Connecticut voters have a dim view of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s first two months in office, disapproving of his overall performance and his proposal to raise taxes by $1.5 billion to help erase an inherited deficit,  according to a poll released today.

Quinnipiac University’s first take on voter attitudes towards the new governor found only about one-third of the state approves of his job performance or his handling of the budget, but 55 percent say they are nonetheless optimistic about the next four years under Malloy.

“I’m pretty encouraged by that,” Malloy said of the voters who see an upside in his administration. “We’re asking for sacrifice. We’re spreading that sacrifice. I understand that’s unpopular.”

Voters also give him high marks for his effort to sell his ideas, with 89 percent saying his town-hall meetings on the budget and the economy and are a good idea. Nearly everyone acknowledged that Malloy and the state are confronting a significant budget problem.

But by wide margins, voters say they do not beleive Malloy has proposed the right mix of higher taxes and spending cuts.

“Connecticut voters are in a grumpy mood. Nearly 70 percent are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the state and no elected official in this survey has an approval rating above 50 percent,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director.

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While voters dislike the specific mix of income and sales taxes that Malloy is raising, they acknowledge by a narrow margin of 50 percent to 46 percent that a tax increase is necessary.

“Most damaging is that by a big margin, voters say Malloy is unfair to them,” said  Schwartz.

Voters strongly support (68 percent) a wage freeze for state employees, less so (53 percent) furloughs for state employees. If employees do not make concessions, voters support layoffs, 50 percent to 44 percent.

In union households, an important part of the Democratic governor’s political base, layoffs are opposed, 58 percent to 37 percent, and Malloy’s job performance is disapproved, 40 percent to 36 percent.

Overall, Democrats applaud Malloy’s handling of the budget, 46 percent to 39 percent, and they approve of his job performance by a 2-1 margin. Independents and Republicans disapprove of his performance: 43 percent to 34 percent, and 56 percent to 21 percent, respectively.

Malloy’s senior adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, said the results were not surprising.

“With all due respect, this is why the past couple of governors refused to make the tough decisions that needed to be made: because tough decisions often aren’t popular ones,” Occhiogrosso said.

The poll also surveyed opinions of President Obama and the state’s two U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Joseph I. Lieberman.

Blumenthal, also in office for just two months, has a job-approval rating under 50 percent without being associated with anything as unpopular as across-the-board tax increases. But by a 2-1 margin, more voters approve than disapprove. The split is 49 percent to 25 percent.

Obama’s approval-disapproval split is nearly even, 49 percent to 47 percent. Lieberman, who announced his intention to retire recently, is approved by 38 percent and disapproved by 45 percent.

With the governor, the best that can be said in the poll is that many voters offered no opinion. One quarter of all respondents say they are undecided about Malloy’s job performance, while 40 percent disapprove and 35 percent approve.

“But it’s early. Dannel Malloy has been governor for only two months,” Schwartz said. “The first impression of him is decidedly mixed with many voters taking a wait and see attitude.”

The Malloy administration is engaged in a two-month plan to sell the governor’s budget proposal, scheduling 17 town-hall meetings and speaking to business groups and, last week, about 175 union representatives and members.

His two main selling points: The plan is a responsible effort to undo the damage of past administrations, and it spreads the pain. Seventy-seven percent agree that the state’s budget problems are “very serious,” up from from 61 percent a year ago.

But today’s poll finds that his idea of share sacrifice does not match that of voters. Only voters in households with incomes above $100,000 view the plan as relatively fair to “people like you:” They are evenly divided, while voters in households making less see it as unfair by 2-1 margins or worse.

By a margin of 69 to 29 percent, they are against raising income taxes on anyone making more than $50,000 a year, while opposition to raising the sales tax from 6 percent to 6.35 percent is more muted, 52 percent to 47 percent.

“Gov. Malloy has put forward an honest budget that asks virtually everyone in Connecticut to make sacrifices because he believes that’s the only way we’re going to fix what’s broken and put Connecticut back to work,” Occhiogrosso said. “That people are unhappy with those sacrifices is no surprise.”

In a poll conducted Feb. 20 by Pulse Opinion Research for the Yankee Institute, Malloy fared better: His approval-disapproval rating was 50 percent to 46 percent.

The Quinnipiac poll is based on a telephone survey of 1,693 registered voters conducted from March 1 to 7. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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