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Hartford — The results of Quinnipiac University’s first 2014 gubernatorial poll indicates it could be another tight race.
In 2010, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy won by less than a percentage point and barely got 50 percent of the vote. In the latest poll, 2010 Republican challenger Tom Foley is ahead of Malloy by 3 percentage points, which is about the margin of error.
“(Malloy) has his work cut out for him,” said Douglas Schwartz, director of Quinnipiac University polling. “He has to convince more voters to re-elect him, especially independents.”
The poll shows Foley as the favored Republican among potential 2014 candidates.
Forty-seven percent of voters approved of the way Malloy was handling his job as governor, while 47 percent disapproved. Not reaching a 50 percent job approval rating shows Malloy hasn’t been building on his election, Schwartz said. Forty-six percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Malloy, while 44 percent had an unfavorable opinion.
“These are not terrible numbers; they are not great numbers,” he said.
He added that Malloy was not in as good a position as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has close to a 70 percent job approval rating and a 30-point lead on his opponent, according to another Quinnipiac poll. But he is not as badly off as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who only has a 35 percent job approval rating.
The majority of voters approved of Malloy’s leadership qualities, 57-38 percent, which is likely due to his response to the Newtown shooting and the state’s string of severe storms, Schwartz said.
Voters also approved of the new gun laws, 57-37 percent, which could have helped Malloy’s overall ratings, he said.
Where Malloy scored poorly was on his handling of the state budget, taxes and the economy. Voters disapproved of his handling of the budget, 55-35 percent; taxes, 63-29 percent; and the economy, 57-35 percent.
The majority of voters, 59-35 percent, also opposed expanding keno in restaurants, bars and convenience stores, as included in the state’s budget. However, the percentage opposed to the expansion of keno was less than in 2010, when 70 percent of voters were against expanding access to the game, according to the poll.
Seventy-five percent of voters said the state’s economy was “not so good” or “poor,” compared to 22 percent who said the state’s economy was “excellent” or “good.”
Thirty-one percent said they thought the state’s economy would get worse while 48 percent said they thought it would stay the same. Only 20 percent said they thought it would get better. “These are bad signs for an incumbent,” Schwartz said.
Voters said they favored Foley to Malloy, 43-40 percent. But when compared to lesser-known Republican challengers, Malloy came out ahead. Voters favored Malloy over state Sen. John McKinney, R-Fairfield, 44-37 percent, and over Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, 44-36 percent.
The poll was conducted over landlines and cellphones with 1,154 registered voters. Polling was based on Census data to reflect demographics, he said. Of those who were polled, 21 percent were Republican, 34 percent were Democrats, 40 percent were unaffiliated and 4 percent were “other.” By race, 80 percent were white, 7 percent were black, 6 percent were Hispanic and 7 percent were “other.”
“What is keeping Malloy in the race is the Democratic bent in the state,” Schwartz said. Candidates will be going after the large percentage of independent voters, he added. The poll showed Foley with a 21 percentage point lead among unaffiliated voters.
Foley said the progressive policies of the administration are not working. “I actually wasn’t that surprised with Connecticut dead last in economic growth,” Foley said of the poll results. “... We need change and I think that’s what the respondents of the poll were indicating.”
Andrew Doba, spokesman for Malloy, said they have tried to be consistent about not commenting on polls.
“Polls come and go, numbers go up and down,” Doba said. “The governor always does what he thinks is best for the state.”