Updated: Friday, 20 May 2011, 4:46 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 19 May 2011, 9:45 PM EDT
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - More than half of voters in Congressman David Cicilline's district give him negative marks as a political leader in the wake of Providence's financial crisis, our exclusive WPRI 12 poll shows.
A whopping 41 percent of those polled rate the first-term Democrat's job performance as "poor," more than double the number who say that about President Obama and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the new survey of 300 registered voters in Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District reveals.
"The thing to keep in mind is, [Cicilline's] been a congressman for only five months," Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming said. "There hasn't been an awful lot going on in Congress that would really affect his job rating, so I have to believe a lot of that job rating is perceived on what happened in the City of Providence."
The telephone poll was conducted last Friday through Sunday by Fleming & Associates of Cumberland, R.I. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 5.7 percentage points.
Obama's positive job performance rating was 53 percent in the 1st District poll, while Whitehouse's was 46 percent and Cicilline's was 23 percent. "So he's much lower than the other two," Fleming said.
Cicilline may benefit from having fellow Democrat Obama at the top of the ticket next year, he continued.
"That could be a plus for him," he said. "However, if people have this real negative opinion of [Cicilline], people can split the ticket – Rhode Islanders do split tickets, and we have had Republican congressmen in the 1st Congressional District."
Fleming also noted that Whitehouse's polling numbers have risen over the past year and a half as he approaches his first re-election fight since defeating Lincoln Chafee in 2006 – though he also cautioned that poll numbers do not reflect Whitehouse's standing outside the 1st District.
"But it's still showing a positive trend for Sheldon Whitehouse," Fleming said.
Cicilline said he wasn't surprised by his low poll numbers, saying they reflect recent coverage of Providence's financial crisis and not his work as a congressman, including a block-grant program for manufacturers he proposed Wednesday.
"There is no question there has been an enormous amount of coverage about the Providence budget," he said. "I think this poll reflects that – people who disagree with some of the decisions I made in that job."
Asked who they blamed for Providence's financial problems, 21 percent named Cicilline, 17 percent cited the economy, 13 percent pointed to the state, 8 percent said the City Council, and 33 percent volunteered "all of the above."
Among individual groups of voters, Fleming said, "What we basically found was Democratic voters blamed everyone and the economy, where independent voters blamed everybody and David Cicilline."
Cicilline suggested he wants to put Providence's troubles behind him and focus on his new role as a federal lawmaker.
"My focus now in the Congress of the United States is to fight for Rhode Island, to work hard every single day to get Rhode Islanders back to work, to focus on the issues that are important to Rhode Islanders," he said.
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