Shumlin dips into negative approval numbers, VTD/Castleton poll shows - VTDigger

Shumlin dips into negative approval numbers, VTD/Castleton poll shows

Gov. Peter Shumlin delivers his budget address at the Statehouse on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Gov. Peter Shumlin delivers his budget address at the Statehouse in January. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

For the first time in Gov. Peter Shumlin’s tenure, more Vermonters disapprove of his job performance than approve of it.

A new VTDigger/Castleton Polling Institute survey shows that 47 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the job Shumlin, a Democrat, is doing as governor and 41 percent approve.

See the full poll results here.

These data were collected by the Castleton Polling Institute’s phone center, using live interviewers. All interviews were completed Feb. 9 – 24, 2015.

Phone numbers were drawn from a dual frame sample of cellphone and landline numbers. The cellphone sample was drawn from numbers allotted to cellphone rate centers within the state of Vermont, and the landline numbers were drawn using random digit dialing techniques based on known exchanges and live 1000-blocs within the 802 area code. The final sample includes a total of 700 completed interviews, 477 by landline (68 percent) and 223 by cellphone (32 percent). Thirteen percent of the total sample have no landline at their residence and therefore would be excluded from any chance of inclusion without the cellphone sample frame.

Every county in the state is represented within 3 percentage points of its proportion of the state’s population prior to weighting the data. The final data are weighted by county, gender, and age to adjust for differential response rates in order to assure that the data are as representative of the state’s actual adult population as closely as possible.

The margin of error for a sample of 700 is +/- 4 percentage points at the full sample level. Any subpopulation analysis entails a greater margin of error. While sampling error is only one possible source of survey error, all reasonable precautions have been taken to reduce total survey error.

— Castleton Polling Institute

The poll of 700 Vermonters was conducted Feb. 9-24 (see sidebar for methodology).

Governor’s job approval results.

The results show that Shumlin’s support has dropped since his narrow re-election in November, in which he won 46.4 percent of the vote and needed to be confirmed by the Legislature. It also dropped when compared to a VTD/CPI poll in April 2014, which showed Shumlin’s approval rating at 49 percent.

The results do not bode well for Shumlin should he seek a fourth term in 2016, according to Eric Davis, a retired political science professor at Middlebury College.

“It shows Shumlin is vulnerable heading into the 2016 cycle,” Davis said, particularly if the Republicans unite behind a single candidate and avoid a primary.

“If they can get behind a consensus candidate in late 2015 or early 2016, and that person has the full support of the Republican Party and is able to raise money and gets some outside support from the RGA (Republican Governors Association), I think we’re looking at a very competitive election,” Davis said.

The poll also indicates a trend toward fewer respondents self-identifying with the two major parties. Of the 700 polled, 200 identified as Democrat, 105 as Republican and 262 as independent (the remainder identified as “other”).

Shumlin won the support of 62 percent of Democrats, but only 37 percent of independents, who made up the largest share of the respondents who indicated a political affiliation.

The fact that neither Democrats nor Republicans can, on their own, reach the 50 percent threshold to elect a governor, means the successful candidate will be the one who draws in the most independents, Davis said.

“The challenge for both parties … is to turn out the unaligned voters,” he said.

The most likely Republican contenders for governor in 2016 are Scott Milne, a relative political novice who lost to Shumlin by just over 1 percent, and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who won 62 percent of the vote in November against Progressive/Democrat Dean Corren.

“If Shumlin runs again, the risk is that he will lose and break the 50-year-plus streak of governors always winning re-election,” Davis said.

What about the Legislature?

The survey found that 41 percent of respondents approved of the job being done by the Vermont Legislature and 32 percent disapproved. Another 26 percent had no opinion.

Legislature’s job approval results.

That is slightly down from the Legislature’s 44 percent approval rating in the VTD/CPI poll a year ago. It is sharply down from a 2012 WCAX/CPI poll that found 55 percent of respondents approved or strongly approved of lawmakers’ performance.

Davis found the latest results to be consistent with attitudes frequently detected in polls on Congress. Voters have reservations about the body as a whole but continue to return incumbents to the job.

In this question, independents approved (41 percent to 32 percent) of the job being done by the Legislature. Younger people and those with higher levels of education also tended to approve of the Legislature’s performance.

“People vote for individual House and Senate candidates, not the Legislature as a whole,” Davis said.

Are we headed in the right direction?

Vermonters appear more optimistic on where the state is heading compared to views on the nation as a whole.

Coming Monday
Poll results on education governance and property tax reform.

A recent Rasmussen Reports survey found that 31 percent of likely voters believe the country is headed in the right direction and 61 percent do not.

Are we headed in the right direction results.

In Vermont, the VTD/CPI poll shows that 48 percent believe the state is headed in the right direction, while 41 percent say we’re off track. More Democrats, women, people age 18-44 and those with higher levels of education say Vermont is headed in the right direction.

“That’s an interesting finding,” Davis said. “Some of it may have to do with the fact that the tone is not as confrontational and polarizing in Vermont as it is in Washington.”

More Republicans, men and independents say the state is off track.

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Peter Shumlin is doing as Governor of Vermont?

Do you approve or disapprove of the job being done by the Vermont State Legislature?

Generally speaking, would you say things in Vermont are heading in the right direction, or are they off on the wrong track?

Tom Brown

Comment Policy requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Be succinct and to the point. Comments should be 1000 characters or fewer. If your comment is over 500 words, consider sending a commentary instead.

We personally review and moderate every comment that is posted here. This takes a lot of time; please consider donating to keep the conversation productive and informative.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage a civil discourse among readers who are willing to stand behind their identities and their comments. VTDigger has created a safe zone for readers who wish to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a range of subjects. We hope you join the conversation. If you have questions or concerns about our commenting platform, please review our Commenting FAQ.

Privacy policy
  • Dave Bellini

    People no longer identify with either of the major political parties because we are, as the late Tommy Douglas described, in “Mouseland.” One year the mice elect white cats and it doesn’t go so well, then they elect black cats thinking it will be better, but it’s not. The problem is the mice keep electing cats and they make laws that are good for cats.

    • Walter Carpenter

      “The problem is the mice keep electing cats and they make laws that are good for cats.”

      LOL..good analogy:)

    • Dear Mr. Bellini:

      As a former federal whistleblower in the Brattleboro Retreat fraud litigation, I can relate to your comment. First, I no longer associate as a Democrat, Republican, Progressive, Communist (LOL) or the like. I simply associate as a member of the “People’s Party” because I stand squarely on the side of the people of our great state and our once great country.

      Our country is on an unsustainable path, fraud is rampant in our country and the feds often look the other way hence why government interventions in fraud litigation is somewhere below 25%. No wonder we are $18.1 trillion dollars in debt and the US Treasury is essentially bankrupt. Year after year, Congress is producing nothing worthy of the American people and too few are willing to endure hardship to try and do anything about it.

      The reality is our democracy no longer works and we need constitutional change. Hillary Rodham Clinton said it best on the Jon Stewart show last year “we have a crisis in our democracy” and I couldn’t agree more. The Supreme Court is an elusive group which is partisan as ever and not looking out for the best interests of all Americans (just look at Citizens United) and the flood of money that is now flooding and influencing our political system and those running for office.

      While I am deeply concerned with those serious matters that seem to surface daily with the Shumlin administration, you also have to recognize that the legislature had an opportunity to hold Shumlin accountable and chose party over the best interests of all Vermonters when they re-elected him. Now Mr. Shumlin is basking in the Caribbean sun with real estate assets that likely came from the very “circle of enrichment” that exists in our state but no one wants to talk about.

      Make no mistake, I care deeply about my adopted State of Vermont and our country and in my own way tried to do something about it by standing up and being counted. I tried and more should do the same.

      Best wishes,

      Thomas Joseph

  • Anyone who approves of the job any of the people in Montpelier are doing isn’t paying attention. The Governor has been talking about a State other than VT whenever he is asked a question. The legislature isn’t talking, which is a bad sign, since it means they are not doing what they have to do. Cut all the programs. Get out of the mandated ones. Reduce the size of Government, even if it mean cutting services. Let the special needs people find services elsewhere or go back to their families. Lower the taxes. Education and health costs are not sustainable. And, the State has too many students who play, vote and don’t pay taxes.

    • Walter Carpenter

      “Let the special needs people find services elsewhere or go back to their families. Lower the taxes. ”

      Or build more prisons, which is what we’ll need if we adopt this program. And, how about closing all those tax loopholes that the 1% enjoy? When we run into these deficits, which is all the time now, nationwide, it is always easier to go after the helpless rather than those who can write big campaign checks.

      • Kathy Callaghan

        Right on, Walter! You said it best!

    • Dear Mr. Duckman:

      The only person in Montpelier who is doing the people’s work is State Auditor Doug Hoffer. He should give all Vermonters hope that our best days are ahead of us.

      Best wishes,

      Thomas Joseph

      • Jed Guertin

        I agree with you completely. There are some god legislators out there though.

  • Matt O’Brien

    This guy is single handily taking down the Democrat party and they are all just standing idly by watching the train wreck. I hope someone speaks up, preferably a leader, if such a thing exists anymore. Like lemmings following the pied piper of doom.

    • Kathy Callaghan

      The Democrats have to step up and distance themselves from Shumlin and his extremely liberal policies. They would do well to conduct themselves as more fiscally conservative. They need to hold Shumlin accountable for the money he has squandered on contractors for Vermont Health Connect. These contractors were never managed and consumed huge amounts of taxpayer money. Even now they continue to consume chunks of money and the Exchange still doesn’t work.

      Democrats who want to be reelected need to prove their worthiness to Vermonters, because they are now tainted with the Governor’s brush, and are considered responsible for the huge deficit since they are the majority party.

      • James Mason

        I got news for ya, Shumlin’s policies aren’t “extremely liberal”, not for VT and definitely not for the US.

        He’s a left-leaning moderate who prays at the altar of the almighty dollar.

  • Peter Everett

    Surprising, huh?

  • Phyllis North

    Hopefully, this poll will kill off Shumlin’s proposed new payroll tax.

    • It won’t. Which is why I have ramped up my families search for an alternative residence. After awhile being looked at as a slab of pork by the Vermont government gets tiresome. I find myself always looking over my shoulder for the next shot to the gut trying to be ready for it. Standing back up is getting harder and harder the older I get. One can only take so much. Just like a business, individuals need consistency and stable economic outlooks to be willing to invest. At this juncture Vermont doesn’t offer that from a family perspective or a business perspective. It’s like a roller coaster ride living here if you actually pay attention to what is happening. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, at least that is what the legislature is counting on.

  • Lyle M. Miller, Sr.

    Why am I not surprised at this report that Shumlin’s approval rating has dropped below the 50% mark? He has held up Vermonters as hostages for over two years now and continues to try and pull the wool over our eyes with his grandiose ideas of how to solve the economic problems and continues to try and find ways to take more of our money for his personal spending. I believe the place to begin saving our money is by cutting his salary in half along with all of the Democrats who want to continue spending our money that they don’t have. we need a recall provision in our state to get rid of the dead beats that only want to serve their own agendas

    • Walter Carpenter

      “I believe the place to begin saving our money is by cutting his salary in half along with all of the Democrats who want to continue spending our money that they don’t have. we need a recall provision in our state to get rid of the dead beats that only want to serve their own agendas”

      Would you slash the salaries of the Republicans too, or just the Democrats? And who are the dead beats? Those who do nothing to try to solve our problems or those those try to do them but who do not like for trying?

      • Lyle M. Miller, Sr.

        YES, anyone who doesn’t represent the people who elected them should not be paid.

      • Kathy Callaghan

        Walter, in all fairness, the Republicans have never been listened to in the State House by the Democratic majority when they have had good ideas. Republicans predicted a long time ago that single payer would end up being unaffordable but they were shunted aside. As just one example, perhaps if both parties had not wasted the time, they could have worked together to produce health care reform that would have covered all Vermonters by now. That, after all, is what we need to do.

  • Ross Laffan

    All this could have been avoided if people had bothered to turn out to vote. I wonder how many of those surveyed actually voted. Because so few voted in Vermont and nationally, the GOP thinks they have a mandate to do whatever they want. It’s so easy to fool the public it only takes repeating a few times of repeating that the solution to education is defunding it and the solution to health care is throwing people off insurance. Because of this election people think Scott Milne is a serious candidate. Even he does. Vote next time, people. Take away the politicians excuse for sending the country down the toilet

    • Carl Werth

      I voted, but the choices were awful. Put up a candidate worth voting for and maybe others will come back and vote. If they keep putting the same awful choices up – you can continue to expect even less people to come out and vote.

  • Until the Governor apologizes to Vermonters for the financial mess he has gotten the our state into and for his dismissiveness towards citizens, his polls will continue to slide. The emperor without clothes syndrome.

  • Don Peterson

    Peter Shumlin is actually the governor of Chittenden County, not the state of Vermont.

    And he is only the Governor because legislators voted many cases against the majority of their voters.

    Politicians being herd animals, perhaps they will get out ahead of the voters after this poll.

  • Ed McFarren

    The legislture didn’t do its job when it had the opportunity. Add up the votes for candidates other than Shumlin and it becomes obvious that the citizens of Vermont did not want him to continue as Governor. It’s also becoming pretty obvious with his demeanor and lack of interest that Shumlin doesn’t want to continue as Governor either. A statesman would step aside. A politician plugs along.

    • Linda Baird-White

      It’s also becoming pretty obvious with his demeanor and lack of interest that Shumlin doesn’t want to continue as Governor either. A statesman would step aside. A politician plugs along.

      I would replace “plugs” with “plunders”.

  • Linda Baird-White

    Apologies?????????? Are (insincere) apologies going to reduce the deficit?


    Let the Polls drop into the abyss along with the deficit. That’s the only justice we’ll ever realize.

  • Paul Lorenzini

    26% of republicans approve? Maybe we aren’t as divided as we should be.

  • Bob Orleck

    Not one to study polls much but graphs are neat. What caught my eye is that the more educated seem to be the least likely to get it that we are headed in the wrong direction. The lesser the education the better the understanding that Governor Shumlin is doing a terrible job for the people. I have a great idea for getting Vermont back on the right track. We need to prohibit any with a college degree from voting the next time. Bet it would work. I still get to vote even though I would not qualify under the rule because I thought of the idea.

  • ray giroux

    Good one Mr. Orleck – I agree!

    It seems Universities, these days, are more about shaping social ideologies and trends than actually giving students knowledge.

    Progressive Liberals are being turned out by the truck load.

    • Linda Baird-White

      Common sense Realists are systematically being depleted by “well off” Idealists. No small wonder the middle class is shrinking.

      Education through a Pied Piper mentality is a scarey thought. Education has and will definitely continue to be in the spotlight.

  • Bruce Wilkie

    People get the government they deserve.
    Most people are uninformed about the issues when they vote, or don’t vote at all.
    If Vermonters had any gumption at all, there would be massive protests in Montpelier against Shumlins policies.
    But no, we just watch our wealth be stolen by these thieves, watch our houses deteriorate because we can’t afford to maintain them, and watch taxes go up by 3 times or more the rate of inflation.

  • Jed Guertin

    Shumlin is very concerned about our image on the environmental scene. He’s afraid we’ll lose our positive environmental image.

    Currently, when it comes to protecting our small lakes, ponds and streams that are used as drinking water supplies Vermont get a solid F.

    MA, CT, RI are solid A’s and Maine and NH are solid B’s.

    That’s “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire folks, a solid B to Vermont’s F.

    H.33 would rectify that situation, it would give the communities that have those water sources control over them. Bur Gov. Schumlin seems to be putting on the pressure to defeat the bill.

    The other 5 New England states and the New England Water Works Association all agree on a set of best risk management practices.

    Vermont’s “laissez-faire” approach is 180 degrees in opposition .

    It feels like the Green State is turning brown.

    • Darryl Smith

      Berlin Pond does not belong to Montpelier, get over it.

  • Michael Colby

    Seems like a pretty good place for VTDigger to inform its readers that Shumlin is currently at his vacation property in Dominica. Yep, the governor’s blowing off town meeting to sit in the sun with his girlfriend, leaving the rest of us to deal with things like our firewood supply and — oh yeah — the state’s economic crisis.

    Enough already.

  • The Governor has to be absolutely thrilled with these poll results given what has happened since the election. For instance:

    The single payer bailout debacle after four years of assurances from the Governor that his plan would save $500 million in the first year of operation.

    The Sumlin administration’s fumbling of Gruber contract invoices requiring the intervention of the State Auditor and Attorney General.

    The ever deepening budget problems resulting from previous years of poor budgeting decisions by the Governor.

    The Governor telling us the budget problems are the economists’ fault.

    The cash consuming and never working health care exchange stumbles on, achieving one of the Governor’s most cherished objectives, that of being first in the nation. The first state in the nation to spend over $120 million for a “Nothingburger” that doesn’t work.

    Meanwhile the Governor is sunning himself in the Caribbean while the rest of us remain in Vermont buried up to our noses in global warming induced snow.

    And it only March 2nd, think of the possibilities to come as the year progresses.

    This poll has to be the best news the Governor has received since his runaway election victory with 46% of the vote.

    • Kathy Callaghan

      Peter Yankowski, excellent summary!

  • Ralph Colin

    Granted that both the governor and the legislature are not only underperforming, but that many of them are ardently pursuing their own singular political preferences. Most of those preferences have little or nothing to do with what a majority of Vermont residents would want them to do, especially since those who are pretending to govern are more interested in protecting their own asses and spend much of their time in Montpelier trying to appeal to selective, special interest groups such as unions; professional government bureaucrats; pseudo-environmentalists; fear-mongers; would-be and ersatz intellectuals; those who wallow in the practice of separating citizens by their economic resources (a popular bias); and most popular of all, punishing others who, by attention to detail and hard work, achieve a well-earned recognition for almost any degree of success.

    There are at least two common threads in
    the success of these political undertakings: one, the perfection of the practice of dividing and conquering, a process to which they have devoted many years of application and discipline; and two, the practical ability to discover diverse and manifold routes, often ones which are well concealed, leading to the feeding at the public trough.

    Why and how does this happen? Very simply, because we, the electorate, aren’t paying attention. We don’t take the time to
    follow and analyze what these officials are actually doing and it’s not until after specific legislation has been passed or mandates have been created that we realize that we, as a state population, have been had. Much of the time what is accomplished under the Golden Dome in Montpelier, either by virtue of the governor’s administrative dictates or by the pandering by the leadership in the legislature to special, well-financed and/or well-connected interest groups is, a fait accompli by the time it surfaces to the extent that it becomes recognizable to the majority of Vermonters and by that time, of course, it’s too late.

    The application of some intriguing conventions are frequently used to hide the
    actual intentions of both administrative directives and legislative intentions. The use of the bait and switch ploy is often employed. That is, we are told what they think we want to hear or believe, but when the fine print is revealed, we learn, to our disappointment or furor, that either we’ve been fed Pablum or, quite to the contrary,
    we have been bamboozled and that the effect of the legislation or dictum is the polar opposite of what we expected or required. Again, such results are of our own shortcomings. Not enough of us are paying attention.

    All of this is to suggest that our own complacency is at fault: in this small state we permit, quite undeniably, a very small group of politically motivated leaders to create the standards, formulas and guidelines by which we are governed and to which we must adhere even if they are often, through lack of our own oversight and mindfulness, not those we expected or, indeed, even desired.

    This also might serve as a reminder that we should be a lot more circumspect about our decisions to support the elections of many of those who want to represent us, from the governor on down. All too often we vote for a name we recognize paying little or no attention to what they actually do as opposed to what we want them to do or what they said they were going to do in representing us. Do they really protect our interests or do they follow the demands of those who, via seniority, influence, political power and not so subtle threats, require them to support initiatives which may go against the grain of their own beliefs, let alone those of their constituents.

    These are the indexes of governance ability and performance through which every candidate for election to public office should be carefully inspected and examined prior to casting one’s vote in EVERY biennium.
    The mere fact that an office seeker is popular, a good friend or has just been in office for a long time hardly qualifies, in and of itself, that person to sit in Montpelier and
    play a role in the law-making process.

    Just remember these things the next time the powers-that -be in our state capital pull another fast one over our eyes. Knowing the ropes as they do, they are well-practiced in the slight-of-hand routines to which they often resort to create rules pertaining to very complicated, obscure and ambiguous issues about which many of us have very limited knowledge and understanding. If we don’t pay attention, there is no telling what we may end up having to be governed by when politicians, in their singular best interests, impose upon us with saddles.

    If we are dissatisfied with the leadership that we have, only we, ourselves, can do something about it. We need to get more involved, to be more aware and observant of what is being undertaken, allegedly on our behalves, and to complain like hell when we
    detect something which we regard as being fishy. If we don’t take on that responsibility to protect the interests of the community as a whole, then we deserve to receive second-rate representation and governance.

  • Jeff Nichols

    A dismal approval rating fully earned by a dismal performance. The fiscally conservative approach combined with common sense of the Dean and Douglas years are looking pretty good right now. Ideology and political ambition are not good guiding principals.

  • Jim Christiansen

    The next election cycle doesn’t start for 18 months or so.

    Shumlin’s poll numbers will have no impact on this legislative session.

    If this happens next year, than perhaps he and his merry band will take notice.

    • Kathy Callaghan

      Jim Christiansen, perhaps, but Vermonters have long memories. I don’t think we will forget. Legislators who want to be reelected need to start distancing themselves from Shumlin sooner rather than later.

  • Linda Baird-White


    As far as voters go… the current climate for self-serving politicians is actually very fertile. WHY? Because so many are working hard, some at more than one or two jobs trying to support their families. Many know very well they should better educate themselves about the candidates or incumbents before they go to the polls. When and how can they make the time? That’s the problem. That’s what needs attention.

    Social Engineering is a key component that has also contributed to the dwindling of Vermont’s middle class.

    How do we turn that around?

    • Ralph Colin


      I completely agree with you and for many years, I have pointed to the same problem you describe, frequently using the precise language which you have employed in your comment. I wish I had a simple response to the challenge.

      There is no obvious or simple solution, but unless more people can afford to take an interest in the operations of State government and to make it a priority in their lives, we are going to be faced with this on-going challenge and there will continue to be ever-increasing frustration and disgust among ordinary citizens with the way they are treated by their government. It’s up to all of us the effect change and perhaps one of the ways we can accomplish that is by putting those who say they want to serve us, as opposed to serving themselves, on notice that if they won’t protect and forward our interests, we flatly just won’t re-elect them. …and mean it! That should at least get their attention, but if we say it, we have to follow through on the warning.

  • David Dempsey

    It’s time for term limits in Vermont. Most of the more powerful members of the legislature attained that power more by seniority than qualifications. Many Vermonters vote by name recognition more than for a candidates views on issues. Long time legislators often do things because that’s the way they have always done it. Some new blood might look at the same things and ask if there’s a way to do it better.

  • Ron Avery

    He’s was not elected by the people, he was appointed by his own kind.

  • Meghan Piercy

    What’s his approval rating now that he’s going to be stumping for Hillary in Iowa?

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Shumlin dips into negative approval numbers, VTD/Castleton poll shows"