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Sacred Heart Poll Outlines Issues Pressing on State Residents

Quality-of-life issues, taxes, energy costs weigh heavily, along with fear education cuts will hurt workforce and innovation

A new poll from Sacred Heart University’s Institute for Public Policy shows that, if Connecticut residents were looking for a resolution to the state’s fiscal crisis, the bipartisan budget the state legislature passed last October did little to alleviate their concerns. And cuts to education funding further exacerbated concerns about future growth.

The statewide public policy poll, conducted in early January, also covered quality-of-life issues, the high cost of energy and taxes and the state’s general direction.

“A large majority was dissatisfied with the legislature’s budget agreement and felt it didn’t address key issues, such as funding for K-12 public education, infrastructure and pensions. Nor did it improve residents’ overall outlook on Connecticut, with 66.8 percent pessimistic about the state’s future,” said Professor Lesley DeNardis, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy.

The number of respondents who viewed their quality of life as decreasing grew by four percentage points to 34.3 percent, compared to 30.3 percent in October 2017. Additionally, more than three-fifths of residents reported that maintaining their standard of life was difficult. Topping their list of concerns were the high cost of living, taxes and energy costs in Connecticut. In fact, worries about rising energy costs registered the highest increase in poll numbers, with a 13 percent increase since last October, from 61.9 percent up to 75.4 percent.

The recently passed federal tax law changes, which cap state and local tax deductions on federal income at $10,000, was unpopular among many respondents, with more than 40 percent “strongly” opposing the measure.

Those polled were divided about the notion of nonprofits and community organizations providing some public services as potential cost-saving measures. And though two-thirds of Connecticut residents generally applaud increases in the cigarette tax, as well as a new tax on online fantasy sports, 52.8 percent oppose taxes on ride-sharing. Additionally, 78 percent of respondents believe the state should support institutions of higher learning in Connecticut (private and public colleges and universities), as a way to foster economic development and innovation. Almost half opposed the significant budget cuts levied at University of Connecticut, feeling the cuts will have a negative impact on the state’s ability to attract, educate and retain the viable workforce needed for future employment.

Finally, although many Connecticut residents continue to have serious concerns about the state’s overall direction, those high-earners who would contemplate moving to a different state within the next five years dropped from 49 percent in October to 33 percent in January. Party affiliation played a role in residents considering leaving the state, with 43.8 percent of Republican respondents indicating willingness, compared to 33.1 percent of Democrats. And despite their personal financial hardships, three-quarters of responding Connecticut residents said they plan to make a charitable donation this year.

The data came to light in a Connecticut-specific poll, which had 37 questions examining budget concerns and quality-of-life issues. GreatBlue Research Inc., conducted the polling on behalf of the SHU Institute for Public Policy, interviewing 1,000 residents statewide between January 8 and 18. Statistically, a sample of 1,000 telephone or digital interviews represents a margin for error of +/-3.02 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. 

Future polls will continue to survey quality-of-life issues in Connecticut, gauge opinion on how the state can best address current policy challenges, solicit input on how policy-makers can create a more business-friendly climate and address policies that cover affordability for all Connecticut residents. The polls also will measure confidence in local, state and federal governments.

Sacred Heart’s Institute for Public Policy, which was established in 2017 in the College of Arts and Sciences, is aligned with the University’s new master of public administration program, which will launch this fall. In addition to hosting state-wide polls, the institute will conduct public policy research, host public forums and workshops and serve as a public-policy learning incubator for students.

Click here to view the full results of the poll. The next Institute for Public Policy poll will take place in April.