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In New Poll, Sorrell Leads Donovan in AG's Primary — But Many Remain Undecided 

Published August 22, 2012 at 6:21 p.m.

With just six days to go before the August 28 primary, a new poll from Castleton Polling Institute shows incumbent Attorney General Bill Sorrell with a commanding lead over Democratic challenger T.J. Donovan.

At least among those who have made up their minds. Almost a third of voters surveyed said they were undecided in the Democratic primary for attorney general.

And the small sample size of 223 likely primary voters means the poll comes with a high margin of error — plus or minus 7 points.

"It's summer," said Castleton poll director Rich Clark. "And while those of us who love politics have been following it with great intensity, most of the public has been following the Olympics and everything else but politics." 

According to the poll, Sorrell leads Donovan 44 to 24 among likely voters, with 31 percent of respondents saying they are undecided. Among the 122 self-identified Democrats polled, Sorrell leads Donovan by 16 points, with 36 percent of Democrats saying they are undecided.

Click here for full results from the new poll.

Meanwhile, the poll showed Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin (whose name the poll misspelled as "Schumlin") with a healthy lead over Republican challenger Randy Brock — 60 to 26, with only 10 percent of voters undecided. Twenty percent of Republicans polled said they'd vote for Shumlin if the governor's election were held today, compared with 6 percent of Democrats who favor Brock.

And surprising no one, President Barack Obama also holds a solid lead over Republican Mitt Romney among Vermont voters, 62 to 25 with just 7 percent of voters undecided. The poll was conducted between August 11 and August 21 — after Romney selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. As Clark noted, that pick doesn't seem to have moved the Vermont electorate.

In the AG's race, the Castleton poll showed Sorrell leading Donovan among almost every demographic group surveyed — women, men, southern Vermonters, northern Vermonters, wealthy voters, middle class voters, those with only a high school education and those with undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. In voter-rich Chittenden County — the home turf for both candidates — the poll showed Sorrell leading Donovan 48 to 30, with 22 percent of voters undecided. However Clark stressed that sample sizes for those sub-groups are very small and should not be relied upon. 

"Polling in any race where we expect turnout to be 12 percent is difficult if not impossible," the poll director said. "It's going to be all about the turnout."

Donovan, who was en route to WPTZ in Colchester for a TV appearance Wednesday, reacted to the poll numbers in a brief phone interview. "I feel good. Feel great. Six days to go and a third of the electorate is undecided. Bill Sorrell dropped six points. This is going to come down to organization and get out the vote."

May poll conducted by Castleton for WCAX-TV, WDEV-FM and Vermont Business Magazine had Sorrell leading Donovan by 49 to 23, with 25 percent undecided. While that is indeed a six-point drop for Sorrell, that poll surveyed a higher number of likely voters and had a smaller margin of error than the new one, so Clark cautioned against comparing results.

Sorrell, who was campaigning at a South Hero farmer's market Wednesday, told Seven Days by phone that the results mean "We can't take our foot off the accelerator. We think momentum is breaking our way. We are going to accelerate our efforts."

Why are so many voters still undecided? "There are still a lot of Vermonters I run into, including at the farmer's market in South Hero, who are unaware that there is a primary next week," Sorrell answered. "I think there are a lot of folks who just don't think of a primary before Labor Day."

File ilustration by Marc Nadel

One or more images has been removed from this article. For further information, contact [email protected].
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Andy Bromage

Andy Bromage

Andy Bromage was a Seven Days staff writer from 2009-2012, and the news editor from 2012-2013.

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