99-024 (Public Opinion Survey)

Distributed September 29, 1999
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel



Public opinion survey

Gore in virtual tie with Bradley and Bush for 2000 presidential election
A survey of 363 Rhode Island voters conducted September 25-27, 1999, finds Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley almost tied for the Democratic presidential nomination. It also finds a close race for Rhode Island’s U.S. Senate seat, high marks for Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., and a drop in consumer confidence about the state’s economy.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley are virtually tied in their race for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a new statewide survey. The survey also finds Gore would face a tight race in a presidential general election against Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

The survey was conducted Sept. 25-27, 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 363 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, it had a margin of error of about plus or minus five percentage points.

In the Democratic presidential nomination battle, 37 percent of voters say they support Gore, while 36 percent favor Bradley, with 27 percent undecided. In the presidential general election matchup, Gore garners support from 34 percent compared to 32 percent who say they will vote for Bush, with 34 percent unsure. If Bradley is the Democratic nominee, he leads Bush by 37 to 26 percent, with 37 percent undecided. In the contest for U.S. Senate, Rep. Robert Weygand is in a dead heat with Warwick Mayor Lincoln Chafee at 27 percent, while possible independent candidate Arlene Violet garners 24 percent, with 22 percent unsure. In June, 29 percent of voters supported Weygand, 24 percent favored Violet, 21 percent supported Chafee, and 26 percent were undecided.

If Richard Licht is the Democratic candidate, 32 percent say they would vote for Chafee, 30 percent indicate they favor Violet, 17 percent support Licht, and 21 percent are unsure. In June, Violet garnered support from 28 percent, while 28 percent favored Chafee, 18 percent said they would vote for Licht, and 26 percent were undecided.

Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. continues to earn the most favorable job ratings in the state. Seventy-five percent say he is doing an excellent or good job as mayor, compared to 69 percent who felt that way in June.

In other job performance ratings, President Bill Clinton earns excellent or good ratings from 60 percent of Rhode Island voters, down from 65 percent in June.

Gov. Lincoln Almond’s job performance ratings are down slightly. Forty-eight percent give him excellent or good ratings, 30 percent rate him only fair, 12 percent rate him poor, and 10 percent have no opinion. In a June survey, 52 percent felt his performance had been excellent or good, 29 percent believed it has been only fair, 10 percent rated him poor, and 9 percent had no opinion.

Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty’s job performance is rated excellent or good by 21 percent (compared to 29 percent in June), while 44 percent rate Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse positively (the same as in June), and 32 percent believe Treasurer Paul Tavares is doing an excellent or good job (also unchanged since June). Forty-seven percent feel Secretary of State Jim Langevin’s performance has been excellent or good, down from 54 percent.

With regard to federal officials, 63 percent believe Sen. John Chafee is doing an excellent or good job (down from 67 percent). These numbers compare to 57 percent for Sen. Jack Reed (down from 64 percent), 51 percent for Rep. Patrick Kennedy (down from 55 percent), and 46 percent for Rep. Robert Weygand (down from 53 percent).

Researchers asked people what they thought the most important problem was facing the state. Seventeen percent named education, followed by jobs and unemployment (11%), taxes (7%), ethics and corruption (6%), business climate (6%), politicians and government performance (5%), crime (4%), roads (3%), health care (3%), the environment (3%), the economy (3%), budget (2%), drugs (2%), violence (2%), and poverty (2%). All other problems named were less than 1%.

Seventy-three percent believe the state is headed in the right direction, while 15 believe it is off on the wrong track. In June, 67 percent believed the state was headed in the right direction, while 18 percent thought it was off on the wrong track.

The Index of Consumer Sentiment for Rhode Island this month also has fallen from its reading of 101.2 in June and 106.3 in January. The reading for September is 99.2, meaning Rhode Islanders are about 7 percent less optimistic about the economy since the beginning of the year. This is the first time the index has dropped below 100 since 1997. The index is modeled after 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.

June 1999101.2September 199573.9
January 1999106.3June 199568.8
September 1998104.7February 199581.4
May 1998102.9September 199482.7
January 1998100.1July 199480.1
September 199791.6February 199481.0
June 199787.1September 199374.4
February 199787.0July 199369.8
September 199682.3February 199376.0
June 199678.5September 199268.3
February 199674.3June 199276.0

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

Survey Questions and Responses

If the election for president were held today, would you vote for the Republican George W. Bush or Democrat Al Gore? 32% Bush, 34% Gore, 34% don’t know or no answer

If the election for president were held today, would you vote for the Republican George W. Bush or Democrat Bill Bradley? 26% Bush, 37% Bradley, 37% 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? 27% Chafee, 27% Weygand, 24% Violet, 22% 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? 32% Chafee, 17% Licht, 30% Violet, 21% don’t know or no answer

(Primary voters only) If the Democratic presidential candidates were Al Gore and Bill Bradley, would you vote for: 37% Gore, 36% Bradley, 27% don’t know or no answer

(Primary voters only) If the Democratic Senate candidates were Robert Weygand or Richard Licht, would you vote for: 44% Weygand, 19% Licht, 37% 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: 48% better off, 20% worse off financially than you were a year ago, 32% 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: 32% better off financially, 7% worse off, 50% just about the same as now, 11% 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: 57% good times financially, 18% bad times, 25% don’t know or no answer

Looking ahead, which would you say is more likely – that in the state as a whole: 42% we’ll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, 30% that we will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression, or what, 28% 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: 63% good, 10% bad time for people to buy major household items, 27% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Bill Clinton is doing as president? 16% excellent, 44% good, 20% only fair, 12% poor, 8% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job John Chafee is doing as U.S. Senator? 18% excellent, 45% good, 16% only fair, 4% poor, 17% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as U.S. Senator? 12% excellent, 45% good, 15% only fair, 5% poor, 23% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. Representative? 14% excellent, 37% good, 20% only fair, 11% poor, 18% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Robert Weygand is doing as U.S. Representative? 7% excellent, 39% good, 20% only fair, 3% poor, 31% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Lincoln Almond is doing as governor? 9% excellent, 39% good, 30% only fair, 12% poor, 10% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Charles Fogarty is doing as lieutenant governor? 1% excellent, 20% good, 19% only fair, 3% poor, 57% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Sheldon Whitehouse is doing as attorney general? 6% excellent, 38% good, 22% only fair, 4% poor, 30% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as secretary of state? 14% excellent, 33% good, 12% only fair, 1% poor, 40% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Paul Tavares is doing as general treasurer? 4% excellent, 28% good, 18% only fair, 4% poor, 46% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Buddy Cianci is doing as Mayor of Providence? 36% excellent, 39% good, 9% only fair, 6% poor, 10% 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? 73% right direction, 15% 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: education (17%), jobs and unemployment (11%), taxes (7%), ethics and corruption (6%), business climate (6%), politicians and government performance (5%), crime (4%), roads (3%), health care (3%), the environment (3%), the economy (3%), budget (2%), drugs (2%), violence (2%), and poverty (2%). All other problems named were under 1%

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