GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski in 2018. Mark Pazniokas /
Republican Bob Stefanowski and Democrat Ned Lamont.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski has whittled Democrat Ned Lamont’s lead down to 3.4 percentage points, putting the race in a statistical tie, according to a new poll released Tuesday by Sacred Heart University and Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

The survey of “likely” Connecticut voters also found slightly more than half of respondents said electronic tolling would be an effective way to finance transportation improvements and relieve congestion. And almost two-thirds of voters support raising income taxes on millionaires to balance the state budget if cuts to services can’t do the job.

The new poll found 39.5 percent favor Lamont, 36.1 percent favor Stefanowski and 8.4 percent back independent candidate Oz Griebel, with 14.8 percent unsure.

The survey, which has a 4.3 percent margin of error, comes 13 days after a Quinnipiac University poll found Lamont leading Stefanowski by 8 percentage points.

“As we have said from the beginning, this race will continue to move in Stefanowski’s direction as voters realize that Ned’s Lamont’s policies are the same ones that put our state in its current position,” Stefanowski campaign spokesman Kendall Marr said. “When it comes to Ned, Oz, and Dan Malloy, they are three peas in a pod.”

Marr added that “the polls also seem to indicate that Ned’s approach of spending millions of dollars running blatantly false attack ads is not paying off with voters. The polls reflect that Ned is developing a bit of a credibility issue with voters who are turned off by his desire to raise taxes and his dishonest ads.”

Lamont campaign manager Marc Bradley said, “Polls go up and down, but one thing has remained consistent: Bob Stefanowski’s tax scheme will eliminate more than half the state’s revenue, forcing property taxes to rise dramatically in every one of Connecticut’s 169 towns and cities while decimating education, health care and public safety.”

Bradley, who was referring to Stefanowski’s pledge to phase out the state income tax over eight years, added that “Ned is the only candidate in this race who has a plan to grow jobs, cut property taxes for middle-class families and invest in education. We are going to spend the next 14 days working hard to to earn voters’ support.”

Oz Griebel addressing the Independent Party caucus

“We’ve said consistently that the only poll that matters is on November 6th,” Griebel campaign spokesman Chris Cooper said. “As importantly, this poll does not match up with what we are hearing and seeing and it is also true that polling in recent election cycles has been notoriously inaccurate.”

Stefanowski has built a sizable advantage over Lamont among unaffiliated voters, according to the Sacred Heart University/Hearst poll, which found the GOP nominee leading 43.2 percent to 24 percent in that group. Another 13.7 percent of unaffiliated voters back Griebel.

Lamont is leading among female voters by a wide margin. The new poll found 50 percent support the Democratic nominee, 25.2 percent support Stefanowski and 8.8 percent back Griebel.

Both major party candidates struggle with voter approval ratings. The survey found 35.7 percent of likely voters view Lamont favorably while 38.7 percent view him unfavorably and 25.6 percent say they either haven’t heard enough about Lamont or are unsure.

Stefanowski’s favorable/unfavorable rating was 34.9 percent-to-35.9 percent, with another 29.2 percent unsure and needing more information. 

The poll did not test Griebel’s favorability.

Voters back tolls, higher taxes on millionaires

When asked about electronic tolling, 52.1 percent of respondents either “strongly” or “somewhat” agree that it would be an effective way to finance major transportation improvements. Nearly 43 percent disagreed and 5.2 percent didn’t know or were unsure.

The survey also found 64.9 percent of likely voters agree that raising income tax rates on households earning more than $1 million would be a “fair and effective way” to balance state finances, if cuts to services are insufficient.

The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis projects state finances, unless adjusted, will run $2 billion in deficit, a gap of about 10.5 percent, in the first new fiscal year after the election.

Another 30.6 percent of those polled disagreed with the millionaires’ tax concept and 4.6 percent were unsure.

Almost 74 percent of those polled disapprove of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s job performance, while 14.6 percent approve.

When asked to identify the most important issues facing Connecticut, 22 percent selected “high overall tax burden,” 17.6 percent cited the state budget crisis, 10.6 percent said low economic growth and another 10.6 percent cited a high overall cost of living.

The new poll also found likely voters favor Democrats in the congressional races, and disapprove of both President Trump’s job performance and the nominating and approval process for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Nearly 49 percent of voters said they would support a Democratic congressional candidate, compared with 34.1 percent who will back a Republican.

Only one-third of those polled approved of Trump’s job performance, while nearly three-quarters disapprove of the nominating and approval process for Kavanaugh.

The poll surveyed 501 voters by telephone between Oct. 13 and 17.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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