Malloy struggles to stay popular

Over half of Connecticut voters are expressing buyer’s remorse about Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy.

A poll released last week by the group Public Policy Polling, reports that 52 percent of state voters, if offered another chance, would have picked 2010 Republican candidate Tom Foley, while only 41 percent would have stuck with sitting Democratic governor Dan Malloy. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, elected in the same year, has fared better by comparison, with 52 percent of all voters and 45 percent of independents pleased with his performance. Though the two are ideologically similar, experts said close media scrutiny on Malloy has contributed to his low ratings, whereas less media attention focused on Blumenthal’s actions has allowed the senator to retain his popularity.

“Blumenthal, unlike Malloy, is tucked away in the Senate where no one sees or reads about him,” said Donald Greenberg, professor of politics at Fairfield University. “Malloy is on the firing line every day as the economy gets worse and worse.”

Just 36 percent of voters approve of Malloy’s performance so far, and even amongst his Democratic base, only 49 percent are satisfied with the work he has done.

Immediately upon taking office, Malloy was charged with the task of closing a nearly 20 percent gap in the Connecticut state budget. He adopted an agenda of “shared sacrifice,” in which he raised taxes by $1.5 billion — the largest single increase in state history — slashed the budgets of state agencies and negotiated $2 billion in concessions from state employees.

Before implementing this plan, Malloy embarked on a statewide “Listening Tour,” in which he attempted to gauge voter opinion about the state’s difficult budget process.

Despite this effort, voters thought Malloy raised taxes too broadly and did not cut spending deeply enough, said Doug Schwartz, head of the Quinnipiac University Polling Center.

“People are okay with taxes being raised as long as it is not their taxes,” Schwartz said. “Malloy has had to make a lot of difficult decisions in this budget mess — including raise taxes.”

Malloy’s press secretary, Juliet Manalan, said Malloy’s office does not “have a lot to say about polls.”

Quinnipiac polls show that when the senator and the governor are compared, Schwartz said, Blumenthal has been more able to evade public criticism.

According to Scott McLean, chairman of Quinnipiac’s politics and philosophy department, this disparity may be attributed to Blumenthal’s time spent as the state’s attorney general, which he spent taking on corrupt businesses that were impeding job growth. He has not since made any controversial decisions to tarnish his image as a “champion” for the state, added McLean.

Even Blumenthal’s one stumbling block during his 2010 campaign — inconsistencies that the New York Times found in his comments about time spent serving in Vietnam — did not significantly impact that election, which Blumenthal won by 12 percentage points. “I think he handled it really well,” Greenberg said. “I think he would have had an even wider margin of winning if it weren’t for the fabrications. This guy was bulletproof until then.”

Despite the poll findings, Greenberg and Schwartz said it is still too early in Malloy’s term to evaluate his performance.

The Public Policy Polling poll results make Malloy the least popular Democratic governor in the country that the company has polled this year.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated that Juliet Manalan, Malloy’s press secretary, declined to comment about the polls. In fact, she said, “We don’t have a lot to say about polls.”

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