Poll: 61% back RI pension law; Chafee, Cicilline approval in 20s

The new pension law is popular among Rhode Islanders – but the glow of its passage only seems to have benefited Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

A new Brown University poll released Thursday morning found 60% of Rhode Island voters support the pension overhaul signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee last month and only 28% oppose it, with 90% calling it important to the state’s economic future. A majority of Republicans (64%), independents (64%) and Democrats (58%) all support the new law.

But the legislation did nothing for Chafee’s approval rating, which dipped to 27% this month from 32% in March. His support is highest among Democrats, at 39%, and lower among independents (22%) and Republicans (15%).

By contrast, Raimondo’s approval rating jumped from 40% to 52% over the same period, but her support is weakest among members of her own Democratic Party (38%) compared with 61% among Republicans and 60% among independents. She ties Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, also at 52% approval, as the state’s most popular politician.

The news is grim for Congressman David Cicilline. With less than a year to go before he faces reelection, Cicilline’s approval rating is just 23% in the 1st Congressional District. The redistricting commission will hold a hearing tonight on a new map that would redraw the district to make it safer for Cicilline. A vote is set for Monday.

As for the rest of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who also faces voters next year, has a weak approval rating of 34%. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is at 46% and Congressman Jim Langevin is at 42% statewide.

President Obama’s approval rating in Rhode Island is unchanged from March at 44%. The share of Rhode Islanders who think the state is “on the wrong track” rose slightly, to 63% in December from 60% in March. Other approval ratings: Attorney General Peter Kilmartin (35%), Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts (33%), Secretary of State Ralph Mollis (26%), House Speaker Gordon Fox (26%) and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed (24%).

Cicilline and Paiva Weed are tied as the least popular politicians in Rhode Island, with each Democrat earning a statewide approval rating of 24%, according to the Brown poll.

Notably, 59% of voters think “the state is responsible for developing a uniform plan to fix the many independent municipal pension plans,” an issue that Raimondo and Taveras clashed over repeatedly this fall.

The poll also found 77% of voters prefer the term “Christmas tree” to “holiday tree,” a hotly debated formulation backed by Chafee that got the support of only 11%. The vast majority of those surveyed (85%) approve of the new state law that will require Rhode Islanders to show a photo ID when they vote in an election.

The telephone survey of 464 registered voters in Rhode Island was conducted Dec. 2 to 9 by Brown’s A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and John Hazen White Public Opinion Laboratory. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, according to Brown.

Note that the sample was heavily weighted toward the 1st Congressional District, according to Brown pollster Marion Orr, which may impact the statewide approval ratings. Full results here.

Update: It’s striking that Brown’s 60% approval figure for the actual pension law is quite close to the 63% of voters who said they wanted “a complete overhaul” of the pension system in the September poll commissioned by EngageRI, though it’s below the 73% that supported a description of the bill’s contents.

Update #2: Governor Chafee tells me in an interview he’s concerned about his anemic approval ratings: “I’ve never seen, in my long career, those kinds of disapproval numbers.”

(photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)

33 thoughts on “Poll: 61% back RI pension law; Chafee, Cicilline approval in 20s

  1. Wow! A whopping 464 voters.

    Gina has a huge hurdle is she stays on as a Democrat, she burned a huge voting block that also pushes hard at election time. The Public workers get out on the street and organize, couple that with all the angry retirees and you have quite a good sized campaign force. There is no emotion amongst the general public regarding the retirement system, to most it is a dead issue already. To the workers it is a scarlet letter that Gina will wear forever.

    What is interesting is that the State Collective Bargaining agreements are due to expire on July 1, 2012. Look to see what type of bargaining will go on and what promises will be made by candidates to get the Union support.

    • What is interesting is that the State Collective Bargaining agreements are due to expire on July 1, 2012. Look to see what type of bargaining will go on and what promises will be made by candidates to get the Union support.

      You’re right unless the general assembly gets guts like Ms ramondo and stops pandering to a small percentage of people. nelson must be doing very well finacially to not mind the coming tax hikes to support unsustainable unions benefits.

  2. No scarlett letter for Gina.Gina will be the next Governor of this state.Taxpayers are very grateful to you Gina.The big bad unions are nothing to be afraid of.

  3. If I were voting today Sen: Reed his efforts to the end the war, Mayor: Taveras simply to clean up what was left him, Treasurer: Raimondo, her pension reform, and Attorney General: Kilmartin on his efforts against the illegal. The rest, see ya,and i wouldn’t wanna be ya.

  4. “Raimondo, a Democrat, has good or excellent ratings from a majority of Republicans (61 percent) and Independents (59.6 percent), but significantly lower marks from Democrats (37.5 percent). ”

    With numbers like this, she would never get out of a primary.

  5. 24% still approve of Cicilline? After he lied on countless occasions, resorted to underhanded tricks to attempt gerrymandering, fired a hardworking city tax collector to cover his brother’s misdeeds, and left the City of Providence $180 million in debt!!!!?????

    It’s got to be something in the water. It’s sheer lunacy.

  6. The pension reform should only be the beginning not the end. Rhode Island public sector employees including public school teachers have been getting COLA’s above the inflation rate for years, that issue has to be corrected. The taxpayers have been leached off for too long. Now it is time for the parasites to be placed back under taxpayer control. No more short days of work, go back to 10 paid holidays, that is not for retirees, no time and 1/2 for weekends that is a duty day.

  7. Thank the Lord that Cicilline’s approval rating is so low. Rhode Islanders are finally showing some signs of intelligence. Maybe there is hope for our state after all.

  8. This article simply shows that elections have serious consequences… period! Uninformed Rhode Islanders deserve what they get much to the chagrin of those of us who have been screaming at the top of our lungs about what huge mistakes Cicillini and Chafee were and continue to be for Rhode Island and our nation! Wake up… do your duty as responsible citizens and let’s vote them out!!!

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