Taubman Center Public Opinion Survey

Survey: R.I. Voters Not Confident Leaders Can Get State on Right Track

February 23, 2010  |  Contact: Media Relations |  (401) 863-2476
Rhode Island voters have minimal confidence that elected state leaders will make decisions to put the state on the right track, according to a recent public opinion survey done at Brown University. The state’s economy is “not so good” or “poor” by 94 percent of respondents; 93 percent described the national economy in the same terms. The survey of 605 registered Rhode Island voters was conducted Feb. 9–12, 2010.

Editors: Earlier embargoed copies of this release had a typographical error in reported poll results for Sen. Reed. Those numbers appear correctly in question five below.

 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — A new public opinion survey by Brown University’s Taubman Center finds voters have minimal confidence in state leaders to put the state on the right track. The state’s economy is “not so good” or “poor” say 94 percent of registered voters; 93 percent described the national economy in the same terms. President Obama’s approval rating of “excellent” or “good” among the respondents has dropped to 44 percent from the 53 percent reported in September 2009.

The survey was conducted February 9-12, 2010, by researchers at The A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and the John Hazen White Public Opinion Laboratory at Brown University. It is based on a statewide random sample of 605 registered voters. Overall, the survey had a margin of error of about plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

The survey found that only 12 percent of registered voters have “a great deal of confidence” or “a good amount” of confidence in state government officials to make the right decisions for the state’s future, while 82 percent said they had “just some” or “none at all.” Democratic legislators garnered only 18 percent of voters who had “a great deal” or “a good amount” of confidence. Republicans legislators earned just 10 percent.

Rhode Island’s high unemployment rate and the nation’s economic recession could be shattering voters’ confidence in public officials to address the state’s challenges, according to Marion Orr, the Frederick Lippitt Professor of Public Policy and Political Science and director of the Taubman Center. When asked to describe the state of the nation’s economy, 93 percent of registered voters characterized it as “not so good” or “poor.” A slightly larger majority, 94 percent, described Rhode Island’s economy as “not so good” or “poor.”

If the Democratic gubernatorial primary were held today, 30 percent say they would vote for Frank Caprio, 21 percent would support Patrick Lynch, and 47.5 percent say they are undecided.

If the general election were held today, Independent gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee would defeat Democrats Caprio or Lynch and Republican John Robitaille. In a general election race against Caprio and Robitaille, Chafee would garner 33.8 percent of the vote, Caprio 28 percent, and Robitaille, 12 percent. If Lynch were the Democrat candidate, the results are similar: 32 percent for Chafee, 17 percent for Lynch, 13 percent for Robitaille.

In both matchups, Chafee has support from nearly 40 percent of independent voters and 30 percent of Democrats. However, the poll found that a sizable minority — 25 percent in the Caprio scenario, 35 percent with Lynch as the nominee — said they were undecided about the general election.

The poll also asked respondents their view on the economic stimulus package. One year after President Barack Obama signed it into law, 52 percent of respondents said the economic stimulus bill has not made a difference in the nation’s economy; 74 percent said it hasn’t helped their personal financial situation; and 58 percent said they saw no difference in their local community. Yet 42 percent of those surveyed approved of the way President Obama is handling the economy.

When asked “the most important problem” they would “like to see Obama and Congress deal with this year,” a majority (54 percent) cited the economy/jobs/unemployment; 20 percent, health care; 3.5 percent, the federal budget deficit; 3.3 percent, the war in Iraq; 1.8 percent, terrorism; 1.5 percent, immigration; 1.2 percent, taxes; and 1 percent, education.

President Obama’s approval rating among the respondents was 44 percent (down from the Taubman Center’s September 2009 poll, when 53 percent said he was doing an “excellent” or “good” job). Fifty-one percent of Rhode Island voters rate the performance of Sen. Jack Reed “good” or “excellent.” Thirty-two percent gave Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Patrick Kennedy that ranking, and 42 percent said Rep. Jim Langevin was doing an “excellent” or “good” job.

No state or local officials earned a majority vote of “excellent” or “good.” Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed feel Gov. Donald Carcieri is doing an “excellent” or “good” job; Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, 20 percent; Attorney General Patrick Lynch, 37 percent; Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, 22 percent; Treasurer Frank Caprio Jr., 43 percent; House Speaker William Murphy, 15 percent; Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, 21 percent; and Providence Mayor David Cicilline, 41 percent.

Findings also show that a majority — 68 percent — of Rhode Island voters believe the state is off on the wrong track.

For more information, contact Marion Orr at (401) 863-9436.

Survey Questions

  1. How likely are you to vote in this year’s Democratic primary?
    Very likely 46.3%; Somewhat likely 12.7%; Not very likely 33.3%; DK/NA 7.7%
    1a. (if very or somewhat likely to vote) If the Democratic primary for governor were held today, would you vote for:
    Frank Caprio 30.6%; Patrick Lynch 21.8%; DK/NA 47.5%
  2. If the governors election were held today, would you vote for:
    Republican John Robitaille 12.1%; Democrat Frank Caprio 28.3%; Independent Lincoln Chafee 33.8%; DK/NA 25.8%
  3. If the governors election were held today, would you vote for:
    Republican John Robitaille 13.7%; Democrat Patrick Lynch 17.7%; Independent Lincoln Chafee 32.9%; DK/NA 35.6%
  4. How would you rate the job Barack Obama is doing as president?
    Excellent 14.1%; Good 30%; Only fair 30.3%; Poor 21.7%; DK/NA 4.0%
  5. How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as U.S. senator?
    Excellent 16.2%; Good 34.8%; Only fair 26.2%; Poor 14.7%; DK/NA 8.1%
  6. How would you rate the job Sheldon Whitehouse is doing as U.S. senator?
    Excellent 5.5%; Good 26.5%; Only fair 25.2%; Poor 27.5%; DK/NA 15.3%
  7. How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. representative?
    Excellent 6.5%; Good 25.5%; Only fair 26.8%; Poor 33.3%; DK/NA 7.9%
  8. How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as U.S. representative?
    Excellent 7.5%; Good 35.1%; Only fair 29.5%; Poor 9.1%; DK/NA 18.8%
  9. How would you rate the job Don Carcieri is doing as governor?
    Excellent 6%; Good 23.3%; Only fair 28.6%; Poor 34.8%; DK/NA 7.3%
  10. How would you rate the job Elizabeth Roberts is doing as lieutenant governor?
    Excellent 2.5%; Good 18%; Only fair 25.5%; Poor 14.9%; DK/NA 39.1%
  11. How would you rate the job Patrick Lynch is doing as attorney general?
    Excellent 4.1%; Good 32.8%; Only fair 32.5%; Poor 17.9%; DK/NA 12.7%
  12. How would you rate the job Ralph Mollis is doing as secretary of state?
    Excellent 2%; Good 20.7%; Only fair 26.7%; Poor 9.3%; DK/NA 41.3%
  13. How would you rate the job Frank Caprio Jr. is doing as general treasurer?
    Excellent 7%; Good 36.3%; Only fair 24.5%; Poor 6.6%; DK/NA 25.6%
  14. How would you rate the job William Murphy is doing as House speaker?
    Excellent 1.2%; Good 13.9%; Only fair 20%; Poor 24.8%; DK/NA 40.1%
  15. How would you rate the job Teresa Paiva-Weed is doing as Senate president?
    Excellent 3.6%; Good 18.2%; Only fair 17.9%; Poor 20%; DK/NA 40.2%
  16. How would you rate the job David Cicilline is doing as mayor of Providence?
    Excellent 7.5%; Good 33.6%; Only fair 29.1%; Poor 17.1%; DK/NA 12.7%;
  17. Would you describe the state of the nation’s economy these days as:
    Excellent 0%; Good 2.8%; Not so good 37.6%; Poor 56.6%; DK/NA 3%
  18. Would you describe the state of Rhode Island’s economy these days as:
    Excellent 0%; Good 2.3%; Not so good 19.5%; Poor 74.7%; DK/NA 3.5%
  19. Would you describe the state of your own personal finances these days as:
    Excellent 4%; Good 53.1%; Not so good 21.9%; Poor 16.4%; DK/NA 4.6%
  20. Do you personally know a friend or family member who recently lost their job?
    Yes 66.9%; No 27.5%; Not sure 2.2%; DK/NA 3.4%
  21. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy?
    Approve 42.5%; Disapprove 40.4%; Not sure 17.1%
  22. So far, do you think the economic stimulus program has (helped) the national economy, (hurt) the national economy, or hasn’t made much difference?
    Helped 25.8%; Hurt 13.6%; Hasn’t made a difference 52%; DK/NA 8.6%
  23. So far, do you think the economic stimulus program has (helped) your personal financial situation, (hurt) your personal financial situation, or hasn't made much difference?
    Helped 8.4%; Hurt 11.6%; Hasn’t made a difference 74%; DK/NA 6%
  24. So far, do you think the economic stimulus program has (helped) your local community, (hurt) your local community, or hasn’t made much difference?
    Helped 18.2%; Hurt 12.4%; Hasn’t made a difference 58.1%; DK/NA 11.3%
  25. Generally speaking, would you say things in Rhode Island are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?
    Right direction 9.1%; Off on wrong track 68.5%; Mixed 12.9%; Not sure 5%; DK/NA 4.5%
  26. What would you say is the one most important problem you would like to see Obama and the Congress deal with this year?
    Economy / Jobs / Unemployment 54%;
    Banking / Insurance / Credit problems 1.7%;
    Housing / Mortgages 1.2%
    Stock Market / Wall Street .5%;
    Health care 20%
    Federal budget deficit 3.5%
    Iraq / War in Iraq 3.3%
    Terrorism / War on terrorism 1.8%
    Immigration 1.5%
    Education 1%
    Taxes 1.2%
    Other 5%
    DK/NA 5.5%
  27. How much confidence do you have in state government Officials to make the right decisions for the state’s future?
    A great deal of confidence 1.5%; A good amount 10.9%; Just some 46.9%; Not at all 35.3%; DK/NA 5.5%
  28. How much confidence do you have in Democratic state legislators to make the right decisions for the state’s future?
    A great deal of confidence 2.2%; A good amount 16.6%; Just some 37.9%; None at all 35.4%; DK/NA 7.9%
  29. How much confidence do you have in Republican state legislators to make the right decisions for the state’s future?
    A great deal of confidence 0.8%; A good amount 10.4%; Just some 41.7%; None at all 36.1%; DK/NA 11%
Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.