Rhode Island State Survey, June 2003

Taubman Center for Public Policy Survey

Voters Support Greater Health Care and Pension Contributions by State Workers, Want to End Lincoln Park Dog Owner Subsidies

A statewide survey of 389 voters conducted June 21-22, 2003 also finds strong support for the job performances of Governor Don Carcieri and Providence Mayor David Cicilline, but a drop in public support for House Speaker William Murphy and Senate President William Irons.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Rhode Island voters favor requiring state employees to pay a portion of their health care premiums and more of their pension costs, according to a new public opinion survey by researchers at Brown University. The poll also shows strong support for ending state subsidies for dog owners at Lincoln Park and opposition to increasing the sales or income tax as a way of closing the state's budget deficit.

The survey was conducted June 21-22, 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 389 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, the poll had a margin of error of about plus or minus five percentage points.

The state of Rhode Island faces a budget deficit which by law is required to be closed. When asked about possible means of dealing with the state budget deficit, 78 percent of voters favored requiring state workers to pay a portion of their health care premiums, 67 percent wanted to end subsidies to dog owners at Lincoln Park, 66 percent supported requiring state workers to pay a larger share of their pension costs, 53 percent supported the elimination of state employee pay raises, 53 percent wanted to cut the size of the state employee work force, 50 percent favored the elimination of low-priority programs, and 16 percent favored an increase in the state sales or income tax.

Union members supported some but not all of these measures. Sixty-nine percent of voters who said they were a member of a union or teacher's association favored requiring state workers to pay a portion of their health care premiums, 78 percent wanted to end subsidies to dog owners at Lincoln Park, and 65 percent wanted to eliminate low-priority programs. However, only 39 percent supported requiring state workers to pay a larger share of their pension costs, 37 percent wanted to cut the size of the state employee work force, 33 percent supported the elimination of state employee pay raises, and 25 percent favored an increase in the state sales or income tax.


All Voters

Union Memb.

Rep

Dem

Ind

Requiring State Workers to Pay Portion of Health Care Premiums

78%

69%

79%

69%

85%

Ending Lincoln Park Dog Owner Subsides

67

78

69

57

75

Requiring State Workers to Pay Larger Share of Pension Costs

66

39

74

53

75

Eliminating State Employee Pay Raises

53

33

59

41

58

Reducing State Employee Work Force

53

37

65

41

60

Eliminating Low-Priority Programs

50

65

57

39

54

Raising Sales or Income Tax

16

25

18

21

14

There were some differences based on party ties. Republicans were more likely to favor many of the budget measures than were Democrats. However, the group most likely to want state workers to pay a portion of their health care premiums and to pay a larger share of their pension costs was Independents.

When asked about the job performance of various public officials, 72 percent feel Governor Donald Carcieri is doing a good job (up from 69 percent in February). Thirty-seven percent believe Lieutenant Governor Charles Fogarty is doing a good job (down from 57 percent). Forty-two percent think Attorney General Patrick Lynch is doing a good job, down from the 47 percent who felt that way in our last survey. Twenty-six percent feel Secretary of State Matt Brown is doing a good job, down from 30 percent in February. Thirty-six percent believe Treasurer Paul Tavares is doing a good job, down from 46 percent last time. Sixty-seven percent voters in Rhode Island say Providence Mayor David Cicilline is doing a good job, down from 76 percent in February.

Twenty-two percent rate the job performance of Senate President Williams Irons as good or excellent (down from 30 percent last February) and 20 percent rate the performance of new House Speaker William Murphy as good or excellent, down from 30 percent in February.

President George Bush's support within the state is holding steady. In this month's survey, 44 percent feel he is going a good or excellent job, about the same as the 45 percent who rated his job performance good or excellent in February. Sixty percent rated the performance of Senator Jack Reed good or excellent, down from 64 percent in the previous survey. Forty-five percent believe Senator Lincoln Chafee is doing a good job, down from 54 percent last February. Fifty-four percent feel Congressman James Langevin is doing a good job (down from 61 percent) and 43 percent believe Congressman Patrick Kennedy is doing a good job (about the same as his 44 percent approval in February).

Seventy-one percent believe the state is headed in the right direction, while 20 percent feel it is off on the wrong track. Last February, 74 percent believed the state was headed in the right direction and 14 percent stated that the state was headed off on the wrong track.

Our Index of Consumer Sentiment for Rhode Island this month was 80.2 percent, up from 73.9 last February. This means consumer optimism has risen 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

We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living there) are: 33% better off, 33% worse off financially than you were a year ago, 34% 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: 29% better off financially, 14% 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: 31% good times financially, 40% bad times, 29% don't know or no answer

Looking ahead, which would you say is more likely--that in the state as a whole: 35% we'll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, 42% that we will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression, or what, 23% 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: 54% good, 25% bad time for people to buy major household items, 21% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job George W. Bush is doing as president? 13% excellent, 31% good, 34% only fair, 17% poor, 5% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as US Senator? 11% excellent, 49% good, 20% only fair, 4% poor, 16% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Lincoln Chafee is doing as U.S. Senator? 9% excellent, 36% good 24% only fair, 16% poor, 15% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. Representative? 7% excellent, 36% good, 30% 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? 7% excellent, 47% good, 18% only fair, 2% poor, 26% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Don Carcieri is doing as governor? 29% excellent, 43% good, 16% only fair, 3% poor, 9% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Charles Fogarty is doing as lieutenant governor? 3% excellent, 34% good, 20% only fair, 2% poor, 41% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Patrick Lynch is doing as attorney general? 4% excellent, 38% good, 24% only fair, 6% poor, 28% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Matt Brown is doing as secretary of state? 1% excellent, 25% good, 17% only fair, 1% poor, 56% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job Paul Tavares is doing as general treasurer? 4% excellent, 32% good, 22% only fair, 3% poor, 39% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job William Irons is doing as Senate President? 2% excellent, 20% good, 18% only fair, 6% poor, 54% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job William Murphy is doing as Speaker of the House? 1% excellent, 19% good, 21% only fair, 9% poor, 50% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the job David Cicilline is doing as mayor of Providence? 18% excellent, 49% good, 18% only fair, 3% poor, 12% 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? 71% right direction, 20% wrong track, 9% don't know or no answer

The state of Rhode Island faces a substantial deficit in its fiscal budget. By law, it is required to eliminate this deficit. Which of the following items would you support or oppose to close this deficit:

a) eliminate across-the-board pay raises for state employees: 53% support, 35% oppose, 12% don't know or no answer

b) launch a work force reduction for state workers: 53% support, 33% oppose, 14% don't know or no answer

c) eliminate low-priority programs: 50% support, 28% oppose, 22% don't know or no answer

d) require state employees to pay a larger share of their pension costs: 66% support, 25% oppose, 9% don't know or no answer

e) require state employees to pay a portion of their health care premiums: 78% support, 18% oppose, 4% don't know or no answer

f) end subsidies to Lincoln Park dog owners: 67% support, 20% oppose, 13% don't know or no answer

g) raise either the sales or income tax: 16% support, 79% oppose, 5% don't know or no answer

Regardless of how you vote, do you usually think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or something else? 14% Republican, 30% Democrat, 47% Independent, 7% Other, 2% no answer

Are you a member of a union or teachers association? 14% yes, 85% no, 1% don't know or no answer

Darrell M. West