Poll: Vermonters Say Yes to Vermont Yankee, Single-Payer Health Care | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Poll: Vermonters Say Yes to Vermont Yankee, Single-Payer Health Care 

Published August 9, 2011 at 3:47 p.m.

Oh, Vermonters are a fickle bunch. A new poll finds that most Vermonters want Vermont Yankee to remain open and support Gov. Peter Shumlin's call to create a single-payer health care system.

Those are the latest, and final, results from a poll conducted late last month by Public Policy Polling out of North Carolina. The firm began to release its poll results last week. The final results were released this morning.

Among the last were miscellaneous questions PPP asked more than 1200 Vermonters related to Vermont Yankee, single-payer health care and same-sex marriage. They also asked what Vermonters thought of Sen. Patrick Leahy, Rep. Peter Welch and possible candidates running for Vermont Treasurer. The poll's margin of error was 2.8 percent.

According to PPP, Vermonters are closely divided on VY and health care: 40 percent support the new health care law while 35 percent are opposed and 25 percent remain unsure. The polling firm called it a "single payer health care" law, but the law doesn't establish a single-payer system. Rather it merely moves the state in that direction. The state would need to receive multiple waivers from the federal government, and come up with a way to finance it, before enacting the system.

Meanwhile, 45 percent of those polled believe Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon should continue to operate. Another 41 percent believe it should be shut down. Entergy is suing the state of Vermont to keep VY open beyond March 2012, when the plant's in-state license expires. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has agreed to let VY operate another 20 years. Entergy recently went ahead with the purchase of enough fuel to keep VY open until March 2013.

The issues broke largely on party lines with Democrats supportive of the health care law and opposed to VY. Republicans largely oppose the health care law and support VY. Independents support both the health care law and the power plant, tipping victory in each instance, PPP noted in its results.

Maybe Entergy should offer to pay a special health care "surcharge" in return for staying open a bit longer. Stranger things have happened.

Vermonters were asked about a major national issue that has already been settled in the Green Mountain State — same-sex marriage.

According to PPP, most Vermonters said legalizing same-sex marriage has had "no impact on their lives." Sixty percent said it's been a non factor for them personally; 22 percent said it's had a positive effect; and 18 percent said it's had a negative impact.

A strong majority — 58 percent — told PPP they are glad that same-sex marriage is legal, while 33 percent disagreed. And even among those who remain opposed to the law, 55 percent admitted its legalization has had no effect on their lives.

When PPP added civil unions to its survey question, the support for legal recognition of same-sex couples jumped to 79 percent: 55 percent prefer marriage and 24 percent prefer civil union, while 18 percent of Vermonters oppose any sorts of rights.

Finally, PPP asked who Vermonters might support in the race for state treasurer next year: Democratic appointee Beth Pearce or state Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin), who also served a stint as state auditor. Brock edged out Pearce 36-33, which is just outside the poll's margin of error. Of those polled, 31 percent were undecided. PPP called this potential race a "wash."

Previous PPP poll results have found that Sen. Bernie Sanders easily bests all GOP challengers next year. The pol that comes closest to knocking out Sanders is former Gov. Jim Douglas at 18 points behind the junior senator. But, don't get your hopes up: Douglas has already poo-pooed the notion of running against Sanders. If you recall, Douglas almost — almost — challenged Sanders for that Senate seat in 2006 and took a pass.

Likewise, Gov. Peter Shumlin is already well ahead of most potential challengers, though by slimmer margins than Sanders.

In a hypothetical rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial contest, Shumlin would beat Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie by a 48-40 margin. That's still not more than the 50 percent needed for Shumlin to be elected outright to the office, rather than being constitutionally appointed by the legislature. That's the good news.

The bad news for Shumlin is that his favorability rating has yet to crest above 50 percent — perhaps due to the policy issue split among the electorate noted above — and it lags behind that of Dubie's favorability.

According to PPP, 45 percent of voters view Shumlin favorably while 36 percent don't. Meanwhile, 48 percent of voters view Dubie favorably while 33 percent don't.

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Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.

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