High Unfavorables For Shumlin, Strong Support For Welch, Leahy, According To VPR Poll

Feb 23, 2016

According to the new VPR Poll, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch enjoy strong bi-partisan support across the state, however the same cannot be said of Gov. Peter Shumlin.

And some political observers think that Shumlin's high unfavorable rating could make it more difficult for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate to be elected in November.

When asked the question, "Do you approve of the way that Peter Shumlin is handling his job as governor of Vermont?" 37 percent of the respondents said yes, 40 percent said no, and 22 percent are not sure.

The poll was conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute between Feb. 3 and 17 and has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

Institute Director Rich Clark says Shumlin's popularity has been in decline ever since his first bid for re-election in 2012.

"He was basking in the good job he did following Irene and since that time he hasn't had any big victory to walk away with,” Clark says.

And Clark says Shumlin barely has the support of half of the Democrats in Vermont.

"He's doing better with Democrats obviously,” says Clark, “but not nearly where he should be with his own party."

Retired Middlebury College Political Science professor Eric Davis says Shumlin's favorability rating of 37 percent could have an impact on the Democratic candidates for governor. In the polling results, approximately 1 percent of respondents refused to answer. Those responses are not included in the graphic above.
Credit The VPR Poll; Angela Evancie; Sara Simon; Emily Alfin Johnson / VPR

Retired Middlebury College Political Science professor Eric Davis says Shumlin's favorability rating of 37 percent is one of the lowest he's seen in many years. Davis believes that this situation could affect this year's gubernatorial race.

“It's a very major liability for whoever the Democratic nominee ends up being in this fall's general election,” Davis says. “People just don't think things have been working under the Shumlin administration. And someone who comes along and says I'm going to do things differently may very well have a very strong appeal."

Davis notes that people who consider themselves to be "independent" make up the biggest block of voters in Vermont. The poll shows that within this group, 43 percent disapprove of Shumlin's performance in office.

“If 43 percent of the independents think Shumlin has not been doing a good job convincing them to vote for another Democrat,” Davis says, “[It] is going to be a big challenge for the eventual Democratic nominee."

Approximately 1 percent of respondents refused to answer. Those responses are not included in this graphic. According to the VPR Poll, conducted Feb. 3 through 17th by the Castleton Polling Institute, Sen. Patrick Patrick Leahy enjoys a 65% approval rating among respondents.
Credit The VPR Poll; Taylor Dobbs; Sara Simon; Emily Alfin Johnson / VPR

The poll results are very different for the two members of the state's Congressional delegation who are up for re-election this year — Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch.

They both enjoy very strong support with members of the Democratic Party and both are backed by 40 percent of the Republicans responding to the Poll.

Polling Institute Director Clark says the GOP support for both Leahy and Welch is significant.

“It tells us that Vermonters are a lot less partisan than you would expect when it comes to our state officials,” Clark says. “Because the Republicans are actually more likely to approve of  [their] job performance than disapprove and that's a great place for any incumbent to be in."

Castleton Polling Institute director Rich Clark says Republicans are actually more likely to approve of [Welch and Leahy's] job performance than disapprove." In the polling conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute, approximately 1 percent of respondents refused to answer. Those responses are not included in this graphic.
Credit The VPR Poll; Angela Evancie; Sara Simon; Emily Alfin Johnson / VPR

Professor Davis says Leahy and Welch are so popular that it's very unlikely that the Republicans will put much time or money into efforts to defeat them.

“My sense is that for the Republicans this year the highest priorities are wining the governorship, holding on to the lieutenant governor's office, and gaining some seats in the Legislature,” Davis said.

The poll also shows that majority of Vermonters think President Obama is doing a good job in office but his support is very partisan. While 78 percent of Democrats back the President, only 9 percent of Republicans do.