The VPR Poll put some of the biggest questions facing Vermont to ... Vermonters. Novel, huh? They told us a lot.
1. There's not broad consensus about how to handle health care
When asked what they think should be done to address health care in this state, Vermonters had lots of different answers. And no single solution seemed to prevail among those we polled.
The top pick was “move toward a single payer system like Medicare for all” with 33 percent support. Beyond that, our slice of the public wasn’t leaning in any clear direction; second place was a three-way tie, statistically speaking.
“Improve and continue with the Vermont Health Connect, the state health care system” had 20 percent support. “[S]omething else” had 19 percent support – basically that represents the people who support any specific solution that isn’t Vermont Health Connect, single payer or the federal health care exchange. And the last in that group that tied for second: “Not sure/don’t know.”
The lowest support was for switching to the federal health care exchange and closing Vermont Health Connect. That plan had just 8 percent support from the Vermonters polled.
2. Most Vermonters want to legalize weed
Surprise! The Green Mountain State, home of Groovy UV and Phish, has a lot of people who support the legalization of marijuana. In our poll, 55 percent of Vermonters said they support legalization.
There’s still a large number of people who aren’t in favor of legalization; 32 percent oppose it outright and a full 13 percent of our respondents either aren’t sure or have no opinion about it.
There were only two groups that are generally opposed to legalization: people over 65 and Republicans. Of Vermonters who said they’re Republican, 56 percent oppose legalization while 29 percent are in favor. In the 65-plus crowd, 53 percent opposed legalization and 34 percent are in favor.
Who’s most passionate about legal cannabis? If we had to guess: men (55 percent of whom are “very strongly” in support of legalization) in southern Vermont (51 percent) between 18 and 44 (51 percent) who don’t consider themselves Republican, Democrat or Independent (55 percent) and haven’t been educated beyond high school (53 percent).
3. Most Vermonters want gun control
We asked Vermonters about three different kinds of gun control – limiting where guns are allowed, requiring a waiting period to purchase guns and background checks for all gun sales. On each of those three issues, a clear majority of Vermonters polled support new gun control measures.
The most contentious of the three forms of gun control was limits on where guns are allowed. Of all respondents, 58.1 percent said they support such limits, while 32.3 percent opposed. Among gun owners, 46.3 percent support those limits, versus 45.4 who do not (that gap is within the margin of error for the poll, making it a statistical tie).
With regard to restrictions on the purchase of firearms, even gun owners surveyed were overwhelmingly in favor.
A regulation requiring gun buyers to wait a number of days before they’re allowed to take the gun home has support from 70.4 percent of gun owners surveyed and 82.6 percent of all respondents. Among respondents who don’t have a gun in the household, 93 percent support a waiting period.
As for universal background checks, 81.8 percent of gun owners and 88.9 percent of overall respondents support requiring background checks for all gun sales, including between private citizens.
The strongest opposition to gun control didn’t come from Vermonters who told our pollsters they own guns – it was the people who refused to say if they have a gun in the house or not. Among those who refused to say, 61.9 percent oppose limiting where guns can be carried, 36.4 percent oppose waiting period for gun purchases and 50 percent oppose universal background checks.
4. Ambivalence about Gov. Peter Shumlin's job performance is on the rise; approval isn't
In a VTDigger.org poll released last March, 41 percent of respondents said they approved of the job Shumlin was doing while 47 percent disapproved.
In the VPR Poll, 37 percent of respondents said they approve of the way the governor is handling his job while 40 percent said they disapprove.
A lot of people – 22 percent – also said they aren’t sure or have no opinion. That’s up 10 percent over last year’s VTDigger.org poll.
5. Most people aren’t paying much attention to the governor’s race yet
When asked how closely they’re following the news about the 2016 governor’s race, 40 percent of respondents said “not too closely,” and 26 percent said “not at all.” Those following the race “very closely” or “somewhat closely” made up 9 percent and 25 percent of respondents, respectively.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see why most Vermonters aren’t sure who they want to see in the governor’s office next spring. Just 29 percent of Vermonters we polled have made up their mind, while 51 percent are sure they have not made up their mind and 20 percent aren’t even sure if they’re sure. Or they just don’t care.
Because respondents, for the most part, haven’t made up their minds and haven’t followed news of the candidates much, it makes some sense that most people would lean towards the only person they’ve heard a lot about before the governor’s race: Phil Scott. The sitting lieutenant governor with his eye on the state’s top job has a gaping lead over other gubernatorial hopefuls. Asked who they hope to see elected in November, 66 percent of respondents named Scott. Democrat Matt Dunne took a distant second with 15 percent support. Dunne’s opponent, Sue Minter, got 12 percent support, while Scott’s Republican challenger, Bruce Lisman, got 4 percent.
6. People want renewable energy, but don’t necessarily like the system that regulates it
A majority of Vermonters polled said they would support the development of a large solar array in their community (70.2 percent support) or “large wind-power turbines” in their community (55.7 percent).
Asked if they “support, oppose, or have no opinion about the current method Vermont uses to approve the location of renewable energy sites,” most people (56.6 percent) said they have no opinion. About a quarter (26.7 percent) said they oppose the current method, and 16.6 percent said they support it.
People who said they follow news about renewable energy siting “very closely” were also much more likely to say they oppose the current method of siting renewables (51 percent) than people who followed the news “closely” (33.3 percent oppose the current process), “not very closely” (19.1 percent oppose), or “not at all” (16.1 percent oppose).
7. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are in the lead
Among the likely voters in The VPR Poll, Sen. Bernie Sanders is the runaway favorite on the Democratic ticket, with 77.9 percent support, and Donald Trump leads the Republican field with a 33.2 percent plurality. The most popular Republican responses after Trump were Marco Rubio (14.6 percent), John Kasich (14.1 percent) and "Not Sure/Don't know" (12.3 percent).
Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton has support from 12.8 percent of likely voters polled.
8. The mix of opinions is spread fairly evenly across the state
It’d probably be easy to argue for a few hours about the first part of Vermont’s state motto – Freedom & Unity – but it seems like Vermonters have that unity thing pretty well figured out.
While Vermonters definitely don’t agree on everything, our data also shows that on virtually every question in The VPR Poll, every region of the state had the same top answer. In many cases, the breakdown by percentage was nearly identical across all regions.
The VPR Poll was made possible by the VPR Journalism Fund.