Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s message of “shared sacrifice” doesn’t seem to be resonating with voters, with just 38 percent of them approving of his performance Wednesday in the first Quinnipiac University poll following Malloy’s first legislative session as governor.

According to the poll 44 percent disapprove of the job he’s doing, while only 38 percent approve. Less than half, or 43 percent, are “dissatisfied” with the new state budget and 16 percent are “angry” about it. Only 36 percent described themselves as “enthusiastic” or “satisfied” with the budget, through which Malloy seeks to close a $3.5 billion deficit.
But the low approval rating has nothing to do with Malloy as a person. Forty-eight to 18 percent like him as a person, while 50-37 percent dislike his policies.

Of the three governors included in the poll—New York’s Andrew M. Cuomo and New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Malloy fared the worst. Christie received an approval rating of 46 percent while 61 percent of those polled approved of Cuomo’s job performance so far.

Schwartz speculated that the other two governors may be enjoying a higher approval rating due to the fact that their predecessors were perceived as incompetent by many voters. Meanwhile, former Gov. M. Jodi Rell remained popular here in Connecticut.

The poll found that 32 percent voters liked Rell better, while just 20 percent say Malloy is a better governor and 37 percent say the two are about the same.
Schwartz noted that Rell had the luxury of governing during better economic times. When it comes down to it, people don’t like tax increases but they also don’t like spending cuts that eliminate public services, he said.

“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,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.

“You can choose to be popular, or you can choose to lead. Gov. Malloy has chosen to lead, and in doing so has made the tough decisions necessary to clean up the financial mess he inherited when he took office in January,” Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said. “That people are unhappy with some of those decisions is no surprise. Gov. Malloy knew full well that making these decisions wouldn’t make him popular, but he’s not trying to win a popularity contest. He’s trying to fix what’s broken in Connecticut once and for all, and is confident that we’re headed in the right direction.”

More than half, or 52 percent, of the 1,311 voters polled disapprove of the way Malloy handled the state budget. Voters disapprove of the budget itself 50 to 35 percent. Only about 17 percent believe the new state budget, which includes the highest tax increase in the state’s history, say the new state budget spreads the tax increases fairly across income groups, while 67 percent say taxes on the wealthy should have been higher. About 59 percent say the new state budget makes the middle class pay more than their fair share.

Malloy refused to raise the income tax higher than 6.7 percent in order to keep Connecticut competitive with surrounding states.

“His low approval rating is a reflection of how voters feel about his budget,“ Schwartz said. “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.”

But Malloy doesn’t fare much better than the Democrat-controlled legislature which also received a negative approval rating of 33 percent. State employees also didn’t receive a glowing endorsement from those polled. Voters don’t believe the $1.6 billion state employee concession package is fair. About 36 percent feel state employees aren’t doing their fair share to help balance the budget, while 21 percent say they are doing more than their fair share. Only about 39 percent of voters believe the wages and benefits for state workers are about right.

It may not be all bad news for Malloy though because time is on his side, Schwartz said.

“He’s still below 40 percent, not a good place to be, but it’s only five months into his term. He’s got plenty of time to recover, plenty of time to turn around. If the economy turns around, his poll numbers will turn around,” he said.

But while voters may pan the state budget and increased taxes they overwhelming support a new law which mandates employers with more than 50 employees to offer paid sick days and decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana.

The poll found 72 to 25 percent of voters support the new paid sick leave law and 66 to 31 percent a law to decriminalize a half ounce of marijuana.

While the poll indicates the public generally seems to support the paid sick days law, the business community lobbied heavily against it throughout the session. Jon Green, executive director of Connecticut Working Families, issued a statement following the release of the poll.

“Business lobbyists might hate to admit it, but for the public there’s nothing terribly controversial about the paid sick days law. Connecticut voters across the political spectrum support this issue because it’s the right thing to do for working families,” he said.

The poll which was conducted June 8-13 has a 2.7 percent margin of error.

Hugh McQuaid contributed to this story