Cicilline, Chafee approval ratings now worse than Nixon in 1974

Analysis: Poll’s possible silver lining for Chafee


Hard as it is to imagine, Congressman David Cicilline and Gov. Lincoln Chafee have managed to lose even more public support.

Cicilline’s job approval rating has sunk to just 15% among all Rhode Island voters, down from 24% in December, according to a new Brown University poll released Thursday morning. Chafee’s approval rating isn’t much higher at 22%, down from 27%.

To put those numbers in perspective, President Richard Nixon’s approval rating was 24% a week before he resigned over Watergate in 1974. Slightly more voters rated Chafee’s job performance as poor (45%) than said so about Cicilline’s (43%).

Cicilline’s successor, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, is the most popular elected official in Rhode Island based on Brown’s polling. The mayor’s statewide job approval rating is up to 60%. Treasurer Gina Raimondo comes next with 58% approving of her job performance.

The telephone survey of 514 registered voters in Rhode Island was conducted Feb. 16 to 18 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 4.3 percentage points.

Among other federal officials, President Obama’s approval rating among Rhode Islanders is 40%; Congressman Jim Langevin’s and U.S. Sen. Jack Reed’s are both 47%; and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s is 30%. Reed got the highest “excellent” rating, at 15%, while nearly 30% rated Obama and Whitehouse as “poor.”

At the state level, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s approval rating is 33%; Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts’ is 32%; Secretary of State Ralph Mollis’s is 29%; House Speaker Gordon Fox’s is 26%; and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed’s is 21%. Raimondo received an “excellent” rating from 34% of voters, far more than any other official polled.

Brown found majority support in Rhode Island for President Obama’s new policy of requiring insurers to provide free contraceptive coverage to women whose religious employers are against doing so. The poll showed 57% of residents back Obama’s new policy, whereas only 48% backed requiring the religious employers to offer birth-control coverage. Support was higher among women.

The poll also showed little support for some of the major proposals in Chafee’s proposed 2012-13 budget, with 80% opposed to raising the meals and beverage tax; 68% against higher DMV fees; 64% against increasing Medicaid co-pays; 57% against raising tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridget; 54% opposed to ending state funding for Rhode Island PBS; and 50% opposed to ending subsidized dental care for low-income adults.

The only budget plank that won majority support is Chafee’s proposal to increase the cigarette tax by 4 cents, approved by 71%. In addition, 56% of voters agree that “the state is responsible for developing a uniform plan to fix the many independent municipal pension plans in Rhode Island,” while 32% disagree. Brown did not ask about Chafee’s proposal to increase education funding.

A whopping 96% of Rhode Islanders rate the state’s economy as “not so good” or poor, with 89% saying the same about the national economy. However, 59% rated their own personal finances as good or excellent.

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