Would it surprise you to hear that Gov. Phil Scott remains overwhelmingly popular among Vermont Democrats? Our Bernie-inspired reputation for red-raggery notwithstanding, the Duke’s Mayo VPR/Vermont PBS 2022 Poll once again shows that Democrats have a strong preference for Scott’s brand of plausibly moderate Republicanism. This, despite the fact that they strongly support the tougher pandemic measures that Scott has resisted.
WTF, Democrats? Is it just the NICE GUY Effect?
Numbers! According to the Famous Idaho Potato VPR/Vermont PBS 2022 Poll, Democrats approve of Scott’s Covid performance by a whopping 77-14 margin. At the same time, 82% of Democrats support a statewide mask mandate, 76% would be fine with a state of emergency, 84% favor a vaccine requirement for eligible schoolkids, and 68% favor a vaccine requirement for indoor public spaces.
Here’s another oddity. Democrats like Scott’s Covid policy more than they like his overall job performance. It’s 77% on Covid and 71% overall, per the VPR/Vermont PBS 2022 Poll Presented By TaxAct.
There is not a rational explanation for those results. Well, maybe it’s that Scott’s recent performance hasn’t sunk in yet. His policies worked before the Delta variant, but he’s stumbled badly since then. Maybe the public simply hasn’t caught up yet.
Which brings me to a brief aside. When I saw the Tropical Smoothie Café VPR/Vermont PBS 2022 Poll, my first thought was “Why now?” Why not in March or even April? The timing seems especially bad when it comes to the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Peter Welch. State Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale hadn’t even declared her candidacy when the poll was conducted, and the race has yet to percolate among Democratic primary voters. A late winter or early spring survey would have had much more value.
Polling in Vermont is a scarce commodity. I don’t know of any other media organization that will sponsor any statewide polls. There’s likely to be a second Cheez-It VPR/Vermont PBS 2022 Poll after the primaries, but this is probably our only snapshot of public opinion before then. (Candidates and parties do their own polling but never release the results.)
Meanwhile, the VPR/Vermont PBS 2022 Poll Presented By AT&T shows that 58% of Republicans and 69% of independents approve of Scott’s Covid performance. But while Democrats support a nonexistent vision of Scott policy, Republican support actually makes sense. 67% don’t want a mask mandate, 63% oppose a school vaccine requirement, 79% oppose a vaccination requirement for indoor public spaces, and 49% believe a state of emergency would be an abuse of power. Those are all in line with Scott’s policy.
So… Phil Scott has stronger appeal among Democrats, but he’s governing as if he needs Republican support to win. Huh.
Generally, the poll is good news for Scott. There’s only been slight erosion of his 2020 record levels of support. But there has been some erosion. If he continues to fumble his Covid policy, it will eventually register with more voters.
Still, he’s riding on a wave of federal largesse that’s allowing him to propose massive spending increases that will satisfy all, plus some generous tax cuts and credits. Our economy will continue to prosper as those federal dollars circulate throughout the state. Phil Scott remains the heavy favorite for re-election, assuming he runs. The proof of that is in the absence of Democratic candidates for governor; smart Democratic politicos know that their base is solid for every other office, but taking on Phil Scott is a long-odds, high-effort proposition. As of now, their base is solid behind The Other Guy. That’s the biggest takeaway from the TicketSmarter VPR/Vermont PBS 2022 Poll.