(Updated 4:53 p.m) As the recession drags on and the state budget stalemate continues a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows that Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s high approval rating has slipped to an all-time low.
However, 65 percent of voters still approve of the way Rell is handling her job, while 30 percent of voters disapprove. Rell’s approval rating is much higher than the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio who are dealing with similar fiscal issues.
Meanwhile, 39 percent of voters approve of how the Democratic-controlled General Assembly is doing its job, while 45 percent of voters disapprove.
Derek Slap, spokesman for the Senate Democrats said the legislature’s approval rating is low because, “we’ve made the tough decisions.” Despite the low approval ratings, Slap said his party is winning the policy argument with the public because the poll shows voters siding with them on specific budget solutions.
One of the solutions Democratic lawmakers have proposed is an increased income tax on the wealthy, which the poll shows voters supporting.
Seventy-one percent of voters said they would support a progressive income tax.
More specifically, voters support 71 – 27 percent raising the state income tax for individuals making at least $265,000 per year and couples making at least $500,000. The measure wins 90 – 9 percent support from Democrats, 71 – 26 percent support from independent voters and Republicans oppose it 57 – 40 percent.
Quinnipiac Poll Director Doug Schwartz said when voters are asked the question about cutting services or raising taxes to balance the state budget they almost always choose cutting services over raising taxes. Wednesday’s poll results are no different.
The poll found that by a 60 – 30 percent margin, voters would rather cut services than raise taxes to balance the state budget.
But for the second time since March, Schwartz said he asked a separate question about whether it’s necessary to raise taxes. Four months ago, only 32 percent of voters said a tax increase was necessary to balance the budget, now 48 percent of voters said a tax increase was necessary.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said Wednesday afternoon that the poll supports the Republican’s position of cutting spending before raising taxes.
“Three out of five residents say they favor cutting government services before raising taxes – exactly the opposite direction of plans put forward by majority Democrats,” McKinney said. “What’s more, this poll very clearly shows that Connecticut residents have placed far more faith in Governor Rell and legislative Republicans to responsibly tackle this budget crisis.”
But it also looks as if voters are done with the political posturing and spin put forth by both parties.
The poll also found that 88 percent of voters believe the lack of a state budget is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem.
Who’s to blame for the lack of a state budget?
Twenty-nine percent of voters blamed Democratic lawmakers, while 16 percent blamed Rell, 14 percent blamed Republicans, and 26 percent blamed everyone equally.
Schwartz said for the first time, he asked voters an open-ended question about what is the best and worst thing Rell has done for the state of Connecticut.
An estimated 40 to 43 percent of voters were unable to come up with an answer or simply couldn’t name the best or worst thing Rell has done over the past six years. Twenty-three percent said the best thing she has done was the handling of the state’s budget, but 23 percent said this was also the worst thing she has done.
Eleven percent of voters said the best thing Rell has done was restoring trust after the resignation of former Gov. John G. Rowland.
Despite the split on the Rell’s policies, 54 percent of voters said they liked the governor as a person and also liked her policies. But 30 percent said they only liked her as a person and did not like her policies.
The survey of 1,499 voters has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.