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What's Really Behind Malloy's Low Approval Rating

Michael Dwyer

A Quinnipiac University Poll released this week finds that Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy's popularity rating has hit a new low. It finds that only 24 percent of registered voters approve of how Malloy is handling his job, while 68 percent disapprove.

WSHU Senior Political Reporter Ebong Udoma looked at the details of the poll and spoke to Morning Edition Host Tom Kuser about what the numbers really mean. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Ebong, Malloy’s 24 percent approval rating is a drop from his prior lowest rating that was 32 percent back in October. Could you put this in historical perspective? Has any other governor in Connecticut had an approval rating of 24 percent?

Only one other Connecticut governor. And that was John Rowland, the Republican Governor John Rowland. And he had a 24 percent approval rating on the Quinnipiac poll, just before he resigned from office and pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.

What’s responsible for Malloy’s low approval?

It’s the economy. That’s what Q Poll Director Doug Schwartz says.

“Pretty much as Connecticut voters feel that their state economy has gone down the drain, they’ve sent the governor’s poll numbers down the drain.”

And that’s it, it’s just the economy, nothing else?

I think there’s more because you have to realize that Malloy won his first election by fewer than 6,000 votes. And his re-election he won by a little over 23,000 votes. So he’s never had much more than 50 percent support in Connecticut. Here’s Doug Schwartz again.

“When the governor first took office five and a half years ago and people didn’t want to see higher taxes, but they got higher taxes, and immediately they were very unhappy. And right off the bat, we said Governor Malloy’s approval rating is below 50 percent, he starts off without a honeymoon.”

Then it’s been an uphill battle for Malloy ever since he’s taken office, why is that?

Because Malloy came in and he had to deal with a huge budget deficit. That’s why he came up with higher taxes. And the higher taxes were supposed to remedy the situation. But every subsequent year, we’ve had more deficits. We’ve not been able to get out of the deficit hole since Malloy took office.

Is there any way he can turn around this slide toward lower approval ratings?

If the economy turns around, if the perception of the economy turns around. There’s an irony here. And Doug Schwartz brought this up. Because he says when they poll people on their personal finances, they feel a lot better than when they think about the state’s finances. And that is what has been weighing down his approval numbers. Here’s what Schwartz said.

“When you ask people about their own personal situation, how satisfied they were with their own personal financial situation, here in Connecticut one of the wealthiest states in the country, a majority did say they were satisfied. And if you ask them how they feel about their own future a year from now, their own personal financial future, there were people saying they were more optimistic than they were pessimistic. So those were two positive signs amidst more negative signs in this poll amidst many more negative signs in this poll.”

Interesting. So people feel good about their own personal situations, but they give the governor a low rating, a negative rating because of the problems in Hartford, on Capitol Avenue, the deficits?

Yes, the deficits. And those have been the headlines. Those have been the headlines from Hartford ever since Malloy took office.

The governor is not up for election this year. Did the poll look at all at respondents’ opinions about the legislature, about the General Assembly? The General Assembly is intimately involved in crafting a budget. Which as you’ve pointed out has been in deficit for years now?

Yes. And the members of the General Assembly are up for re-election this year. And the poll found that they are also at 24 percent approval. That is probably responsible for why we’ve seen so many Democrats and some Republicans decide to resign and not seek re-election this year.

Ebong, thank you.

Thank you, Tom.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.