Vermont Voters & the 2012 Presidential Primaries

A Report from the Castleton Polling Institute

Rich Clark, Director
February 27, 2012

This report is based on data from 800 interviews drawn from a random sample of registered voters in Vermont.  Interviews were conducted by phone by the Castleton Polling Institute, from February 11 to February 22, 2012.  For a sample of this size, the margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is +/-3.5 percent, although the margin of error is larger for questions involving sub samples of respondents.  Although sampling error is only one source of potential survey error, precautions have been taken to minimize other sources of error for this poll.

This Press Release is Available for Download in the Following Printable Formats:

2012 Presidential Primaries Word Doc. 
2012 Presidential Primaries PDF

With a little more than a week to go before Super Tuesday, a poll of registered voters in Vermont finds that those who are likely to vote in the March 6th Republican presidential primary favor former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to his rivals.  While the first poll from the Castleton Polling Institute shows Romney leading former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by 7 percentage points, Romney’s support is firmer, with 55 percent of Santorum supporters saying that they are either somewhat or very likely to change their minds before election day.  While Santorum’s support comes primarily from those who describe themselves as very conservative — 63 percent of those who describe themselves as “very conservative” say that they will vote for Santorum — Romney’s support is greatest among those who consider themselves moderates.  Keep in mind, only 7 percent of Vermont voters classify themselves as very conservative (see Figure 1). 

Overall, Vermont registered voters favor President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race.  In head-to-head contests 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. 

Other Castleton Poll Results:

  • Regardless whom they support, a plurality of Vermont voters (47 percent) believe that Mitt Romney has the best chance of beating President Obama in the general election in November, although 9 percent of our respondents volunteered the response that none of the Republican candidates are likely to defeat the incumbent in November. 
  • Congressman Ron Paul’s support comes mostly from younger voters and self-described independents who plan to vote in the Republican primary.  Paul’s support is also more firm than Santorum’s or Gingrich’s; the majority (59 percent) of those who say that they are likely to vote for Paul also aver that they are not likely to change their mind. 
  • For Vermont voters, economic issues matter more than social issues in deciding one’s vote for president in 2012.  Thirty-four percent cite jobs and another 22 percent cite the budget deficit as what will matter most when voting for president in November 2012.
  • Vermonters have a more favorable opinion of President Obama than do Americans generally.  Fifty-six percent of Vermont registered voters approve of the President’s job performance, while the Gallup Organization puts the President’s national approval rating for the same week at only 45 percent. 
  • In the shadow of the Citizens United ruling and the rise of super PACs in the current election cycle, a majority (76 percent) of Vermont registered voters say that they would approve of a constitutional amendment to limit spending on political campaigns.  Although Democrats are more likely to support such an amendment, a majority (57 percent) of Republicans in Vermont also expressed support. 
  • A majority of Vermont registered voters (58 percent) favor increasing the term for Vermont governors from 2 years to 4 years, although many (17 percent) have no opinion on the matter. 
  • Generally, Vermont registered voters are not in favor of moving Vermont’s presidential primaries to a time earlier in the calendar year; of the 29 percent who say that they would favor moving up the date of the primaries, about two-thirds (66 percent) withdraw their support if such a move were to make the process more costly.