Statewide Poll: the Gubernatorial Primaries; Legalization of Marijuana

April 10, 2014

A new statewide public opinion survey conducted by the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University finds that State Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras are currently in a statistical tie for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. However, one-third of likely Democratic voters are undecided five months before the Democratic primary. The survey shows that Taveras has a lead among voters with union membership but finds no significant preference among women voters between the two top Democratic candidates.


PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — A new public opinion survey by Brown University researchers finds that among Rhode Island voters who are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to vote in the Democratic primary for governor, 29.4 percent would choose State Treasurer Gina Raimondo, 25.8 percent would choose Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, 9.6 percent would choose Clay Pell, and 35.2 percent are undecided.

Researchers at the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and the John Hazen White Public Opinion Laboratory at Brown University surveyed a random sample of 600 Rhode Island voters April 3-5, 2014. The poll has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percent. The sample of “very likely” and “somewhat likely” Democratic primary voters was 395 respondents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. The sample of “very likely” or “somewhat likely” Republican voters was 86 respondents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 10.6 percent.

The gubernatorial primaries

Among the Rhode Island voters “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to vote in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, the poll asked respondents whether they or anyone in their family is a member of a union or teachers’ association. Of those who said yes, 33.9 percent said they would vote for Taveras and 23.5 percent would vote for Raimondo, a difference of 10 percentage points. Pell had support from 8.7 percent, and 33.9 percent were undecided. Among “very likely” and “somewhat likely” Democratic primary voters who reported that neither they nor anyone in their family is a member of a union or teachers’ association, Raimondo held a slight lead — 32.2 percent to 23.0 percent for Taveras and 9.6 percent for Pell with 35.2 percent undecided. The survey also shows that among likely Democratic voters more men support Raimondo (32.7 percent) than Taveras (19.6 percent). Women are more equally divided between the two top Democratic candidates (Raimondo at 26.9 percent and Taveras at 30.7 percent).

About 10 percent of Rhode Island voters are registered Republicans. Among the 600 respondents in the Taubman poll, 9.7 percent self-identified as Republican. Just over 13 percent of the respondents said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to vote in the Republic gubernatorial primary. Among those “very likely” or “somewhat likely” Republican primary voters, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (31.4 percent) and Ken Block (36.0 percent) are in a statistical dead heat, with 38.5 percent of Republican primary voters undecided.

Legalization of marijuana

In recent decades support has been growing for the legalization of marijuana. In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In February 2014, the Rhode Island General Assembly introduced legislation to legalize marijuana and establish a system that would regulate and tax it. In the Taubman survey, Rhode Island voters were asked whether they supported making it legal to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Nearly half (47.6 percent) support this idea, about the same level of support as in national polls on the subject. The survey shows that 39.3 percent of Rhode Island voters oppose legalization and 9.3 percent are undecided on the issue. Support for marijuana legalization is strongest among younger voters – 65 percent of those 29 or younger said they supported legalizing small amounts of marijuana; 52.6 percent of those aged 30-44 supported legalization; 51.3 percent of those aged 45-59 supported legalization; and 40.9 percent of respondents 60 years and older said they supported legalization.

Views of the economy

Most Rhode Island voters continue to feel the local economy is in rough shape, with 92.0 percent saying it is not so good or poor, a number similar to results from a October 2013 Taubman Center survey. Fewer voters judged the national economy as not so good or poor (76.5 percent). When asked about the state of their personal finances, Rhode Island voters reported a brighter picture, with 59.6 percent saying their finances are good or excellent. A strong majority (62.5 percent) feels that Rhode Island is on the wrong track, with just 20.2 percent reporting that they feel the state is going in the right direction.

Approval ratings

Among national officials, Sen. Jack Reed has the highest approval rating with 55.3 percent of Rhode Island voters saying his performance is excellent or good. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has an approval rating of 40.6 percent, Rep. Jim Langevin 40.1 percent and Rep. David Cicilline 26.0 percent. President Barack Obama has an approval rating of 43.0 percent. Among local officials, Taveras has the highest approval rating, at 54.4 percent and Raimondo has a 49.3 percent approval rating. Gov. Lincoln Chafee has the lowest approval rating of any local official — 21.2 percent.

Questions and answers

  1. How likely are you to vote in the 2014 Democratic primary for governor? Are you: very likely–48.8%; somewhat likely–17.0%; not very likely–30.2%; don’t know/no answer (DK/NA)–4.0%
  2. (Asked only of those who answered “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to Question 1) If the 2014 Democratic primary for governor were held today, would you vote for: Gina Raimondo–29.4%; Angel Taveras–25.8%; Clay Pell–9.6%; DK/NA–35.2%
  3. (Asked only of those who answered “not very likely” or “DK/NA” to Question 1) How likely are you to vote in the 2014 Republican primary for governor? Are you: very likely–34.0%; somewhat likely–11.0%; not very likely–45.0%; DK/NA–10.0%
  4. (Asked only of those who answered “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to Question 3) If the 2014 Republican primary for governor were held today, would you vote for: Allen Fung–31.4%; Ken Block–36.0%; DK/NA–32.6%
  5. How would you rate the job Barack Obama is doing as president? excellent–11.5%; good–31.5%; only fair–25.5%; poor–29.0%; DK/NA–2.5%
  6. How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as U.S. senator? excellent–19.8%; good–35.5%; only fair–23.2%; poor–12.5%; DK/NA–9.0%
  7. How would you rate the job Sheldon Whitehouse is doing as U.S. senator? excellent–13.1%; good–27.5%; only fair–26.7%; poor–21.0%; DK/NA–11.7%
  8. How would you rate the job David Cicilline is doing as U.S. representative? excellent–4.5%; good–21.5%; only fair–30.0%; poor–28.2%; DK/NA–15.8%
  9. How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as U.S. representative? excellent–8.3%; good–31.8%; only fair–29.2%; poor–13.5%; DK/NA–17.2%
  10. How would you rate the job Lincoln Chafee is doing as governor? excellent–4.0%; good–17.2%; only fair–29.5%; poor–44.0%; DK/NA–5.3%
  11. How would you rate the job Elizabeth Roberts is doing as lieutenant governor? excellent–4.8%; good–25.0%; only fair–7.2%; poor–13.0%; DK/NA–30.0%
  12. How would you rate the job Peter Kilmartin is doing as attorney general? excellent–5.0%; good–27.2%; only fair–21.5%; poor–11.3%; DK/NA–35.0%
  13. How would you rate the job A. Ralph Mollis is doing as secretary of state? excellent–4.2%; good–23.3%; only fair–26.7%; poor–9.8%; DK/NA–36.0%
  14. How would you rate the job Gina Raimondo is doing as general treasurer? excellent–13.6%; good–35.7%; only fair–17.7%; poor–16.5%; DK/NA–16.5%
  15. How would you rate the job Teresa Paiva-Weed is doing as Senate president? excellent–3.0%; good–19.1%; only fair–24.7%; poor–19.5%; DK/NA–33.7%
  16. How would you rate the job Angel Taveras is doing as mayor of Providence? excellent–13.0%; good–41.4%; only fair–23.3%; poor–6.5%; DK/NA–15.8%
  17. Changing topics, would you describe the state of the nation’s economy these days as: excellent–1.2%; good–20.1%; not so good–46.7%; poor–29.8%; DK/NA–2.2%
  18. Would you describe the state of Rhode Island’s economy these days as: excellent–0.2%; good–6.0%; not so good–33.7%; poor–58.3%; DK/NA–1.8%
  19. Would you describe the state of your own personal finances these days as: excellent–7.2%; good–52.4%; not so good–25.0%; poor–11.2%; DK/NA–4.2%
  20. Generally speaking, would you say things in Rhode Island are: going in the right direction–20.2%; off on wrong track–62.5%; mixed–10.4%; DK/NA–6.9%
  21. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy? approve–42.4%; disapprove–46.6%; DK/NA–11.0%
  22. Overall, do you support or oppose legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use? support–47.6%; oppose–39.3%; unsure–9.3%; DK/NA–3.8%
Marion Orr, Jack Combs