Town Meeting survey offers a snapshot of feelings on issues

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(Host) Over the next few days, roughly 10,000 Vermonters will fill out Washington County senator Bill Doyle’s Town Meeting Day survey.

This year’s survey includes questions about windmills, same sex marriage and the 2008 presidential race.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Town Meeting Day Survey is not a scientific poll. But according to Senator Doyle it does offer a snapshot of how many Vermonters feel about a variety of issues being discussed at the Statehouse.

This year marks the 39th year that Doyle has organized a Town Meeting Day survey. He conducted his first one in 1969 to gauge how his constituents felt about Governor Deane Davis’s plan to impose a sales tax to help balance the state budget.

Doyle says he got so many thoughtful responses that year that he decided to ask questions on an annual basis.

This year’s survey includes a mix of new questions and ones that he’s asked before. Here’s a new one:

(Doyle) “Are you satisfied by the way electronic information is kept by the public and private sectors? And several committees have looked into that the senate Judiciary for one. So it’s part of the agenda this year. I’ve never asked that question.”

(Kinzel) Doyle also wants to know if Vermonters think it’s appropriate to reduce pressure on the state’s prison system by using alternative sentences for non violent offenders:

(Doyle) “This came from an email from a person that I did not know. I think it’s a major issue because we have escalating population costs and meanwhile more money is spent for prison population than for higher education.”

(Kinzel) Doyle wants to know how people feel about same sex marriage, a ban on hand held cell phones for individuals operating a car, the public financing of statewide campaigns and the construction of commercial windmills.

This year he’s also including a candidate preference for the 2008 presidential election. He’s listed 3 Democrats; Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama – and 3 Republicans; Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Vermont’s presidential primary will take place on Town Meeting Day in 2008 – long after many other states have held their primary elections. Doyle thinks this front loading of the schedule could work in Vermont’s favor.

(Doyle) “And who can tell? Suppose in those major primaries they’re evenly divided among candidates. And I expect they might be. Any of these 6 people listed here could do well in a given state. So maybe Vermont and other states that come in March could be tiebreakers or at least have influence.”

(Kinzel) Doyle will have preliminary results of this year’s survey in about two weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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