New Sacred Heart Poll Examines Connecticut’s Top Issues

News Story: March 11, 2019

Student looks at poll results in class

A new poll from Sacred Heart University’s Institute for Public Policy depicts wide concern about school safety, the high cost of living and housing in Connecticut and efforts to mitigate the state’s budget crisis by building electronic tolls. Most respondents also favor instituting higher taxes on electronic cigarettes, and many spoke of leaving the state in the next five years because of the high cost of living.

The comprehensive, 42-question telephone survey of 1,004 Connecticut residents took place between Feb. 13 and March 4. A significant majority of those surveyed also said they strongly oppose a new proposed sales tax on groceries and medications. 

Overall, 59.3 percent of survey respondents believe their quality of life is either “excellent” (15.5 percent) or “good” (43.8 percent). However, a higher rate of respondents (62.2 percent) believe maintaining their standard of living is “very difficult” (21.4 percent) or “somewhat difficult” (40.8 percent). Top reasons for this difficulty included increased/high taxes overall (57.3 percent) and state tax increase (56.6 percent). Respondents feel there is a dearth of affordable housing for renters making minimum wage and for first-time home buyers, and 38.7 percent said they are considering moving in the next five years, mostly (71.7 percent) outside Connecticut.

In key findings regarding issues facing the state, respondents supported increasing state grants for school districts to implement safety improvements by a 61.7 percentage-point margin, raising the minimum age to purchase e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 years old by a 59.8 percentage-point margin and raising the minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 an hour by a 44.8 percentage-point margin. Respondents also opposed implementing a sales tax on groceries and medications by an 80.3 percentage-point margin.

Regarding electronic tolling, or e-tolling, a majority of respondents (54.5 percent) reported they would alter their driving habits by avoiding toll roads should e-tolling be implemented on major highways in the state. In addition, while 39.8 percent of respondents believe the expected revenue of $1 billion would be worth a $100-million investment by the state to implement e-tolling, 38.5 percent do not believe e-tolling is worth such an investment. However, 36.2 percent of respondents are “more likely” to support this initiative if the state puts the funds into the transportation lockbox and guarantee it would only be spent on roads, bridges and highways.

School safety is a major concern, especially among survey respondents who are parents. A majority of Connecticut respondents with children in public schools (51.1 percent) reported fearing for their safety when they are in school. Most (87 percent) feel improving schools’ physical infrastructure—such as increasing cameras, metal detectors, etc.—is an “effective” way to combat school shootings. On the question on training and arming teachers, respondents were almost evenly divided with 47.2 percent in favor and slightly more (48.8 percent) opposed.

On the topic of e-cigarettes, 75.1 percent of respondents support limiting the use of e-cigarettes indoors in public places, and 70.8 percent support raising the sales tax for e-cigarettes.

Finally, regarding the national issue of border security, 51.9 percent of respondents support increasing funds for security along the southern border. However, a similar rate of respondents disagree that this funding should include funds for a border wall (53 percent).

“Now that the state and federal elections are past, Connecticut residents are focusing more intently on issues that strike closer to home, such as the high cost of living in our state, school safety and efforts to address Connecticut’s fiscal crisis,” noted Lesley DeNardis, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and director of Sacred Heart University’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. “Based on our survey, there is strong support for an increased minimum wage and shared concern about electronic tolling. And when it comes to school safety, most respondents favor increased security but clearly reject the arming of teachers.”

Great Blue Research, Inc., created this survey in conjunction with students in SHU’s MPA program, specifically its public policy and law course. Working under the direction of DeNardis, students assisted with background research on policy issues, as well as the selection of poll topics.

“The policy polling lab is a unique and important aspect of the SHU poll that differentiates ours from other university polls and MPA programs,” she said. “By integrating the policy poll into the curriculum, this involvement speaks to our commitment to active, engaged and experiential learning at SHU.” Students are researching in real time issues that are currently before the Connecticut General Assembly, devising a survey research instrument and analyzing the results during this 12-week course. GreatBlue also conducted the Connecticut-specific scientific telephone survey on behalf of the SHU Institute for Public Policy, interviewing 1,004 respondents. Statistically, this sampling represents a margin for error of +/-3.01 percent at a 95-percent confidence level. 

The University’s Institute for Public Policy was established in 2017 in the College of Arts & Sciences. It conducts public policy research, hosts public forums and workshops and serves as a public-policy learning incubator for students.

A PDF file of complete polling results is available at