Gubernatorial Candidate Favorability Poll

The 2016 Vermont gubernatorial race is just getting underway. To assess the starting position of the candidates—those declared and some who may potentially run—the Castleton Polling Institute measured the public’s awareness of 8 potential candidates. The poll followed up with respondents who have heard of a candidate by asking the respondent’s views of that potential candidate, whether they have a favorable or an unfavorable view. 

The candidate with the highest name recognition among respondents was Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott, recognized by 77 percent of respondents, followed by Scott Milne, who has not declared himself a candidate, with 73 percent name recognition. At the other extreme is Bruce Lisman, recognized by 21 percent of respondents; however, Lisman declared his candidacy while the poll was in the field, and in fact we see Lisman’s name recognition rise in the days of data collection after August 31. Figure 1 illustrates the relative differences in name recognition among the candidates and potential candidates that were included in our poll. 

Figure 1. Percent of respondents who say that they have heard of a potential candidate

Figure 1, Percent of respondents who say that they have heard of a potential candidate

The follow-up questions to name recognition measure favorability only among those respondents familiar with a given candidate; consequently, the sample size are smaller and margins of error greater for those candidates with lower name recognition than for those candidates with higher levels of name recognition. Figure 2 illustrates the relative differences in favorability ratings at the start of the 2016 campaign.

Figure 2. Percent expressing favorable views of the potential candidates

Figure 2, Percent expressing favorable views of the potential candidates

Because the number of respondents who have no opinion, favorable or unfavorable, about given candidates varies, we measured candidates’ favorability scores by subtracting the percentages of unfavorable ratings (somewhat unfavorable + very unfavorable) from a candidates favorable ratings (very favorable + somewhat favorable) for a net favorability score. Scott emerges with the highest net favorability score (62 percent), and 2012 Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Randy Brock with a 4 percent net score. The net scores, tracked with name recognition, are shown in Figure 3. 

Figure 3. Name recognition and net favorability scores

Figure 3, Name recgonition and net favorability

To reiterate a point made above, these measures are taken at the start of the campaign. Naturally, the process of campaigning is the process of introducing candidates to the public and giving the public opportunities to become more familiar and make judgments about candidates. This process has only just begun. 

Director of the Castleton Polling Institute, Rich Clark, goes deeper into this poll's findings in a recent blog post found here.