much as folks feel like Joe Paterno has erred in this situation, I don't think this is going to outweigh 60 years of good service," Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen said. "I don't think people are going to let this incident define what Penn State is."
Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling company, surveyed 500 Pennsylvania voters by telephone Nov. 17-20. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Paterno's ouster, which came just days after authorities arrested Sandusky, was met with immediate dismay on campus. Students took to the streets, tearing down lampposts and overturning a television van. A makeshift memorial bloomed overnight on Paterno's front lawn, with well-wishers leaving letters, posters and photos.
Many in Pennsylvania agree with the university's decision to terminate him, polls show. Forty-five percent of respondents in the Public Policy Polling survey thought it was the right decision, with 38 percent disagreeing and 17 percent unsure.
Other polls haven't been so kind. In a Widmeyer Communcations survey of 1,000 U.S. residents ending Nov. 21, 67 percent said Penn State's handling of the scandal pulled pages from the Catholic Church's playbook.
More than 80 percent said the money surrounding college football was a moderate to major factor in why the abuse wasn't reported earlier.
Seventy-two percent said sports play too big of a role in Division I schools.
The Public Policy Polling survey did turn up some interesting demographic quirks. Conservatives were more likely to think favorably of Paterno, and men were more likely to support Penn State. But more women disagreed with the coach's firing than men.
The one thing nearly everyone could get behind? A distaste for Sandusky, who beat former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's previous record for least popular public figure. Of those polled, 88 percent had a negative opinion of Sandusky, compared to 83 percent for Blagojevich.
Poll: Paterno viewed favorably by most
More than 50 percent of Pennsylvanians still support JoePa, poll shows.
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