Dissatisfied with a record tax increase, only 38 percent of Connecticut voters approve of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s job performance in his first five months as governor, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
Voters like the first Democratic governor in 20 years as a person and overwhelmingly favor his push for two controversial measures, a paid-sick days law and the decriminalization of marijuana, but they pan his handling of the dominant issue, the state budget.
Malloy gets a negative job rating from 44 percent of voters, but the man is more popular than his performance and policies. They say they dislike his policies, 50 percent to 37 percent, but like him as a person, 48 percent to 18 percent.
“His low approval rating is a reflection of how voters feel about his budget,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director. “Many voters are dissatisfied and some even say they are angry. They think the budget relies too much on tax increases and not enough on spending cuts. They also think the middle class is paying more than its fair share while those with higher incomes aren’t paying their fair share.”
Only 17 percent say the new budget fairly spreads taxes across income groups, while 67 percent say Malloy should have sought higher taxes from people with higher incomes, a view that eroded support in his Democratic base. His tax package is viewed as fair by more Republicans (27 percent) than Democrats (10 percent) or independents (19 percent.)
“Gov. Dannel Malloy should be doing better in a blue state like Connecticut, but he gets only a 52 percent approval rating among his base of Democrats,” Schwartz said.
Malloy raised the top income tax rate, but he resisted calls from some Democratics and labor activists to go even higher, insisting it would put Connecticut at an economic disadvantage with nearby states. Sixty percent of Republicans agree with him, compared to 27 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of independents.
Still, two issues he backed over near-unanimous Republican opposition are popular among Democrats and independents.
The paid sick days law is favored by 72 percent of voters, while the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana is backed by 66 percent. Among Democrats, the bills are backed by 84 percent and 77 percent, respectively.
Every Republican but Sen. John A. Kissel of Enfield voted against the sick days bill, which requires certain types of companies with 50 or more employees to offer up to five days off a year. But GOP voters support the policy, 50 percent to 44 percent.
The new poll finds other Democratic politicians in better standing: President Obama has a job approval rating of 53 percent, with 44 percent disapproving; Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was elected the same day as Malloy, is favored, 54 percent to 25 percent.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the independent not seeking re-election next year, has negative rating: 45 percent disapprove, while 41 percent approve.
Malloy, 55, has dominated the news in Connecticut since taking office in January and proposing his first budget in February. He held 17 town-hall meetings across the state over his budget, winning some grudging approval from even political opponents, even as voters are displeased
“I just think they are unhappy with some of the budget decisions he’s had to make,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, his senior adviser. “That’s no surprise.”
Malloy took office inheriting a deficit of more than $3 billion from his Republican predecessor, M. Jodi Rell, but she is seen as a better governor by 32 percent of voters, while 20 percent seem him as better and 37 view them about the same.
His willingness to back a tax increase put him at odds with most other governors, even as it won him editorial accolades for maintaining state aid for education, which eased pressure on municipalities to raise property taxes or lay off teachers. Governors in New York and New Jersey sharply cut local aid.
“Gov. Malloy might be jealous of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s high 61 percent job approval rating, but Cuomo is the exception. Malloy can take some solace from the fact that other new governors who also are dealing with big budget deficits have similar low job approval ratings,” Schwartz said.
Malloy is only one of many state employees viewed dimly by the public: a plurality of 46 percent say state employee wages and benefits are too high, while 39 percent view them as about right and 8 percent say they are too low.
Connecticut state employees are making less than their fair share of sacrifices under the new budget, 36 percent of voters say, while 21 percent say workers are doing more than their fair share and 35 percent say they are doing about their fair share.
As an institution, the General Assembly continues to get low grades: 33 percent approve; 50 percent disapprove. But that is an improvement from a year ago, when the split was 28 percent to 58 percent.
The poll is Quinnipiac’s second since Malloy took office. In March, it found Malloy with an approval/disapproval rating of 35 percent to 40 percent.
The telephone survey of 1,311 voters was conducted from June 8 to 13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
The poll is the second released in two days. A poll commissioned by the Yankee Institute found Malloy with a 42 percent approval rating. Fifty-six percent said they disapproved.