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Taxes and State Budget Woes Major Issues in November Election

With election too close to call, candidates need to better define themselves

Bob Stefanowski, left, and Ned Lamont

A new poll from Sacred Heart University’s Institute for Public Policy, commissioned in conjunction with Hearst Connecticut Media, shows that the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates in the 2018 elections are running neck-in-neck, with Democrat Ned Lamont currently sitting on a slim four-point lead over Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski. At the same time, a large number of undecided voters are almost evenly split between the two candidates. Residents responding to the survey also largely disapprove of the job President Trump is doing and lean favorably toward Democratic candidates running for U.S. Senate and House of Representative seats.

The new statewide public policy poll was conducted August 16-21 and asked 21 questions of 502 state residents. Respondents also commented on the issues that will help guide their decisions in November such as taxes, the state budget and adding tolls on Connecticut’s highways.

Specifics show 40.8 percent of Connecticut voters currently support Lamont (D) for governor compared to 36.9 percent who support Stefanowski (R). Unaffiliated voters are currently divided, with 29.8 percent supporting Lamont and 29.8 percent supporting Stefanowski. In addition, another 27.3 percent of unaffiliated voters were undecided at the time of the poll.

A significant gender gap exists as 49.3 percent of female voters support the democratic candidate compared to 30.1 percent of female voters who support the Republican. However, 43.9 percent of male voters support Stefanowski, compared to 31.4 percent of male voters who support Lamont.

The race for Connecticut’s top spot will remain fluid as voters get to know more about the candidates. Currently, 44.4 percent of Connecticut voters “have not heard enough about” Stefanowski to form an opinion, and 41.6 percent report the same about Lamont.

The top issues driving voter concerns in the governor’s race were the “high overall tax burden” (24.7 percent) or “state budget crisis” (22.3 percent) in Connecticut. In addition, leading up to the election to choose his successor, only 15.9 percent of Connecticut voters “approve” of the job Dannel Malloy is doing as governor.

In other key findings, one-half of Connecticut voters (49.8 percent) reported they “strongly” (25.9 percent) or “somewhat” (23.9 percent) agree with creating electronic tolls on state highways to help pay for highway improvements to relieve congestion. Also, a higher rate of Connecticut voters (66.3 percent) reported they “strongly” (45.4 percent) or “somewhat” (20.9 percent) agree with a question regarding the fairness of raising taxes on people with incomes over $1 million if the State cannot solve its budget crisis by cutting state services and spending.

Nationally, less than one-third of Connecticut voters “approve” (30.5 percent) of how Donald Trump is handling his job as president, compared to 58.3 percent who currently “disapprove” of his job performance. Further, if the elections of the U.S. House of Representatives were held today, 43 percent of Connecticut voters suggest they will support the Democratic candidate in their district compared to 33.1 percent who will support the Republican candidate. Among unaffiliated voters, 29.8 percent support the Democratic congressional candidate in their district compared to 21.5 percent who support the Republican candidate. However, another 36.4 percent of unaffiliated voters were undecided on who they would support in the U.S. congressional election at the time of the poll.

“It’s obvious that taxes and the high overall cost of living in Connecticut are huge issues for voters going into the November elections,” said Professor Lesley DeNardis, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and director of Sacred Heart University’s master of public administration program. “And as far as the governor’s race is concerned, both candidates have to do a better job of explaining their positions, policy ideas and intentions to the Connecticut electorate. With fewer than three months before the election, most Connecticut voters are largely undecided and looking for specifics to guide their decisions. It’s clear, as well, that national politics are strongly coloring people’s opinions and choices in state elections, and that November is likely to be a mandate on how effectively President Trump and his administration are leading our nation.”

GreatBlue Research Inc., conducted the Connecticut-specific scientific telephone survey on behalf of the SHU Institute for Public Policy, interviewing 502 residents statewide who indicated that they were “likely” to vote in the 2018 election for governor. Statistically, a sample of 502 telephone interviews represents a margin for error of +/-4.32 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. 

 The next two polls also will cover issues related to the Governor’s race and will be conducted over the coming weeks.

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

A PDF file of complete polling results is available at www.sacredheart.edu/pollresults.