Providence City Survey, March 1999

Distributed March 10, 1999

Providence public opinion survey
Cianci, firefighters, police rated highly; schools, streets, taxes fare worse

A survey of 324 Providence residents conducted March 6-8, 1999, found a large majority approves of the job Mayor Cianci, police and firefighters are doing. Public schools, street repairs and taxes fared worse. The city's biggest problem: its public schools.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Seventy-seven percent of Providence residents believe Mayor Vincent A. Cianci is doing an excellent or good job, according to a new city survey. Large majorities of city residents are positive about fire services, police protection, garbage collection and the downtown area, but negative about public schools, street repairs and taxes. The issue seen as the most important problem facing the city of Providence today is the poor quality of public schools in the city.

The survey was conducted March 6-8, 1999, at Brown University by Darrell M. West, professor of political science and director of the John Hazen White Sr. Public Opinion Laboratory; Thomas J. Anton, director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions; and Jack Combs, the Center's research administrator. It was based on a random sample of 324 Providence residents aged 18 years or older. Overall, it had a margin of error of about plus or minus 5.5 percent. This is the first of what is expected to become an annual University survey devoted to Providence.

Seventy-seven percent think Cianci is doing an excellent or good job as mayor, 14 percent believe his job performance is only fair, 3 percent feel it is poor, and 6 percent have no opinion. Whites (83 percent) were more likely to view him positively than non-whites (65 percent). Women (78 percent) were slightly more likely than men (74 percent) to be positive about Cianci's performance. In terms of age, Cianci was rated most favorably by respondents aged 65 or older and 45 to 64 (82 percent each), compared to 69 percent for those aged 18 to 24 and 75 percent for those 25 to 44. New arrivals (those here five years or less) rated Cianci almost as positively (75 percent) as those who have been in the city 20 years or more (78 percent excellent or good).

Researchers asked Providence residents to rate a variety of city services and aspects of city life. The activity receiving the highest percentage of excellent or good ratings was fire services (81 percent), followed by restaurants and nightlife (74 percent), garbage collection (71 percent), police protection (63 percent), public transportation (55 percent), employment possibilities (42 percent), race relations (34 percent), public schools (29 percent), street repairs (27 percent) and taxes (22 percent).

Police protection was rated more highly by whites (70 percent excellent or good) than nonwhites (49 percent excellent or good). There also were differences in ratings by neighborhood. The area giving the police the highest ratings was Mt. Pleasant / Elmhurst (79 percent), followed by Downtown / Federal Hill / Smith Hill (75 percent), the West End / Silver Lake / Hartford / Olneyville / Manton (69 percent), the East Side (66 percent), and South Providence / Elmwood (46 percent). Women rated police protection about the same (64 percent excellent or good) as men (60 percent).

Public schools were rated more positively by nonwhites (36 percent) than whites (24 percent). The area giving public schools the lowest ratings was the East Side (16 percent excellent or good), followed by South Providence / Elmwood (23 percent), Downtown Federal Hill / Smith Hill (25 percent), the West End / Silver Lake / Hartford / Olneyville / Manton (26 percent), and Mt. Pleasant / Elmhurst (34 percent). Men (30 percent) gave schools about the same marks as did women (27 percent).

On street repairs, the area giving city services the highest ratings was Mt. Pleasant / Elmhurst (34 percent), followed by Downtown / Federal Hill / Smith Hill (33 percent), the West End / Silver Lake / Hartford / Olneyville / Manton (26 percent), the East Side (25 percent), and South Providence / Elmwood (19 percent).

In terms of race relations, nonwhites (35 percent) were as likely as whites (33 percent) to rate the area positively. Men (35 percent) gave race relations similar marks as did women (32 percent). Newcomers, however, were more positive (41 percent) than those living in the city 20 years or more (30 percent excellent or good).

In looking at the overall situation, 79 percent believe things in Providence are headed in the right direction, while 10 percent think they are off on the wrong track. When asked about their satisfaction with the overall quality of life in Providence, 30 percent said they were very satisfied, 54 percent felt somewhat satisfied, 13 percent were not very satisfied, and 3 percent expressed no opinion. Compared to five years ago, 72 percent feel downtown Providence looks better off.

Researchers asked residents what they thought was the most important problem facing the city of Providence today. Eighteen percent named the poor quality of public schools, followed by crime (12 percent), jobs (7 percent), taxes (6 percent), drugs (5 percent), streets (4 percent), parking (3 percent), race (2 percent), poverty (2 percent), and police (2 percent). All others were less than 2 percent.

In terms of future initiatives, 83 percent favor cutting taxes, 74 percent favor developing areas at the outskirts of the downtown area, 73 percent favor constructing an aquarium on the Providence River waterfront, 50 percent favor building berths for cruise ships on the downtown waterfront, and 38 percent favor building a deck containing new housing and office space over Interstate 95 in the downtown area.

Nearly one-third (31 percent) of city residents indicate they have lived in the city five years or less. Only 39 percent said they had lived in the city 20 years or more.

For more information, contact Darrell M. West at (401) 863-1163.
Survey Questions and Responses

How long have you lived in the city of Providence? 13% one year or less, 18% two to five years, 10% six to 10 years, 9% 11 to 15 years, 11% 16 to 20 years, 39% more than 20 years, 0% don't know or no answer

How satisfied are you with the overall quality of life in Providence? 30% very satisfied, 54% somewhat satisfied, 13% not very satisfied, 3% don't know or no answer

Compared to five years ago, would you say downtown Providence looks: 72% better off, 9% about the same, 3% worse off, 16% don't know or no answer

Generally speaking, would you say things in Providence are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track? 79% right direction, 10% wrong track, 11% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the following Providence city services on a scale of excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
        a) police protection: 15% excellent, 48% good, 23% only fair, 12% poor, 2% don't know or no answer
        b) fire services: 32% excellent, 49% good, 7% only fair, 1% poor, 11% don't know or no answer
        c) garbage collection: 19% excellent, 52% good, 20% only fair, 6% poor, 3% don't know or no answer
        d) street repairs: 6% excellent, 21% good, 31% only fair, 40% poor, 2% don't know or no answer
        e) public transportation: 11% excellent, 44% good, 17% only fair, 7% poor, 21% don't know or no answer
        f) public schools: 6% excellent, 23% good, 28% only fair, 21% poor, 22% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the following aspects of life in Providence on a scale of excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
        a) restaurants and nightlife: 31% excellent, 43% good, 13% only fair, 4% poor, 9% don't know or no answer
        b) employment possibilities: 10% excellent, 32% good, 31% only fair, 15% poor, 12% don't know or no answer
        c) taxes: 4% excellent, 18% good, 32% only fair, 32% poor, 14% don't know or no answer
        d) race relations: 2% excellent, 32% good, 38% only fair, 15% poor, 13% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Buddy Cianci is doing as mayor? 34% excellent, 43% good, 14% only fair, 3% poor, 6% don't know or no answer

As far as you are concerned, what is the most important problem facing the city of Providence today? (open-ended responses put into the following categories): public schools (18 percent), crime (12 percent), jobs (7 percent), taxes (6 percent), drugs (5 percent), streets (4 percent), parking (3 percent), race (2 percent), poverty (2 percent), and police (2 percent). All other problems named were under 2 percent.

In terms of future initiatives, which of the following proposals would you favor:
        a) building a deck containing new housing and office space over Interstate 95 in the downtown area: 38% favor, 43% oppose, 19% don't know or no answer
        b) constructing an aquarium on the Providence River waterfront: 73% favor, 20% oppose, 7% don't know or no answer
        c) building berths for cruise ships on the downtown waterfront: 50% favor, 36% oppose, 14% don't know or no answer
        d) developing areas at the outskirts of the downtown area: 74% favor, 12% oppose, 14% don't know or no answer
        e) cutting taxes: 83% favor, 7% oppose, 10% don't know or no answer

Darrell M. West