Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin would win 60 percent of the vote if the gubernatorial election were held today, according to a poll paid for by WCAX, WDEV and the Vermont Business Magazine.
About 27 percent of the more than 600 survey respondents gave their support to Republican Sen. Randy Brock.
The poll, conducted by Castleton Polling Institute, also showed President Barack Obama would win over Republican contender Mitt Romney by a similar margin (59.3 percent to 27.5 percent); Lt. Gov. Phil Scott has a 56.5 percent approval rating; and the Legislature’s approval rating was 57.5 percent. Lawmakers also had high negatives: 31.5 percent disapproved of legislators’ performance in the 2012 session.
At 65 percent, Shumlin’s overall approval rating has outstripped former Republican Gov. Jim Douglas’ favorability ratings, according to Eric Davis, a frequent pundit and retired Middlebury College professor.
Vermont governors tend to have high approval ratings, especially at the beginning of their tenures in office. “It didn’t surprise me Shumlin had over 60 percent,” Davis said. “That’s consistent with first-term governors in the past, such as Douglas and Dean.”
Brock’s media consultant, Robert Wickers, issued a statement downplaying the significance of the poll and attributed Shumlin’s good showing to high name recognition.
“What the poll does not show is the concern voters have about his failed record on jobs, the economy, health care, and energy,” Wickers wrote. “These poll numbers are similar to the poll numbers at the start of Randy Brock’s 2004 campaign for State Auditor, which he went on to win by 10 points. The campaign for governor has just begun. As Vermonters learn more about Randy, and hear his positive message of economic growth and prosperity, this race will tighten.”
Davis agrees that name recognition is the name of the game this early in the race.
“I wasn’t surprised Shumlin had a big lead,” Davis said. “Early polls are about name recognition more than anything else. Randy Brock had low name recognition last year and my guess is that he is as low as he was in the (WCAX/WDEV/VBM) poll because his name recognition was low. He’s started to run bio ads on TV and that may help him.”
Those ads, however, may no longer be as effective as they once were, Davis said. More voters, in his view, are gravitating to the Web for information instead of relying on broadcast and print news sources. He speculates that candidates may invest more money in Web advertising this campaign season.
Correction: Vermont Business Magazine shared the cost of the poll with WCAX and WDEV. All three organizations were involved in the development of the questions. Story corrected on May 24 at 9:30 a.m.