State applauds Malloy on Irene, but overall rating still low

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s energetic performance during Tropical Storm Irene got great reviews, but it did not lift his anemic approval rating, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Seventy-nine percent of voters approved how Malloy oversaw the state’s response to a storm that knocked out power to more than half the state, and only 10 percent disapproved.

q-poll--malloy 9/15/11

But only 41 percent approved of his overall performance and 48 percent disapproved, compared to a 38 percent-to-44-percent split in the previous survey in June.

“Tropical Storm Irene put no wind in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s sails,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director.

The poll was better news for the much-maligned utilities, who needed more than a week to completely restore power after the state’s worst blackout. They got an approval rating of 61 percent to 32 percent.

“Connecticut voters are very understanding of their utility companies,” Schwartz said. “Two-thirds think the length of time it took to restore power was reasonable given the extent of the damage. That understanding, however, dropped with each day without power.”

Still, only people who lost power for six days or more gave a thumbs down to Connecticut Light & Power or United Illuminating, the two major electric companies.

The problem for Malloy, according to the poll, is that his handling of the budget and labor concessions deal trump his weeklong performance during and after the storm, and voters still view his handling of those issues darkly.

They disapprove of his handling of the budget, 55 percent to 36 percent, and the didn’t care for his dealings with the state employee unions, 49 percent to 40 percent, even though the employees eventually ratified a deal that provides a two-year pay freeze and long-term pension savings.

“Almost half of Connecticut voters turn thumbs down on Malloy, with an even bigger negative for his handling of the state budget. Even among his Democratic base about a third disapprove of the job he is doing,”  Schwartz said.

His numbers have made no net improvement over three Quinnipiac polls, beginning in March. His approval rating is up six percentage points since Quinnipiac’s initial poll, but the percentage of those disapproving is up by eight points.

Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s senior adviser, issued a brief statement this morning.

“We have tried to be consistent in not saying much about polls because…what’s there to say?  Polls come and go, numbers go up and down,” Occhiogrosso said in an emailed statement.  “The Governor always does what he thinks is best for the state and the right thing to do.”

By a margin of 45 percent to 23 percent, more people like Malloy as a person than not.

But they say they dislike most of his policies, 50 percent to 36 percent. Even among Democrats, his policies are applauded only by 49 percent and disliked by 37 percent.

The legislature gets even worse marks, with 57 percent expressing disapproval and only 27 percent saying they approve.

Malloy, who is the first Democratic governor in 20 years, took office in crisis mode, facing a deficit of more than $3 billion. To balanced the budget, he raised taxes by nearly $1.6 billion and negotiated a labor-savings agreement that his administration also valued at $1.6 billion.

The poll reflects the general attitude about how voters think things are going in Connecticut.

Only 29 percent said they are “somewhat” (27 percent) or “very” (2 percent) satisifed.