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New Poll Has Mixed Results For Shumlin

Peter Hirschfeld
A statewide poll commissioned by WCAX shows Gov. Peter Shumlin, shown here on Sept. 9, has under 50 percent of the vote.

With four weeks to go before election day, a new poll shows that the race for governor has the incumbent holding a strong lead. But the poll results also show that Gov. Peter Shumlin’s "un-favorability" ratings are unusually high for a two-term governor.  

The statewide poll was commissioned by WCAX and was conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute at the end of last week.

The results show Democrat Shumlin with 47 percent of the vote, Republican Scott Milne received 35 percent, and Libertarian candidate Dan Feliciano garnered 6 percent. The remaining votes were split among four other candidates.

UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson says the results are a reflection of how Vermont voters feel about the four year record of Peter Shumlin.

"The fact that Peter Shumlin's numbers are under 50 percent really does indicate a weakness on the part of his campaign." - UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson

“Elections are not about challengers, elections are about incumbents,” said Nelson. “And so the fact that Peter Shumlin’s numbers are under 50 percent really does indicate a weakness on the part of his campaign.”

The poll also shows that while Shumlin’s favorability rating is at 45 percent, his "un-favorability" rating is 41 percent.

Nelson thinks a lot of voters are unhappy with Shumlin over two major issues: rising property tax burdens and the performance of Vermont Health Connect, the state’s health care exchange.

“Presuming that he wins this election that issue has to be cleaned up or he won’t have that (health care) legacy to remembered for,” said Nelson. “That has been clearly a major problem as far as the public is concerned, and also the property tax issue which also seems to be getting resonance in the state.”

A number of conservative Republicans are backing the candidacy of Libertarian Dan Feliciano and they have sharply criticized GOP candidate Scott Milne.

Nelson says this split in the Republican ranks could hand the election to Shumlin.

“So presumably if you added those to Milne’s votes, Shumlin would be in more difficulty,” said Nelson. “The fact that the conservative Republicans are choosing to kind of undermine their own candidacy is remarkable, but I’ve seen stranger things in Vermont politics.”

Nelson says Vermont’s aging population could play a key role in the outcome of the governor’s race.

That’s because he says health care and property tax burdens are the top two issues for older voters and Nelson says this group of Vermonters is very likely to turn out and vote.