State News

Poll finds Vermonters support mask mandate, BLM and Scott’s leadership; have economic concerns

Vermont residents support a mask mandate (76%), the Black Lives Matter movement (66%) and the leadership of Governor Phil Scott (83%) and are concerned (93%) over the future of small businesses in the state. Those are four of the big takeaways from a joint statewide poll released Tuesday, Aug. 4, by Vermont PBS and Vermont Public Radio.

The poll solicited Vermonters’ views on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, recent protests over racial inequality, and the economy. The phone poll of 603 registered voters was conducted by Braun Research Inc, of Princeton, N.J. and overseen by Rich Clark, professor of political science at Castleton University and the former director of the Castleton Polling Institute. It took place July 15-28 and has an overall margin of error of 4%.

Vermonters were split on whether the public schools should reopen and whether colleges should resume in-person instruction:

“Given the current state of the pandemic, do you favor or oppose re-opening K-12 schools this coming fall?”  47% Favor, 42% Oppose.

“Given the current state of the pandemic, do you favor or oppose Vermont universities and colleges letting students come back to campus?” 44% Favor, 50% Oppose.

Also, by a wide 2-1 margin, respondents said they would rather raise taxes than cut spending.

Governor Scott in his Tuesday press briefing, Aug. 4, responded to that result by wondering “how granular” the questions were.

The question, however, merely asked: “Considering the impact that the coronavirus has had on the Vermont state budget and the need to balance the budget, should the focus be more on cutting programs or on raising revenues?” 28% More on cutting programs; 54% More on raising revenues; 10% Balance of both; 3% Neither; 6% No opinion.

The governor, who has long opposed raising taxes, said that option should be one “of last resort.” He said, “Nobody minds a tax increase as long it doesn’t affect themselves, I guess.”

As for small business, nearly everyone who responded understood the threat to small business: “How concerned are you about the future of small businesses in Vermont?” 67% Very concerned; 26% Somewhat concerned; 4% Not too concerned; 2% Not concerned at all.

Interestingly, 56% said they fear the state “will open too quickly, risking greater harm to public health than necessary” vs. 26% who said they fear the state “will not open quickly enough, risking greater harm to the economy than necessary.”

Other responses of note:

Only only 40% of the Vermont respondents said they personally know anyone who has contracted Covid-19. 60% did not.

66% are concerned about contracting Covid-19 with 22% saying they are “very concerned;” 44% somewhat concerned.

92% said they were concerned about people from out of state coming to Vermont who may spread the virus with 43% “very concerned;” 34% “somewhat concerned;” and 15% “a little concerned.”

81% said they consider their “community to be a place that is welcoming to diversity” with only 9% saying their communities are “not welcoming.”

The poll, released one week ahead of Vermont’s primary election, is the second of three statewide public opinion surveys Vermont PBS and VPR are conducting during this election year. The first poll was released in February, ahead of Town Meeting Day and Vermont’s presidential primary. The final poll will be released in late October, ahead of the general election.

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