MONTPELIER — Vermonters want their lawmakers to scrap the increase in the gas tax, decriminalize marijuana and prohibit the use of cellphones while driving, if results from the latest Doyle Poll are to be believed.
Even Sen. Bill Doyle, who on Monday finished tallying the nearly 14,000 responses to his 42nd annual Town Meeting Day survey, admits the results aren’t scientific. But the Washington County Republican says they offer insights into the will of the electorate at a time when legislators could use them most.
“I think it does give us a sense of how people are thinking,” Doyle said Tuesday.
If he’s right in that assessment, then Vermonters, by an almost two-to-one margin, are against a gas tax increase approved by the House last month.
According to the poll, 33 percent support increasing the gas tax “to pay for roads and bridges,” while 56 percent oppose the idea.
“I think it suggests to legislators that we need to think very carefully before we proceed with any new spending or any new programs, not that we aren’t already,” Doyle said.
Only slightly more popular than the gas tax, according to the survey, is the governor who proposed it. Asked whether they think that Gov. Peter Shumlin “is doing a good job,” only 42 percent of people who answered the poll said “yes,” while 33 percent said “no” and 25 percent said they were “not sure.”
Doyle, the longest-serving lawmaker in Montpelier, said he tried to put a positive spin on the results for Shumlin’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Sue Allen.
“I said to her that if you can just split the undecideds, you’re over 50 percent,” Doyle said.
But a far more reliable survey indicates that Shumlin doesn’t have much to worry about. The Castleton Polling Institute in late February conducted a scientific survey of 620 Vermonters. The poll pegged Shumlin’s approval rating at 60 percent — only two points below President Barack Obama.
On the issue of whether to ban the use of cellphones while driving, Doyle’s results lined up closer to a similar question on the February survey conducted by Castleton. In the Doyle poll, 76 percent of Vermonters said they would favor a prohibition; Castleton said 68 percent of residents thought driving while using a cellphone should be illegal.
Other results from the Doyle Poll:
Should Vermont continue its efforts to close Vermont Yankee? Yes 46 percent, No 41 percent
Should Vermont decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana? Yes 61 percent, No 31 percent
Should a three-year moratorium be placed on the construction of wind turbines on Vermont ridgelines? Yes 35 percent, No 52 percent
Should sugar-sweetened beverages be taxed? Yes 46 percent, No 47 percent
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