Vermonters Identify Top Issues

In the second batch of poll results released by CFV (see below), we discover that Vermonters identify housing, cost of living, and public safety as the top issues. Further, respondents gave highly negative ratings on key issues, such as 77% giving the availability of affordable housing the lowest possible score. Infrastructure and general economic sentiment also found poor ratings with 73% and 69% negative respectively. Even education, which historically Vermonters are proud of, only found 34% positive ratings. Perhaps even more telling is that negativity towards public schools shot up to 71% in households with children, indicating that parents with school-aged children are more likely to have a negative view of the quality of education than the general public.

We intentionally asked an open-ended issue question in two different ways in order to dissect Vermonters' perceptions of what is most important overall versus which issues might have the most salience with individuals (i.e. what is most likely to prompt them to take an action, such as contact their legislator or vote for/against a particular candidate). First, we asked which issue respondents thought was most important for the state. We followed this by asking which issue impacted the respondent and their family the most in their daily lives. The differences in the responses between these two questions are intriguing: affordable housing was identified as the top issue for the state at 21%; largely driven by Democrats, women, and people under 55. However, when asked about issues that impacted respondents directly, only 7% identified housing as the top issue.

Cost of living was mentioned only 8% of the time when asked about state level issues, finding support among people under 55, independent men, and Republicans. However, this issue jumps to #1 at 27% when respondents were asked about what impacts them individually the most. Results were fairly uniform across all demographics, except for Republicans, who flagged this issue 43% off the time. An outsized number of Democrats (32%) flagged affordable housing as an important issue for the state, however this fell to only 6% when asked about issues that impacted respondents directly. Conversely, cost of living jumped from 7% to 26% when asked about issues faced by individual families. This may be because respondents were considering housing costs when thinking about their overall cost of living. We also see a similar trend with independent women.

Crime, drugs, and public safety saw the most consistent responses across both question formats. Republicans were most likely to flag crime when asked about state level challenges, but this issue also resonated with independents, particularly women. On the other hand, Democrats were more likely to identify drugs as a top issue, which independent women also agreed with. It's also important to note that if concerns about drugs were combined with crime and safety, they would rank as the top issue facing the state. When looking at which issues respondents identified as impacting their daily lives, public safety fell to #2 but found uniform support between Republicans, Democrats, and independent women.

We followed these open-ended issue questions with a series of specific-issue questions where we asked respondents to provide rankings for each issue. The issues asked about included availability of affordable housing, infrastructure, the state's economy, and the quality of public schools. Negative sentiments towards the availability of affordable housing in the state were nearly universal at 92%. No respondent thought availability was excellent, and 77% rated it as poor, which was the worst rating offered.

Similar to housing, very few respondents thought the state's infrastructure was excellent (1%); however, nearly a quarter thought it was good. Still, overall, nearly two-thirds gave this issue a negative rating. These results were fairly uniform across different demographics, but families with children and respondents outside of the Burlington and Rutland regions were more likely to think that infrastructure was inadequate. It is also worth noting here that Washington County, which was most impacted by this summer's flooding, had an 80% negative rating on this issue.

Keeping with the trend, only 2% of respondents thought that the state's economy was excellent. Democrats had the most positive view of the economy (but still underwater) and Republicans had the worst (84% negative). Independent men tended to agree with Republicans (80% negative) and independent women tended towards the average (67% negative). The other notable demographic difference was that college-educated respondents had a 34% positive view of the economy, while favorability with non-college educated Vermonters fell to 23%. The southeast corner of the state (which borders both New Hampshire and Massachusetts) also had highly negative views on the economy.

Perhaps the most surprising result is that support of Vermont public schools appears to be eroding. Only one-third of respondents had favorable opinions of the quality of education being provided. Nearly as many respondents said that the quality of education was poor, the worst rating we offered. Every notable demographic was underwater on this question, but respondents in Washington County, Democrats, and independent women tended to have more favorable opinions while rural parts of the state, while Republicans, independent men, and families with children tended to have the most negative views. When this issue is looked at alongside taxes, which was ranked #3 for issues that impact families the most, this paints a shaky picture for Vermont's public school system. The perception of rising taxes, increased cost of living, and a decreasing quality in education will likely make school budgets more difficult to pass.


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Updated 12/5/2023 @ 8:30am

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  • Ben Kinsley
    commented 2023-12-05 12:39:47 -0500
    Hi Deborah! The methodology is at the bottom of the PDF embedded on this page, but it’s a sample size of 400 with a margin of +/-4.9%
  • Deborah Wright
    commented 2023-12-05 11:05:31 -0500
    It would be beneficial to know the size of the segment providing these results. If not a large percentage of population, the numbers may be skewed.
  • Ben Kinsley
    published this page in News 2023-12-05 08:29:13 -0500

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