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Biden Leading Democratic Field in CT, Polling Well Ahead of Trump in 2020 Race

Connecticut residents mixed on “Medicare for all,” support tax increase on wealthy to help fund college debt relief and tuition at public colleges

A new poll by Sacred Heart University’s Institute for Public Policy, completed in partnership with the Hartford Courant between September 17 and October 2, examined Connecticut residents’ reactions to national issues such as “Medicare for All,” eliminating college debt, the leading 2020 presidential contenders and the controversy over allowing college athletes to earn endorsement income. The results depict an electorate largely in favor of policies that expand some social programs to address the rising costs of health care and college, but with significant caveats based on income, party affiliation and demographics.

Regarding the 2020 presidential election, when given the names of the frontrunners for the Democratic Party, the highest rate of residents (36.9 percent) believed former Vice President Joe Biden would win, followed by Elizabeth Warren (14 percent) and Bernie Sanders (10.8 percent). When asked who they would vote for if the presidential race in 2020 was between each of those candidates and Donald Trump, the highest rate of respondents chose Joe Biden (52.2 percent) over Donald Trump (33.3 percent), followed by Bernie Sanders (51.1 percent over 35 percent for Donald Trump) and Elizabeth Warren (48.8 percent over 35 percent for Donald Trump).

Of relevant note, income disparities played a significant role in respondents’ reaction to presidential contenders. Those respondents earning $150,000 or more annually (56.2 percent) believed Joe Biden would win the Democratic primary in Connecticut, compared to

only 28.4 percent of respondents earning less than $50,000 annually.

On the topic of health care coverage, the poll demonstrated strong awareness among respondents for the notion of “Medicare for All,” with close to three-quarters of the residents surveyed (73.8 percent) saying they were “very” or “somewhat” aware of the term. However, more than one-third of residents surveyed (38.3 percent) did not believe there should be one national health care system that is run by the federal government and financed, in part, by taxpayers. Specifically, close to half (46.7 percent) expressed concerns, saying they were “strongly” or “somewhat” opposed to moving to a “Medicare for All” system if it meant all Americans would be enrolled in a public Medicare program and all private health insurance would eventually be eliminated.

Many poll respondents expressed concerns about the cost of attending college and the economic challenges resulting from college debt. When asked how strongly they support a plan to eliminate up to $50,000 in student debt for middle- and lower-income Americans, 60.9 percent of residents surveyed “strongly” (39.3 percent) or “somewhat” (21.6 percent) support the plan. To help fund this kind of initiative, another 58 percent reported they “strongly” or “somewhat” support a plan to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for all public colleges becoming “debt free” for students.

Additionally, when asked whether or not college athletes should be allowed to earn income related to their athletic activities—similar to a bill recently passed by the California legislature and being considered in other states—more than one-half (52.8 percent) of respondents reported they “strongly” or “somewhat” support the “Fair Pay to Play Act” that allows college athletes to earn money from endorsements.

Respondents on this issue were generally aligned regardless of annual income level. However, they differed by political affiliation. When surveyed, 61 percent of Democratic residents “strongly” (29.2 percent) or “somewhat” (31.8 percent) supported the “Fair Pay to Play Act” compared to 53.7 percent of unaffiliated respondents and 45.9 percent of Republican respondents.

“Policy proposals such as ‘Medicare for All’ and ‘debt-free college’ have gained traction with some Connecticut residents. They are largely aware of the ‘Medicare for All’ concept touted by some of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. However, despite concerns over rising health-care costs, the majority are not willing to scrap their private health insurance plans for a national health care system,” noted Lesley DeNardis, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and director of Sacred Heart University’s master of public administration program (MPA). “Greater support exists for both debt-free college plans and elimination of college debts with a majority in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy to fund debt-free college. 

“Connecticut residents are also sizing up the current Democratic field. Biden’s commanding lead over his Democratic rivals is indicative of his considerable name recognition after spending decades in politics. In-head-to-head matchups with Trump, all five candidates win handily over the President. With six months until the Connecticut Democratic primary and more than a year until the general election, a great deal can change making this race still highly fluid and competitive,” DeNardis said.

GreatBlue conducted the Connecticut-specific scientific survey on behalf of the SHU Institute for Public Policy, interviewing 1,000 residents either by phone or electronically. Statistically, this sampling represents a margin for error of +/-3.02 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.   

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 MPA 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.