Wesleyan Poll: Lamont Approval 60%; Voters Prioritize Tax Relief, Cite Affordability Of Housing And Energy Costs As Big Problems

From Wesleyan poll:

A new Wesleyan SurveyLab CT poll finds that a majority of Connecticut voters (60 percent) approve of the job Ned Lamont is doing as governor and support tax relief proposals being considered in the Connecticut General Assembly.

The poll of 600 self-identified registered voters in Connecticut also shows that most respondents view energy costs and affordability of housing as big problems and support increasing or maintaining funding levels in areas such healthcare, transportation, and education. Most voters gave high marks to their local public schools while recognizing challenges, like educator recruitment, student behavior, and student mental health.

“Cost-of-living issues, including taxes, energy prices, and housing affordability are concerns for many Connecticut voters,” said Logan Dancey, Associate Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and a director of the survey. “These concerns tend to cut across party lines, and voters are broadly supportive of tax relief in response to recent budget surpluses in the state.”

The survey was administered online by YouGov April 3-17, 2023 and has a margin of error of +/-5.13%.

Connecticut Voters Largely Approve of Lamont

Early in his second term as governor, Ned Lamont enjoys relatively high levels of support from Connecticut registered voters. Sixty percent of respondents approve of the job that Lamont is doing as governor compared to 33 percent who disapprove. By comparison, 49 percent of respondents approve of the job President Joe Biden is doing compared to 49 percent of respondents who disapprove. The Connecticut General Assembly’s approval rating stands at 46 percent compared to 35 percent who disapprove, with 19 percent not sure.

When asked to rate how Lamont managed the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic relative to governors in other states, 61 percent of respondents said either “much better” or “somewhat better” compared to only 14 percent who said “somewhat worse” or “much worse.” Another 21 percent of respondents said Lamont’s handling of the pandemic was “about the same” as other governors and 5 percent were not sure.

“Lamont gets especially high marks for how he handled the Covid-19 pandemic, and not just among Democrats,” said Dancey.

Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents, and 29 percent of Republicans rated Lamont’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic as better than other governors while only 2 percent of Democrats, 11 percent of independents, and 35 percent of Republicans rated Lamont’s response as worse than other governors. Lamont’s overall approval rating stands at 84 percent with Democrats, 51 percent with independents, and 23 percent with Republicans.

Tax Relief a High Priority

The state is set to run another budget surplus this year, and the survey asked voters to weigh in on how the state government should respond. Fifty-one percent of respondents most prefer that the budget surplus be used to cut taxes, compared to 25 percent who prefer paying down long-term debt, and 16 percent who prefer increasing spending in areas such as education and healthcare. Broken down by party, 68 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of independents and 40 percent of Democrats most preferred cutting taxes in response to the surplus.

Voters endorse a variety of tax cut proposals advanced by Governor Lamont and/or state legislators, while also supporting raising taxes on the wealthy:
— 86% of respondents either strongly or somewhat support lowering the tax rates on income below $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for families.
— 85% either strongly or somewhat support cutting taxes on small businesses.
— 78% either strongly or somewhat support providing a tax credit to low- and middle-income households with children under 18.
— 72% either strongly or somewhat support expanding the state Earned Income Tax Credit for lower-income workers.
— 67% either strongly or somewhat support raising taxes on individuals making more than $250,000 a year and couples making more than $500,000 a year.

Healthcare, Transportation, and Education Top Spending Priorities

Although voters prioritize tax relief, they also favor either increasing or maintaining state spending levels in key areas, including K-12 education, healthcare, and transportation.

In the eight spending areas asked about, a majority of respondents either want to increase or maintain spending in each area.

“The public simultaneously supports government spending in a variety of policy areas while also wanting tax relief,” said Dancey. “State legislators will ultimately have to make tough decisions about which tax cuts and spending items to prioritize.”

Table 1. Preference for Spending Levels in Key Areas

Low Awareness of Major Policies Enacted in Prior Years

Voters report not having heard or read much about three major policy items passed in Connecticut since 2017: the state’s “fiscal guardrails,” Police Accountability Law, and family and medical leave law.

“In our current nationalized political environment, voters are not always as attuned to what is happening in state government,” said Dancey. “Even major policy actions at the state level can fly under most people’s radar.”

The state’s fiscal guardrails, passed in 2017, put caps on spending and borrowing by state government and require surplus funds over a certain amount be used to pay down Connecticut’s debt. When asked how much they had heard or read about the guardrails, 51 percent of respondents answered “nothing at all” and 28 percent answered “only a little.” After reading arguments for and against keeping the guardrails in place, voters supported keeping the guardrails in place by a margin of 56-13 percent, although 32 percent of respondents answered “not sure.”

A majority of voters (59 percent) reported hearing “nothing at all” or “only a little” about the Police Accountability Law enacted in 2020, compared to 42 percent who reported hearing “a lot” or “some.” After reading statements in support and opposition to the law, 63 percent supported it compared to 24 percent who opposed it and 14 percent who answered “not sure.”

Fifty-two percent of respondents reported hearing “nothing at all” or “only a little” about the state family and medical leave law enacted in 2019 compared to 48 percent who said they heard “a lot” or “some.” After reading statements in support and opposition to the law, 66 percent supported it compared to 21 percent who opposed it and 12 percent who weren’t sure.

Voters Express Concerns About Cost-of-Living Issues

Asked to identify the most important problem in Connecticut from a list of items, 26 percent of respondents said the economy/inflation, 17 percent said taxes, and 8 percent said crime/violence.

When asked to rate the severity of potential problems in Connecticut, voters expressed particular concern about energy costs and the affordability of housing. Overall, 69 percent of respondents said energy costs are “a big problem” compared to 27 percent who said energy costs were “somewhat of a problem” and 5 percent who said “not a problem.” Concerns over energy costs were similar across the parties, with 67 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents, and 67 percent of Republicans labeling energy costs a major problem.

When asked about the affordability of housing, 58 percent said it was “a big problem,” 35 percent “somewhat of a problem,” and 6 percent “not a problem.” Relatedly, 68 percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat support requiring each city or town in Connecticut to build more affordable housing, and 68 percent also support capping rent increases at 4 percent per year. Voters are more divided on the prospect of limiting landlords’ access to the eviction history of potential tenants with 44 percent of respondents opposed, 41 percent in support, and 14 percent not sure.

Compared to housing affordability and energy costs, respondents were less likely to consider crime (40 percent), inequality (26 percent), and racism (21 percent) big problems in the state.

Large Majorities Favor Additional Gun Regulation

Respondents also weighed in on a variety of measures related to gun regulation proposed by Governor Lamont and/or state legislators. Three proposals had support from a clear majority of registered voters surveyed:
— 87% of respondents either strongly or somewhat support requiring higher bail and immediate revocation of parole for individuals convicted of repeated firearm offenses.
— 82% of respondents either strongly or somewhat support increasing the age to purchase all firearms to 21.
— 67% of respondents either strongly or somewhat support limiting gun purchases to one a month.

Three other items drew more mixed levels of support and opposition from respondents:
— 53% of respondents support banning the open carry of firearms compared to 39% who oppose and 9% who are not sure.
— 47% of respondents support recognizing gun permits issued in other states compared to 40% who oppose and 13% who are not sure.
— 41% of respondents support establishing the right to carry a pistol in any state park or forest compared to 48% who oppose and 11% who are not sure.

Public Schools Viewed Positively, With Educator Recruitment Cited as a Key Challenge

Most respondents held positive views of the public schools across the state and in their local communities. More than half of respondents (59 percent) rated schools in their local school districts as “excellent” or “good” compared to 35 percent of respondents who rated these schools as “fair” or “poor.” Similarly, 54 percent of respondents rated public schools in the state as “excellent” or “good” compared to 36 percent who rated schools across the state as “fair” or “poor.”

The survey asked respondents to select up to three of the top challenges facing public education in the state from a list of 15. Recruiting and retaining teachers (35 percent), student behavior/discipline (34 percent), student mental health/well-being (32 percent), and school safety (30 percent) were among the most frequently selected challenges. Other challenges included funding differences between school districts (29 percent), lack of parent control over education (17 percent), and school facilities/infrastructure (14 percent).

As state legislators consider proposals to change the charter school approval process, 51 percent of respondents indicated that they strongly support or somewhat support the formation of more charter schools across the state compared to 27 percent who were strongly or somewhat opposed and 21 percent who were not sure.

“Connecticut continues to grapple with educator shortages and the enduring effects of the pandemic on students and educators. Although most respondents viewed public schools positively, these numbers show that educator recruitment and retention, student behavior and mental health, and school safety are top of mind for voters in Connecticut,” said Alisha Butler, the Provost’s Equity Fellow in the College of Education Studies at Wesleyan University.


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