NEW: Brown Poll has Chafee, Cicilline in the Tank

Thursday, December 15, 2011


A new public opinion survey by Brown University researchers finds the majority of Rhode Island voters support the Rhode Island Retirement Security Act (RIRSA), recent legislation that was passed to reform the state worker pension system.

Researchers at the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and the John Hazen White Public Opinion Laboratory at Brown University surveyed a random sample of 464 Rhode Island voters from Dec. 2 to Dec. 9, 2011. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

The poll found that a large majority of Rhode Islanders (71.8 percent) has been paying attention to the pension issue, and nearly nine out of 10 Rhode Islanders (89.7 percent) feel that pension reform is important to the future economic well-being of the state. Overall, 60.1 percent of voters support or strongly support the new pension law, while 27.5 percent of respondents oppose or strongly oppose it. Support for RIRSA transcends party affiliation, with Independents (63.6 percent), Democrats (57.6 percent) and Republicans (64.4 percent) all solidly backing the bill. A majority (58.2 percent) believes that the state should also develop a uniform plan to fix independent municipal pension plans.

Voter identification

The poll asked voters whether they approve of a state law that will require voters to present identification in order to vote beginning in 2012. The vast majority of Rhode Islanders (84.9 percent) were in favor of the identification rule, regardless of party affiliation. Nearly four in five Democrats (79.4 percent) and almost all Republicans (96.6 percent) were in favor of voter identification. These results are consistent with national polls on support for voter identification requirements.

Tree controversy

The poll asked Rhode Islanders about the recent controversy over Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s “holiday tree.” When queried about which term they prefer for the decorated spruce tree in the State House, most voters picked “Christmas tree” (76.9 percent). Only 11.2 percent prefer “holiday tree” and nearly the same number, 11.9 percent, either didn’t care to weigh in or wanted to call it something else.

Approval ratings

Chafee’s approval rating has dipped, with only 27.4 percent of voters rating his work excellent or good. In March 2011, 32.3 percent of voters felt he was doing an excellent or good job. Democrats are the most satisfied with Chafee’s recent performance (38.8 percent), with Republicans (15.3 percent) and Independents (21.7 percent) much less so.

State Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s approval rating has risen significantly, from 39.5 percent good or excellent in March 2011 to 52.0 percent in December 2011. Raimondo, a Democrat, has good or excellent ratings from a majority of Republicans (61 percent) and Independents (59.6 percent), but significantly lower marks from Democrats (37.5 percent). However, among Democrats, a high percentage (31.5 percent) didn’t know enough to judge her performance. Overall, a much larger percentage of voters had an opinion about Raimondo’s performance: In March 2011, 36.2 percent of voters didn’t know how to rate her performance, but in December 2011 that number had declined to 21.8 percent.

President Barack Obama’s approval rating is 44.2 percent, a similar number to March 2011, when it was 43.7 percent. Similarly, Rhode Islanders’ opinion on President Obama’s handling of the economy is virtually unchanged: 43.3 percent approved in March and 44 percent approve in December. A majority of Rhode Islanders still feels the state is on the “wrong track” (62.7 percent), a slight rise from the 60.2 percent who felt that way eight months ago.

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline’s statewide approval rating is 24.3 percent, with a 23.1 percent approval rating in his district. U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin has a 41.9 percent approval rating overall with a 41.2 percent approval rating in his district. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has an approval rating of 33.6 percent and U.S. Sen. Jack Reed’s approval rating is 46.4 percent.

On the local level, Providence Mayor Angel Tavares’ 51.7 percent approval rating is higher than Rhode Island voters reported for most state or national public officials. Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts has an approval rating of 32.8 percent. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has an approval rating of 34.5 percent. Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis has a 25.6 percent approval rating, while 25.9 approve of Speaker of the House Gordon Fox and 24.1 approve of Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed.


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