Republican Gov. Phil Scott is coasting to reelection and has become more popular than the three Democrats who serve in Vermont's Congressional delegation according to a new poll from VPR and Vermont PBS.
Meanwhile, six weeks from Election Day, the state's lieutenant governor's race is a statistical dead heat, and fewer than 50% of Vermonters say they are eager to take a COVID-19 vaccine in the next year.
The poll was supervised by Rich Clark, a professor of political science and former director of polling at the Castleton Polling Institute, and was conducted by Braun Research Inc., a New Jersey firm. Pollsters interviewed 604 respondents between Sept. 3 and Sept. 15 over landlines and cell phones. The poll has an overall margin of error of 4%.
Scott is leading Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman 55% to 24% as he seeks a third term in office, with 16% undecided. And Scott's 68% approval rating bests U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, whose ratings are at 61% and 56% respectively, and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, at 57%.
So popular is Scott that he could potentially unseat Leahy in the 2022 U.S. Senate election, when Leahy would be eligible to seek a ninth term. Scott leads Leahy 41% to 38% — a toss-up — in that theoretical matchup.
The only close statewide race is the battle to succeed Zuckerman as lieutenant governor. The poll finds Democrat Molly Gray at 35% and Republican Scott Milne at 31%, a virtual tie. The race likely hinges on how the large block of undecided voters in that race — 24% — breaks in the final weeks of the campaign.
Meanwhile, Welch is up 57% to 18% over his little-known Republican challenger, Miriam Berry.
Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump 56% to 32%. That result would be almost identical to Vermont's vote in the 2016 presidential election of Trump against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Most Biden supporters are motivated to get rid of Trump. Only 30% of Biden's voters said they are casting ballots out of a desire to support the candidate, while 63% said their Biden vote would be primarily driven by opposition to Trump.
With the Legislature poised to approve a tax-and-regulate system for retail marijuana sales, the poll finds the idea is hugely popular. Some 68% support such a plan, with only 24% opposed.
And as public health officials are becoming increasingly assertive in urging people to get a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available, the poll shows experts may have reason to be concerned: 48% said they would be very eager, or somewhat eager, to get vaccinated within the next 12 months, while 43% said they would be somewhat reticent, or very reticent.
When asked, given the current state of the pandemic, whether they supported reopening K-12 schools for in-person learning, 52% of respondents supported it, with 34% opposed. And 48% favored reopening Vermont's colleges and universities for in-person classes, with 42% opposed.
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From Sept. 3 to Sept. 15, the VPR - Vermont PBS 2020 Poll asked hundreds of Vermonters how they felt about political candidates, a COVID-19 vaccine, retail marijuana and other issues. Explore the full results here.