PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Apparently hit hard by the economic recession, a large majority of Providence voters — 87 percent — characterizes the city’s economy as “not so good“ or “poor,“ according to a new citywide survey by researchers at Brown University. More than half of voters surveyed said they or their families are worse off financially than they were one year ago, while only 18 percent said they are better off now.
The survey was conducted Sept. 16-19, 2009, by researchers at Brown University’s A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and the center’s John Hazen White Public Opinion Laboratory. It is based on a citywide random sample of 480 registered voters in Providence. Overall, the margin of error is about plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
When asked to look ahead at the city as a whole, 52 percent of respondents said they expected the city to have “widespread” periods of unemployment or depression. Twenty-three percent thought the future would hold “continuous good times” for the city of Providence. When asked about themselves and their families, a distinct minority of respondents — 35 percent — felt they or their family would be better off in the years ahead. Additionally, nearly half of respondents — 47.5 percent — said that now was a “bad time” for people to make large purchases like furniture, stoves, and televisions. More than half of voters polled said Providence was generally on the wrong track.
The survey also asked respondents about the state of affairs in the City of Providence. Forty percent of survey respondents rated Mayor David Cicilline as doing an “excellent” or “good” job; 45 percent rated has job performance as “only fair” or “poor;” and 14 percent did not know. Forty-three percent of those surveyed believe Cicilline has not lived up to his pledge to “have a City Hall free of cronyism and corruption.”
The survey found that large majorities of voters disapprove of the way city officials are handling the city budget (61 percent) and taxes (66 percent). However, Providence voters report they are generally satisfied with public services in the city. For example, 78 percent of the respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with garbage collection; 59 percent said they were were satisfied or very satisfied with public safety; 79 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with fire and ambulance service; and 60 percent reported being satisfied or very satisfied with parks in Providence. Respondents were most dissatisfied with Providence public schools and the upkeep of roads in the city.
Survey results also showed that large majorities of Providence voters believe that how their city fares impacts the larger metropolitian region. For example, 63 percent of the respondents agree with President Barack Obama that policy-makers should not focus exclusively on central cities, but should consider regional or metropolitan approaches to solving central-city problems. Large majorities of respondents believe there is an interrelationship between the cities and their surrounding communities. For example, 76 percent believe that “what happens to Providence has an impact on the surrounding metropolitan region,” while 74 percent of respondents said “what happens to the surrounding metropolitan region has an impact on Providence.”
The survey was conducted in conjunction with the Taubman Center’s annual Thomas J. Anton/Frederick Lippitt Urban Affairs Conference, President Obama and America’s Cities, which will be held Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2009, at Brown University. This year’s conference, focusing on the new president’s approach to central cities, features Scott W. Lang, mayor of New Bedford, Mass.; Thomas Deller, director of planning and development for Providence; Wilbur C. Rich, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College; and Gregory D. Squires, professor of sociology and public policy and public administration at George Washington University.
For more information about this survey, contact Marion Orr, the Fred Lippitt Professor of Public Policy and Political Science and director of the Taubman Center, at (401) 863-9436.
Survey Questions and Responses
- First of all, how long have you lived in Providence? 0–5 years: 16.0%; 6–10 years: 14.0%; 11–15 years: 8.8%; 16–20 years: 12.2%; 21–30 years: 15.4%; 31–40 years: 9.6%; 41 or more years: 24.0%
- How would you rate the job David Cicilline (SISS-a-lini) is doing as mayor of Providence? Excellent: 5.2%; Good: 35.4%; Only Fair: 28.1%; Poor: 17.3%; DK/NA: 14.0%
- How would you rate the job Barack Obama is doing as president? Excellent: 25.4%; Good: 39.8%; Only Fair: 18.8%; Poor: 9.8%; DK/NA: 6.2%
- When David Cicilline first ran for office, he promised to have a city hall free of cronyism and corruption. Do you think he has lived up to that? Yes: 29.8%; No: 43.3%; DK/NA: 26.9%
- Would you describe the state of Providence’s economy these days as - excellent, good, not so good, or poor? Excellent: 0.6%; Good: 10.4%; Not so Good: 37.9%; Poor: 49.4%; DK/NA: 1.7%
- Generally speaking, would you say things in Providence are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track? Right Direction: 24.8%; Off on Wrong Track: 51.3%; Mixed: 15.4%; DK/NA: 8.5%
- We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living there) are: Better Off: 18.8%; Worse Off Financially: 51.1%; DK/NA: 31.%
- Now looking ahead — do you think that a year from now you (and your family living there) will be: Better Off: 35.7%; Worse Off Financially: 10.6%; About the same: 37.4%; DK/NA: 16.3%
- Now turning to business conditions in the city of Providence as a whole — do you think that you (and your family living there) are Better Off: 13.2%; Worse Off Financially: 50.5%; DK/NA: 36.3%
- Looking ahead, which would you say is more likely — that in the city as a whole: we’ll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, that we will have Continuous Good Times: 23.0%; Widespread Unemployment: 52.0%; DK/NA: 25.0%
- About the big things people buy for their homes — such as furniture, a refrigerator, stove, television, and things like that. Generally speaking, do you think now is a Good Time to Buy: 34.5%; Bad Time to Buy: 47.5%; DK/NA: 18.0%
- So far, do you think the economic stimulus program has helped Helped the National Economy: 36.0%; Hurt the National Economy: 10.0%; Hasn’t Made a Difference: 46.5%; DK/NA: 7.5%
- So far, do you think the economic stimulus program has Helped Your Personal Financial Situation: 15.4%; Hurt Your Personal Financial Situation: 10.0%; Hasn’t Made a Difference: 69.3%; DK/NA: 5.2%
- So far, do you think the economic stimulus program has Helped Providence: 29.3%; Hurt Providence: 5.9%; Hasn’t Made a Difference: 53.1%; DK/NA: 11.7%
As you know, President Obama is the first president in many years who has a strong urban connection; he lived in Chicago. We are interested in your views about the Obama Administration’s approach toward cities.
- In at least two major speeches, President Obama has critiqued a policy approach that focused exclusively on central cities. He argues that metropolitan areas — areas that include central cities and surrounding suburban areas — should be focus of policy action. Do you agree or disagree? Agree: 63.4%; Disagree: 15.6%; DK/NA: 21.0%
- So far, do you think President Obama has an identifiable policy towards cities? Yes: 44.3%; No: 30.2%; DK/NA: 25.2%
- From your perspective, do you think that what happens to Providence has an impact on the surrounding metropolitan region? Yes: 76.1%; No: 14.8%; DK/NA: 9.1%
- From your perspective, do you think that what happens to the surrounding metropolitan region has an impact on Providence? Yes: 74.3%; No: 18.3%; DK/NA: 7.4%
- Do you approve or disapprove of the way city officials are handling the city budget? Approve: 19.0%; Disapprove: 61.8%; DK/NA: 19.2%
- Do you approve or disapprove of the way city officials are handling taxes? Approve: 16.8%; Disapprove: 66.6%; DK/NA: 16.6%
- How serious do you think Providence’s budget problems are? Very Serious: 61.2%; Somewhat Serious: 29.0%; Not so Serious: 4.3%; Not at All Seriou:s 0.6%; DK/NA: 4.9%
- To balance the city budget, if you had to choose, would you prefer Raising Taxes: 32.2%; Cutting Programs and Services: 41.2%; DK/NA: 26.6%
- To balance the city budget, if you had to choose, which city tax do you think should be increased Sales Tax: 57.2%; Property Tax: 19.1%; DK/NA: 23.7%
- To balance the city budget, if you had to choose, where do you think city spending should be decreased? Public Schools: 8.6%; Police: 7.7%; Firefighters: 8.4%; Sanitation: 4.1%; Social Services: 9.9%; Culture and Recreation: 32.2%; DK/NA: 29.1%
- 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? Very Satisfied: 10.6%; Satisfied: 68%; Neither: 3.1%; Dissatisfied: 9.1% ; Very Dissatisfied: 1.5%; DK/NA: 7.7%
- Bus service? Very Satisfied: 4.8%; Satisfied: 46.4%; Neither: 5.2%; Dissatisfied: 11.0%; Very Dissatisfied: 3.5%; DK/NA: 29.1%
- Public schools in Providence Very Satisfied: 1.5%; Satisfied: 25.4%; Neither: 6.2%; Dissatisfied: 34.7%; Very Dissatisfied: 10.6%; DK/NA: 21.6%
- Public schools in your neighborhood? Very Satisfied: 3.5%; Satisfied: 31.2%; Neither: 4.2%; Dissatisfied: 28.9%; Very Dissatisfied: 9.1%; DK/NA: 23.1%
- Police in Providence? Very Satisfied: 6.0%; Satisfied: 53.3%; Neither: 7.1%; Dissatisfied: 19.5%; Very Dissatisfied: 5.0%; DK/NA: 9.1%
- Police in your neighborhood? Very Satisfied: 10.0%; Satisfied: 50.9%; Neither: 6.7%; Dissatisfied: 17.3%; Very Dissatisfied: 6.2%; DK/NA: 8.9%
- Fire and ambulance service in Providence? Very Satisfied: 14.8%; Satisfied: 64.4%; Neither: 4.4%; Dissatisfied: 3.3%; Very Dissatisfied: 0.8%; DK/NA: 12.3%
- Fire and ambulance service in your neighborhood? Very Satisfied: 17.9%; Satisfied: 60.7; Neither: 4.8%; Dissatisfied: 3.7%; Very Dissatisfied: 0.8%; DK/NA 12.1%
- Upkeep of roads in Providence? Very Satisfied: 0.8%; Satisfied: 15.6%; Neither: 6.2%; Dissatisfied: 39.9%; Very Dissatisfied: 28.5%; DK/NA: 8.9%
- Upkeep of roads in your neighborhood? Very Satisfied: 1.5%; Satisfied: 23.9%; Neither: 6.2%; Dissatisfied: 35.8%; Very Dissatisfied: 24.1%; DK/NA: 8.5%
- Parks in Providence? Very Satisfied: 6.2%; Satisfied: 54.3%; Neither: 9.1%; Dissatisfied: 15.4%; Very Dissatisfied: 1.7%; DK/NA: 13.3%
- Parks in your neighborhood? Very Satisfied: 9.8%; Satisfied: 52.4%; Neither: 7.9%; Dissatisfied: 13.9%; Very Dissatisfied: 2.5%; DK/NA: 13.5%