Poll: Romney Leads Pack In Vt’s Presidential Primary

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(Host) A new poll shows former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the favorite in Vermont’s Republican presidential primary next Tuesday.

The poll by the Castleton Polling Institute also found a majority of Vermont voters support a four-year term for governor.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) On Town Meeting day voters not only get to weigh in on local issues, they’ll also cast ballots in the presidential primary.

The Castleton Polling Institute surveyed 800 registered voters and screened them to find out who was likely to vote in the GOP primary.

The poll shows that among likely Republican voters, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leads former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by 7 percentage points, or 34 percent to 27 percent.

Rich Clark is director of the polling institute. He says Santorum enjoys support mainly from those who identify themselves as very conservative:

(Clark) "And then Romney gets a lot of support from people who are middle of the road and from independents, which we have in abundance in Vermont."

(Dillon) Romney’s support also appears stronger, according to the poll, with 55 percent of Santorum supporters saying they are either somewhat likely or very likely to change their minds before Election Day.

The poll shows that overall, Vermont voters favor President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race.  

Matched head-to-head against the Republican candidates, Obama leads Romney by 26 percentage points, Santorum by 28, Congressman Ron Paul by 30, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich by 42. 

And when asked about statewide issues, 58 percent of voters said they favored increasing the term for governors from two years to four.

Clark said the polling question about the gubernatorial terms included a bit of background information.

(Clark) "We told them that Vermont was one of two states that have the two-year term. And then asked them if they thought it should be extended from two years to four years, kept the same, or do they not have an opinion. So we openly asked them to let us know if they haven’t thought about it or they don’t have an opinion. Only 17 percent said they had no opinion on the matter."

(Dillon) The poll also sought to gauge public opinion on campaign spending and the rights of corporations. It’s an issue that’s on the ballot in some 40 Town Meetings.

A Supreme Court ruling that affirmed that corporations have First Amendment rights has given rise to Super PACs and unchecked spending in political campaigns.

The recent Castleton poll found widespread support for a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending. Clark said he expects to return to the question in future surveys.

(Clark) "This is a huge political question, and like all huge political questions it gets decided at the Supreme Court level. But public opinion has to weigh in."

(Dillon) This is the Castleton Polling Institute’s first poll. And Clark, an associate professor of political science, says the institute will likely do some polling in Vermont’s gubernatorial race in the months ahead.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

Listen Tuesday evening at 9:00 p.m. for live coverage from the Primary Elections in Michigan and Arizona. 

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