It’s 2020, and the public is in the same foul mood it’s been in for the last, oh, decade or so. According to a new Sacred Heart University/Hartford Courant poll, Governor Lamont is awful, the state is in the dumps, we’re groaning under a heavy tax burden, and tolls on trucks are only barely acceptable as any kind of solution.
We do like Joe Biden, though. So there’s that.
We used to have more polls. Quinnipiac University used to poll the state where they reside a couple of times per year, and SurveyUSA did a poll of governors every month or so. These days we have very little evidence of how angry the public is beyond the usual toxic Facebook comment sections, so it’s nice to finally get some kind of actual data.
Unfortunately, the sentiments of the public aren’t too different from the comment sections, in as much as taxes, tolls, the economy, Ned Lamont, and Connecticut as a whole are all terrible. This poll is one bad weekend away from writing an “I’m leaving” op-ed and moving to Arizona.
Let’s wallow in the misery together.
Ned Lamont’s approval rating is up, slightly, but it’s still at a dismal 28%. That’s sort of like shaving a sliver of iron off an anchor and saying it’s lighter: it’s technically true and it doesn’t help at all. This is squarely in “don’t you dare run for re-election” territory, kind of like Dan Malloy in 2017 or Lowell Weicker post-income tax. According to those polled, Lamont is bad at everything: the budget (23.4% approve), tolls (25% approve), taxes (18.9% approve), education (30.1% approve) and health care (29.3% approve).
The public’s verdict on the past year is unsurprisingly sour. The pollsters asked whether respondents believed the economy had improved since Lamont took office, and only 10.8% said it had. 48.2% said they felt the economy had stayed the same, while 26.2% said it had actually worsened.
What a miserable – hang on, didn’t I see something about how the economy grew at a decent 2.1% pace during the third quarter of 2019? That’s right in line with the rest of the country, and a big change from the 1% growth from the second quarter. Still, combine that with the startling 4.1% growth of the first quarter, and Connecticut … had a good year?
That can’t be right. We’d know if we’d had a good year. We would sense it, like Obi-Wan Kenobi feeling the destruction of Alderaan.
If we were doing better, a majority of respondents wouldn’t have told the pollsters that unemployment, business growth, competitive wages, and new job creation had stayed the same or worsened during Lamont’s term.
Although unemployment is at a frosty cool 3.6%, which is near historic lows. Unemployment peaked in 2011 and has been heading downhill since. More residents are employed than at any time in this century. Wages and salaries are up, too, and while job growth is still sluggish, it is still trending slowly upwards.
The thing is, like a lot of the rest of the country, it’s hard to really feel the effects of a growing economy when they’re happening so slowly and unevenly. The government doesn’t help by being chronically unable to balance its books, which is why tolls felt like such an insult to most people.
But there is a very strong belief, especially among the people who live here, that Connecticut is hopeless.
What if it isn’t, though?
What if Connecticut got hit harder than most other states by the Great Recession, and we’ve been fortunate to claw our way back as much as we have?
What if we’ve been told that Connecticut sucks for so long that we can’t believe anything but that?
What if we’re wrong?
The thought is pretty scary. If Connecticut is actually not bad, then clearly the world is upside down and nothing makes sense.
Best not to consider it.
Moving rapidly on, it seems that Joe Biden is popular here. He’s ahead of Bernie Sanders in this poll 33%-19.3%, and that’s no malarkey! No malarkey at all.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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