Poll: Shays A Solid Favorite In The Fourth District Congressional Race

News Story: October 5, 2008

A new poll of likely Fairfield County voters puts veteran United States Congressman Christopher Shays well ahead of his Democratic challenger, Jim Himes. And almost two-thirds of those responding (64.3%) saw the economy as the dominant issue in this year’s elections, more than twice the number who cited the war in the Middle East. The poll was conducted by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute in conjunction with WSHU Public Radio.


Telephone interviews were conducted among 400 likely voters of the Fourth Congressional District. The survey, which was fielded September 22-25, probed issues of concern in the present election, residents’ sense of economic well being, and such related questions as term limits for members of Congress and the expense of campaigns.

Nearly nine out of ten respondents indicated that their standard of living was very good or good. However, nearly twice as many people thought their standard of living was declining (59.3%) as those who said it was improving (32.3%). In addition, more than 80% of voters said they favored candidates who showed themselves willing to cross party lines. By three-to-one margins, they agreed that congressional elections had become too costly and that term limits for members of Congress were well advised.

Almost 65% of respondents could identify, in an unaided format question, the incumbent Republican Congressman, Chris Shays, a figure that was 47% for Mr. Himes. If the election were held at the time of the survey, 40.5% of voters said they would vote for Mr. Shays, the lone GOP member of Congress in New England, while 30.5% favored his challenger. A large percent, 29%, were still undecided. In the national contest, likely voters supported Senator Barack Obama over Senator John McCain 47% to 37.7% with 15.3 % remaining undecided.

Over half of those surveyed, 55.5%, recalled Christopher Shays campaign advertising compared to 42.0% for Jim Himes.

According to Gary Rose, Ph.D., professor and chair of Sacred Heart University’s Department of Government and Politics, the most recent poll suggests that many voters in Connecticut's Fourth Congressional District are once again willing to split their ticket between their preferred presidential and congressional candidate.

“This is quite remarkable in light of the very anti-Republican mood among the Connecticut electorate. The poll further underscores how Congressman Shays has been able to effectively maintain his maverick image and present himself time and time again as a very different sort of Republican. At the same time, however, the Congressman should not feel overly confident in light of the large percentage of undecided voters. Undecided voters have been known to break for the challenger. The economic crisis, which has affected many stock holders in in the Fourth District, could certainly accelerate this development,” he said.

The Sacred Heart University Polling Institute regularly conducts national polls on issues of significant interest. This was the first telephone survey to concentrate on Fairfield County and the first to be cosponsored by WSHU, the award-winning NPR station affiliated with Sacred Heart University.

How the Poll Was Conducted

The Sacred Heart University Polling Institute completed 400 interviews with likely voters living within Connecticut’s fourth Congressional District, between September 22 – 26, 2008. Statistically, a sample of 400 completed telephone interviews represents a margin for error of +/-5% at a 95% confidence level.