The VPR Poll: Pants On Fire, and other observations

Rich Clark was worried about inaccurate results. That’s why he didn’t want to survey Vermonters about their preferences in the August primary.

Okay, but when you look at the results of his VPR Poll, you realize that some of those people are lying their asses off. Which kinda makes the whole accuracy concern seem a bit irrelevant.

The biggest whoppers came when respondents were asked how likely they are to vote. 87 percent said they were very or somewhat likely to vote in November. In actual fact, we’ll be lucky to hit 60.

As for the primary, 68 percent claim to be very or somewhat likely to vote. More than half of those people are lying. The biggest primary turnouts in recent years were 23 percent in 2010 and 30 percent in 2000, the year of the Great “Take Back Vermont” freakout.

Which makes me wonder. If that many people are lying about that, why should we believe the rest of their answers?

After the jump: analysis of their possibly truthful answers. 

I suppose there’s an algorithm for that. But it again makes me question, when so much of this is kind of a crapshoot, why Clark was so reluctant to poll the races for governor and lieutenant governor.

Okay, water under the bridge. With plenty of salt on hand, let’s see what we can see in the VPR Poll. Start with the presidential and gubernatorial races, and then some random notes.

Presidential. Hillary Clinton has some convincing to do in Vermont, although she’s in no danger of losing the state. She gets 39 percent support to Trump’s 19, with 26 percent seeking “Someone Else.” Weirdly, the poll offered respondents a choice between Clinton, Trump, and Gary Johnson — but not Jill Stein. Respondents had to come up with her name on their own, and she got zero percent.

Only a bare majority of Bernie supporters in Vermont say they’re ready to vote Clinton. It doesn’t surprise me that Vermont would be a hotbed of Bernie dead-enders. I expect the vast majority will come around by November, if only because of toxic Trump exposure; but in any case, Clinton’s winning Vermont.

Gubernatorial. The poll’s substitute for a direct preference question was a combo platter of name recognition and favorability impressions.

Phil Scott, unsurprisingly, led the field with 86 percent name recognition. But Matt Dunne and Sue Minter weren’t that far behind — 73 and 63 respectively. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will have no trouble closing that gap.

(“Bill Lee” only got 22 percent. He would’ve scored better if they’d called him Spaceman.) 

The favorability numbers give Scott the edge — but by the slimmest of margins. 58 percent of respondents see him very or somewhat favorably. Those are good numbers. But Minter is also at 58 percent, and Dunne’s right behind at 50. (Scott scores four points higher than Minter in “Very Favorable”; Minter gets it back in “Somewhat Favorable.)

Overall, if you’re a Democrat, the poll provides reason for cautious optimism. Scott certainly doesn’t look like a juggernaut. Frontrunner yes, but unstoppable force? Nope.

As noted in other media reports, Bruce Lisman’s costly ad blitz has raised his name recognition. But he’s still at 61 percent, far behind Scott with almost no time left to close the gap. He’s also got much higher unfavorables than Scott. No evidence of a comeback here.

Random notes…

— There was high dissatisfaction with economy-related items like wages, job opportunities, and housing. That plays right into Phil Scott’s campaign themes. Not to say that he’d actually accomplish anything with his nebulous “solutions,” but he’s hitting the issues that resonate with voters.

— Distressingly high numbers of Vermonters live in precarious financial situations. When asked if they could handle an unexpected expense of $3,000, 40 percent were “not too confident” or “not confident at all.” That’s our 21st Century, rich-get-richer economy at work, folks.

— The tougher your economic circumstances, the more likely you are to be disaffected by mainstream candidates. People in that “not confident” bracket were less likely to favor Clinton or Trump. In a sense, that’s a no-brainer; but it also shows that Democrats have done a bad job of communicating with people who ought to be a core constituency.

— Pat Leahy is rock-solid safe. He has a 62 to 23 percent lead over Scott Milne with a low 14 percent not stating a preference. Milne’s unconventional campaign strategery won’t help him this time.

— When you ask a bunch of white folks if they are welcoming to outsiders, they say “Of course!” 77 percent see their community as “Welcoming to Others,” and 69 percent say it is welcoming to racial and ethnic diversity. I guess the other 31 percent all live in Rutland.

Seriously, Vermonters vastly underappreciate the challenges of living here for people of color.

— Opiate addiction is widely viewed as a serious threat. 89 percent call it a “major problem.” A stunning 53 percent have either struggled with addiction or know someone who has. And when asked to identify Vermont’s most important problem, 17 percent answered “drugs.” It was second behind “the economy/jobs/cost of living.” No other problem was named #1 by more than six percent of respondents.

— The environment is way down the list. Only three percent named environmental issues, climate change, or renewable energy as the top concern. Not good news for the next governor’s effort to build consensus around a very costly Lake Champlain cleanup effort.

— There’s broad support for a $15 minimum wage. 71 percent in favor, which means that moderates and even some Republicans are on board.

— Somewhat strangely, a mere 51 percent think the $15 minimum would positively impact the Vermont economy. In fact, we would enjoy an economic surge by putting more money in the pockets of those just getting by. As I’ve said before, Democrats often fail to make the very legitimate practical, economic arguments for the minimum wage, Earned Income Tax Credit, and social safety net programs.

— The poll didn’t ask for views on marijuana legalization, but it did ask whether there should be a statewide referendum — and large majorities say yes. When asked about the “best process for making the decision,” 56 percent favor a referndum and only 29 percent want the Legislature to handle it.

So, since the state Constitution doesn’t provide for binding referenda, what about a nonbinding one? 73 percent are in favor.

That’s about all I’ve got. Lots of interesting stuff, as long as you remember that people sometimes lie and you should take no opinion poll as the last word on anything.

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