Rhode Island State Survey, February 2001

R.I. Voters Favor Car Tax Phaseout; Oppose Clinton Pardon of Rich

A survey of 350 statewide voters conducted February 24-25 finds voters support phasing out the state tax on cars and strongly oppose President Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich. Nearly two-thirds of voters feel the state is headed in the right direction, and believe education, unemployment, and jobs are the most important problems facing the state.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Voters in Rhode Island favor a continuation of the car tax phase-out, according to a new public opinion survey by researchers at Brown University. Nearly two-thirds disapprove of former President Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich.

The survey was conducted February 24-25, 2001 at Brown University by Darrell M. West, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy and the John Hazen White, Sr. Public Opinion Laboratory. It is based on a statewide random sample of 350 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, the poll had a margin of error of about plus or minus five percentage points.

Rhode Island is in the process of phasing out its tax on cars, and 74 percent believe the state should continue to phase out that tax. Forty-nine percent think the state should eliminate its capital gains tax on investments, compared to 27 percent who are opposed.

Sixty-four percent disapprove of Clinton's pardon of Rich, while 12 percent approve of it. When asked whether they were favorable or unfavorable about Clinton now that he has left office, 50 percent indicated they were favorable, while 41 percent said they were unfavorable.

Fifty-two percent give Governor Lincoln Almond excellent or good ratings for how he is handling his job, compared to 33 percent who say it is only fair, 7 percent who believe it is poor, and 8 percent who were uncertain. In February, 2000, 49 percent gave Almond excellent or good marks.

Lieutenant Governor Charles Fogarty is rated excellent or good by 38 percent of voters (up from 36 percent last February). Fifty-seven percent give excellent or good marks to Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (up from 48 percent last February). Newly appointed Secretary of State Ed Inman is rated favorably by 24 percent of voters, and Treasurer Paul Tavaras has a 38 percent job approval rating (the same as a year ago).

Twenty-three percent say House Speaker John Harwood has done an excellent or good job, while 24 percent say it has been only fair, 12 percent believe it has been poor, and 41 percent are unsure. In June, 1999, 24 percent gave Harwood excellent or good marks, 18 percent rated him only fair, 9 percent said his performance was poor, and 49 percent were unsure. New Senate Majority Leader William Irons has a 28 percent job performance rating.

In regard to federal officials, President George W. Bush's performance is rated as excellent or good by 39 percent of Rhode Island voters, compared to 57 percent who say that about Senator Lincoln Chafee (up from 48 percent in February, 2000), 62 percent who feel that way about Senator Jack Reed (down from 67 percent a year ago), 49 percent who give Congressman Patrick Kennedy positive marks (down from 63 percent last February), and 45 percent who believe Congressman James Langevin is doing an excellent or good job.

Sixty-two percent feel the state is headed in the right direction, while only 26 percent believe it is off on the wrong track. Last February, 61 percent claimed Rhode Island was moving in the right direction, and 24 percent felt it was on the wrong track.

The Index of Consumer Sentiment for Rhode Island this month has fallen to 84.9, down from 97.9 in February, 2000 and 106.3 in January, 1999. This means Rhode Islanders are 20 percent less optimistic about the economy compared to two years ago. The index is modeled after five questions from a national index developed at the University of Michigan and is used to determine over time how optimistic people are compared to the base period of 1966, when the index stood at 100. The higher the reading, the more optimistic consumers are.

When asked what was the most important problem facing the state of Rhode Island today, 14 percent named education, 14 percent said unemployment and jobs, 8 percent cited ethics and corruption, 5 percent indicated it was the economy, 5 percent cited health care, 5 percent named the business climate, 5 percent cited government performance, 5 percent indicated the environment, 4 percent said it was taxes, 3 percent said roads, 3 percent named crime, 2 percent cited the government budget, and 2 percent named elderly issues (all others cited were under 2 percent.

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: 47% better off, 28% worse off financially than you were a year ago, 25% 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: 31% better off financially, 12% worse off, 48% 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 twelve months we'll have: 33% good times financially, 41% bad times, 26% don't know or no answer

Looking ahead, which would you say is more likely--that in the state as a whole: 39% we'll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, 40% that we will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression, 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: 56% good, 25% bad time for people to buy major household items, 19% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job George W. Bush is doing as president? 9% excellent, 30% good, 22% only fair, 10% poor, 29% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Lincoln Chafee is doing as U.S. Senator? 11% excellent, 46% good, 23% only fair, 2% poor, 18% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as U.S. Senator? 15% excellent, 47% good, 17% only fair, 4% poor, 17% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. Representative? 15% excellent, 34% good, 24% only fair, 14% poor, 13% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as U.S. Representative? 8% excellent, 37% good, 16% only fair, 2% poor, 37% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Lincoln Almond is doing as governor? 9% excellent, 43% good, 33% only fair, 7% poor, 8% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Charles Fogarty is doing as lieutenant governor? 5% excellent, 33% good, 23% only fair, 3% poor, 36% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Sheldon Whitehouse is doing as attorney general? 9% excellent, 48% good, 20% only fair, 5% poor, 18% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Ed Inman is doing as secretary of state? 2% excellent, 22% good, 17% only fair, 3% poor, 56% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Paul Tavares is doing as general treasurer? 5% excellent, 33% good, 18% only fair, 3% poor, 41% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job William Irons is doing as Senate Majority Leader? 4% excellent, 24% good, 18% only fair, 3% poor, 51% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job John Harwood is doing as Speaker of the House? 2% excellent, 21% good, 24% only fair, 12% poor, 41% 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? 62% right direction, 26% wrong track, 12% don't know or no answer

As far as you are concerned, what is the most important problem facing the state of Rhode Island today? (open-ended responses classified into the following categories) 14% education, 14% unemployment and jobs, 8% ethics and corruption, 5% economy, 5% health care, 5% business climate, 5% government performance, 5% environment, 4% taxes, 3% roads, 3% crime, 2% government budget, 2% elderly (all others under 2%)

Rhode Island is in the process of phasing out its tax on cars. Do you think the state should continue to phase out the tax on cars? 74% yes, 15% no, 11% don't know or no answer

Do you think Rhode Island should eliminate its capital gains tax on investments? 49% yes, 27% no, 24% don't know or no answer

Do you support a plan to create an $8.4 million state fund that would place government information and services online so citizens could access them from their homes, businesses, and libraries? 48% yes, 33% no, 19% don't know or no answer

Now that he has left office, are you favorable or unfavorable about former President Bill Clinton? 50% favorable, 41% unfavorable, 9% don't know or no answer

Do you approve or disapprove of former President Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich? 12% approve, 64% disapprove, 24% don't know or no answer

Darrell M. West