Rhode Island State Survey, September 2003

Taubman Center for Public Policy Survey

Voters Support Narragansett Casino but Worry about Political Corruption

A statewide survey of 367 voters conducted September 13-15, 2003 finds that a majority of Rhode Island voters would support a gambling casino built by the Narragansett Tribe, but many worry about political and gaming industry corruption.  The survey also finds a dead heat between Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Joseph Lieberman in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A majority of Rhode Island voters say they would support a gambling casino built by the Narragansett Indian tribe if an election were held today, according to a new public opinion survey by researchers at Brown University. The poll also shows strong concern about possible corruption among Rhode Island politicians and in the gambling industry as a whole.

The survey was conducted September 13-15, 2003 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 367 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, the poll had a margin of error of about plus or minus five percentage points.

If the Narragansett gambling casino election were held today, 51 percent say they would support a casino, 35 percent would oppose it, and 14 percent are unsure. The survey comes on the heels of an indictment of Lincoln Park officials for trying to bribe a law firm headed by former House Speaker John Harwood in order to get more video slot machines and keep the Narragansett tribe from getting a gambling casino. When asked whether the indictment affected their view of a Narragansett casino, 30 percent say it made them more likely to support a casino, 11 percent say it makes them less likely to support a casino, 47 percent indicate it had no effect on their opinion, and 12 percent are unsure.

There is considerable concern about possible corruption in light of the Lincoln Park indictment. When asked what the indictment means about state politicians, 43 percent say it means there is widespread corruption among Rhode Island politicians, 43 percent believe corruption is limited to a few Rhode Island politicians, 2 percent feel the case means Rhode Island politicians are honest because there is no evidence any of them accepted bribes, and 12 percent are unsure. Forty-two percent believe the gambling industry is very corrupt, 38 percent describe it as somewhat corrupt, 5 percent think it is not very corrupt, and 15 percent are unsure.

The survey also asked about the upcoming presidential election. In the race for the Democratic nomination, Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Joseph Lieberman are locked in a tie, with each getting support from 17 percent of the 252 voters who say they are likely to vote in the Democratic primary. These candidates are followed by Richard Gephardt (7 percent), Carol Moseley Braun (3 percent), Al Sharpton (2 percent), John Edwards (1 percent), Dennis Kucinich (1 percent), and Bob Graham (0 percent). Thirty-five percent say they are unsure how they plan to vote in the primary.

Regardless of the Democratic nominee, President George W. Bush faces a tight race. When matched against Dean, 37 percent say they support Bush while 33 percent favor Dean. If Gephardt is the nominee, 39 percent plan to vote for Bush and 34 percent think they will vote for Gephardt. Kerry holds a slight edge of 39 to 36 percent over Bush. If Lieberman is the nominee, 37 percent favor Bush and 35 percent say they will vote for Lieberman.

When asked about the job performance of various public officials, 61 percent feel Governor Donald Carcieri is doing a good job (down from 72 percent in June). Thirty-six percent believe Lieutenant Governor Charles Fogarty is doing a good job (down from 37 percent). Thirty-seven percent think Attorney General Patrick Lynch is doing a good job, down from the 42 percent who felt that way in our last survey. Twenty-nine percent feel Secretary of State Matt Brown is doing a good job, up from 26 percent in February. Thirty-five percent believe Treasurer Paul Tavares is doing a good job, down from 36 percent last time. Sixty-seven percent say Providence Mayor David Cicilline is doing a good job, the same as in June. Thirty-nine percent believe Cranston Mayor Steven Laffey is doing a good job.

Eighteen percent rate the job performance of Senate President Williams Irons as good or excellent (down from 22 percent last June) and 19 percent rate the performance of new House Speaker William Murphy as good or excellent, down from 20 percent in June.

President George Bush's support within the state is holding steady. In this month's survey, 42 percent feel he is going a good or excellent job, down from 44 percent who rated his job performance good or excellent the last time. Sixty-two percent rate the performance of Senator Jack Reed good or excellent, up from 60 percent in the previous survey. Fifty percent believe Senator Lincoln Chafee is doing a good job, up from 45 percent last June. Fifty-six percent feel Congressman James Langevin is doing a good job (up from 54 percent) and 37 percent believe Congressman Patrick Kennedy is doing a good job (down from 43 percent approval in June).

Fifty-one percent believe the state is headed in the right direction, while 29 percent feel it is off on the wrong track. Last June, 71 percent believed the state was headed in the right direction and 20 percent stated that the state was headed off on the wrong track.

Our Index of Consumer Sentiment for Rhode Island this month was 82.1 percent, up from 80.2 last June. This means consumer optimism has risen slightly over the past few months. 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.

For more information, contact Darrell M. West at (401) 863-1163. A copy of the press release outlining survey results can be found at www.InsidePolitics.org.

Survey Questions and Responses

If the presidential general election were held today, would you vote for: 37% Republican George W. Bush, 33% Democrat Howard Dean, 30% don't know no answer

If the presidential general election were held today, would you vote for: 39% Republican George W. Bush, 34% Democrat Richard Gephardt, 27% don't know or no answer

If the presidential general election were held today, would you vote for: 36% Republican George W. Bush, 39% Democrat John Kerry, 25% don't know or no answer

If the presidential general election were held today, would you vote for: 37% Republican George W. Bush, 35% Democrat Joe Lieberman, 28% don't know or no answer

(based on 252 voters who say they are likely to vote in the Democratic primary) If the primary were held today, would you vote for: 17% Howard Dean, 1% John Edwards, 7% Richard Gephardt, 0% Bob Graham, 17% John Kerry, 1% Dennis Kucinich, 17% Joe Lieberman, 3% Carol Moseley Braun, 2% Al Sharpton, 35% don't know or don't know

We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living there) are: 35% better off, 35% 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: 30% better off financially, 14% worse off, 43% just about the same as now, 13% 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: 36% good times financially, 37% bad times, 27% don't know or no answer

Looking ahead, which would you say is more likely--that in the state as a whole: 33% we'll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, 41% that we will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression, or what, 26% 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, 22% bad time for people to buy major household items, 22% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job George W. Bush is doing as president? 7% excellent, 35% good, 27% only fair, 23% poor, 8% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as US Senator? 17% excellent, 45% good, 17% only fair, 4% poor, 17% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Lincoln Chafee is doing as U.S. Senator? 11% excellent, 39% good 24% only fair, 12% poor, 14% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. Representative? 10% excellent, 27% good, 30% only fair, 20% poor, 13% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as U.S. Representative? 12% excellent, 44% good, 15% only fair, 4% poor, 25% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Don Carcieri is doing as governor? 25% excellent, 36% good, 19% only fair, 8% poor, 12% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Charles Fogarty is doing as lieutenant governor? 9% excellent, 27% good, 19% only fair, 3% poor, 42% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Patrick Lynch is doing as attorney general? 6% excellent, 31% good, 26% only fair, 14% poor, 23% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Matt Brown is doing as secretary of state? 3% excellent, 26% good, 15% only fair, 3% poor, 53% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Paul Tavares is doing as general treasurer? 7% excellent, 28% good, 21% only fair, 3% poor, 41% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job William Irons is doing as Senate President? 2% excellent, 16% good, 21% only fair, 15% poor, 46% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job William Murphy is doing as Speaker of the House? 1% excellent, 18% good, 20% only fair, 15% poor, 46% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job David Cicilline is doing as mayor of Providence? 23% excellent, 44% good, 13% only fair, 3% poor, 17% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Steven Laffey is doing as mayor of Cranston? 15% excellent, 24% good, 13% only fair, 9% poor, 39% 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? 51% right direction, 29% wrong track, 20% don't know or no answer

Lincoln Park officials recently were indicted for trying to bribe a law firm headed by former House Speaker John Harwood in order to get more video slot machines . Do you think this indictment means: 43% there is widespread corruption among Rhode Island politicians, 43% corruption is limited to a few Rhode Island politicians, 2% Rhode Island politicians are honest because there is no evidence any of them accepted bribes? 12% don't know or no answer

How corrupt do you think the gambling industry is: 42% very corrupt, 38% somewhat corrupt, 5% not very corrupt, 15% don't know or no answer

The indictment alleges that Lincoln Park proposed a bribe in order to keep the Narragansett Indian tribe from getting a gambling casino. Does this indictment make you: 30% more likely to support a Narragansett casino, 11% less likely to support, 47% has no effect on your opinion, 12% don't know or no answer

If an election were held today, would you vote to: 51% support, 35% oppose a gambling casino built by the Narragansett Indian tribe, 14% don't know or no answer

Darrell M. West