Christine Stuart file photo

A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows that three of U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s five Republican challengers would beat him if the election were held today.

Former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons would beat Dodd 49 to 38 percent, while Linda McMahon, the former World Wrestling Entertainment executive who says she is willing to spend $30 to $50 million of her own money on the race, would beat Dodd 43 to 41 percent. Also former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley would beat Dodd 47 to 40 percent.

The poll also says 54 percent of voters surveyed last week disapprove of the job Dodd is doing, up from 49 percent in September. Even more bad news for Dodd is that voters say 53 to 39 percent that he does not deserve reelection.

“After inching up in the polls for months, Sen. Christopher Dodd is sliding back down again on job approval,” Poll Director Doug Schwartz said. “He continues to struggle with independent voters as 60 percent disapprove of the way he is handling his job.”

Simmons still leads the Republicans, but McMahon seems to be catching up. If the primary were held today Simmons would receive 28 percent of the vote, McMahon 17 percent, Foley 9 percent, state Sen. Sam Caligiuri 4 percent, and Peter Schiff 5 percent.

“Linda McMahon made a big splash into the race two months ago and finishes second in the primary to Rob Simmons,” Schwartz said. “She tops Dodd by a couple of points, but it appears that more than 40 percent of voters would vote for anybody but Dodd at this point.”

If McMahon spends millions of her own dollars on the race, 61 percent of voters say that means she is free of pressure from lobbyists and other special interests, while 29 percent say this gives her an unfair advantage and makes it look like she is buying the election.

Voters say 34 to 25 percent, with 41 percent undecided, that McMahon does not have the right kind of experience to be a U.S. Senator.

The two biggest issues in the race for the U.S. Senate seem to be healthcare and the economy. Thirty-three percent of voters say the economy is the most important issue in the 2010 Senate race, with another 30 percent saying it’s health care. No other issue tops five percent.

Amongst Dodd’s supporters healthcare remains an important issue, while those who care most about the economy prefer a Republican candidate.

“Healthcare is an issue that should work for Sen. Dodd,” Schwartz said. “Voters who tell us it’s the most important issue side with him. But voters who care most about the economy say the Republican candidate will be better able to deal with it. If the economy worsens, this will hurt Dodd.”

Connecticut’s Junior Senator

By a 51 to 25 percent margin, voters say U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s views on issues are closer to the Republican Party than to the Democratic Party. There is agreement on this among voters in all parties.

Voters approve 49 to 44 percent of the job Lieberman is doing. He gets 74 to 20 percent approval from Republicans and 52 to 40 percent approval from independent voters, but Democrats disapprove 62 to 31 percent.

Voters say 64 to 29 percent that Democrats should not strip Lieberman of his committee chairmanship if he joins Republicans in a filibuster against the Democrats’ health care reform.