Exactly eight months before the 2014 Connecticut gubernatorial election, a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday shows Gov. Dannel Malloy in a dead heat against leading Republican challenger Tom Foley.
The poll of 1,878 Connecticut voters shows that if the election were held today, Malloy and Foley would each receive 42 percent of the vote. A poll of registered Republican voters also found Foley leading the Republican field with support from 36 percent of respondents.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Foley’s closest opponent, is supported by 11 percent of Republicans. Senate minority leader John McKinney, who has sought to market himself as the candidate best equipped to present a moderate Republican alternative to Malloy, polled at 3 percent.
But campaign spokesmen and state political experts interviewed, cautioned against reading too much into the poll this far from Nov. 4.
“I think it’s a little premature to draw any conclusions this early,” said Gary Rose, director of the Department of Government & Politics at Sacred Heart University. “But Foley is clearly as of right now in the driver’s seat of his own party, and I think that he’s definitely perceived by people as a credible alternative to the governor.”
Chris Cooper, a spokesman for the Foley campaign, said the poll numbers reflect widespread dissatisfaction with Malloy’s economic policies. Malloy defeated Foley by 6,000 votes, the closest gubernatorial election margin in the Nutmeg State’s history.
The poll found 46 percent of voters hold a favorable opinion of Malloy, while 43 percent hold an unfavorable opinion. By contrast, 38 percent of voters say they approve of Foley, while 21 percent disapprove.
Rose said Boughton and McKinney, who have never run in a state-wide election, will probably gain greater name recognition and support as they begin campaigning ahead of the Republican primary on Aug. 12.
McKinney said he was not disappointed by the results of the poll, pointing out that it showed Malloy would beat him by only six points in a head-to-head contest held today.
“Foley spent over ten million of his own fortune running four years ago,” McKinney said. “And I’ve spent zero running statewide. This poll is simply a sign of how weak Malloy is.”
Representatives of Boughton’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Ron Schurin, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, said the poll results do not mean Malloy will be easy to beat. Schurin said Malloy can point to gradual improvements in the state’s economy and strong leadership in “dealing with many crises” during his term. The Quinnipiac poll found voters support his proposed minimum wage hike three to one.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Andrew Doba, Malloy’s communications director, downplayed the significance of the poll.
“Polls come and go, numbers go up and down,” Doba wrote. “The governor always does what he thinks is best for the state and the right thing to do.”
On Wednesday, Malloy will join President Obama and the governors of Vermont, Rhode Island and Massachusetts at an event at Central Connecticut State University to garner support for increasing support for the minimum wage hike. Rose said he believes this event signals Malloy’s intentions to eventually seek national office.
“If he loses reelection, that ends it,” Rose said. “But if he wins a second term, he could clearly be on the short list for a federal government position in 2016. And I think that’s what his motivation is, quite honestly.”
Quinnipiac University surveyed its respondents from Feb. 26 through March 2.