Poll: Economy ranks as No. 1 issue for Vermonters

Vermonters rank the economy as the most pressing issue facing Vermont, according to a poll released by Castleton Polling Institute Wednesday.

According to the survey, marijuana legalization, school consolidation and an ethics commission all have the support of the majority of respondents.

A third of the poll’s 617 respondents said that the economy, jobs and the cost of living are the most important challenges facing the state.

Taxes and government spending came in second, with 13 percent of those polled ranking it as the most significant issue, followed by opiate and other drug addiction, which topped the list for 12 percent of respondents.

A pie chart shows the results of a Castleton Polling Institute poll. Courtesy of the organization.

A pie chart shows the results of a Castleton Polling Institute poll. Courtesy of the organization.

Eric Davis, Middlebury College professor emeritus of political science, says that he was “not at all surprised” to see the economy ranked as the No. 1 issue. Although, Davis said, people may include a broad range of issues under the umbrella of “the economy.”

The survey notes that people aged 65 and up were more likely than other age groups to identify the economy as the most important issue. That demographic tends to align with Vermont GOP voters, Davis said, adding that it makes sense in light of Republican gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Phil Scott establishing affordability as one of his talking points.

Davis said that he was surprised that more Vermonters did not rank health care as the issue of primary importance. It came in fourth, with 10 percent of people polled naming it their No. 1 issue.

“With all the amount of time the governor and Legislature spent on health care it was a little surprising to me that health care was where it is,” Davis said.

Meanwhile, the poll, which was conducted between Aug. 24 and Sept. 14, found that the number of Vermonters who would like to see pot legalized for recreational use held steady from a poll earlier this year.

Some 56 percent of those polled support the legalization of marijuana while 34 percent oppose it.

Those numbers show a slight increase in support for legalization over [a Castleton poll conducted in February of this year], when 54 percent of Vermonters polled favored legalization and 40 percent opposed it.

According to the poll, “a clear majority” of Vermonters support action by the state to encourage school districts to consolidate.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said that they support action by the state to encourage school districts to consolidate.

While a majority support consolidation, 40 percent of those polled are not familiar with Act 46, the education reform bill passed by the Legislature this year that incentivizes school districts to consolidate.

Meanwhile, the poll finds broad support across the political spectrum for an ethics commission. There was, however, some partisan divide.

Seventy-nine percent of Democrats say they supported establishing an ethics commission, compared to 64 percent of Republicans. However, a greater percentage of identified Republicans said they saw the need for an ethics commission — 76 percent — compared to 65 percent of all Democrats polled.

Secretary of State Jim Condos, long an advocate for an ethics commission, said Wednesday that the poll results are “good news.”

He noted that there seems to be swelling support among legislators to implement a commission, and he expects that the House and Senate Government Operations committees will be prepared to take up legislation.

“I think the legislative support is building,” Condos said.

Elizabeth Hewitt

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  • Kim Fried

    Yee, bet Paul Burns and MR. Blittersdorf would disagree. Destroying more mountains, wildlife, prime agriculture land, communities and citizen’s quality of life have to be the most important things Vermonters are concerned with. Who paid for this poll? Oh, the Koch brothers of course.

  • Keith Stern

    The cost of healthcare is definitely a part of the cost of living so I’m sure many people picked the economy/ cost of living considering healthcare costs, taxes, and housing rental costs all in one package rather than focusing on one separately.

  • Wendy Wilton

    The nuance that may be left out on health care is that the affordability crisis of health care in VT and he issues with VHC may be thought of more as affordability or economic problems rather than access to good health care services. Perhaps this may be another reason, aside from health care reform “fatigue”, why health care ranks at only 10%.
    For employers it might be hard to say which would be a top concern…health care vs. economy…both being major issues that are intertwined.

  • Wayne Andrews

    For a State boasting an unemployment rate of only 3.5% (lowest in the nation?) why is the economy the most important?
    The majority of Vermont is senior citizens on Medicare so it makes sense healthcare is not tops.
    Most notable is the lack of concern about the environment. Does this mean we don’t care or are we endorsing the outrageous law changes made by our elected officials while the EPA holds a gun to our heads?

  • Nick Spencer

    And yet, in spite of Vermonters concern about the economy and affordability, the Legislature will be deterined to enact a carbon tax this session, adding another burden to working people and driving the State’s economy into a deeper hole.

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