Tenure reform supported in Quinnipiac poll

Connecticut voters support Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's push for teacher tenure reform and Sunday liquor sales, while the state is evenly divided on the governor's job performance, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

The poll also found across-the-board voter support for the legalization of medical marijuana and strong opposition to abolishing the death penalty, two issues to be debated Wednesday by the legislature's Judiciary Committee.

Malloy's job performance is approved by 44 percent and disapproved by 45 percent of voters, his best review in four Quinnipiac polls taken since he became governor in January 2011.

"This lukewarm 44-45 percent score is not bad for a governor who raised the income tax across the board his first year to deal with an inherited deficit," said Douglas Schwartz, the poll's director.

Last month, Malloy had a 51 percent to 46 approval rating in a survey taken by Pulse Opinion Research for the Yankee Institute. In the previous Quinnipiac poll taken in September, his approval/disapproval numbers were 41 percent to 48 percent.

"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," said Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor's senior adviser, in an emailed statement. "The governor always does what he thinks is best for the state and the right thing to do."

The new poll finds that men are warming more quickly than women to Malloy, who has an aggressive public style. Women generally are more supportive of Democrats than are men, but they disapprove of Malloy, 45 percent to 41 percent. Men are evenly divided about the governor.

Last month, Malloy was disapproved 50 percent to 43 percent by men and 46 percent to 40 percent by women.

Medical marijuana is supported in the Quinnipiac poll, 68 percent to 27 percent, with opposition by no demographic subset -- gender, party affiliation, income, age or education level.

The poll slightly misrepresents the bill, asking if voters supported use of medical marijuana with a doctor's prescription. Actually, patients could obtain marijuana if a doctor certified they had one of several chronic diseases.

Malloy is prepared to sign a medical marijuana bill should it pass, as expected.

The governor's top legislative priority of education reforms gets a mixed review: Asked generally about his handling of education, 41 percent disapprove of Malloy and 36 percent approve of him. Public school teachers are more popular than the governor, but their unions are not.

But overall, the poll seemed to buoy Malloy's high-profile push for education reforms, including a proposal to more closely tie tenure and pay to a stronger evaluation system.

Despite the high regard enjoyed by teachers, voters say by a 2-1 ratio that it should be easier to fire a teacher, and 54 percent say they agree with Malloy's proposal to limit teacher tenure. Even union households support merit pay and limiting tenure.

Sixty-six percent of voters have a favorable view of teachers, while only 12 percent view them unfavorably. And 85 percent say the public schools in their community are very good (41 percent) or fairly good (44 percent).

Teacher unions are viewed unfavorably, 32 percent to 27 percent.

The polling comes as the Malloy administration is negotiating with teacher unions over his reform package. The state's largest union, the Connecticut Education Association, is airing television commercials attacking the governor's plan.

Sunday sales of alcohol is favored, 54 percent to 42 percent, but allowing sales at convenience stores at gas station is not. A legislative committee Monday approved a bill to allow package stores to open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Repealing the death penalty is opposed by a 2-1 ratio. Repeal has done better in other polls, when voters are told the option would be a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Quinnipiac asked only if repeal was a good idea or a bad idea. Democrats said it was a good idea, 48 percent to 44 percent. Republicans and independents overwhelmingly called it a bad idea.

The poll is based on a telephone survey of 1,622 registered voters from March 14 to 19. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

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