Doyle survey shows support for wind power, apprehension about economy

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(Host) According to the initial results of the Doyle Town Meeting Day Survey, many Vermonters support the development of commercial wind turbines on Vermont ridgelines. The survey also indicates that Vermonters are growing more pessimistic about the strength of the state economy.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) For the past 30 years, Washington Senator William Doyle has circulated a survey on Town Meeting Day throughout the state. Roughly 12,000 people fill out the questionnaires. It’s not a scientific poll but a number of political observers believe it accurately highlights trends on key issues facing the state.

The preliminary results this year show strong support for the development of commercial wind operations on the state’s ridgelines. Doyle says public support for these kinds of wind projects has grown in recent years:

(Doyle) “It’s a recognition that energy independence is important not only in Vermont but in the world. And anything we can do to speak to the energy issue is important.”

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis isn’t surprised by these results:

(Davis) “This is an issue that is going to be even more important on the political agenda in the next few years with the pending expiration of the contracts for electric power from Hydro-Quebec and Vermont Yankee. Serious discussion of wind has to be part of the mix about Vermont’s energy future. Another thing is that the Burlington Free Press, which has taken a very strong anti-wind position, may have influenced the perception of public opinion on this issue incorrectly.”

(Kinzel) The survey also shows a significant decline in the number of Vermonters who are optimistic about the future of the state economy. Last year 54 percent of the respondents were optimistic; this year the number dropped to 44 percent. Professor Davis believes the results reflect economic realities across the state:

(Davis) “That’s because of substantial increases in things like health care costs, the cost of gasoline and other fuels, a sense that wages aren’t keeping up with the increases in the cost of living. So while the economy may be doing very well for those at the higher ends of the income scale, people in the middle are feeling a bit squeezed.”

(Kinzel) The Doyle survey also shows strong support for legislation to allow health insurance companies to offer lower rates to consumers who have healthy lifestyles and participate in wellness activities.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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