Poll: RI voters set to OK all 5 bond referendums

Julianne Peixoto | WPRI-TV
Julianne Peixoto | WPRI-TV

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A majority of Rhode Island voters support all five state bond referendums on next month’s ballot, with the veterans home faring best and the port projects faring worst, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The survey of 400 likely Rhode Island voters showed support for the questions at:

  • 84% for borrowing $27 million to complete a new state veterans home;
  • 66% for borrowing $35 million for environmental and recreational uses;
  • 61% for borrowing $45 million for URI’s engineering school and a new innovation campus;
  • 60% for borrowing $50 million for affordable housing;
  • 57% for borrowing $50 million for Quonset and ProvPort projects.

Opposition to the questions was between 25% and 30%, with the exception of the veterans home, which is opposed by just 9% of voters.

The poll is the latest in a series commissioned by Bryant University’s Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership, an organization funded by former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld. The survey was conducted Oct. 6 to 10 by Fleming & Associates of Cumberland via landlines and cell phones and has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points. (Fleming & Associates also does polling for WPRI 12.)

The poll results on the bond referendum questions were no surprise to Gary Sasse, director of the Hassenfeld Institute. “You look back at the history of bond issues in the state – it’s very rare when one gets defeated,” Sasse told Eyewitness News.

Another closely watched question – asking voters’ opinions about Rhode Island’s future – shows limited improvement since the last Hassenfeld Institute poll in May, with the share saying the state is heading in the right direction rising from 31% to 36% and the share saying it’s going in the wrong direction falling from 50% to 43%.

Those numbers have moved around in a narrow range since Gov. Gina Raimondo took office at the start of 2015.


“This finding should be a finding of concern, because it doesn’t reflect a very proactive, aggressive attitude that the economy is turning around,” Sasse said.

“We seem to be stuck – we’re not showing significant improvement,” he added.

Asked about their own personal finances, Rhode Island voters also gave a mixed picture, with 35% saying their family is better off than a year ago, 39% saying they’re not, and 24% saying their situation has remained the same.

“Unemployment is down to about 5% and all kinds of signs of an economic recovery, but apparently the middle class is not feeling that recovery,” Sasse said.

The poll found 46% of voters agree with state leaders’ recent decision to remove a requirement that students pass a standardized test in order to graduate from high school, while 41% disagree and 13% aren’t sure.

Providence’s precarious finances are also a concern to voters across Rhode Island, with 94% saying the city’s fiscal condition is important to the state, including 63% who say the issue is very important. And 51% of voters said they would favor state intervention in Providence if the city’s financial situation deteriorates.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes The Saturday Morning Post and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram