Rhode Island State Survey, June 1999

Distributed June 16, 1999

Worries about the container port
Survey: Weygand leads in U.S. Senate race, but Violet makes it close

A survey of 357 Rhode Island voters conducted June 12-14, 1999, finds U.S. Rep. Robert Weygand leading Warwick Mayor Lincoln Chafee in the U.S. Senate race, but independent candidate Arlene Violet is making it close. The survey also asked voters about the Quonset Point Port, a tax cut for the rich, and a close race for a Narragansett gambling casino.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- U.S. Rep. Robert Weygand holds a lead of 45 to 26 percent over Warwick Mayor Lincoln Chafee in the upcoming U.S. Senate race, but the addition of independent candidate Arlene Violet makes that race very close, according to a new statewide survey. Voters also expressed worry about a proposed container port at Quonset Point and a tax cut for individuals making more than $200,000 in exchange for the creation of 7,500 well-paying jobs.

The survey was conducted June 12-14, 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 357 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, it had a margin of error of about plus or minus five percentage points.

In the contest for U.S. Senate, Weygand is ahead of Chafee in a two-way matchup, while Chafee leads former Lt. Gov Richard Licht 39 to 29 percent. However, a Violet independent candidacy turns both races into a close match. In the three-way race with her, 29 percent of voters support Weygand, 24 percent favor Violet, 21 percent support Chafee, and 26 percent are undecided. If Licht is the Democratic candidate, Violet garners support from 28 percent, 28 percent favor Chafee, 18 percent say they would vote for Licht, and 26 percent are undecided.

A proposal to develop a large container port at Quonset Point earns mixed reviews from voters. Overall, 38 percent favor the port, 30 percent oppose it, and 32 percent are undecided. In January 1999, a survey commissioned by a group of port supporters found that 61 percent favored port construction, 23 percent opposed it and 17 percent were undecided.

Seventy-three percent believe a large container port will create jobs, but 63 percent feel it will increase noise and traffic congestion in the area around the port and 43 percent think it will hurt Narragansett Bay. Only 32 percent support dredging the part of the Bay leading up to the port, while 17 percent support filling in part of the Bay leading up to the port.

The proposal to reduce income and capital gains taxes for individuals earning more than $200,000 in exchange for a commitment to create 7,500 high-paying jobs is opposed by a two-to-one margin. Fifty-six percent oppose the plan, while 26 percent favor it and 18 percent are undecided.

A proposal by the Narragansett Indian tribe to build a gambling casino in West Warwick finds a sharply divided electorate. While 47 percent favor construction of the casino, 42 percent are opposed and 11 percent are undecided. In May 1998, an identical question about a Narragansett casino found 53 percent opposed and 42 percent in favor.

Seventy-nine percent of state voters say they believe corruption in Providence city government is a very or somewhat serious problem. Only 8 percent feel corruption in Providence is not a very serious problem. However, Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. earns very favorable job ratings. Sixty-nine percent believe he is doing an excellent or good job as mayor.

President Clinton continues to receive positive job performance ratings from Rhode Island voters. Sixty-five percent give him excellent or good ratings, 19 percent say his performance has been only fair, 11 percent rate him poor, and 5 percent offer no opinion. In January, 69 percent rated him excellent or good in his handling of his job.

Gov. Lincoln Almond's job performance ratings have dropped. Fifty-two percent give him excellent or good ratings, 29 percent rate him only fair, 10 percent rate him poor, and 9 percent have no opinion. In our earlier survey, 60 percent felt his performance had been excellent or good, 24 percent believed it has been only fair, 8 percent rate him poor, and 8 percent had no opinion.

Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty's performance is rated excellent or good by 29 percent (compared to 25 percent in January), while 44 percent rate Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse positively (up from 30 percent last time), and 32 percent believe Treasurer Paul Tavares is doing an excellent or good job (up from 24 percent in January). Fifty-four percent feel Secretary of State Jim Langevin's performance has been excellent or good, up from 48 in the last survey. Eighteen percent rate Senate Majority Leader Paul Kelly excellent or good (down from 23 percent in January), and 24 percent do so for House Speaker John Harwood (down from 27 percent last time).

Regarding federal officials, 67 percent believe Sen. John Chafee is doing an excellent or good job (up from 64 percent). These numbers compare to 64 percent for Sen. Jack Reed (up from 57 percent), 55 percent for Rep. Patrick Kennedy (up from 47 percent), and 53 percent for Weygand (up from 43 percent).

The "right direction" number is down from its high point of 83 percent in January. This month, 67 percent believe the state is headed in the right direction, while 18 percent think it is off on the wrong track.

The Index of Consumer Sentiment for Rhode Island this month also has fallen from its high reading of 106.3 in January. The current reading for June is 101.2, showing that people are around 5 percent less optimistic than they were five months ago. This index is modeled on five questions from a national index developed at the University of Michigan, 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 consumers are.

January 1999 106.3 June 1995 68.8
September 1998 104.7 February 1995 81.4
May 1998 102.9 September 1994 82.7
January 1998 100.1 July 1994 80.1
September 1997 91.6 February 1994 81.0
June 1997 87.1 September 1993 74.4
February 1997 87.0 July 1993 76.0
September 1996 82.3 February 1993 76.0
June 1996 78.5 September 1992 68.3
February 1996 74.3 June 1992 76.0
September 1995 73.9

For more information, contact Darrell M. West at (401) 863-1163 or consult the InsidePolitics Web site.

Survey Questions and Responses


If the election for U.S. Senator were held today, would you vote for the Republican Lincoln Chafee (the mayor of Warwick) or Democrat Robert Weygand? 26% Chafee, 45% Weygand, 29% don't know or no answer

If the election for U.S. Senator were held today, would you vote for the Republican Lincoln Chafee or Democrat Richard Licht? 39% Chafee, 29% Licht, 32% don't know or no answer

If the election for U.S. Senator were held today, would you vote for the Republican Lincoln Chafee, Democrat Robert Weygand, or Independent candidate Arlene Violet? 21% Chafee, 29% Weygand, 24% Violet, 26% don't know or no answer

If the election for U.S. Senator were held today, would you vote for the Republican Lincoln Chafee, Democrat Richard Licht, or Independent candidate Arlene Violet? 28% Chafee, 18% Licht, 28% Violet, 26% don't know or no answer

We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living there) are: 46% better off, 24% worse off financially than you were a year ago, 30% 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, 8% worse off, 51% just about the same as now, 10% 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: 59% good times financially, 17% 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: 44% we'll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, 23% that we will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression, or what, 33% 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: 69% good, 7% bad time for people to buy major household items, 24% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Bill Clinton is doing as president? 15% excellent, 50% good, 19% only fair, 11% poor, 5% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job John Chafee is doing as U.S. Senator? 18% excellent, 49% good, 15% only fair, 3% poor, 15% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as U.S. Senator? 15% excellent, 49% good, 13% only fair, 2% poor, 21% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. Representative? 14% excellent, 41% good, 17% only fair, 13% poor, 15% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Robert Weygand is doing as U.S. Representative? 9% excellent, 44% good, 17% only fair, 4% poor, 26% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Lincoln Almond is doing as governor? 8% excellent, 44% good, 29% only fair, 10% poor, 9% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Charles Fogarty is doing as lieutenant governor? 2% excellent, 27% good, 16% only fair, 2% poor, 53% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Sheldon Whitehouse is doing as attorney general? 7% excellent, 37% good, 20% only fair, 6% poor, 30% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as secretary of state? 13% excellent, 41% good, 8% only fair, 1% poor, 37% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Paul Tavares is doing as general treasurer? 3% excellent, 29% good, 14% only fair, 2% poor, 52% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Paul Kelley is doing as Senate Majority Leader? 2% excellent, 16% good, 21% only fair, 10% poor, 51% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job John Harwood is doing as Speaker of the House? 3% excellent, 21% good, 18% only fair, 9% poor, 49% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Buddy Cianci is doing as Mayor of Providence? 23% excellent, 46% good, 13% only fair, 7% poor, 11% 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? 67% right direction, 18% wrong track, 15% don't know or no answer

There has been a proposal to develop a large container port at Quonset Point. Do you favor or oppose the development of this large container facility? 38% favor, 30% oppose, 32% don't know or no answer

If this large container port is developed, do you think it will:
        a) create jobs? 73% yes, 8% no, 19% don't know or no answer
        b) hurt Narragansett Bay? 43% yes, 27% no, 30% don't know or no answer
        c) increase noise and traffic congestion in the area around the port? 63% yes, 17% no, 20% don't know or no answer

Do you think part of the Bay leading up to the port should be dredged in order to facilitate the development of this port? 32% yes, 32% no, 36% don't know or no answer

Do you think part of the Bay leading up to the port should be filled in to facilitate the development of this port? 17% yes, 49% no, 34% don't know or no answer

There has been a proposal to reduce income and capital gains taxes for individuals earning over $200,000 in exchange for a commitment to create 7,500 high-paying jobs. Do you favor or oppose this tax proposal? 26% favor, 56% oppose, 18% don't know or no answer

There has been a proposal by the Narragansett Indian tribe to build a gambling casino in West Warwick. Do you favor or oppose the construction of this gambling casino? 47% favor, 42% oppose, 11% don't know or no answer

The U.S. Attorney's Office has indicted several people in connection with a probe into corruption in Providence city government. How serious of a problem do you think corruption is in Providence city government? 46% very serious, 33% somewhat serious, 8% not very serious, 13% don't know or no answer

Darrell M. West