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Poll finds slim majority support Paterno's firing

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Pennsylvania voters by a slim majority support the firing of legendary Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno in the university's child sexual abuse scandal, according to poll results released on Friday.

A larger majority said they think football has too much influence at the school, which has been rocked by allegations former assistant coach Joe Sandusky sexually abused 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Sandusky faces 52 counts of child sexual abuse. Paterno, the university's head football coach for 46 years, has been fired as has university President Graham Spanier.

The Quinnipiac University poll found 52 percent of those surveyed supported Paterno's dismissal and 43 percent opposed the move.

More people, 74 percent, said they approved of Spanier's firing, and 13 percent disapproved.

Two-thirds of those polled said they think football has too much influence at Penn State, the survey found.

About half said they were not at all interested in following college football, while a fifth described themselves as very interested in the sport.

A large majority of 85 percent said they have been closely following news about the Penn State case.

The poll was taken from November 28 to December 5 to land lines and cell phones of 1,453 registered voters. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Meanwhile some Penn State fans are still trying to show Paterno some love. There is what the alumni magazine, the Penn Stater, called a grassroots effort to have 10,000 birthday cards sent to Paterno's house in time for his 85th birthday on December 21.

The website of the Baltimore Chapter of the alumni association reports an even higher target of 109,000 cards, which is approximately the seating capacity of Beaver Stadium, where Paterno coached for decades.

The Baltimore site, various web postings and even a group email from a State College condo association list Paterno's home address.

"I think it's just support for a guy who was there for 60 years," said John Van Buren, a 1969 Penn State graduate who lives in the Philadelphia area. He plans to send a card.

"I support Joe. But to some extent I'd like to know everything that went on. It's pretty involved."

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)