PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Most Rhode Islanders believe the economic stimulus package recently passed by Congress and scheduled to be signed into law today in Denver by President Barack Obama will have a positive effect on the nation’s economy, according to a new statewide survey conducted by researchers at Brown University. However, a majority of respondents is concerned that the new president’s economic plan will not stimulate the economy quickly enough. The survey results also illustrate the impact the state’s weak economy is having on average Rhode Islanders. The survey found that 66 percent of respondents personally know a friend or family member who recently lost a job.
The survey was conducted Feb. 7-10, 2009, at Brown University by Marion Orr, the Fred Lippitt Professor of Public Policy and Political Science and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy and the John Hazen White Public Opinion Laboratory. It is based on a statewide random sample of 451 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, the poll had a margin of error of about plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.
When asked how they think President Obama’s economic stimulus plan would affect the nation’s economy, 74 percent of those polled said “make it lot better” or “make it a little better.” However, 81 percent of the respondents said they were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that the plan would not stimulate the economy quickly enough. The respondents in the poll were also split on whether the stimulus plan would affect them. Nearly 50 percent of the respondents said they believed the stimulus plan would “not affect” or make “worse” their or their family’s financial situation. A majority (56 percent) of the respondents appeared to support those members of Congress who criticized the economic plan for including too many items not directly related to stimulating the economy.
The economy remains the top concern of Rhode Islanders. When asked to name the most important problems facing the country, economic-related matters (economy, jobs, unemployment, home loans) were mentioned by 64.4 percent of the respondents. When asked the single most important thing they would like President Obama to accomplish in his first term, economic matters were among the top concerns. For example, 35.8 percent of the respondents said the president should “fix the economy.”
The survey also asked a number of questions about Rhode Island and proposals to address the state’s current economic challenges. A large majority (82 percent) of respondents rated Rhode Island’s economy as poor. While 54 percent of those polled described their own personal finance as excellent or good, 43 percent described their financial situation as not so good or poor. The poll found that 66 percent of Rhode Island’s registered voters personally know a friend or family member who recently lost a job.
With the state government facing a record budget deficit, the poll also sought to gauge public opinion on recent proposals to close the budget gap. The poll found strong support (78 percent) for Gov. Donald Carcieri’s proposal to study the feasibility of consolidating or regionalizing some public services. The respondents were almost evenly divided — 41.5 percent supporting and 42 percent opposing — on whether state employees should be laid off as a way to bring about savings. However, 50 percent of those polled said they supported adding furlough days without pay for public sector employees.
There is strong opposition to increasing the state income tax (72.5 percent oppose). Of those polled, a large majority (60 percent) was also opposed to reducing state aid to towns and cities and an even larger majority (71.3 percent) was opposed to state reductions in aid for local schools. A majority (63 percent) of the respondents in the poll supported the idea of having new public sector employees establish a 401(k)-style retirement plans rather than the traditional public employee pension plans.
Findings also show that most Rhode Island voters — 80 percent — believe the state is on the wrong track.
President Obama’s approval rating among the respondents was high — 62 percent said he is doing an excellent or good job. Only 16 percent said the president was doing only fair or poor.
Sixty-two percent of Rhode Island voters rate the performance of Sen. Jack Reed as good or excellent. Forty-two percent believe Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is doing a good or excellent job.
Thirty-eight percent feel Rep. Patrick Kennedy is doing an excellent or good job, and 50 percent believe Rep. Jim Langevin is doing an excellent and good job.
When asked about the job performance of state officials, 34 percent feel Gov. Donald Carcieri is doing an excellent or good job. Twenty-one percent believe Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts is doing an excellent or good job. Forty-seven percent think Attorney General Patrick Lynch is doing an excellent or good job. Twenty-eight percent feel Secretary of State Ralph Mollis is doing an excellent or good job and 34 percent believe Treasurer Frank Caprio, Jr. is doing an excellent or good job.
Thirty-eight percent say Providence Mayor David Cicilline is doing an excellent or good job. Fourteen percent believe House Speaker William Murphy is doing an excellent or good job, and 15 percent feel Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed is doing an excellent or good job.
For more information, contact Marion Orr at (401) 863-9436.
Survey Questions and Responses
Do you think Congress should pass Obama’s economic stimulus plan basically as Barack Obama has proposed it, pass it but only after making major changes, or reject the plan? Pass as proposed 42%; Pass with major changes 34.2%; Reject plan 13.3%; No opinion 10.4%
Some members of Congress have complained that the economic stimulus package include too many items that are not directly related to stimulating the economy. Agree 56.4%; Disagree 26%; DK/NA 17.7%
Regardless of whether you favor or oppose Obama’s economic stimulus plan, how concerned are you that it would not stimulate the economy quickly enough –very concerned, somewhat concerned, not too concerned, or not concerned at all? Very concerned 38%; Somewhat concerned 43.4%; Not too concerned 13.2%; Not concerned at all 3.1%; DK/NA 2.2%
How do you think Obama’s economic stimulus plan would affect the nation’s economy –(Rotate) make it a lot better, make it a little better, not affect it, or make it worse? Make it a lot better 16.7% Make it a little better 57.6% Not affect it 9.6% Make it worse 9.8% DK/NA 6.2%
How do you think Obama’s economic stimulus plan would affect you and your family’s financial situation — make it a lot better, make it a little better, not affect it, or make it worse? Make it a lot better 8.9%; Make it a little better 36.5%; Not affect it 42.5%; Make it worse 6.3%; DK/NA 5.8%
What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today? The Economy 38.1%; Jobs 7.8%; Unemployment 12.8%; Industry/Jobs back to US 1.1%; National debt 1.6%; Iraq/Afghanistan 1.8%; Illegal Immigration 1.4%; Mortgages/Home Loans 5.7%; Country has lost it’s moral direction 1.1%; Politicians 2.5%; Greedy bankers and brokers 3.9%; Education/schools 1.4%; Terrorism 2.3%; Infrastructure .9%; Republican Party .7%; Drugs/Violence 1.1%; Homelessness .7%; Other 7.3%; Wars 1.8%; US Productivity .5%; Interest rates on credit cards .4%; Taxes .5%; Obama 1.1%; Climate change .5%; Healthcare 1.1%; DK/NA 1.6% [Answers open-coded]
What is the single most important thing you would like to see Barack Obama accomplish in the next four years as president? Fix the economy 35.8%; Change the tax structure 1.9%; End wars 13.3%; National healthcare 5.6%; Stop illegals 1.4%; Bring job back to the US/Jobs 9.4%; Do something meaningful about climate change 1.2%; Education 1.2%; Raise US Standing Internationally 1.6%; Stop partisanship 1.4%; Fulfill campaign Pledges 2.1%; Unite the Country 2.8%; Cut Government Spending 1.4%; Improve Infrastructure 1.2%; Term Limits for Congress .7%; Clean up Government .9%; Energy Independence 1.6%; Supreme Court .2%; Other 7.5%; Close Guantanamo .5%; Reduce may gap between CEO and workers 1.2%; reduce Deficit .7%; US Security 2.6%; Obama Retire .7%; DK/NA 3.0% [Answers open-coded]
Would you describe the state of the nation's economy these days as — excellent, good, not so good, or poor? Excellent .5%; Good 1.8%; Not so good 26.9%; Poor 70.2%; DK/NA .7%
Would you describe the state of Rhode Island’s economy these days as — excellent, good, not so good, or poor? Excellent .4%; Good .2%; Not so good 16.2%; Poor 82.2%; DK/NA .9%
Would you describe the state of your own personal finances these days as — excellent, good, not so good, or poor? Excellent 3.6%; Good 51.0%; Not so good 30.8%; Poor 12.8%; DK/NA 1.8%
Do you personally know a friend or family member who recently lost their job? Yes 66.4%; No 32.2%; Not sure .9%; DK/NA .5%
The state faces a substantial deficit in its fiscal budget. By law, it is required to eliminate this deficit. Which of the following items would you support or oppose to close this deficit:
- Layoffs of state employees: Support 41.5%; Oppose 42%; Not sure 13.8; DK/NA 2.7%
- An increase in the state income tax: Support 19.2%; Oppose 72.5%; Not sure 6.3; DK/NA 2%
- Reduction of state aid to local communities: Support 27.1%; Oppose 60.9%; Not sure 8.4%; DK/NA 3.6%
- Reducing state aid for local education: Support 23%; Oppose 71.3%; Not sure 4.1%; DK/NA 1.6%
- Raising the capital gains tax: Support 44.9%; Oppose 40.4%; Not sure 9.7%; DK/NA 5%
- Changing the public employee work week from 35 to 40 hours: Support 63.9%; Oppose 21.3%; Not sure 10.7%; DK/NA 4.1%
- Adding furlough days without pay for public employees: Support 50%; Oppose 35.7%; Not sure 10.2%; DK/NA 4.1%
- Raising income taxes on high-wage earners: Support 60.9%; Oppose 30.7%; Not sure 5.5%; DK/NA 3%;
- Eliminate the Cost of Living Adjustments in all state, municipal and teacher pensions: Support 46.4%; Oppose 40.5% Not sure 9.1% DK/NA 4.1%
- Offer a "Defined Contribution" retirement plan similar to 401K for all new public employees: Support 63% Oppose 20.3%; Not sure 11.2%; DK/NA 5.5%
- Eliminate school bus monitors: Support 37.5%; Oppose 50.5%; Not sure 10%; DK/Na 2%
In his budget address, Gov. Carcieri proposed a high-powered commission to study the feasibility of consolidating or regionalizing public services, like education, public safety, and other municipal services. The argument is that there is too much duplication of services among the state’s 39 municipalities. Do you support the idea of consolidating services? Yes 78.3%; No 13.9%; DK/NA 7.9%
[If yes] What services do you think should be consolidated? School Administration 37.5%; Public Safety 4.2%; Purchasing Materials 1%; Everything 5.9%; Bus Monitors .3%; Trash and Recycling .3%; Central Pool for Substitute Teachers .3%; All Services (Police, Fire, Education, City Workers) 24.8%; Public Works/Streets 1.6%; Other 5.2%; Vehicles .3%; DK/NA 18.5% [Answers open-coded]
Do you agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or disagree with the following statements?
- Rhode Island state government is a good place for a college graduate to start his or her career: Agree 18.6%; Somewhat agree 14.9%; Somewhat disagree 7.7%; Disagree 52%; DK/NA 6.8%
- Most Rhode Island state government employees are hard-working and motivated: Agree 31.6%; Somewhat agree 23.9%; Somewhat disagree 9.4%; Disagree 27.4%; DK/NA 7.7%
- The effectiveness of Rhode Island's government depends on the quality of the people who work there: Agree 82.1%; Somewhat agree 8.5%; Somewhat disagree 2.6%; Disagree 4.2%; DK/NA 2.6%
How would you rate the job Barack Obama is doing as president? Excellent 21.9%; Good 40.5%; Only fair 12%; Poor 4.5%; Don’t know 12.2%; No answer 8.9%
How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as US Senator? Excellent 22.8%; Good 39.3%; Only fair 16.9%; Poor 14.6%; Don’t know 5.2%; No answer 1.2%
How would you rate the job Sheldon Whitehouse is doing as U.S. Senator? Excellent 9.8%; Good 31.9%; Only fair 24.1%; Poor 15.9%; Don’t know 15.9; No answer 2.3%
How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. Representative? Excellent 9%; Good 29%; Only fair 28.5%; Poor 22.9%; Don’t know 8.7%; No answer 1.9%
How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as U.S. Representative? Excellent 9.3%; Good 41.3%; Only fair 19%; Poor 13.3%; Don’t know 15.2%; No answer 1.9%
How would you rate the job Don Carcieri is doing as governor? Excellent 8%; Good 26.8%; Only fair 28%; Poor 31.8%; Don’t know 3.8; No answer 1.6%
How would you rate the job Elizabeth Roberts is doing as lieutenant governor? Excellent 2.4%; Good 18.8%; Only fair 22.4%; Poor 12.9%; Don’t know 38.4%; No answer 5.2%
How would you rate the job Patrick Lynch is doing as attorney general? Excellent 8.7%; Good 39%; Only fair 26.2%; Poor 14.2%; Don’t know 9.9%; No answer 1.9%
How would you rate the job Ralph Mollis is doing as secretary of state? Excellent 2.8%; Good 25.8%; Only fair 22.7%; Poor 9.7%; Don’t know 34.8%; No answer 4.3%
How would you rate the job Frank Caprio, Jr. is doing as general treasurer? Excellent 6.0%; Good 28.6%; Only fair 21.7%; Poor 11%; Don’t know 29.4%; No answer 3.3%
How would you rate the job William Murphy is doing as House Speaker? Excellent 1.2%; Good 12.9%; Only fair 20.2%; Poor 20%; Don’t know 41.4%; No answer 4.3%
How would you rate the job Teresa Paiva-Weed is doing as Senate President? Excellent 1.4%; Good 14%; Only fair 16.6%; Poor 15.2%; Don’t know 47.2%; No answer 5.7%
How would you rate the job David Cicilline is doing as mayor of Providence? Excellent 5.9%; Good 32.5%; Only fair 25.7%; Poor 21.7%; Don’t know 9.7%; No answer 4.5%
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 8.7%; Off on wrong track 80.4%; Mixed 8.3%; Not sure 2.1%; DK/NA .5%