Distributed February 23, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel



Public opinion survey

McCain leads Gore among R.I. voters; Gore leads Bradley and Bush
Sen. John McCain draws more support among Rhode Island voters than either Democratic presidential candidate, according to a new survey of 327 Rhode Island voters conducted Feb. 19-21, 2000. The survey also finds Sen. Lincoln Chafee ahead in his Senate race and Rep. Robert Weygand leading Richard Licht in the race for the Democratic Senate nomination. Many voters see racial tension as a big problem in Rhode Island and are less optimistic about the state’s economy.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Vice President Al Gore has a lead over Texas Gov. George W. Bush, but trails Arizona Sen. John McCain, according to a new Brown University statewide survey. The poll also shows the vice president ahead of former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The survey was conducted Feb. 19-21, 2000, 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 327 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, it had a margin of error of about plus or minus six percentage points.

In the Democratic presidential nomination battle, 37 percent of voters say they support Gore, while 24 percent favor Bradley, with 39 percent undecided. Last September, 37 percent said they favored Gore and 36 percent supported Bradley, with 27 percent undecided.

In the presidential general election matchup, Gore garners support from 39 percent compared to 25 percent who say they will vote for Bush, with 36 percent unsure. If Bradley is the Democratic nominee, he leads Bush by 41 to 26 percent, with 33 percent undecided. However, McCain draws more support than either Democratic candidate. Against Gore, McCain leads by 40 to 34 percent, while against Bradley, McCain is ahead by 42 to 27 percent. Last September, Gore was ahead of Bush by 34 to 32 percent, while Bradley led Bush by 37 to 26 percent.

In the contest for U.S. Senate, Sen. Lincoln Chafee has opened a substantial lead over his rivals. If Rep. Robert Weygand is the Democratic nominee, 42 percent say they would support Chafee, 27 percent say they would vote for Weygand, 15 percent favor possible independent candidate Arlene Violet, and 16 percent are unsure. In September, Weygand was in a dead heat with Chafee at 27 percent, with Violet at 24 percent. 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, 46 percent say they would vote for Chafee, 20 percent indicate they favor Violet, 12 percent support Licht, and 22 percent are unsure. In September, 32 percent said they would vote for Chafee, 30 percent favored Violet, 17 percent supported Licht, and 21 percent were undecided. In June, Violet garnered support from 28 percent, 28 percent favored Chafee, 18 percent said they would vote for Licht, and 26 percent were undecided.

In the Democratic contest for the Senate nomination, Weygand leads Licht by 46 to 15 percent, with 39 percent unsure. Last September, Weygand was ahead by 44 to 19 percent, with 37 percent undecided.

Forty-three percent of Rhode Islanders believe that racial tension within the state is “a big problem.” Thirty-five percent think law enforcement officers within Rhode Island treat minorities worse than whites. However, non-whites were more likely than whites to believe minorities were treated worse. Seventy-one percent of non-whites believed law enforcement officers treated minorities worse, compared to 32 percent of whites who felt that way.

On the racial profiling legislation that has been introduced in the legislature, 30 percent believe the General Assembly should require police officers to collect data on the race of drivers they stop on the highways, while 55 percent do not.

Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. continues to earn the most favorable job ratings in the state, with 70 percent of Rhode Island voters believing he is doing an excellent or good job. However, this number is down slightly from September, when 75 percent felt he was doing an excellent or good job.

In other job performance ratings, President Clinton earns excellent or good ratings from 64 percent of Rhode Island voters, up from 60 percent in September.

Gov. Lincoln Almond’s job performance ratings are nearly identical to what they were previously. Forty-nine percent give him excellent or good ratings, 30 percent rate him only fair, 11 percent rate him poor, and 10 percent have no opinion. In the September survey, 48 percent felt his performance had been excellent or good, 30 percent believed it had been only fair, 12 percent rated him poor, and 10 percent had no opinion.

Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty’s job performance is rated excellent or good by 36 percent (up from 21 percent in September), while 38 percent believe Treasurer Paul Tavares is doing an excellent or good job (up from 32 percent). Fifty-seven percent feel Secretary of State Jim Langevin’s performance has been excellent or good, up from 47 in the last survey.

When asked about Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, 48 percent rate his performance excellent or good, 24 percent say it is only fair, 10 percent rate him poorly, and 18 percent have no opinion. Last September, 44 percent rated him as doing an excellent or good job, 22 percent said he was doing only a fair job, and 4 percent gave him poor marks. However, there is a major difference in Whitehouse’s rating by respondent race. Among whites, 52 percent rate him excellent or good, 25 percent rate him only fair, and 8 percent give him a poor rating. Among non-whites, 37 percent think he is doing an excellent or good job, 24 percent rate him only fair, and 26 percent give him a poor rating.

In regard to federal officials, 48 percent believe Chafee is doing an excellent or good job in his first public rating since being appointed to the U.S. Senate. This number compares to 67 percent for Sen. Jack Reed (up from 57 percent), 63 percent for Rep. Patrick Kennedy (up from 51 percent), and 56 percent for Weygand (up from 46 percent).

Researchers asked people what they thought was the most important problem facing the state. Thirteen percent named taxes, followed by ethics and corruption (11%), jobs and unemployment (10%), education (9%), health care (6%), business climate (5%), the economy (5%), race (5%), roads (3%), politicians and government performance (2%), crime (2%), the environment (2%), and budget (2%). All other problems named were less than 2%.

Sixty-one percent of respondents believe the state is headed in the right direction, while 24 believe it is off on the wrong track. Last September, 73 percent believed the state was headed in the right direction, while 15 percent thought it was off on the wrong track.

The Index of Consumer Sentiment for Rhode Island this month has fallen for the third consecutive time in the last year. The current reading is 97.9, well below the high reading of 106.3 in January 1999. This means Rhode Islanders are about 8 percent less optimistic about the economy compared to last year. 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 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:

February 200097.9February 199674.3
September 199999.2September 199573.9
June 1999101.2June 199568.8
January 1999106.3February 199581.4
Sept 1998104.7September 199482.7
May 1998102.9July 199480.1
Jan. 1998100.1February 199481.0
September 199791.6September 199374.4
June 199787.1July 199369.8
February 199787.0February 199376.0
September 199682.3September 199268.3
June 199678.5June 199276.0

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

Questions and responses

If the election for president were held today would you vote for the Republican George W. Bush or Democrat Al Gore? 25% Bush 39% Gore 36% 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 41% Bradley 33% don’t know or no answer

If the election for president were held today would you vote for the Republican John McCain or Democrat Al Gore? 40% McCain 34% Gore 26% don’t know or no answer

If the election for president were held today would you vote for the Republican John McCain or Democrat Bill Bradley? 42% McCain 27% Bradley 31% 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? 42% Chafee 27% Weygand 15% Violet 16% 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? 46% Chafee 12% Licht 20% Violet 22% 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 24% Bradley 39% don’t know or no answer

(Primary voters only) If the Democratic Senate candidates were Robert Weygand or Richard Licht would you vote for: 46% Weygand 15% Licht 39% 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 16% worse off financially than you were a year ago 38% 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: 27% better off financially 8% worse off 54% 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: 46% good times financially 20% bad times 34% don’t know or no answer

Looking ahead which would you say is more likely – that in the state as a whole: 40% we’ll have continuous good times during the next five years or so 26% that we will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression or what 34% 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: 68% good 9% bad time for people to buy major household items 23% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Bill Clinton is doing as president? 21% excellent 43% good 20% only fair 11% poor 5% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Lincoln Chafee is doing as U.S. Senator? 7% excellent 41% good 10% only fair 0% poor 42% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as U.S. Senator? 17% excellent 50% good 13% only fair 2% poor 18% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. Representative? 21% excellent 42% good 19% only fair 10% poor 8% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Robert Weygand is doing as U.S. Representative? 9% excellent 47% good 20% only fair 2% poor 22% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Lincoln Almond is doing as governor? 10% excellent 39% good 30% only fair 11% poor 10% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Charles Fogarty is doing as lieutenant governor? 4% excellent 32% good 19% only fair 2% poor 43% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Sheldon Whitehouse is doing as attorney general? 5% excellent 43% good 24% only fair 10% poor 18% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as secretary of state? 13% excellent 44% good 10% only fair 2% poor 31% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Paul Tavares is doing as general treasurer? 4% excellent 34% good 15% only fair 3% poor 44% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Buddy Cianci is doing as Mayor of Providence? 26% excellent 44% good 14% only fair 5% 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? 61% right direction 24% wrong track 15% 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: taxes (13%) ethics and corruption (11%) jobs and unemployment (10%) education (9%) health care (6%) business climate (5%) the economy (5%) roads (3%) race (5%) politicians and government performance (2%) crime (2%) the environment (2%) and budget (2%) . All other problems named were under 2%

How big a problem do you think racial tension in Rhode Island is? 43% a big problem 39% not a big problem 18% don’t know or no answer

Do you think race relations in Rhode Island have: 29% gotten better over the past 10 years 35% stayed about the same 20% gotten worse 16% don’t know or no answer

Do you believe law enforcement officers within Rhode Island treat minorities worse than they do whites? 35% yes 35% no 30% don’t know or no answer

Do you believe the General Assembly should require police officers to collect data on the race of drivers they stop on the highways? 30% yes 55% no 15% don’t know or no answer

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