Survey of Town Meetings released

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BRATTLEBORO -- As Vermonters voted on their municipal budgets and warrant articles during Town Meeting Day, roughly 12,500 residents from 150 communities participated in state Sen. Bill Doyle’s annual survey.

The Republican from Washington County released the results of his 41st Town Meeting Day Survey on Monday, finding at least one major shift in Vermonters’ options.

More than 50 percent of Vermonters polled support the closing of Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, with 31 percent in favor of relicensing the Vernon facility and 17 percent unsure. This is a major change from last year’s results when the plant had support from 40 percent of those polled, 37 percent disapproved and 23 percent unsure.

"That’s the largest turnaround I’ve ever had from one year to the other," said Doyle, who said the lack of public trust and increased media coverage on the issue were the main causes for the plant and its owner, Entergy Corp., to see a drop in support.

"A lot of Vermonters lost confidence in the organization," he added. In 2008, 43 percent supported the continued operations at Vermont Yankee, 30 percent against and 27 percent not sure.

However, residents around the state showed strong support (96 percent) for banning texting while driving. It won the highest approval of any question in the history of Doyle’s survey.

"In 41 years, we never got a proposed bill get 96 percent approval," he said.

Seventy-four percent of those participating also supported prohibiting the use of cellular phone while driving, with only 20 percent against such a measure and 6 percent not sure. The figures were curiously similar to the results from the 2008 survey.

High marks were also given broadband coverage and locally grown produce.

By a wide margin (85 percent to 6 percent), survey respondents said statewide cell service and broadband play an important role in Vermont’s future. Eighty-eight percent said locally grown food and farmers’ markets are an important part of the state’s economic future as well.

Although Vermonters generally support their state, only 32 percent polled said it is an affordable place to live, with 55 percent saying otherwise. Six percent were not sure.

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This is a drop -- and the lowest score this question has ever received -- from the 2009 survey when 35 percent said Vermont is affordable and 50 percent disagreed. Fifteen percent were not sure.

Doyle said he was surprised with the results considering the state’s good education system, low crime rates and healthy lifestyle.

"While it costs a bit more money, Vermont’s a pretty good buy," he said. There is reason for optimism as the national economy and housing market begin to pick up, he added.

Furthermore, Vermonters were split when it came to President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

While 53 percent believe the president is "doing a good job" as opposed to 32 percent, Obama’s federal stimulus funds were not popular around the state. Only 18 percent said the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money has been well spent, with 49 percent saying the federal funds have not been properly disbursed.

Thirty-three percent were not sure on the question.

Respondents also voted on the following:

-- Fifty-one percent favor the Legislature to enact a law to encourage motorists to do less idling. Thirty-four were opposed and 16 percent had no opinion.

-- Fifty-three percent are not satisfied with their health insurance and cost. Forty-one percent are satisfied and 6 percent were not sure. Last year, 51 percent of Vermonters were not satisfied with their coverage and cost.

-- Sixty-seven percent favored reducing Vermont’s prison population through the use of alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders. Nineteen percent were opposed to the question and 14 percent were unsure. The 2010 percentages were almost identical to last year’s: 68 percent in favor, 17 percent opposed and 15 percent not sure.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at cgarofolo@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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