Taubman Center Public Opinion Survey

Voters divided on mayor but satisfied with city services

September 29, 2011  |  Media Contact: Deborah Baum |  401-863-2476
Providence voters are nearly divided in their support for Mayor Angel Taveras, and a large majority — 86 percent — believe the city's economy is not recovering well from the economic recession, according to a recent public opinion survey conducted by the Taubman Center at Brown University. The survey was undertaken in conjunction with the annual Thomas J. Anton/Frederick Lippitt Urban Affairs Conference, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 27, at Brown.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Mirroring the experience of residents in many other central cities across the country, 86 percent of Providence voters characterized the city’s economy as not so good or poor, according to a new Brown University survey. Yet, 46.9 percent of those surveyed said their personal economic situation has improved compared to one year ago, while 34.3 percent said their situation has worsened.

The survey was conducted Sept. 16-23, 2011, by researchers at the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions at Brown University. It is based on a citywide random sample of 435 registered voters in Providence. Overall, the poll had a margin of error of about plus or minus 4.7 percentage points. This survey was undertaken in conjunction with the Taubman Center’s annual Thomas J. Anton/Frederick Lippitt Urban Affairs Conference on “The Knowledge District: The Role of Universities and Medical Facilities in Urban Development,” on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, at 4 p.m. The conference is designed to explore the role of universities, medical facilities, and other “anchor” institutions in urban affairs.

The Taubman survey found President Barack Obama’s approval rating among Providence voters at 56 percent, several points higher than his rating in recent national polls. Mayor Angel Taveras’s approval rating among respondents is below Obama’s. Nearly 48 percent (47.9) of voters rated Taveras’s job performance as excellent or good, while 44 percent rated his performance as only fair or poor. A quarter of the respondents said they had a less favorable opinion of Taveras than they did 10 months ago at the start of his administration. Nearly 21 percent (20.9) said they had a more favorable opinion, and 44 percent said their opinion has remained the same. The survey asked about the recent decision by the Taveras administration to close four Providence public schools in order to save the city approximately $12 million. Nearly 56 percent (55.9) of the voters said they disagree or strongly disagree with the decision.

Providence voters reported that they are generally satisfied with public services in the city. For example, 79 percent said they were very satisfied or satisfied with garbage collection, about 64 percent (63.7) felt the same way about neighborhood police presence, nearly 89 percent (88.7) felt similarly about fire and ambulance service, and 60 percent replied similarly regarding parks in Providence. Respondents were most dissatisfied with Providence public schools and upkeep of roads throughout the city.

The survey also asked questions about the 20 acres of land around downtown that has opened due to the relocation of I-195. Many state and city leaders expect development of the land in the “Knowledge District” to attract high-wage, high-skilled job industries, including life sciences, health care, and research and development. The survey showed that nearly 68 percent (67.9) of registered voters in the city did not know much or anything about the Knowledge District. However, when told about the plan, the same number, nearly 68 percent, believed that the development of the district would help improve the city’s economy and attract businesses to Providence. A smaller percentage, 55 percent, believed the Knowledge District will provide jobs for people living in their neighborhood. Respondents in the survey were divided on whether the area should be renamed the Knowledge District or should continue as the “Jewelry District,” its historical name.

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

Questions and answers

  1. Thinking back to the Democratic primary for mayor of Providence last November, were you for: Steven Costantino 5.5%; John Lombardi 20.0%; Angel Taveras 43.7%; or Christopher Young 3.4%; don’t know/no answer 27.4%
  2. Again, thinking back to last November, was your opinion of Angel Taveras: very positive 8.7%; positive 39.5%; neutral 27.4%; negative 9.0%; or very negative 3.4%; DK/NA 12.0%
  3. In the last 10 months much has happened in the city of Providence. All things considered, has your opinion of Angel Taveras changed? yes 33.6%; no 55.9%; DK/NA 10.5%
  4. Today, is your opinion of Mayor Taveras: more favorable 20.9%; the same 44.4%; or less favorable 25.5%; than 10 months ago? DK/NA 9.2%
  5. How would you rate the job Angel Taveras is doing as mayor of Providence? excellent 10.1%; good 36.8%; only fair 31.5%; poor 13.1%; DK/NA 8.5%
  6. How would you rate the job Barack Obama is doing as president? excellent 18.6%; good 37.5%; only fair 27.4%; poor 13.8%; DK/NA 2.7%
  7. Earlier this year, the City of Providence announced the closure of four public schools. City officials said the schools were under utilized and closing the schools would save the city approximately $12 million. Do you: strongly agree 6.2%; agree 28.3%; disagree 34.3%; or strongly disagree 21.6%; DK/NA 9.6%
  8. As you may know, the relocation of I-195 has opened up approximately 20 acres of land around downtown Providence for development. Mayor Taveras and other city leaders say the relocation of the highway is an incredible opportunity for Providence. A main feature of the development of the land is expected to be the “Knowledge District,” an area that will attract high-wage and high-skilled job industries, including life sciences, health care and research and development. How much have you heard or read about the Knowledge District” that is being developed in downtown Providence? a lot 10.6%; some 20.5%; not much 31.3%; or nothing at all 36.6%; DK.NA 1.0%
  9. Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree that the development of the knowledge district will bring more business to Providence and help improve the city’s economy? strongly agree 16.1%; agree 50.8%; disagree 15.2%; or strongly disagree 3.4%; DK/NA 14.5%
  10. Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree that the development of the Knowledge District will provide jobs for people who live in your neighborhood? strongly agree 11.0%; agree 44.8%; disagree 22.1%; strongly disagree 9.0%; DK/NA 13.1%
  11. As you may know, the area in downtown Providence that is being called the Knowledge District has been known as the “Jewelry District” because in the past many jewelry manufacturers were located there. Some people believe that area should continue to be called the Jewelry District even after it is developed. Would you rather it be called: the Knowledge District” 36.3%; or the Jewelry District 36.3%; something else 5.3%; DK/NA. 22.1%
  12. Compared to a year ago, has your personal economic situation: improved 46.9%; worsened 34.3%; or not changed 17.5%; DK/NA 1.3%
  13. Would you describe the state of Providence’s economy these days as: excellent 0.2%; good 10.3%; not so good 41.6%; or poor 44.7%; DK/NA 3.2%
  14. Now I have some questions about the services in Providence. For each of the following please tell me whether you are very satisfied, satisfied, neither satisfied or dissatisfied, dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Garbage collection in your neighborhood? very satisfied 13.6%; satisfied 65.5%; neither 5.5%; dissatisfied 10.6%; very dissatisfied 2.3%; DK/NA 2.5%
  15. Bus service? very satisfied 8.5%; satisfied 46.0%; neither 12.2%; dissatisfied 13.1%; very dissatisfied 3.2%; DK/NA 17.0%
  16. Public schools in your neighborhood? very satisfied 4.8%; satisfied 33.4%; neither 8.7%; dissatisfied 31.7%; very dissatisfied 7.8%; DK/NA 13.6%
  17. Police in your neighborhood? very satisfied 11.0%; satisfied 52.7%; Neither 9.9%; dissatisfied 17.0%; very dissatisfied 6.2%; DK/NA 3.2%
  18. Fire and ambulance service in your neighborhood? very satisfied 22.3%; satisfied 66.4%; neither 4.4%; dissatisfied 2.3%; very dissatisfied 0.5%; DK/NA 4.1%
  19. Upkeep of roads in your neighborhood? very satisfied 3.4%; satisfied 22.5%; neither 7.6%; dissatisfied 40.8%; very dissatisfied 24.0%; DK/NA 1.7%
  20. Parks in your neighborhood? very satisfied 9.4%; satisfied 51.0%; neither 10.3%; dissatisfied 19.1%; very dissatisfied 3.2%; DK/NA 7.0%
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.