Doyle poll offers insights
Apr 11, 2013 | 2981 views | 0 0 comments | 387 387 recommendations | email to a friend | print
One of the great traditions of one of Vermont’s greatest traditions is the annual Town Meeting Day Survey. The poll, conducted since 1969 by Washington County Sen. Bill Doyle, is one of the state’s most anticipated barometers of what Vermonters are thinking. While admittedly unscientific, Doyle’s annual survey offers an intriguing perspective on what’s important to Vermonters, or at least those who took the time to fill out the survey and return it. In all, just shy of 14,000 people responded this year. The results of those responses certainly will open some eyes, especially with some of the more controversial issues currently being debated around the state,

For example, if one only read the statewide media or letters to the editor columns, it would seem a foregone conclusion that Vermonters want to shut down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Yet, in the Doyle poll, the response was basically even, with 46% saying yes to shuttering the plant, 41% saying no, and 13% not sure.

Another mixed response was the question that asked if sugar-sweetened beverages should be taxed in Vermont. Many politicians in the Statehouse have seen this as a way to raise additional tax revenues for state government, but voters don’t necessarily agree. Only 46% favored the idea, while 47% were against it and 7% were undecided.

The idea of raising the state gas tax to pay for roads and bridges was strongly panned, with only 33% supporting that idea while 52% said no and 13% weren’t sure.

We’re not sure those anti-tax responses are being heeded.

Vermonters were clear about other issues. Large majorities supported banning cell phone use while driving, expanding the state’s bottle deposit law to include all bottled beverages, expanding cell and broadband service throughout the state, using alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders, and allowing police officers to continue using tasers.

Survey respondents also like their weed, with 61% supporting decriminalizing marijuana and 51% believing that growing hemp would be an asset to the state’s economy. Ninety percent also thought locally-grown foods were important to the economy. After all, something’s got to take care of the munchies from all that pot and hemp.

Interestingly, survey respondents supported natural gas as an important part of Vermont’s economy (59% yes, 17% no, 24% not sure), and did not support a three-year moratorium on wind turbine construction on Vermont ridgelines (35% yes, 52% no, and 13% not sure). We can’t help but wonder what the response to these two topics would have been if the question had asked them if they would like a gas pipeline buried in their backyard or a windmill erected next door.

The last question asked if Gov. Peter Shumlin was doing a good job. While 42% support his efforts, 33% didn’t, and 25% weren’t sure. We don’t see that as a ringing endorsement of the governor or his policies. We hope he is paying attention.

Sen. Doyle is an icon in the Statehouse, but he won’t be there forever. He’s already spent four-plus decades under the golden dome. But we certainly hope someone will carry on his legacy. His survey is the gold standard for public opinion in Vermont, and something we look forward to every year.

To download a copy of the full survey results go to our website at www.dvalnews.com/pages/news_editorial.
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