Vermonter Poll 2012

Each year the University of Vermont’s Center for Rural Studies conducts the Vermonter Poll to take the pulse of Vermonters on a variety of issues. Through the Poll, the Vermont Forum on Sprawl (later Smart Growth Vermont) has tracked Vermonters’ opinions about sprawl, development in downtowns and village centers, and the appropriateness of state and local action on these issues since 1998. Smart Growth Vermont merged with VNRC in July 2011, and VNRC has continued the tradition. Here are the results of two recent questions included in the poll, and VNRC’s brief analysis of the results.

1) Should the State of Vermont and local communities take actions to focus development in our existing downtowns and village centers?

Over the years, we’ve seen a shift as people are less responsive to the negative “sprawl” language and more responsive to questions such as this one, where over 80% of respondents agree that the state and local communities should focus development in existing centers.

By extension, this suggests that people have an aversion to the sprawling patterns of incremental, rural development. Focusing development in existing centers can use existing infrastructure efficiently, provide opportunities for transit and walking, and take development pressure off of our “greenfields” – which is often the undeveloped farmland, forestland, and open space.

Vermonters’ responses mirrorthe trend across the country where there is a growing surge of people moving back to downtowns and village centers, especially among young adults. According to the Brookings Institution (2010), demand for homes in walkable neighborhoods is growing at the same time that the demand for large-lot suburban homes is rapidly decreasing. This question has remained nearly constant – from 80.3% in 2010 to 82.5% in 2012 – over the last three years.

2) Do you feel that action should be taken to stop sprawl in Vermont?

Since the beginning of the “sprawl” questions in the Vermonter Poll, well over half of all Vermonters feel that action should be taken to stop sprawl. Positive responses have fluctuated over the years, with 57% of the 2012 respondents saying “yes.” When the responses are compared with those from Question # 1 (above) about where development should occur, it is clear that even those who feel no action should be taken to stop sprawl support developing in our downtowns and village centers.

Stay tuned next month for more results!