HARTFORD, Conn. – Gov. John G. Rowland's (search) public support continues to erode following his admission that he lied about accepting gifts from employees and state contractors for his summer cottage in Litchfield, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Wednesday.
A majority of voters — 56 percent — told Quinnipiac pollsters that Rowland should resign. Only 44 percent who thought he should resign in a poll released Dec. 17, shortly after the governor first admitted he lied.
Forty-two percent of those polled think the legislature should try to impeach Rowland, Quinnipiac said. In a University of Connecticut poll last month, 22 percent of state residents favored immediate impeachment, while 75 percent wanted to wait for an investigation to finish.
"As people learn more about the controversy, the tide of public opinion is turning against Rowland," said Quinnipiac poll director Douglas Schwartz.
Following the poll, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin Sullivan said Rowland should resign.
"The overwhelming majority of people of Connecticut have expressed the opinion that the governor should resign — and he should," Sullivan said.
In this case, public opinion must weigh heavily on what the legislature decides to do, said Sullivan, D-West Hartford.
"If you don't listen to the people on this, I don't know what you listen to," he said.
Rowland is not surprised at the poll results, said his spokesman and chief of staff, Dean Pagani.
"The governor has been riding the crest of some very bad news over the past month," Pagani said. "It's one of the reasons he wants to go on television tonight and speak directly to the people."
Rowland scheduled a speech at 6 p.m. Wednesday and plans to explain what happened and apologize to the public, Pagani said.
Rowland has not done any of his own polling, Pagani said.
"I don't think he needs to take a poll to know that people are upset," he said.
Democrats who lead the House of Representatives plan to meet Thursday to discuss whether to start impeachment proceedings.
If Rowland leaves office or is forced out, Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell (search) would take over and Sullivan would become lieutenant governor.
Seventy percent of those polled by Quinnipiac said they do not know enough about Rell to form an opinion of her, but 48 percent said she is qualified to take over as governor.
The controversy erupted when Rowland admitted he lied in a news conference about work that was done to his cottage on Bantam Lake in Litchfield. He originally said he paid for the renovation himself, then later admitted that some politically appointed state employees and a contractor, the Tomasso Group, had paid for some of it.
One of those who paid for work was Lawrence Alibozek (search), a former aide to his former chief of staff, Peter Ellef. Alibozek has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he took bribes to steer state contracts.
Federal subpoenas seek information about Tomasso projects, including the juvenile detention facility in Middletown, a parking garage at Bradley International Airport, and other projects Tomasso built.
News coverage of the controversy has reached saturation point in the public — 99 percent of voters told the Quinnipiac poll they have heard about the cottage controversy.
The poll found that only 13 percent of voters say Rowland is honest and trustworthy, down from 18 percent in last month's poll. His job approval rating is 28 percent, similar to his rating in the Dec. 17 poll.
The poll surveyed 1,006 registered voters by telephone between Jan. 4 to 6. It has a sampling error margin of about 3 percentage points.