Rhode Island State Survey, February 1999

Distributed February 2, 1999

R.I. public opinion survey
Voters prefer Clinton censure to removal; many say he committed perjury

A survey of 313 Rhode Island voters conducted Jan. 30-31, 1999, finds a strong preference for censure of President Clinton rather than removal. The survey also finds Sen. John Chafee ahead of Secretary of State James Langevin in the U.S. Senate race.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Seventy-one percent of Rhode Island voters oppose President Clinton's removal from office, according to a new statewide survey. Although two-thirds believe the president committed perjury in his testimony, nearly half think he should not be indicted for perjury after he leaves office. In other results, Sen. John Chafee leads Secretary of State James Langevin in the campaign for U.S. Senate next year. Gov. Lincoln Almond continues to enjoy positive job performance ratings as the state economy remains strong and voters feel Rhode Island is headed in the right direction.

The survey was conducted Jan. 30-31, 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 statewide random sample of 313 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, it had a margin of error of about plus or minus five percentage points.

Seventy-one percent of respondents believe Clinton lied to the grand jury, 65 percent feel he committed perjury in his testimony, and 49 percent believe he obstructed justice. In September 1998, 62 percent believed he lied and 53 percent felt he committed perjury.

However, because of his behavior, 66 percent think he should be censured or reprimanded by Congress and only 27 percent think he should resign. Twenty-three percent feel he should be removed from office by the Senate, and 38 percent believe he should be indicted for perjury after he leaves office. In September, 31 percent thought he should resign and 63 percent favored censure.

In the upcoming race for U.S. Senate next year, Republican Chafee is ahead of Secretary of State Langevin. If the election were held today, 47 percent say they favor Chafee, 35 percent support Langevin, and 18 percent are undecided.

Clinton continues to receive positive job performance ratings from Rhode Island voters. Sixty-nine percent give him excellent or good ratings, 16 percent say his performance has been only fair, 12 percent rate him poor, and 3 percent offer no opinion. In September 1998, 67 percent rated him excellent or good in his handling of his job.

Almond has the highest job performance of any point during his administration. Sixty percent give him excellent or good ratings, 24 percent rate him only fair, 8 percent rate him poor, and 8 percent have no opinion. In an earlier survey, 58 percent felt his performance had been excellent or good, 27 percent believed it had been only fair, 10 percent rated him poor, and 5 percent had no opinion.

Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty's job performance is rated excellent or good by 25 percent, compared to 30 percent for Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, and 24 percent for Treasurer Paul Tavares. Forty-eight percent feel Langevin's performance as secretary of state has been excellent or good, down from 58 in the last survey. Twenty-three percent rate R.I. Senate Majority leader Paul Kelly excellent or good (down from 31 percent in January 1998), and 27 percent have an excellent or good rating for R.I. House Speaker John Harwood (up from 26 percent in January 1998).

With regard to federal officials, 64 percent believe Chafee is doing an excellent or good job (up from 63 percent). These numbers compare to 57 percent for U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (down from 64 percent), 47 percent for U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (down from 60 percent), and 43 percent for U.S. Rep. Robert Weygand (down from 55 percent last September).

The "right direction" number is at its high point for this decade. Eighty-three percent believe the state is headed in the right direction (up from 72 percent in September), while 10 percent think it is off on the wrong track.

Fifty-two percent of respondents favor lowering the blood-alcohol threshold for drunken drivers from 0.10 to 0.08 percent. Fifty-nine percent believe smoking should be banned in Rhode Island restaurants.

The Index of Consumer Sentiment for Rhode Island this month also has reached a high point for this decade. The current reading is 106.3, up from the last reading of 104.7 for September 1998. This index is modeled after the national index developed at the University of Michigan. It is based on five questions measuring views about the economy and is used to determine over time how optimistic or pessimistic people are feeling in relation to the base period of 1966, when the index stood at 100. The higher the reading, the more optimistic people are.

September 1998 104.7 June 1995 68.8
May 1998 102.9 February 1995 81.4
January 1998 100.1 September 1994 82.7
September 1997 91.6 July 1994 80.1
June 1997 87.1 February 1994 81.0
February 1997 87.0 September 1993 74.4
Septemeber 1996 82.3 July 1993 69.8
June 1996 78.5 February 1993 76.0
February 1996 74.3 September 1992 68.3
Septemeber 1995 73.9 June 1992 76.

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

We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living there) are: 51% better off, 17% worse off financially than you were a year ago, 32% don't know or no answer

Now looking ahead - do you think that a year from now you (and your family living there) will be: 35% better off financially, 7% worse off, 49% just about the same as now, 9% don't know or no answer

Now turning to business conditions in the state as a whole - do you think that during the next 12 months we'll have: 63% good times financially, 13% bad times, 24% don't know or no answer

Looking ahead, which would you say is more likely - that in the state as a whole: 54% we'll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, 25% that we will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression, or what, 21% don't know or no answer

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: 74% good, 6% bad time for people to buy major household items, 20% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Bill Clinton is doing as president? 21% excellent, 48% good, 16% only fair, 12% poor, 3% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job John Chafee is doing as U.S. Senator? 14% excellent, 50% good, 15% only fair, 9% poor, 12% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as U.S. Senator? 11% excellent, 46% good, 22% only fair, 3% poor, 18% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. Representative? 10% excellent, 37% good, 21% only fair, 20% poor, 12% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Robert Weygand is doing as U.S. Representative? 8% excellent, 35% good, 25% only fair, 3% poor, 29% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Lincoln Almond is doing as governor? 15% excellent, 45% good, 24% only fair, 8% poor, 8% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Charles Fogarty is doing as lieutenant governor? 1% excellent, 24% good, 14% only fair, 2% poor, 59% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Sheldon Whitehouse is doing as attorney general? 5% excellent, 25% good, 18% only fair, 2% poor, 50% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as secretary of state? 16% excellent, 32% good, 9% only fair, 4% poor, 39% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Paul Tavares is doing as general treasurer? 2% excellent, 22% good, 13% only fair, 1% poor, 62% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Paul Kelly is doing as Senate Majority Leader? 1% excellent, 22% good, 24% only fair, 8% poor, 45% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job John Harwood is doing as Speaker of the House? 2% excellent, 25% good, 23% only fair, 6% poor, 44% don't know or no answer

Generally speaking, would you say things in Rhode Island are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track? 83% right direction, 10% wrong track, 7% don't know or no answer

If the election for U.S. Senate were held today, would you vote for Republican John Chafee or Democrat James Langevin? 47% Chafee, 35% Langevin, 18% don't know or no answer

President Clinton has been accused of perjury and obstruction of justice in regard to an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Do you believe that he: a) lied to the grand jury? 71% yes, 16% no, 13% don't know or no answer; b) committed perjury in his testimony? 65% yes, 22% no, 13% don't know or no answer; c) obstructed justice? 49% yes, 35% no, 16% don't know or no answer

Based on his behavior, do you think President Clinton should: a) resign from office? 27% yes, 67% no, 6% don't know or no answer; b) be removed from office by the Senate? 23% yes, 71% no, 6% don't know or no answer; c) be censured or reprimanded by Congress? 66% yes, 28% no, 6% don't know or no answer; d) be indicted for perjury after he leaves office? 38% yes, 49% no, 13% don't know or no answer

Do you believe that the blood-alcohol threshold for drunken drivers should be lowered from .10 to .08? 52% yes, 38% no, 10% don't know or no answer

Do you think that smoking should be banned in Rhode Island restaurants? 59% yes, 35% no, 6% don't know or no answer

Darrell M. West