Geno Auriemma most popular guy in Connecticut

It’s an old debate in Connecticut.

Who’s more popular:  Hall of Fame UConn men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun or Hall of Fame Huskies women’s coach Geno Auriemma?

According to a poll released Thursday by Public Policy Polling, it’s Auriemma, and it’s not even close.

The seven-time national champion, in London this month coaching the U.S. women’s Olympic team, is both the most popular guy on the UConn campus and the most popular public figure in the state, the poll found.

Auriemma is viewed favorably by 57 percent of Connecticut voters and unfavorably by only 10 percent — numbers the pollsters pointed out are the envy of every public figure in the state.

Poll director Tom Jensen said the poll suggested Auriemme’s reputation has hardly been touched by a lawsuit filed by a NBA security director alleging that Auriemma sexually harassed her at a 2009 tournament in Russia and tried to get her removed from the Olympic games.

“I wish we had a historical point of reference, but it’s hard to find anyone who has that kind of (low) unfavorability rating in any state,” Jensen said. “That, to me, shows those allegations are not having an impact and probably that people are not buying them.”

Calhoun’s standing, on the other hand, has likely been significantly damaged by the UConn men’s programs recent academic struggles.

The Huskies are banned from the 2013 NCAA tournament because of past players’ substandard performance in the Academic Progress Rate.

Calhoun, a three-time national champion himself, is viewed favorably by 35 percent of voters and unfavorably by 20 percent. A plurality of voters — 45 percent — said they were not sure whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Calhoun, who will enter his 27th season when practice starts in October.

Jensen said the numbers would likely have been vastly different five years ago.

“I think a lot of that not sure is that a lot of the baggage surrounding the program,” Jensen said. “It’s not that they’ve never heard of Jim Calhoun. It’s just that they see a lot of positives with Calhoun or the years than negatives.”

Jensen said his polling firm typically only polls voters on their opinion of coaches of their favorites teams. But given the stature of both Auriemma and Calhoun — coupled with UConn’s standing as the dominant sports school in the state — they decided to poll all voters on both men.

The only other state in which PPP sought opinions of every voter polled on coaches was North Carolina, where the University of North Carolina and Duke both have large fan bases and are perennial national championship contenders.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams was viewed favorably by 46 percent of North Carolina voters and unfavorably by 10 percent. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was viewed favorably by 49 percent and unfavorably by 14 percent.

Among elected officials, U.S. Sen Richard Blumenthal is the most popular and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is the least.

Blumenthal, a freshman Democrat, has an approval rating of 49 percent, while 36 percent disapprove. That’s significantly better than marks for the state’s senior senator, Joseph Lieberman, who has the approval of 41 percent of voters, while 43 percent disapprove.

Malloy, elected in 2010 after 14 years as mayor of Stamford, is one of the least popular governors in the country, the poll found.

The Democrat has an approval rating of 33 percent and a disapproval rating of 51 percent. PPP said only four governors in recent polls have been less popular: Bev Perdue of North Carolina, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, Pat Quinn of Illinois, and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania.

Ben Doody